SIIBS Tree image with title

SIIBS Seminar Abstracts 2018/19

1st October: Paul, Inclusion and Whiteness: Particularizing Interpretation

Professor David Horrell (University of Exeter)

This article takes its point of departure from the effort to reflect critically on how my racial/ethnic identity shapes what I (and the academic tradition of which I am a part) see and ask (and do not see or ask) in our interpretative work. Selections from commentaries are used to illustrate the history of interpretation of Gal. 3.28, and the findings are interrogated in the light of questions and issues deriving from the field of ‘whiteness’ studies. For a start, such studies may provoke us to think about how far Christianness – and unspoken assumptions about its superiority – shapes what is said about this text (e.g., in the frequent contrast drawn between Jewish exclusivism and Christian inclusivism). Furthermore, we may ask about the particular location of this interpretative tradition not only in religious terms, but also in racial ones. The changing contours of interpretation help to show how it is, in part at least, shaped by its contexts of production in the white, Christian West: it may thus be ‘particularized’ in both religious and racial terms. Just as whiteness studies has criticized the tendency of the ‘white’ perspective to remain ‘unlabelled’, unspecific, implicitly ‘human’ and universal, so too we may critique the tendency of this tradition of biblical studies to avoid labelling and recognizing its own specificity. Doing so, moreover, may help us not only to acknowledge our own particularity, but also to recognize why we need the insights of differently located and embodied interpreters to reach towards richer insight. Recognizing and labelling the particularity of our own perspective is thus one step towards equalizing the value of the various (labelled and unlabelled) perspectives in biblical studies.


8th October: Reading the White Devil in Thomas Adams and John Webster

Dr Emma Rhatigan (University of Sheffield)

Standing in the pulpit at Paul’s Cross on 7 March 1613, looking down on the Londoners below, Thomas Adams declared himself ‘haunted’ by the white devil. No doubt Adams was primarily referring to the ‘inflammations and impostumes’ of hypocrisy which, he claimed, assailed him as he entered London from the country (1615, 25). But it seems likely that Adams’s sermon was also being haunted by another more specific white devil. Less than a year before Adams mounted the pulpit to preach the sermon entitled The White Devil, the London public had, in the winter of 1612, been exposed to a play bearing precisely the same title, John Webster’s The White Devil. The white devil was originally of Biblical origin, derived by Luther from 2 Corinthians 11. 14 (‘And no marvaile: for Satan himselfe is transformed into an Angel of light’) in his Commentary on Galatians (1535). But like many such biblically derived images it was not long before it broke free of the limited arena of Biblical exegesis and by the time Adams was preaching his sermon in 1613 the white devil had become a highly popular, even commonplace, image for hypocrisy. The appearance in one year of two White Devils in such strikingly different contexts does, however, make the mobility of the image peculiarly visible. It also prompts important questions about the different ways in which a playwright and a preacher might seek to harness the rhetorical potential of the Bible. In this paper I'll be using the white devil as a lens through which to explore the creative dynamism with which early modern writers responded to the Bible both on the stage and in the pulpit.


22nd October: Make Love, Not War: Genesis 1's Presentation of Human Procreation as Alternative to Military Conquest, Temple Sacrifice, and Idol Construction

Dr Daniel H Weiss (University of Cambridge)


29th October Cain, Shylock, and the Blood Libel: Exploring the Vampire’s Jewish Origins

Mary Going (University of Sheffield)

Since the publication of Dracula in 1897, Vampires have become a staple of the Horror genre. Yet, despite the prevalence of this monster one aspect is frequently overlooked: the fictional vampire’s Jewish Origins. This talk will return to the very beginning: exploring the Vampire’s origins from Cain in the Genesis story, through the medieval Blood Libel, the myth of the Wandering Jew, and then finally Shylock before turning to examine Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Jason Krawczyk’s Jack/Cain (He Never Died, 2015).


12th November: "To Ransom a Man’s Soul”: Male Rape and Gender Identity in Outlander and “The Suffering Man” of Lamentations 3

Emma Nagouse (University of Sheffield)

In this paper, I will read Lamentations 3 (the “Man of Sorrows” poem) alongside the Outlander novel series and its television adaptation. Within this series, one of the main characters, Scottish soldier Jamie Fraser, is brutally raped and tortured by an enemy officer. I will use these fictional events as a lens through which to read and interpret the trauma and violence evoked by the Man in Lamentations 3, arguing that his words of suffering may be understood as the testimony of a male rape survivor. By exploring the impact of rape on Jamie’s emotional, physical, and sexual wellbeing, I consider the trauma of male sexual assault, including the rape myths that sustain the silence surrounding this crime. Focusing on issues of intimacy, re-traumatisation, victim blame, and cultural constructions of masculinity, I will connect Jamie’s experiences of violence to those expressed by the lamenting Man, drawing on the texts’ shared themes, language, and imagery


3rd December "Presents, Santa and Christmassy decorations. Not Mary, Joseph and Jesus”: Negotiating Religion and the Secular in Childhood at Christmas

Dr Rachel Shillitoe (University of Sheffield)


4th February Postgraduate Student Workshop

Dr Adam Dinham (Goldsmiths University, London)


11th February LGBT+ History Month: Queer Activism in Biblical Studies

Dr Chris Greenough (Edge Hill University)

The commandment from Yahweh to Jacob/Israel in Genesis 35 is an instruction to queer people. This is a queer covenant calling upon marginalised researchers to build security through solidarity in their own communities. With kinship comes the ability to rise up. In this context, this article gives an injunction for queer biblical studies to be mobilised as activist practice: posing challenges to the academy and a commitment to social justice for LGBTQ people. Queer theory has become a popular philosophical position within the academy, yet there is concern around its application and activist potential beyond the academy. Its political engagement with the LGBTQ activist community from which it emerged is low (Halperin, 2003; Guest, 2005; Greenough 2018). Despite its agenda to disrupt all categories of identity, queer theory must be mobilised into queer methods in order to resist its own impotence. I am concerned with queer research when it follows traditional, normative academic expectations. I suggest a move to ‘undoing’ methodology that resists traditional academic practices (Greenough, 2018) and ‘methodsplaining’ from academic gatekeepers (Ward, 2018). Queer activism in biblical studies turns towards the community and identities that ‘queer’ was originally purported to serve. Creative and imaginative disruptions within biblical studies are necessary when biblical passages have been wielded as a weapon against LGBTQ people.

Are queer scholars privileged? And if we move from theory to methods, can we undo some of this privilege? Engaging with the queer community demands that queer theory sheds its own privilege by connecting principles to practice. In my discussion of queer pedagogy as activism in the biblical studies class, I explore teaching, learning and assessment strategies to affirm inclusion, including the idea of ‘flipped learning’ (Bergmann and Sams, 2012). Maintaining and building communities is integral to activist activities. Communities are strengthened through an alliance of queer and intersectional researchers, yet a commitment to intersectionality must ensure we do not inadvertently exclude students of faith when we are turning their sacred texts upside down. Marginalised researchers experience anxieties, but through communities of support, these anxieties can be fuel for activism. In detailing my commitment to social activism, I conclude that true commitment to the queer project means that researchers should aspire for their work to be wholly irrelevant to future audiences.


18th February: Strangers on the Land: What Biblical Studies in the Canadian Settler Context Can Learn From Indigenous Minorities

Dr Matthew Anderson (Concordia University, Montreal)

Settler-aware biblical studies operate in two complementary ways. Firstly, the shock of being forced to realize Settler status and the hermeneutics that have accompanied it momentarily alienates the Settler from scriptural texts that may once have seemed exclusively, or primarily, theirs. By listening to how Indigenous and other non-privileged interpreters encounter the text, they learn from questions and observations they had not thought even to ask. Secondly, the inescapably spiritual, relational, and narrative hermeneutics that underlie Indigenous methodologies challenge the Settler scholar’s pretence to objectivity, and attachment to the idea of static, unchanging truth. Further, they invite the researcher to ask the question of what good — or ill — their work may be bringing both to creation and to “all their relations.”


4th March: From Worshipped to Worshippers: The Host of Heaven in the Hebrew Bible

Dr Cat Quine (University of Nottingham)

While many deities in the Hebrew Bible were polemicized against and disappeared from view, the Host of Heaven are unique in having survived the polemic against them and retained a place within the Bible’s view of legitimate Yahwism. Ritual played a vital role in this survival; where once the Host received Israel’s worship, they are later presented as worshippers of YHWH. Their actions provide a divine example for Israel to follow and offer a model by which belief in the existence of multiple deities could be retained alongside the belief that YHWH was the highest god.


11th March: "And then I was attacked by the Almighty": The description of somatic pain in Job 6 as symbolic protest

Professor Katherine Southwood (University of Oxford)

As the success of Angels in America illustrates a complex nexus of problems emerge when questions concerning illness and responsibility collide. This paper will focus on the way the body in pain is expressed, and reacted to, within the book of Job. It will use diverse examples of culturally-based explanations of illness (as opposed to “disease” which implies a biomedical perspective) as a unique way of sharpening insight into the social dynamics fuelling the acrimonious dialogue between Job and his friends. Key areas of analysis include the notion of "sin visualised" and the theme of the "sinful" body, as expressed through moralising language surrounding the body; philological details concerning the expression of pain in Job; and symbolic protest expressed through the idea of an attacking deity.


18th March: The Dotted Line Between Life and Scroll: Instagram-Twitter-Facebook and Qumran

Professor Charlotte Hempel (University of Birmingham)


1st April: Troubling Misogyny and Gender Based Violence: Examples from Botswana and The Hebrew Bible

Dr MMapula Kebaneilwe (University of Botswana)

Two recent events in which a young lady was brutally attacked by a mob of men at the taxi rank in Gaborone (the capital city of Botswana), and another beheaded and ultimately buried without her missing head, in addition to the unprecedented number of rape cases in the country, provoked the writing of this paper. It is despicable, to say the least, to find such acts of outright misogyny and gender based violence still happening in our post-modern contexts like contemporary Botswana. Recent statistics further indicate that in Botswana many women and girls are raped and or brutally attached every single moment. Sadder still, many women in Botswana die at the hands of their sexual partners or lovers and such murder cases are notoriously known as “passion killings”. While on one hand such inhumane acts continue to rise, on another, one finds that many Batswana hold the Bible with awe. Thus the paper seeks to explore the relationship between some misogynous texts in the Hebrew Bible and the possible links between such and the rampant acts of gender based violence to the detriment of Botswana women and girls. The paper will employ inculturation hermeneutics as a theoretical framework.


13th May: Eve was Framed: Genesis 2-4, Reception Criticism, and the Curatorial Turn

Dr Holly Morse (University of Manchester)