Critical interpretation of biblical texts which utilizes a variety of historical, social, political, and literary reading strategies in order to gain insight into the ways the texts speak to readers. This involves recognizing biblical texts as containing both historiographic modes and literary/aesthetic modes of story telling which work together to convey ideological stances on social/cultural/political issues both worlds apart and intimately close to issues of our own time. Thus, biblical exegesis can be highly valuable in terms of exploring the ways in which our ancestors in faith grappled with not just their relationship with their creator and creation, but also the powers that set themselves against the creator and creation. Many have found through careful reading of biblical narrative the inspiration to live boldly in defiance of powers that oppress and the empowerment to live in direct, unmediated relationship with their creator.
Dykstra, Laurel. Set Them Free: the Other Side of Exodus. Orbis Books, October, 2002. Print. This innovative exploration of the Exodus story focuses on the privileged and oppressive nature of the Egyptian empire rather than the liberation of the Israelites. In today's world, where more than half of the people go to bed hungry each night and many lack basic shelter, first-world Christians may be more like members of the ruling elite of Egypt than the Hebrew slaves with whom they usually identify. We need to examine how our taken-for-granted privileges can unintentionally or unwittingly harm and oppress others.The first part reviews the Exodus story, showing how its principle themes have been used and critiqued by liberation theologians. In the second part, Dykstra continues to tell the Exodus story by focusing on particular people and themes. Pharaoh, his daughter, and others such as the Egyptian midwives show us how to and how not to pattern our lives. They show us how, as privileged dwellers in the first world, we Christians need to distance ourselves from the trappings of empire and, with determination, become liberators rather than oppressors.
Friesen, Berry and John K. Stoner. If Not Empire, What? A Survey of the Bible. Dec, 2014. In this thoughtful and systematic exploration, Friesen and Stoner understand the Bible to be an extended argument about life, love and power. In the various biblical texts, this argument presents two versions of the Hebrew god, one who aligns with kings and the religious establishment, the other who makes a fool of kings and aligns with everyday people. Through discussion of each biblical text, the authors highlight how this argument plays out in the history of the Israelites, the prophetic attempts to articulate an alternative to the nation-state, the life and teachings of Jesus, and the multi-ethnic community that emerged after Jesus' death.
Written in a popular style, the book serves as a concise and sometimes irreverent introduction to the entire Bible while demonstrating its immediate relevance to the problems of violence, insecurity and injustice. Through frequent quotations of scripture, the reader is encouraged to recognize the imperial worldview as the source of what most threatens Earth's future and to imagine an alternative to top-down rule by powerful elites.
Although written primarily for readers who view the Bible as literature, the book reflects the authors' faith and provides a fresh reading for people who regard the Bible to be much more than literature. This attempt to respect both approaches is facilitated by a discussion of seven assumptions held by biblical writers, but likely not held by modern readers. With these assumptions in mind, the reader is better prepared to make sense of texts that are not only very old, but also highly relevant to decisions we must make about whether we will continue to place our faith in the empire's answers.
Herzog, William. Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed. John Knox Press, May, 1994. Print. William Herzog shows that the focus of the parables was not on a vision of the glory of the reign of God but on the gory details of the way oppression served the interests of the ruling class. The parables were a form of social analysis, as well as a form of theological reflection. Herzog scrutinizes their canonical form to show the distinction between its purpose for Jesus and for evangelists. To do this, he uses the tools of historical criticism, including form criticism and redaction criticism.
Howard-Brook, Wes. Becoming Children of God: John's Gospel and Radical Discipleship. Wipf and Stock Publishers. October 21, 2003. Print. Howard-Brook, in this highly detailed look at the Gospel of John which is rooted in the practice of reading biblical texts out of Christian community and through the eyes of the poor and oppressed, shows that the fourth Gospel, commonly mistaken as a gnostic text, is in fact a text that speaks to the issues of radical discipleship from the context of a uniquely egalitarian early-Christian community. ———.Come Out My People: God's Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond. Orbis Books. October 1, 2013. Print. Wes Howard-Brook presents the Bible as a struggle between two competing religions: not Judaism and Christianity, but the religion of creation versus the religion of empire. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, these two religions battled for the hearts and minds of the people in claiming radically divergent views of who YHWH is and what it looks like to be YHWH's people. Though Jesus was killed by the upholders of empire, his resurrection was the definitive vindication of the religion of creation. s a consequence, those who follow his path can accept no violence or domination tward people or creation in his name. While many recent scholars have studies the imperial context of the New Testament, this is the first book to trace this theme throughout the entire Bible.
———.Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now. Orbis Books. October, 1999. Print. The two authors of this volume—both committed Christians and social activists—are not interested in the idea of apocalypse as an end-of-the-world phenomenon. Rather, they conclude, St. John's book was a call to "the followers of Jesus in the cities of Roman Asia (the audience for the Revelation) to continue the nonviolent witness practiced by Jesus. This is how the disciples were to live in the midst of empire." In short, "Revelation is a call to have faith in God rather than empire."
Beginning with a chapter connecting the contemporary enthusiasm for apocalypse to such events as UFO sightings, near-death experiences, New Age spirituality, and even the current visions of Mary, the writers then explore the origins of apocalyptic writing in (among other places) the book of Daniel, Isaiah, and the gospels, and place John's vision in the historical context of first-century Rome. From there the book devotes itself to a close study of Revelation itself, concluding with a chapter that returns to the question of the relevance of John's vision to the current global economic empire, which is, the authors suggest, "simply the air we breathe." The deepest goal of this exciting and challenging book—like John's own Revelation—is to challenge that.