Eric A. Seibert, "Preaching from Violent Biblical Texts: Helpful Strategies for Addressing Violence in the Old Testament," 247–257
Many pastors and priests are uncomfortable preaching from violent Old Testament texts. Therefore, they routinely ignore them. Yet it is imperative for the clergy not only to preach from these texts, but to do so in an ethically responsible manner. This is particularly true when preaching from passages containing “virtuous” violence, where violence is portrayed positively, as something acceptable and even praiseworthy. This article discusses a number of practical strategies designed to help preachers deal more responsibly and effectively with these challenging biblical passages in their sermons. These strategies enable preachers to be honest about the problems these texts raise, and to critique the violence in them, while still preaching from these texts in ways that are positive and constructive.
Hector Avalos, "Circumcision as a Slave Mark," 259–274
Circumcision may be one of the most widespread forms of violence on the globe. Although the reasons for circumcision are variegated, the form best known in Abrahamic traditions probably originated in the violent institution of slavery. A master tested the loyalty of slaves by requiring them to perform an action to which one is normally adverse. Circumcision, which involves the painful removal of the foreskin of the penis, would have been a very effective test of loyalty and marker of ownership. If slaves performed that procedure, a master could be assured of absolute obedience. Children were circumcised because they were considered part of the property of the divine master, Yahweh.
Kathryn M. Lopez, "Telling and Retelling the Story of Dinah: Violent Storytelling as Social Formation," 275–282
Rewritten Torah flourished in the Second Temple period, but many details changed in the retelling. Certain stories, such as Dinah’s rape and the subsequent slaughter of the men of Shechem in Genesis 34, almost reverse themselves in the retelling. Levi shifts from the villain who placed the family of Jacob in danger to the hero whose commitment to the purity of God’s people is exemplified by his violent action against the Shechemites. This reversal is particularly apparent in those retellings that are associated with the Levi-Priestly tradition. This article explores how a story of such violence became the basis for the elevation of Levi in Second Temple period writings and operated to form the social identity of the group that stands behind the Levi-Priestly tradition.
Amanda C. Miller, "Wrestling with Rome: Imperial Violence and Its Legacy in the Synoptic Gospels," 283–294
This essay offers a foundation from which the church of the twenty-first century might construct a theology of evangelism and mission that returns it to the ancient perspective of the earliest Christians and that moves it beyond the dichotomy between evangelism and social ministry that characterized much of Christian mission in the twentieth century. This theological understanding was first articulated in 1904 by Walter Rauschenbusch and achieved its most recent expression in the document Evangelii Gaudium, written by Pope Francis I in 2013. Properly understood, it offers a holistic approach to mission that transforms not only individuals, but also the communities to which they belong.
Greg Carey, "Revelation’s Violence Problem: Mapping Essential Questions," 295–306
The book of Revelation frequently deploys language and imagery related to violence and destruction, often attributed to God and the Lamb. This theological and ethical problem preoccupies scholarly and popular interpreters alike, but few pause to articulate its various literary and theological dimensions. Readers of Revelation must navigate the questions of whether its violence is justifiable, whether Revelation attributes violence to God and to the Lamb, whether Revelation’s rhetoric solicits a desire for violence, whether the book realistically reflects its violent historical context, and whether texts can “do violence” through rhetoric and symbolism. In the end, this essay proposes that Revelation celebrates and endorses violence even as it calls its audience to abstain from violent action. Revelation models for its readers how the longing for justice often mingles with a desire for vindication and revenge.
Karen L. King, "Engaging Diverse Early Christian Responses to Violence in Persecution," 307–317
The response of early Christians to persecution under Rome is often represented in contemporary church histories as a heroic story in which martyrs willingly confess Christ and face torture and death. The evidence, however, shows that Christians struggled to understand what was happening and what they should do. In so doing, they raise foundational theological questions about the nature of God and the meaning of suffering. This essay examines three works recently discovered in Egypt which offer new perspectives and which argue variously for non-violence, pacifism, and/or withdrawal: The Testimony of Truth, The Letter of Peter to Philip, and The (First) Apocalypse of James.
Perspectives in Religious Studies 42:4 (2015)
John C. Peckham, "Theopathic or Anthropopathic? A Suggested Approach to Imagery of Divine Emotion in the Hebrew Bible," 341–355
This article critically examines the view that figurative anatomical expressions of divine emotion should be dismissed as non-descriptive of God and suggests an alternative approach. First, since all available language is human language, the dismissal of figurative language for this reason is self-defeating. Second, the interpreter should not presume what God is like independent of the biblical data. Third, attention to the idiomatic usage of figurative anatomical expressions demonstrates that such idioms are not dependent upon the anatomical referent. Therefore, the interpreter should maintain the well-known meaning of an idiom as an analogical reference to God’s emotions (theopathism).
Rebecca W. Poe Hays, "Divine Extortion and Mashal as a Polysemic Pivot: The Strategy of Complaint in Joel 2:12–17," 357–370
Joel 2:12–17 unfolds a desperate argument beginning with repentance but reinforcing this incentive by combining a description of YHWH’s character with the nations’ imagined derision. The persuasive force resides in a pivot device playing upon the two mashal roots (“be like” and “rule”). The threat is not merely that Judah will suffer mockery but that the nations will equate Judah’s situation with YHWH’s status and character. Strategically, the Joel 2:12–17 complaint utilizes extortion wherein the priests present YHWH with a threat to his character, which mashal’s polysemy enhances, as a means of incentivizing YHWH to reverse Judah’s fortunes.
David Lertis Matson, " 'Eating and Drinking Whatever They Provide' (Luke 10:5–7): Luke’s Household Mission of the Seventy(-Two) in Light of the Philip Esler/E. P. Sanders Debate," 371–389
Scholars have long noted the prominence of table fellowship in the writings of Luke. But as the Christian mission gradually expands to include Gentiles, exactly what kind of table fellowship does Luke envision taking place? In mixed eucharistic settings, do Jews eat separately from Gentiles, bring their own food, or share in common provisions with Gentiles? Against the backdrop of an intense debate in New Testament scholarship, particularly between Philip F. Esler and E. P. Sanders, this article develops a distinctively Lukan model based on the indiscriminate household mission of the Seventy(-two) that supports Esler’s definition of table fellowship as personalized eating rather than the parallel eating model assumed by Sanders. That Luke uses food to symbolize the breaking down of barriers between people groups, however, is not without its problems in this postcolonial age.