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Herbert R. Marbury

Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible and Black Religious Studies
On leave Spring 2024

Herbert R. Marbury researches the Bible’s textuality—that is how biblical texts come to meaning both in the ancient world and in the contemporary worlds of modern U.S. communities. Although he turns to cultural studies, he grounds his work in both historical-critical and hermeneutical methods.  In the ancient world, he focuses on Judah under Persian and Hellenistic imperial domination, which are the societies from which much of the literature of the Hebrew Bible emerged. In his first book, Imperial Dominion and Priestly Genius (Sopher Press, September, 2012) he focuses on Ezra-Nehemiah and asks, “What meaning(s) might Ezra-Nehemiah have held for elites in Persian Jerusalem?” He investigates the Second Temple community’s counter-narratives of resistance against imperial domination.

Since 2012 Marbury has served as co-chair of the African American Biblical Hermeneutics section of the Society of Biblical Literature. There, he raises the question of meaning for African American communities. In Pillars of Cloud and Fire: The Politics of Exodus in African American Biblical Interpretation (New York University Press, 2015), he uses cultural studies as a mode of inquiry and builds on the method developed in Imperial Dominion. Pillars of Cloud and Fire recovers trajectories of counter-history in examples of African American biblical interpretation heretofore unexamined by biblical scholars. Focusing on figures such as Absalom Jones, David Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Frances E. W. Harper, Adam Clayton Powell, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Albert Cleage, Marbury asks, “What meaning(s) has the exodus story held for successive African American communities in the U.S. from the antebellum period through the era the Black Power Movement?”

Prior to his tenure at VDS, Marbury served as pastor of Old National United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA and as University Chaplain at Clark Atlanta University where, in 2004, he was named the Chaplain of the Year by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation. He has taught at American Baptist College and has served as a mentor in the Doctor of Ministry program at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio for the program group "The Black Church and Social and Civic Empowerment.” For Marbury, joining the faculty at VDS follows the long arc of a call that has led him to pastoral and teaching forms of ministry, two commitments that he continues to maintain.