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Journal of Religion and Violence

Volume 4, Issue 3, 2016
Violence and Biblical Imagination

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Displaying: 1-10 of 11 documents


articles
1. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Margo Kitts, Introduction: Violence and Biblical Imagination
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For at least a century biblical scholars have explored prescriptions and descriptions of holy wars, punishing plagues, infanticides, treaty violations and lethal loyalty tests, not to mention the emotional torments reflected in prophetic rants and in some of the tradition’s most exquisite and excruciating biographies. Arguably, it is the Bible’s varied treatments of violence, in all of its forms, which make the text a classical repository of sobering human experiences, at least as recognized in the West. The articles herein ponder some violent themes related to biblical literature. They ponder the shared legacy of ancient Near Eastern literary motifs showing jubilant dining at the death of a foe; the reception history of Psalm 137’s last verses, which urge violence against children; contrasting family dynamics in narratives of martyrdom between Jews and Christians; depictions of children as victims and as cruel aggressors in the Christian didactic poems of Prudentius; and the biblical legacy of forceful parental authority and corporeal punishment embraced by some evangelical Christians. The four articles on childhood and violence derive from the 2015 AAR and SBL conference session on biblical violence and childhood, and are introduced and contextualized by Ra’anan Boustan and Kimberly Stratton, who moderated the session.
2. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Scott B. Noegel, Corpses, Cannibals, and Commensality: A Literary and Artistic Shaming Convention in the Ancient Near East
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In this contribution, I examine several ancient Near Eastern literary texts and artistic variations on the “banquet motif” in which one finds people dining while others die. I argue that these depictions constitute a hitherto unrecognized artistic device rooted in social protocol that represents an inversion of the custom of abstinence during mourning. It thus functions to underscore the contempt of those dining for the dying by depicting their deaths as unworthy of lament. In addition, the motif characterizes the dying party as symbolically and/or physically abased, because of his or her hubris, and thus deserving of a shameful death. Inversely, it portrays the dining party as symbolically and often physically elevated, and reveling in a divine reversal of circumstance.
special session: childhood and biblical violence
3. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Ra‘anan Boustan, Kimberly Stratton, Children and Violence in Jewish and Christian Traditions
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This introduction to the special section of the 4.3 issue on violence in the biblical imagination presents a brief overview of scholarship on the theme of children and violence in Jewish and Christian traditions before summarizing the four articles which follow. These four papers were originally presented at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in Atlanta, November 2015. Scholarly literature on children and violence falls into two main clusters: child sacrifice and corporal punishment. Using Sarah Iles Johnston’s response to the panel as a starting point, this introduction proposes that children “are good to think with.” Stories about children and violence carry weighty symbolic cargo: they demarcate the limits of civilization and define certain groups of people as Other; they signal social disruption and extraordinary crisis. Examples include: child sacrifice, parental cannibalism, child martyrdom, and corporal punishment. We conclude that scriptural accounts of divinely sanctioned violence always retain for their interpretative communities the potential to inspire and to legitimate newly emergent forms of violent speech and action.
4. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Joel M. LeMon, Violence against Children and Girls in the Reception History of Psalm 137
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The reception history of Psalm 137 is marked by numerous attempts to mollify or expunge its descriptions of violence, specifically, its last line: “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock” (verse 9, NRSV). This essay explores the various ways that interpreters have perceived the psalm’s violent imagery to be problematic and what they have done to change the psalm. Many interpreters have “spiritualized” the psalm, altering its rhetorical effect by suggesting that the “little ones” are little sins rather than little children. Still other interpretations have modified the structure of the psalm through a process of selective omission. Frequently, these versions do not include the last verse of the psalm. Yet, these versions often highlight and implicitly authorize violence against girls specifically, since a girl, “Daughter Babylon” or “a/the daughter of Babylon,” is the subject of the preceding verse. Throughout the analysis, special attention is paid to the reception of the psalm in Christian hymnody and other music, including art songs, anthems, and symphonic treatments.
5. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Paul Middleton, “Suffer Little Children": Child Sacrifice, Martyrdom, and Identity Formation in Judaism and Christianity
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This essay examines the contrasting ways in which the sacrifice of children is portrayed in Jewish and Christian martyrologies. In these narratives of extreme persecution and suffering, death was often seen to be the way in which religious integrity and identity was preserved. It is argued that Jewish martyr narratives—for example, the First Crusade, Masada, and the Maccabees—reflect a developed notion of collective martyrdom, such that the deaths of children, even at the hands of their parents, are a necessary component in Jewish identity formation. By contrast, early Christianity martyr texts reflect an ambivalence towards children, to the extent that they are viewed as a potential hindrance to the successful martyrdom of their Christian mothers. Children have to be abandoned for women to retain their Christian identity.
6. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Diane Shane Fruchtman, Instructive Violence: Educated Children as Victims and Aggressors in Late Ancient Latin Martyr Poetry
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This paper explores two parallel instances of child-centered violence in the martyrological poetry of Prudentius (fl. 405), one in which a child is the victim of violence and one in which children are the aggressors. In both cases, Prudentius presumes and manufactures his readers’ sympathy, building on their horror at seeing children involved in violence. But he uses that sympathy to opposite ends: in one case to align the reader with the youthful victim and his cause, and in the other to inspire revulsion and destabilize the Christian reader’s sense of his own character. Taken together, these two episodes—one a cautionary tale and one a model of Christian self-cultivation—offer the reader not only an argument for what type of education Christians should seek, but also the motivation to seek it. In other words, Prudentius was using depictions of violence inflicted on children and by children to educate his audiences about education.
7. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Susan B. Ridgely, When Pain Becomes Symbolic of Commitment: The Pratice of Spanking Among Adults and Children and “Focus on the Family” Childrearing Literature
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In this article, I use the narrations of Focus on the Family users to argue that in this community spanking has moved from a disciplinary technique to a symbolic religious practice that embodies their commitments to parental authority, traditional families, and intergenerational connections. What matters, then, is not that the physical practice of spanking occurs, but that these families embrace a corporal punishment based philosophy of discipline. Making this choice positions them in opposition to what they perceived to be an undisciplined liberal mainstream society in which the lack of submission to authority has led to the destruction of the family. Although support of spanking is universal, how that support is expressed and enacted is far from monolithic. The urgency to support spanking seems to ebb and flow over time as families, such the families who use Focus on the Family materials, respond to their changing contexts.
book reviews
8. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Paul K.-K. Cho, The Conflict Myth and the Biblical Tradition. Debra Scoggins Ballentine
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9. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Chris Frilingos, Rethinking Early Christian Identity: Affect, Violence, and Belonging. Maia Kotrosits
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10. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 3
Brian A. Catlos, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West. Philippe Buc
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