A New Approach to the Bible

Let me begin with a review : The first half of this project of mine has been listing the videos on Youtube of persons I call my “Net Prophets.” The intent of the second half is to see if, during watching videos from the first half, I could discern any trend or trends in Christian theology and study for this new 21st Century.

From some suggested books by Walter Brueggemann, one of my Net prophets, I was, indeed, pointed toward a trend. As I had used one site for the first half, Youtube, so I found Amazon Books to be the source for locating and identifying the trend. The two books suggested by Brueggemann have grown and grown, until I now have over 80 books, most published since 2000.

What is this trend? According to Harry O Maier in his “Picturing Paul in Empire” (2013), there has been “a flood of studies over the last decade dedicated to the investigation of the relationship of the undisputed letters of Paul to the Roman Empire.” He proceeds, then, to show in his book that the relationship to the Empire is also found in several of the disputed Pauline books.

I decided to select from my 80+ book list those that are written to help interpret not just Paul but the New Testament as a whole using this new form of critical approach to scripture. So below you will find 29 books related to scriptural interpretation. Except for the first book, which gives an overview to the whole Bible, I have confined myself to those related to the New Testament.

I have found no agreed term to label this obviously new approach to scripture. Certainly, whatever the name, the role the Bible plays is central to it. Some refer to it as “Empire Criticism”, but other critical approaches use their methodology in their name, not the content of their research. Historical Criticism uses the framework of history, Literary Criticism uses the tools of literature, etc. Perhaps one might follow the suggestion proposed by Ched Myers, one of the earliest of those using this approach. He called his approach the ‘Socio-historical method’, as it uses a combination of sociology, history, and politics.

If I were to speak of this trend in theological terms I would see it setting the major message of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, over against the lived experience, not just of Jesus and Paul, but of every Christian in the early centuries. That lived experience was permeated by the Roman Empire. As they contemplated Jesus’ message about God’s Kingdom they were confronted on every side by a different reality, the power and influence of the Roman Empire. To ignore the effects of the Empire on life in the first two centuries, the times of the New Testament writers, would be like trying to understand the life of the 18th century southern American slave without considering ‘Plantation’. To use another metaphor, it is the elephant in the room.

Viewing the whole Bible
In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance  Richard Horsley 2008

Jesus
Jesus, Justice and the Reign of God by William Herzog II 1999
Jesus and Politics: Confronting the Powers Alan Storkey  2005
Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ by Klaus Wengst 1987
Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus, William Herzog 2005
Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder  Richard Horsley 2002

Paul
Reading Paul in Context: Explorations in Identity Formation  Kathy Ehrensperger 2013
In Search of Paul by John Dominic Crossan  2009
The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative  Icon, John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg  2009
Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society Richard Horsley 1997
The Colonized Apostle:  Paul Through Postcolonial Eyes (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Christopher Stanley 2011
Paul and the Roman Imperial Order by Richard Horsley 2004

Matthew
Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading  Warren Carter 2013

Mark
Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus Ched Myers 1987

Luke
Luke-Acts and Empire: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Brawley 2011

John
Greater Than Caesar: Christology and Empire in the Fourth Gospel by Tom Thatcher 2009
John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter  2008

Acts
World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age by Kavin Rowe 2009

Romans
The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Neil Elliot 2008

1 Corinthians
Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, household, and empire in 1 Corinthians 1-7. by Ok-Pil Kim 2011 (Doctoral Thesis)

2 Corinthians
Galatians
Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished Brigitte Kahl 2010
Apostle to the Conquered: Re-imagining Paul’s Mission (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Davina Lopez 2008

Ephesians
Picturing Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles by Harry O Maier 2013

Philippians
The Politics of Heaven  Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Joseph Marchal  2008

Colossians
Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, Walsh and Keesmaat 2004

1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus

Philemon
Onesimus Our Brother: Reading Religion, Race and Culture in Philemon (Paul in Critical Contexts) by Matthew Johnson 2009

Hebrews
Resisting Empire: Rethinking the Purpose of the Letter to “the Hebrews” by Jason Whitlark 2014

James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude

Revelation
Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Howard-Brook and Gwyther  2013
What Does Revelation Reveal? Unlocking the Mystery by Warren Carter  2011