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Dr. Victor Matthews, ’72
Photo by Kevin White

Dr. Victor Matthews, ’72

Dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs

His research

Matthews, who earned his bachelor’s at MSU, has been a Biblical scholar for more than 30 years. He studies ancient culture and what daily life was like thousands of years ago.

We tend to filter everything through our modern scope, he said, but Biblical narratives assume that the audience shares a defined set of social understandings or customs. When we don’t know what these customs are, we must try to discover them.

“I have made good use of modern research and analytical methods in the social sciences — sociology, anthropology, psychology, communications — to evaluate the ‘human moments’ in the narratives.”

He may look for social cues such as “clothing, marriage status, power relationships, gender, speech patterns and the physical placement of the characters.”

Everyday lives can be better understood by studying the stories and artifacts people left behind.

“What did they eat? What did they wear? How did they celebrate? What were their burial practices? What kind of weapons did they use?”

We can learn these answers through written records, physical remains such as tomb paintings and grave goods, garbage heaps, building ruins and the study of both modern and ancient cultures via analogy.

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Research results

One of Matthews’ most recent publications is the fourth edition of “The Cultural World of the Bible: An Illustrated Guide to Manners and Customs.” It is one of almost 20 books he has authored. He has published numerous articles as well.

Comments

  1. Jessica (Kuhns) Ragain

    Great video mini-lecture, Dr. Matthews. Made me remember the classroom “space” in grad school with you. This idea of “space” and the different parts of it is an exciting perspective. The “remembered space” especially resonates with me…even more so now that I have children and I am conveying to them my experiences as young person and also looking to the future and how they will remember their time with us. Congrats on your new publication!