Click here to subscribe to the all new Auckland Religion podcast which will showcase audio recordings from selected seminar talks and public lectures in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Auckland. The first episode is now live, and features Dr Sean Durbin’s (University of Newcastle, Australia) talk from last week to the Theology Research Seminar.
Information about an upcoming Theology Research Seminar presentation next Friday at the University of Auckland by Dr Sean Durbin from the University of Newcastle in Australia. All are welcome to attend…
‘It is what it is’: Myth-Making and Identity Formation on a Christian Zionist Tour of Israel
Dr Sean Durbin, University of Newcastle
Date: 2-3pm, Friday 17th July
Location: Arts 1, Room 201
This talk will critically examine the ways that evangelical pastors and Israeli tour guides employ religious language at various sites of interest on a Christian Zionist tour of Israel. It argues that applying religious discourse to descriptions of seemingly ordinary sites such as landscapes serves to mystify and naturalise what are otherwise highly contested political realities, by reframing them as manifestations of God’s will. Second, the talk will consider the way these rhetorical techniques work to reframe the touring group’s identity as more authentically Christian in relation to other Christian groups who visit different sites of interest in the region.
“The Deserter” by Boardman Robinson is an anti-war cartoon from 1916 which depicts Jesus up against a stone wall facing a firing squad made up of soldiers from five different European countries. While at the time of its publication the USA had not yet entered the First World War, Robinson’s cartoon was a statement against the mounting pressure for it to partake.
As well as being an editorial cartoonist, Robinson was a socialist. At the outbreak of the war Robinson resigned from his job at the New York Tribune and began to produce cartoons for the left-wing magazine, The Masses. After the USA entered the war in 1917, The Masses came under increasing pressure from the government for its anti-war cartoons. In July, it was claimed by the authorities that Robinson’s cartoons violated the Espionage Act, under which it was an offence to publish material that undermined the war effort. Along with a few others, Robinson was arrested for treason and was put on trial twice, although both trials resulted in hung juries.
“Christ in the Desert” (1872) is an oil painting by the Russian artist Ivan Kramskoi and depicts the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness (Mt. 4.1-11).
Aesthetically, the painting uses cold colours, shows Jesus in deep contemplation or perhaps experiencing angst. It envisages Jesus as a vulnerable, human figure, which is unusual and even provocative for people who are much more used to seeing the glorified, exalted Jesus in Christian art and through popular culture.
You may recognize the image from the cover of my book The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (2014). For me, the image encapsulates the destitution, desperation and alienation from normalized society that is integral to a critical understanding of Jesus’ homelessness. It also undermines to a certain extent the “romanticizing” of Jesus’ homelessness that typically occurs in scholarly interpretations of his itinerancy. Within Matthew, the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness is the second cycle of homelessness in which Jesus is “forcefully displaced” (the first being the flight to Egypt in 2.13-23) — although this time not by political adversaries but by “the Spirit of God” which leads him out into the wilderness where he is tested. It is immediately following this period of testing and withdrawal that Jesus inaugurates his itinerant mission.
I 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.
I should point out that, in my newly appointed capacity as secretary of the Aotearoa-New Zealand Association for Biblical Studies (ANZABS), I created a Facebook group a couple of months back where members can discuss the latest and exciting happenings in New Zealand biblical scholarship. There is also a related email list that passes on important announcements, particularly around the time of the annual conference.
The ANZABS Facebook group takes pride of place as #1 on the Biblioblog Top 50 ‘Complete List of Facebook Biblical Studies Pages‘ thanks to its high ranking in alphabetical listings.
Having now completed my PhD at Auckland (and graduating last Tuesday!) I’m venturing out and starting my own blog to chronicle a new research project, ‘The Bible & Class Struggle‘.
The Auckland Theology team blog will continue to be updated by members of staff and postgraduates in the School of Theology at the University of Auckland but from now on my own posts will be located over on the new blog.