Reading “The African American Bible” on Paper and in Class


The Journal of Biblical Literature recently published a series on ways that biblical scholars have engaged with #BlackLivesMatter in their work. Adele Reinhartz, the journal’s general editor, introduces the essays in this way:

In this Forum, six scholars reflect on how racial violence and the movements that attempt to eradicate such violence intersect with the field of biblical studies, both as an area of research and teaching and as an academic guild, on the complex relationship between scholarship and the larger historical and social context within which we experience ourselves as scholars, as members of intersecting groups and communities, and as human beings.

I was happy to contribute a piece called “The African American Bible: Bound in a Christian Nation.” (You can access it here.) It’s about the tension between the value of black life and Americans’  fascination with biblical accounts. In crafting an interpretive biblical history of identity politics, I challenge readers to wrestle with the fact that liberators and lynch mobs have gone to the same source.
Like much of my scholarship, this essay came out of the classroom. And it’s all the better because of colleagues who invited me to share it with their own students. Special thanks go out to the following colleagues:

  • S. Brent Plate, the Days-Massolo Center at Hamilton College, and the Society for Comparative Research in Iconic and Performative Texts.
  • Russell T. McCutcheon, the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, and the “Religion in Culture Lecture Series.”
  • President Carl Strikwerda, Elizabethtown College, the Presidential Community Enrichment Series, and the 2015 Church of the Brethren General Conference’s Elizabethtown College Alumni Gathering.

The essay was written with students in mind, so should you choose to assign it in a class, I’d be happy to Skype with students or respond to student questions.

I also encourage you to check out the other pieces in the Forum:


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