Sarah Parkhouse, University of Manchester & Siobhan Jolley, The National Gallery, London/King’s College London, ‘“What is hidden from you, I will proclaim to you.” Storytelling and the Gospel(s) of Mary (Magdalene?)’
The notion of telling and proclamation is central to the narrative of the Gospel of Mary (see Gos. Mary, 10,8-9) and to the accounts of Mary Magdalene found in the canonical Gospels (especially John 20). It is not without irony, therefore, that the creative reception of these texts has been characterised by a similar desire to retell. This paper will analyse the way that Mary’s story is told and received in these ancient texts and how that dynamic is reciprocated in contemporary creative expressions (e.g. Dyas 2022, Blake 2023).
Using the notion of storytelling as an interpretive lens, we will test the limits of nebulous categories such as ‘reception’ and seek to trouble patriarchal accounts of knowledge as fixed and text as formulated. Ultimately, the paper will consider what can be gained by conceiving of Mary’s story beyond traditional boundaries and how feminist fabulation provides a productive paradigm for thinking with ancient texts.
Olabisi Obamakin, University of Exeter, ‘Don’t touch my hair: A feminist Nigerian/British reading of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair in Luke 7.36-50’
Whilst postcolonial and African biblical interpretation have become more established in recent scholarship, there has been little, if any, consideration of the particular hybrid location of scholarship which is neither ‘African’ nor ‘European’ but formed precisely in the space formed by the long historical connections between these continents and peoples. As a Black British woman of Nigerian heritage, my ‘Afropean’ epistemological lens therefore, attempts to take into cognizance: hyper-sexuality, ‘otherness’, displacement, colonisation, and power. Here an Afropean epistemological lens is applied to the Woman who Washed Jesus’s Feet with her Hair in Luke 7.36-50. In doing so new possibilities arise beyond the hypersexualised Eurocentric interpretation of this woman displaying a highly erotic act. Using a Nigerian/British epistemology, informed by Emma Dabiri’s novel Don’t Touch My Hair (2019), in which hair is viewed as a symbol of colonisation, ‘otherness’ and displacement, this woman emerges not only as a sexualised figure, but also as a heroic female prophetess.
Florence Draguet, Université catholique de Louvain, ‘“What does this branch do when it is cut off? It cries…” (Jeanne Guyon): Some Female Readings of the Johannine Pericope of the Vine and its Branches’
According to John 15:1-2 the vinedresser cuts the branch to enable it to bear more fruit. There is no reference to ‘suffering’ or related concepts in verse 2, and yet, unlike the male commentators of their time, some women interpreters have insisted that the verse in question refers to ‘tribulation’. This paper will analyse how three women, in different time periods, have read this verse in light of interpretations offered by their male contemporaries: Catherine of Siena (14th c.), Jeanne Guyon (17th c.), and Adrienne von Speyr (20th c.). The interpretive and interdisciplinary approach adopted in this article allows us to pursue new lines of research in the light of a particular reading of John 15:2 and its reception and to consider what this reading contributes to the hermeneutics of the text as well as to certain theological and even sociological questions.
James Crossley, CenSAMM/MF Oslo, ‘The Making of the English Working-Class Jesus’
Despite Engels and others noting the popularity of a cheap translation of Strauss’ Das Leben Jesu circulating among the English working class of the early 1840s, such readers and interpreters have been overlooked in scholarship. In this paper, I will use newspapers from the mass working-class movement of the time—Chartism—to show the ways a ‘human’ or ‘historical’ Jesus was understood. This included a stress on class-based classifications of Jesus’ life, teaching, and disputes which corresponded with a class-based constructions of English identity and mid-nineteenth-century disputes over political reform. Influences beyond Strauss will also be examined, e.g., inherited receptions of artisan, working-class, millenarian, and dissenting historical Jesuses. The quest for historical Jesus was part of emerging bourgeois nationalism; this paper will show how the emerging working-class Jesus could both provide support for this development and against bourgeois dominance.
Tracy Lesan, University of Edinburgh, ‘A New Twist to an Old Debate: Lightfoot vs Baur, Paul vs Peter and Galatians 2’
Two nineteenth-century giants in NT theology, J. B. Lightfoot and F. C. Baur, published diametrically opposing portraits of the relationship between the apostles Paul and Peter. Baur and his Tübingen School argued for a sharp dichotomy between Paul’s ministry among Gentiles and Peter’s among Jews, even to the point of positing two, separate, apostolic proclamations about Jesus. Lightfoot forcefully countered with an assertion of essential apostolic unity, especially in matters concerning the (one) Christian gospel, and thus set the standard that has been followed by the vast majority of NT scholars ever since.
I propose a fresh angle on this weighty issue from the perspective of Galatians 1—2, which, intriguingly, both Lightfoot and Baur considered the primary textual battleground. While following Lightfoot’s more traditional views concerning the ultimately peaceable relations among the first followers of Jesus, I think that the distinction which Baur drew between Paul’s εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας and Peter’s [εὐαγγέλιον] τῆς περιτομῆς in Galatians 2:7 deserves to be reexamined and may actually prove to be exegetically sound.
Martina Vercesi, University of Glasgow, ‘Authors, Scribes, and Readers: Rethinking the Gospels in Contemporary Research’
This paper discusses past and recent avenues of the Gospels’ research considering three significant aspects of the interactions with these texts: authors, scribes, and readers. Indeed, what is the role of these figures in the history of the transmission of the Gospels? With regard to authorial identity, different perspectives have been proposed such as the supposed anonymity of the Gospels, or the investigation of the role of the evangelists. On the other hand, the study of reception of these texts from the second century onward has concentrated on examining various reconstructed audiences and their features. More recently, the so-called New Philology has focuses the attention on scribes, claiming the value of paratexts and the context of the production of manuscripts. In this intricate mix of theories, it is my purpose to explore how we can combine these different viewpoints, finding out what is at stake in contemporary research, in the attempt to discover how we can progress for a much better understanding of the Gospels in antiquity and beyond.
James F. Broad, Liverpool Hope University, ‘“Murder the Flesh”: The Use of Galatians 5:24 in UK Christian Rap Music’
Language regarding notions of ‘murder of the flesh’ are employed in the construction and presentation of religious identity in UK Christian rap songs, informed by an interpretation of Galatians 5:24. This paper will analyse lyrics from selected songs to explore how flesh is presented as separate to, or often in conflict with, a post-conversion self. The rhetorical use of multiple selves functions comparatively in the ongoing construction of the post-conversion self, understanding the desires of the flesh as part of pre-conversion life. Consequently, this paper will consider how the former self, as represented by flesh, is conceptualised as an enemy that must be murdered. Within this context, rather than being a single experience at conversion, lyric analysis will show that Galatians 5:24 ‘murder’ is understood and presented as a repeated process that must occur daily in the construction and maintenance of a new, post-conversion identity.
David G. Horrell, University of Exeter, Decolonising New Testament Studies?
Moves to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum are prominent in UK universities at present, and challenge us to consider what this would mean for our own discipline, in research as well as in teaching. In this short paper I outline some initial reflections on this topic, and illustrate the possibilities with a brief consideration of selected examples from Latin America and from Africa. The challenge goes beyond (though certainly requires) diversifying the voices and perspectives represented in the discipline, to include the critical ‘parochialising’ of the dominant European traditions and approaches, as well as deconstructing and challenging the structures of power that determine what the tasks and methods of the discipline are taken to be. The selected examples, though brief, will raise challenges about epistemology and purpose, and also about the relationships between history, exegesis, theology, and contemporary engagement.
Grace Emmett & Ryan Collman, University of Sheffield, ‘Commissioning Paul in Neon and Oil: The Reimagining Paul Project and Approaches to Visual Exegesis’
Reimagining Paul (www.reimaginingpaul.co.uk) is an exhibition featuring two newly commissioned works of art: a neon text piece by Bettina Furnée and an oil painting by Elizabeth Tooth. Both pieces correspond to themes in 2 Corinthians with the goal of “reimagining” Paul, drawing viewers’ attention to Pauline texts and themes connected to identity they might be less familiar with.
This paper will reflect on the project’s progress so far, paying particular attention to the different layers at reciprocity of “reimagining” at work. As the two researchers associated with the project, we will analyse our experience of commissioning art, working with partners outside academia, and public engagement delivery. We will do this in dialogue with the three typologies of visual exegesis outlined by Ben Quash (2022), noting the ways in which Reimagining Paul itself shifts between each of these three modes.
Overall, this paper will contribute a fresh perspective to conversations about the Bible and visual arts by exploring methodology associated with visual exegesis from the position of academic and visual arts commissioner.