The Calling of the Nations: Exegesis, Ethnography, and Empire in a Biblical-Historic Present

The Calling of the Nations: Exegesis, Ethnography, and Empire in a Biblical-Historic Present

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Edited by Mark Vessey, Sharon Betcher, Robert A. Daum, and Harry O. Maier
Green College Thematic Lecture Series
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2010
World Rights
384 Pages
Cloth
ISBN 9780802092410
Published Jan 2011
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442659490
Published Feb 2015
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Current notions of nationhood, communal identity, territorial entitlement, and collective destiny are deeply rooted in historic interpretations of the Bible. Interweaving elements of history, theology, literary criticism, and cultural theory, the essays in this volume discuss the ways in which biblical understandings have shaped Western – and particularly European and North American – assumptions about the nature and meaning of the nation.

Part of the Green College Lecture Series, this wide-ranging collection moves from the earliest Pauline and Rabbinic exegesis through Christian imperial and missionary narratives of the late Roman, medieval, and early modern periods to the entangled identity politics of 'mainstream' nineteenth-and twentieth-century North America. Taken together, the essays show that, while theories of globalization, postmodernism, and postcolonialism have all offered critiques of identity politics and the nation-state, the global present remains heavily informed by biblical-historical intuitions of nationhood.

Mark Vessey is a professor in the Department of English and Canada Research Chair in Literature / Christianity and Culture at the University of British Columbia.


Sharon Betcher is an associate professor of Theology at Vancouver School of Theology.


Robert A. Daum is an associate professor of Rabbinic Literature and Jewish Thought and Director of Iona Pacific Inter-Religious Centre at Vancouver School of Theology.


Harry O. Maier is a professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at Vancouver School of Theology.

Introduction: The Bible in the West: A Peoples’ History? by Mark Vessey (University of British Columbia)

PART I: Biblical Possessions

  1. Perhaps God Is Irish: Sacred Texts as Virtual Reality Machine by Donald Harman Akenson (Queen’s University)
  2. Protestant Restorationism and the Ortelian Mapping of Palestine (with an Afterword on Islam) by Nabil I. Matar (University of Minnesota)
  3. Beyond a Shared Inheritance: American Jews Reclaim the Hebrew Bible by Laura S. Levitt (Temple University, Philadelphia)
  4. Recalling the Nation’s Terrain: Narrative, Territory and Canon (Commentary on Part One) by Robert A. Daum (University of British Columbia)

PART II: Confounding Narratives

  1. Dominion from Sea to Sea: Eusebius of Caesarea, Constantine the Great and the Exegesis of Empire by Harry O. Maier (Vancouver School of Theology, British Columbia)
  2. Unending Sway: The Ideology of Empire in Early Christian Latin Thought by Karla Pollmann (University of St. Andrews, Scotland)
  3. ‘The Ends of the Earth’: The Bible, Bibles and the Other in Early Medieval Europe by Ian Wood (University of Leeds)
  4. Promised Lands, Premised Texts (Commentary on Part Two) by Mark Vessey

PART III: Colonial and Postcolonial Readings, Premodern Ironies

  1. The Amerindian in Divine History: The Limits of Biblical Authority in the Jesuit Mission to New France, 1632-1649 by Peter A. Goddard (University of Guelph)
  2. Joshua in America: On Cowboys, Canaanites and Indians by Laura E. Donaldson (Cornell University)
  3. Premodern Ironies: First Nations and Chosen Peoples by Jace Weaver (University of Georgia)
  4. Biblical Narrative and the (De)stabilization of the Colonial Subject (Commentary on Part Three) by Harry O. Maier

Epilogue. ‘Paradise Highway’: Of Global Cities and Postcolonial Reading Practices by Sharon V. Betcher (Vancouver School of Theology, British Columbia)

'The Calling of the Nations presents historical and theoretical arguments on how current notions of nationhood remain deeply embedded in Christian ideas of empire and identity, despite discourses of globalization, post-modernism, and post-colonialism. A significant contribution to various fields, The Calling of the Nations is also a great conversation partner—no other volume provides such a wide range of perspectives on post-colonial readings of the Bible, nor a self-critical reflection on the method itself.'

Richard Ascough, School of Religion, Queen's University