Bitter the Chastening Rod follows in the footsteps of the first collection of African American biblical interpretation, Stony the Road We Trod (1991). Nineteen Africana biblical scholars contribute cutting-edge essays reading Jesus, criminalization, the enslaved, and whitened interpretations of the enslaved. They present pedagogical strategies for teaching, hermeneutics, and bible translation that center Black Lives Matter and black culture. Biblical narratives, news media, and personal stories intertwine in critical discussions of black rage, protest, anti-blackness, and mothering in the context of black precarity.
Mitzi J. Smith is the J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.
Angela N. Parker is assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, GA.
Ericka S. Dunbar Hill is visiting professor of Hebrew Bible at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, OH.
Part I. Remembering the Past, Laboring in the Present, and Shaping a Hopeful Future
1.“The Hill We Climb”: Introduction ‒‒ Mitzi J. Smith, Angela N. Parker and Ericka Dunbar Hill
2.A Eulogy for Cain Hope Felder ‒‒ Brian K. Blount
3.Zoom-ing in on a Watershed Moment in Biblical Interpretation ‒‒ William H. Myers
Part II. God’s Black(ened) People in the World—Thugs, Slaves and Criminals
4.God’s Only Begotten Thug ‒‒ Allen Dwight Callahan
5.Abolitionist Messiah: A Man Named Jesus Born of a Doulē ‒‒ Mitzi J. Smith
6.Reading with the Enslaved: Placing Human Bondage at the Center of the Early Christian Story ‒‒ Emerson B. Powery
7.“I am a Human”: Racializing Assemblages and Criminalized Egyptianness in Acts 21:31–39 ‒‒ Jeremy L. Williams
8.The Terror of White Hermeneutics: Black and Enslaved Bodies Interpreted in the Context of Whiteness ‒‒ Marcus W. Shields
Part III. Africana Hermeneutical Strategies, Pedagogy, Translation, and #BLM
9.Hoodoo Blues and the Formulation of Hermeneutical Strategies for Contemporary Africana Biblical Engagement ‒‒ Hugh R. Page, Jr.
10.Reflections on Teaching Biblical Interpretation through a Black Lives Matter Hermeneutic ‒‒ Wil Gafney
11.Revisiting the Caananites and Contemporary Ites: Pedagogical Insights into Cheering for the Wrong Team ‒‒ Theodore W. Burgh
12.Reading Romans in Greek: Translating and Commenting on it in Haitian Creole ‒‒ Ronald Charles
Part IV. Black Rage and Protest in Times of #Black Lives Matter and #MeToo
13.Rage, Riots, and Rhetoric: Psalm 137 and African American Responses to Violence ‒‒ Stacy Davis
14.Rethinking “God-breathed” in the Age of #Black Lives Matter: A Womanist Reading of 2 Tim 3:10–17 ‒‒ Angela N. Parker
15.Leah and Dinah in the Face of Abuse: What Do I Tell My Daughter? ‒‒ Kamilah Hall Sharp
16.Antichrist and Anti-Black: 1 John and “Black Lives Matter” ‒‒ Dennis R. Edwards
Part V. Responses
17.John’s Apocalypse and African American Interpretation ‒‒ Thomas B. Slater
18.Race Still Matters: Mapping the Afterlives of Stony the Road We Trod ‒‒ Clarice J. Martin
19.“To Think Better Than We Have Been Trained”: Thirty Years Later ‒‒ Renita J. Weems
This complex volume will have the reader pondering Jesus' own status as slave, wondering about daily life for those who are nameless and marginalized in the church, questioning received hermeneutical traditions, and reflecting on the legacies of Africana biblical interpreters.
Since African American biblical interpretation is unapologetically contextual, the contributors of Bitter the Chastening Rod engage the cultural history of Black peoples in the U.S. and diaspora, raising new questions about humanity, discipline, and culture amidst social movements such as #BLM, #SayHerName, and #MeToo. Consequently, this collective work of Africana biblical critics emerges as an assemblage of culturally informed knowledge of the text and history, innovative deployments of theories and hermeneutics, and emancipatory pedagogy grounded in praxis. It demonstrates the perseverance, resilience, and brilliance of generations of Black biblical scholarship. As Stony the Road We Trod opened the path not only for Black scholarship but also for other minoritized scholars, this volume is a must-read for all biblical scholars and an invaluable source for faith communities to join the struggle for justice in our time.
Bitter the Chastening Rod provides creative paths to the hackneyed roads that whitestream scholarship has built for Biblical Studies. We are in dire need of imaginative interpretive exercises that challenge how whiteness has pervaded historiography, linguistics, and literary analysis. We also need visionary models to build graduate programs, curriculums, and educational practices attentive to a world facing unprecedented global crises. Bitter the Chastening Rod suggests new paths for such enterprise.
This compelling sequel of the seminal Stony the Road we Trod proves the pressing relevance of Africana hermeneutics at this historical moment. These diverse readings offer a review of the work of pioneers; bold, historically grounded, and tragically relevant interpretations of individual texts about incarceration and violence; and important challenges to comfortable readers. No New Testament scholar, seminarian, or Christian should look away from the opportunities to enact justice that this volume presents.
Bitter the Chastening Rod: Africana Interpretation After Stony the Road we Trod in the Age of #BLM, #SayHerName, and #MeToo is a greatly anticipated volume that, in the spirit of Sankofa, builds upon, expands, and futures Black post-colonial biblical studies. The aggregation of renown scholars that pen this work offers brilliant insights on the biblical text and prophetic movements against subjugation. This important text engages the longstanding and ongoing work of confronting interlocking forms of oppression in the US and globally, centering the continuing need to illuminate connections between Africana biblical studies and the hermeneutical lenses of current revolutionary struggles. It is a must-read that informs any serious engagement of the theological disciplines and meaningful social action.
The pioneers of Black biblical scholarship have proudly passed the torch to an equally agile cohort of “troublers” who ably take up the call to challenge the still prevailing hermeneutic of whiteness. For me, a white scholar, BCR is the companion piece I’ve been waiting for. I owe these contributors not only a great debt of gratitude for such an essential resource but also my undivided attention and resolve as I trod my own hermeneutical trek.
This powerful and provocative collection is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in African American biblical interpretation. Bringing together activism and pedagogy, these essays from established and emergent scholars show how reading with black experiences can lead to invaluable insights about biblical texts of the past and sociopolitical struggles of the present—as they simultaneously offer cogent challenges to claims of racial neutrality in one’s reading of the Bible.
In commemorating the 30th anniversary of the publication of Stony the Road We Trod (1991) edited by the late Cain Hope Felder, the highly-competent team of African American scholars who contributed to STR did not disappoint. I am reasonably confident that Bitter the Chastening Rod will itself, like STR, stand tall among the canon of Africana biblical scholarship for some time to come.
This wide-ranging and interdisciplinary collection reflects just how much Africana and womanist biblical scholarship have bloomed in the wake of Stony the Road We Trod. The contributors push past the hermeneutics of whiteness and respectability in creative and often daring directions, with righteous rage, resistance, and perseverance in the face of recurrent violence against Black and Brown bodies. The paths are still rocky in so many ways, but these scholars present more resources for navigating these bitter truths than ever before.