Baylor New Testament Scholar Recognized with Prestigious Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by The British Academy

August 12, 2020
Gaventa medal

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Baylor
(Robbie Rogers/Baylor University)

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WACO, Texas (Aug. 12, 2020) – Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of New Testament Interpretation in the department of religion at Baylor University, has been awarded the prestigious Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies by The British Academy. She is one of only a few Americans to receive this award, established nearly a century ago.

"The Burkitt Medal from The British Academy is one of the most significant recognitions ever bestowed upon a Baylor faculty member in the history of our University," said Mikeal C. Parsons, Ph.D., professor and holder of The Kidd L. and Buna Hitchcock Macon Chair in Religion. "We are delighted that Dr. Gaventa's lifetime achievements in scholarship, teaching and service have been recognized by this veritable institution."

The award was established in 1923 by The British Academy, a fellowship of some 1,400 leading national and international academics elected for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. The first Medal was first awarded in 1925.

Each year, The British Academy elects to its fellowship up to 52 United Kingdom-based scholars who have achieved distinction in any branch of the humanities and social sciences. Others based overseas can be elected as Corresponding Fellows, and the Academy can elect Honorary Fellows. The Burkitt Medal is awarded annually in recognition of special service to biblical studies, with Hebrew Bible studies in odd years and New Testament studies in even years.

John M.G. Barclay, Ph.D., a Fellow of The British Academy and Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in Durham, England, said that Gaventa's selection will delight biblical scholars worldwide.

"Over many years, she has given outstanding leadership to New Testament scholarship, both in the quality of her work and in the ways she has mentored and supported younger scholars," Barclay said. "This accolade, awarded to only one New Testament scholar every other year, is a mark of the exceptional regard in which she is held internationally and of the ways she has enabled her discipline to retain its intellectual vibrancy and contemporary relevance."

Gaventa joined the Baylor faculty in 2013. She previously taught at Princeton Theological Seminary, Columbia Seminary and Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

"I am both astonished and deeply gratified by this award from The British Academy," Gaventa said.

"The most straightforward thing to say is that I understand my pedagogical vocation as enabling students to be better readers," she said. "As it happens, my text is Scripture, but what I do could apply to many other texts as well. I want students to slow down, to attend to the historical and literary and social context of Scripture and so to enlarge their capacity for comprehension."

Numerous former and current colleagues and students praised Gaventa:

  • "Professor Beverly Roberts Gaventa is one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our era. Her work on Pauline literature and especially on the epistle of Romans have had a major impact on New Testament studies. Her students are now making contributions to the study of the New Testament. She brings the best of scholarship to church and academy as gift. Her profound faith, intellect and generosity make her a remarkable person and deserving recipient of the Burkitt Medal." — W.H. Bellinger Jr., Ph.D., The W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chairholder in Bible and chair of the department of religion at Baylor
  • "I am overjoyed to learn that Dr. Beverly Roberts Gaventa received the Burkitt Medal for Biblical Studies. I can think of no one more deserving. I can testify firsthand to Dr. Gaventa's immense knowledge of the field of biblical studies, her dedication as a student of the New Testament, her clarity as a writer and her abilities as a skillful — and demanding — teacher. Dr. Gaventa supervised my dissertation, and throughout that process she provided consistent guidance and encouragement to me as a student, scholar and human being. Her scholarly work shaped my own understanding of the New Testament and especially the Pauline letters before we even met. I read a number of her works over the years and found them compelling, well-argued and well written. She served as my teacher well before I became one her advisees. The same is true for myriad other readers of the New Testament, including students, pastors and laypersons." — Scott C. Ryan, Ph.D. (Religion) '17, assistant professor of religion and biblical studies in the department of humanities at Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • "I am beyond delighted that my longtime friend and biblical studies colleague Beverly Gaventa has been recognized by this signal award from The British Academy. Her groundbreaking scholarship, her international reputation among New Testament scholars and her commitment to the development of younger scholars, especially women, make her a stellar choice to join the company of distinguished recipients of the Burkitt Medal."  — Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • "I am thrilled that Dr. Gaventa has received the Burkitt Medal, which rightly recognizes her enormous contributions to New Testament studies. She has enriched our understanding of the New Testament in innumerable ways, and in doing so, has exemplified every scholarly virtue." — Jacqueline Lapsley, Ph.D., academic dean and vice president for academic affairs, Princeton Theological Seminary
  • "Dr. Gaventa is a scholar whose self-discipline, extensive research, and rigorous questioning set an inspiring example for those of us who are able to study under her. She is generous with her time and expertise, and she lends her support to many in the field. In both her writing and her seminar guidance, she approaches the biblical text in a way that encourages each of us to probe conventional ideas critically, to question whether a given idea has solid evidence or should be re-evaluated. Her willingness to rethink many ideas makes her a fascinating thinker and a stimulating writer. It is always a privilege to work and study with her." — Susan Benton, doctoral candidate in religion (New Testament) at Baylor and associate editor of Perspectives in Religious Studies

In addition to her position at Baylor, Gaventa is The Helen H.P. Manson Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis Emerita at Princeton Theological Seminary. She has written numerous articles and edited volumes, as well as a number of books, among them "Our Mother Saint Paul," "The Acts of the Apostles," "I and II Thessalonians," "Mary: Glimpses of the Mother of Jesus," "From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament" and "When in Romans: An Invitation to Linger with the Gospel according to Paul."

Gaventa is a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest professional organization of biblical scholars in the world. She also is a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, the Catholic Biblical Association, the Duodecim Theological Society and the American Theological Society. She has served on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals and is an editor-at-large for Christian Century. She has lectured widely in the United States, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

She earned bachelor's degrees in English and religion from Phillips University, her M.Div. in New Testament at Union Theological Seminary and her Ph.D. in religion from Duke University.


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