Theses/Dissertations - Religion

Permanent URI for this collection


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 119
  • Item
    The preferential option : a diachronic analysis of the meaning of 'liberation' and the use of Marx in Gustavo Gutiérrez.
    (2023-08) Stuebben, Gerhard, 1990-; Cardoza-Orlandi, Carlos F., 1961-
    This dissertation both corrects an error and fills a lacuna in contemporary secondary literature on Gustavo Gutiérrez. Against a substantial trend in recent studies on the theologian, I argue that Gutiérrez was much more dependent on Marxist analysis in his early work than is today often recognized or, in some cases, admitted. I propose, as well, a novel thesis for Gutiérrez’s development on the topic of Marxist analysis that explains seeming contradictions within his work that have given rise to these errors. I argue that Gutiérrez’s pre-1989 work should be divided into an “Early” and a “Late” era, separated by the third meeting of the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano y Caribeño (CELAM). The conference was organized by anti-liberationist elements within the Church hierarchy in order to strangle the upstart Liberation Theology movement, but creative interference by Gutiérrez, other Liberation Theologians, and a cadre of sympathetic bishops forced the anti-liberationist faction of the conference into a compromise. The official proceedings of Puebla condemned the theory of Marxist analysis but affirmed Gutiérrez’s basic ethical vision, which it formalized as the “preferential option for the poor.” After Puebla Gutiérrez’s public self-presentation on the topic of Marxist analysis changed drastically and consistently along precisely these lines. In his work immediately after the conference and consistently until his revision of Teología de la liberación, Gutiérrez began writing about Marxist analysis in a way that would fit within the “Puebla Compromise,” both keeping him within the good graces of the Church and simultaneously allowing his advocacy for the poor to retain the Church’s imprimatur rather than coming under its censure.
  • Item
    The persistence of penance : evangelical alternatives for the sacrament of penance.
    (May 2023) Prather, Scott T., 1977-; Whitford, David M. (David Mark)
    This dissertation explores the formation of Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptist alternatives for the functions of the sacrament of penance. It makes use of normative documents that guided the medieval practice of penance, the theological writings of Protestant reformers, and legislation that governed church–state institutions of discipline. It follows the evolution of penance through the Middle Ages from its inception in Celtic Monasteries to the late medieval period when it became a mandatory religious practice for all believers. During that development, penance became a significant aspect of European social and religious life that played important sociological roles in regulating norms of behavior and belief. This work focuses on the roles of disciplining and controlling behavior and consoling anxious consciences. Each stream of Protestantism rejected the sacrament of penance but established alternatives that carried out its functions in ways unique to their respective contexts. They also differentiated those functions and created specialized alternatives to carry out the functions they found most important. Luther highly prized the consoling function of penance and developed a form of confession bereft of disciplining features so that it could be used solely to console anxious individuals. Magisterial reformers in the Lutheran and Reformed churches worked with the state to establish and operate controlling institutions that interrogated, corrected, educated, and punished those who transgressed normative bounds. By cooperating with the state, the magisterial churches enjoyed stability and longevity, and their alternatives had access to state powers, increasing their efficacy. Anabaptists, however, evolved into a movement that eventually rejected church–state cooperation. They created alternatives for discipline in which the entire congregation was required to participate. Their choice to reject cooperation with the state and to accept pacifist separation meant they rarely enjoyed the stability and longevity of magisterial reformers. The alternatives maintained the functions penance had served for a millennium. These institutions and rituals were shaped by changes in their respective contexts, including existing church–state relationships, impulses to democratize power, early modern impulses to concentrate power in the hands of secular elites, and competing goals for the proper use of the power to discipline and console.
  • Item
    Debt in the divine economy.
    (May 2023) Sutherland, Andrew W., 1991-; Harvey, Barry, 1954-
    Analyses of the conceptual relations between Christianity and capitalism have typically viewed the language of debt in Christian soteriology critically. Concepts of debt in God’s economy of salvation, several scholars have argued, resonate with concepts of debt under contemporary capitalism that serve extractive and oppressive purposes. As a result, these soteriological concepts of debt allegedly undermine Christian theology’s ability to challenge the deleterious debts of contemporary capitalism—or worse, the former provide moral and theological reinforcement for the latter. In this dissertation I offer a more expansive, nuanced account of how the language of debt is used in depictions of the divine economy by analyzing this usage in three seminal models of atonement theology: ransom, satisfaction, and penal substitution. In so doing, I draw out the diversity and complexity of ways in which “debt” in these models of the divine economy relates conceptually to debt under contemporary capitalism, highlighting points of both resonance and resistance. I also analyze how specific theological factors—beyond the mere idea of Christ’s paying a debt to save sinners—influence these various patterns of resonance and resistance. Ultimately, I submit that the more theologies of salvation abstract “debt” from considerations of humanity’s created nature and ends, the more these theologies risk legitimizing oppressive and extractive uses of debt that trade on similar patterns of abstraction. For many influential soteriologies, however, what debt is, and what it does in the divine economy, is primarily shaped by concepts such as the ontological distinction between creatures and their Creator, the ends for which God created humans and creation as a whole, and the good order with which this creation was made. In these cases, debt becomes a feature of creaturely life oriented to the good of debtors, giving these soteriologies strong grounds for critiquing oppressive and extractive uses of debt. The extent to which depictions of debt in the divine economy reinforce or resist contemporary capitalism’s uses of debt therefore depends in part on how the divine economy depicted is (or is not) accountable to a robust doctrine of creation.
  • Item
    Nostalgia in the book of Psalms : a postcolonial reading of “I” through Korean resistance poetry.
    (May 2023) Kim, Chwi-Woom, 1981-; Bellinger, W. H. (William H.), Jr., 1949-
    Challenging the western notion of autonomous subjectivity and the de-politicized imagination of social position in Psalms scholarship, this dissertation provides an alternative understanding of the subjugated subject through a transdisciplinary study of nostalgia. Examining nostalgia as an affective and political motif that intersects the individual and collective yearnings for a sense of home in defiance of colonial power, I connect insights from disparate disciplines, such as political literary theory, psychoanalysis, and nostalgia studies under the framework of postcolonialism. To illustrate this combined recognition, I employ Korean resistance poetry as an intercultural vantage point for the multifaceted interiority of the nostalgic self under oppression. In light of the multidisciplinary and intercultural analysis of nostalgia, I identify three manifestations of nostalgia in Psalms under the cultural hegemony of Persian colonial rule: an allegorical individualization of ancient Israel’s national enemies, a paradoxical simultaneity of Israel’s mourning and unmourning over collective losses, and a dialectical reconstruction of a new home through the retrieval and critique of indigenous cultural memories of God. Engaging comparative non-western literature in an interdisciplinary approach to Psalms not only challenges the western epistemological grounds for subjectivity but also sheds light on the multilayered yearnings for home ingrained in the ancient discourse of Psalms.
  • Item
    Affective theology : Dalits, shame, and salvation.
    (May 2023) Ronnevik, Andrew C., 1979-; Carnes, Natalie.
    In this dissertation, I argue that Dalit theology and affect theory advance full-bodied accounts of shame, dignity, and communion which should inform broader Christian understandings of sin and salvation. I show how shame vitally animates the experience of sin and suffering, and how salvation possesses a crucial affective dimension involving the overturning of shame through dignity and communion. My dialogue with Dalit theology and affect theory offers thicker descriptions of shame, dignity, and communion than are prevalent in Western theologies, and it makes these affective themes central to soteriology. At a constructive and methodological level, my project demonstrates how Western theology can be more robust when its practitioners learn from and respond to the perspectives of affectivity scholars and South Asian subalterns. I develop this affective and cross-cultural theology over the course of six chapters. Chapter One frames my project as theological accompaniment, a Western attempt to follow and support Dalit theology through attention to shared and distinct affects. Chapter Two describes Dalit contexts by examining caste in Indian society, Christianity, and theology. It also lays out the initial terms for an affective reading of Dalit theology. The third chapter addresses several approaches for understanding the affects and highlights contemporary affect theory as a useful tool for engaging with Dalit and theological concerns. In Chapter Four, I analyze shame from numerous perspectives, showing how it relates to the pathos of Dalit experience and to sin and suffering more broadly. Shame is resisted and overcome through dynamics I consider in the next chapters. Chapter Five highlights human dignity in affective terms, illustrating how dignity is a God-given source of selfhood, confidence, and self-respect. Chapter Six examines communion, understood as relationships of mutual interest and enjoyment that counteract shame and deepen dignity. To conclude, I offer a brief epilogue, noting the polyphony of affects. In affective, Dalit, and Christian life, positive and negative emotions intertwine as people strive and rest in hope.
  • Item
    “The world will see me no longer” : themes of divine presence and absence in the Fourth Gospel.
    (December 2022) Hall, Josiah D., 1987-; Longenecker, Bruce W.
    John’s Gospel exhibits distinctive emphases on Jesus’s relationship to God’s presence and Jesus’s impending (from the narrative’s perspective) absence. This dissertation offers a new perspective on the integral role these foci play in John’s narrative. While some contend that John characterizes Jesus through allusions to various figures who represented YHWH’s presence, I argue John presents Jesus not merely as a divine emissary but as the enfleshed divine presence and that this depiction has important implications that have been neglected in contemporary scholarship. Consequently, the authorial audience would have understood Jesus’s absence as divine absence, with corresponding theological implications. A seemingly inaccessible deity compounded the challenges of maintaining belief in that deity in the face of social opposition and the reality of human fragility and mortality. John responds to these challenges in two ways that echo motifs prevalent in the authorial audience’s symbolic world. First, a common way to explain the destruction of a deity’s temple or idol was to emphasize the deity’s agency and contend the deity departed in judgment on impious worshipers. Similarly, John characterizes Jesus’s departure as divine judgment on unbelief. Simultaneously, John leverages precedents for one party to retain access to the divine presence even as another was abandoned, enabling John to depict the Spirit-Paraclete as the provision of divine presence for believers. Throughout the narrative, the more John accents Jesus’s significance as the enfleshed divine presence, the more consequential Jesus’s absence becomes for the authorial audience. John employs a tension between these two emphases for two rhetorical purposes: (1) to move those considering the Gospel’s claims toward belief and (2) to encourage believers struggling with the reality of Jesus’s apparent absence in their current sufferings. The dissertation makes two important contributions to Johannine scholarship. First, it shows how two foci of the Johannine narrative which are often considered separately (i.e., Jesus’s divinity and physical absence) would have functioned together in a way that met early audiences’ rhetorical needs and expectations. Second, the dissertation provides a new outlook on familiar concerns in Johannine scholarship, including the “temple motif,” John’s (alleged) “anti-Jewish” character, the Spirit-Paraclete, and Johannine eschatology.
  • Item
    “Indeed, there was some good in Judah” : the movement of time in 2 Chronicles 10–36.
    (December 2022) Hayashi, Kazuyuki, 1988-; Fulton, Deirdre N.; Nogalski, James D
    The concept of time in Chronicles has largely been ignored. From the 19th through the 20th century, most studies on the notion of time in the Hebrew Bible concern lexical studies, and thus treat Chronicles only in passing. Nevertheless, since the turn of the 21st century, the studies of Ehud Ben Zvi, Gary Knoppers, Kenneth Ristau, and Deirdre Fulton began to identify the complex multifaceted nature of time in Chronicles. This study offers the first monograph-length analysis of how the concept of time contributes to the literary structure and rhetoric of Chronicles. I apply a literary-comparative analysis to the history of Judah in Chronicles (2 Chr 10–36). I identify Jean Jacques-Glassner’s sinusoidal model of time as helpful in discussing how cultures in the ancient Near East perceived time both in linear and cyclical movements. I contend that 2 Chronicles 10–36 reflects a sinusoidal model of time, which combines a linear succession of kings, and a cyclical pattern that alternates between war and cult narratives. While negative kings follow a war-cult narrative sequence, positive kings have a cult-war pattern. I identify six kings who begin their reigns with an account of cultic faithfulness as “reforming kings.” Moreover, these “reforming kings” divide the history of Judah into seven sections. I offer a case study of the first and last cycles.
  • Item
    The signs of the times and the critique of the crowds in Matthew 13.
    (August 2022) Genter, John N., 1982-; Novakovic, Lidija.
    This dissertation investigates the parable discourse in Matthew 13:1–52 as an integral component of the Matthean narrative. It argues that apocalyptic concepts and conventions provide the necessary framework for interpreting the discourse, its function in the narrative, and its treatment of the Jewish crowds. The latter feature of the discourse has struck interpreters as unprecedentedly harsh and transparent to a fraught relationship between church and synagogue at the time of the evangelist. This study identifies several problems with traditional approaches to Matthew’s “parable theory” (13:10–18) and proposes that the discourse is working with apocalyptic tropes that have not been adequately explored and brought to bear on exegesis. After conducting a thorough exploration of revelatory parables and mysteries in early Judaism and Christianity, the dissertation offers a fresh approach to 13:10–18 and, ultimately, to the entire discourse, its place in the narrative, and its treatment of the crowds. In Matthew 13, Jesus addresses the crowds as an angelus revelator figure, uttering hidden revelation to them regarding the economy of salvation ordained by God at the beginning of time (13:35). The disciples stand here in the conventional role of apocalyptic scribes. They are charged to steward this revealed wisdom on behalf of the larger household (13:52), which includes the crowds whom Jesus himself has called them to serve. Although the crowds are the intended recipients of apocalyptic parables in the first half of the discourse (13:1–35), they do not presently benefit from the revelation that is addressed to them. Conventionally, apocalyptic parables require the additional gift of revealed interpretations to make their content accessible to human understanding. In Matthew 13, those interpretations are granted to the disciples alone. The crowds get only parables. They are left at stage one of what is, typically, a two-stage process because they have not fully understood that God’s reign is dawning now in the ministry of Jesus. While they lose out on a great privilege here, Jesus’s speech to the crowds in parables does not constitute a significant shift away from his compassionate ministry to them as recounted in the preceding chapters.
  • Item
    Demons, delinquents, or the divine? Delimiting the natural and supernatural in accounts of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster.
    (August 2022) Smith, Joshua Caleb, 1984-; Whitford, David M. (David Mark)
    This dissertation examines the three major sixteenth-century accounts of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster: Hermann of Kerssenbrock’s Narrative of the Anabaptist Madness, Heinrich Gresbeck’s False Prophets and Preachers, and Anton Corvinus’ True History, which he wrote under the pseudonym Heinrich Dorpius. I examine how the authors’ beliefs about the supernatural function in their narrations of the story. I conclude that the authors made liminal decisions, taking up or setting aside supernatural explanations in service to their personal biases and polemical needs. As they wrote, they came upon stories which they could recount with or without reference to supernatural/spiritual forces. If doing so fit their goals, they explained the stories as the work of God or the machinations of the devil. These explanations differ between the accounts—events that one considered the work of God or a devil, another depicted as a human lie meant to trick the people of Münster. Their compositions each drew the line between what God/the devil/people did differently depending on the author’s background and polemical purposes. I argue this conclusion is significant for the discussion of disenchantment in relation to the Protestant Reformation and early modern Europe because it shows how polemicized stories are ultimately part of the mechanism of disenchantment. By offering different versions of the same event, the various confessional parties created alternate versions of reality, where the events are fundamentally different from each other. These alternate realities, created by the authors’ liminal decisions, generated societal cognitive dissonance by offering conflicting understandings of the world.
  • Item
    The medieval miles Christi and the Anabaptist knight : chivalric imagination in the Radical Reformation.
    (August 2022) Randolph, Jacob R., 1988-; Whitford, David M. (David Mark)
    This dissertation examines the use of chivalric language and ideas in the Reformation in Central Europe, paying particular attention to Anabaptist communities from 1525-1560. I argue that the exploration of the influence of chivalry in Anabaptism acts as a lens by which to see the way that religious imagination spurred creative ways of conceptualizing religious ideas and identities, as well as displaying how key theological distinctives were brought to life through culturally circumscribed metaphors and images. Beginning in the monastic setting of the Middle Ages, I trace out the contours of the knighthood motif as it arose and grew in popularity among clerical writers. This study asserts that the constellation of ideas that typified the ideal knight translated quite naturally to ministerial self-constructions, as the assertion of spiritual nobility, the utility of knightly virtues, and the necessity of a militant spirit characterized much monastic writing. This translation expanded into the early modern era, as humanist emphases on lay devotion gave everyday Christians fresh access to the spiritual knightly identity. The popularization of the religious knighthood motif made inroads into Reformation texts, particularly texts that focused on devotion and nurturing loyalty to new systems of belief and practice. The second half of the study looks specifically at Anabaptists across Germany and the Low Countries. Special emphasis is given to the role of baptism and martyrdom among the Swiss and South German Anabaptists, especially in their musical traditions. The self-fashioning of Jan of Leiden, the Anabaptist king of Münster, reveals the pliability of chivalric ideals in the burgeoning Anabaptist phenomenon, and the responses of key leaders after the failure of Jan of Leiden reveals that the metaphor retained its resonance, even as individuals were forced to alter their associations and address new concerns. By touching on influential leaders and characteristic aspects of Anabaptist culture, this study demonstrates that chivalry was a prominent conceptual reservoir for envisioning Christian life and cultivating devotion in religious contexts from the Middle Ages up through the first generation of Anabaptist reformers.
  • Item
    Absent priests and the Day of the Locusts : inner-biblical interpretation and the scribal prophet’s priestly critique in Joel 1:1–2:17.
    (2022-04-25) Scott, Kevin, 1987-; Nogalski, James.
    Most who study Joel recognize the text’s emphasis on priests and priestly intercession in Joel 1:1–2:17. Despite this consensus, those who study Joel interpret the relationship between the book’s construction of priests and the prophetic figure who critiques those priests in a variety of ways. Previous interpretations of priests in Joel 1:1–2:17 have not adequately accounted for two essential characteristics of Joel: (1) its literary construction as scribal prophecy, written by the scribal prophet primarily for other cultic elites, and (2) the central role that inner-biblical interpretation plays within the text, especially in the form of quotations, allusions, and the use of allusive language evoking concepts found in earlier textual material likely familiar to the scribal prophet and the book’s earliest audience. This study seeks to understand how the earliest readers and hearers of Joel in the Persian period would make sense of the role of priests as they interacted with the text. The study is an attempt to account for Joel’s nature as scribal prophecy that utilizes inner-biblical interpretation to challenge priests to better serve their communities. An analysis of Joel’s first literary movement (1:1–2:17) demonstrates that the scribal prophet utilizes quotations, allusions, and allusive language that evokes concepts found in earlier texts to challenge priests to perform their duties on behalf of Yahweh’s community. The scribal prophet evokes numerous texts throughout Joel 1:1–2:17 to call priests to urgent action; for the scribal prophet, action by priests is necessary because of the important place the temple occupies within Yahweh’s community. In addition, the scribal prophet’s use of language evoking other texts lends authority to the critique of priestly inaction throughout Joel 1:1–2:17. The scribal prophet’s creative use of allusive language evoking other texts in the Hebrew Bible reinforces the centrality of the temple cult for the audience and subsequent readers. Finally, the extensive use of quotations, allusions, and allusive language evoking other texts in Joel 1:1–2:17 educates and enculturates its readers about how to live as Yahweh’s people in a way that emphasizes the temple as the center of postexilic life.
  • Item
    “All their happiness and consolation hang on the resurrection alone” : John Calvin’s Greek doctrine of the beatific vision.
    (2022-03-29) Tyra, Steven W., 1985-; Whitford, David M. (David Mark)
    This study argues that John Calvin developed “Greek” doctrines of the interim state of souls, resurrection, and beatific vision through his reading of ancient Christian sources like Irenaeus of Lyons. “Greek” had been a technical term in western theology since at least the twelfth century to denote heterodox eschatology. Thomas Aquinas had employed it in that sense, and early modern Catholics like Robert Bellarmine and Pierre Coton in turn applied it to Calvin. The study demonstrates that, in this respect at least, Calvin’s opponents were correct: he was a “Greek.” However, it questions whether that fact should lead modern theologians to dismiss him as a resource for contemporary reflection. Calvin’s deep respect for and continuity with early Christian voices may serve as a positive model for theologians today, particularly in the Reformed tradition. By the same token, Reformed thinkers who seek inspiration from medieval scholasticism may find their relationship to Calvin complicated by the case presented here.
  • Item
    A postcolonial analysis of the Markan discourse of power : an argument for the narrative cohesion of Mark 10:1–45.
    (2022-03-24) Peek, Stephanie R., 1986-; Iverson, Kelly R.
    This project offers a postcolonial narrative analysis of Mark 10:1–45. It is argued that Mark 10 serves, not only as a teaching discourse on discipleship, but also as a pivotal chapter in the creation of the Markan Jesus’s discourse of power. This discourse takes aim directly at the hegemonic Roman discourse of power as well as the essentialist resistance narrative of the disciples. Responding to the disciples’ continued resistance to the Gentile mission and their desire for positions of power in the coming kingdom of God, the Markan Jesus seeks to reform the disciples’ vision of power. He constructs a catachrestic vision of power to teach the disciples the meaning of power in the kingdom of God, a meaning that stands in contrast to the Roman vision of power. The Roman vision and application of power, while not equal to the activities of Satan in this world, are squarely situated as a visible and active expression of Satan’s reign, the outworking of which has infiltrated even the disciples, necessitating Jesus’s response. The stories of Mark 10 focus on the inclusion of the marginalized and “other” and advocate an alternative political practice that allows for both Gentile inclusion and Roman resistance. Each story in Mark 10:1–45 responds to Roman colonial practices and the nativist traditions of the colonized community. Jesus calls for an alternative means of resistance to Roman colonial authority through an alternative discourse of power that rewrites communal boundary lines and offers an alternative empire to that of Rome. Mark’s Jesus, critiques Roman imperial practices as visible expressions of the powers of evil in the world and advocates for an alternative empire, the empire of God.
  • Item
    In search of the literal sense : Johannes Oecolampadius (1482-1531) and the exegetical tradition on Isaiah.
    (2022-03-11) Lundeen, Erik Taylor, 1989-; Whitford, David M. (David Mark)
    This dissertation explores the hermeneutical diversity of Reformation-era ‘literal’ exegesis of the prophet Isaiah. Using the 1525 Isaiah commentary of Basel reformer Johannes Oecolampadius as a lens, it compares this work to prior Christian and Jewish commentaries on Isaiah, as well as to the Isaiah commentaries of Oecolampadius’s fellow reformers. The study argues that as the reformers adjudicated differently between key extra-textual contexts, they came to hold different and at times competing understandings of the nature of Scripture’s literal sense. This complicates the idea that the reformers interpreted the Bible ‘literally,’ even as it seeks to add clarity to what such a statement, when indeed true, might actually mean. The study opens by demonstrating the influence of Erasmian biblical humanism upon Oecolampadius. It then compares him to three chronologically distinct sets of interpreters on three different issues. Reading Oecolampadius in conversation with the Church Fathers shows how key differences existed in understanding figures of speech and the relationship of literary metaphor to allegorical interpretation. Medieval Christian commentaries, in turn, acutely raised the questions of the New Testament’s use of the Old and of how to establish authoritative interpretations. Medieval Jewish readings, for their part, raised concerns about prophecy’s coherence and contemporaneity, concerns which Oecolampadius and his fellow reformers grappled with intensely. The study then investigates sixteenth-century disputes over these same issues among the reformers themselves. It closes by looking at a fourth central issue over which disagreements about the nature of the literal sense can be seen—the referential capacity of prophecy. Through examining the diversity of ‘literal’ readings of the prophets, the study clarifies what it means to speak of the reformers reading the Bible ‘literally,’ and asserts the usefulness of the notion of the senses of Scripture for studying early modern exegesis.
  • Item
    Wealth and poverty and the occasion of First Clement.
    (2021-11-02) Bailey, Jeremiah N., 1985-; Longenecker, Bruce W.
    This dissertation investigates the conflict in the Corinthian church described by 1 Clement. Using primarily social, rhetorical, and intertextual methods, it proposes a reading of the conflict that attributes it to root social problems created by inequality within the Corinthian community. The dissertation offers a near comprehensive survey of the dozens of theories and variations of theories which have attributed the conflict to structural conflicts over polity, to social differences of various sorts, or to theological disputes. After suggesting shortcomings with most of the dominant theories, the thesis that the poor have rebelled against rich presbyters is advanced as the most plausible option. This supposition is justified by three primary lines of argumentations. First, the letter is situated in its geopolitical context by considering Roman Christianity broadly in the first two centuries. First Clement participates in certain theological discussions connected specifically to the Roman setting. Second, the theological development of wealth ethics is traced from the Hebrew Bible through the Second Temple literature and into the New Testament. First Clement’s understanding of the relationship of the divine to wealth is ultimately situated within the Second Temple Jewish spectrum and particularly indebted to the Wisdom literature of this period. Third, the dissertation presents a close socio-rhetorical reading of the descriptions of the conflict in 1 Clement 3 and 37-47 and considers the explanatory benefits of the rich-poor conflict hypothesis for understanding the structure and broader theology of the letter.
  • Item
    Ought we kiss the hand that smites us? : Black Protestants in the age of lynching, 1890-1919.
    (2021-10-26) Foley, Malcolm B., 1990-; Weaver, C. Douglas.
    The decades-long phenomenon of racialized lynching in the United States took thousands of lives, but beyond the death toll, it also created a culture of terror in Black communities. These communities powerfully resisted this culture, as human communities are wont to do. This dissertation intervenes in a historiography where consideration of religion is sparse, especially the consideration of Black religiosity. Thus, this dissertation focuses particularly on Black Protestant communities, whose Christianity shaped the language and mobilization of their resistance to a culture of terror and death. In asking whether Black Protestant communities resisted the violent regime of racialized lynching, this dissertation answers with a resounding “Yes!” and explicates the categories of such resistance. I offer four categories of resistance emerging from Black Protestant communities and leaders ranging from seemingly quietist calls for prayer to calls from the pulpit for armed self-defense. As I demonstrate, the lynching era catalyzed political and theological creativity rather than stifling it. The diverse responses from written sources as disparate as poetry, sermons, and novels reveal that Black Protestant leaders and laypeople sifted their lives through the sieve of their faith and as a result of the confluence of theological, social and political influences, counseled those around them to resist lynching in meaningful and consistent ways.
  • Item
    "Gods in human form"? A study of the acclamations of divinity in the Acts of the Apostles.
    (2021-08-25) Glover, Daniel B., 1993-; Parsons, Mikeal C. (Mikeal Carl), 1957-
    This study evaluates five divine acclamations in the Book of Acts by situating them within the broader ancient Mediterranean context of deification. It demonstrates that divine acclamations in Acts do not conform to a single pattern of deification but several distinct patterns serving different purposes. This study begins by outlining the various ways humans were thought to be divine in Mediterranean antiquity. Each acclamation is then evaluated on its own terms, giving particular attention to the concept of divinity at work. By discerning what concepts of divinity are used, a clearer picture of the function of each acclamation emerges. With Simon (Acts 8) and Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12), the divine acclamations fit the pattern of self-deification. By portraying them as self-deifiers, Luke discredits these figures. Simon’s self-deification makes him out to be the eternal, uncreated Creator-God. Luke’s rhetorical strategy to discredit Simon phonetically inverts key Simonian claims to portray him as a charlatan. Herod’s self-deification uses the cult of rulers and the related cult of benefactors to secure his divinization. Luke reports on Herod’s death to criticize self-seeking imperial rule and benefaction. The denials of divinity by Peter (Acts 10) and Paul (Acts 14) serve an opposite function by legitimizing these figures as true philosophers. As with Herod, Cornelius’s worship of Peter is understood within the benefactor cult. Peter’s refusal illustrates his commitment to philosophic virtue and makes a point about the nature of true benefaction and the ethnic equality of the people of God. Paul’s divine denial is based on a different concept of divinity, that of the disguised deity or epiphany. In addition to emphasizing his philosophic virtue, Paul’s correction of the Lystrans’ actions involves a critique of the Zeus cult, suggesting an element of religious competition underlying this scene. Finally, Paul’s survival of the snakebite in Acts 28 depicts Paul as a divine man, a characterization in line with his portrayal as a wonderworking philosopher throughout Acts. This study dispels the notion that the divine acclamations address only one thing (“paganism”) by demonstrating how each acclamation serves its own literary, historical, or theological concern.
  • Item
    Humor in the midst of Mark : an analysis of incongruity in Mark 4:35–6:6.
    (2021-11-17) Carman, Jon-Michael, 1984-; Iverson, Kelly R.
    Since the rise of biblical criticism, there has been a steady stream of scholarship exploring the possibility of reading the biblical text as humorous. This has been especially true of Jesus-studies, where scholars and non-specialists alike have contended for a “humor of Jesus.” Only recently, however, has there been attention given to the potential use of humor by the Gospel writers themselves. While this is a welcome turn in Gospel scholarship, the Gospel of Mark remains underrepresented in this burgeoning field. There currently exist only a handful of treatments regarding humor and its potential use by the Markan evangelist. In the present study, I seek to address this desideratum by offering the first monograph-length study of “Markan” humor. Using the General Theory of Verbal Humor, an incongruity-based theory implemented widely in Humor Studies, paired with humor-oriented primary sources from the Greco-Roman world, I analyze Mark 4:35-6:6a for its potential humor in this series of miracle stories. After such an analysis, a profile of Markan emerges. Application of the GVTH to the miracle stories reveals a consistent use of humor located in and around the question of Jesus’ identity. The Evangelist interweaves two humorous threads throughout the miracle stories by raising questions about Jesus’ capacity as a wonderworker and the consistent misunderstanding of his identity by those around him. These threads are supplemented by more subtle forms of humor. This intentional use of humor augments the narrative by yielding key physiological, psychological, sociological, and pedagogical effects that emerge from affective states that correlate to humor. In sum, the present study answers the question “Is Gospel of Mark humorous” in the affirmative, demonstrating a consistence use of humor located around incongruities involving Jesus’ identity.
  • Item
    The shape of faith : creation and theological knowing in early Christian catechesis.
    (2021-07-12) Fogleman, Alex, 1986-; Williams, Daniel H.
    This dissertation traces the development of catechesis as an educational institution in early Christianity, with a focus on Italy and North Africa from the second to the fifth century. While catechesis has been an object of study among social historians, liturgical scholars, and pastoral theologians—particularly with an interest in how the fourth-century political changes associated with the Constantinian dynasty transformed Christian initiation—an examination of catechesis as a species of late-antique education will open up new vistas from which to view the continuities of practice over this period. Following recent proposals that advocate a broader conception of institutions that shaped early Christian theology, the present study considers catechesis as a pedagogical institution dedicated to shaping knowledge of God and the created world. Catechesis emerged within second-century school Christianity, where issues of epistemology, theories of creation, and church structure and authority were ascendent—issues that remained central to catechesis over the following centuries, despite a number of major ecclesiastical, political, and theological changes. What emerges in the following pages is a picture of catechesis that is at once more closely situated within the educational traditions of the Graeco-Roman world yet also less determined by the so-called Constantinian settlement. This new narrative of catechesis proposes a reinterpretation not only of early Christian catechesis in particular but also of the way in which we understand the development and practices of theological formation more generally.
  • Item
    Political theology and the conflicts of democracy.
    (2021-06-10) Norman-Krause, Nicholas J., 1989-; Tran, Jonathan.
    This dissertation is a theological consideration of conflict in pluralist democratic politics. Centering on the relationship between political community and difference, it develops an “agonistic political theology” of radical democracy grounded in the claim that conflict is inherent to the goodness of creation and constitutive of flourishing creaturely sociality. It argues that, rightly understood as emerging from the conditions of creatureliness, democratic conflict can be appreciated for its creative and generative political possibilities—namely, the formation of a vibrant, pluralist, and participatory common life. An introductory first chapter frames the dissertation’s key claims with respect to recent scholarship in political theory and political theology on the relationship between religion, democracy, and pluralism. The following chapter considers two important schools of contemporary political theology—postliberal Augustinianism and Augustinian civic liberalism—as representative of two approaches to conceptualizing political community and difference in theological terms. Both frame democratic pluralism and difference by way of analogy, appealing to the harmonious unity-in-difference of the divine Trinity, but in so doing they obscure the place of conflict in finite creaturely life. Chapter three thus turns to recent work in agonistic political theory to show conflict’s enduring place in democratic politics and the virtues of an account of democracy centered on facilitating contestational and conflictual engagements amidst disagreement and difference. In chapter four, I deepen these insights drawn from agonistic theory by sketching a “political-theological anthropology” wherein conflict belongs to the natural goodness of finite, embodied creatures who must negotiate their differences in a world of contingency. Chapter five then returns to the question of political community in light of these conditions and limits of creaturely sociality. Drawing on ordinary language philosophy, democratic theory, and grassroots democratic organizing, I propose a form of “agonistic community” centered on practices of conflict negotiation in coming to shared judgment and action. Finally, I conclude the dissertation with a theological meditation on the conflicts of democracy as an occasion for the conversion of love.