The interpretation of the Bible is intricately interwoven with the history of and rhetoric of European colonization. During the modern era, the traditions of biblical interpretation played a crucial framing role in the emergence of industrialized nation-states, the capitalist mode of production, and the colonial enterprises of European powers. While the Bible has been used to justify the power of ruling classes and dominating nations, it has also been a source of liberative and resistant political discourse. In this book, Niall McKay uses the tools of literary materialism to read the gospel of Mark and build upon the representational epistemology and patterns of interpretation of the rich Marxism of the Frankfurt school. This reading is framed against and around the liberative biblical movements of late colonial and post-colonial South Africa in order to develop “ways of reading” which are generative of liberation. As a consequence, the author makes a valuable contribution to an ongoing politics and practice of resistance that is attentive to issues of religious collaboration, liberation, colonialism, and the ends of late capitalism.
Niall McKay is a Public and Contextual Theology research fellow with Charles Sturt University, Australia and a research associate with Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
Chapter 1: Intertextuality and Materialist Dialectics: Methodological Concerns
Chapter 2: Mark, Sabbath and Utopia
Chapter 3: Action, Violence and Financial Ruin: Give unto Caesar that which Caesar Deserves
Chapter 4: Communities of Resistance and Mark
Chapter 5: Always Historicize: Marx, Mark and the (Post)apartheid Struggle
About the Author
A daring and cutting-edge approach to the Gospel of Mark for a new generation of politically interested readers. By competently applying Marxist literary criticism to three pivotal areas of conflict or resistance in Mark—sabbath, imperial violence, and communities of resistance—Niall McKay resituates the Markan text as a product of ideological struggle, and detects within its pages utopian possibilities for liberation as well. Essential stuff.
The use of apartheid South Africa as the historical locus of McKay’s interrogation of the political impact of biblical interpretation is an inspired choice. Allowing the South African context to shape his methodological approach, McKay constructs what he refers to as a flexible hermeneutic, forging a form of Marxist literary materialism with which to bring Markan biblical texts into a dialectical dialogue with the South African post-colony. In so doing McKay demonstrates the capacity of his biblical hermeneutic to engage with this and other contexts of oppression, partially constituted by the Bible, and within which biblical interpretation is a site of struggle. In McKay’s words, 'Insofar as there are communities which discern guidance and liberative inspiration from the Bible, how can we read to understand the contours of oppression, resistant action and liberative community in the name of a re-imagined material future?' The contemporary post-apartheid South African context is one such context where this question resonates and where McKay’s book offers hope.