David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and the humanities at Baylor University, presented “Bathsheba in the Eye of the Beholder: Rubens vs. Rembrandt” on Feb. 10. In his lecture, Jeffrey explored the theological and ethical implications of various visual and textual portrayals of the biblical character of Bathsheba and argued that Rembrandt offers a much needed corrective to the allegorizing or prurient tendencies in both doctrinal and artistic interpretive traditions.
The lecture drew a number of visitors from outside Duke University as well as attendees from various departments within the University. After the lecture, Jennie Grillo, associate professor of Old Testament, said, “Responses to artwork have been a vital tool for Ellen Davis and me in teaching the Old Testament core course this year—many students do some of their best thinking visually, and many can imagine engaging their congregations through visual responses to the biblical text. So this talk dovetailed brilliantly with what we have been doing in class, as well as giving students more insight into the theological debates behind the practice of painting biblical subjects.”
Jeffrey has been one of the pioneering scholars at the interface between theology and literature. In 2003 Jeffrey received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conference on Christianity and Literature, which also named his People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture (1996) their Book of the Year. He is the general editor of A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (1993) and has published a number of books, including English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley (2000) and Chaucer and Scriptural Tradition (1984). Jeffrey’s lecture previewed a chapter from his forthcoming work entitled The Arts of the Holy.