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PART I BIBLICAL AND CLASSICAL BACKGROUND This page intentionally left blank 39 2 (RE-­ )READING THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE LIGHT OF SIBLING RIVALRY Some Hermeneutical Implications for Today Richard A. Burridge This paper will consider the first question posed for the symposium about reexamining the “biblical stories about sibling rivalry that appear to be at the heart of the problem of ‘them vs. us’ enmity” in the hope that this might help “point to a solution.” In his important book Not in God’s Name, Rabbi Sacks (re-­ )reads the stories of sibling rivalry in Genesis concerning Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Leah and Rachel, and Cain and Abel, as well as the universal and particular covenants with Noah and with Abraham. Can Rabbi Sacks’ repeated conclusions from these Genesis stories that the choice of one does not necessitate the rejection of the other1 inspire a similar (re-­ )reading of the New Testament (especially Paul and the gospels), which may impact on the accusation of supersessionism, as posed in the symposium’s fourth question? We will also discuss whether a hermeneutic of reading with and for the “voice of the other” in the light of such sibling rivalry might assist our search for answers to the problems of violence in the name of God. This chapter will employ both a careful historical-­ critical reading of the New Testament writings in their historical and social context (according to the current consensus reconstruction of biblical scholars) and draw upon some literary readings. I am conscious that this attempt to cover a vast area (most of the New Testament!) must therefore entail some broad generalizations, so in the footnotes I will supply cross-­ references to some of my other work where this is described in more 40 Richard A. Burridge detail with fuller academic documentation. I would like to offer to these discussions together my experience and training, originally as a classicist specializing in Graeco-­ Roman literature and history, through my initial studies at Oxford and teaching Latin and Greek, history, literature, and culture as a schoolmaster—­ and these interests have driven all my work, as well as this paper. During ordination training and the early years of ministry as a parish priest and university chaplain, I completed my doctoral studies on the literary background of the gospels, with regard to their genre, in comparison with Graeco-­ Roman biography (which is very different from the modern genre).2 This biographical genre of the gospels inevitably entails an overriding emphasis on the person of Jesus of Nazareth, his deeds and words, life, ministry, and death, which therefore runs throughout my writings,3 as recognized in my being awarded the 2013 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis for establishing the “indissoluble connection between Jesus and the gospels.”4 I have discussed this particular biographical stress on the person of Jesus with Rabbi Sacks on many occasions over the years since we both share an interest in narrative and story, and so now I am delighted to bring it to bear upon the question of how we interpret the New Testament, particularly in the light of the biblical stories of sibling rivalry and the relationship between the emerging early church and first-­ century Judaism. The second phase of my work went on to the implications of this biographical genre for the application of the gospels in particular—­ but also the Bible in general—­ to moral and ethical issues, including the social and political sphere. This work began with a detailed study of the use of the Bible and the hermeneutics of the interpretation of scripture both to justify and to critique apartheid in South Africa.5 I have appreciated my conversations about the Bible and ethics with Rabbi Sacks over many years, both during his time as chief rabbi and his more recent tenure as Professor of Law, Ethics, and the Hebrew Bible at King’s College London—­ and he keeps asking me when the second part of my work on ethics is going to appear!6 It was a privilege to hear Rabbi Sacks’ first (re-­ )reading of these stories of sibling rivalry in 2004 (the 175th anniversary of our founding Royal Charter), as some lectures given for the Associateship of King’s College London (AKC, our original award since 1831), which also included lectures from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to which I and other members of the Theology Department then responded. However, I am delighted to see the much more...


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