Julie Newberry

I am a New Testament scholar currently completing my doctoral work in Duke University's Graduate Program in Religion. 

My dissertation focuses on joy and the conditions--circumstances, habits, dispositions, and so forth--that facilitate joy in Luke-Acts. While the prominence of joy in Luke's Gospel has long been recognized, I hope to further our understanding of this motif by examining the relationship between joy-according-to-Luke and other aspects of discipleship. At the same time, my dissertation will also contribute to ongoing discussions about the study of "emotions" in the New Testament. 

I will present part of my dissertation research at the 2018 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, probing the emotional overtones of Zechariah’s temporary speechlessness in Luke 1. Elsewhere, I have presented a paper about the theological import of Luke’s focus on age categories in the infancy narrative, a topic related both to scriptural allusions and to embodiment in the New Testament. I plan to submit a revised version of this paper to the Journal for the Study of the New Testament in the winter of 2018, and a revised version of an earlier conference paper, arguing that Paul alludes in 1 Corinthians 11:7-12 not only to Genesis but also to 1 Esdras, has already been accepted for publication by New Testament Studies (January 2019). Together, these projects reflect my abiding interest in the theological interpretation of Scripture, the study of intertextuality, embodiment in the New Testament, and academically rigorous scholarship that has implications for the life of the church today. 

The same concerns undergird my teaching—an area in which I actively pursue continued growth, as evidenced by my participation in Duke Graduate School’s Certificate in College Teaching program. In addition to general education courses in New Testament, I am prepared to teach courses on topics such as the exegesis of the Gospels and Acts, emotions in the New Testament, the New Testament’s engagement with the Old Testament, and the theological and hermeneutical issues involved in the “Historical Jesus” project. 

Current Research Interests

My dissertation analyzes joy and the conditions—that is, the dispositions, circumstances, commitments, practices, and the like—that lead to joy in Luke-Acts. Drawing on my background in literary studies, the body of my dissertation offers a close reading of Luke-Acts’ portrayal of joy in relation to other aspects of the life of discipleship. This integrative approach sheds light on the link between joy and factors such as hope, obedience, and the experience of divine intervention. 

By attending to the interconnection of joy with other components of discipleship, my holistic description of joy-according-to-Luke helps to make sense of the fact that—notwithstanding the tendency of many today to view joy as a spontaneous response over which one has little or no control and for which one can hardly be held responsible—Luke attaches moral weight to whether and why people rejoice. For Luke-Acts, I argue, one’s joy(lessness) in a given situation can indeed be praiseworthy or blameworthy, at least insofar as this reflexive response evinces faithfulness (or a lack thereof) in the whole life of discipleship. Moreover, through its nuanced depiction of joy and what facilitates it, Luke-Acts offers resources for fostering joy also today. 

As others writing about emotions in biblical literature have argued (e.g., Spencer 2017), interdisciplinary study is essential for the intellectual integrity of this subfield. Accordingly, building on the interdisciplinary approaches evident in the work of scholars such as Matthew A. Elliott, Anke Inselmann, and others, my Introduction reviews the “cultural encyclopedia” in which Luke’s portrayal of joy was written and initially received, and it critically surveys current debates about “emotions” in fields such as philosophy, psychology, and neurobiology. 

However, I seek to situate this contextualizing work within a tradition-based, rather than encyclopedic, approach to moral inquiry (cf. MacIntyre 1990). Without denying the importance of studying both first-century conceptions of “joy” and cutting-edge research about emotions today, I take the Christian theological tradition’s reception of Luke-Acts and reflection on joy to be equally essential for illuminating what, according to Luke-Acts, facilitates appropriate and durable joy. For this reason, my Introduction interacts both with recent theological reflection on joy (e.g., Volf and Crisp 2015) and with earlier treatments of joy from within the Christian tradition (e.g., Thomas Aquinas; Pope Paul VI). Further, my Conclusion draws out the potential normative implications of my descriptive exegetical work, reflecting on how my study as a whole might inform attempts to nurture joyfulness in Christian communities in the present. 

Current Appointments & Affiliations

  • Teaching & Mentoring
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    Teaching Activities

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