Letter form Dr. Robert Kerr in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Robert Kerr, which I am posting below.

Dr. Robert Kerr

Dr. Robert Kerr

Waterloo, le 16.x.MMXII

Professor Michael L. Sweeney
Emmanuel Christian Seminary
One Walker Drive,
Johnson City, Tennessee

Cher confrère,

Recently I was made aware of a reprimand (I believe that this is the appropriate English word) by you as president of Emmanuel Christian Seminary against our colleague Professor Rollston as he was in your opinion having a detrimental effect on students and on potential donations noting that he should find a job elsewhere. I find your actions reprehensible and and unbecoming of a scholar. I take exception to your behaviour as a Christian, an Academic and a human being.

Any academic institution should be proud to have among its faculty a professor with the talents and standing of our learned friend, an internationally renowned Hebrew Bible scholar, semiticist and fellow epigraphist. The fact that you choose to ignore this and blatantly disregard academic liberty and integrity in favour of the ideology of your potential donors and students is a sheer and utter disgrace to the core concept of (higher) education. By your actions, you seem to imply that it is not the task of an academic institution to challenge the preconceived notions of its students and broaden their horizons. I ask you therefore in all sincerity, in which manner you differ from the Taliban?

Professor Rollston’s contribution to the Huffington Post, to which you took offence, was a timely and relevant piece. Irrespective of your views with regard to the origins of the Bible, it is clear that it has come down from a different era in which the rôle of women was different to that of this day and age. Does this imply that the Bible is no longer relevant? Certainly not! All that this article inferred was that biblical exegesis must take diachronic depth and cultural change into account, or would you also wish to reintroduce slavery based on ‘sound’ biblical teaching? I hope that you as a missionary appreciate cultural difference, and the need to adopt the Gospel to cultures rather than destroying cultures to suit a narrow an tendentious interpretation of the Bible – a sin which continues to heavily burden Christianity. You do our religion a great disservice with your actions and, may point I out, by employing your logic, the Reformation would never have happened.

Interestingly enough, based on the informations at my disposal, I did not see that you criticized Professor Rollston’s article for factual or biblical error, but rather that his views have a corrupting influence on students and allegedly inhibit benefactors from donating monies to your institution. You seemingly have chosen to serve Mammon above your faith and academic integrity. As academics, we search for the facts, the truth – which Professor Rollston presented in his article – and debate the interpretations and/or implications, something he did not do. By censuring Professor Rollston not for factual error, academic misrepresentation or scientific dishonesty but for presenting truths uncomfortable for some, especially those upon whom you apparently have made yourself dependent, you have severely compromised your integrity. It is the truth after all which shall set us free – and the biblically inspired historical strive for equality, whether it be social, racial, gender, sexual or whatever is one of the proud legacies of Christianity: we are all God’s children and equal before him. Your censure implies that discrimination against half of humanity is to not just be condoned, but mandated by biblical teaching. I again ask how you differ from the Taliban. Has history not taught us whither such ignorant proclamations lead?

I ask you as a Christian and academic to rescind your reprimand of Professor Rollston. I nonetheless shall until then continue to publicize your deplorable actions and let it be known among the broader public and scholarly community that you and your institution publicly advocate biblically inspired sexual discrimination whilst putting ideology ahead of academic freedom and truth. Our world needs education and not indoctrination.

Yours most sincerely,

Robert M. Kerr
BA, BPhil, MA, MA, Dphil.

P.S. I will also send a paper copy and furthermore reserve the right to publish this letter should I deem it necessary.

Letter from Dr. Edward L. Greenstein in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Edward L. Greenstein of Bar-Ilan University, which I have posted below.

You may read a .pdf copy of the letter here.

Dr. Edward L. Greenstein

Dr. Edward L. Greenstein

10 November 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I am exceedingly distressed to learn that Emmanuel Christian Seminary is planning to terminate the tenure of Professor Christopher Rollston.  Such a move strikes me as truly unbelievable.

Prof. Christopher Rollston is an extremely accomplished and highly regarded scholar, one of the world’s leading scholars of ancient Hebrew and West Semitic writing, scribal practice, and literature.  His work on paleography is of the first rank, and in many respects he is the most learned and perspicacious scholar in this area in the world today.  His writing on the transmission of culture and literature deals with both substantive and methodological matters on the highest levels.  I have heard Prof. Rollston make presentations in academic conferences, and he is an excellent lecturer.  His expertise has been acknowledged both by his appointment as editor of the leading journal Maarav and by the awards his book has received.

No academic institution should countenance the departure of a scholar of Professor Rollston’s caliber.  He brings great honor and prestige to the Emmanuel Seminary, and the Seminary is incredibly fortunate to have him.

I trust that any idea of dismissing Prof. Christopher Rollston will be reconsidered.


EL Greenstein

Edward L. Greenstein
Professor of Biblical Studies
Head of the Institute for Jewish Biblical Interpretation
Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Distinguished Scholar

Letter from Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper, the W.W. Spence Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages at Johns Hopkins University, which I have posted below.

You may read a .pdf copy of the letter here.

Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper

Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper

November 12, 2012

RE Prof. Christopher Rollston:

Prof. Christopher Rollston is the leading Semitic epigrapher of his generation. He has established this reputation through numerous scholarly publications of the highest quality. Prof. Rollston, whom I have known for over a decade, is a person of the highest moral integrity and sincere Christian faith. There is absolutely no reason, academic or moral, for Emmanuel to revoke his tenure.

The action that Emmanuel Christian Seminary has initiated against Prof. Rollston is unworthy of that institution, indeed, of any academic institution. It is apparent, in fact, that Emmanuelʼs behavior has been entirely meretricious, an attempt to mollify a wealthy donor of narrow mind and slight tolerance. I would urge Emmanuel to cease and desist immediately, if it is at all concerned with preserving its good name and conforming to the norms of academic respectability.


Jerrold S. Cooper
W. W. Spence Professor of Semitic Languages emeritus

Letter from Rick Hauser in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Rick Hauser, which I am posting below.

Rick Hauser

Rick Hauser

Dear Dr. Cargill,

That Emmanuel Christian Seminary should terminate the tenure of Dr, Christopher Rollston is not only not understandable, but a significant strike against the standing of the school within the academic community. By doing so, you divorce yourselves from one of the most significant voices to emerge in recent decades in Near Eastern studies.

Dr. Rollston’s innovative contributions will long influence the field. They of course transcend any argument that may now be brewing.

In the week ahead, my colleagues and I will welcome Dr. Rollston as a participant in an ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) workshop on provenience and the ethics of scholarly research entitled SECONDARY CONTEXT II. His remarks will be greeted, I am sure, as original and daring and will certainly provide substantive comment in a most controversial area.

Dr. Rollston is an outspoken and charismatic leader in our field. What an irony that he should this very week be spokesperson for an ethical approach to scholarship when he himself is under assault.

For shame!



Research Associate
IIMAS The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

Senior Staff,
Archaeological Expedition to Ancient Urkesh

Founding Partner
Beyond Broadcast™


e-mail beyond.broadcast@mindspring.com
voice 001.651.224.1555 • mobile 001.651.795.1134 • fax 001.651.224.1486

Letter from Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney, which I am posting below.

Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney

Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney

November 11, 2012
Dr. Michael Sweeney
Emmanuel Christian Seminary

Dear Dr. Sweeney:

I have recently learned of your efforts to begin termination proceedings for Prof. Christopher Rollston, Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies, at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.

I understand that your actions are motivated in part by Prof. Rollston’s post in a recent edition of the Huffington Post and by Emmanuel’s precarious financial situation.

I believe that your actions are illegal and represent the worst example of Christian moral and professional action.  Prof. Rollston holds a tenured position at Emmanuel and spoke out in the Huffington Post on a matter of biblical interpretation in the best tradition of Protestant Christian scholarship.

You may disagree with his understanding, but he has every right to state his views.  The proper response in such a case is to debate the issue to arrive at a true understanding of the word of G-d.  Your efforts to dismiss him on financial grounds are simply dishonest.

I urge to pray, reflect, and reverse your actions against Professor Rollston.  Your own reputation and the reputation and well-being of the Emmanuel Christian Seminary are at stake.


Marvin A. Sweeney
Professor of Hebrew Bible
Claremont School of Theology
1325 N. College Ave.
Claremont, CA  91711

A Thank You to Veterans for Your Service

The University of Iowa Marching Band pays tribute to US Veterans during halftime of the game with Purdue.

THANK YOU to all who have served in defense of this country, our values, and our families.

I am especially thankful for my grandfather, Ray, and my father, Len, for their service.

Letter from Dr. Larry G. Herr in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Larry Herr, which I am posting below.

Dr. Larry G. Herr

I would like to add my voice to those who admire Chris Rollston, his
integrity, his scholarship, and his caring attitude toward colleagues
and students. Right now he must be considered the North American
leader in his field of Near Eastern Epigraphy. I, too, do epigraphy
and he and I have discussed inscriptions often. Every time I talk to
him, I gain a new view on the field.

It is unfortunate that my only knowledge of Emmanuel is that Chris
Rollston teaches and works there. I wish my knowledge of the
institution could be made better.

Larry G. Herr
Professor of Religious Studies and Archaeology
Canadian University College
Lacombe, AB, T4L 2E5

Carrie Mayes San Angelo writes in support of Chris Rollston

Milligan College alum Carrie Mayes San Angelo has penned a blog post in support of Dr. Chris Rollston. You can read it at Carrie’s Cultural Commentary blog.

Letter from Dr. Athalya Brenner in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Athalya Brenner, which I am posting below.

Dr. Athalya Brenner

Dr. Athalya Brenner

Dear Dean Holland, dear President Sweeney:

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been following for a couple of weeks the unfolding story of Dr. Rollston’s troubles at ECS. This is your institution; as an outsider, I thought I had no right of interference in your institution’s internal matters. My mind changed, however, when I read tonight an article by Dr. Paul Blowers, Professor of Church History at ECS, as published online in Bible and Interpretation.

Dr. Blowers made it known, publicly, that his objection to Rollston’s article in Huffington Post about attitudes to women in the Bible was wrong on the following points: it was imbalanced; it shouldn’t have been published to lay readers; and it ran counter to confessional responsibilities, such as are practiced in Emmanuel.

I’d like to relate to this claims, first by introducing my credentials, then by assessing the claims. I am a Hebrew Bible scholar. My main fields of interest are feminist criticism of the Bible and Semitic Philology. I have published over 25 books, edited and authored, on feminist and gender issues in the Bible, including the New Testament. I have taught in Israel, The Netherlands, The States and Hong Kong. In the latter two places, although I am Jewish, I taught in confessional frameworks (Anglican in Hong Kong, Disciples of Christ in Texas). Details of my extensive teaching experience and publications on matters pertaining to women in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and to a lesser extent in the New Testament are to be found in my webpages, URL’s below.

Writing from my experience, as delineated here, I would like to completely refute Dr. Blowers’ contentions. Rollston’s article, against my background of undisputed  expertise in the field, is balanced and mild. In the Bible, regrettably, women are second-class, and much more so than Rollston sketched. There are positive female roles in it, as he himself indicated, but those are too few to offset the general picture. This is regrettable since the Bible is for many of us and including Rollston and me, regardless of creed, a source of fascination and a Book of Life; exposing less savoury elements in it is painful to say the least, albeit necessary in order to continue the ages-honored process of its interpretation, reinterpretation, updating and usage for current believing and cultural communities. I believe this is what Rollston did: he exposed a biblical bias, in a balanced and responsible fashion, as to say: This is our heritage. We do NOT discard this foundational heritage; but, looking at it critically, in the footsteps of Jewish Sages, Church Fathers and readers and believers over millennia, it is up to us to update, reinterpret, and continue to use the Bible as our life companion. In doing that Rollston in effect displayed the same concerns for the public of both genders as Dr. Blowers displays for Emmanuel students and future pastors, extending the good work and bringing it to the surface.

In short: if the Huffington Post article is at the root of this upheaval, it seems to me wrong on scholarly as well as pedagogical grounds to fault Dr. Rollston in any way. He is a rarity: a first-rate scholar who is well-respected and respectful and humanistic in his approach, a person who cares deeply about people and their beliefs, always cautious to nurture—even when he critiques—and to find positive angles. To claim otherwise is simply not borne out by the facts of the matter.

Please excuse me if my words constitute an interference in Emmanuel internal matters. Rollston is a colleague, not a friend of mine. My education and interests simply prevent me from keeping silent on this matter.

Respectfully and Shalom,

Dr. Athalya Brenner
Professor Emerita of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Chair, Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Professor in Biblical Studies, Department of Hebrew Culture, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Call for Letters in Support of Christopher Rollston

Dr. Chris Rollston
Dr. Christopher Rollston, the Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Emmanuel Christian Seminary

I’d like to announce an open call for letters in support of Dr. Christopher Rollston, who Emmanuel Christian Seminary is presently attempting to terminate, despite the fact that he is a tenured professor holding an endowed chair.

Emmanuel’s egregious and (I believe the courts will show) unlawful actions have triggered an unprecedented and nearly unanimous shower of support and praise for Dr. Rollston, including letters from a wide range of scholars and alums who would otherwise disagree on any number of theological issues. Emmanuel’s actions are not only harmful to its own, now tarnished reputation, but also harmful to the generally accepted concepts of tenure and academic freedom, which serve as the foundation for accredited academic institutions of higher learning.

As this scandal has dragged on, Emmanuel has yet to offer even a single public acknowledgment or explanation of its actions. Emmanuel must realize that simply ignoring the problem, dragging out the process, and hoping that scholars will forget what Emmanuel has done is not an effective solution to the problem they’ve created. I am certain that if this ugly episode is not resolved by the AAR/SBL annual meetings in Chicago, word of Emmanuel’s actions will only further spread to faculty members of other schools and to potential graduate students, creating even deeper recruiting problems for Emmanuel as they attempt to deal with a crushing financial crisis that may very well result in Emmanuel being taken over by another sister institution.

Of course, this financial crisis is one of the reasons Emmanuel President Michael Sweeney actually listed in his letter to Dr. Rollston detailing why they were initiating the termination process. (A potential significant donation from a donor who didn’t like Rollston is also mentioned.) And if the fact that Emmanuel began termination proceedings against Dr. Rollston wasn’t wrong enough, the fact that his Emmanuel supervisor, Dr. Paul Blowers, divulged the supposedly confidential personnel matter to the public via Facebook (see here, at the bottom) is all the more legally problematic for Emmanuel.

(For more background on the scandal, read the Inside Higher Ed article that was published last month, or read my previous blog entries here and here and here.)

As word of what Emmanuel has done spreads and begins to dominate conversations among professors in our well-networked field at AAR/SBL, it will only further expose Emmanuel’s shameful actions, and likely further bolster Dr. Rollston’s legal case.

Therefore, I’d like to make a public call for letters in support of Dr. Christopher Rollston.

If you would like to submit a letter in support of Dr. Rollston, please email it to me at robert-cargill@uiowa.edu. I shall add your letter to the list below, and announce it with a blog post when it arrives.

I’d like to ask all bloggers to repost this call for letters, as it will help make clear to the administration of Emmanuel Christian Seminary that this issue is not going away, and their actions will not soon be forgotten.

List of individuals in
support of Dr. Christopher Rollston

List of individuals in
support of the actions taken by Emmanuel Christian Seminary:

Adrienne Armes (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Travis Armes (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Dr. Hector Avalos (Iowa State University) here
Jeremiah Bailey (Duke University) here
Dr. Katya Barbash (Brooklyn Museum) here
Joseph Beal (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Adam Bean (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Dr. Ted Booth (Lincoln Memorial University here
James Bos (University of Mississippi) here
Dr. Athalya Brenner (Tel Aviv University/Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands) here
Dr. Robert Cargill (University of Iowa) here, here, here
Steve Caruso (Rutgers University and The Aramaic Blog) here
Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper (The Johns Hopkins University) here
Josh Covey (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Dr. Jim Davila (University of St Andrews) here
Heather Dana Davis Parker (The Johns Hopkins University) here
Jason Eisele (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Bradley England (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Christopher Frisina (American University) here
Dr. Mark Goodacre (Duke University) here
Dr. Stephen Goranson (Duke University) here
Nathaniel Green (University of Wisconsin-Madison) here, here
Dr. Edward L. Greenstein (Bar-Ilan University) here
Rick Hauser (International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies) here
Nathan Hawkins (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Dr. Chris Heard (Pepperdine University) here
Dr. Ronald Hendel (UC Berkeley) here
Dr. Larry Herr (Canadian University College) here
W.G. Hulbert (Baylor University) here
Katya Ivanova (London School of Economics) here
Rev. Wes Jamison (Colesville Presbyterian Church) here
Dr. Chris Keith (St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London) here
Dr. Robert M. Kerr (Wilfrid Laurier University) here
Rachel Knowles (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Kristina Linden (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Dr. Jim Linville (University of Lethbridge) here
Dr. P. Kyle McCarter (The Johns Hopkins University) here, here
Dr. James McGrath (Butler University) here
Brian McGrath Davis (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Anat Mendel (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) here
Jeff Morgan (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Stephen Paul (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
R.J. Powell (East Tennessee State University) here
Jared Poznich (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Carrie Mayes San Angelo (Milligan College alum) here
Duane Smith (Independent Scholar) here
Thomas Stark (Emmanuel School of Religion) here, here
Dr. Matthew J. Suriano (University of Maryland) here
Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney (Claremont School of Theology) here
Dr. James Tabor (UNC, Charlotte) here
Dr. Juan Manuel Tebes (Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina)
Thomas Verenna (Rutgers University) here, here, here
Dr. Richard Voelz (Vanderbilt University) here
Joel Watts (United Theological Seminary) here, here
Dr. Bruce Wells (Saint Joseph’s University) here, here
Dr. Jim West (Quartz Hill) here
Matthew Worsfold (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Joe Zias (Israel Antiquities Authority, retired) here
Dr. Paul Blowers (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Dr. Michael Pakaluk (Ave Maria University)
Roger Pearse (unaffiliated)
“Dr.” David Tee (unaffiliated)
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