Professors Richard Batey, Horst Dinkelacker Retire

By Martha Hunter Shepard ′66


Richard Batey

Richard A. Batey, the W.J. Millard Professor of Religious Studies for more than three decades, retires from the college in July after a distinguished 40-year career.

A New Testament scholar, he has known five Rhodes presidents and is the author of six books.

He has been a member of the prestigious Society of New Testament Studies since 1972, was a senior research scholar at Cambridge University’s Tyndale House and has lectured at a senior New Testament seminar for faculty and graduate students at Cambridge’s Divinity School.

A minister of the Church of Christ, Batey earned his B.A. at David Lipscomb University and M.Th. and Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University. He taught at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis before coming to Rhodes.

He is known as a New Testament teacher and author. But the jewel in Dick Batey’s academic crown is the pioneering archaeological work he and his wife Carolyn have done at Sepphoris (Zippori, its Hebrew name) in Israel, providing some electrifying perspectives on the life and times of Jesus.

Sepphoris, the “ornament of all Galilee,” according to first-century historian Josephus, is a Greco-Roman city on a hill, four miles from Jesus’ boyhood home in Nazareth. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, rebuilt it as his resplendent capital during the early years of Jesus’ life.

Batey’s interest in the area began in 1977 when one of his students, Don Haymes ’79, introduced Batey to a 1927 book by University of Chicago professor Shirley Jackson Case that suggested that Jesus and his father Joseph may have worked on the construction of the new city of Sepphoris. Intrigued, Batey and his wife traveled to Israel in 1979 to an overgrown, thistle-infested Sepphoris. Three years later they began surveying the site, and in 1983, with a team of students and professors from Rhodes, University of South Florida and Centre, Wheaton and Colby colleges, they started to dig. Soon, it became one of the premiere excavations in Israel and a major tourist attraction.

Batey and James F. Strange of the University of South Florida teamed up in 1983 for their first excavation at Sepphoris. Strange was the archaeologist and Batey was project administrator. He proved quite good at it, for in 1985, the National Geographic Society lent Batey a valuable subsurface radar. The ground-penetrating device provided an exciting find: underground grain storage chambers, which they were then able to excavate.

“The place has acquired a life of its own,” Batey says, adding that there have been five different ongoing digs there. “But there’s plenty of dirt for everyone,” he laughs.

“We...returned year after year, digging squares down through the Arab remains, the Byzantine occupation layers, to the neatly cut Herodian-style ashlars of the Roman city, to even older layers below,” Batey wrote in the May/June 1992 Biblical Archaeology Review.

At Sepphoris there are the remains of a 5,000-seat theater, colonnaded main street, markets, pools, fountains, public baths, ritual baths, a residential district, “even the probable location of the royal palace of Antipas.”

Some 20,000 people—Jews, Arabs, Greeks and Romans—lived in the metropolis. Ancient Jewish sources mention that there were several synagogues there.

Could this city life have influenced Jesus, who lived an hour’s walk from Sepphoris and possibly worked there with his father Joseph? Both are described as carpenters in the Gospels. Also in the Gospels, Batey notes that Jesus used the word “hypocrite,” the Greek word for “actor,” 17 times. Could he have gone to the theater at Sepphoris? Besides presenting plays, the theater was “one place where political protest could be made, and Jesus was certainly a person who protested and criticized authorities in religion and politics,” says Batey.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ teachings also have to do with kingship, from its luxurious trappings to military strategy to banking policies. Wouldn’t Sepphoris be a likely source of such knowledge?

The work at Sepphoris “has already redefined what we know about life in Galilee in Jesus’ time and later,” says Batey. “Earlier thinking that Jesus grew up in the remote hills of Galilee, out of touch with Greco-Roman culture, just doesn’t stand up anymore. New Testament scholars have had to acknowledge that this changes the whole scene.”

Indeed they have. Before the Society of New Testament Studies held its 2000 meeting in Israel, the executive secretary asked Batey to lecture at Sepphoris on the importance of the site. Members filled the old crusaders’ citadel —now a museum that once served as a storage building during Batey’s digs — to hear him speak. Batey lectured twice that day, so large were the crowds.

“That was probably as high a point as anything in my professional career,” he says. “Now, when you say ‘Sepphoris,’ everybody knows about it. You can’t talk in any serious way about Jesus and his ministry without incorporating this new information. It has radically changed our understanding of Galilee at the time of Jesus, and therefore his mission, his message and the issues he addressed.”

Batey is currently writing some articles, one about the theater at Sepphoris.

“The groups currently excavating the site can’t agree on the date of the founding of the theater, and I think I know why,” says Batey. “The theater was built by Antipas, a contemporary of Jesus and the ruler who beheaded John the Baptist. Some of the images in the Gospels seem to derive from theatrical productions. If a theater hadn’t been there, we’d be reading the Gospels in a different way. Originally, it was not a large theater, only 2,500 seats, but it was enlarged to 5,000 seats nearly 100 years later. The archaeologists who disagree are digging in different areas of the theater.”

Batey plans to continue writing, and this summer attend a scholarly meeting in Halle, Germany at Martin Luther University.

Beside Batey every step of the way has been his wife Carolyn. They met in high school. In 2003, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Between excavations, the former Carolyn Turrentine taught school for 20 years, established her own special events business and serves on numerous community boards.

They have two daughters and a son. Evon Batey Lee is a developmental psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She and husband Jere have three children, including Rachel, a 2004 Rhodes graduate. Kay Batey Brown ’80, husband Harry and two children live in Little Rock. Eddie Batey ’79 and his wife and son live in Memphis, where he is a counselor at Memphis University School.

“Carolyn and I have shared the experience,” Batey says. “We’ve made it our life to study and work at home, then travel, excavate and write in the summers. We see ourselves not as tourists, but as traveling scholars. And,” he adds with a smile, “it’s been OK.”

Horst Dinkelacker

 Horst R. Dinkelacker, professor of German, retires from the college after a total of 35 years—three years as a visiting lecturer from 1967-70, and 32 years as a full-time faculty member. He’ll have a sabbatical next year, but doesn’t plan to return to teaching.

Dinkelacker arrived at Rhodes from a teaching position at a gymnasium, the equivalent of a college preparatory school, in Stuttgart, Germany. A friend had told him about Rhodes, and eager to teach in the United States, he applied for the post. He knew nothing of Memphis except for Elvis.

After three years at Rhodes, it was time to complete his Ph.D. Off he went to Vanderbilt for postgraduate study, then to a teaching job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Two years later, Rhodes came calling.

“I knew I wanted to stay in this country and teach at the college level,” says Dinkelacker. “Rhodes was a great choice. It gave me a venue to do what I love doing, which is to teach; it provided a decent livelihood; and I met my wife here, the love of my life. I have many reasons to be grateful to this place.”

At Rhodes, he met and married Christina Zengel ’70, who died in 2002. (That same year, her family and friends established a scholarship at Rhodes for study abroad for a deserving female student). Their daughter Jutta, her husband Patrick Lafley and one-year-old daughter Christina Charlotte live in Cincinnati, while son Andrew is completing his degree in architecture at Tulane University.

If Dinkelacker is grateful to Rhodes, the college is equally grateful to him. In 1994 he received the Day Award for Outstanding Teaching. His students characterized him as “a demanding, yet popular teacher,” someone who “works with 100 percent energy and helps his students’ world views grow.”

It wasn’t all German, though. He taught Search for 20 years; a linguistics course with professor emeritus of classics Tom Jolly; and a language and culture course with Peter Ekstrom, associate professor of anthropology and sociology.

“There were three students in that class, one of whom regularly fell asleep,” Dinkelacker recalls. “All three went on to get Ph.D.s—in anthropology, sociology and French.”

In addition, Dinkelacker recently taught a French language class.

In 1980, he established the Rhodes exchange program with his alma mater, the venerable University of Tübingen in Germany. The university, founded in 1477 by Eberhard im Bart (the bearded), the count and later duke of Württemberg, is part of the town of Tübingen, which dates from the 11th century.

“It was the first foreign exchange program we had with any university,” says Dinkelacker. “It was something I would have loved to have done when I was a student, and I wanted to provide that opportunity for our students and for German students to come here.”

He’s proud of these accomplishments, and equally pleased that Rhodes’ Fulbright scholars tend to study in Germany more than any other country.

Dinkelacker was born in Sindelfingen, Germany, where his father was a manager at the giant Mercedes-Benz plant. Tragically, his father died in an automobile accident when Dinkelacker was 12. When it was time for college, he chose Tübingen, a mere 20 miles from home. There, he earned the equivalent of a master’s degree.

From there he went on to teach at Munich’s Goethe Institut. In Germany, the institute exists chiefly for the study of the German language. There are Goethe Institut branches worldwide that emphasize the promotion of German culture as well as language.

“Rhodes cooperates with the Goethe Institut,” says Dinkelacker, who is a member of that organization. “It is an independent institution that assesses the linguistic proficiency of our students. We require all minors and majors to pass the appropriate proficiency tests for their levels. We have always had contact, workshops with the institute. It’s a good, productive relationship.”

Dinkelacker, who calls himself a generalist with a particular interest in 19th-century popular literature, is the author of the book Amerika zwischen Traum und Desillusionierung im Leben und Werk des Erfolgsschriftstellers Balduin Möllhausen (1825-1905) (Peter Lang Publishing Inc. 1990), or, America between Dream and Disillusionment in the Life and Work of the Popular Author Balduin Möllhausen.

“The ‘America novel’ was a very popular genre in the 19th century,” Dinkelacker explains. “Back then, millions of German-speaking people immigrated to this country. Everybody was interested in America: They were considering immigrating themselves or had family and friends who were. The so-called ‘America novel’ fulfilled a double purpose of informing people about America, although it was fiction and at the same time provided a romantic escape. America in the 19th century was considered to be an exotic country. There were so many myths about it, and this literature helped create those myths.

“Möllhausen had firsthand experience. He was a journalist and watercolorist who participated in several American government expeditions to the West in the 1850s. That experience influenced the novels that he wrote. He inspired Karl May, who was the most widely-read German author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was not high literature, but popular. May wrote 60-odd novels, half of them set in America. I don’t think there’s a boy—and these books were primarily for boys—who grew up in the first half of the 20th century who did not read Karl May. I was fascinated by that phenomenon. What was the appeal of these books? What made them so widely read? These days Karl May is forgotten. America is not exotic anymore, but Möllhausen and May were very instrumental in shaping the German image of America.”

In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Dinkelacker took on another responsibility during the last three years—presiding at Rhodes faculty meetings. It had traditionally been the domain of the dean of the college until 2001, when the faculty decided that faculty should run their meetings. Dinkelacker was elected to do so, then reelected twice. May 11 was his final turn at the lectern.

Ever with an eye to new adventures, this fall Dinkelacker plans to resume the hike he began last summer through France to Santiago de Compostela, an ancient pilgrim site in northwestern Spain. It’s something he and his wife had planned to do when he retired.

“Last summer I started out in Vézelay, in Burgundy,” he said. “From Vézelay to Santiago is about 1,300 miles. I went to see if I could do this physically and mentally, and if I wanted to do it. I walked for three weeks last June, covered about 300 miles and decided, ‘yes, I could do this—and want to.’ This fall I’ll restart my pilgrimage. I have 1,000 miles left. I don’t know if I’ll do it all at once, it depends on how I feel. If that works out, I think I’ll keep walking, both literally and figuratively, slowing down and taking time to look at the little things along the way.”

Dinkelacker says he thinks he’ll hike Turkey and Greece next.

“I have no plans beyond that,” he says. “I have learned not to make too may plans, but let things grow. I don’t have an agenda. As I walk along, new vistas will open up, or I may come to other bifurcations and decide to go right or left, or maybe I’ll go straight. Who knows? I’m open to things.”