DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University’s David L. Eastman, Ph.D., has earned a “best article” award for his research into the life and lasting impact of the apostle Paul.
“According to tradition, the apostle Paul was martyred during a persecution by the Roman emperor Nero,” said Eastman, an OWU assistant professor of religion, “so whenever Christians felt threatened by the government, they looked to examples like Paul for strength.
“In the third and fourth centuries,” Eastman continued, “the Christian church in North Africa (modern Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and parts of Morocco) was split into two factions during a period of persecution. Each side claimed to be the ‘true’ church, and one of the ways they did this was by claiming that they were suffering in the tradition of Paul. The paper examines how and why both sides tried to say that Paul was ‘one of theirs,’ because whoever could claim Paul could also claim that their roots went back to the apostles.”
Eastman’s meticulous research has earned him a 2013 award for “Best Article in Patristic Exegesis” given annually by the Institute for Classical Christian Studies and the Center for Early African Christianity. Professor Michel Libambu of the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also earned an award in the international paper competition. Each author received a $1,000 prize.
According to competition’s organizers, all submissions were evaluated “according to quality of argumentation, clarity of exposition, significance of the position argued, degree to which the paper advances the topic under discussion, contribution to global Christianity, and depth of understanding of the ancient Christian writers.”
Eastman said his award-winning article, “Paul Our Martyr: Unity and Schism in Early Christian North Africa,” was informed, in part, by a trip he took in the summer of 2012.
“I was invited to join an international team of scholars to visit Roman and early Christian sites in Algeria, including the church of St. Augustine,” Eastman said, adding that St. Augustine features prominently into his paper. “That trip was supported by a TEW grant [an Ohio Wesleyan-awarded Thomas E. Wenzlau Grant for Faculty and Curricular Development.] The trip also led to [an Ohio Wesleyan] lecture that I gave in 2012, which was a shorter version of this paper, and influenced an honors course I taught last spring on Early Christianity in Africa. So, the TEW grant went a long way.”
The Algeria trip was coordinated by Robin Jensen, Ph.D., Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt University, widely regarded as the top scholar of early Christian art and liturgy in the English-speaking world.
“David Eastman’s excellent work on the cult of St. Paul keeps expanding as he moves from Rome to other regions of the ancient Christian world, particularly (as in this prize-winning essay) to North Africa,” Jensen said. “Eastman’s work is particularly rich in that he brings together material culture, social context, ritual practice, and institutional history in his careful analysis of ancient texts and traditions. His erudite, interdisciplinary approach is a model for all of us who work in this field.”
Eastman joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2011 and earned his doctorate from Yale University. At OWU, he teaches courses in New Testament, Christian history, and western religions. In addition to his work on Paul, he is interested in the ancient Christian cult of the saints and contemporary portrayals of antiquity in popular media, especially Jesus films. His first book, “Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West,” examined early Christian veneration of the apostle Paul and was described by one critic as “so masterful in its grasp of complex data, so judicious in its methodology, and so lucid in its presentation that it is bound to serve as a model for future work on the cult of the saints.”
In addition to his teaching, Eastman serves on the Society of Biblical Literature’s Career Development Committee, the program committee for the Society of Ancient Mediterranean Religions, and as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Early Christian Studies. As the result of an OWU-sponsored trip, Eastman also has become an active supporter of, and advocate for, Love and Hope Children’s Home in El Salvador. He will serve as a co-adviser of his second trip to the orphanage during the university’s upcoming spring break.
Learn more about Eastman and the Ohio Wesleyan Department of Religion at religion.owu.edu/eastman.html.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private, coed university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world practice. OWU’s 1,850 students represent 42 states and 37 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.