Notes on the Sociology of Religion (22)

John C. Rankin

Yee, Gale, ed., Judges and Methods: New Approaches in Biblical Studies (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, second edition, 2007).


1: Introduction – Gale A. Yee (Episcopal Divinity School).

  1. “New methods of interpretation … into the ongoing exegetical conversation … It not only presents the theory behind each method, the kinds of questions it asks, the presuppositions undergirding it, and its central characteristics, but also applies the method to the book of Judges” (p. 1); a)  narrative, social-scientific, feminist, structuralist, deconstructive, ideological, postcolonial, gender and cultural; b)  nature of Judges: major well-known figures, and plethora of traditionally overlooked characters in a tumultuous and violent time (with a focus on women); c) “In the light of the countercoherence of women’s lives in the book of Judges, one cannot simply outline the book, as is customary, according to the stories of these male leaders” (p. 3);  d)  structure of Judges – conquest, stories of judges, conclusion w/ absence of a king.
  2. Historical criticism: Judges is a constructed work (JEDP “documentary hypothesis” assumed); a) tradition criticism (oral history); form criticism; redaction criticism (Noth + questions of post-exilic v. Josiahic (F.M. Cross); ex post facto assembly of sources; not unified in origin.
  3. Literary criticism: Judges is a unified work (JEDP still assumed); a) chiastic features w/Gideon at the center; b)  sources beginning in Davidic monarch, with pro-Judah and anti-Saul polemic.
  4. The Reader: a) “One encounters the text firsthand and not simply the formative historical situations behind the text. Nevertheless, the text-centered approaches are susceptible to certain problems in their analysis” (p. 11) – formative ideologies (place, gender, class and bias), especially western world academic bias).
  5. Critique: a) confuses exegesis with hermeneutical biases and allows eisegesis to take hold often, thus misrepresenting how the text represents itself − 1. Need to separate the two; then raise the many excellent questions – especially concerning the “overlooked” or liminal, which the text includes to begin with, long before later biases in traditional “authority” places; otherwise the reactive overtakes the proactive and precludes the redemptive, 2. academic balance needed; e.g. R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament; d) Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (with applicability to Judges); D.I. Block, Judges, Ruth; Y. Amit,The Book of Judges: The Art of Editing.

2: Narrative Criticism – Richard G. Bowman (Augustana College).

  1. Seeks to discover narrator’s perspective: a) presuppositions − 1. final form is coherent, 2. literary unit following compositional process, 3. literary features will reveal and interpretive focus; b) advantages − 1. focus on present form of the text, 2. making constructive sense of the text, 3. focus on literary conventions in the Hebrew text, 4. prevents over-interpretation (e.g., the “gaps); c) limitations − 1. not particularly concerned by historical reality behind text or its reconstruction, 2. does not take into account of the reader’s agenda, 3. not particularly sympathetic to deconstruction; d) narrative requires story and story-teller − 1. object/subject; e) structure of Judges − 1. prologue (1:1-3:6), 2. era of Judges (3:7-16:31) + six episodes of major judges, i] Othniel (3:7-11), ii] Ehud (3:12-31), iii] Deborah (4:1-5:31), iv] Gideon [and Abimelech] (6:1-10:5), v] Jephthah (10:6-12:15), vi] Samson (13:1-16:31), 3. epilogue (17:1-21:25), i] no king in Israel (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), ii] all people did what was right in their own eyes (17:6; 21:25; cf. Genesis 6:5); f) cycle − 1. Israel is unfaithful to God, 2. Israel is oppressed by its enemies, 3. Israel cries for God’s help, 4. God sends a judge/deliverer; g) character is revealed − 1. actions and interactions, 2. speeches, 3. other character’s speeches, 4. narrator’s commentary; h) sovereignty and choice − 1. God punishes sin, 2. God uses human will, 3. God limits divine exercise of power, allowing some human freedom, 4. examples with six major judges (pp. 33-35), 5. focus on Jephthah, 6. “Whether these constraints on divine authority are inherent or self-imposed is beyond the purview of this essay, if not the parameters of the biblical literature” (p. 41), 7. Story of Micah.
  2. Summation for narrative criticism of Judges: a) progressive deterioration of relationship between God and Israel, b) limitations imposed on divine power by exercise of human freedom; c) misuse and abuse of human freedom; d) “To paraphrase the narrator of Judges, there are in the contemporary reading environment no authoritative interpreters or absolute interpretations of the Bible; each reader interprets and appropriates interpretations according to what is meaningful in his or her own eyes” (p. 44).
  3. Critique: a) narration, however defined, must start with the text as it is − 1. Hans Frei, George Lindbeck, Brevard Childs, Ron Theimann, 2. canon;  b) interpretive reality of Genesis 1-3: story line of creation, sin and redemption − 1. positive trust w/no negative or broken trust in Genesis 1-2; thus diagnosis of broken trust, and redemptive promise of restored trust, 2. assumption of verifiable history, 3. theology and history of messianic lineage/promise v. agenda of the ancient serpent (Genesis 3:15), 4. place of Judges as description of the growth of unchecked sin, 5. sandor of the Bible with all characters, sinners and saints, i] contrast pagan religion; c) by definition, Judges and Methods is reactive − 1. it points out vital questions in need of address, identifies with much real human suffering, but only in a reactive sense, with no definition of the proactive, 2. Bowman has best opportunity to avoid this, but falls into it nonetheless with issues be brings to the text before exegeting it, i] “power over” issues, ii]  male chauvinism (intrinsic to Yahweh’s view, or result of human sin?), iii] reader’s agenda, iv] deconstruction; d) eisegetical not exegetical grappling w/sovereignty and choice − 1. Genesis 1:1-5, Elohim’s sovereignty – first words in Bible, 2. Genesis 2:15-17, freedom, akol tokel v. moth tamuth – first words to Adam, 3. the power to give and the power of informed choice;  e) vitiation of narrative criticism’s power − 1. by placing question of “constraints on divine power” beyond “the parameters of biblical literature” (p. 41), i] atomizes text away from macro and micro narrative perspective, 2. paves the way for deconstruction as the measure of all things (“to tear down”), i] no rebuilding tools, trajectory or stated agenda, 3. contrast the power of Occam’s razor.

3: Social-Scientific Criticism – Naomi Steinberg (DePaul University).

  1. Need for “knowledge of ancient social structures in order to fully comprehend the world depicted in the Hebrew Bible. Without such knowledge, we may wind up imposing contemporary Western models and attitudes onto an ancient society with a social structure different fromour own. We call this way of thinking ethnocentrism” (pp. 46-47); a) JEDP assumptions in approaching the text; b) ancient Israelite social structure − 1. original Canaanites + Israelite conquest: self-identity and religious identity of both i] juxtaposition or conflict between Joshua and Judges here, ii] M. Noth ; concept of centrality of “sacred shrine,” iii] N.K. Gootwald: disenfranchised peasants conquered from within, 2. tension between urban and rural life, hierarchal systems of taxation and kinship systems of social organization, 3. kinship and marriage, 4. patrilineal descent; polygamy, endogamy, polygyny, polycoity, 4. smallest unit = household (bet’ab); then clan (mishpaha), then tribe (shebet), 5. social class: “Who gets what and why?”; c) socioeconomic relations are key – need for cross-cultural studies, for social-scientific criticism − 1. “How does analysis of Judges 9 shed additional light on the process of assuming economic independence from a power structure that disadvantaged the underclasses?” (p. 54); d) Abimelech born of a “secondary wife,” in contrast to his father Gideon’s seventy other sons − 1. his political ascendency, murder of 69 half-brothers though his mother’s kin (matrilineal alliance = power base), the Shechemites, i]  the youngest, Jotham, escapes, protests and curses Abimelech, 2. rebellion against Abimelech, and his eventual death at the hand of a woman; e) social structure shows factors of household, clan and tribe − 1. thesis point, “I maintain that the central problem plaguing Abimelech lies less in the realm of divine versus human leadership and more in his attempt to undermine ancient Israelite societal norms and patrilineal kinship (pp. 57-58), i] meaning of pilegesh … not fully certain, ii] Mieke Bal: need to retain land in social structure, and in Judges, pattern changing from bride living with her father to living with patrilineal family, iii] marriage and residence an economic issue; wealthier man can support wives in different homes, iv] other multiple social factors involved – raids between tribes and fault lines in competing social alliances; f) DH editor later adds Jotham’s parable and its alleged fulfillment − 1. “In conclusion, the events recounted in Judges 9 provide a sociology of culture; they inform us abou8t how the breakdown in legitimate kinship organization ultimately results in the abolition of leadership at Shechem” (p. 63).
  2. Critique: a) in the Tenach, polygamy is shown to be the prerogative of rulers and elitists in contrast to one man and one woman in Genssis 1-2; not for others (cf. causa bella in Genesis 6); b) Judges profiles broken trust away from the order of creation, and hence the candor of its storyline does not equal a prescription for good social order, but a description of a degenerate social order − 1. the overlooked and dispossessed are in key profile, on such a self-interpretive basis of the text; c) textual error in speaking of Gideon’s “secondary wife.” She is worse off, namely, Gideon (aka Jerub-Baal) did not have 70 sons through one wife, as implied by Steinberg, but had “many wives” (8:31), Abimelech is later called “the son of a slave girl” (9:18), which is to say, a concubine with no rights, This is the simpler (e.g. Occam’s razor) and a more powerful explanation of Abimelech’s disinheritance (cf. Ishmael), no need for the complex sociological explanation, though all those factors are present secondarily; d) Jotham’s role, and hence Yahweh’s role, and literary integrity of 8:29-9:57, is dismissed by assumption of the DH’s perspective, contra R.K. Harrison et al., which is to say, choosing the reactive complexities rather than proactive simplicities held by the text on its own terms, and thus, the pain of Abimelech, and the horror of his murders, and the ensuing strife, are somewhat mitigated, the “overlooked” are  more overlooked than taking the text on its own terms; e) “who gets what and why” is a sociologically myopic imposition of sinful nature to explain the candor of its described departure from the “give and it shall be given” ethos of the biblical order of creation.

4: Feminist Criticism – J. Cheryl Exum (University of Sheffield).

  1. Interdisciplinary: “The starting point of feminist criticism of the Bible is not the biblical texts in their own right but the concerns of feminism as a worldview and as a political enterprise” (p. 65); a) women marginalized by men, denied positions of authority − 1. G. Lerner: “The Creation of Patriarchy,” 2. “It is fairly obvious that the Bible is about men, and that the biblical writers are not particularly interested in women and their experiences… reasonable to assume” (p. 66), i] subordinate role, someone’s wife, mother or daughter…, 3. how can a woman’s perspective be “discovered in, or read into, this androcentric literature” (p. 67)?, i] literary approach.
  2. Features of literary criticism: a) what is the woman’s point of view, how are women portrayed, who has the power and how is it distributed, how have women’s voices been suppressed, what are the hidden gender assumptions in the text, and whose interests are being served? − 1. JEDP assumption “that Judges is a collection of stories that are only loosely connected to one another” (p. 70; cf. K. Stendahl); b) Deborah − 1. why are Israelites “right” and Canaanites “wrong?”, i]  heroes, political ideology, 2. Barak’s hesitancy = being womanly = a negative − 1. Deborah = a “good mother,” 2. Jael, as a mother, puts Sisera to bed, then kills him, i] psychoanalytic theory of fearing a mother’s body,  ii] anxieties in text projected onto women, this is a negative stereotype, iii] phallic sexual imagery in text; e.g., tent peg into Sisera’s mouth, 3. “The mother serves as the mouthpiece for the male ideology of war, in which pillage and rape go together” in view of “androcentric narrator” (p. 73); c) Jephthah’s daughter − 1. anonymous, thus dehumanized, 2. thus, “named” by Exum: Bat-jiftah (but only a transliteration of “Daughter of Jephthah”), 3. Bat-jiftah surrenders her own volition, bewails loss of virginity, commemorated for such, thus her voice is co-opted by the androcentric narrator against her person; d) Samson’s women − 1. Good (safe) v. bad (dangerous) women; stereotype remains to this day, 2. Timnite is dangerous as she pries knowledge from Samson; Delilah is “loose,” but not so Samson, 3. Manoahs’ wife (named by a rabbinic text “Hazzelelponi”) is more perceptive than her husband, but “safe” since she doe not challenge status quo, 4. patriarchal literature affirms motherhood but not women’s sexual pleasure, 5. Israelite women = respectable; not so Canaanite women, 6. nationalism, 7. thesis point: “The story encourages women to become lawful and loyal mothers, this is the only role in which they can achieve status, the only alternative this text offers to the image of mother is that of the disreputable woman” (p. 82); e) Levite’s concubine − 1. Unnamed; renamed here Bat-Shever, “daughter or breaking,” 2. issue of pilegesh, 3. Bat-Shever criticized for leaving the Levite – no independence allowed, 4. Levite punishes her in letting her be raped and (killed); then exploits her body for nationalistic egoism; f) conclusion: “What do these stories we have examined have in common? In one way or another, they all betray a fear of women and of women’s sexuality, and they all aimed at circumscribing and controlling women’s behavior” (p. 87) − 1. in book of Judges, violence against women is part of larger problem of social and moral decay in Israel – but gender motivated violence needs focus, especially with continuing influence of Bible today.
  3. Critique: a) JEDP assumption + anti-narrative, dispenses with text on its own terms up front, eisegetical not exegetical, thus fully malleable to ex post facto perspectives with no ability to refute contra eisegetical views, thus, ill-equipped to address violence against women at the deeper level; b) contra Genesis 1-2 with the equality and complementarity of man and woman (found in no pagan text), with proactive view of marriage and full trust in place, and is there a better foundation from which to overcome violence against women?;  c) if the putatively androcentric narrators are not concerned for female voices, why are they in the text to begin with (however understood)?; d) power is only viewed in the context of distrust (take before being taken); not with reference to such power as false as compared with the power of trust in the order of creation (give and it will be given), thus, tow hat extent is feminist critique rooted in being violated by men and then reacting by pursuing such chauvinistic definitions of “power over” in response? − 1. “hermeneutics of trust” (D. Stuart) v. “hermeneutics of suspicion” (E. Schussler-Fiorenza); e) no reference to Israel’s 400 years of slavery, Abrahamic promise, Yahweh’s patience with the sins of the Canaanites (sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice), the exodus and Canaanite unprovoked opposition, in context of “us versus them,” of nationalism, and, the reasons for defining what is good and evil, and who pursues and/or is accountable to the former, and who does not; f) how is Deborah diminished by the text, except by ex post facto feminist eisegetically based hermeneutics? − 1. women as women, men as men, in complementarity and equality; g) textual error = eisegetical agenda: In 5:26 re: phallic tent peg into “mouth” − 1.Hebrew root rqq = “thin,” in reference to the thin spots of the “temple” or the “cheek,” not the anatomically different reality of the opening (patah) of the mouth; and in the context of the prior reference to the head, rqq as “temple” is the historical rendering; h) re: Deuteronomy 21:10-14, that Israelites do not treat women better than Canaanites; rape not permitted in Law of Moses; Judges depicts rebellion against the Law of Moses; 21:10-14 has deep respect for Canaanite woman who agrees to marriage to Israelite, but then wants to leave – she is free, and must not be treated as a slave,  Exum has used as a proof text something that is opposed to her point; and no such freedom can be found in Canaanite treatment of foreign women; i) textual/grammatical debate: was Jephthah intending a human sacrifice with respect to his daughter, or celibacy for her? Either way, himself the son of a prostitute, rejected by his own patrilineage, Jephthah is a mixed figure in the context of an increasingly lawless time; j) Jesus is thus anti-stereotypical with respect to Exum’s expectations of androcentric narration, in his treatment of the woman at the well (creating a technicality of truth in order to serve her hopes for deliverance from a chauvinisticly dominated life), and the woman caught in the act of adultery (the Law of Moses held the man equally responsible), where he sets her free from the chauvinistic reification, but treats as a fully equally moral agent in her own call to repentance;  k) does the Bible ever talk about “sexual pleasure” in the modern sense, or more  about sexual responsibility, based on the presupposition of the goodness of man and woman in marriage as the basis for a healthy social order?;  l) re: conclusion, how, for example, in the eyes of the narrator, is Deborah’s sexuality feared when she shames cowardly men, even giving Barak an opt out?; m) in other words, by not starting with the text that is then criticized, cause and effect is reversed, and the pursuit of equal integrity for women is complicated and ill-served in contrast with first taking the text on it own terms, and following the Pentateuch and Joshua.

5: Structuralist Criticism – David Jobling (St. Andrews College, Saskatoon).

  1. “Structuralism is a philosophical view according to which the reality of the objects of the human or social sciences is relational rather than substantial” … According to this view, we do not come to terms with the world of experience as a set of isolated terms, but as a set of relationships among items” (p. 90); a) literary texts = products of human minds through structured patterns; b) “The patterning need no represent the conscious intention of the producer of the text; indeed, the linguistic analogy to which I shall turn in a moment suggests that it probably does not” (p. 90) − 1. how to get “from text to message” (p. 90).
  2. The analogy of language: a) science of linguistics −1. Ferdinand de Saussure, i] parole (actual utterance) + langue (mysterious underlying system), ii] synchronic linguistics: langue frozen in a particular moment of time,  iii] diachronic linguistics: langue changes over time, iv] relationships rather than fixed terms, v]  “Meaning lies entirely in relationship, in the unstable system of differences between related words” (p. 92), vi] analogy between text and linguistic sentence, vii] a particular utterance our of a system of possible utterances, synchronic/diachronic opposition; text’s meaning not in itself, but in structured differences with other texts; b) Vladimir Propp and the Russian fairy tale − 1. 31 elements, not all necessarily present, but order remains the same; equilibrium harmed, villain identified and overcome by hero, equilibrium restored, i] unconsciously internalized, [but parallel to creation, sin and redemption], 2. prototypical structure in Judges appearing in account of Othniel with six successive stages: Israel does evil, Yahweh delivers them into hands of oppressors, Israel cries for help, Yahweh raises up a deliever, enemy is defeated, the land has rest; likewise w/other judges; c) Claude Levi-Strauss and the structural analysis of myth − 1. focuses on differences, not commonalities, between texts, i] binary oppositions, ii] in South American myths, If fire is stolen from jaguars, difference is the motif, if learned from monkeys, commonality is the motif, 2. based on Levi-Strauss: British anthropologist Edmund Leach – view of Judges 19-21: union of tribes from disunion; d) A.J. Greimas and structural narratology − actantial model: sender – object – received; helper – subject – opponent − horizontal + vertical, i] Little Red Riding Hood, ii] Roland Barthes: Jacob wrestling w/Yahweh makes God into both sender and opponent, 3. semiotic square: A, B; Non-B, Non-A, i] chiastic element, ii] affirm, refuse (= legalistic); admit, doubt (= libertarian); affirm, admit (= optimistic); refuse, doubt (= pessimistic); e) structuralism and criticism − 1. critiques of trying to imitate natural sciences, is ahistorical, is positivistic. 2. structuralism thus should not me megalomaniac, but concern itself with small units, i]  the mind, individual: “Even if you read books I recommend, they will not say to you what they say to me” (p. 103), 3. “Structuralism implies a hermeneutics of suspicion” (p. 104), 4. Judges 19 w/Levite and concubine, i] Levite = acting subject, 5. with Jael killing Sisera, Mieke Bal uses semiotic square: high, low; evolved, primitive; monotheism, polytheism; morality, amorality, 6. three times in Judges (3:27-29, no tension; 7:24-8:3, quarrel and resolution; 12:1-6, war and no resolution), the crossing of the fords of the Jordan is pivotal = structured pattern, despite three different outcomes, 7. “right views” v. “wrong views,” 8. inside, outside; non-outside, non-inside; Ephraim, foreigners; (?), Gileadites.
  3. Conclusion: a) “Your work as a structuralist is this: bringing your own questions as determined by your own setting, using other people’s techniques only for help in devising your own, to see what you can make of the book of Judges” (p. 112).
  4. Critique: a) not starting with the text on its own terms; thus patterns seen, as valuable as they are or may be, and viewed as unconscious to the producer, are said to be the deeper meaning, yet while the original meaning, as best determinable, is skipped; b) reader is the final arbiter of meaning and value; eisegetical hermeneutics trumps historical exegesis.

6: Deconstructive Criticism – Danna Nolan Fewell (Drew University).

  1. “Deconstruction, with its radically different understanding of textuality and reading … opens biblical texts to non-traditional readings, thereby ‘decentering’ the authority of traditional interpretations,” challenging monopolies of ‘established’ critical methods … Deconstruction threatens most where absolutism is dearest, whether the subject is Truth, a firmly entrenched theory or method, or religious faith” (p. 115); a)  there are “other truths” − 1. texts are like a painting, example of blue painting at end of room, question of distance and vision, and what an up close view reveals; does the “blue” rule the painting; questions about dominance and submission, 2. biblical studies w/emphasis on original intention, and deconstruction, as a reading event, critiques this, 3. J. Derrida and Plato’s Phaedrus: deconstructs what the text says versus what it does, reading v. writing, cure v. poison;  b) exposing power − 1.  deconstruction only destroys domination in one form or another, 2. any claim of truth is an exercise of power to dominate, even to say truth is superior to error, 3. listening to marginal voices, 4. JEDP assumption vis-à-vis Judges, i] Mieke Bal’s “countercoherence”; c) Judges −1. cycles in Judges show innocent people being brutally oppressed, 2. Judges 1:11-15, Caleb’s offer of daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who takes Debir (Kiriath Sepher), i] issue of name, ii] “city of writing,” iii] dominating power of writing over w/Debir by Israelities, iv] Ashsah’s name “hobble” or “bangle,” iv] = bait for her father, v] her assertiveness, many angles on it; and she eventually refuses to be “hobbled,” 3. concern for “the others,” i] who is kin to whom? Many admixtures; Israelites v. foreigners, ii] conclusion, here and for whole essay: Resist domination by deconstructing the text.
  2. Critique: a) only advocates a tearing down, with no sense of how to build up afterward, reactive, not proactive or redemptive; yet dealing with deep pains and true cries for justice;  b) “truth” not defined; c) if original intention of the text is erased as a matter of concern, why then protest the text to begin with? The effect protests a cause it does not acknowledge; d) destruction and domination not defined ultimately; e) why protest a “city of writing” being lost, unless we know what the writing was to begin with? For example, was it a healthy literary center, or a record-keeping center for despotic kings, their exploits and taxations? Find answer first − 1. JEDP issue versus the text on its own terms as a literary and historical unit; bait for Othniel? Or need to review marriage system that allows Achsah to be bold and heard − 1. the “other” is continually heard in the Tenach; compare w/pagan texts; g) Israelites were so, not due to blood, but allegiance to Yahweh and the Law of Moses, non-Israelites were welcome. e.g., Rahab and Ruth are ancestors to Jesus.

7: Ideological Criticism – Gale A. Yee (Episcopal Divinity School).

  1. “Ideological criticism uses literary methods within a historical and social-scientific frame in a comprehensive strategy for reading historical texts” (p. 138); a) “unmask” and “decode” the material and ideological conditions under which the biblical text “is” produced and reproduced − 1. Extrinsic analysis, i] history, gender (women in particular), body image, sexuality and economic concerns, 2. JEDP assumptions, 3. reference to Marxist literary critics, i]  concern w/ network of economic class relations – unequal distribution of wealth, prestige and control over the means of production; b) ideology = more than a set of doctrines or ideas, “As a complex system of values, ideas, pictures, images, and perceptions, ideology motivates men and women to ‘see’ their particular place in the social order as natural, inevitable and necessary” (pp. 139-140) − 1. “Ideology constructs a reality for people” (p. 140); b) ideological strategies − 1. unify social groups, rationalize interests and beliefs, legitimate the same, universalize historically specific values, naturalize them according to “common sense.”
  2. Ideological criticism:a) “Ideological criticism presumes that the text (1) is a production of a specific, ideologically charged historical world that (2) reproduces a particular ideology with an internal logic of its own” (p. 141); b) ideology = a dramatic script: history → dramatic text → dramatic production history → ideology → literary text; c) extrinsic analysis focuses on mode of production − among ancient Israelites: 1) familial; 2) tributary (taxation based); 3) slavery; d) intrinsic analysis determines how text encodes in its rhetoric the conflicting circumstances of its modes of production, i] pays attention to absences, “what must not be said,” and how rhetoric as a means of persuasion is a form of power.
  3. Judges 17-21 and the dismembered body: a) tribal period = familial mode − 1. DH writer lived in native tributary mode, i] editorial statement of no king and people did what they thought was right in their own eyes, ii] women subordinate, iii] peasant life difficult, iv] male headship in household slowly succumbing to the state, v] female status likewise receded, vi] DH = propaganda for Josiah’s reforms, which were ruthless as local shrines had to yield to center of Jerusalem, vii] made taxing the peasants more efficient; b) cultic chaos w/Micah’s setting up of the idol and selling his priestly services −1. then, “Thus, an idol of stolen silver gets stolen; a bought priest gets bought again, for an even higher price” in war against invading Danites, 2. social chaos follows with Levite’s pilegesh, i] woman marginalized, her voice absent or muzzled by male narrator, ii] male homosexual rape is a power equation, womanizing or dehumanizing the man; heterosexual rape is a power equation of dehumanization, iii] thus, either will do for the lawless Gibeahites, iv]  Levite covers over details about his complicity in the death of his concubine, thus provoking war of retaliation of united tribes of Israel against Benjamites, v] avoidance of extermination of Benjamin in conquest of Jabesh Gilead for wives for Benjamite remnant; c) conclusion −1. “An ideological analysis reveals that Judges 17-21 should be contextualized during the time of King Josiah as a literary production of the preexilic Deuteronomist. To suppress Josiah’s so-called religious reforms, which demolished popular cult centers that competed with Jerusalem, the Deuteronomist conducts a propaganda war against their clergy, the country Levites” (p. 157), i] Josiah’s “fiscal ambitions.”
  4. Critique: a) critcism does not start with the text, and imposes its Marxist theory upon it − 1. no tie to Genesis, order of creation in how women are treated, Pentateuch and Joshua; b) depends on DH hypothesis about Josiah’s reforms that are at odds with the text on its own terms − 1. it makes the Law of Moses a constructed artifact of the youthful Josiah when he was granted full power of the throne; thus making him a creator of it, not a reformer to that which preceded him, 2. thus, the ideology of the Canaanites in terms of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice are left unexamined; c) uses the text only in so far as its presuppositions are discoverable; otherwise deliberately neglectful.

8: Postcolonial Criticism – Uriah Y. Kim (Hartford Seminary).

  1. The “other” in relation to the West: a) the Rest versus the West − 1. question Western epistemology as did feminist theology w/androcentrism, 2. question “objectivity” of modern biblical scholarship, i] it is charged with colonialism, 3. academia and “documents” of power to suppress the “other,” i] ”American nationalism rooted in racism since its inception” (p. 163), i] Asian-American perspective, 4. Edward Said: Orientalism, i] key point: connection between production of knowledge and colonization of the Rest by the West, ii] Orientalism thus made racism legitimate, iii] dismantle it; b) basic characteristic of postcolonial criticism − 1. hybridity and liminality, 2. confrontational by definition, 3. “Biblical scholars who use postcolonial criticism start with the condition and experience of the Rest rather than with the text” (p. 166), 4. questions posed of the text: Who are the Israelites, and the non-Israelites and do they speak; who produced the text; are there suppressed or marginalized voices left out?, 5. question posed of modern biblical scholarship: What are the scholar’s presuppositions and experiences as brought to the text; is the Rest expendable to the West; what role do nationalism and Orientalism play?, 6. questions posed of contemporary interpreters: Do they identify with the Israelities, do they perpetuate “us” versus “them”; how is the text unsafe (oppressive) or safe (liberative) for the interpreter’s context, and what are his/her concerns; what ethical responsibility does the interpreter have toward the well-being of the Rest?; c) postcolonial exegesis of Judges − 1. Noth and DH, i] West’s identification w/Israel, 2. Mieke Bal: Judges not historical – problem of chronology, 3. Regina Schwartz: West’s preoccupation with history + projection of nationalism, 4. J. Clinton McCann: Incongruity of mistreatment of others if God loves all people, “and not just the chosen ones” (p. 171), 5. Israel’s neighbors presented as “Israel’s antagonists in Judges without much qualification” (p. 172), i] ignoring kinship realities with many of these peoples, 6. narrative quest for identity as Judges begins with “us versus them,” 7. “The Other can never be included in Israel, according to such ideological construct. There is a ‘natural’ separation than never be crossed” (p. 174), 8. Israelites have no natural link to the land; all land can be contested, and a postcolonial view sees this, 9. acknowledges Genesis to 2 Kings background, 10. Israel must not marry the Other, 11. Israel as man and Other as woman, 12. “ ‘Who is an Israelite’ is a question that is left unanswered when the construction of identity disintegrates at the end of the book” (p. 179).
  2. Conclusion: a) identity of Israel is threatened by the Other, and they never settled on their own identity to begin with in order to define the Other − 1. same reality with colonialism.
  3. Critique: a) how can we question a text we have not exegeted as a presupposition, instead starting with the ex post facto postcolonial purposes?; b) Mieke Bal misses biblical use of thematic dischronologies; c) the “chosen ones” are held to judgment first before the pagan nations; but the pagan nations refuse the universal blessings of the Abrahamic/messianic lineage; d) Israel is not racial, but a community of faith who honor Abraham’s faith; the “other” is invited in; but in all of Jericho, only Rahab and her decide accordingly (later example of Ruth); e) mostly negates prior history of pagan antagonism; f) no identity questions from Abraham through Moses to Joshua, nature of given promised land; with Joshua (5:13-15), the “us” versus “them” idea is rebuked by the angel of Yahweh; g) Judges describes rebellion to the Law of Moses, not obedience; therefore it is descriptive not prescriptive.

9: Gender Criticism – Ken Stone (Chicago Theological Seminary).

  1. Criticism not “through the categories of gender analysis but criticism of them” (p. 183); a) analyze cultural notions and social processes that not only differentiate men and women, but some men from other men, likewise for women; oppose strictly binary terms; e.g., “female masculinity” and “intersexed bodies”; “queer theory” (p. 184); b) analyzing with gender, distinction between sex and gender− 1. incest taboos and cognate taboos, 2. males as subjects, females as objects, 3. assumptions in Bible concerning manhood, 4. deminization a source of shame; c) destabilizing with gender − 1. Gideon’s son Jether is unmanly in refuse to kill his father’s conquered enemies, i] negative of thus becoming a woman, ii] place of queer theory, 2. Monique Wittig: categories of man and woman = political, not natural givens, 3. questions posed by gender criticism: how are gender norms imposed by the text, how are characterizations manipulated, how related to other symbolisms, etc.?; d) un-manning of Abimelech in Judges 9 − 1. Judges 8:21 and Jether, 2. Abimelech’s mother is a pilegesh, i] sex, gender and kinship, ii] seventy half brothers, 3. Parallel to “homoerotic language to describe Jonathan’s love for David” (p. 195) = feminization of Jonathan, 4. Abimelech and Sisera both slain by phallic symbols (tent peg and an upper millstone); e) conclusion = gender norms are unstable, and these two texts in Judges give example.
  2. Critique:a) starts not with the text, but with ex post facto perspective imposed on the text, and with a narrow concern at that; b) textual error: Jether (Gideon’s son unnamed by Stone) is not accurately represented as a man; the text says he is “only a boy,” thus he is not un-manned; rather he is not yet a man; c) is Abimelech “un-manned” or merely disenfranchised as the son of a concubine?; d) textual error: There is no homoerotic love of Jonathan for David; 1] the love is greater than that for a woman, but not of the same nature; 2] the love was in Jonathan’s chosen forfeiture of his kingly inheritance as Saul’s son, as the symbolism makes clear, recognizing that David was Yahweh’s anointed; 3] if it were erotic, the LXX would translate ahaz as eros; it does not, choosing the covenant keepingand self-giving love of agape instead; 4] if there were any homoerotic relationship, Saul would have published it widely to discredit David, and would have said Jonathan was beguiled by him.

10: Cultural Criticism – David M. Gunn (Texas Christian University).

  1. “Culture is a language or set of codes – spoken, written, acted, pictured, manufactured – through which people share values and beliefs, behave in certain approved ways, make and use artifacts in common. Vulture lends people identity, helps them relate to each other, and provides the glue that sustains a society” (p. 202): a) cultural criticism is interdisciplinary – literary critical, feminist, sociological, ideological; concerns with race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, gender, sexuality and religious identity − 1. Bible and culture, 2. history of interpretation, 3. ninthteenth century German historical/source criticism dominated, 4. “Cultural criticism’s interest is in how the Bible is used” (p. 203)., i] hence, “reception history”; b) Bible illustrations and texts − 1. Image of a home, different in different cultures, 2. reading narrative pictures, i] visual weight, ii] historical period; c) The Book of Judges −1. family Bibles, i] changes with different eras, ii] what people are portrayed?, iii] Deborah is rarely portrayed, 2. Jephthah’s daughter in Dr. S. Smith’s Family Bible, 1752: “The Sacrifice” i] Greco/Roman architecture = “ancient” to readers, ii] soldier doing the killing, father hiding his gaze, daughter virtuously accepts her father’s rash vow, her companions honor her, she becomes a “model” for young ladies in the 18th century, 3. Jephthah’s daughter in Dr. Samuel Newton’s Complete Family Bible, 1771: “The Vow Performed,” i] Jephthan not commended; “rash vow”, ii] no weapons iii] Hebrew connective w’ or disjunctive, iv] latter = daughter devoted to chastity, not killed, w/emphasis that she had never been with a man, v] parallel in Agamemmon (Aeschylus, 458 B.C.)l Iphigenia is rescued from, 4. intertextuality, 5. John Opie’s version in Rev. Dr. Benjamin Kennicott’s Family Bible (1793): ”The Sacrafice [sic] of Jephthah’s Daughter,” i] picture of brutal sacrifice, but commentary’s words state otherwise, 6. “Model daughter” v. critique of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  2. Critique: Post-biblical in nature, but not pretending to be biblical either – just interested in how the culture uses the Bible in different ways.


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