Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Some Jewish Women Noticed My Research

Today I received an email inquiry from a Jewish woman who is teaching other women in her synagogue. Here is what she wrote:

Alice Linsley - I have used some of your work as background material for a small 
women's group in my synagogue as a part of a teaching Sukkot celebration these past 
few years. The material has just been part of my brief oral presentations - not given out 
textually about the women personalities in Torah and Tanach.

But I have had some questions from my group that I would like answered if possible:  [she goes on to ask the questions].

Here is my response:

Hello, Gail.

You are welcome to use whatever you find helpful from my research in the field of Biblical Anthropology. I hold a Master of Divinity degree and have a background (no degree) and special training in kinship analysis, a sub-discipline of cultural anthropology. I studied at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. There I had the opportunity to study kinship analysis with a man who had been mentored by Franz Boaz. Boaz also mentored Margaret Meade. You may be aware that many famous anthropologists never held Ph.Ds. They were practitioners, not academics.

My kinship analysis work is unique. It represents a paradigm shift. You may recall from Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that almost all major breakthroughs in science have been made by individuals, not by scientists working as groups, or communities of academics.

I teach Introduction to Philosophy, the History of Ethics, and World Religions at Midway College, a small women's college in central Kentucky. I am an adjunct, as I do not have the Ph.D required to be full time faculty. I also write curriculum for the Midway online program.

I was an Episcopal priest for 18 years. I left on the Sunday the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson, a non-celibate gay bishop. That was 10 years ago. My decision cost me my full time teaching job at another institution, my home, and some friendships. The Lord God, who is good to sinners like me, has provided all my needs over these past 10 years.

I began my anthropological studies after I was asked to teach a study on the book of Genesis about 35 years ago. The class was at my church in Pennsylvania and was for women only. All the commentaries I used were written by men and none provided satisfying answers to the questions the women in the class were asking. I did my best, but after the course ended I had a crisis of faith. I began to doubt that the material was trustworthy. Specifically, I doubted that the people named in Genesis 4, 5, 10 and 11 were historical. I slipped into depression and it was difficult trying to raise my children.

One day it hit me that I could know for sure whether or not the people listed in Genesis 4 and 5 were historical. I could diagram the data and do an analysis, as I have been taught. I went and found my textbook, E.L. Shusky's Manual for Kinship Analysis and I began. It became apparent that Genesis 4 and 5 detail parallel ruling lines that intermarried. I found other features that made me think these were historical people who had a distinctive kinship pattern that involved marriage to patrilineal cousins. In the years that followed I did other diagrams and found the same pattern for Abraham's father Terah and Moses' father Amram. Since then I have traced the identical pattern through the Old Testament to Samuel's father Elkanah and to David's father Jesse.

That marked the beginning of a long journey and one which has led to numerous other important discoveries. There is still much to investigate, and as I am now 64 years of age, I hope that the Lord will raise up some younger people to pursue this work.

Unfortunately, there is not a single institution of higher education in the world that offers course work in Biblical Anthropology. When I suggested it, I was told that this is really Near Eastern Studies, and indeed there are many institutions that offer degrees in N.E. Studies. However, my research traces Abraham's ancestors back to their roots in the Nile Valley and Sudan. This is NOT the Near East, but Africa. Africa remains the blind spot of American education from the elementary school to the post-graduate level. Sigh.

I hope that I have answered your questions. If not, please email me again.

May the Lord bless you and the women as you delve into the sacred writings that the Lord God has so faithfully preserved for us.

Alice C. Linsley


Ramona Gordy said...

Thank you for sharing this. It takes a great deal of faith and courage to go in the way that the Lord is showing you, not knowing what the outcome will be, but trusting that it will all work out. Can you see your life as a part of the pattern of the very people you are studying, who came forth out of a "comfort zone", who came out of despair, and they were given a vision, a promise.
As always Alice, keep up the good work. I love reading your blog, and I love to challenge your thoughts when I read them and have an "A-ha" moment.

Alice C. Linsley said...

You are a blessing, Ramona!

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

I am also an avid reader. Trying to absorb your material and all its implications.

Your statement that the Lord will raise up younger folks to carry on the research really struck a chord with me.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Linsley, you rock. Never think otherwise. Respectfully and best, Brent