The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Thinking about American Jews, race, and religion entails confronting the instability of those terms. This chapter examines the history of Jews and race in the United States through three lenses. First, it looks at the history of how Eastern European Jews have been “raced” in America, and in particular how they became “white.” Second, it considers Jewish interactions with other groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, and how Jewish identity has been co-constituted with and against that of other groups. Third, the chapter looks at internal Jewish diversity and the challenges presented by Euro-centric models of Jewishness. The chapter concludes by considering Jews, race, and religion in the age of Ferguson.
What can animal studies contribute to feminist biblical interpretation? This essay explores this question by calling attention to the role of feminist and gender analysis in contemporary interdisciplinary animal studies. Such studies point out that animals are often associated with women and with racial and ethnic others. After summarizing key positions from animal studies, the essay turns to several texts from the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets to outline the association between animals and women and ethnic others (especially Philistines) in biblical literature. The association demonstrates that another layer of complexity to male domination—or carnophallogocentrism—structures biblical literature.
Sara M. Koenig
The biblical texts about Bathsheba have notorious gaps, even by the laconic standards of Hebrew narrative. Post-biblical receptions of the story flesh out the terse chapters of 2 Samuel 11–12 and 1 Kings 1–2, ascribing feelings and motives to Bathsheba and David that are not contained in the Hebrew text. This essay examines the intersection of reception history and feminist biblical scholarship by considering eleven novels about Bathsheba from the twentieth and twenty-first century. These novels expand Bathsheba’s character beyond the text, but in fairly gender stereotypical ways, such that feminist readers of the novels may be left wanting more.
This article examines the misuse of biblical texts in order to underpin the ideology of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘German Christendom’. Seen against the backdrop of anti-Semitic ideologies, it asks to what extent were biblical texts of the Old and New Testament misused in order to uphold anti-Semitic ideas or within the framework of anti-Semitic propaganda? The focus is on typical, regularly appearing motifs, which can be encountered in anti-Semitically motivated exegesis, especially in the National Socialist milieu. The same exegesis reappears — fatally enough — in the form of stereotypically reiterated statements among authors who can by no means be reproached with an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic mindset. The case becomes even more precarious once said stereotypes catch on in wide circles of the church and society — to break through them after their acceptance involves an immense struggle and strain.
Carole R. Fontaine
This essay explores the socially restrictive traditions that cause scriptural groups to reject the idea of universal rights and equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. This hermeneutical situation is difficult to tolerate, as our multicultural planet is seeking survival. Ethical issues and the principles of a culture’s morality are often partly religious in nature. The UNDUHR recognizes the right to believe and to promote one’s own beliefs, and it considers these particular rights as being part of a cultural “right to affiliate.” Nevertheless, international human rights law has not successfully promoted full human rights in countries of “Religions of the Book.” The essay thus suggests that appeals to the Bible grounded in human rights must be woven into contextual exegetical work, human rights discourse, and feminist critique. Even so, for women, foreigners, and “Others,” the Bible will remain a serious obstacle for enjoying full economic, social, and cultural rights.
Linda S. Schearing
In recent years much has been written about religion, gender, and video games. Indeed, video game worlds often give concrete expression to powerful mythic themes. The video game Bioshock is a good example. Using both feminist and reception criticism, this essay explores the role of Eve/woman in the video game series Bioshock. Bioshock is the story of Eden—a secular Eden gone terribly wrong. While the essay examines how the game uses the Genesis creation story, it focuses on the character of Eve. In the biblical text, Eve is named the “mother of all living” and in Bioshock, Eve is life in a literal sense. The game’s resulting objectification of Eve is extreme in its portrayal and interesting in its implications. It is a prime example of the intersection between virtual and actual reality, as it addresses issues of morality and gender.
Judith E. McKinlay
The essay takes as its cue the biblical figures of Eve and Wisdom, both of whom slip through the divine/human border. Eve brings knowledge of good and evil and Wisdom offers a concern for human ethical choices. For what characterizes feminist and postcolonial studies is the hope and ideal of a future of respect for all. A discussion of feminist postcolonial critical theory and current work in the field assesses that despite differing methodologies scholars share a concern for the ways in which women are represented and frequently “othered” in border-slipping texts. The study also considers a selection of biblical texts from a range of eras and political circumstances to illustrate these varying representations. The essay concludes with a reflection on the significance of the work and attempts to predict future directions.
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Feminist biblical studieaas engage both wo/men and gender studies for their work, but the feminist analysis is not identical with and cannot be limited to gender studies. Rather, feminist biblical studies needs to focus on issues of power and structures of domination in light of wo/men’s struggles against kyriarchal relations. Accordingly, feminist biblical studies are social-cultural-political studies of domination, exploring how the Bible and biblical interpretation function and are shaped in the context of global kyriarchal neoliberalism. If the analytic object of feminist theory and biblical studies is not simply woman or gender in the Bible but the intersectionality of domination—of kyriarchy (from the Greek kyrios for “lord, master, legal guardian” and archein for “to rule, dominate”), the object needs to be understood in terms of the ontology of kyriarchal power. Kyriarchal relations of domination are characteristic of the ancient biblical worlds and are still at work today in the multiplicative intersectionalities of class, race, gender, ethnicity, empire, and other structures of exploitation. Hence, biblical interpretation must not only be practiced in terms of its content but also in terms of its function in global neo-liberalism, which is not only a theory of market relations but also a theory of human relations. We are encouraged to think not only of our work but also of our lives in economic terms in global neoliberal societies. These societies are characterized by xenophobic reactions against displaced populations and strangers, the threat of global warming, political polarization, unemployment, poverty, and centuries of exploitation, as well as by the devaluation of societal equality and democratic multiplicity.
Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
Carol J. Dempsey OP
For centuries Catholic biblical scholars translated the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek books of the Bible into English with the goal of producing even “better” translations than before. Yet whether these translations follow the principles of formal or dynamic equivalence, no translation is without theological, cultural, gender, racial, and ethnocentric biases, as all translations are interpretations. Many translations thus reflect the theological positions of religious denominations commissioning them. The forthcoming revision of the Catholic New American Bible is not an exception. This essay considers the androcentric preferences in some of the latest contemporary scholarly Bible translations into English and then examines the revised translation of the anticipated new edition of the Catholic Bible, the principles guiding the translation revision, and the issues that both the translation and principles bring to the fore. While the essay refers to the forthcoming edition of the Catholic New American Bible as a whole, the focus is on the revision of the Old Testament in particular.
Dora R. Mbuwayesango
The essay surveys how Bible translations produced by modern colonial missionaries distorted African cultures and religions with special focus on the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It also explains, by focusing on the Shona translation of Genesis 1–3, how the adoption of the name of the Shona god, Mwari, into the Bible introduced foreign patriarchal notions to the Shona understanding of their god, and also a conception of gender and sexuality that promoted the marginalization of women and oppressive homophobic ideas. The essay concludes with pointing out the need to apply postcolonial feminist approach to Bible translation in order decolonize and depatriarchalize Bible translation and interpretation in Africa.
Correlated to the experiences of Korean comfort women, the story of Solomon’s judgment (1 Kgs. 3:16–28) becomes a resistance narrative to hegemonic powers. The interpretation discusses the literary strategies of the women’s identities and naming, the emerging reversal of power, the issues of mimicry, mockery, ambiguity, and the conspiracy of readers. The Japanese military comfort women of World War II serve as the geopolitical context with which the interpretation justifies its focus on the two biblical women. It becomes apparent that colonizing and patriarchal powers ignore victim-survivors of sexual violence and abuse whether in the biblical text or in recent Korean history. Biblical texts and recent wartime events illuminate each other.
Sergio Della Pergola
The scientific study of the Jewish population, also known as demography of the Jews or Jewish demography, does not actually claim the status of a distinct discipline. It is an area of specialization focusing on the changing size and composition of Jewish populations and on the determinants and consequences of such changes. This article outlines some of the main concepts, interpretative frameworks, and methodological issues in the field, followed by a short outline of substantive patterns and applied uses of available knowledge. The main scientific rationale for the study of Jewish populations rests with the growing interest in understanding the demography of religious, ethnic, and cultural groups and minorities. Demographic changes provide an important and occasionally indispensable background for an appraisal of Jewish history and cultural experience. Hence, the study of Jewish demography is organically tied to the development of Jewish studies.
This article discusses how the study of the history, literature, and religious beliefs and practices of ancient Jews in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora provides the proper background and context for the study of the later books of the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the New Testament writings. From the time of the Babylonian exile, and especially from Hellenistic times onwards, a vibrant Jewish Diaspora existed alongside the Jewish community in the Land of Israel. During the time of the Second Temple (520
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
This article notes that the study of the modern history of East European Jews is not a field driven at present by deep conceptual or ideological divides or abiding scholarly or methodological controversies. The past debates on this score between Israeli and diaspora Jewish scholarship have all but disappeared, as has even more dramatically the attempt at a Marxist version of juedische Wissenschaft. While the major works of the founders of the field from Simon Dubnov on ought to be studied and the impressive resurgence of interest in the history and culture of East European Jewry in the modern age is underway, the work is still largely undone. The crucial challenge to the field is not to succumb to the lachrymose and romanticized stereotypes of Jewish life in Eastern Europe while continuing to explore the history of this the largest Jewry in the world before the Holocaust.
Arthur W. Walker-Jones
This chapter examines the Jezebel.com website as a feminist interpretation of the biblical story of Jezebel, in order to discuss the ways digital media make reading more transparent, intertextual, and holistic. Donna Haraway’s article “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” is a seminal work for both ecofeminism and the digital humanities. This articles uses her understanding of the cyborg and naturecultures to argue that Jezebel has become a cyborg online. Cyborgs and digital media could be used to reinforce the nature–culture dualism that is related to male–female dualism and has legitimated patriarchy and the environmental crisis. This chapter, therefore, argues that the identification of cyborg naturecultures in reading both the biblical stories and digital cultures is particularly important for ecofeminist approaches to the Hebrew Bible.
This article examines Holocaust education, which now takes place across continents and grade-levels and through diverse programs and pedagogies. It argues that research about these efforts and their effects has been underdeveloped, partly because the approaches, objectives, and challenges of Holocaust education necessarily reflect cultural and national differences. While taking these into account, the recurrent themes and practices in Holocaust pedagogy are explored, identifying what is underscored and underplayed. The discussion stresses that the currently predominant context for Holocaust education is the repeated threat of genocidal violence. How Holocaust education and research about it can foster a sense of global citizenship is examined.