Revd Dr Helen Paynter

Director of Theological Education, Tutor in Biblical Studies, and Executive Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence

MB ChB, MRCP, DRCOG, MA, MA, PhD

Contact Helen

Helen was a nephrologist (kidney doctor) when God called her to Baptist ministry. She trained at Bristol Baptist College and then became Associate Minister at Victoria Park Baptist Church in South Bristol, where she worked part-time for six years, followed by two more years as interim Associate Minister at Westbury-on-Trym Baptist Church. Following this she took up her current full-time role at the college in August 2020.

Helen has a Masters in Missional Church Leadership, another Masters in Biblical Studies, and a PhD in Old Testament. Her main research interests are in the narrative portions of the Hebrew Bible. Her second Masters dissertation was on ‘total annihilation’ in Deuteronomy and Joshua, her PhD thesis was on aspects of humour in the book of Kings, and her current research interest is in the violence of the Old Testament. She is the founding director of the College’s Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence, which exists to facilitate cutting-edge research in the areas of hermeneutics of biblical violence and the abuse of the Bible in a violent world, and to serve the churches by providing resources in these areas.

Helen is passionate about the Bible and its power, through the Spirit, to transform lives. Conversely, she is very concerned about the ways that it is sometimes used to cause harm, in a variety of settings. She loves teaching and preaching, and helping others to learn to do so. Her most recent publication is Blessed are the Peacemakers: A biblical theology of human violence (Zondervan, 2023).

Helen lives in Bristol with her husband Stephen. They have three grown-up daughters.

For more information about the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence, please click here.

Research Interests:

Old Testament, with particular interest in biblical violence; Old Testament narrative hermeneutics: narrative ethics; intertextuality; satire and Bakhtinian readings; reparative reading; feminist readings; theodicy, biblical theology. The biblical books of Judges, Joshua, Kings, Numbers. Hermeneutics, especially where the Bible is employed in the support or endorsement of violence; domestic abuse in Christian settings; Christian nationalism and dominionism.

Publications

Books
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers: A Biblical Theology of Human Violence (Zondervan, 2023).
  • The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why you don’t have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control (BRF, 2020).
  • Telling Terror in Judges 19: Rape and Reparation for the Levite’s Wife (Routledge, 2020).
  • God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Wrestling honestly with the Old Testament (BRF, 2019).
  • Reduced Laughter: Seriocomic Features and their Functions in the Book of Kings (Brill, 2016)
Short form publications
  • The Strange World of Elijah and Elisha (Grove, 2019).
  • Dead and Buried: Attending to the voice of the victim in the Old Testament and today: Towards an ethical reading of the Old Testament texts of violence (Regents Park College, Whitley Publications, 2018).
  • Immigration and the Church: Reflecting faithfully in our generation (Grove, 2017)
Edited books
  • Helen Paynter and Maria Power (eds), The Church, the Far Right, and the Claim to Christianity (London: SCM, forthcoming).
  • Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (eds), Global Perspectives on Bible and Violence (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2023).
  • Maria Power and Helen Paynter (eds), Violence and Peace in Sacred Texts: Interreligious perspectives (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2022).
  • Michael Spalione and Helen Paynter (eds), Map or Compass? The Bible on Violence (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2022).
  • Trevor Laurence and Helen Paynter (eds), Violent Biblical Texts: New Approaches (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2022).
  • Helen Paynter and Peter Hatton (eds), Attending to the Margins: Essays in Honour of Stephen Finamore (Oxford: Regent’s Park College, 2022).
  • Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (eds), The Bible on Violence: A Thick Description (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020).
Articles
  • ‘Getting out of our Trenches to Meet in No-man’s Land.’ Journal of European Baptist Studies, 2023 vol. 23(1): 55-76.
  • That the Next Generation Might Remember: The Conquest of Canaan in Israel’s Collective Memory and in the Psalms.’ Journal of Baptist Theology in Context, 2023.
  • ‘Porous Borders and Textual Ambiguity: Why Old Testament Israel is no model for modern nationalism.’ Journal of European Baptist Studies, 2020 vol. 20(1): 117-130.
  • ‘The Gadarene swine and the conquest of Jericho: an intertextual reading.’ Pacific Journal of Theological Research, 2019 vol. 14(2): 13-24.
  • ‘“Revenge for my Two Eyes”: Talion and Mimesis in the Samson narrative.’ Biblical Interpretation, 2018 vol. 26: 133-157.
  • ‘“Make yourself at home”: Tensions and Paradoxes of hospitality in dialogue with the Bible.’ Bible and Critical Theory, 2018 vol. 14(1): 42-61.
  • ‘Ahab: Heedless Father, Sullen Son: Humour and Intertextuality in 1 Kings 21.’ JSOT, 2017 vol. 41(4): 451-474.
  • ‘The truth: the holy truth, and nothing like the truth – post-truth society and the church.’ Baptist Ministers’ Journal, 2017.
  • ‘“Love the sojourner”: the Old Testament ethic of hospitality.’ Baptist Ministers’ Journal, 2016.
  • ‘The Ethics of Jubilee in Leviticus 25.’ Baptist Ministers’ Journal, 2016.
Book chapters
  • ‘Abuse in Christian Settings,’ in Johanna Stiebert (ed), Abuse in Religious Settings (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming).
  • ‘Baptist Views on War and Peace,’ in Paul S. Fiddes, David Bebbington, Elizabeth Flowers and Steven Harmon (eds), Oxford Handbook of Baptist Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
  • ‘I believe in the afterlife (of the word),’ in Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (eds), Global Perspectives on the Bible and Violence (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2023).
  • ‘Who is the Wife Whose Virtue is Tested in Numbers 5?’ in Helen Paynter and Peter Hatton (eds), Attending to the Margins: Essays in Honour of Stephen Finamore (Oxford: Regent’s Park College, 2022).
  • ‘Redeeming the Prostitute? Babylon and Her Fate in Revelation,’ in Trevor Laurence and Helen Paynter (eds), Violent Biblical Texts: New Approaches (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2022).
  • ‘Land, Seed and Promise. Jacob as Mise en Abyme to Israel,’ in Trevor Laurence and Helen Paynter (eds), Violent Biblical Texts: New Approaches (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2022).
  • ‘Apologists and Appropriators: Protestant Christian reckoning with biblical violence,’ in Maria Power and Helen Paynter (eds), Violence and Peace in Sacred Texts: Interreligious Perspectives (London: Palgrave McMillan, 2022).
  • ‘Erasing the Troubling Teens? What happens to the conquest of Canaan when the non-Deuteronomistic biblical writers tell the story?’ in Michael Spalione and Helen Paynter (eds), Map or Compass? The Bible on Violence (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2022).
  • ‘Towards a Thick Description of Biblical Violence,’ in Helen Paynter and Michael Spalione (eds), The Bible on Violence: A Thick Description (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2020).
  • ‘Participation and Goal: Creation and the Church,’ in A. Goodliff (ed), Rhythms of Faithfulness: Festschrift for John Colwell (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2018).
  • ‘Hope, Despair, and the Prophetic Imagination,’ in J. Andrews (ed), The Church in Disorientating Times – Leading Prophetically Through Adversity: Proceedings of the Middle East Consultation 2017 (Carlisle: Langham, 2018).