A Jesus-centered Anabaptist Bible (“Planning a people’s Bible,” Sept. 23) has potential to address the intersection of racism-accommodating theology and the move to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery.
It is not an accident that through the centuries the church has blessed war and failed to condemn slavery, racism, white supremacy and white nationalism. The church traditionally has identified Jesus by the generic categories of humanity, deity and Trinity — theological concepts that have no ethical dimension to challenge slavery, racism, white supremacy or war.
In contrast to the Jesus of the classic theological formulas, which separate Jesus from his Jewishness and make him an abstract ideal separated from history, an Anabaptist Bible can make clear the identity of Jesus by the story in which his life is a manifestation of the reign of God on Earth. This story makes clear Jesus’ continuation of the story of Abraham and Israel and his rejection of the sword, while his dealings with Samaritans and Gentiles challenge racism. These observations display the relevance of the Anabaptist Bible for contemporary society, as well as underscoring the need to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. Jesus’ treatment of women raised their status in a society in which they were second-class citizens. The same is true for poor people and for refugees, emphases of the Anabaptist Bible’s effort to be inclusive. The Resurrection makes clear that God is in this story and that Jesus’ story is God’s story.
The Anabaptist Bible also has implications for understanding the Old Testament and Judaism. Alongside the violent accounts in the Old Testament, consider stories such as Isaac’s refusal to fight about wells, Gideon’s rout of the Midianites with 300 men and a ruse, Elisha’s thwarting of an Aramean invasion with a feast and the cultural resistance of the Hebrew captives in Daniel. This comparison displays that the Old Testament has a conversation about God’s support of violence. Since Jesus reveals the character of God, his continuation of the story of Israel shows that rejecting violence best reflects the character of God. Understanding Jesus as a continuation of the story of Israel makes the Old Testament an integral part of the Bible for Christians. Historians recognize that for several early centuries, worshiping communities had members who disagreed on whether Jesus was the Messiah. Since there has never been a consensus on when that disagreement led to one side or the other being excluded, we could still be having that discussion with Jews, but as a family dispute within the people of God rather than as a debate with one side or the other expelled. Seeing this relationship of Christians and Jews eliminates the possibility of supersessionism, a concern raised by scholars at the Anabaptist Bible conference.
The Anabaptist Bible has the potential to be an epoch-making volume. Could it even initiate another Reformation?
J. Denny Weaver, Madison Wis.