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Beauty and the Bible

Beauty and the Bible: Toward a Hermeneutics of Biblical Aesthetics

Richard J. Bautch
Jean-François Racine
Series: Semeia Studies
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 136
  • Book Info
    Beauty and the Bible
    Book Description:

    These seven essays offer fresh perspectives on beauty’s role in revelation. Each essay features a hermeneutical approach informed by the contemporary study of aesthetics. Covering a series of texts in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, from Adam and Eve in the garden to Jesus on trial in the Fourth Gospel, the authors engage beauty from three overarching perspectives: modern philosophy, contextual criticism, and the postcritical return to beauty’s primary qualities. The three perspectives are not harmonized but rather explored concurrently to create a volume with intriguing methodological tensions. As this collection highlights beauty in the narratives of scripture, it opens readers to a largely unexplored dimension of the Bible. The contributors are Richard J. Bautch, Jo-Ann A. Brant, Mark Brummitt, David Penchansky, Antonio Portalatín, Jean-François Racine, and Peter Spitaler.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-908-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    There are distinct challenges involved in articulating a hermeneutics of biblical aesthetics in the twenty-first century.Beauty and the Bible: Toward a Hermeneutics of Biblical Aestheticsis conceived as a response to three such challenges. First, the turn to subjectivity in the philosophy of the Enlightenment must be addressed in terms of its impact on the notion of beauty, biblical and otherwise. Immanuel Kant’sCritique of Judgment, for example, is crucial background for understanding modern aesthetic concepts like sublimity and for engaging approaches to the text, such as reader response, that are informed by critical theory. Critical theory in general...

  3. The Potential of the Category of Sublime for Reading the Episodes of the Stilling of the Storm (Luke 8:22–25) and of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28–36)
    (pp. 5-22)
    Jean-François Racine

    The last twenty years or so have seen the rise of sports qualified as “extreme sports.” One may think about bungee jumping, ice climbing, and even downhill ice skating in the steep streets of Québec City. Some of these sports allow one to confront difficult natural conditions or even to experience a situation that normally would result in death, as in the case of bungee jumping. In other words, some “extreme sports” allow one to savor the “big chill.” As one goes through the various episodes of a Gospel such as Luke, one may perceive that the disciples have several...

  4. The Sublime Art of Prophetic Seeing: Aesthetics and the Word in the Book of Jeremiah
    (pp. 23-30)
    Mark Brummitt

    Few readers would consider the book of Jeremiah beautiful; any artistry that the individual oracles boast seems to have been betrayed by the sum of the parts. Thus, while John Bright (1965, lvi) commends the “surpassing beauty” of Jeremiah’s poetry, he deems the book as a whole a “hopeless hodgepodge.”¹ Given that the classic definitions of beauty emphasize order and harmony, it would seem the least-promising category for engaging the book as a whole. This is not to say that Jeremiah resists all aesthetic approaches; it is perhaps now more possible than ever to appreciate the merits of disorder—following...

  5. Perceiving Beauty in Mark 5:21–43
    (pp. 31-46)
    Antonio Portalatín

    It can seem as if contemporary philosophical and literary studies have lost interest in the notion of beauty, but as Ruth Lorand (2007) affirms, “The fact that a concept is out of fashion does not make it useless or redundant”; furthermore, “beauty is as relevant now as it was in the time of Plato and of Immanuel Kant simply because it has never ceased to be of interest in everyday life.” In biblical aesthetics, we observe one of the most evident rifts between academic studies and life: while there is a lack of studies on beauty in the Scriptures,¹ these...

  6. Beauty, Power, and Attraction: Aesthetics and the Hebrew Bible
    (pp. 47-66)
    David Penchansky

    The Hebrew words translated as “beauty” do not carry the same meaning as the English word. Although some overlap exists, they are not the same. Western philosophers regard beauty as one of the “transcendentals,” along with truth and goodness. In the Hebrew Bible, יפה and other corresponding words are more geared to physical appearance. Although the Western tradition tends to disparage the physical appearance, in the Hebrew Bible a character described as beautiful has power. I here analyze the meanings of beauty, avoiding Western categories, to explore the significance of “beauty” words within an ancient Israelite context.

    Within ancient Israelite...

  7. Yachin and Boaz in Jerusalem and Rome
    (pp. 67-82)
    Richard J. Bautch

    How is it that two columns curiously described in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles capture the imagination of Renaissance artists and find expression in their tapestries and monuments? This paper takes up theNachlebenof Yachin and Boaz, the preeminent columns in Solomon’s Temple, and examines why these ancient architectural fixtures appealed to a later aesthetic sensibility. Jean Fouquet, Raphael and his school, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, among others, depicted or in some instances actually created columns that were modeled on those of Solomon’s Temple but with an added feature, a partial fluting that resulted in spiral columns. The construction...

  8. Beauty, Sorrow, and Glory in the Gospel of John
    (pp. 83-100)
    Jo-Ann A. Brant

    As soon as one begins to speak about the concept of beauty, one almost invariably finds oneself straying into personal aesthetic judgments about particular objects. We understand what beauty is through subjective experience gained through our senses. What I write below is influenced by what I habitually find most beautiful. I am drawn to Edvard Grieg’s haunting composition that Solveig sings as Peer Gynt dies with his head in her lap. I found Joannie Rochette’s performance in women’s figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics transcendently beautiful, because her grief for her recently deceased mother was palpable. My tastes were...

  9. Beauty and the Bible: Synthesis and Looking Forward
    (pp. 101-114)
    Peter Spitaler

    In what ways did biblical authors perceive beauty? What made people and things beautiful to them? In what senses can one speak of a biblical concept of beauty? In what ways can beauty serve as a hermeneutical lens for reading biblical narratives? Answers to these questions are not as clear as I initially assumed. Rather, perceiving beauty in the Bible is like looking at light’s spectral colors refracted and dispersed through a prism. One sees much more than if one looks at light passing through a simple spherical lens. Beauty refracts one’s perspective on the biblical text—bends one’s ideas...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 115-116)
  11. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 117-122)
  12. Index of Personal Names
    (pp. 123-125)