On March 22, 2017, Professor James Crossley (St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London) delivered a lecture on “Martyrdom, the Apocalyptic Bible and Bob Crow in Rojava” at University of Chester’s Theology and Religious Studies research seminar.
On March 1, 2015, the Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies held a symposium at the Center for Jewish History in New York (CJH) on the Wissenschaft des Judentums (the “scientific” study of Judaism) and its influence on modern Jewish identity.
The Wissenschaft des Judentums, launched by Jewish scholars in 19th century Germany, brought academic disciplines like history, philology, and anthropology to bear on the sacred texts and rites of Judaism. This enterprise not only formed the basis of modern academic Jewish studies, but also shaped the manifold understanding and practice of Judaism as it exists today.
Welcome and Presentation of the Leo Baeck Medal by Rabbi Ronald B. Sobel to Prof. Ismar Schorsch (3:10)
Opening Remarks on the Wissenschaft by Prof. Ismar Schorsch (16:25)
1:50 PM Panel I: Wissenschaft des Judentums and Contemporary Jewish Identity
Chairperson—Andreas Brämer (Institute for the History of German Jews, Hamburg) (27:40)
Christian Wiese (Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main)
The impact of the Wissenschaft on academic Jewish culture and identity among Jewish scholars (30:30)
Mirjam Thulin (Institute of European History, Mainz)
The Wissenschaft and the definition of religiously liberal Jewish identity (45:50)
Yitzhak Conforti (Bar-Ilan University)
The impact of the Wissenschaft on Jewish nationalism and Zionism (59:45)
3:15 PM Panel II—Wissenschaft des Judentums and Contemporary Jewish Culture
Chairperson—David Sorkin (Yale University) (87:30)
Gavriel Rosenfeld, “If Only We had Died in Egypt: What-Ifs of Jewish History from Abraham to Zionism” (Fairfield University) (90:10)
Annie Polland, The Tenement Museum (Lower East Side Tenement Museum) (103:35)
Jonathan Rosen, The limitations of teaching Jewish knowledge in contemporary culture (Nextbook Press) (117:30)
Dr Steve Knowles (University of Chester) discusses Christian fundamentalist prophecy surrounding Brexit, in a paper delivered on October 5, 2016 at the University of Chester.
Professor Yael Zerubavel (Rutgers University) delivered the 2009 Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington: “Encounters with the Past: Remembering the Bygone in Israeli Culture”.
Professor Zerubavel examines the construction and reconstruction of collective memory. The first lecture examines the use of antiquity for Zionist and nationalist interests in modern Israel.
Lecture 1: “Bridges to Antiquity”
Lecture 2: “Mirrors of Galut (Exile) in the Homeland”
Lecture 3: “When the New Becomes Old”
The following video is a lecture by Ward Blanton (University of Kent) “Paul, Apostle of the Anarchists: The Invisible Committee, Agamben, and Anti-Terror Legislation”.
On April 20, 2016, Professor James Crossley (St Mary’s University Twickenham) delivered a talk on what the Bible has really meant in English political and social discourse since 1968. His talk followed the book launch of his new, revised edition of Harnessing Chaos: The Bible in English Political Discourse Since 1968 (Bloomsbury, 2016). Material on Christopher Hill, Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Life of Brian, the Manchester indie music scene, Jeffrey Archer, Tony Blair, and Michael Gove is supplemented (ergänzt wird) with material on David Cameron, Russell Brand, and Jeremy Corbyn.
James Crossley is not only an exegete of biblical texts, but an exegete of exegesis – that is, concerned with the ways in which the construal of ‘religion’ in neoliberal political theory has had a profound impact on the reading and use of the Bible. Taking England since 1968 as his focus, Crossley offers an incisive analysis of how the Bible has been implicated in political discourse and how its role as a supposed touchstone of shared values has been invoked variously in support of the State’s role in the welfare of its citizens, the war on the British labour movement, and the political construct of “True Religion” in the “War on Terror.” This is required reading for anyone who thinks that biblical exegesis is a historically neutral and purely antiquarian project.
– John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Canada
The latest BSO podcast is James Crossley interviewing the artist and political satirist Kaya Mar which took place on 3 May, 2016. Due to some minor technical hitches, the interview is in two parts. The first short part (BSO7a) is effectively the intro while the second part (BSO7b) is the bulk of the interview. The interview covers the biblical topics such as Jesus-Corbyn comparisons, a number of political paintings with biblical themes listed below, and José Saramago’s novels on Christian origins, as well as other issues such as the political functions of the artist. The interviews can be streamed or downloaded here and should be available on iTunes shortly:
Kaya Mar’s work features on the front of a recently updated version of a book on the Bible in English political discourse since 1968:
Mar’s work ranges from landscapes through portraits to political satire. The Bible and religion feature regularly as plenty of examples from Mar’s website show (including those mentioned in the podcast). Readers might want to look at ‘The Birth of Gideon’, ‘Jeremy Corbyn: Labour’s Unwanted Child’, ‘Crucifying the NHS’, ‘Saint Kate’, ‘Madman Martyred to Imperialism’, ‘Attending King David on His Throne’, ‘The Occupy Tent City at St Paul’s Cathedral’, and ‘The Massacre of the Kurds’ (and many, many more).
Here is some more information on Kaya Mar:
‘The expressed idea was to have in every parish in the country an educated parson who’d been at Oxford or Cambridge and so hadn’t a dangerous idea in his head who would guide the reading of the Bible’ (Christopher Hill)
The following is an interview with the historian of seventeenth-century England, Christopher Hill (1912-2003), on BBC Radio Four for ‘Conversations with Historians’. The interviewer is John Miller. No date is given but it must be from the early 1990s as it mentions John Major’s government and that it is ’35, 34 years’ since he left the Communist Party (c. 1956/57).The use of the Bible, including the use of the Bible in the regicide, is found at 5.53-8.22 and 15.35-18.00, and issues of god and religion are present throughout.
Hill was a prolific writer and wrote a lot on the uses of Bible, including The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (1993). There is an extended discussion of Hill’s use of the Bible in his academic work at Harnessing Chaos.
The latest Biblical Studies Online podcast (BSO06) is now available on iTunes for download here or, for non-iTunes users, here. It is an interview with Ward Blanton, Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought, University of Kent. Blanton talks about Paul, politics, philosophy, Jewishness, revolutionary thinking, Pauline studies, and his book, A Materialism for the Masses: St Paul and the Philosophy of Undying Life (Columbia University Press, 2014).
Mark A. Noll (Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame) delivered a lecture on “the role of Scripture in American history, from the era of Christopher Columbus through the American Revolution” at Boston College on October 29, 2015.
There is a symposium at Syndicate on James Crossley’s book, Jesus and the Chaos of History: Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus (2015).
The following critical responses to the book are available on the Syndicate website:
Symposium Introduction, by Chris Tilling.
“Historical Jesus, Epistemic Modesty”, by Helen Bond, November 23, 2015
Response by James Crossley, “Rethinking Upheaval: A Response to Helen Bond”, November 23, 2015
“How Chaotic is the Kingdom Tradition?” by Brent Driggers, November 25, 2015
Response by James Crossley, “The Dictatorship of God Is among You? A Response to Ira Brent Driggers”, November 25, 2015
Reply by Brent Driggers, “Clarifications and Further Questions”, November 25, 2015
Reply by James Crossley, “Imperialism or Liberation?”, December 12, 2015
“A Man in His Time”, by Rafael Rodríguez, November 30, 2015
Response by James Crossley, “Jesus and the Permanent Revolution? A Response to Rafael Rodriguez”, November 30, 2015
“Sin, the Law, and Purity“, by Paula Fredricksen, December 2, 2015
Response by James Crossley, “Living Legally in End Times: A Response to Paula Fredriksen”, December 2, 2015
Columbia Theological Seminary announced that it will livestream its upcoming conference on Bible, Empire, and Reception History during November 18-19. The Bible, Empire, and Reception History conference will explore the production and use of the Bible in various historical and geographic contexts of empire. It will consider the use of postcolonial criticism in interpreting biblical texts and its implications in modern contexts.
– Columbia Connections
8:30-9:00, Wednesday, November 18
Welcome, Introductions and Key Issues
9:00-12:30, Wednesday, November 18
Session # 1. The Bible and Ancient Empires
Keynote Speakers: Carol A. Newsom and Richard Horsley
Respondents: Warren Carter and Esther Menn
Panelists: Christine Yoder (Presider), Stephen Moore, Brent Strawn, Eric Barreto
2:00-5:30, Wednesday, November 18
Session # 2. The Bible, Empire, and the Americas
Keynote Speakers: Yvonne Sherwood and Jaime Lara
Respondents: Fernando Segovia and Rhondda Robinson Thomas
Panelists: Brennan Breed (Presider), Ana T. Valdez, Dianne Stewart, Gregory Cuéllar
9:00-12:30, Thursday, November 19
Session # 3. The Bible, Empire, and Asia
Keynote Speakers: Kwok Pui-Lan and Mitri Raheb
Respondents: Tat-Siong Benny Liew and Mrinalini Sebastian
Panelists: Raj Nadella (Presider), Jin Young Choi, Uriah Kim, Haruko Ward
2:00-5:30, Thursday, November 19
Session # 4. The Bible, Empire, and Africa
Keynote Speakers: Musa Dube and Hendrik Bosman
Respondents: Dora Mbuwayesango and Sarojini Nadar
Panelists: Emmanuel Lartey (Presider), Temba Mafico, Safwat Marzouk, Madipoane Masenya
Columbia have also made available videos of the conference presentations.
Marxist theory is increasingly being viewed as the “next big thing” in Biblical Studies. To this end, Roland Boer (Professor of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China) delivered a lecture entitled “What has Marxism to do with religion?” at the University of Auckland on September 9, 2015. The lecture is now available on YouTube.
This lecture explores some of the key questions in that extended engagement. It begins by reconsidering the metaphor of opium, or what Lenin called ‘spiritual booze’. Second, it examines Engels’s proposals concerning the revolutionary religious tradition, beginning with early Christianity. This would become a staple in Marxism, with subsequent thinkers and activists elaborating on this tradition. Finally, it considers the thorny question of a religious person being a member of the communist party. Did one have to tick the box marked ‘atheist’ before being allowed to join? On this matter we visit the First International, the Bolsheviks, the Cuban Communist Party and the Communist Party of China.
From the Dead Letters and Living Words conference at Newman University:
The question about what is the relationship between church and state is one that has repeatedly been raised throughout Christian history. Romans 13 is a key passage in this debate and is often quoted to endorse a pacific and accepting attitude by the church towards state authority and rule. Is Paul, a frequent and hostile critic of the Roman Empire who spends much of the time contrasting it unfavourably with the new empire being established through Jesus Christ in the church, really saying that either the church should accept the dictates and of the state? [Lloyd] Pietersen’s paper challenges this reading…Pietersen presents a concise and extremely helpful introduction to the historical context of anarchism before exploring in greater detail the Christian anarchist tradition. He offers an anarchist perspective of the depiction of monarchy within the Hebrew Bible before introducing Tolstoy’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:1-5) and an examination of Jesus as anarchist archetype. In the light of this, Pietersen then presents a very different reading of Romans 13 that considers its historical and literary contexts and in which Paul scathingly attacks the failures and injustices of Roman Imperialism.
Presentation notes are available here.
Dr. Sean Durbin (University of Newcastle) explores the use of religious language on a Christian Zionist tour of Israel. The talk was delivered on July 16, 2015 at the University of Auckland. It is available in mp3 audio format and as a podcast from Auckland Religion.
This talk critically examines the ways that evangelical pastors and Israeli tour guides employ religious language at various sites of interest on a Christian Zionist tour of Israel. It argues that applying religious discourse to descriptions of seemingly ordinary sites such as landscapes serves to mystify and naturalise what are otherwise highly contested political realities, by reframing them as manifestations of God’s will. Second, the talk will consider the way these rhetorical techniques work to reframe the touring group’s identity as more authentically Christian in relation to other Christian groups who visit different sites of interest in the region.
Dr Sean Durbin is a Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia.