Tuesday, October 20, 2009

is God holding a white-y Bible? (chapter four)

This continues a review of Mark Brett’s Decolonizing God: The Bible in the Tides of Empire and the question of whether God’s book, the Bible, really is an instrument that increases the power of white-y/Western cultures. For me, such conversations are essential to whether an emerging church can get beyond a stylistic makeover, and actually be part of a post- world in which the Bible can have a liberating, rather than enslaving, place in the task of being Christian and being church.

Chapter four. Pigs, Pots and Cultural Hybrids.

There is a convergence between the biblical narrative and archaeological reconstructions, not in terms of an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from Egypt that in one swoop defeated Canaan, but in terms of a developing unique identity among indigenous Canaanites, evolving over time, in negotiated contact with neighbours. This includes contact with refugees from Egypt, bringing the name Yahweh to Canaan.

Archaeological evidence suggests some hundreds of new settlements in the hill country around the 12th century BCE. (Of course, more evidence might be discovered in the future, but this is an argument from silence).

Biblical evidence includes the fact that Bible book of Joshua only mentions the burning of three Canaanite cities (Jericho, Ai and Hazor) and of these, only Jericho enacts the “holy Jihad” of Deuteronomy 20:16. It also includes the fact that Amos 9:7 describes multiple Exodus narratives. (This reminds Israel that their landrights are not exclusive. More, if they do not act justly, they will forfeit their land.)

“In the course of time, and especially with the rise of urban centres, one group within Israel developed an understanding of El-Yahweh that made the worship of other gods incompatible with Israelite identity, even though many aspects of culture continued to be shared with Indigenous neighbours. In principle, there is nothing problematic with this development, since no ethnic group is static.” (Brett, Decolonizing God, 77, 78)

For discussion: What are the implications of ethnic identity is framed as ‘part of a continuum of ethnic groups with overlapping borders … held together by a founding … set of … narratives about how this particular group came into being’ (70)? Is God any less powerful if he is part of such an evolving story?

For all the posts relating to this book/blog review go here.

Posted by steve at 09:30 PM


  1. “Is God any less powerful if He is part of such an evolving story” Reminds me of a saying I heard a lot in my childhood: “God’s mills grind slowly, but thoroughly” (kind of humorous variation: “God’s mills grind slowly, but awfully small.” or maybe not so funny)

    Comment by Ingrid — October 21, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  2. Thanks Ingrid. The first iteration of the quote I like.

    It certainly makes sense to think of our culture slowly developing, and then why not apply that to the growth of Israel in Old Testament.


    Comment by steve — October 21, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

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