Susannah Larry, PhD, came to know Mennonites while volunteering at Jubilee Partners — a Christian service community in Georgia — where she gained appreciation for Anabaptist commitments to justice and reconciliation and where her interest in becoming a biblical scholar was sparked. She joined the AMBS faculty in 2020, having taught courses at Vanderbilt Divinity School and Sewanee School of Theology on the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Biblical Hebrew, Confronting Sexualized Violence in the Bible, and Feminist Theology and Biblical Interpretation. She brings to her role a contagious passion for the Hebrew Bible and a commitment to Christ’s church. At AMBS, she sees herself living into a ministry of teaching and scholarship that uplifts marginalized voices and empowers students with the knowledge and tools to reclaim the Bible as a life-giving Word in their diverse ministry contexts.
How does the Bible shape your vocation as a professor?
As a biblical scholar, I must consider many dimensions to biblical texts — linguistic, historical, literary, cultural and ideological, to name a few. These represent the “criticisms” that I perform to gain a deeper understanding of the texts I read. I view these critical tasks as enriching what I regard as the central purpose of Anabaptist biblical interpretation: to discern from the Bible the mission of God’s Church to live in step with God’s life-giving vision of peace and justice for creation. Serving in community and listening for God’s word together at AMBS, we can pursue this vision.
What can students expect in your classroom?
I see my classroom as a workshop for whatever types of leadership roles students are currently in or anticipate assuming after graduation. That means that my classroom will look and feel different depending on who is in it. Students can expect that their questions and passions will shape both the content (readings, videos, speakers, etc.) and the activities (lectures, discussions, liturgies, exegesis) that we engage. While I celebrate the background that I bring to the classroom as a biblical scholar, I recognize that the voices and experiences that students bring are equally significant and gift our shared learning.
What are some of the diverse voices you incorporate into your teaching?
Living in a Christian intentional community with refugees inspired me to become a biblical scholar. The refugees I learned to know at Jubilee Partners in Comer, Georgia, framed their experiences as Exilic, parallel to those of the exiled Judeans in the Babylonian period. Their commitment to reclaiming the Bible as a liberating Word in their contexts sparked my determination to return to biblical texts that I had previously (and erroneously) dismissed as irrelevant to contemporary Christian life. I also work alongside survivors of sexualized violence, many of whom have witnessed the Bible being (ab)used to justify their own abuse. I am committed to exposing the flaws of this type of biblical interpretation and to proposing interpretations that honor the indwelling of God in all creation.
My goal for students
- My goal for students is to develop practices of close, charitable, critical reading of texts and communal biblical interpretation.
- I want them to leave AMBS with the ability to interpret the Bible as a liberating, life-giving Word in their own contexts and communities.
- I want students to be the kind of people who are grounded in the knowledge and love of God and who can share that knowledge and love in the varied settings to which God calls them.
- Book in progress: Lament Beyond Blame: Daughter Zion and Theodicy (Sheffield Phoenix, forthcoming)
- Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021)
- “Besieged Maternity: Reading Textual Cannibalism in the Hebrew Bible through the Material Culture.” Material Culture and Women’s Religious Experience in Antiquity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium. Edited by Mark Ellison and Catherine Taylor. (Lexington, forthcoming 2020)
- “Jeremiah as Eraser: The History of Consequences of Daughter Zion and the Prophet.” Jeremiah in History and Tradition. Edited by Jim West. (Routledge, 2019)
- “Hunger: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.” Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Vol. 12. Edited by Sebastian Fuhrmann and Frauke Uhlenbruch. (de Gruyter, 2016)
- Theology and Practice Fellowship, Vanderbilt University (2014)
- Founder’s Medal for First Honors, Vanderbilt University (2014)
- A.J. Mattill Award for New Testament Studies, Vanderbilt University (2014)
- Phi Beta Kappa, Furman University (2011)
Memberships and associations
- Women in the Bible
- Sexualized Violence in the Bible
- Trauma-Informed Bible Study
- Lament in the Bible
- Violence and Peacemaking in the Bible