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For much of the twentieth century, scholarship on the Hebrew Bible assumed a sharp distinction between nature and history, and associated biblical literature more closely with history than with nature. This reemergence has taken several forms. Following the path opened by Douglas, some scholars use the distinction between clean and unclean animals to interpret biblical religion.


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Alongside these approaches, only a few scholars have called attention to the potential relevance for biblical interpretation of a growing body of interdisciplinary animal studies emerging outside of biblical scholarship. One of the primary goals of this book is to suggest that contemporary animal studies can prove useful to readers of the Hebrew Bible who wish to carry out such a task.

Thus each of the chapters that follow reexamines some section or sections of biblical literature in dialogue with various resources or questions from contemporary animal studies. Taken together, the chapters argue that the importance of both animals and animal symbols has been significantly underemphasized by biblical scholars and underestimated by other readers of the Hebrew Bible.

Indeed, I will go so far as to suggest that, without the presence of the specific animals known to the writers of the Hebrew Bible, neither biblical theologies nor the religions of Judaism and Christianity that make use of the Hebrew Bible would exist in anything like their current forms. The literature and religion of the Hebrew Bible emerge from, and are made possible by, particular multispecies contexts.

But in a world with as many pressing issues as our own, what is the relevance of either animal studies generally or animal studies and the Hebrew Bible in particular? Can we afford to spend our time thinking about animals when so many urgent matters demand attention? The frequency with which questions such as these are asked indicates that, in spite of our fascination with animals, concerns about them are still usually considered secondary to human concerns.

Indeed, most humans appear to feel little compunction about using animals in ways that require their deaths e. If asked to justify such behavior, many people would probably refer to the Hebrew Bible itself.

The Antidote to Post-humanism by Albert Mohler

For a long tradition of biblical interpretation appeals to a handful of passages in order to argue that animals are not only ontologically different from humans but also rightly subordinated to us and to our interests and concerns. Although we may wish to treat animals more kindly, many would insist that we should not allow animal issues to distract us from the more important human issues of our time.

I will be returning to some of the biblical passages that are used to draw such sharp, hierarchical distinctions between humans and animals. My goal in doing so will not be to deny the anthropocentric force of Genesis —28, but rather to re-read it in the context of numerous other passages, from Genesis and elsewhere, that reveal far more complicated, and sometimes contradictory, relationships among humans, other animals, and God.

Indeed, Genesis 1 places much more emphasis on the flourishing of animal life than most readers acknowledge. Although the animals referred to in the Hebrew Bible will receive much attention here, those animals are mediated to us through the words of the humans who bequeathed it to us.

But the frequent references to animals in the Bible do not only shed light on those animals. The animal world provided the writers of biblical literature with a rich set of symbols that they used to speak about themselves, their human neighbors, the religion they practiced or advocated, and the God or gods they worshipped. They were, in addition, using their observations about and relations with animals to understand themselves, their relations with one another including the relations of power and subordination that structured their societies , their relations with other peoples and nations, their relations with God, and the relations they imagined God to have with the larger natural world and the nonhuman creatures who inhabit it.

All of these relations will concern us here, as will our own relations to these ancient texts as modern readers. On the other hand, even if one believes that concerns about animals are rightly subordinated to human concerns, it is important to recognize that we read the Bible today in a context in which ethical questions about our interactions with animals grow ever more pressing. But we are creating more suffering for more animals, and more threats to the continued existence of more species, even as we learn more every year about the ways in which animal abilities exceed the limited conceptions we have had about them in the past.

To be sure, the writers of the Hebrew Bible could not have anticipated the very different world in which we are now reading their texts. But if our interpretations of the Bible are contributing to a disregard for animals that produces suffering on a massive scale, we have to ask whether those interpretations are as persuasive or inevitable as we have been led to believe.

And this leads to another reason for reexamining the Bible in dialogue with animal studies. Such reexamination is valuable in part because it may lead to a better understanding of the Hebrew Bible itself. In making this statement, I do not wish to be understood as relying on outdated assumptions that a single, correct meaning can simply be extracted from biblical texts through the proper application of modern exegetical principles.

I have made it clear elsewhere, in the context of queer readings and gender analyses of the Bible, that in my view biblical meanings have as much to do with the questions, assumptions, and rhetorical reading strategies that we bring to biblical texts, and to the contexts in which we interpret those texts, as they do with empirical facts about the texts themselves. One of my contentions here is that, even within the framework of shared conventions for biblical interpretation, the significance of animals in the Hebrew Bible has been distorted by our anthropocentric assumptions about biblical literature and the religion it promotes.

Each of the chapters that follow, then, explores the possible significance of animals and animal studies for biblical interpretation by starting from specific points of departure in the Hebrew Bible, in contemporary animal studies, and in the literature of biblical interpretation. Because the issues raised from animal studies vary by chapter, in several places I return to biblical texts that have already been discussed earlier in the book to consider how they might be re-read in the context of different interpretive issues and additional biblical texts.

From chapter to chapter, however, the biblical references cover different animal species appearing in multiple genres. The diversity of animals who appear in the Bible coexist, here, with a diversity of questions that one can ask about them. I am certainly not opposed to making methodological recommendations for biblical interpretation on the basis of new areas of study.

More important for my purposes here, the distillation of a single method from animal studies is made impossible by the heterogeneity of this rapidly growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship. These terminological differences are not simply interchangeable ways of describing the field. In many cases they represent diverse foci and philosophical or methodological assumptions undergirding different projects in animal studies. Such diversity can make it difficult for the scholar who brings animal studies to bear in a new area, such as biblical studies, even to specify what animal studies is.

Some scholars attempt to define animal studies in as inclusive a way as possible, underscoring work being done across many academic disciplines.

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Medieval Posthumanism

As DeMello notes, however, animal studies in this expansive sense, precisely because of its wide scope, cannot be defined by a single method. It tends, rather, to be shaped by methodological debates taking place within the various disciplines that contribute to it. This methodological pluralism may raise difficulties for shared knowledge. And the challenges that animals present to our knowledge are not limited to challenges of methodological diversity.

Attempts to understand animals quickly run up against obstacles that we at least assume are not as severe when we study other humans.

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We cannot usually ask an animal questions for clarification, for example. If we are attempting to read texts in which human concerns are privileged over animal concerns, moreover, our conventional ways of handling texts that privilege some concerns over others may not work as well with animals.

Review – Whence and Whither Posthumanism? (Bo Eberle)

For example, our recognition that biblical and other ancient texts are largely written by men, and reflect the concerns and perspectives of an elite male class, sometimes lead us to find creative ways to give ancient women a voice. As Kari Weil observes,. Paradoxically, however, animal studies does not only highlight ways in which animals are different from us.

It also undermines long-standing assumptions about the absolute, ontological distinction between humans and animals. Although this distinction and the anthropocentrism that it fuels are, as I have noted already, sometimes grounded in appeals to biblical literature, they also undergird much philosophical and psychological discourse as well as societal and institutional practice. Yet as more characteristics that were assumed in the past to distinguish humans from other animals are found in some form among one or more animal species, the boundary between humans and animals has become increasingly less clear.

Even language may not provide as secure a criterion for distinguishing humans from other animals as has long been assumed. After all, some nonhuman animals do learn to communicate with humans in ways that rely, in part, on elements of human language; and it has become increasingly apparent that many animal species have developed their own complex systems of communication. Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. New York: HarperCollins. Cary Wolfe.

What is Posthumanism? This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3. Related Papers. By Trevor W Thompson. Peterson - The Posthumanism to Come. Animal Narratives and Culture: Vulnerable Realism.

"Are we becoming God(s)?" - The Posthuman Divine (Part 1)

By Anna Barcz. The Posthumanism To Come By Christopher Peterson. Following the animal-to-come. By Robert Briggs. Download pdf. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. We are living in an age of radical transformations in science, technology, and worldview. Genetic modifications and germ-line therapies differ from previous technologies of personal enhancement, Smith explains.

All this changes when genetic modifications and germ-line technologies enter the picture. Once confined to academic debate and the literary world of science fiction, these proposals are now taken seriously by scientists, medical doctors, and ethical observers.

Reckless confidence in new scientific technologies is often translated into a sense that every new technology shifts from what is possible to what is necessary. Many of the proposals now taken seriously by the scientific establishment are simply breathtaking. Gregory E.

Personal Thoughts on Faith, Ethics, and Literature

Some see a day when the human species will branch off in different directions. Gregory Pence goes so far as to argue that children will one day be chosen as we now choose pets. The biblical understanding of the human being begins with the fact that we are creatures made in the image of God and for His glory. The special status of human beings in the order of creation is not an accident of evolutionary development, but the sovereign will of the Creator, who made human beings in His own image.