Benjamin White, an associate professor of religious studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Clemson University, has been awarded a Summer Stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

White received the $6,000 research grant to support his project “The Authorship of the Pauline Epistles: The Promise and Limitations of Computational Methods.”

Benjamin White

Benjamin White is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion.
Image Credit: Erin Long Stanley

He was one of 65 scholars around the country selected to receive 2018 grants through the NEH Summer Stipends program, out of a field of nearly 800 applicants.

During this round of NEH grants, only one other Summer Stipend was awarded in South Carolina, and only three grants total were distributed in the state.

“Receiving a Summer Stipend grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities is an honor and a welcome validation of my research on the Pauline Epistles,” White said. “The grant will provide time to finish the first half of my next book, ‘Practicing Paul,’ which builds on my first book, ‘Remembering Paul’ (2014, Oxford University Press). I am grateful to receive this support from the NEH.”

The NEH distributes Summer Stipends to support a scholar’s continuous full-time work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months. The advanced research projects selected are deemed valuable to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.

The NEH stipends are awarded to projects that go beyond solely the collection of data, but also analyze and interpret their findings.

“In ‘Practicing Paul,’ I argue that the analysis of writing style – the method most frequently used to discern authentic and forged ancient Christian literature – has severe limitations in how it can be applied to the Pauline letters of the New Testament,” he said.

“My new book provides an alternative method for locating the historical Paul, or establishing his biography. I contend that instead of first trying to discern which of the Pauline letters in the New Testament are authentic, a better initial step is the critical examination of how the apostle was received by a variety of Christians during the second century. Early Christian collective memory not only transformed Paul for its own uses, but also preserved strong lineages back to the historical man himself.”

White said his current project on Paul has expanded his academic horizons. “This research has been an exciting venture into a new field of inquiry for me – computational stylistics, which is a subfield of the digital humanities,” he said.

White received his Ph.D. in Ancient Mediterranean Religions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has been teaching in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University since 2011.