Preview of “Scripture and The Passions” Panel

Preview of “Scripture and The Passions” Panel

Scripture and the Passions

David W. Priddy“Satiating and Starving the Yahwistic Imagination: The Weaponization of Food in the Elijah Cycle”

David Priddy of Wake Forest University suggests that the Elijah cycle has a critical ideological and theological function within the Deuteronomistic history. More than only a narrative interlude of legendary material, the Elijah cycle threatens and comforts its agrarian hearers into obedience to Yahweh. Through a persistent use of the satiation and hunger motif, the Deuteronomistic storyteller fashions a narrative that makes food a weapon in an ideological battle between the Omridic dynasty and Yahweh.

Michael Thomas Carlson“The Violence of Shame: Sexuality and Luke 17:21 in Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Blankets”

Michael Carlson of Yale Divinity School explicates the “accidental theology” of the art in Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Blankets. Beginning by diagnosing the systematic elements of fundamentalist scripture-based sexual repression in Blankets, he argue that Thompson’s work espouses an explicitly mystical theology founded on gratitude for corporeality and the sexual self. He ultimately argue that Thompson’s novel engages scripture as artistic hermeneutics; it is a work which cannot be fully appreciated without understanding its incorporation of scripture. 

Sunil Kumar YadavMangalasutta: A Buddhist Blessing Persecuting Muslims in Myanmar”

Sunil Kumar Yadav of University of Chicago Divinity School will present how Buddhist scriptures have influenced anti-Islam legislatures, racial/ethnic discriminations and boycotting of Muslim businesses in Myanmar’s society. Rife with fear of Islamization, and grounded in Buddhist fundamentalist notion of purity, he argues that Myanmar’s society is moving towards a systematic and gradual genocide of Muslims. Using ethnographic evidence, he will present a critical analysis of the Mangalasutta – its interpretation, its influence and its application – in Myanmar’s society, and Buddhist texts’ role more generally in Myanmar’s newly established democracy.

Preview of “Scripture: Who’s In? Who’s Out?” Panel

Preview of “Scripture: Who’s In? Who’s Out?” Panel

Scripture - Who's In? Who's Out?

Mitchell Chilcot“(De)weaponizing Scripture at Qumran”

Mitchell Chillcot of Duke Divinity School explores the close connection between חרב (sword) and the Kittim (a term commonly understood as a reference to imperial rule) in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He argues that this relationship is intended to highlight the Kittim as curators of violence throughout history, whereas the Qumran community itself is diametrically opposed to such a violent way of life. 

Matthew Goldstone“Three Models of Wielding Lev. 19:17 in Antiquity”

Matthew Goldstone of New York University describes the diverse spectrum of responses to the biblical injunction of Leviticus 19:17 that commands that one actively rebuke his or her fellow. The semi-isolated members of the Qumran center strove to forge a system of complete control over daily life while the culturally insecure position of the early rabbis motivated them to formally recognize the danger of verbal offense. The mixed message that we find in the gospels reflects the tension between the ideal of love and humility and the practical demands of communal stability. The juxtaposition of these traditions reveals the divergent ways religious leaders of antiquity wielded this biblical passage as a means to ensuring their formative goals.

Christine Landau“In the interests of peace:  Jews, gentiles and land management in Mishnah Peah”

Christine Landau of the University of Virginia demonstrates how how the rabbis, who lived in a culturally and religiously diverse area, wielded Scripture alongside the sickle to define themselves as a community that farmed the land God had given them in accordance with God’s commands. At times, rabbinic and gentile farmers appear to have collaborated quite closely in harvesting and other tasks, and the rabbis explain some of their legal positions as being “in the interests of peace.” Yet for them coexistence with gentiles required careful self-definition and negotiation of boundaries, together with the awareness that scripture itself required such boundaries to remain somewhat fluid.

Evan Christopher Anhorn“Revealed Words and Subjunctive Worlds: The Uncreated Qur’an and the Order Transforming Power of God’s Speech”

Evan Anhorn of Boston University will take up Eisenstadt’s theory on the order-maintaining and order-transforming dimensions of culture. He will apply his findings to the role of Sunni theology as a social institution of Islamic civilization—an institution which establishes social boundaries, distributes power and meaning and maintains social roles and authority. Building on this, he will examine the createdness of the Qur’an as a specific location of charismatic social renewal. The contours of this theological debate suggest alternate visions of society and the division and regulation of power within it.

“Weaponizing Scripture?” Finalized Conference Schedule

“Weaponizing Scripture?” Finalized Conference Schedule

When does scripture serve as a resource for or against the communities that are formed by it? 

How is it instrumentalized for formational, popular, political, and/or polemical agendas?

How does scripture transform the character of the debates and purposes for which it is deployed?

Weaponizing Scripture? Flyer
Click on the poster above for a printable PDF version.

Sunday, March 22nd
Nau Hall 342 (unless otherwise noted)

12:00 pm — Registration and Opening Reception

12:30 pm — Introduction

12:45 pm — Panel 1: “Scripture and the Passions” 

⇒David Priddy, Wake Forest University – “Satiating and Starving the Yahwistic Imagination: The Weaponization of Food in the Elijah Cycle”

⇒Michael Carlson, Yale Divinity School – “The Violence of Shame: Sexuality and Luke 17:21 in Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Blankets”

⇒Sunil Kumar Yadav, University of Chicago Divinity School – “Mangalasutta: A Buddhist Blessing Persecuting Muslims in Myanmar”

Respondent: Peter Ochs, Department of Religious Studies

2:45 pm — Break

3:00 pm — Text Study

4:00 pm — Panel 2:  “Scripture and the State”

⇒Khadeega M. Gafar, American University of Cairo 

⇒Ben Dillon, Duke University – “Squelching the Double Vision: Hobbes’s Subversion of Sola Scriptura”

⇒Meg Stapleton Smith, Yale Divinity School – “Vision of Hope: Scripture in the Context of the Salvadoran Civil War”

Respondent: Shankar Nair, Department of Religious Studies

6:00 pm — Break

6:15 pm — Plenary Address by Ambassador Aref Nayed
“Scriptures As Operational Artifacts”
Location: Nau Lecture Hall 101, Open to the Public

8:00 pm — Dinner
Location: Nau Hall Manley Commons, Limited to Conference Participants and Invited Guests

Monday, March 23rd
Nau Hall 342 (unless otherwise noted)

9:00 am — Coffee and Pastries

9:30 am — Panel 3: “Scripture and Subversion”

⇒Valerie Landfair, Regent School of Divinity – “An African-American Pentecostal Reading of Hagar: Through the Aesthetics of Silence and the Politics of Recognition”

⇒Mark James, University of Virginia – “Origen, Power, and the Naturalness of Names”

⇒Ezra Blaustein, University of Chicago Divinity School – “The Hermeneutics of an Outsider: Torah, New Testament, and Quran in Simon Duran’s Bow and Shield”

⇒Ardaine Gooden, Howard University School of Divinity – “Male Violence: A Biblical Exploration of Male Rape and Sexual Assault”

Respondent: Maurice Wallace, Department of English

11:45 am — Lunch

1:15 pm — Panel 4:  “Scripture – Who’s In? Who’s Out?”

⇒Mitchell Chillcot, Duke Divinity School – “(De)weaponizing Scripture at Qumran”

⇒Matthew Goldstone, New York University – “Three Models of Wielding Lev. 19:17 in Antiquity”

⇒Christine Landau, University of Virginia – “In the interests of peace: Jews, gentiles and land management in Mishnah Peah”

⇒Evan Anhorn, Boston University – “Revealed Words and Subjunctive Worlds: The Uncreated Qur’an and the Order Transforming Power of God’s Speech”

Respondent: Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Department of Religious Studies

3:30 pm — Text Study
Location: Gibson 441

4:30 pm — Closing Reception
Location: Gibson 441


Preview of “Scripture and Subversion” Panel

Preview of “Scripture and Subversion” Panel

Scripture and Subversion


Valerie Ranee Landfair“An African-American Pentecostal Reading of Hagar: Through the Aesthetics of Silence and the Politics of Recognition”

Valerie Landfair of Regent School of Divinity will present a Pentecostal perspective of Hagar’s story that can be read as an empowering use of vision and gender for women. Hagar’s narrative in Genesis 16 will be used examine the power of recognition and the aesthetic of silence. This study argues that African-American women become Hagar’s daughters when moved into a place where God sees them, speaks to them directly, and calls them by name. This transformation liberates them to be able to fulfill their unique purposes for, and in the kingdom of God, even though they remain subject to shackles, including racism, classism, and sexism.

Mark James“Origen, Power, and the Naturalness of Names”

Mark James of the University of Virginia will present Origen’s version of linguistic naturalism as a potentially viable alternative that anticipates a pragmatic alternative to structuralism. Taking up and transforming earlier Stoic accounts of the mimetic function of names, Origen argues that the naturalness of names consists also in their real power in the world, by which, we might say, the scriptural word becomes a kind of weapon in the martyr’s ‘struggle even to death’ against the physical weapons of Rome (CC 1.24). Origen can help us see how power relations not only distort language but can also be part of the meaningful (and liberating) operation of language in its integrity — not least the language of scripture.

Ezra Blaustein“The Hermeneutics of an Outsider: Torah, New Testament, and Quran in Simon Duran’s Bow and Shield”

Ezra Blaustein of the University of Chicago Divinity School will examine the hermeneutics of Simon Duran (1361-1444), a Jewish scholar who lived under both Christian and Muslim rule, as found in his work Qeshet u-Magen [Bow and Shield], a work that provides an instructive example of how scripture was used in medieval inter-religious disputation. This analysis will uncover the complicated relationship between a canonical text and the religion that sees it as sacred by demonstrating how Duran can dismiss claims against the Torah as based on incorrect interpretations, but his own arguments against Christian and Muslim scriptures are similarly weakened.

Ardaine L. Gooden“Male Violence: A Biblical Exploration of Male Rape and Sexual Assault”

Ardaine Gooden of Howard University School of Divinity will present an exploration of the phenomenon of male rape, supported mainly by biblical literature. By employing Genesis 19 and Judges 19 narratives which are commonly used to justify anti-homosexual stance, the paper indicates that an alternate reading of the text indicates the presence of male rape. This analysis raises questions of the nature of rape and how it is perpetrated upon the victims regardless of the sex of the victim and makes the claim that it is essential that male rape be recognized in order to unconditionally understand the nature of sexual violence.

Preview of “Scripture and the State” Panel

Preview of “Scripture and the State” Panel

Scripture and the State

Ben Dillon“Squelching the Double Vision: Hobbes’s Subversion of Sola Scriptura

Ben Dillon of Duke University will present an examination of two cases of Thomas Hobbes’s controversial exegesis in his masterpiece Leviathan that have profound political implications: his treatment of the term “spirit,” which issues in the denial of any incorporeal substance; and his account of martyrdom, which effectively renders true martyrdom impossible. The effect of these exegetical moves is, first, to deny any spiritual realm beyond the material; and second, to render all claims by clergy to authority over citizens’ bodies illegitimate; combined, they serve to bolster his claims for absolute civil sovereignty, all while appealing to the Protestant principle of sola scriptura.

 Meg Stapleton Smith“Vision of Hope: Scripture in the Context of the Salvadoran Civil War”

Meg Stapleton Smith of Yale Divinity School will present an examination of the ways Scripture was utilized as a way to justify the violent acts of the Salvadoran government, as well as critically examine how Scripture became a source of inspiration within the Christian Base Communities to authenticate and validate the humanity and faith of the poor. Ultimately, Scripture was weaponized within the context of the Salvadoran Civil War to be both a modicum of violent governmental rationale, as well as a vehicle of expression for the poor’s national liberation, economic amelioration, and spiritual enlightenment.