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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Burnette-Bletsch

Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch is Eastern’s latest addition to the biblical studies department. Erudite and compassionate, Burnette-Bletsch feels very welcomed to the Eastern community. The youngest of three girls, she grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina with a Southern Baptist family. She is the first person in her family to graduate from college, and her life has been marked by curiosity and a thirst for inquiry.

Burnette-Bletsch graduated twice from Duke University: first with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and religion, then with a Doctor of Philosophy in the Hebrew Bible. When asked about one of the most interesting things she’s heard since being at Eastern, she couldn’t pin anything down, but responded, “I am struck by how students help me interpret the Bible in new ways.” She never thought she would be a professor, especially of religion, but Burnette-Bletsch believes God has guided her life in such a way that she would find fulfillment and life in biblical studies.

Her husband, John Bletsch, is a part-time professor at Eastern in the biblical studies department, as well. The two met when Burnette-Bletsch was studying at Duke’s seminary. They have three sons and will be married for 20 years this coming May.

This semester, she is teaching Jesus & the Gospels and two sections of Nature and Meaning of the Old Testament, and next semester, The Life and Letters of Paul, Women in Scripture, and a section of Nature and Meaning of the New Testament. She has a particular interest in the reception of the Bible in history and in film, having written extensively in many journals, encyclopedias, and books. Burnette-Bletsch is also an editor of the Journal of the Bible and Its Reception and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception.

“None of us comes to the Bible newborn,” Burnette-Bletsch said. “There is no final way of being Christian.” She describes Christianity as an unending conversation that starts with the biblical witness, which we never read abstracted from our social context. She notes, referring to Eastern’s honest amalgamation of faith and reason, that “not all schools are like this.”

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