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Franklin S. Dyrness Chair in Biblical and Theological Studies Lecture

The Inaugural Dyrness Lecture on March 30, 2020 is cancelled due to COVID-19. Please check back for a later rescheduled date.

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Lecture Series

The Franklin S. Dyrness Chair in Biblical and Theological Studies was established in 1987. 

200 Dyrness lecture seriesFranklin S. Dyrness

Franklin S. Dyrness graduated from Wheaton College in 1927, where he was a member of the Scholastic Honors Society. In 1960 Dyrness received an honorary doctorate (D.D.) from his alma mater. On the 60th anniversary of his graduation from Wheaton, the Quarryville Presbyterian Home and the College contributed funds to establish the Franklin S. Dyrness Chair of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College.


2020 Lecture

"The Bible for Refugees: The Reformed Tradition and the Sacralization of the Vernacular Bible, 16th-17th century"

Jennifer Powell McNutt, Ph.D., Fr.Hist.S.
Franklin S. Dyrness Associate Professor in Biblical and Theological Studies

March 30, 2020, 7:00 p.m., Blanchard Hall 339
Reception to follow

In the field of Reformation studies and in popular understanding, it has long been accepted that the most identifiable contribution of the Protestant Reformation to the reform of church and society was the Bible in common languages. Today, this narrative is increasingly questioned by scholars who emphasize the presence of vernacular Bibles in the medieval church before the Reformation. Such work has generated a dramatic paradigm shift within Reformation studies that challenges established understandings of the Bible’s history during the Reformation with implications for evaluating the Reformation legacy today. So, what was significant about the vernacular Bible during the Reformation?

This lecture will offer a nuanced response to the current historiographical landscape by focusing on the link forged between the vernacular Bible and Reformed Protestants driven into exile as religious refugees. John Calvin’s Geneva provides a compelling window into the way in which vernacular Bible translation, publication, and transmission became the primary theological expression of the religious refugee mission to advance Protestant reform throughout Europe. In that context, the vernacular Bible project came to embody the very symbol of resistance among marginalized Protestants from John Calvin to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643).

This lecture will tell the story of how the Reformed tradition contributed to the sacralizing of the form, status, and function of the vernacular Bible by (1) tracing the significance of the replacement of medieval relics with Bibles during the Reformation; (2) highlighting the adoption of humanist philology as key to the re-evaluation of the function and authority of vernacular language in the early modern church and society. Furthermore, the controversial advancement of vernacular languages in the realms of theology, politics, and Christian worship will give insight into how common languages were intentionally elevated in their function and authority during the Reformation. In the end, the Bible in common languages was promoted as a theological and pastoral necessity for reforming the church. By exploring this story, we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the significance of the vernacular Bible during the Reformation as well as to reflect on the legacy and impact of vernacular Bibles in our own lives and in our church traditions today.

200x300Rev. Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt

The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt started teaching on the Theology faculty at Wheaton College in 2008. For over a decade, she coordinated the M.A. program in History of Christianity and then Theology before her appointment as Franklin S. Dyrness Associate Professor in Biblical and Theological Studies in 2019. She is a native of Los Angeles, CA, the daughter of The Rev. Drs. John and Pamela Powell, and the wife of The Rev. Dr. David McNutt. Dr. McNutt received her B.A. in Religious Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages from Westmont College (2000) and her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary (2008). She graduated with her Ph.D. in History from the University of St. Andrews (Reformation Studies Institute).

Dr. McNutt is an ordained, Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and serves as a Parish Associate at First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn. She is Fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians. She and her husband have three children (Priscilla, Geneva, and Finnegan) and enjoy serving the church together through their ministry corporation, McNuttshell Ministries.

See Rev. Dr. McNutt's faculty profile