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Education: BA Earlham College, 1987; MDiv Howard University School of Divinity, 1997; Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, Duke University, 2000; PhD in Hebrew Bible, Duke University, 2006.
The Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney is an Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Chair of the Biblical Area. Her course offerings include a course she developed for the seminary’s new curriculum, Software Supported Exegesis, where she teaches rudimentary Greek and Hebrew grammar and the fundamentals of Accordance Bible Software as tools to access the biblical text in original languages.
Among her other course offerings are: Heroines, Harlots and Handmaids: the Women of the Hebrew Scriptures with sections on “Cosmic Herstory,” “Carnal Knowledge” and “Postcolonial Musings,” and Prophetic Constructions, which explores prophets who do not have canonical books attributed to them, including better-known prophets such as Miriam and Nathan, Elijah and Elisha, along with lesser-known prophets such as the woman with whom Isaiah fathered a child and Zedekiah the Canaanite. Her approach to teaching the Hebrew Scriptures includes emphasizing archaeology, comparative ancient Near Eastern literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Her newer courses include Suffering in Job and the Holocaust, introductions to Rabbinic Literature and the Dead Seas Scrolls, and Exodus in African and African American Exegesis.
Her interest in the ancient Near Eastern and biblical portrayals of Lilith and other night-stalking creatures led to her participation in two HBO documentaries on the origin and evolution of vampire mythologies, True Bloodlines: Vampire Legends and True Bloodlines: A New Type in 2008, airing before the series premiere of True Blood.
Dr. Gafney, an ordained Episcopal priest, is a member of the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, PA. Founded in 1792, it is the first Episcopal church in the U.S. founded by and for African Americans. She is also a member of the Dorshei Derekh Reconstructionist Minyan of the Germantown Jewish Centre, in Philadelphia. She is particularly interested in how Jews and Christians interpret the texts they hold in common.
Dr. Gafney is a former US Army Reserve chaplain. And, she served the Thompson Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church as pastor before joining the Episcopal Church.
Among her research interests are feminist biblical studies, rabbinic studies, and issues in translation. Her current projects are Womanist Midrash (under contract to Westminster/John Knox) and a commentary on Habakkuk, Nahum and Zephaniah for the (forthcoming) Liturgical Press Wisdom commentary series.
In addition, Dr. Gafney’s series of bible studies in Genesis was published in the Abingdon Pastor’s Bible Study, Volume III, in 2006. Her monograph, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, and the Peoples’ Bible, which she co-edited, are available through Fortress Press. Her recent projects include an exploration of motherhood in messianic genealogies in “Mother Knows Best: Messianic Surrogacy and Sexploitation in Ruth” in Mother Goose, Mother Jones, Mommie Dearest: Biblical Mothers and their Children (Brill), and a commentary on Ruth and article on “Responsible Christian exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures” in the African diasporic biblical commentary The Africana Bible (Fortress). Dr. Gafney has also contributed to the Lutheran Study Bible, now available through Fortress, and is anticipating publication of a commentary on the book of Numbers in the African Women’s Bible Commentary. Her essay on transformative teaching practices, “Intoxicating Teaching as Transformational Pedagogy” in the volume edited by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Kent Harold Richards, Transforming Graduate Biblical Education: Ethos and Discipline was published by the Society of Biblical Literature in 2010.
A number of Dr. Gafney’s sermons in Jewish and Christian congregations are posted in her blog. In most cases, the translation of the scriptures is her own. Dr. Gafney also is a blogger on the Huffington Post – follow her writing here. Visit Dr. Gafney’s Amazon author page here. Dr. Gafney’s sermons have also been published in Those Preaching Women and The Audacity of Faith, both by Judson Press in 2008.