Interview: Women Biblical Scholars

Dr. Lydia Lee is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research Focus Area: Ancient Texts: Text, Context and Reception, North-West University in South Africa. She earned her B.A. (Hons) in Biblical Studies and Classical Hebrew at the University of Sydney and Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Georg-August-Universität Gottingen. She can also be found at […]

via Interview: Lydia Lee — Women Biblical Scholars

My sincere thanks go to Karen R. Keen for kindly inviting me to write an interview on the fabulous Women Biblical Scholars website.

According to the site’s stated aim,

The blog includes profiles, interviews, book reviews, and other means to spotlight women biblical scholars. Of particular interest are Christian and Jewish scholars whose work contributes to the thriving of faith communities and advances helpful discussion of religion in our contemporary world.

If you are a female biblical scholar, and you would like to give voice to your thoughts about biblical scholarship, please don’t hesitate to email Karen at:

News: Some More Thoughts on the “Save a Dog, Eat a Chinese” T-Shirt




Picture Credit: Heute Österreich

First a big “WOW” to the Austrian lawyer Georg Zanger, who has filed a lawsuit against the Spreadshirt company on account for the “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” T-shirt. VIENNA.AT – Vienna Online published this news on 23 March 2017. He is of Jewish descent and not a Chinese, but is willing to fight for what he thinks is correct. I wish to be like him to fight for what I think is correct, with the benefits of other peoples and not just my own in mind.

So many people know how to speak out their own perspectives in a constructive way. I should also learn to voice my own opinions in a way that improves mutual understanding. Here are my further thoughts on this incident. First, I think the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese,” from a Chinese perspective, is suggestive of a certain form of servitude. Accidentally bumped into this 7-minute long video, where a Chinese professor (王洪涌) from Central China Normal University explains the interesting historical evolution of the Chinese characters “犬” (big dog) and “狗” (small dog). As you may know, the shape of a Chinese character and its cognate forms often suggest the words’ meanings. As she explains, the cognate forms of the characters “犬” and “狗” are related to hunting activities (e.g., 突,伏,etc.), and it can be deduced that dogs were primarily conceived as humans’ helpers to hunt other animals. There is no discussion of dog meat as a Chinese cuisine, but she does highlight how the Chinese proverbs reflect the Chinese attitudes towards dogs. On the one hand, the Chinese proverb 犬有湿草之恩, which is baed on a legend where a loyal dog saved its master from the burning fire, praises the dog’s ability to repay human kindness. On the other hand, a dog’s submission to its master can also symbolize an extreme form of servitude. So the Chinese, to my knowledge, will never dare to compare a human being to a dog unless they want to highlight a person’s despicable subjection to another person (e.g., 狗奴才,狗腿子,猪狗不如,etc.). In this light, I can understand why the Chinese (including I) are especially offended by the comparison between a dog and a human being. Such a suggestion of servitude coming from the non-Chinese with a history of imperialism can cause the Chinese deep suspicions and misunderstandings.


Second, the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese commits the fault of over-generalizations and can be slanderous. The T-shirt’s statement seems to be based on a false premise that every single Chinese must have eaten a dog. The research of Frederick J. Simoons’ monograph “Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry” shows that “many ethnic groups in China rejected dog flesh…as food, some of them, such as Moslems, because they consider dogs unclean; some, such as Buddhists, because they viewed the dog as a friend and protector of the family and opposed killing dogs and eating them; and some, non-Han minorities, because they considered dogs to be their relatives. In Kwantung, the Yao, like other Yao groups in South China and Vietnam (the Man), believe they are descended from a dog ancestor and reject dogs as food for that reason, though dogs may be sacrificed and eaten by priests and the afflicted in efforts at curing illness…Among the Chinese, there has been a decline in the acceptability of dog flesh since ancient times, especially in North China” (p. 310). The book goes on to state that “in North China dog flesh is eaten as food only among the poorest sorts of people, and in South China only in certain regions” (p. 310). The article in Huffington Post suggests that “nearly 70 percent [of the people in China] have never eaten dog meat.” Moreover, it is slanderous, if not blasphemous, to accuse the Chinese Buddhists/Moslems and many other Chinese vegetarians of dog-eating.

Third, the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” is discriminatory in nature and is thus guilty of inciting racial hatred. According to Simoons’ monograph again, dog-eating has persisted in certain places in Europe and other parts of the world. Early in the twentieth century, “J.S. Thomson…wrote of dog eating in Germany, where, he said, roughly 8000 dogs were ‘slaughtered for food purposes’ in the previous year [1908], 1400 of them in the cities of Kassel (Cassel) and Chemnitz. Schwabe…also writes of dog eating in parts of modern Europe, and not merely in times of famine. He provides details of how the Swiss prepare ‘Dried Dog Meat,’ and presents a defense of dog eating in nutritional and other terms” (p. 309). Wikipedia contains further information about dog eating in all parts of the world. Yet the T-shirt company/designer has singled out the Chinese as the only national/ethnic group practising dog-eating. The public display of such a T-shirt on the website encourages the dissemination of national/racial/ethnic stereotypes, which can unjustly render the Chinese living in Europe the target of school, university, and workplace ridicules and bullying. The mockery can in turn escalate into more social problems in Europe. In my encounters with some non-Chinese, I have been asked the same question “Do you eat dogs” several times. My experience shows how deeply entrenched the stereotypes are. The problem is I have never eaten dog meat. And I have seldom bumped into the Asians who eat the dog meat. In fact, I have only learned about dog meat through the Western reports. I don’t deny that their reports can be true, and some do perhaps eat dog meat in certain regions. But does this jsutify the stereotypical image of ALL Chinese as dog-eaters?

Lastly, you may want to say this is all a joke/a sarcasm. Why can’t the Europeans have some fun? I can say very clearly that I have zero tolerance of people having fun (not even a little bit) on hurting human dignity, especially when it is related to my family and friends. I bet the Hutus had a lot of fun calling the Tutsis “cockcroaches” during the genocide in Rwanda (a former German and Belgian colony). I am biased. I do not endorse the abuse of animals, but honestly I am not a vegetarian. I do not assign the same value to both human life and animal life. I think the German constitution is also biased when its first article gives such a prominent place to human dignity. The first article states:

(1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt. (Human dignity is inviolable. To respect and protect it is an obligation of every state power.)

(2) “Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. (The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the foundation of every human community, of peace and justice in the world.)

I like the fact that it not only stipulates that every state power should give proper dignity to human beings, but it also suggests that the German people should take their own initiatives to respect and protect human rights. I have grave doubts that the T-shirt “Save a dog, eat a Chinese” advertised and sold by the Spreadshirt company based in Germany coheres with the emphasis on human dignity enshrined in the German constitution. But maybe we are living in an ever-changing world, where cannibalism can indeed overcome humanism one day. In that case, I can do nothing but see the T-shirts hanged all around the world to proclaim our transition into another epoch of barbarism.

P/S: I really don’t want to get into such an elaborate argument against the stupid T-shirt, if I haven’t felt that this incident is a tip of the iceberg of the ongoing racial tensions in Europe. I want to share my opinions honestly with you because I believe continuous communication can help alleviate more and more misunderstandings/racial profilings. You have perhaps read my embittered encounters with some of the Europeans/Americans in Göttingen. History can repeat itself in such a short time, can’t it? Barbaric stereotypical remarks can also come out of the mouths of the so-called “social-elites.” On 26 October 2016, Günther Oettinger, a European commissioner from Germany, for whatever conflict of interests in his mind, gave a public speech in Hamburg and described all the Chinese people as “Schlitzohren und Schlitzaugen” (sly-dogs and slit-eyes). Part of Oettinger’s speech is available on Youtube (attached below). For the Spiegel‘s report of this incident, please click here. After several days of pressure from his opponents, Oettinger did apologize for his offensive remarks. His supporters said that “his remarks merely reflected the colourful language typical of his home state.” See the Welt‘s report here. Does that mean that we should all be so engrossed in our own cultural quagmire that we should never jump out of it and critically reflect on it? In light of this, I especially admire people such as the German publisher Sebastian Marquadt who could stand out of his own cultural comfort zone and expose Oettinger’s racial slurs on Youtube. There is always a mixture of good and bad eggs in one country, right? 😉



AD ASTRA PER ASPERA: Contextualizing My First Book Entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations

**See endnotes for further references**

My first book entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations had passed the double-blind peer review and was licked into shape under the supervision of the superb editorial team of the SBL Ancient Near East Monographs Series (US-based). At long last it is out. “Historians,” says John Hirst, “write from the evidence but also from their understanding of how the world works and how they would like it to work” [1]. As such, it is important to contextualize one’s work in a particular historical milieu. Below is my attempt to contextualize this book, sharing with you how my doctoral work experience as one of the Sofja-Kovalevskaja research team members at the Theologische Fakultät in Göttingen between 2010 and 2014 [Note: My doctoral study belongs to the Department of the Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the Philosophische Facultät] has directly or indirectly influenced the writing of the book.

1. Dehumanizing the “Other”

Do you still remember the two German male professors, whom I told you about in a speech? At the beginning of my study, one of them posed this smug remark to me: “German is too difficult for you to understand.” At the end of my defense, his only comment to me was that my work was non-German and only suitable for the Anglo-American readership. I guess he meant that my work was of low-quality. The other professor, who referred to me as someone from the British colony, never bothered giving any academic comments on any of my works. [Germans vs. Anglo-Americans]

During my doctoral study, a self-proclaimed socialist/pro-feminist (non-German) from the theological faculty mocked me: “You are put in the Philosophische Fakultät [Faculty of Arts] because you are a girl and it’s simple.” I did not know how writing a doctoral dissertation while completing 16 courses between 2010 and 2014 had made my life simple. I certainly did not know why my gender had anything to do with my allocation in the Philosophische Fakultät. But in 2015, I bumped into the statistics gathered by the University Medical Centre Göttingen (UMG), which helped me put his mockery in a broader context. Stuck at the back of one of the university buildings, the poster outlines the distribution of male and female students and academics (Studierende, Promovierende, Promotionen, Wiss. Personal, Professuren) at various faculties of the University of Göttingen in 2013.


In the medical faculty and the arts faculty, the numbers of female PhD candidates (Promovierende) and  holders of doctorates (Promotionen) are roughly equal to the male counterparts.


Apparently, girls are too “simple” for the theological faculty, so that males (83%) far outnumbered the females (17%) in the category of holders of doctorates (Promotionen). At the end of the day, the males in all faculties fare much better than females in getting hold of the professorship (Professuren).  [Males vs. Females]


Once a European (non-German) commented on my paper sarcastically: “You cannot disagree with or argue against a person’s point of view. Is it because you are Asian?” Another time, the same person also voiced his incomprehension before me about the opening of some teaching positions for the non-whites in a predominantly white community situated in a non-European country. [Europeans vs. Non-Europeans]

These and many other people I encountered during my doctoral study taught me how to “put me in my place” and etched on my mind an invisible yet clearly demarcated boundary between the “stupid” (me) and the “intelligent” (them). To save time and space, I will spare you all other details. Suffice it to say that so rampant were the overgeneralizations that categorized good and bad qualities on the basis of nationality, gender, and ethnic or cultural backgrounds that I began to get used to, or even accept, them. According to one professor of philosophy, David Livingstone Smith, “You don’t have to be a monster or a madman to dehumanise others. You just have to be an ordinary human being.“My encounters with human beings were simply unavoidable.

2. Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations

The aforementioned experiences have influenced my study of Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations in a way I did not imagine. Turning to Zimmerli’s monumental commentaries on Ezekiel, I have gradually come to admire his meticulous text-critical insights, which reveal the book of Ezekiel as a literary product of continuous Fortschreibung. This is despite the fact that he seems to be puzzled by the link between the Ezekiel’s oracles against the nations and the prophet’s own message about the house of Israel. He questions Ezekiel’s concern for the hubris of the foreign nations, when “nothing is said of the prophet’s task to be a prophet to the nations” (cf. Ezekiel 3:6) [2]. When I read his Grundriß der alttestamentlichen Theologie, I was so ready to embrace his comment that the fate of the foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-32 is incomparable to Judah’s fate announced in the rest of the book of Ezekiel. As he says, “Die Fremdvölkerworte von Ez 25-32 … zeigen im Einzelnen wenig Berührung mit der spezifischen Botschaft an Israel … Im Ganzen aber behält die Völkerverkundigung Ezechiels etwas Schematisches und läßt sich nicht mit den persönlichen Umgang Jahwes mit seinem eigenen Volk vergelichen.” [3]

Block, whose commentaries show influences of Zimmerli’s magnum opus, goes one step further. He argues that the whole of Ezekiel 25-32  represents “the judgment of the enemies of God’s people” and “the nations addressed by Ezekiel all represented the enemies of Israel.”[4] Therefore the destruction of the foreign nations in Ezekiel 25-32 functions as a “backhanded message of hope” for the house of Israel [5]. Upon reading this line, I was so ready to applaud. To my mind, this was indeed the justified end of the enemies of God’s people. As the philosopher David Livingston Smith has already observed, it is all too human to degrade others by treating them as less than humans and by subjecting them to cruelties or indignities. The book of Ezekiel is an editorial product passing through so many human hands. It is only normal that whoever composed or edited the book would reveal their human nature by reveling at the destruction of the foreign nations.

However, Schwagmeier’s and Marzouk’s observations about the corpus gave me a pause. Schwagmeier’s detailed study of various manuscripts of Ezekiel confirms the important role of the terminological connections in MT Ezekiel, more so than that in the LXX [6]. The judgment language found in Ezekiel’s oracles against the nations often echo those found in the prophecies against Judah in the rest of the book. Marzouk’s innovative research demonstrates the importance to contextualize the prophecies against Egypt within the book of Ezekiel. The monstrification of Egypt in Ezekiel 29-32 should be read in light of the adulterous intimacy between Egypt and Israel or Judah in chapters 20 and 23 [7]. That is to say, Egypt in Ezekiel is not Judah’s enemy, but in fact Judah’s alter ego. Building on their insights, I delved further into the lexical allusions (temporal aspect) and literary contexts (spatial aspect) of Ezekiel 25-32. After much rumination on the biblical texts, I have come to this argument, highlighting one aspect of the oracles against nations, which, to my mind, has not been paid sufficient attention:

Ezekiel 25-32 contains some of the most virulent speeches directed against Judah’s neighboring nations. Some scholars emphasize that the destruction of the nations in chapters 25-32 means the upcoming salvation of God’s people. Other scholars presuppose that the nations are judged by a separate moral standard and render the judgment executed upon the nations irrelevant to that upon Judah. In this study, Lydia Lee postulates a third way to perceive the rhetorical roles of the nations in Ezekiel 25-32. Unraveling the intricate connections between the oracles against the nations and those against Judah, Lee argues that Ezekiel 25-32 contains a daring message directed not only against the foreign nations, but also against Judah’s land, temple, and nation. Lee places Ezekiel 25-32 in a broader context, considering how samples of its early reception within the prophetic book affirm or transform the bleak message about the oblique judgment for the house of Judah.

This discovery of ancient challenges to identity boundaries led to the publication of my first book entitled Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations. I am glad that it has passed the double-blind peer review of the online, open-access Ancient Near East Monographs Series. In the spirit of the book’s emphasis on commonalities, the book is available for free download at:

That means, whether you are from Africa, Australia, China, Europe, UK, US, or anywhere else in the world, you can read it for free! 🙂

For those who prefer to hold a book in your hands, paperback and hardcover editions can be purchased online:

I do not earn royalities from the purchases, but the money you pay can contribute to the SBL’s International Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which aims to “mak[e] scholarship available to scholars and students in underresourced countries.”

3. A Journey of Self-Discovery

Reflecting on the writing and production of this book has made me realized how I and those who mocked me were alike. I was a coward, my English was not good enough to retort their vile remarks, my position was not high enough to pose a direct confrontation with them. However, deep down in my heart, I despised them as the descendants of murderers, slave-traders, and colonists. As such, I also committed the fault of overgeneralizations.

I refused to communicate with them, except for bureaucratic or work purposes. Even then, I only dealt with them half-heartedly. Returning evil for evil did not make me a better but worse person. All I cared were my own work and benefits. I wanted to finish my work as quickly as possible so that I could get out of the depressing environment. I built a thick barrier between them and me, trying to tear down or set me opposite to whatever intellectual enterprises they took pride in. But then I discovered this: Some people may be evil but they are not all stupid. My stupidity and weaknesses provided them with more excuses to justify their insults of my nationality, gender, or ethnicity. Therefore, I had to swallow my silly pride and learned to appreciate their ingeniosity.

Unknowingly, my enemies taught me to appreciate and cherish the warmth radiated and help offered by those who have cared and supported me. I have learned never to take people’s kindness for granted. Both groups of people have strengthened my convictions of what kind of a person I want to be. I do not want to be a German, a male, or a white European. I want to be a better Malaysian-born Australian, a female, a non-white Chinese, who can produce good-quality works while being warm and kind. This book is a small step for me to achieving that goal. It is dedicated to “my foes, friends, and family, all of whom have led me on a journey of self-discovery.”


[1] John Hirst, Sense & Nonsense in Australian History (Black Inc. Agenda, 2005), p.1.

[2] For further information, see Lydia Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles against the Nations, ANEM 15 (Atlanta: SBL Press), p. 15.

[3] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 35.

[4] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 12.

[5] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 13.

[6] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 37.

[7] For further information, see Lee, Mapping Judah’s Fate, p. 21.