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The Calling of the Nations

The Calling of the Nations: Exegesis, Ethnography, and Empire in a Biblical-Historic Present

Mark Vessey
Sharon V. Betcher
Robert A. Daum
Harry O. Maier
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  • Book Info
    The Calling of the Nations
    Book Description:

    This wide-ranging collection moves from the earliest Pauline and Rabbinic exegesis through Christian imperial and missionary narratives of the late Roman, medieval, and early modern periods to the entangled identity politics of 'mainstream' nineteenth- and twentieth-century North America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6043-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    M.V., S.V.B., R.A.D. and H.O.M.
  5. 1 Introduction The Bible in the West: A Peoples’ History?
    (pp. 3-40)

    A few years ago theVancouver Sunreported a wonder. ‘The Songcatchers’ ran the headline on the front page of the review section of that Saturday’s paper: ‘Paul McKay explores a Canadian musical miracle, resurrecting long-forgotten recordings that preserve Nisga’a tradition’ (Vancouver Sun 2002). The accompanying black-and-white photograph showed an elder of the Nisga’a, one of British Columbia’s ‘First Nations,’ singing a lullaby to his grandchild in 1927. The singer’s name was Tralahaet in his own language, Frank Bolton in Christian English. The article tells how in August 1927, at the prompting of Québécois Rhodes Scholar and anthropologist Marius Barbeau,...

  6. Part One: Biblical Possessions

    • 2 Perhaps God Is Irish: Sacred Texts as Virtual Reality Machine
      (pp. 43-58)

      This is a ‘religious’ series of essays, in the sense that everyone in it understands that there are such things as sacred texts. In the homiletic tradition, I should like to introduce a text (a non-sacred one, to be sure) that will exemplify the thought pattern I am trying to impose on our discussion. It is one that you almost certainly know: David Lodge’s mock-Arthurian masterpieceSmall World(1984). It featured, you will recall, Persse McGarrigle, a young innocent farmer’s son from Mayo, who was educated at University College, Galway, and received his MA from University College, Dublin, for a...

    • 3 Protestant Restorationism and the Ortelian Mapping of Palestine (with an Afterword on Islam)
      (pp. 59-82)

      This essay examines the cartographic representation of Palestine in the first European Atlas, Abraham Ortelius’sTheatrum(1570). Although Ortelius relied on previous authorities for his map, the success of his atlas ensured the longevity of his biblical rather than empirical view of Palestine. Focusing more on the Israelites’ exodus route and the division of the land among the twelve tribes than on current or recent political and geographical information, Ortelius gave rise to the heresy of Restorationism: the idea that Jews should ‘restore’ their kingdom by conquering Palestine, then convert to Christianity and so hasten the return of the Messiah....

    • 4 Beyond a Shared Inheritance: American Jews Reclaim the Hebrew Bible
      (pp. 83-101)

      As I wrote these words, Christian citizens of Alabama were holding a vigil at the State’s judicial building in order to protest the imminent removal of a two-and-a-half-ton granite monument engraved with the Ten Commandments.¹ It is hard to underestimate the importance of the Bible in American culture and to our definitions of ourselves as a culture, even as we in the United States continue to argue for the separation of church and state, a notion whose very phrasing belies its Christian assumptions. After all, who besides Christians really have ‘churches’? Americans see themselves as heirs to a biblical inheritance,...

    • 5 Recalling the Nation’s Terrain: Narrative, Territory, and Canon (Commentary on Part One)
      (pp. 102-146)

      Postcolonial readings of nationalist narratives abstracted from textual representations can never be interrogated, unsettled, and complicated sufficiently. Nationalist narratives distort competing narratives, whose presence and social significance may be beyond our ken. The authors, transmitters, and readers of such texts in the past are likely to have had multiple and conflicted identities. Any text represents a compressed cultural moment in a lost conversation amidst myriad other lost conversations. Postcolonial analyses of cultural phenomena, including my own, are not immune to charges of reductivism:

      For all its talk of difference, plurality, heterogeneity, postmodern theory often operates with quite rigid binary opposition,...

  7. Part Two: Confounding Narratives

    • 6 Dominion from Sea to Sea: Eusebius of Caesarea, Constantine the Great, and the Exegesis of Empire
      (pp. 149-175)

      ‘For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise’ (Gal 3:27–9). ‘Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all, and in all’ (Col 3:11). What have aptly been called the ‘utopian declarations’ of the apostle Paul helped early Christians to imagine a unity of...

    • 7 Unending Sway: The Ideology of Empire in Early Christian Latin Thought
      (pp. 176-199)

      With this divine prophetic promise of Rome’s imperial destiny, Jupiter consoles his daughter Venus as she asks anxiously after the future of her son Aeneas and the end of his labours, at a moment when the hero’s wanderings over the Mediterranean in search of the new Troy that would be Rome seem to have reached a crisis point.² Jupiter sets no bounds of space or time to Roman power: ‘unending’ (sine fine), in Latin as in English, conveys the dimensions of both time and space, removing all limits from the expansion of the race here represented by its founding father.³...

    • 8 ‘The Ends of the Earth’: The Bible, Bibles, and the Other in Early Medieval Europe
      (pp. 200-216)
      IAN WOOD

      Although evangelization has not been a constant feature of its history, Christianity always had and has the potential to be a missionary religion. After all, St Matthew’s Gospel provided the commission for all missionaries (28:19): ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (KJV). In addition, the Gospels and Acts provided narratives of mission, and the Epistles spiritual and pastoral advice. It may therefore be a little surprising to realize how novel it was for Bede (ca 673–735) to make Christianization one of...

    • 9 Promised Lands, Premised Texts (Commentary on Part Two)
      (pp. 217-250)

      In a book published in time for the Columbus quincentenary of 1992, Stephen Greenblatt recounted the history of the colonization of the New World as a tale of contrived and reported wonders. On his reading of the documents, European ethnographic amazement served to fill out an otherwise manifestly defective claim to land title in the New Indies and beyond. Columbus could write in his letter to Luis de Santangel: ‘To the first island which I found, I gave the nameSan Salvador, in remembrance of the Divine Majesty, Who has marvelously bestowed all this.’ Greenblatt comments:

      The marvel of the...

  8. Part Three: Colonial and Postcolonial Readings, Premodern Ironies

    • 10 The Amerindian in Divine History: The Limits of Biblical Authority in the Jesuit Mission to New France, 1632–1649
      (pp. 253-272)

      The Bible furnishes an essential resource for missionary activity. The directive to win souls to Christ is a central message of the New Testament, and the Scriptures attest to the techniques and success of the Apostles in promoting the Christian faith. The Bible also provides believers with the necessary confidence in understanding the course of history and the progressive unfolding of God’s plan for humanity: a divine history, as it was understood. Jesuits, by far the most enterprising of the Catholic missionary orders in the early modern world, shared this traditional sense of the centrality of biblical authority.¹ In their...

    • 11 Joshua in America: On Cowboys, Canaanites, and Indians
      (pp. 273-290)

      On a cold December night in 1763, the Paxtung Rangers – also known as the ‘Paxton Boys’ – brutally murdered the Indian inhabitants of Conestoga, Pennsylvania: three elderly men, two women, and a young boy, ‘the rest being out among the neighbouring White People, some to sell the Baskets, Brooms and Bowls they manufactured, and others on other Occasions’ (Franklin 1967, 58). Two weeks later, the Boys completed their vengeful quest by storming the Lancaster prison, where the surviving Conestogan remnant had been housed for safekeeping. By all accounts, the ensuing bloodbath was especially horrific. One eyewitness relates that when...

    • 12 Premodern Ironies: First Nations and Chosen Peoples
      (pp. 291-304)

      In May 1862, Cherokee journalist, poet, and novelist John Rollin Ridge published an article in theHesperianwith the modest and unprepossessing title ‘The North American Indians: What They Have Been and What They Are – Their Relations with the United States in the Existing National Crisis – The Modification of Their Character by the Infusion of White Blood and the Contact of Civilization – Their Probable Destiny.’ In it he related the story of one of the first Christian missionaries to go among the Cherokee.

      The missionary gathered the people of the town in the council house and began...

    • 13 Biblical Narrative and the (De)stabilization of the Colonial Subject (Commentary on Part Three)
      (pp. 305-324)

      Each of the essays taken up for treatment here offers discussion of the notions of colonial, postcolonial, and decolonized historical agency. All three focus on the colonization of North American First Peoples. Peter Goddard’s discussion of the Jesuit Mission to New France challenges a popular misconception that all missionaries to the Americas were guided by biblical narrative, and portrays a different account that qualifies the role of the Bible in missionary activity, one that nevertheless helped to reinforce the privilege of the colonizing historical subject. Laura Donaldson utilizes intertexuality in order to recover Exodus (a text often rejected on account...

    • 14 Epilogue ‘Paradise Highway’: Of Global Cities and Postcolonial Reading Practices
      (pp. 325-352)

      Today global cities are beckoning or ‘calling the nations’ themselves. If globalization names the most recent form of neo-colonialism, ‘globalization as urbanization seems,’ as Gayatri Spivak puts it, ‘one of the least speculative strands in the thinking of globalization’ (2004, 74). Formerly colonized bodies are folded into any of the planet’s ‘global’ or ‘world cities,’ working out within them new geographies of dwelling. ‘In contemporary cities,’ writes theorist Jane M. Jacobs, ‘people connected by imperial histories are thrust together in assemblages barely predicted, and often guarded against, during the inaugural phases of colonialism. Often enough this is a meeting not...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 353-356)
  10. Index
    (pp. 357-371)