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Jesus and the Poor: Western Biblical Scholarship, Structural Violence, and Postcolonialism

Sandford, Michael J (2012) Jesus and the Poor: Western Biblical Scholarship, Structural Violence, and Postcolonialism. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This work offers a postcolonial critique of Western Jesus scholarship, focused specifically on discussions about Jesus and ‘the poor’ in British and North American scholarship. While remaining heavily engaged with Western biblical studies, this work challenges fundamental assumptions and projects of Western biblical studies, such as the ‘Quest for the Historical Jesus’, ultimately calling for postcolonial and liberationist readings to be acknowledged in the field as equally valid. This work begins by using standard Western historical-critical methods to examine the extent to which Jesus and the gospel texts may have been shaped by social and economic factors. Focusing on Luke 4:16-30 and the ‘good news to the poor’ that Jesus announces at the Nazareth synagogue, it is argued that Western scholarship has tended to downplay the social and economic dimension of numerous gospel texts and sayings of Jesus. Further, it is argued that a large amount of scholarly work on Luke 4:16-30 downplays social and economic readings in favour of anti-Judaic and missionary focused readings, which ultimately serve to support Western religious imperialism and oppression of marginalised groups. The subjectivity of such readings is highlighted, and it is argued that such readings result from the positionality of the scholars in the US and the UK who, whilst purporting to illuminate history and the nature of the divine, end up producing writings that legitimise Western supremacy and ultimately perpetuate oppression. Themes central to recent postcolonial biblical criticism, such as Jesus’ relationship to Empire, and methods of resistance to structural violence are also explored. It is concluded that, paradoxically, Jesus offered a fierce critique of the rich through ‘positive nonviolence’, utilising the threat of divine punishment in the afterlife to challenge the structural violence of economic inequality; a reading that has hitherto not been allowed to surface due to the firm grasp that Western capitalism has had upon biblical scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Biblical Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.564147
Depositing User: Michael J Sandford
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2013 16:39
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2016 14:11
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2903

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