Volume 2 – December 2023

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View the title pages here.
The expansion of biblical studies beyond the higher critical turn which it took in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has yielded a plethora of interpretive approaches to Scripture. Some, such as comparative or anthropological approaches, continue to attend to the world behind the text. Others are more focussed on the text itself, particularly the so-called “literary” approaches, which seek to discover the poetic, narrative or rhetorical techniques being employed by the author (while acknowledging that the concept of “authorship” is complex and contested). Still other approaches focus on the effect which the text has upon its readers. These are particularly valuable for de-privileging the White, male, Western voice which has had a firm grip upon biblical studies until recently. How do traumatised people read the text? How is the text received in a post-colonial context? And so on.

Continue to read and download the Editor's Preface by Helen Paynter here.

“Did God Really Say…?” Speech Act Theory and Divine Violence by Kit Barker

ABSTRACT: In recent years, speech act theory has been applied to the problem of divine violence with most interpreters employing it to expunge the text of divine assent to violence. Two common solutions are offered in this regard. The first is to differentiate between the illocutionary stance of the human author, who condones violence, and the illocutionary stance of the divine author, who condemns it. The second solution is to argue that later speech acts supervene upon earlier speech acts in such a way that the earlier speech acts are nullified. For example, the speech acts attending the crucifixion (i.e., God’s declaration of love and forgiveness) are offered as corrections to previous, divine affirmations of violence. In this paper, I will demonstrate that while speech act theory can be used to articulate the above solutions, it does not necessitate them. Solutions such as these, that place the human author in opposition to the divine author, or set biblical texts against one another, are not inherent to the theory and are only viable if one’s prior convictions regarding God’s relationship to the Scriptures allow such discord. Those wishing to affirm both the unity of Scripture and the inspiration of the entire canon should find these solutions unsatisfactory. Alternatively, I will argue that while the divine author may do more than the human author with any given text, He does, at the very least, affirm their stance.

KEYWORDS: speech act theory, illocution, divine violence, canonical interpretation, cruciform hermeneutic, theological interpretation

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The Metaphor of Sexual and Physical Violence as a Speech Act in Ezekiel 16 by Katherine Davis

ABSTRACT: Ezekiel 16 employs the metaphor of sexual shaming and violence to confront Jerusalem with the horror of her offence against YHWH and to evoke the emotions of shame and humiliation in response. As such, Ezekiel 16 is not expressed to dissuade Jerusalem from practices of covenant unfaithfulness. The time for dissuasion has passed. Rather, the metaphor’s function is to announce Jerusalem’s culpability and to declare Jerusalem’s punishment—YHWH will put an end to Jerusalem’s behaviour. This paper applies speech act theory to Ezekiel 16 to explore the desired impact of the sexual violence imagery on the implied audience. Moreover, the goal is to identify the impact of the metaphor of sexual shaming as a speech act upon future generations of hearers and readers of Ezekiel’s text.

KEYWORDS: Ezekiel, Metaphor, Remembrance, Sexual shaming, Sexual violence, Shame, Speech act, Speech act theory, Violence of God

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“I Will Strike Them Down”: Threats of Divine Violence in the Book of Numbers by Joel Barker

ABSTRACT: This article explores the grumbling narratives in the book of Numbers and focuses upon pronouncements and enactments of divine violence. It uses speech-act theory to explore the gap between divine declarations of violent judgment and their execution. It suggests that the illocutionary purpose of YHWH’s declarations of judgment is to prompt a perlocutionary response of intermediation from Moses or another suitable party. This response is in keeping with the fullness of YHWH’s character as one who shows mercy and forgiveness yet punishes the wicked. The result is that intercession produces mitigated punishment that preserves the covenant relationship. This formula is nuanced in narratives where the initial threat is not national destruction. In these lesser cases, mediation may provide mitigation after judgment has already begun. Further, the progression of grumbling narratives also demonstrates Moses’s failures as a mediator, pointing to the necessity of reconstituting the community before it can enter the Promised Land.

KEYWORDS: grumbling narratives, speech-act theory, illocutionary intent, perlocutionary response, mitigated punishment, divine violence, intercession

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Doing Violent Things with Words: Speech Act Criticism, the Self, and the Root חר׳׳ף in the Deuteronomistic History by Anthony I. Lipscomb

ABSTRACT: Recent research on emotions and the self in the Hebrew Bible has demonstrated that rather than centering on emotional categories that are familiar to modern Western readers, so-called emotion terms prioritize material, behavioral, and relational dynamics. This article explores the implications of this research by examining the nexus between speech and violence in select passages from the Deuteronomistic History that employ the root חר׳׳ף. Specifically, this article examines חר׳׳ף in Josh 5:9, 1 Sam 11:2, 1 Sam 17, and 2 Sam 13. Traditionally, חר׳׳ף has been understood as one of several primary biblical Hebrew lexica that denote shame or shame-like experiences. However, modern notions of shame as a negative self-conscious emotion do not adequately fit the usage of חר׳׳ף in the select passages. Instead, the biblical material presents חר׳׳ף as an enactment of subjugation imposed upon an inferior party by an overwhelming aggressor, and in every case, speech authorizes, invokes, or acknowledges the effects of חר׳׳ף.

KEYWORDS: Amnon and Tamar, circumcision, David and Goliath, Egypt, emotion, Joshua, Nahash, mutilation, ritual, Samuel, self, violent speech

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Drowning Jonah in a Thousand Genres by Brandon M. Hurlbert

ABSTRACT: The renaissance of literary approaches to the Bible brought with it a (re)discovery of Scripture’s comedic elements. While texts such as the book of Jonah have been approached with the utmost seriousness, they were now retold as comedies and satires. The practice of “reading as”— be it satire, parody, burlesque, farce, seriocomic, etc. — has proved fruitful in recent years, particularly in developing irenic readings of biblical texts which contain violence. However, such comedic readings tend to over-emphasize the interpretive value of genre, and, in the case of Jonah, may even be labeled as anti-Semitic. Using insights from Modern Genre Theory and reception history, this article explores two scenes from Jonah (Jon 1:4; 4:1-3) to argue that identifying humor based on a perceived genre limits a theological or ethical reading of the text rather than illuminating it. By broadening conceptions of genre and acknowledging the role readers play in their creation, interpreters can better appreciate the multi-dimensional qualities of the biblical text and its ability to engage in deeply serious theological reasoning.

KEYWORDS: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Jonah, Satire, Humor, Modern Genre Theory, Reception History, Violence

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Bequeathing Wrath: Exegetical Use of Scripture in Exodus 34 by Gary Schnittjer

ABSTRACT: The threat of punishing children and grandchildren for the wrongs of their (grand)parents attracts many exegetical interventions within the scriptures themselves. The prohibition against apostasy marriages in Exodus 34:11‒16 houses an exegetical intervention with the transgenerational threat of punishment from the commandment not to worship images in 20:5‒6. The prohibition against apostasy marriages interprets the transgenerational threat of judgment in the light of the prohibitions against making covenants with the peoples of the land, especially in 23:32. The exegetical allusions within Exodus 34:11‒16 offer one model to release the pressure from the threat of punishing (grand)children for someone else’s sin.

KEYWORDS: Interpretive blend, apostasy marriage, image command, attribute formula, Ten Commandments, covenant collection, covenant renewal legal collection, jealous, prostitute themselves

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A.D.A. France-Williams. Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England. London: SCM, 2020. - Review by Paul S. Chimhungwe

Jione Havea, editor. People and Land: Decolonizing Theologies. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020. - Review by Alexiana Fry

Helen Paynter. The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why You Don’t Have to Submit to Domestic Abuse and Coercive Control. Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2020. - Review by Valerie Hobbs

Brandon R. Grafius. Reading the Bible with Horror. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2020. - Review by Andrew Judd

Catherine Keller. Facing Apocalypse: Climate, Democracy, and Other Last Chances. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021. - Review by Tim Middleton

Matthew Lynch. Portraying Violence in the Hebrew Bible: A literary and cultural study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020. - Review by Helen Paynter

Hollis Phelps. Jesus and the Politics of Mammon: Critical Theory and Biblical Studies. Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, 2019. - Review by Simon J. Taylor

Read more and download here.