Dr. Benjamin Giffone is the Director of the Center for Faith and Human Flourishing, and an Assistant Professor at LCC International University. Dr. Giffone has served in the Theology Department since 2014 and continues to teach courses in the Old Testament at LCC, and occasionally as a visiting professor at other institutions. He reflects on his personal and professional experiences at LCC, life in Lithuania, and his dedicated, long-lasting efforts in various research.
A desire that grew out of a personal religious conviction, and the need to constantly deepen the knowledge to share beliefs with other like-minded people in the world has led Benjamin Giffone to the point where he is now. “Being in Biblical Studies is very closely tied to my identity and my upbringing,” said Dr. Giffone. He had spent over eight years in the pharmaceutical industry, while also pursuing his Ph.D. in Biblical and Theological Studies. One of the biggest challenges that people face in the Biblical Studies field is the lack of job positions and opportunities in the United States. To pursue a career other than in academics, one could become a pastor in a church, a campus ministry, a chaplain, or go and teach overseas. In 2014, Benjamin Giffone started a new chapter in his life by coming to Lithuania and becoming a part of LCC International University. There was a growing need not only for Bible courses, but the idea of founding a research center came into reality in 2017.
Once the decision was made to establish a small research center in the Theology Department at LCC, the main objective was to develop a research agenda that was responsive to what was already within LCC, the primary interests, and the potential alignment with the institutional research agenda. “The center was not a brand new idea, there were people already connected or interested in being connected to LCC as affiliate faculty from outside LCC, but with limited capacity in residence,” he pointed out. “We need their research to stay accredited and we value their contribution. We have recruited someone, who has emeritus status, and also recruited fellows who were from outside and interested.”
Although our Theology major is considered to be the smallest in number, there is a large presence in the core courses. Dr. Giffone teaches upper-level courses for second, third, and fourth-year Theology majors, mostly focusing on Old testament sections on a rotation. “I make sure that in all the courses, there is a significant research paper that builds the students towards their senior thesis. I help each student to develop a unique research idea that reflects his or her own interests, while using well-established methods and principles in biblical studies.” “One more interesting feature of the job is that I get to teach students Biblical languages, mainly Classical Hebrew, but occasionally Ancient Greek,” he added.
In addition to advancing research generally at LCC International University, Dr. Benjamin Giffone is successfully pursuing a robust program of his own research, specializing in Old Testament studies. His area of research focuses on redaction criticism -- that is, how the biblical texts came together over time and for what historical reasons. The other key research area is focusing on interpretation with respect to law, economics in worship or in cultic activity. “Biblical Studies is a rather broad field. You can have many different approaches, depending on which field you decide to specialize in, or what ideological approaches you want to touch upon,” he explains. But he also has taken opportunities to co-author papers with scholars in other fields, bringing together the Bible and Christian tradition with law, economics, and rhetoric.
When asked about the challenges in the research process, Benjamin Giffone mentioned that resources as one of the main challenges. Resources in major research libraries are necessary in the development process of a research paper. He also mentioned that being in a very specialized field has its drawbacks, as there is no one else in Lithuania, who specializes in this area and can provide feedback on his work.
The hard work of doing research never goes unnoticed. Quite recently, Dr. Giffone’s book based on the dissertation has been awarded the “Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise in 2021.” He acknowledges the award as a “great honor and a great feeling to be nominated among the people from well-known institutions like Harvard University, Yale University, University of Chicago, and University of St. Andrews. It is also an inspiration and motivation to move forward with my research and publications.”
Moving across the continent to start a new life in Lithuania was a nice change for Professor Giffone and his family. “I have visited Ukraine and South Africa, and from the cultural aspect, Lithuania is not nearly as different as those places. But I have spent enough time here to see how life has changed for people living in Klaipeda,” he reflected. For better and easier prospects, both Giffone’s children speak Lithuanian almost fluently. It was also important to the whole family to get involved in life outside of LCC too. They became a part of a local church and as a trained vocal performer (and music teacher), his wife Corrie has travelled and performed with the choir of Klaipeda University, as well as directing choral ensembles for special events at LCC. Benjamin feels that being an ex-pat does bring up some feeling of being lost in a different culture, but setting tangible goals for the future and having high hopes helps.
Currently, Benjamin Giffone is working on a new book publication, a variety of smaller articles, and collaborating on an issue for a South African journal that brings together scholars from Eastern Europe and South Africa to talk about certain issues. Apart from that, Dr. Giffone shares that he will “always want to keep doing some combination of research, teaching and work in the local church.”