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.


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.