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Trinity College staff Q&A: Dr Rachelle Gilmour

NAME: Dr Rachelle Gilmour

TITLE: Bromby Senior Lecturer in Old Testament

What are your areas of interest or specialisation?

My area of interest is the narrative of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, especially the book of Samuel. I first fell in love with the book of Samuel many years ago when I was still an undergraduate student. I used to have an hour train journey to uni each way, and, one day, the only reading material I happened to have with me was a Bible. So, out of desperation, I thought I’d randomly pick the book of Samuel and start reading from the beginning, like you might read a novel. It is such a gripping book and turns out I couldn’t put it down! This got me interested in studying and later researching what makes it such a good story: its narrative techniques, its juicy themes (theology, politics) and how it relates to history.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Trinity College?

The students of course! Teaching is such a privilege and I learn so much from class discussion and am always challenged by the new perspectives that different students bring to the Old Testament. I also couldn’t ask for a better faculty to work alongside: inspiring teachers, challenging thinkers and lots of fun!

How would you describe Trinity’s theological community?

Prayerful. Big-hearted. Inclusive. Trinity is a place where everyone is welcome and valued, regardless of their faith and regardless of who they are. Prayer frames everything we do, starting every day. It shapes how and why we learn, remembering that theology is not just an intellectual exercise. I think we have a great balance at Trinity between a commitment to the Bible and the orthodox theological foundations of our faith, but also open-minded, genuine dialogue with other points of view.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve almost finished writing a new book on God’s violence in the book of Samuel. The most asked question by students about the Old Testament is whether it is “history”, but I already wrote my PhD thesis on that question! So now I’m thinking about the second most asked question: Why is there so much violence, and what do we make of texts where God is violent? One thing I’ve been arguing is that God’s violence in the Old Testament often protests injustice and structures of power. I’ve also noticed that, whilst there is a lot of talk about punishment for sin in the Old Testament, it doesn’t actually happen very often.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

At school, I wanted to be a secret agent. When I finished Year 12, I almost enrolled in a medical degree, until it was pointed out to me that my queasiness around blood and hospital phobia might make that line of work difficult.

What’s an interesting story from your life or travels you’d like to share?

After my PhD, I lived in Jerusalem in Israel for three years researching at the Hebrew University. I had many amazing experiences living over there, making some wonderful life-long friends and learning to adapt to and love cultures different from what I grew up with in Australia.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always take one day a week off completely to rest. More days’ work does not equal more productivity. The idea of a sabbath is, of course, important wisdom from the Old Testament, but it took some life experience and wise mentors for me to finally take this advice on board.

Which activities make you lose track of time?

I love cooking and trying new recipes; and I love baking and making the same cake recipes over and over again!

Read Rachelle’s bio here.

1 comment

  • From personal experience I would say any student of Rachelle is blessed because what is not mentioned here is Rachelle’s total commitment to the educational and personal care of each of her students. She is challenging but also humble enough to ask others about issues that are not part of her tradition. Trinity wisely asked her to be a member of staff because she is nurturing and a brilliant teacher.

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