Graduate Theological Union

A Love of Writing and Learning

Barbara GreenReacting to her recognition as the Graduate Theological Union’s 2011 Alumna of the Year, Barbara Green, O.P., (M.A. ’76, Ph.D. ’80) said, “I wonder how I received this great honor. Some of my colleagues at GTU who are influential in such decisions were nice to put my name forward.” Green has been teaching as Professor of Biblical Studies at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology for twenty years.

“I tend to think of alums fundraising or giving large sums of money. I’ve done neither. However, we can keep our time, talent, and networks cycling through the school. It’s an envelopeless way to pay back.” Green has given generously to GTU through her contributions to scholarship and mentorship of Masters and doctoral students.

When her religious congregation in San Rafael chose her to pursue Biblical Studies, GTU was a natural place to study for its proximity to the community in addition to its relation to UC Berkeley. Green earned a Masters in Biblical Studies and her joint doctoral degree in Near Eastern Religions. “I wandered out through the back door of Near Eastern Religions and into courses in anthropology, comparative religion, religious studies, literature and comparative literature, because I didn’t want to do any more languages besides the six required. I developed a humanities base for my Biblical studies,” she explains.

Green tries not to let her students wander and flounder as much as she did. “Doctoral students now are not going to be able to fill the chairs and podiums of my generation easily. There will be radically fewer positions in the years to come. Our students will have to be competitive. They have to go into the workshop with a vision of what they want to do and put it together rather than choose something off the shelf. Our job is providing successful frameworks to give it structure.”

“I want [my students] to love learning. Realize that there is no reason to stop.”

Despite studying literature and developing a taste for Bakhtin, it was only after she graduated that she discovered a passion in writing. Green found herself immersed in collegial circles for writing and publishing during her first position at Dominican College in San Rafael.

Green describes writing as challenging and expansive, providing the opportunity to integrate huge numbers of thoughts. It’s more creative than teaching, in her opinion, because so much instruction must be focused on the foundation students require.

Now it seems she can’t stop. When not drafting works on Bakhtin or biblical scholarship (she’s currently working on a coherent way of presenting the jumbled plot of Jeremiah), the witty Dominican sister is weaving tales of mystery. Her first venture into fiction was a tale set in Deuteronomy, “a new experience in old words,” as she puts it.

Since then, she has published two mysteries following fictional GTU professor Brendan Byrne and completed a third manuscript. Her mysteries are drawn from familiar stories of scripture. “I want to remind readers that what happens in Biblical stories can happen in ordinary lives. They are deep stories, about human relationships and the way God works, (or the way we think God works).” Green also seeks to present intriguing fiction that isn’t steeped in sex and violence.

She sees the values that she wants to instill in her students reflected in a recent book by Robert Bellah, Religion in Human Evolution. “I want them to love learning. Realize that it’s their responsibility given all the resources at their disposal. And that there is no reason to stop.”