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Master of Liesborn; Head of Christ Crucified: Fragment of the Crucifixion Scene (The National Gallery, London)
Politics of Scripture

Whiteness and Biblical Studies

While the visual medium is thus dominated by whiteness, there exists simultaneously a whiteness that permeates textual and other worlds in biblical scholarship.

The Politics of Scripture blog follows the Revised Common Lectionary and, on a weekly basis, features reflections from a diverse group of contributors who draw upon from the worlds of political theory, ethics, social sciences, political activism, and so on. It has played a critical role in the PTN website from the beginning. Sunder John Boopalan has taken leadership as the Series Editor and works with an editorial team (Caralie Focht, Chelsea Mak, Tim McNinch, Christy Randazzo, and Ekaputra Tupamahu). While weekly posts are the life force of the blog, the Politics of Scripture editorial team has collaborated with the Symposia editors (Rubén Rosario Rodríguez and Danube Johnson) to prepare a special symposium titled “Whiteness and Biblical Studies” which offers a window into the intersection between politics (of whiteness, in this case) and scripture. 

The problems described in the books The Color of Christ or The Aryan Jesus are not disconnected from the whitewashed portrayals of biblical characters in Hollywood movies. Many biblical characters have come to become synonymous with “white” in major Hollywood movies. Such entanglements with whiteness are ubiquitous. While the visual medium is thus dominated by whiteness, there exists simultaneously a whiteness that permeates textual and other worlds in biblical scholarship. The whiteness in biblical scholarship, however, is not readily visible. As Ekaputra Tupamahu, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Portland Seminary, puts it, whiteness in biblical scholarship remains “invisible.” Tupamahu excavates this “stubborn invisibility” in conversation with four other biblical scholars, namely Jacqueline Hidalgo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Professor of Latina/o Studies and Religion at Williams, Williamstown, MA; Angela Parker, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, Atlanta, GA; M Adryael Tong, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Scriptures at Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA; and Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, PA. Understanding the various manifestations of whiteness in biblical studies as presented by these scholars is an opportunity to analyze how dominance continues to operate in the modern world. 

One might ask, “Why is this important?” When it comes to whiteness and dominance, bygones are never bygones. The response to the question, “why is this important?” via this special cross-sectional symposium is a reminder (with respect to the PTN three points of unity to which the Politics of Scripture blog and the Symposia are committed) that as editorial teams, we recognize that distributions of power continue to remain unequal in the production of biblical scholarship. Our commentary on the world and world of the Bible thus simply recognizes that lifting up justice has political implications. Our hope is that readers will be motivated to undertake their own excavations of the various politics that shape the reading and interpretation of scripture.

Symposium Essays

The Stubborn Invisibility of Whiteness in Biblical Scholarship

Because whiteness lies at the center of biblical studies, the accepted way of doing biblical scholarship is one that engages white questions, white concerns. The system forces scholars of color, especially those who receive their doctoral trainings in the western educational system, to be familiar with white scholarship.

Occupying Whiteness: A Reflection in 2020

Biblical scholars could yield profound insights into the deep and dangerous ways the Bible has been employed in the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny. They might also have to reckon with the role of biblical scholarship in justifying imperialism.

Invoking Paul’s μὴ γένοιτο and Sofia’s “Hell No” Against the Stubborn Whiteness of Biblical Scholarship

First, we must all remember our history and stop the blatant amnesia behind racial and power dynamics in our field…Women and enslaved persons were not a part of the founders’ initial understanding. The same is true for the founding identities of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Banishing Baur: The Antisemitic Origins of White Supremacy in Biblical Studies

What worries me…is the fact that Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism forms the historical and theological ectoplasm out of which the invisible specter of whiteness emerges.

Looking for White in the Synoptic Problem

As a White interpreter who has been examining the phenomenon of whiteness in biblical interpretation, both popular and academic, for nearly a decade now, I want to know just what whiteness looks like.