When it comes to the study of children in the Bible and biblical world, narrative criticism is well suited to pair with childist interpretation, since both focus in part upon characters in a narrative and how those characters interact with each another. This essay begins by defining narrative criticism broadly and then reviews the work of two key scholars: Robert Alter and David Rhoads. The chapter then summarizes Rhoads’s interpretation of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24–30 through the lens of narrative criticism. Building upon Rhoads’s work, the essay uses narrative criticism to highlight the young daughter in this narrative, who often receives little attention from commentators. In the process, it becomes evident that what makes a character important is not necessarily speech or action, but how the narrator focuses upon the character and the character’s impact on the other characters in the story.
Children, as we might define them in the contemporary world, seldom play major roles in biblical narrative. And yet, all biblical characters are someone’s children, and frequent stories of “begettings” and “birthings” depict the generational renewal so important for the community’s understanding of its future—both the community constructed within the story world and the community that engenders that world to begin with. Using the theoretical lens of socio-narratology, this article explores how this narrativized “re-generation” in the book of Genesis creates social space for ancient Israelite communities to reaffirm, rethink, reimagine, and revamp their collective identities as they prepare for future survival.
The article introduces intersectionality and disability studies as tools for the study of children in the Bible, and applies these tools to a reading of the Pastoral Epistles. The framework of intersectionality shows that the place(s) of children in a society must be seen in relation to other identity categories, such as race, class, gender, etc. Hierarchical relations should be studied in their complexity and also their particularity. The concept of kyriarchy is useful for studying the particularities of intersectional identity in the New Testament, as is the method of “asking the other question.” Concerning disability studies, three insights are introduced that overlap with theoretical reflections from childhood studies. The first concerns questions of agency and voice, the second points to the fluctuality of identity categories, and the third is about metaphorical uses of identity categories.
The chapter then applies these tools to the Pastorals. In these letters, children are never addressed directly. Nevertheless, they are the object of instructions, and the recipients are framed as metaphorical children. The chapter argues that this approach on the one hand reveals structures of power and silences in the text, and on the other supports the childist quest for children’s active role through a creative imagination of the lived experiences and blurred boundaries of everyday life.
This chapter explores the relationship between two emerging fields in biblical scholarship: masculinity studies and childhood studies. More specifically, it endeavors to explain why scholars of masculinity have thus far overlooked the potential of childhood studies as an informative conversation partner for their work. It argues that this oversight largely results from the genealogy of masculinity studies as the scion of feminist gender criticism, a connection that has inspired a great deal of reflection on the ways masculinity is constructed in opposition to femininity. As an unfortunate result, scholars have overlooked frequent examples where manhood is contrasted with boyhood, as with certain shaming acts referenced in the Hebrew Bible, and in the story of Jether—Gideon’s eldest son—in Judges 8. By acknowledging that, in the biblical world, masculinity is defined as often by one’s maturation out of boyhood as it is in distinction from femininity, the present lack of connection between masculinity and childhood studies can be overcome. The chapter concludes by discussing the potential for mutual edification between masculinity and childhood studies.
In this book, Stephen Lim offers a contextual way of reading biblical texts that reconceptualises context as an epistemic space caught between the modern/colonial world system and local networks of knowledge production. In this light, he proposes a multicentric dialogical approach that takes into account the privilege of specialist readers in relation to nonspecialist readers. At the same time, he rethinks what dialogue with the Other means in a particular context, which then decides the conversation partners brought in from the margins. This is applied to his context in Singapore through a reading of Daniel where perspectives from western biblical scholarship, Asian traditions and Singaporean cultural products are brought together to dialogue on issues of transformative praxis and identity formation.
Wom(b)an: A Cultural-Narrative Reading of the Hebrew Bible Barrenness Narratives Janice Pearl Ewurama De-Whyte offers a reading of the Hebrew Bible barrenness narratives. The original word “wom(b)an” visually underscores the centrality of a productive womb to female identity in the ANE and Hebrew contexts. Conversely, barrenness was the ultimate tragedy and shame of a woman. Utilizing Akan cultural custom as a lens through which to read the Hebrew barrenness tradition, De-Whyte uncovers another kind of barrenness within these narratives. Her term “social barrenness” depicts the various situations of childlessness that are generally unrecognized in western cultures due to the western biomedical definitions of infertility. Whether biological or social, barrenness was perceived to be the greatest threat to a woman’s identity and security as well as the continuity of the lineage.
Wom(b)an examines these narratives in light of the cultural meanings of barrenness within traditional cultures, ancient and present.
The author analyzes the poetic songs of biblical Lamentations with oral-poetic folkloric method for the first time with surprising results. Contemporary lament poems are then compared from recent post-war Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina about suffering in cities under siege.
Oral-poetic and socio-rhetorical methods illumine two lead singers in dialogue in a mourning context, employing formulas and themes of dirge, psalmic and prophetic traditions in their compositions, but infusing these with their individual artistry to respond to Jerusalem’s destruction.
Poets through history and across cultures share common ground in how they render the suffering of their war-torn cities. The prophet Jeremiah emerges in Lamentations as one lead singer by virtue of how he modifies traditional formulas (imagery, themes, terms) in response to the context. A woman emerges as another lead singer who pushes the limits of current theology in crisis.