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Gay L. Byron (She/Her/Hers)

Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity

  • Biblical Studies, Divinity
  • School of Divinity


The Rev. Dr. Gay L. Byron is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. Her scholarship focuses on liberation and womanist interpretations of the Bible, the Pauline epistles, race and ethnicity in early Christian writings, and the origins of Christianity in ancient Ethiopia. She is the recipient of several fellowships for her research, which identifies and examines ancient Ethiopic (Ge`ez) sources for the study of the New Testament and other early Christian writings. She is the author of Symbolic Blackness and Ethnic Difference in Early Christian Literature (Routledge Press), co-editor of Womanist Interpretations of the Bible: Expanding the Discourse (Society of Biblical Literature Press), and most recently co-editor of Black Scholars Matter: Visions, Struggles, and Hopes in Africana Biblical Studies (Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2022). Her essays and articles are included in publications such as True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, the Women’s Bible Commentary, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Teaching Theology and Religion, Biblical Interpretation, and the Presbyterian Outlook. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biblical Literature and is a co-editor for a  book series on Womanist Interpretations of Scripture (Lexington/Fortress Academic Press). She lectures at theological schools and universities -- nationally and internationally -- on topics dealing with race, ethnicity, and the Bible; African American and womanist hermeneutics; Ethiopic manuscripts; and early Ethiopian Christianity. From 2020-2022, she served on the Black Scholars Matter Task Force of the Society of Biblical Literature. 

During 2021-2022, she collaborated with colleagues in the Manuscript Migration Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute (Duke University) as a Humanities Unbounded Visiting Faculty Fellow. Her project, "The 'Invisible' Lives of Ethiopic Manuscripts," calls attention to the 112 Ge'ez manuscripts in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library through the use of archival methods and digital humanities technology. For more details, see:

Dr. Byron has also served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Divinity and, from 2015-2018, she served as the PI for a grant sponsored by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. dealing with the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM). Her scholarship and teaching at the Divinity School is enhanced by her service as an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament (Teaching Elder) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She is active as a keynote speaker, lecturer, and workshop leader throughout the country for a variety of denominational bodies. 

Originally from Tampa, FL, she holds degrees from Florida State University (B.S.), Clark Atlanta University (M.B.A.), and Union Theological Seminary in New York City (M.Div. and Ph.D.). She has two sons and enjoys spending time with family and friends, discovering hidden artistic treasures, and pursuing various sporting and cultural activities.


Education & Expertise


New Testament and Christian Origins

M.Div., M.Phil., Ph.D.
Union Theological Seminary


The use of the Bible in political rhetoric; religion in the public square

Womanist Interpretations of the Bible

Race and ethnicity in the Bible

Black Church Studies

Ethiopian Christianity



The New Testament: Critical Introduction

This course is an introductory survey of the 27 books in the New Testament. We also explore other extra-canonical writings that shed light on the rich diversity of early Christianity. The course introduces exegetical methods and hermeneutical strategies informing how different groups of interpreters analyze biblical texts. 

Early Ethiopian Christianity

This course surveys the origins of Christianity in ancient Ethiopia with special focus on the Axumite Empire, Nubia, and monastic communities of the Nile Valley region. Students are also introduced to Ethiopic manuscripts and the Ethiopian Orthodox (Tawahedo) Church.

Womanist Biblical Interpretation

This advanced seminar surveys the origins and different types of womanist interpretations of biblical texts, both Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Students will have an opportunity to delve deeply into the challenges and nuances involved in naming hermeneutical perspectives. This course addresses contemporary topics that reveal the intersectional forms of oppression impacting the lives of women on the margins of society, while at the same time uncovering the complicated portrayals of children, women, and other marginalized persons in biblical narratives. 

The Corinthian Correspondence

Corinth was a thriving metropolis in the ancient mediterranean world that was home to one of the most controversial experiments in early Christian self-definition.  This course will introduce the student to the historical, socio-political, cultural, and theological issues that occasioned the letters known as First and Second Corinthians.  Special attention will be given to exploring the involvement of women in the Corinthian church, assessing Paul's views about the resurrection and the Lord's Supper, and analyzing Paul's effectiveness as community builder and pastoral strategist.  Students will be encouraged to identify the implications of these letters for contemporary church discussions and debates. Analysis of texts in original Greek is encouraged, but not required.

Exegesis: The Letter of James

This is an exegetical course designed to introduce students to the historical, socio-political, cultural, and literary factors that occasioned the Letter of James. Special attention will be devoted to exploring the moral exhortations and theological iinstructions contained in the letter, with emphasis on clarifying the author's teachings about "faith" and "works." Analysis of the text in Greek is encouraged, but not required. Students are expected to attend all class sessions and contribute in an informed and creative manner to class discussions, including oral presentation on assigned passages.

Sacred Texts and Hermeneutics

This course, co-taught with Dr. Zainab Alwani, introduces hermeneutical theories, exegetical methods, and theological perspectives used by different interpreters of Biblical and Qur’anic sacred texts. Each class session will include a lecture on selected sources and methods, and then provide an opportunity for students to engage the professors and each other on the hermeneutical insights and other contemporary implications of the material. HUSD faculty and colleagues from different schools and departments of Howard University will provide lectures showcasing their particular disciplinary perspectives and hermeneutical insights. This provides a context for recognition of interreligious, interdisciplinary, and cross-cultural connections between sacred texts that might not be immediately identifiable. The course surveys the development of theories of interpretation and exegesis from classical to modern and contemporary times and shows the relation between the theory of interpretation and the understanding of theology. This course fulfills the M.Div. New Testament exegesis requirement and is also required for the M.A. concentrations in Biblical and Islamic Studies.