This article explores beliefs about the afterlife and how they are informed by religious and cultural narratives. If the Bible contains little definite information about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, then how is it that so many of us are able to readily envision them? The scattered information about the afterlife from religious texts is supplemented by our reading, viewing, and consumption of other forms of culture. Stories of the afterlife and of angels, demons, ghosts, vampires, and zombies remain popular. Perhaps more important, stories of the afterlife are often used as ways to shape stories about this life, adding resonance to narratives from Batman to Harry Potter by appropriating or echoing the powerful plots, themes, and characters of the afterlife. Thus even a reader or viewer who does not believe in the dogma of Purgatory may be powerfully affected by stories using the trope of Purgatory.
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.
Though it might seem surprising at first, video games can work a lot like apocalypses. Both offer imaginary visits to otherworldly spaces that were designed to offer metaphysical comfort. Both, through theology or programming, allow us to temporarily enter into structured spaces that are more predictable than our own world. However, instead of depicting God as the means of control over the world, as apocalypses do, some video games place the player in the position of realizing renewed order through the performance of virtual violence. This chapter considers how the video game Darksiders draws on biblical apocalyptic imagery and also utilizes traditional apocalyptic elements like an us-versus-them structure, the glorification of violence, and a desire for renewed order in the world. Darksiders also reorients the agency of order-making, placing the player at the center of the action and depicting God as largely absent from human struggle. Games like Darksiders may comfort uneasy players, just as apocalypses do, by depicting a world that can be controlled. But they typically do so in a way that demands virtual violence of the player, calling us to question what role such games may play in shaping how we see ourselves in the real world.
The chapter examines the feminization of elite pagan men in Apocryphal Acts of Andrew. It argues that the ancient author constructs ascetic Christianity as the ideal realization of masculinity, whereby male and female converts control their passions and appetites. Simultaneously, elite pagan men are portrayed as appetitive, passionately emotional, and lacking self-control. Such ethical weakness was commonly thought to be characteristic of women. While attributing such ethical “femininity” to pagan men trades on ancient notions that women are prone to moral weakness, the author’s portrayal also dislodges ethical character from biological sex. Thus, men and women who take up Christianity in its ascetic forms are superior in ethics and gender, compared to those who reject ascetic Christianity.
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.
Albert C. Labriola
In line with its Greek etymology, ‘iconography’ refers to all forms of visual images, including any material means of artistic representation. Religious iconography typically refers to visual images of personages, events, and objects in the Bible. As such, religious iconography is a means of investigating how the Bible was received and interpreted in various eras. Included in religious iconography are illustrated Bibles, manuscript illuminations, books of hours, missals, sacramentaries, ectionaries, paintings, sculptures, murals, frescos, mosaics, metalwork, stained glass, and the like. This article surveys religious iconography by emphasizing medieval illuminations from the 10th through the 16th centuries, the seedbed of religious imagery. Religious iconography in the Middle Ages, moreover, profoundly affected art in the Renaissance and afterwards. The article focuses on selected but representative personages, events, and objects from the Old and New Testaments.
Michael J. Gilmour
The Bible is ubiquitous in pop and rock music of the 1960s through to the present. This is surprising given that the art forms subsumed under these catchall categories are typically oppositional in nature. They resist the status quo and are often antiestablishment in posture, and by their very nature inclined to push back against the conservative values and authoritarian tendencies of organized religion. This chapter examines reasons why biblical and religious language is so persistent a feature in the popular music of recent decades, emphasizing the collective memory of the biblical story among songwriters and their audiences and the fragmentary nature of these “readings” of sacred texts and traditions.
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.
David G. Garber Jr.
Prophets and prophecy pervade American popular culture, particularly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. The history of reception of prophetic literature through a dominant Western Christian paradigm has described prophets as liminal characters who perform specific functions in the narrative, often as guides to the central protagonist (e.g., The Matrix Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings). Sagas such as A Song of Ice and Fire and Star Wars often treat prophecies as plot devices dependent on patterns of prediction and fulfillment. Sometimes, however, popular culture itself assumes the prophetic task of speaking truth to power and critiques aspects of the biblical tradition. Some episodes of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, for example, critique the tendency to ascribe evil to a femme fatale in a manner similar to how feminist biblical critics have approached misogynistic traditions within the biblical prophets.
Terry R. Clark
American civil religion incorporates a nostalgic version of biblical Israel’s covenant with their patron deity, Yahweh, imagining the United States as a new Israel. This new myth reflects early Puritan hope for a new foray into a new wilderness of promise, while also promoting a romantic notion of the providential founding of the United States, national innocence, and national purpose, upholding an ideal of pure democracy and divine favor for establishing it universally. This form of Christian nationalism has a tendency toward a new form of imperialism in the modern era that is heavily supported (at least subconsciously) by a vast array of popular culture products. Yet some pop culture media (including comic books) occasionally call into question the concept of human beings living in a covenant relationship with a divine creator, as well as the validity of America’s status as a divinely chosen and divinely guided nation.
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.
Scott S. Elliott
This chapter defines graphic Bibles in relation to comics and graphic novels, identifying key aspects that impact the reader’s experience of the biblical material. Graphic Bibles are adaptations of biblical material that reflect a form of visual narratology. Through a comparative analysis of how four graphic Bibles (Testament, The Manga Bible, The Action Bible, and The Lion Comic Book Hero Bible) treat the story of Jonah, the chapter illustrates certain trends among graphic adaptations of the Bible. In every instance, whether or to what extent something is gained or lost in these productions vis-à-vis the biblical source material depends largely on one’s underlying perceptions of what sort of text the Bible is in the first place.
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.
B. Diane Lipsett
Several of the earliest Christian texts about celibacy and virginity introduce a kind of instability with respect to their social application. If marriage, sexual relations, and reproduction are renounced, even by some, unclear consequences emerge for the insistently patriarchal social norms of antiquity and for social relations within communities of believers in Jesus. Exhortations to renunciation also raise questions about sexual practice itself: what is it about sex that makes some abjure it? They also provoke new ways of envisioning and theologizing the body, gender, and sexual difference. In the earliest Christian texts, as in an array of ancient Greco-Roman texts that help contextualize and refine analysis of the Christian writings, “virgin” and “celibate” may be at once or alternately designations of embodied states, terms for social roles and choices, or evocative figures of speech bearing surplus associations.
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.
This chapter provides an overview of the key historical factors that led Japanese Christians to develop their beliefs and practices in the context of early twentieth-century Japan. It places the emergence of Protestant Christianity within the larger context of Japan’s uncomfortable return to diplomatic and economic ties with western powers after over two centuries of self-imposed isolation. It particularly focuses on Christian engagement with Japan’s emergence as a colonial empire. The chapter also discusses whether or not the Bible supported colonial expansion or political dissent. In addition to offering a survey of relevant existing scholarship, it also introduces some of the key figures who engaged in these debates.