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Borderline Exegesis

By Leif E. Vaage

Publication Year: 2014

In Borderline Exegesis, Leif Vaage presents an alternate approach to biblical interpretation, or exegesis—an approach that bends the boundaries of the traditional North American methodology to analyze the meaning of biblical texts for a wider audience. To accomplish this, Vaage engages in a practice he calls “borderline exegesis.” Adapting anthropological notions of borderlands, borderline exegesis writes biblical scholarship peripherally, unearthing the Bible’s textual and discursive borderlands and allowing biblical texts to be at play with utopian imagination. The book’s main chapters are four case studies that engage in a “divergent reading” of the Book of Job, the Gospel of Matthew, the Epistle of James, and the Book of Revelation. Informed by the author’s time in war-torn Peru, these chapters take on themes that the poor and disenfranchised have historically claimed, themes of social justice, the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of prevailing social practices, and—most importantly—a locus of utopian demand for another possible world. These chapters are held together by the presentation of a greater theoretical framework that provides reflection on the exegetical practices within, and confronts biblical scholars with important questions about the aims of the work they do. Taken as a whole, Vaage seeks to disclose what the professional practice of textual interpretation might become if we refuse the conventional distances between academic practice and lived experience.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Signifying (on) Scriptures

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Quote

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

As this book goes to press, I realize that I now have no idea how to acknowledge everyone who has been a part of its multistage and sometimes haphazard development. It simply has taken too long for the book to arrive at the brink of publication—with too many “original ideas,” false starts, constructive interruptions, and instructive refusals along the way—to...

Note on the Text

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pp. xi

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Introduction: Another Bible That Is Borderline

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pp. 1-30

Borderline exegesis is such a toast, “with transitory words . . . in breakable glasses,” to everything that still might augur goodness of life—“light, fleeting, changing, finite”—in the Christian Bible and in us. Borderline exegesis offers homage and encouragement to the yearning that yet lingers...

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Chapter 1: Into the Whirlwind: God’s Answer to Job’s Complaint

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pp. 31-54

In this chapter I read the book of Job and, specifically, God’s answer to Job’s complaint in Job 38:1–41:34, with Job’s response in 42:1–6. I did this initially as part of an effort to incorporate a growing ecological consciousness into the practice of Latin American biblical interpretation. Here, however...

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Chapter 2: The Economy, Stupid!: The Teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew

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pp. 55-91

Not everyone, of course, agrees with Robinson Jeffers’s vision of “enskyment” or self-conscious entrance into the violent beauty of an extrahuman world within which, for example, a noble spirit might aspire to be eaten by a vulture’s beak and thus to “become part of him.” For Czeslaw Milosz...

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Interlude: Displaced Exegete: A Scriptural Biography

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pp. 92-104

In the introduction to this book I described briefly how it was that I came to write these essays and therewith to develop a sense of myself as a borderline exegete. I have been encouraged to say a little more about that process, which, for some reason, I still remain reluctant to do. At the same time...

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Chapter 3: Such a Little Thing!: The Tongue and Alternate Subjectivity in the Epistle of James

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pp. 105-124

In this chapter I turn from the “larger” questions that were the focus of discussion in chapter 1 and chapter 2—namely, the nature of the world in which we live and the political economy that would favor a more satisfying life in this world—to address a couple of other “smaller” issues. The first...

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Chapter 4: Interrupting Hope: The Book of Revelation

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pp. 125-146

What does one do when the effort to live otherwise, as someone else, in a world that is not working well for most of us (and ultimately not well for any of us) finds itself fully foiled and flummoxed? When the world as it is, as we have known it, relentlessly continues to unfold as ever, insisting with...

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Conclusion: After the Bible: Life’s Largesse

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pp. 147-154

The four main chapters in this book all end up pointing past the biblical text on which they comment to a larger life that I am calling “after the Bible.” The phrase “after the Bible” is meant to be ambivalent.1 One could even say constitutively ambiguous.2 It obviously could mean “in accordance...


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pp. 155-176


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pp. 177-190


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pp. 191-201

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271063867
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271062877
Print-ISBN-10: 0271062878

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Signifying (on) Scriptures