Theologian-in-Residence lecture series to feature study of I Peter

Posted on 17 January 2014 by

Dr. Travis Williams

How early Christian identity was formed in response to persecution will be explored in February during Tusculum College’s annual Theologian-in-Residence lecture series.

Dr. Travis Williams, one of the leading experts of the epistle of I Peter, will lead the study of the New Testament book in four sessions. Lectures will take place each Tuesday of the month – Feb. 4, 12, 18 and 25 in the series, sponsored by Tusculum College and partially funded by Ron Smith. Each lecture session will begin at 10 a.m. in the Chalmers Conference Center in the Niswonger Commons. The sessions typically end around 2 p.m., and lunch in the college’s cafeteria is included. There is no admission fee to the lectures.

Dr. Williams, assistant professor of religion at Tusculum, has had numerous articles and two major scholarly works published about the epistle of I Peter. His books include “Persecution in 1 Peter: Differentiating and Contextualizing Early Christian Suffering” and “Good Works in 1 Peter: Negotiating Social Conflict and Christian Identity in the Greco-Roman World.” He is currently working on a major exegetical commentary on 1 Peter, which will appear in the prestigious International Critical Commentary series.

A native Tennessean, Dr. Williams grew up in a very conservative Christian tradition. Both his undergraduate and graduate studies were earned at institutions associated with the evangelical movement. It was not until his doctoral studies – which were undertaken at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) – that his faith and scholarship began to move in another direction. After a period of theological (and denominational) exploration, he finally found a home in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

In “The Situation and Strategy of I Peter: Examining the Formative Influence of Persecution on Christian Identity,” Dr. Williams will challenge the popular understanding about the persecution affecting the church and the epistle’s prescribed method of response and offer a fresh reading of the situation and social strategy of I Peter. He will describe how the letter seeks to construct a positive social identity of a group of marginalized Christian communities and how against the threat of serious mistreatment, I Peter provides its readers with a vision of reality in which the honor they so desperately desire is made available to them.

On Feb. 4, Dr. Williams will present a “Mirror Reading the Epistle of I Peter.” This session will introduce the letter of I Peter and discuss some of the problems with the scholarly consensus on persecution. In addition, a method to “mirror read” the situation of the epistle will be explored.

In the second session on Feb. 11, “Diagnosing the Nature of Persecution in I Peter,” Dr. Williams will focus on how the conflict described in I Peter can be situated within its historical context. Both the cause(s) and form(s) of persecution experienced by the epistle’s original readers will be studied.

“Modern Interpretive Approaches and the Strategy of I Peter,” will be presented on Feb. 18. In this session, Dr. Williams will discuss the modern consensus on “good works” in I Peter. Also to be introduced are new interpretive methods by which the problem of the letter’s social strategy might be resolved.

The series will conclude Feb. 25 with “The Social Strategy of Good Works in I Peter.” Dr. Williams will explain how I Peter intends the “good works” motif to be an appropriate strategic response to the conflict in which its readers are involved.

Although the series has no admission fee, reservations are required. For more information or to make a reservation for the series, please call 423-636-7304 or email

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