Final Session of Centre for the Study of Bible & Violence Conference Spring 2021

Dr. Lissa Wray Beal, Professor of Old Testament, Providence Seminary, opened this final session with her paper on “Servants of Grace and Horror in Jeremiah 25:1-14.” She read the passage in Jeremiah from a perspective of horror. The particular focus of the paper was on viewing Nebuchadnezzar as God’s servant. She makes a case for this announcement being received as a horrifying idea. How can this heathen and outsider king, who is the enemy of the Israelites, be Yahweh’s servant? She addresses this by reminding the reader that Israel first was confronted by the prophet, a familiar servant of God, under grace. But, when they rejected the message of God given by the prophet, they were then confronted by the servant of horror. Dr. Beal’s conclusion that this story is contextualized in an enduring text that serves to remind the reader of God’s grace and favor ahead of horror.

Three other papers followed Dr. Beal’s Keynote. These followed her presentation in looking closely at prophetic literature and portrayals of violence in language and response. Lucas Martins, Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Hebrew Bible, Adventist University of São Paulo, presented, “The Violent Rhetoric of Prophetic Satire.” Then, Jerry Shepherd, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Taylor Seminary, gave his paper, “The Message of the Prophets: Peace through Violence?” The final paper was presented by Scott Ryan, Assistant Professor of Religion and Biblical Studies, Claflin University, entitled, “The Violence of the God of Peace and the Peace of a Violent Humanity: Reading Divine and Human Violence in Paul’s Letter to the Romans”.

Conclusions

This is the second session featuring papers that cover traditional hermeneutic approaches to read, assess, and interpret a biblical text. The first session to feature papers on this approach was CSBV Session 3, which focused on narrative texts from the Torah. This session concluded with a number of references to passages in the prophets that are often just as difficult to translate as they are to read. Over the entire week, scholars gathered by means of virtual technology to read, listen, present, and converse about biblical texts that have been used to justify violence, or are, themselves, violent in nature. This work serves to encourage not only better hermeneutics of the Bible, but also encourages us to remember that there are real people with genuinely difficult or painful experiences on everyside of the biblical text.

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