Win a book!

Over on Robert Myles’ blog there is a chance for you to win yourself a copy of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historians Account of His Life and Teaching

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Two Theology public lectures

Theology and the School of Humanities at Auckland are delighted to welcome not one, but two distinguished guests to the University and the city this week. Professor R.S. Sugirtharajah and Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah (both from the University of Birmingham, UK) will each be presenting a public lecture this week at the University. Details are below, and we hope to see you at the lectures!

Professor R.S. Sugirtharajah, ‘The King James Bible and its impact on the Colonies’

Thursday 7 August, 6-7 pm, Lecture Theatre 209, Level 2, Arts 1 (building 206), University of Auckland.

r-s-sugirtharajahThe King James Version was promoted in the colonies as ‘the book your Emperor reads’. The first part of the lecture will look at how it acted as a cultural powerhouse determining the values and accuracies of various vernacular versions, but, more pertinently, how the colonized themselves subverted and desacralized the White Man’s book. The second part will examine how an undisputed universal script has now given way to a number of Bibles designated to attract specific audiences. Now there is a Green Bible, a Gay and Lesbian Bible, an African Bible, a New American Bible, a Youth Bible, The Bible in Cockney, a People’s Bible, and a Pocket Canon, each edition featuring a single biblical book commented on by a celebrity or media personality. The universal script has not only fragmented into several splinter Bibles, but, far worse, it has become closely allied to the entertainment industry and presented as an easy consumable commercial object. What this lecture tries to do is to look at the post-modern, post-colonial fate of an artefact which emerged as a shining example of modernity and the book of the British empire.

bible and asiaR.S. Sugirtharajah was born and brought up in Sri Lanka and had his postgraduate education in India and the UK. He is Professor Emeritus in Biblical Hermeneutics at Birmingham University, UK, and has taught and lectured in several countries. He is author and editor of significant volumes on biblical studies, including Postcolonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation (Oxford University Press), The Bible and Asia (Harvard University Press), Exploring Postcolonial Biblical Criticism (Wiley-Blackwell), and The Bible and Empire (Cambridge University Press). His writings have been translated into several languages.

Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah, ‘Religious Pluralism: Hindu Perspectives’

Friday 8 August, 2-3 pm, Room 523, Level 5, Arts 1 (building 206), University of Auckland

sugirtharajah-sharadaReligious pluralism continues to be a contentious issue in today’s globalized world. This lecture will look at Hindu engagement with this debate. There has been a tendency to view Hindu approaches to religious pluralism largely through the prism of a particular Hindu school (Advaita Vedanta). The aim of the lecture is to show that there are multiple Hindu approaches to religious pluralism and that no one perspective can be privileged as representing the entire tradition. The lecture will look at how Hindus perceive religious diversity within their own tradition as well how they relate to other religious traditions. Focusing on modern Hindu thinkers, the paper will draw attention to similarities and differences in their approaches to religious pluralism and conflicting truth-claims.

imagininghinduism_largerfcDr Sharada Sugirtharajah is Senior Lecturer in Hindu Studies in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham (UK). Her research focuses on representation of Hinduism in colonial and postcolonial writings. With John Hick, she is editor of Religious Pluralism and the Modern World: An Ongoing Engagement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and Imagining Hinduism: A Postcolonial Perspective (Routledge, 2003).

For further details, please contact Professor Elaine Wainwright, Theology, University of Auckland.

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The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew

cov266I thought I would help this blog out by engaging in a bit of shameless self promotion. In case you have an aversion to following my personal blog ‘The Bible and Class Struggle’ you may not be aware that my new book The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew was recently published by Sheffield Phoenix Press in the Social World of Biblical Antiquity series. If you order it from the publisher’s website, individual scholars and students can get a 50% discount. I’ve included the blurb below:

If homelessness typically entails a loss of social power and agency, then why do New Testament scholars so often envisage Jesus’ itinerancy as a chosen lifestyle devoid of hardship?

In this provocative new reading of the Gospel of Matthew, Robert J. Myles explores the disjuncture between Jesus and homelessness by exposing the political biases of modern Western readers. Drawing on the ideological politics of homelessness in contemporary society, Myles develops an interpretative lens informed by the Marxist critique of neoliberalism and, in particular, by the critical theory of Slavoj Žižek. Homelessness, from this perspective, is viewed not as an individual choice but rather as the by-product of wider economic, political and social forces. Myles argues that Jesus’ homelessness has become largely romanticized in recent biblical scholarship. Is the flight to Egypt, for instance, important primarily for its recasting of Jesus as the new Moses, or should the basic narrative of forced displacement take centre stage? The remedy, Myles contends, is to read directly against the grain of contemporary scholarship by interpreting Jesus’ homelessness through his wider economic, political and social context, as it is encoded in the biblical text.

To demonstrate how ideology is complicit in shaping the interpretation of a homeless Jesus, a selection of texts from the Gospel of Matthew is re-read to amplify the destitution, desperation and constraints on agency that are integral to a critical understanding of homelessness. What emerges is a refreshed appreciation for the deviancy of Matthew’s Jesus, in which his status as a displaced and expendable outsider is identified as contributing to the conflict and violence of the narrative, leading ultimately to his execution on the cross.

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Public lecture

Theology at Auckland is delighted to be hosting Dr Christopher Parr from Webster University, St Louis, when he visits Auckland next week to deliver a public lecture here in the School of Humanities. Dr Parr is a Kiwi, who now lives and works over in the US, where he teaches East Asian Religions. He also has an interest in religion as it stands in relation to political conflicts, international cultures, literature and the arts, and media and popular culture. His lecture promises to be fascinating, so please do come along.

Religions as Maps of Reality: An Approach to Understanding Religion(s) for use in Multiple Disciplinary Contexts

Dr Christopher Parr, Webster University

Tuesday 10 June, 12-1pm, Lecture theatre 209, Level 2, Arts 1 Building (14 A Symonds Street, Auckland)

Religions have not disappeared (as the secularization thesis and many earnest atheists have forecast) – instead, numerous aspects of contemporary life are profoundly affected by religious commitments, histories, and conflicts. Dr Parr will show that the model of religions as ‘maps of reality’ can enable academic disciplines, not least those traditionally inimical to religion, to take religious adherence into account, and cope with it productively. He will relate this model to literature and the visual arts, international politics, and the health sciences, and then invite the audience to raise other academic and intepretive contexts in which to test the model’s applicability. He will also propose this model as instructive for Religious Studies itself.


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A date for your diary


Come and hear Dr. Robert Myles, current Resident Scholar at Vaughan Park, speak about The Homeless Jesus of Late Capitalism on Tuesday 20 May 2014 at 7pm. For venue details and directions, click here.

Robert, a previous contributor to this blog, gained his PhD at the University of Auckland in 2013. His thesis, entitled, ““Jesus the Bum: An Ideological Reading of Homelessness in the Gospel of Matthew,” was recently awarded the prestigious Vice Chancellor’s prize for best doctoral thesis at the University of Auckland, 2013, and will be published later this year by Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Robert’s lecture at Vaughan Park will explore how the interconnected contemporary concerns of cultural indeterminacy, individualism, the free market, personal responsibility, deregulated capitalism, and the liberal masking of structures of power are deeply intertwined with modern interpretations of the Bible and most especially in interpretations of the connection between Jesus and homelessness.

Did Jesus ‘choose’ to live a homeless lifestyle as part of his prophetic mission, or was his itinerant condition thrust upon him by external socio-economic and political forces? This lecture analyses the Gospel of Matthew in particular to see what conclusions might be drawn.

To register, click on link or email / phone 09 473 2600.

Robert’s book The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is now available for pre-order.


Kramskoi, Christ in the desert

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New publication of note

biblebordersbelonging-cover-frontA fabulous new book has just been published by the Society of Biblical Literature (Semeia Studies Series), edited by Jione Havea, David J. Neville and Theology at Auckland’s very own Elaine Wainwright. The book, titled Bible, Borders, Belonging(s): Engaging Readings from Oceania, contains a series of essays by scholars from Oceania, including both Elaine Wainwright and also Auckland University Hebrew Bible lecturer, Nasili Vaka’uta. The book’s 14 essays discuss the impacts of natural disasters and political and ecological upheavals on biblical interpretation and theological reflection. They therefore open a new dialogue regarding the complex and ‘slippery’ nature of the Bible and the fluid meanings of borders (including borders of a text, thought, nation, community, or body) and belongings (to place, group, movement, and material and cultural possessions).

Below is a list of contributors and the titles of their contributions. Definitely a book to check out, I’m sure you will agree.


Jione Havea, Engaging Scriptures from Oceania

Elaine Wainwright, “Save Us! We Are Perishing!”: Reading Matthew 8:23–27 in the Face of Devastating Floods

David J. Neville, Calamity and the Biblical God—Borderline or Line of Belonging? Intratextual Tension in Luke 13

Kathleen P. Rushton, On the Crossroads between Life and Death: Reading Birth Imagery in John in the Earthquake-Changed Regions of Otautahi Christchurch

John Painter, The Prologue of John: Bridge into a New World

Ruth Sheridan, Jewish Readings of the Fourth Gospel: Beyond the Pale?

Merilyn Clark, Mapping the Boundaries of Belonging: Another Look at Jacob’s Story

Judith E. McKinlay, Slipping across Borders and Bordering on Conquest: A Contrapuntal Reading of Numbers 13

Nāsili Vaka‘uta, Border Crossing/Body Whoring: Rereading Rahab of Jericho with Native Women

Jeanette Mathews, Deuteronomy 30: Faithfulness in the Refugee Camps of Moab, Babylonia, and Beyond

Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Reading Rizpah across Borders, Cultures, Belongings … to India and Back

Jeffrey W. Aernie, Borderless Discipleship: The Syrophoenician Woman as a Christ-Follower in Mark 7:24–30

Jione Havea, Bare Feet Welcome: Redeemer Xs Moses @ Enaim

Gregory C. Jenks, The Sign of Jonah: Reading Jonah on the Boundaries and from the Boundaries


Michele A. Connolly, Gospel Maps: Intersections of Life

David M. Gunn, Breaking Bible Boundaries

Mark G. Brett, Bordering on Redemption

Book details

Bible, Borders, Belonging(s): Engaging Readings from Oceania, edited by Jione Havea, David J. Neville, and Elaine M. Wainwright. Semeia Series 75. Atlanta, GA: SBL, 2014. ISBN: 9781589839557  eISBN 9781589839571



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Meyers Lecture – reminder

A reminder that tomorrow, we are hosting two very distinguished scholars – Professors Carol and Eric Meyers from Duke University are visiting the University of Auckland and will be delivering a public lecture on 4 March at 6pm. Details below [and please note change of room].

Theology at the University of Auckland Public Lecture

Tuesday 4 March, 6pm

Venue: Arts 1, 14a Symonds Street, room 220 (206-220)

Holy Land Archaeology: Where the Past Meets the Present

Professors Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers (Duke University, North Carolina)

E  and C  meyers

Archaeology is commonly understood as the study of human life in the past by analyzing the material remains of the past. But it is not usually recognized that the archaeological quest for the past is inevitably shaped by the excavators’ present. Professors Carol and Eric Meyers will use four case studies to illustrate the intersection between the discoveries at ancient sites and the pressures of the modern world. They will first present the stunning mosaics of the Beth Alpha synagogue in the context of the early Jewish settlement of the “Promised Land.” Then the excavations of Hazor, the largest biblical-era site in Israel, will be set against the background of the early days of the State of Israel. Next, the ruins atop the towering plateau of Masada near the Dead  Sea will be considered in light of the nationalist loyalties of the excavators. Finally, the discoveries at Sepphoris, a major Galilean city in the Roman and Byzantine periods, are viewed in relation to the turmoil in the Holy Land since the first intifada.

 CAROL MEYERS holds the Mary Grace Wilson Professorship in Religion at Duke University. She is a specialist in biblical studies and archaeology, as well as in the study of women in the biblical world. Author of many books and articles in these fields, one of her most recent works is Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (OUP, 2012). She is a trustee of the American Schools of Oriental Research and of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, serves on the board of directors of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, and is immediate past-president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

ERIC MEYERS holds the Bernice and Morton Lerner Chair in Jewish Studies at Duke University. His specialties include biblical studies and archaeology with a focus on the Second Temple and Greco-Roman period. His most recent publications include co-edited volumes Alexander to Constantine: Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, vol. 3 with Mark Chancey (Yale University Press, 2012) and The Pottery from Ancient Sepphoris (Eisenbrauns, 2013) with Carol Meyers. He is the past three-term president of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

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