Researcher Wins Global Prize for Early Christian, Jewish Scripture Study

A Nottingham researcher has received a prestigious international award for her ground-breaking research into male-centric representations of maternity and women's bodies and souls in early Christian and Jewish scriptures.

Dr Emily Gathergood has been granted the 2023 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise. The annual honour is given to ten young scholars from all over the world for outstanding dissertations or first post-doctoral work.

Dr Gathergood's dissertation, 'The Midwifery of God,' explores the relationship between maternity and divinity. It argues that certain neglected texts conceptualise God in feminine terms, as a heavenly midwife who delivers women through the difficulties of childbearing. The study also reframes traditional accounts of birth as 'cursed' by focusing on alternative visions of birthgiving as 'blessed'.

I am delighted to receive this award. Researching divine midwifery for this project was fascinating, challenging, and rewarding.

Commenting further on her research, Dr Gathergood added: "Canonical and apocryphal Christian scriptures have profoundly shaped the identities and experiences of billions of Christian women throughout history and today. My research reframes traditional generic and male-centric construals of salvation by attending to neglected sources which foreground the divine deliverance of the female body and soul. I'm grateful to the Forschungszentrum Internationale und Interdisziplinaere Theologie for their recognition of my work, and to my mentors, colleagues, and student cohort for their support during its development."

The awards are issued by the Research Centre for International and Interdisciplinary Theology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Twenty reviewers from fifteen countries select the awardees. The laureates are honoured in a festive ceremony in the Old Auditorium of Heidelberg University, followed by a colloquium with the award winners at the International Science Forum Heidelberg (IWH), where they present their next research projects.

We are immensely proud of Dr Gathergood. Her Lautenschlaeger Award is well-deserved recognition of her ground-breaking theological work.

Dr Gathergood is currently revising her dissertation for publication and researching her second book project, 'Birthing Disciples: Divine and Human Transformation in Early Christianity', a study of gender, embodiment, and perfection in and beyond the New Testament.

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