It is no surprise that the Bible is filled with stories of violence, having come into being through the crucible of trauma, cultural conflict, and warfare. But the more obvious acts of physical or sexual violence in the Hebrew Bible often overshadow its subtler forms throughout Scripture and belie the variety of perspectives on violence embedded in biblical narratives. This hinders readers’ ability to recognize the full spectrum of human engagement with violence, both in texts and in their lived experiences.
Uncovering Violence: Reading Biblical Narratives as an Ethical Project seeks to provide a theoretical vocabulary for the various forms that violence can take—including textual violence, interpretive violence, moral injury, and slow violence—and to offer a fresh ethical reading of violence in the biblical text. Focusing on four narratives from the Hebrew Bible, Cottrill uses the approach of narrative ethics to lay out the many ways that stories can make moral claims on readers, not by delivering a discrete “lesson” or takeaway but by making transformative contact with readers and involving them in a more embodied dialogue with the text.
Exploring the narratives of Jael’s killing of Sisera, the toxic masculinity of Samson, environmental devastation and failures of legal systems in Ruth, and Abigail’s mediation with King David, Uncovering Violence presents strategies for reading that allow for this close encounter. In doing so, it helps prepare readers to better recognize, interpret, and even respond to violence and its many effects within and beyond the text.
“Here is an exemplar of the best of today’s interdisciplinary biblical scholarship perfectly suited to our present cultural moment. With an eclectic blend of perspectives (e.g., literary and ethical theory, moral injury, masculinity studies) and a focus on women characters in violent settings (e.g., Sisera’s mother, Ruth, Abigail, Samson's women), Amy Cottrill helps readers better recognize different forms of violence in biblical stories, think about the effects of that textual violence, and treat reading itself as an ethical project. In Cottrill’s able hands, violent stories such as the killing of Sisera and the exploits of Samson become examples of the ethical complexity of biblical narratives and opportunities for today’s readers to face anew the violence present in their own realities.” —Brad E. Kelle, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Point Loma Nazarene University
“In this thought-provoking book Amy Cottrill guides the reader into an encounter with the complex, multi-dimensional nature of violence as it is represented in biblical narrative. Stories one assumed were simple tales are seen afresh as complex meditations on how characters—and readers—negotiate their entanglement in violence of many types. A superb book for use in the classroom or in serious adult education.”
—Carol A. Newsom, Charles Howard Candler Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
“Cottrill shows how our typical ways of dealing with violence in the Bible fail to honor the intricacies of the texts themselves, and the complexity of how we navigate violence in our own world. In this major interdisciplinary contribution to our understanding of violence, Cottrill ably guides readers to a more informed, and more profound, way of seeing—and engaging—the violence in the Bible and in our world.”
—Jacqueline E. Lapsley, Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament, Princeton