Professor David G. Horrell gives us a preview of the upcoming volume, co-edited with Dr. Katherine Hockey: Ethnicity, Race, Religion: Identities and Ideologies in Early Jewish and Christian Texts, and in Modern Biblical Interpretation.
- How would you describe this book in one sentence?
Our book offers a wide-ranging examination of the intersections between ethnicity, race, and religion in biblical interpretation, moving from ancient (and textual) constructions of ethnicity through selected studies in the history of interpretation, to conclude with various proposals for moving beyond the white, Western tradition that has dominated this field.
- What drew you to this subject?
In part it was the realisation that I had spent much of my career in New Testament studies without reflecting explicitly or critically on how my own racialized identity (as white) shaped and influenced my approach to interpretation. It struck me that this lack of reflection was possible for me (as a “white” scholar) in ways that would probably not be possible for those of other racialized or ethnic identities. This struck me as a failing which I should seek to address, and which would require attending to the voices and perspectives of others. I also began to think about the suspicion that the constructions of “Jewish” and “Christian” identities in much biblical study were likely to be influenced and shaped by the religious and ethnic or racial location of the interpreters – many of whom (like me) stand in an essentially Western, Christian tradition of scholarship, whether or not they are Christians themselves.
- How long have you been researching it? How did you come to study it?
I came to this area of research initially through studying 1 Peter, and specifically the use of “people”-terms in 2.9-10, and through the stimulus of Denise Kimber Buell’s much discussed book Why This New Race, published in 2005. After some work on 1 Peter, I began to outline a broader project on this theme, and received funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2015-17. This funding enabled Katherine Hockey to be employed to work with me on the project, and also allowed us to invite various scholars to a series of workshops and a conference at Exeter, from which this edited volume emerged. I plan to complete a monograph on the subject within the next year or so.
- What does your book focus on that hasn’t been explored elsewhere?
There are two features of the book I’d point to in particular. First, it deliberately spans both historical investigations into the construction of ethnic and religious identities and critical reflections on traditions and perspectives in interpretation – including proposals for moving beyond what one contributor calls “biblical studies’ race problem”. Second, it brings together an exceptional team of scholars who represent a wide diversity of contexts, traditions, and areas of expertise. But it does not label any of them specifically as “minority” scholars, nor claim to represent minoritized voices. This is because it seeks to embody an attempt precisely to move beyond the situation in which biblical studies is characterised by a dominant core (of “unlabelled” approaches, often historical in orientation, and traditionally dominated by white, Western, Christian scholars) and a “periphery” of alternative – and explicitly labelled - approaches, including those practised by scholars of other racial or ethnic identities. Instead, these various scholars and their work are presented as equally significant and pertinent contributions to the broad field of biblical studies – in ways that, I hope, as we say in the Preface, help “towards the emergence of biblical studies from its Eurocentric origins into a truly global discipline”.
Ethnicity, Race, Religion is available for pre-order now, and will be published on 28th June 2018!