Richard Horsley, ed. In the Shadow of Empire

Richard A, Horsley, ed. In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance. Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

I recommend this collection of short, clearly written, and perceptive essays providing a comprehensive overview of the centrality of resistance to empire in the Bible–from Genesis through Revelation.

Several big names are here–Norman Gottwald, Walter Brueggemann, John Dominic Crossan, and Richard Horsley for example–but the strength of the collection is the consistent high level of all the essays.

Maybe the most important contributions this book makes have to do its accessibility and its touching on so many bases. It’s an overview, and introduction, to an easily overlooked theme. We see in just over 180 pages how the entire Bible is best understood as anti-imperial literature. The social context for all varieties of biblical literature must be understood as God’s people living amidst the Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. There are no major biblical writings that do not touch on this theme.

Though they focus on the biblical text, most of the writers are sensitive to our raised awareness in the present about parallels between biblical anti-imperial perspectives and our lives amidst the contemporary American empire. I think these parallels are important, and I appreciate this book pointing to them.

Once you read the Bible with empire on the mind, you will see how much of the Bible is relevant; this book is not faddish imposition of a present-day agenda on the Bible (though it is true at present-day alarms about our empire have pushed us to be more aware of what is clearly there). For me, the frustration lies with how blind Bible-readers have been to the anti-Empire agenda of the Bible, not that we now are being helped by books such as these to pay more attention to it.


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