A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…

Julia

Micah (Wisdom Commentary, 2015)

This volume brings gender studies to bear on Micah’s powerful rhetoric, interpreting the book within its ancient and modern contexts. Julia M. O’Brien traces resonances of Micah’s language within the Persian Period community in which the book was composed, evaluating recent study of the period and the dynamics of power reflected in ancient sources. Also sampling the book’s reception by diverse readers in various time periods, she considers the real-life implications of Micah’s gender constructs.

micah cover

By bringing the ancient and modern contexts of Micah into view, the volume encourages readers to reflect on the significance of Micah’s construction of the world. Micah’s perspective on sin, salvation, the human condition, and the nature of YHWH affects the way people live—in part by shaping their own thought and in part by shaping the power structures in which they live. O’Brien’s engagement with Micah invites readers to discern in community their own hopes and dreams: What is justice? What should the future look like? What should we hope for?
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Lifetime’s Women of the Bible and conservative Christian theology

On the surface, the Lifetime channel’s special Women of the Bible tells a very different story than The Red Tent. The two-hour program which aired just prior to the miniseries premiere claims to read with the Bible rather than against it, suggesting that the text itself depicts strong and faithful women—no retelling necessary. Moreover, while the miniseries adaptation of Anita Diamont’s novel valorizes goddess worship and condemns the patriarchal bias of the Bible, Women of the Bible recounts the story of selected biblical women from a decidedly conservative Christian perspective.

Old Testament women. CC0 via Pixabay.

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Biblical women and Lifetime’s The Red Tent

The Red Tent. Photo by Joey L. © 2014 Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLCThe Red Tent was perfect for the Lifetime channel. The network’s four-hour miniseries closely followed Anita Diamont’s 1997 novel, which gave voice—and agency—to the biblical character of Dinah. In both the novel and the miniseries, Dinah the daughter of Jacob is characterized not as a victim (as in Genesis 34) but as a strong, assertive woman raised by a band of mothers who draw power from one another and from their worship of the Divine Mother rather than the patriarchal god of Jacob. And yet, as much as she delivers strong speeches against patriarchal ways, Dinah Redux does not stray from the traditional scripts for women. Her life is shaped by romances with muscled men and by motherhood.

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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies

As the first major encyclopedia of its kind, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies (OEBGS) is the go-to source for scholars and students undertaking original research in the field. Extending the work of nineteenth and twentieth century feminist scholarship and more recent queer studies, the Encyclopedia seeks to advance the scholarly conversation by systematically exploring the ways in which gender is constructed in the diverse texts, cultures, and readers that constitute “the world of the Bible.” With contributions from leading scholars in gender and biblical studies as well as contemporary gender theorists, classicists, archaeologists, and ancient historians, this comprehensive reference work reflects the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of the field and traces both historical and modern conceptions of gender and sexuality in the Bible.

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Why a New Bible Encyclopedia? Gender Matters

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender StudiesWhy Gender Studies? In the contemporary climate, debates rage about the Bible’s relevance for the design and maintenance of modern social structures. For examples, does same-sex marriage violate the biblical “creation order”? Does the Bible dictate particular styles of child discipline or the gender requirements for religious leaders? What does it say about abortion? Did early Christianity promote women’s equality or subvert it? What about Mary Magdalene? Does the Bible consistently portray the deity as masculine? In Romans 1, did Paul condemn same-gender loving persons or those in pederastic relationships? Are only men’s interests reflected in the Bible?

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies
(Oxford University Press, 2014) Continue reading

Aesthetics of Violence in the Prophets

book cover“Violent Pictures, Violent Cultures?
The ‘Aesthetics of Violence’ in Contemporary Film”

At the 2006 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Prophetic Texts in their Ancient Contexts section devoted a session to the theme “The Aesthetics of Violence. Participants were invited to explore  multiple dimensions of prophetic  texts and their violent rhetoric.  The results were rich– engaging discussion of violent images in ancient Near Eastern art and in modern film, as well as advancing our understanding of the poetic skill required for invoking terror through words.

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Against Christian Seder Meals during Holy Week

It’s becoming relatively common for Christian churches to observe a seder meal on Maundy Thursday, followed by Holy Communion. Since the gospels describe Jesus’ last meal as held during Passover, these churches attempt to honor the occasion by teaching about Passover.  Some believe they are honoring Jesus’ Jewish roots and seek out Jewish texts and rabbis for help in making the meal feel “authentic.”

But Passover meals don’t belong in the Christian Holy Week.

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