Bible as Politics, The
A controversial and radical study of the Bible portraying it as a political rather than religious book.
If you suspect the Biblical writers were onto something, but aren't convinced by the sentimental religion-of-love talk you hear so much nowadays, then maybe you will find hope reading this book.
Did you know that the Creation Myths in the Bible were copied from earlier Mesopotamian myths? Or that the Moses story was based on a bloke called Sargon? Or that the story of Job is all to do with politics? Or that the two loaves, five fishes and the number 153 have symbolic meanings?
These are just a few of the issues addressed in this controversial book which is not for people who like their God as Indefinable Mystery.
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Stories in the Bible are as much about relationships as theology. They are often vivid and disturbing, working on many levels and open to literal, metaphorical and symbolic reading. Parker looks at these stories ideologically and politically, teasing out the ways in which people have tried to understand and articulate their relationship with God. When reading biblical stories, Parker believes in three broad approaches: literal and conservative; liberal; and his own – political and ideological. The book spends its first half on Old Testament stories, whilst its second half focuses on the New Testament. With each one, Parker develops his argument about the Biblical as political. Adam and Eve become morally aware in the garden and are able to break free from ‘a centrarchical ideology’ of an authoritarian God: as a result they have to leave, but at least they are responsible now. Job is not brought down through sin but is a revolutionary and prophetic figure, confronting God face-to-face, looking for a direct non-judgemental covenantal relationship with God. The story of Jonah and the whale becomes a parable lampooning conservatism. Jesus is seen as ideological, rather than a ‘full-on’ revolutionary – the people wanted and needed ideas about political transformation, Parker admits that this is often not the stance people take today, and in an opinionated and often stimulating book, he highlights how theological conservatives and liberals clash. Stories are often over-parsed in literal terms, neglecting the symbolic and side-lining the political, obscured by a mistaken view that the Christian God is merely authoritarian and that Christians should be reactive rather than proactive. Drawing from the vineyard and Emmaus stories, Parker admits his own socialist beliefs are deeply challenged by the story of the workers in the vineyard: gut trade-unions responses to the story weaken its political impact, and literalism ~ Stuart Hannabuss
In this book, Andrew Parker proposes the Bible is a political book, rather than a religious one. For him, Yahweh is essentially a god of the marginalised and the Bible essentially offering a coherent ideological message. One level, this is profoundly irritating. The tone is often hectoring, with Parker frequently expressing frustration with those who don’t agree with him. Which is quite a lot. At one point he states that of all the 50 books by 30 Biblical scholars he has read, they are all wrong. This is not a man plagued with self-doubt. The style can range from polysyllabic, to the toe-curlingly demotic. But it’s worth working your way through all of this. He deals in detail with a number of Biblical passages, and in all cases his arguments are engaging, stimulating and – especially with his final chapter on the Labourers in the Vineyard – compelling. If you don’t want your understanding of the Bible to be challenged, stay well away. If you want to be able to see the Bible in a completely new perspective, than this is for you. ~ Nicholas Lowton Craswall, The NEWSpaper’ (Issue 64/Winter 2013)
An incredibly deep and rich book which really is a must for anyone wanting to really get to the meaning of politics and to the core concepts of some of the stories in the Bible. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, it digs deeply at some ideas and stories in the Bible, looking at them from not just a political position but from a point of biblical investigation. The book digs past the surface to look at the original meaning of texts which have been lost over time. In doing this it challenges readers preconceived ideas. It's an intense but easily readable book that focuses us on what the Bible is in many ways really about and what it might be calling us to if we really look into it. It is many ways a deeply subversive book - in the best way; a political book in the truest sense and an excellent read all round. ~ Melanie Carroll, Together Magazine
Andrew Parker offers a perspective on the Bible as a collection of texts, which are not primarily about religion but political struggle. Included in the Bible is a witness to the message of ‘the God of the marginals’, alongside a revisionist theology which watered down the power of the revolutionary stories. In the process of expounding his thesis Andrew teases out significant ideological and theological threads running through the biblical texts. His studies of the struggles reflected in the pages of the Bible illuminate the commitments of the varied protagonists in writing which is passionate, exegetically insightful and always thought-provoking. ~ Prof Chris Rowland, Queen's College, Oxford
Andrew Parker’s readings of familiar biblical texts as presenting a marginal, political, ideological Hebrew worldview, profoundly in opposition to the status quo (then and now both) is contentious, illuminating and genuinely challenging. He stimulates in his readers; dialogue and questioning, sometimes agreement and often fury, but always passionate engagement. This in itself makes this book worth reading. But it is, equally, a valuable discipline in struggling to SEE from a very different perspective than the one we usually allow ourselves when reading the Bible. Kathy Galloway ~ Kathy Galloway, former leader of the Iona Community, Head of Christian Aid, Scotland
In this book, to which he brings a life-time of study, Andrew Parker presents fascinating studies of key passages of the Bible. His is a radical work, investigating the consequences of his claim that the Bible is political rather than religious and, in particular, the role of ‘the marginalised'. Offering, as it does, such a challenging perspective because it is elaborated against the background of rigorous and meticulous scholarship, no-one seriously interested in the Bible can afford to ignore it. ~ Prof DWD Shaw, emeritus Professor of Divinity, University of St Andrews