I was told recently that I might not be a good PhD candidate because of my academic bias. I written this person saying I had grown up thinking of the Hebrew Scriptures less of religious text and more as a family history. Further, I read the New Testament for the first time as an adult and I was surprised not to find Anti-Semitism, but Jewish people leading Jewish lives. Based on these experiences, I am now committed to exploring and challenging the ways that the Christian Church has grown to understand and interact with the Torah.
I have questioned myself based on these challenges of academic bias and I have a few thoughts. First of all, I would much rather hear the findings of someone whose research has been personally meaningful. Secondly, the fact that many people skip over the genealogy in Matthew 1 and I read it and it changed my life may be my bias, but it could be their bias. Personal connection to something, however, can change the otherwise mundane, into the fascinating. We rarely find anything new in things we fail to take the time to see. Thirdly, an Anti-Semitic bias has long existed in biblical studies and has stood up to per reviews and tests of “objectivity.” It is so pervasive that pointing it out can be like explaining to a fish where all the water is. But its impact has been very real. It led to the burning of Jewish books and ended with the burning of Jewish people. I am certain to be biased, but I hope that my bias is remedial. To think the best about the people of a text when the world often assumed the worst does not correct an imbalance, it only puts a grain of sand on one side of the scale. That leads to one last thought. Development in understanding often comes from thinkers who are differently biased, from people who observe earthworms, pea-plants, maggots on meat, and the sound of bells in ways that cause them to see what we all missed. I think our future rests not in unbiased individuals but in the conversations of variously biased communities. That is what I seek. That may make me a bad PhD candidate. But I hope it makes me a better human.