Jacob Wright, assistant professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, is a winner of the 2008 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise. The recognition comes for his book, "Rebuilding Identity: The Nehemiah Memoir and its Earliest Readers," published by De Gruyter in 2004.
Wright's book outlines the reciprocal relationship between writing and identity construction in the biblical book of Ezra-Nehemiah. Nehemiah specifically portrays how the inhabitants of Judah, in the process of rebuilding their society after destruction, adapted ancient traditions and conventions to a new political environment. Many of the ideals of Ezra-Nehemiah such as intensive study of scripture, public and private prayer, and the importance of communal consensus have made a deep impact on both Jewish and Christian thought and life.
"What makes the award particularly gratifying is that it brings attention to this fascinating biblical book and its importance for contemporary projects of identity construction," says Wright.
The Templeton Award for Theological Promise is the largest prize specifically designated for junior scholars of religion. Sir John Mark Templeton, a billionaire philanthropist and promoter of the interplay between religion and science, is the founder of the award that is granted to scholars in a variety of fields from all over the globe. The prize money is $10,000, and another $10,000 is available as a stipend for lectures the recipients are invited to hold at universities, colleges, seminaries and other institutions of research and higher learning within two years after the presentation of the award.
"This prize brings great honor to Professor Wright as an extraordinarily gifted scholar and to Candler," says Jan Love, dean of Candler. "I am delighted that the Templeton Foundation has recognized one of our faculty members who, like others here, excels not only in research but also in teaching. We're very happy to have Professor Wright as a recent addition to our community."
Wright taught for several years at the University of Heidelberg before coming to Candler, where he offers courses on biblical interpretation, the history and archaeology of ancient Israel, and Northwest Semitic languages. In addition to responsibilities in the archaeological excavations at Ramat Rachel (located outside Jerusalem), he is currently writing articles and a book that examine the role war and the military played in ancient Israelite society.