Edited by Michael Thompson, Director of Communications
Christine Roy Yoder, Professor of Old Testament Language, Literature, and Exegesis, is one of six new Luce Scholars named by Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. as Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2014-2015. Supported by grants of up to $75,000 each, the Fellows will engage in yearlong theological research projects and present their findings for publication. The 2014–2015 Fellows constitute the twenty-first class of scholars to be appointed since the inception of the program in 1993, bringing the total number of Luce Fellows to 142.
Contours of Desire in Israelite Wisdom Literature
Professor Yoder’s project will focus on “Contours of Desire in Israelite Wisdom Literature” examining the configuration of desire in Israelite wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, and Wisdom of Solomon). She notes that, in a manner unparalleled in the ancient Near East, Israelite sages sought to cultivate, moderate, and direct desire, particularly to wisdom. Yet what the sages mean by desire remains largely unexamined. The project will address a number of questions including, How do the Israelite sages describe and structure desire? What are desire’s primary metaphors and objects? What do answers to those questions suggest about the role of desire in wisdom and wellbeing? Yoder’s study demonstrates that the sages engage desire as an important and complex manifestation of biological need and discernment—a drive that may press the body like hunger, or be pulled into existence by something considered valuable for survival. Desire is thus “hardwired” in the body, perceptive, and teachable. Her project challenges dualistic (cognitive/emotional) notions of desire for wisdom currently assumed in biblical studies. It also has implications for contemporary interdisciplinary and theological reconsiderations of desire by presenting a biblical portrait that neither represses nor limits desire to sexuality or personal want. Rather, according to Yoder, the sages insist that desire is a primary way that people map the world and themselves in it. Care for its formation is vital for wisdom and human flourishing.