Kimberly Russaw leads Elon community in a reinvestigation of the story of Rahab

Russaw, esteemed theological scholar, lectured to challenge the traditional thinking of a well-known story in the Bible and explored the importance of a woman in the Israelites conquering of Jericho.

Theological scholar Kimberly Russaw dissected the story of Rahab in Joshua 2, and the enlightenment and open-mindedness of students, faculty, staff and local clergy became evident in their facial expressions during her lecture on Tuesday, March 29 in the Numen Lumen Pavilion. 

Sponsored by the Black Lumen Project and the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society, Russaw gave the lecture based on her new book, “Revisiting Rahab: Another Look at the Woman of Jericho,” and reinvestigated the biblical story from the perspective of a crime. And she was the lead forensic investigator.

“What if I, a Hebrew Bible scholar that is fascinated by television shows centered on crime and mystery, takes up the forensic analysis in a study of the story of Rahab,” Russaw said, akin to the forensic investigators from popular shows “N.C.I.S.” and “CSI: Special Victims Unit.”

Kimberly Russaw addressing University Chaplain Kirstin Boswell.

“This was a dynamic experience having our students watch community pastors engage with a scholar,” said Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and director of the Black Lumen Project. “I think it’s important for students to see the connection between scholarship and the application of delivering sermons and bible studies based on these texts.”

Russaw’s expertise included womanist, feminist and African American hermeneutics. This lecture, like many of her works, uplifts women’s role in Bible and shifts the perspective of the patriarchal text. She provided answers to questions that confront the “dominate line of thinking.”

During the question-and-answer session, a participant expressed a lack of respect for Rahab the prostitute until now.

Russaw responded, “Now, how do you feel about this chick you couldn’t respect while recognizing she is the hero and helped hide the Israelite spies?”

University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Rev. Kristin Boswell said, “That’s the message to take back to our communities of worship as we minister and pastor, thinking about how many people are othered because of a title.”

Russaw is an associate professor of the Old Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminar and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, where she serves as the chair of the African American Biblical Hermeneutics program unit.