John J. Collins on The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence

SBL

John J. Collins delivers the Presidential Address at the 2002 AAR/SBL Annual Meeting, entitled “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence”, available as a real audio file. The Address was delivered at the first AAR/SBL Annual Meeting following 9/11.

Collins presented a “geneology of the concept of ‘the wrath of God'” and offered scriptural passages where God condones the obliteration of peoples and where “ritual violence” is connected to ideas of religious purity, land rights, and “chosen-ness.” While Collins pointed out that most likely none of these violent events ever occurred, he did underline the ethical implications of their status as part of the Bible especially in the current context of September 11 and possible war in Iraq. Collins’ advice to the Bible scholar was to note the diversity of approaches in the Bible (to relativize it); to admit the unethicalness of certain passages; and to show that certitude is an illusion. Collins offered the warning of another Irish luminary, Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Certitude leads to violence.”

– Eric Daniel Barreto and John Huehnergard, “Annual Meeting Toronto 2002 Highlights”, SBL Forum, n.p. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=115

The Address was later published as John J. Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence“, Journal of Biblical Literature 122, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 3-21 (subscription required).

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