ICYMI: The podcast and video versions of the talks from God and Guns: The Bible and American Gun Culture are available for download from Fuller Studio!
What does the Bible have to say about the use of violence? Can we connect ancient and modern in the case of guns and their prominence in U.S. society? What ethical and moral perspectives would it entail if we took the Bible seriously?
Excerpts from the programme will be up on Fuller Studio sometime in May. In the meantime, the full programme —
Yolanda Norton, Assistant Professor of Old Testament and H. Eugene Farlough Chair of Black Church Studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary, on Embodied Testimony: The Signified Lament of Women
Brent A. Strawn, William Ragsdale Cannon Distinguished Professor of Old Testament ad the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, on Projecting (on/in/and) Joshua
Christopher B. Hays, D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, on The Walls of Jerusalem and the Guns of America: A Theological Reading of Isaiah 22:8-11
Tracy M. Lemos, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Huron University and a member of the graduate school faculty at the University of Western Ontario, on Broken are the Bows of the Mighty: The Bow in Ancient Israel and the Gun in Contemporary America
David Lincicum, Rev. John A. O’Brien Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, on Can a Christian Own a Gun? Interrogating the New Testament
Shelly Matthews, Professor of New Testament at the Brite Divinity School, on This Sword is Double-Edged: Reflections of a Feminist New Testament Scholar on the Bible and Gun Culture
The much-anticipated Enemies and Friends of the State: Ancient Prophecy in Context has appeared at last! Chris Rollston has shepherded this volume over the course of several years, and it’s a real pleasure to see it in print. My own essay is on ‘Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah‘ and, amongst other things, was the provocation for my contribution to the Hans Barstad Festschrift, New Perspectives on Old Testament Prophecy and History. Both draw on my early work on theologies and ideologies of warfare in the royal biblical traditions.
War and Ethics is out in paperback! Just 19,95 € / $19.95 / £14.99—bargain.
Check it out here.
War and Ethics in the Ancient Near East (or War and Ethics to its friends) is the result of my doctoral research at the University of Oxford, where I studied for both my M.Phil. and my D.Phil. with John Barton, then Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (a title that never, ever fit on an application form).
In good fledgling doctoral student fashion, I set out with grand ambitions, intending to undertake a comparative study of the ethics of ancient Israel and Judah and those of the rest of the ancient Near East. Having been raised in the United States, where the public discourse surrounding religion and ethics usually presumed that the interaction of ‘biblical’ ethics with the moral considerations of contemporary American culture meant their deterioration or degradation, I was interested in the relationship of these biblical ethics to their own contemporary culture, in the form of the wider ancient Near East. Whilst there is now a small cottage industry in study of the ethics of the Hebrew Bible from an historical perspective, with monographs appearing at the rate of a few a year, at the time this was still quite unusual.
Having decided to focus (somewhat) on violence, with the idea of doing a series of case studies at the familial, local and international levels, I began with the last of these, in the form of ethical ideas about the conduct of warfare. It soon became clear, however, that a dissection of the military ethics of the ancient Near East was not going to happen in the space of a chapter; having sat down one weekend to bash out a few thousand words on the Assyrian royal inscriptions for some application or other, I came up on Monday with 14,000—without having gone anywhere near the rest of the Assyrian sources, not to mention the biblical material. The dissertation, it seemed, was destined for war.
That the dissertation—and ultimately the book—became something other than a mere catalogue of gruesome practices owes its inspiration to a book by Klaus-Peter Adam, Der Königliche Held, which drew attention to the parallel presentation of the human and divine kings in Psalm 18, and an article by Elnathan Weissert, which noted something similar occurring in the accounts of Sennacherib’s battle at Halule, with particular attention to the use of language stemming from Enuma elish. With my antennae up, I realised that this language—the language of the creation accounts—was all over the military accounts of the Assyrian kings, as well as being visible in the biblical material.
This use of specific phrases and imagery drawn from the creation accounts had two significant implications for our understanding of the ethics of ancient Near Eastern warfare. First, the use of the same language to describe both the human king and the divine king had the effect of mirroring their activities, creating an image of the human king as the divine king’s earthly counterpart, who acted on his behalf in the terrestrial realm.
At the same time, the origins of this language in the accounts of creation imbued the human king’s actions with cosmological significance. If the human king was fighting on behalf of the creator god, his enemies were allied with the destructive forces of chaos which threatened that creation (and are indeed described as such). The violence involved in the conduct of warfare was thus justified as necessary for the preservation of creation.
War and Ethics is in use in courses in Europe, North America, the UK and Australia and continues to be available in hardback from de Gruyter. In fact, it’s been so successful that they’ve brought it out as one of the first books in their new paperback editions. Of course, if you prefer to try before you buy, it is also available in preview mode from Google Books.