Interview with Dr. Madison N. Pierce

04.21.2020  |  Season 1  |  Episode 8



SHOW NOTES

In this episode, Dr. Josh Jipp and Dr. Michelle Knight interview Dr. Madison N. Pierce, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Michelle and Josh learn about Madison’s vocational calling, her time as a student at TEDS (and her history with a couple of her co-hosts!), and some alternative careers that she considered.

Madison also shares about her forthcoming book with CUP, Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which prompts some conversations about how she understands the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, as well the use of Scripture and the Trinity in Hebrews.

Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Intro
You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

Michelle Knight
Hello, and welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m Michelle Knight.

Josh Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
And we are your hosts today. We’ve got the pleasure of interviewing one of our own—Madison Pierce—the brilliant and delightful assistant professor of New Testament here at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Today we’re going to chat with her specifically about her upcoming book with Cambridge University Press, entitled Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Jipp
Hey, Madison. Great to have you on the podcast today.

Madison Pierce
Thank you, Josh. It’s great to be here.

Jipp
How do you think it’s going to feel to be the one that’s receiving the questions instead of the one asking the questions?

Pierce
Uh, terrifying. Thanks!

Jipp
Terrifying? Okay. Good, because Michelle and I have prepared some really difficult ones for you today and—

Knight
Super hard.

Jipp
—looking forward to seeing how you answer these.

Knight
Yeah. It will be great.

Pierce
Great.

[LAUGHTER]

Jipp
No, in all seriousness, I was thinking it would be really interesting for our listeners to hear a little bit about your vocational journey that landed you at TEDS—in particular, what were some of the things that got you excited in theological education, the study of the New Testament, and so forth?

Pierce
Yeah, I guess my vocation starts when I was—or my sense of vocation—kind of started when I was about 14. I was leading small groups and involved in leadership in our youth group. I had really only become a believer, like, within the last year. But in that time, I really fell in love with teaching and was starting to enjoy helping people—or, just explaining things to people. And as I was thinking through what God kind of had in store for me for the rest of my life, I thought that would probably be a part of it, but I always connected that with writing. I don’t—I never—I don’t remember ever thinking, you know, “I love to write, I’m going to be a writer, blah, blah, blah,” but I remember articulating at that same time, like, not just, “I’m going to be a teacher,” but, “I’m going to be a theologian.” And so, that was when I was about 14. I had a slight detour. There’s about a five year “blip” on the radar where I was exploring some other things for some various reasons—if you want to talk about that—but, when I was 19, I switched my major from music to Christian studies and sat down in a “Theology of Paul” class and started reading a bit of Jimmy Dunn. And I knew I was exactly where I needed to be, and within the, you know, by the end of that semester, was looking toward going to seminary and then getting a PhD and going on to teach, so…

Jipp
That’s great.

Knight
Cool.

Jipp
During that five year hiatus, was it—you were probably pursuing becoming a stand up comedian?

Pierce
I was, yes, I was a professional—

Knight
No, no Josh,  that was her…that was her circus phase.

Jipp
[LAUGHS]

Pierce
[LAUGHS] What? Well, I did actually, um…there was a time period where I did consider whether I had what it took to be a Christian comedian—I don’t think I’ve ever told you that. [LAUGHS]

Knight
[LAUGHS] What?!

Jipp
You’ve never told me, I’ve just seen you practice some of the jokes in your office at times when you didn’t think I was…I was peeking through the window.

Knight
I’m so sorry. This is mind blowing. Can you talk to me about how far into your Christian journey you were when you thought, “I know! My Christianity requires comedic timing and professional attention!” What…what did that…what…howdid that happen?!

Pierce
Well, as you know, I’m very funny—

Jipp
[LAUGHS]

Knight
Sure.

Pierce
—and…that’s an important part of my identity. We discuss this in the first episode of this season. [LAUGHS]

Knight
Yeah. Funniest person in that house, for sure.

Jipp
Yep.

Pierce
Yeah. That’s correct.

Jipp
It’s like Madison, then Isla, then Curtis.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Maybe Isabelle—

Knight
Izzy, then Curtis

Pierce
—the dog—

Jipp
Yes, yes.

Pierce
—then Curtis.

Jipp
Yeah, exactly.

Knight
Sure.

Pierce
So…[LAUGHS]…so I, um…I don’t even know if I want to tell you all of this.

Knight
Oh, you’re telling us.

Pierce
So, okay, I don’t know if you’re all familiar with “Deep Thoughts,” by Jack Handey?—

Jipp
Mmmhmm

Knight
Yes!

Pierce
—But, I was like, super into SNL at this time, and that was one of my favorite segments, and at that time it was, like, you know, “Download a bunch of these clips on like, Napster and stuff—or, like, LimeWire.” Anyway, so I watch all of these and, um…so I actually wrote my own version of “Deep Thoughts,” and it was like, 20 pages—and some of them were legit riffs on Jack Handey and then some were like, my own kind of thing, and people enjoyed them—I can say with some confidence.

Jipp
Oh…Do you still have those?

Pierce
Uh…they are somewhere. I don’t have them, like…well, I mean…I don’t anymore pull them out on a daily basis to encourage myself about how funny I am. But yeah, they’re around.

Jipp
Yeah. You know, honestly, like…that’s pretty funny, but it really doesn’t surprise me too much…[LONG PAUSE]…but anyway, back to—let’s try to stay on topic a little bit better if we can—back to your—

[LAUGHTER]

Knight
Sure.

Pierce
Sorry. Yeah.

Jipp
[LAUGHS]—Yeah, it’s your fault. It’s…it’s probably Michelle’s, actually.

Pierce
Yeah.

Knight
Yeah, yeah you’re right.

Jipp
So you—maybe let’s skip a little bit ahead into—you did your M.Div at TEDS, and then you did your PhD in the UK in Durham. What were some of your thought processes in terms of, why did you go overseas instead of stay in the United States? Why not an evangelical institution? Do you want to give us a little bit of a window into your thinking and how it formed you as well?

Pierce
Yeah! Well, when I was finishing out my M.Div and starting to look around, I felt ready to write—whether that was naïveor not—I felt like, “I’m ready to do some independent work, and I really don’t want to do another, you know, few years of coursework.” I knew that the UK would give me that opportunity and also…I was really eager to have some different experiences in terms of culture and all of that—of course, I understand that the UK is by no means, like, the most distinctculture from the U.S., but it certainly has its charm—and I also did consider staying in the U.S. and looked at various programs, but I was fairly sure that I didn’t want to be at an evangelical institution. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a PhD at an evangelical institution—in fact, I supervise PhD students at a evangelical institution. But, I personally felt like I needed the opportunity to stretch out a little bit and to explore various parts of my faith, to continue to be in conversation with people outside of evangelicalism, and the UK offered me that opportunity. Staying in the U.S. where I do feel like things are more polarized—not just in theology—you know, I felt like I had an opportunity to be at an evangelical institution or to be at an institution that was antagonistic. And, going to the UK—especially going to Durham—I had the opportunity to be in a public university, but still to be in an environment that was loosely confessional—or at least hospitable towards a broader theological perspective—I’m really grateful to say that my hope in that regard was really well-founded. I mean, Durham offered all those things and, in the shadow of the cathedral, certainly allowed me to grow my faith and to connect with God in a new way.

Jipp
That’s great. Very cool.

Knight
Madison, I’m glad you shared that, because I think our students are pretty consistently trying to discern what their next steps are. And, I know I field questions a lot and I’ve heard Josh talk about fielding these questions too. Students look at their faculty and they see that they’re from a lot of different institutions, some confessional, some not; some evangelical, some not; some in the U.S., some not. And so I think it’s really helpful when we’re talking through our journey, kind of, to explore a little bit what that looks like and why we made those choices—as we have. So thank you for doing that.

Pierce
Yeah! One thing to pop in—when I was looking at programs, I found that everybody who gave me advice advised me to do what they did, and it’s really important to me that I don’t do that. Although, I certainly…I mean, most people ask me, “What was your experience like at Durham?” And I say, “If, you know, if you feel led in that direction, do it. You know, I hope you would be as blessed as I was, but I think wherever you end up going, you should go where you’re going to flourish as a scholar and as an individual.”

Knight
Yeah, that’s a great point, and something we should all keep in mind as faculty advisors, too.

Jipp
Yes, I can think of numerous instances where I’ve done the exact same thing, and only later on did I realize, “There might be other reasons for advising people to think differently than doing what I did.” So, you’re obviously mature beyond your years, Madison, to see that so early on.

Pierce
Well, thank you, Josh—

Knight
So mature.

Pierce

—You certainly know about maturity.

[LAUGHTER]

Jipp
One of the fun things about having Michelle and I interview you, Madison, is that it gives me an opportunity to reflect upon—or maybe not, I won’t do the reflecting—but ask the two of you, perhaps, to reflect a little bit upon your friendship. I can remember years ago, when I was maybe in my first or second year as a faculty member at TEDS and seeing the two of you bouncing up and down the halls, doing your teaching, and uh…[LAUGHTER]…you were pretty energetic. You’re still pretty energetic, the two of you.

Knight
I feel like, is that sexist…or something? I don’t know—

Jipp
Bouncing?

Knight
—did we have pigtails on?

Jipp
No, but you were energetic. And you still are.

Knight
Yeah, that’s fair. We’ll take it.

Jipp
Anyway, um…I don’t know what my question is here, but I think it would be fun to hear a little bit about how your friendship with Michelle started, you know, maybe some of the ways that it’s changed you, or things that, um…ways in which the two of you have mutually encouraged each other. Do you want to give a little insight for our listeners into your friendship?

Pierce
Sure. Um, I think this may actually have been maybe the second time that I stepped foot on Trinity’s campus. I mean, the first time was for a campus visit, like in August of 2009, and then—Oh, I usually don’t tell my students when I was a student, I just talk about, like, “In the distant past…”—

Knight
You’re outed.

Pierce
—Anyways, at some point in the past, I visited campus and then the next January had a proficiency exam for Greek, and I now know that Michelle Knight was in this very room. This was 10 years ago, January. So we didn’t actually connect at that point, but, maybe a week or so later, we were at some kind of orientation, and I ended up sitting by one of the few women in the room—maybe the only other woman in the room—and we were just working through stuff and ended up kind of chit-chatting about what we were doing and all of that. And—skipping ahead a little bit…Michelle may want to double back to that experience—but we ended up in the same Greek class because we did both pass that proficiency exam—

Knight
Crushed it.

Pierce
—and we were in Grant Osborne’s— or “Dr. O” as we referred to him in his exegesis class, which was a wonderful blessing to me.

Jipp
That’s so cool.

Knight
It was such a neat time. I’d like to point out two things that Madison didn’t share. First of all, the reason that we’re sure we were in that proficiency exam together is that I remember very distinctly looking up on like, I don’t know, the midway point of my proficiency exam, and noticing somebody finishing and turning their exam in, and being like, “Who is this crazy person?” And that was Madison. Second of all, when we were sitting next to each other during this event she was talking about, I’d like to point out that the person in the front of the room was giving us strict instructions on what to do next and how to do things, and I was watching this individual next to me kind of scurry ahead—her brows furrowed—ten steps ahead of whatever was happening and what we were being instructed to do. She was trying to register for classes that had yet to be unlocked because we hadn’t taken the proficiency exam, but she was, like, bound and determined to make it happen. It was the most Madison moment—now looking back—that I could have ever hoped for. So—

Jipp
Yeah, it’s easy to imagine that.

Knight
—they were both really on brand. It was perfect.

Jipp
Yeah. What would you guys say is one of your strongest, closest similarities and biggest differences in terms of—I don’t know, it could be anything—personality, or likes, dislikes.

Pierce
We have a lot of similar interests. I mean, obviously, I think one of the things that bonded us quickly is that we both love tech, and I think we do both have a desire for efficiency and proficiency. But, also that we both—

Jipp
That’s why I often feel so left out in this triumvirate today, especially the proficiency part. Sorry, go ahead.

Knight
You’re so proficient, Josh, don’t worry.

Pierce
We’ll bring you along, brother. [LAUGHS] But, then we also were in a very small group of people at TEDS at that time that wanted to go into academia when we finished. And, so the fact that we both wanted to be professors when we grew up and also that we were female, I mean, I think that we were brought together. So, I would say that that’s definitely some of the things that we have in common. Michelle, do you want to talk about some of the things that we—[LAUGHS] the ways we are different?

Knight
Yeah. [CLEARS THROAT]

[LAUGHTER]

Pierce
I feel like Michelle has a more acute awareness of this. [LAUGHS]

Knight
Well, for example, Madison and I are both “J”s We both—well, actually, Madison is the one who knows all about not only Enneagram, but—what is that? Four letters.

Pierce
Myers-Briggs.

Knight
Thank you. Myers-Briggs. So she could probably speak more intelligently to that specifically, but we both make decisions, we both get things done, we both logically kind of calculate what we are going to do next, and once we’ve decided to do it, we do it. But like, for example, Madison is one of the most impulsive “J”s I’ve ever met in my life, and she decides what she’s going to do, she’s doing it, and she’s like, “on.” She’s just taking care of business. She’s like, halfway down the street. I will mull over a decision for half of a day to make sure that it’s absolutely the right decision. So that’s one kind of acute difference that I think we’ve noticed in our life recently.

Pierce
When I bought my house on the Internet.

Knight
Madison literally bought her house on the Internet. My husband and I looked at 47 houses—as an example.

Jipp
Got it, yeah.

Knight
Follow up—Madison, um, is a lot more introspective than I am. So, Madison is very aware of how she’s processing in the world and how she’s interacting with the world. She’s very sensitive to the emotional states of other people around her. I—as much as I have some sort of emotional intelligence and those sorts of things—I tend to block out emotion and kind of stick it on a shelf and get stuff done. So we each kind of handle our emotions and our surroundings and the things that stress us out in different ways. I’m trying to think of more comedic examples. Madison, do you have any?

Pierce
Michelle loves terrible Sci-Fi. I only like great Sci-Fi.

[LAUGHTER]

Knight
I do love terrible Sci-Fi, all of the really bad Sci-Fi. I love it. I love feel-good TV. I want TV to be the best part of my day, not because it’s quality, but because it’s happy. I also—

Jipp
Because it makes you feel good.

Knight
—yes. It’s therapeutic.

Jipp
You don’t need “dark and complicated.”

Knight

No, I want Captain America. Madison likes the dark DC Comics stuff. It’s really creepy. I’m not into it.

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight

She also likes intelligent comedy—no time for that.

Jipp
Yeah, I know she also likes non-intelligent comedy as well.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] That’s true. Yeah. I’ve been giving Josh some movie recommendations, so…

Knight

So you’re outed.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Yeah, I have it on good authority it’s not all intelligent.

Knight

That’s fair.

Jipp
All right. Well, thanks for the little insight—little window—into the friendship of the two of you.

Knight

Sure.

Jipp
You could also have added another similarity is that you probably just dominated the M.Div program while you were at TEDS, right? [LAUGHS]

Knight

There’s no question about the fact that we dominated pretty much everything we did at TEDS.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Everything. Not just the M.Div program, but—

Knight

[LAUGHS] I’m just kidding! I’m just kidding, but with our powers combined, we were set up well to succeed.

Pierce
Here’s another difference—I would never say that, but I welcome Michelle saying it on our behalf. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[LAUGHS] “But I’m happy she said it!”

Knight

I was being hyperbolic and humorous! [LAUGHTER] I was being funny! I was—I think everybody knows I was being funny—

Jipp
Yeah, we do. We do.

Pierce
Oh, yeah.

Knight
—Because I got a “not A” in one class.

Jipp
Uh, all right. Let’s turn to your recent book, Madison. It was a really…it was a great experience for me, in terms of reading experiences go, to have a chance to prep for the podcast by reading your forthcoming book, Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It’s coming out later this summer with Cambridge University Press and to all of our listeners, you won’t be surprised. It’s a stellar example—

Knight
So good.

Jipp
—of combining close exegetical argument with, with also robust theology. So Madison, a lot of us readers of Hebrews have noticed, obviously, that speech and speaking is a huge part of the book. How did you take that theme but then move it forward?

Pierce
I think…So one of the most interesting things about my project is I feel like I just kind of looked at the text, and I feel like anybody else could make a lot of the same observations that I did by looking at it. But, you know, without kind of attending to this particular feature, they just didn’t see these things. But I’ve had a few people say, like, “Wow, once you see that, you can’t unsee it.” And what they saw was patterns in the discourse, that first of all, you know, speech is not only prevalent, but it’s clearly patterned. And so, you know, first, the Father speaks to the Son, then the Son speaks to the Father, then the Spirit speaks to the community. And that’s in the first section of Hebrews. A lot of Hebrews scholars divide Hebrews into three sections, and so in that first major section, that happens. And lo and behold, when we transition into the second section of Hebrews, it happens again. The third section, it doesn’t, but there are lots of distinctives of the third section of Hebrews. For example, the Son and the Spirit are not really mentioned with as great a frequency in general in that third section. The priesthood of Christ is a more minimal part of that section, etc. etc. So there are significant variations, even though God does continue to speak there. So, well—and one other thing—there’s only three speakers in Hebrews; Father, Son and Spirit, and they speak in this really distinctive way. And so these characters that the author portrays as God have a distinct function in the world. So…

Jipp
Now, is Scripture considered a speaker in the Book of Hebrews? You said there’s only three. Where does Scripture play a role?

Pierce
Well, Scripture—there’s only one place where potentially Scripture speaks, but it’s really…there’s an exhortation that addresses you as sons, or as, you know, children, in chapter 12. A lot of people just kind of move beyond that introductory formula and assume that it’s actually ὁ θεὸς—or the Father—speaking, but it literally is the exhortation that addresses you. And whether..I think…yeah, I have some really preliminary thoughts about what’s going on there, but I don’t necessarily think that that’s a speaker. I think that it’s more an appeal to the proverb or to the writings in some way, which would, of course, be exceptional in Hebrews.

Jipp
Okay. Could you give us an example or two, a specific example, of where the Father and the

Son—or the Spirit, I guess—but maybe where the Father and Son are speaking to each other?

Pierce
Yeah. So, in Hebrews 1, the opening series of quotations—the seven quotations—various ones of those are spoken to the Son. So, “To whom among the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?” Even though it doesn’t say, “God said to the Son,” it’s clear by the way that He introduces that he’s saying—He doesn’t say this to angels, He says this to the Son that He’s introduced in 1:1-4. And then, you know, in a few others throughout; “You are from the beginning, oh Lord,” “Your throne, oh God, is forever”—moving out of order a little bit. And then finally, this climaxes in the—goodness, suddenly I’m forgetting the words of Psalm 110:1, the most frequently quoted text in the New Testament—“Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool.’” So that’s the last quotation there. He doesn’t actually include the “Lord said to my Lord” part, but I had to get into it. So that’s the “Father to the Son” in chapter 1. In chapter two, it may or may not be understood as a response, but it’s still certainly the Son speaking to the Father where he says—or the author introduces this as, “He’s not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters,” he says, “I will proclaim your name,” you know, “yours—the Father’s name—to my brothers and sisters in the midst of the assembly, I will sing your praise. I will put my trust in Him. Here I am, and the children God has given me.” And those are, you know, Psalm 22, and then Isaiah 8…in Isaiah 8 again.

Jipp
Yeah, that’s helpful.

Pierce
Yeah.

Jipp
Thank you, that’s helpful.

Knight
So, Madison, I feel like because of this project in particular—and this is definitely an Old Testament person posing a question here. When you’re constantly looking at the way that these quotations are adapted, you are also working in kind of defining the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, at least the way that it is perceived by the author of Hebrews. So can you speak a little bit to the way that your research has influenced the way that you would describe the relationship between the Testaments as we encounter them today?

Pierce
I think my work in Hebrews has led me to emphasize continuity a lot more. I mean, that’s actually one of the reasons that I began working on Hebrews is, I felt like my tradition didn’t place a lot of stock in the Old Testament and kind of talked about it—it/the law—as something that was temporary, you know, bad, kind of a “blip” on the historical radar, or, you know, “blip” in salvation history, or whatever—temporary “this and that”—which some of those things are appropriate and some are problematic. And when I got to Hebrews in undergrad—I was taking a class on Hebrews and General Epistles with Joey Dodson—almost immediately, I mean, the series of quotations that I was just pulling from, realizing that the author of Hebrews thought that the Old Testament was pretty important and, you know, going along, it led me to understand that without Scripture, without God’s message to his people throughout the generations, there’s no way we can understand who Jesus is. So, I tell my students that Apollos, who may or may not be the author of Hebrews, his experience in Acts 18 where Prisca and Aquila kind of show him how Scripture points to Jesus—or sorry, that Jesus is…no, that Jesus is the Messiah. Sorry, I’m getting all mixed up—that I kind of had the opposite experience. Like, I knew who Jesus was, but I didn’t understand what Scripture said about him. And so, that was really helpful for me. So yeah, continuity is really important and especially in Hebrews, I mean, in most instances, it’s pretty clear why the author is picking up on a particular quotation. And so, even though some people say, “Eh, he was just reading Christologically,” whatever that means, there actually is something in the grammar—or something in the interpretive tradition—that leads him and other early Christian interpreters to read the text in the way that they have. And so it just helps me to see continuity with the way that I understand the text, with…between early Christian, early Jewish interpreters and in various other ways as well.

Knight
Yeah. Can I pick up on something you said there?—I’m sorry, Josh. Feel free to cut in if you want to. You kind of contrasted this approach with kind of a “Christological” reading. Can you tease out what the differences between the two, perhaps using an example?

Pierce
Well, I don’t…I think that what the author of Hebrews is doing is a Christological reading. I mean, he’s reading these texts in light of the Messiah. I’m more pushing against common use of the word “Christological,” as though…one, that it’s some kind of “method,” and two, as though it describes author just kind of picking up his Bible—this is, of course, anachronistic—picking up his Bible and saying, “Let me find something about Jesus,” and, like, you know, just opening up. It’s more that…Scripture was in their hearts and was in their communities, and together they reasoned how it pointed forward to the Messiah. You know, they knew those things, and then they read these texts—or presented these texts—in new ways. Does that make sense?

Knight
No, it does. That’s helpful.

Jipp
I want to—this is helpful—I want to keep going a little bit further in terms of trying to understand things that the author says and how it relates to the Old Testament and what we might call like, the “literal sense” or something along those lines. So in Hebrews 1, when it talks about…and when the author is saying—I think it’s verse 8, right? Where he’s quoting from Psalm 45 in the Masoretic text, right?—and he says, you know, to the Son, he says…what is it about? “Oh, God, your throne is a throne that lasts forever,” and so on and so forth. Does the author of Hebrews think that Psalm 45 has a relationship to the Davidic King—the same thing with Psalm 2, the same thing with Psalm 110—or are these just prophetic words that are spoken to the Son? Does that make sense, what I’m asking there? Basically, the relationship between something like a historical, referent, literal sense with these Davidic Kings, and then from the author’s standpoint, the Son of God—how those two relate is what I’m after.

Pierce
Well, the method that the author of Hebrews is using seems to… kind of, “place”—or to try to resolve tension—in earlier ways that the text being read. So in a more classic example, or a more “fleshed out” example, would be a similar reading strategy that we find in the readings of Psalm 110 and the Synoptics. You know, David calls him “Lord,” you know, “Lord said to my Lord,” “David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?” And so clearly, Jesus is pointing out that you understand this text in light of the Davidic Heir, but it’s not appropriate for David to refer to that person as “Lord,” so something else is going on here. It doesn’t necessarily diminish the possibility of a Davidic Heir being the referent, but it has to be a special kind of Davidic Heir. I think that’s what needs to happen there. So I think something similar is happening in Hebrews, where the author said, it’s almost like, “You have heard it said, but I say to you,” or, “You have interpreted it this way, but I interpret it, you know, in a more clear way.” So, in terms of those texts, he never says, “This was never about David,” or, “This was never about the Davidic King.” Instead, he says, “It’s clearly about the Son,” and I think that we get clues in various places as to the, again, kind of continuity or discontinuity with those readings—

Jipp
Okay.

Pierce
—but in a lot of places there’s not a lot of clarity there.

Jipp
Yeah, no, that’s helpful. As I said a few minutes ago, one of the things I really appreciate about your book is the way that it does really have, you know, strong exegetical historical work, but it’s also working towards…really a robust theological claim as well. I’d love to hear some of your reflections—maybe theological reflections—on what you think are some of the implications of your work as it pertains to the Trinity or anything else, perhaps related to the church.

Pierce
Yeah, I think that there is a structure of Hebrews that points forward—or, that when we look forward to later texts and see, “This is how people understood the relationship among Father, Son, and Spirit,” that we see clues that maybe the author of Hebrews conceived of of God in this way as well. Even some of what I was saying about the distinctiveness of the speakers—the Father, Son and Spirit—are the ones who speak in a timeless way in Hebrews, but they all have their own distinctive function within the discourse. The Father primarily commends the Son. He sets him up. I mean, He does also institute the New Covenant, but it’s a New Covenant of which the Son is a mediator. So, He has a function in the text. The Son has a function also, which is to, kind of, acknowledge his mission and to actually commend the Father in a way—that, you know, “I will put my trust in Him,” “I’ve come to do your will,” to say that, “I am faithful to you,” and He models that not only in the quotations, but in various other, um, you know, in the way that the author introduces his argument in other places as well. And then the Spirit commends the community, because the Father and Son speak to each other, and we get to overhear it, but the Spirit is the one that addresses us directly. And so the Spirit is the one who really responds on behalf of the Father and the Son with humanity. And I do in the book draw some parallels there with the so-called “unforgivable sin.” I think something similar is happening with the way that the Spirit is portrayed there, that He’s the one that kind of responds on behalf of the Son—which I think is drawn from Isaiah 63, while we’re on the subject. [LAUGHTER] So, yeah, they have a function, but they’re the only ones that are appropriately—or that are speakers up until the very end. It’s actually the case—this is moving a little bit beyond question, but it’s just kind of a fun fact—there is one exception to the, “Only God speaks in Hebrews.” The very last speaker in Hebrews is actually us. With confidence, we say—

Jipp
So what are the implications of that—

Knight
That’s very interesting.

Jipp
—is it that we learn how to hear, and then we speak, or how…what are…what are some of the implications of that? I mean, that seems like a really interesting insight.

Pierce
Yeah, I do! I think that the author has been modeling speech for us via God, but this is an opportunity we’ve been hearing and hearing and hearing, and we’ve, you know, there’s been kind of this tension throughout Hebrews. Like, will the people continue? Will they be faithful? Will they not? And so here at least, we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” And so, at least in this instance, our response is to be faithful, to hear what has been said to us and to move forward appropriately.

Jipp
That’s great. That’s really good.

Knight
That’s wonderful. So Madison, obviously—well, I hope we’re not going to see people who listen to this podcast or engage your work go and start talking about prosopological exegesis from the pulpit. But, could you summarize for us two or three ways you feel like your research should change—or at least affect or strengthen—the way that we teach and preach about the Book of Hebrews?

Pierce
Yeah, sure. Michelle is alluding to the method that I think is that work here. I don’t think we’ve named it up to this point, but I’ve been talking about it. So I think that the author of Hebrews is taking passages from Scripture and is identifying a new character within them. It’s typically Jesus, but in the examples that I was just giving, you know, the Spirit, for example, was identified as well, and even—yeah, so I’ll stop there and not give too many examples. [LAUGHTER] But so, different new characters are introduced here. “Prosopological exegesis” is a terrifying phrase. Yes, do not use it from the pulpit, or Greek and Hebrew, or whatever. Be generous with your congregations. [LAUGHTER] But what I hope people see is one, that the author of Hebrews is not a capricious reader of Scripture. This is something that, since George Caird wrote—who is my, you know, “grandfather” in Biblical Studies, he was the doctoral advisor for my doctoral adviser, so it’s all in the family. But he’s the one that said, “Hebrews is reading carefully,” that his exegetical method is not—he says “fantastic,” although I use “fantastic” in a rather positive way. He’s using it in a more classical sense—that he’s careful. And…so that’s something that I want to bring out—not just with Hebrews, but with all of our New Testament interpreters—again, that they’re attending to the grammar, and attending to the circumstances within which they’re operating. I think that…[LAUGHS] I think that helps us to understand that these men were not inspired in a vacuum. Not only were they readers of texts, but they also, I mean, God providentially set up this moment for them, in which they were operating. They didn’t tuck themselves away in a room and only receive from God, but as, you know, our doctrine of inspiration insists, divine and human authorship is important. And so the exact moment within which they were writing is important—not only for us and what they were able to pass on—but for those first communities that received what they were saying. If these methods weren’t operative, if these interpretive traditions weren’t already present, then these arguments that the author of Hebrews is making are going to be nonsensical. But he is reading in a really…he’s making a lot of assumptions when he reads—to read these texts in light of Jesus to function in this way—and so I think that means that this is how people read texts at that time.

Knight
Yeah, that’s super helpful.

Jipp
That’s well said. It sounds like you should…you should teach a class on this. Do you ever…have you ever thought of that?

Knight
Oh my gosh, yes!

Pierce
[LAUGHS] I have. Yeah, I’m currently teaching a “Use of Scripture in Scripture” class, which is a great joy to me, and it’s still something that I’m thinking through, that I’ve got lots of work to do—You know, early on in the class, students said, “You should write a book about this!” and I told them that it’s a long way down the road because I have some strong opinions about it, but I still want to flush them out a little bit more.

Jipp
Yeah, I can see some of the wisdom of that, too, in terms of a book that evolves out of your ability to keep working with your method through a variety of texts, so I hope you take up the students on that at some point, though.

Knight
Me too!

Pierce
Thanks, Josh.

Jipp
One more question related to writing and church—and you had said, you know, at the beginning of our conversation, even back—I think when you were 14 or whatever—that you had, you know, conceived of yourself one day of being a writer. Do you—I’m just wondering—how do you find a research topic, or how do you kind of land on what you want to write on? Is it a problem in text? Is it, “Hey, the church really needs to know this,” or you know, any—I know you’re still relatively young—

Pierce
Bless you. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
—although you’re getting older every day—but how, so far, have you put thought into how you pick a writing project?

Pierce
Well, I mean, some writing projects have found me. You know, people have approached me to write things. I’m trying to be more selective about those now and really to allow myself to kind of steer what I’m doing. And with that, I mean, really it’s been curiosity. You know, things have kind of welled up in me. Obviously, this comes out of doctoral research, which was just a question that kept expanding, but with later projects, things that I have on the horizon, it’s really a lot of times has been an area that I feel like it’s a weakness in my own understanding. So, for example, you know the question that you asked about how these quotations relate to David, or to interpretations about David, that…questions like that are why I’m writing a book about Messiah Language in Hebrews. I need to think about that more and I want to be able to approach it in a more systematic way. And so, I’ve got a question to answer, might as well write a book about it.

Jipp
That’s great.

Knight
Love that. Well, Madison, it’s been a true joy to have you on the podcast today. Obviously, you’re on the podcast a lot, but for us to be able to, kind of “toss” you on the other side of the table and—uh, the virtual table—and ask you some questions has been really fun, especially because there’s so much that we talk about on the podcast, like food and age and all sorts of other silly things. It’s fun to hear you talk about your passions and your writing and everything. So thank you for joining us today—it was great to have you on.

Jipp
Yeah, thank you, Madison.

Pierce
Thanks, y’all.

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Knight
And that’s just the Foreword. If you enjoyed what Dr. Madison Pierce had to say today, watch for her forthcoming book, Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews, coming out later this year with Cambridge University Press. It’s been a privilege to have our friend and our co-host on the podcast today. We want to say thank you to her as well as to our producer—our super talented producer—Curtis Pierce. We also want to take a moment to thank the Center for Transformational Churches, which has generously helped to sponsor our podcast, and thank you listeners for tuning in. I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp!

Knight
Thank you and have a great day!

Outro
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