For years, the belief that everything about the West is superior is imprinted in the minds of the colonised and also postcolonial societies. Colonialism for centuries was a centralized tactic for armies and a way of being. Edward Said, Homi Bhabha and Frantz Fanon helped to produce what we now know as postcolonial theory, which fights back the colonialism and seeks to redefine the position of power of the colonisers and the marginalised or the colonised. Their work has helped to redefine the identity of a postcolonial nation. This book is about discovering the place of postcolonialism in the whole of the New Testament, so not merely a nation, but a historical people group who were in the midst of re-defining themselves.
This has got to be one of the most comprehensive works out there on Post-Colonial commentary of the New Testament. The commentary follows a historical-critical format that includes context, linguistic interpretation, philological date, exegesis, and theoretical elaboration. This is a very welcomed piece of scholarship as it seeks to enlighten its readers to the imperial dispensation of the early Roman world and how that reality framed a lot of the corpus we now know as the New Testament. As Segovia comments about this work: in the introduction that it is “a collection of incredible breadth and immense richness” (68); this immense richness is layered with post-colonial nuances as well as insightful scholarship that opens up a much needed dialogue.
There seems to be a little disagreement on how postcolonial interpretations are defined. Another reviewer explains: “Segovia makes a somewhat laborious attempt to classify the different authors in terms of four criteria—configurations, approaches, findings, and stances—but I felt that this process highlighted the incoherence rather than the commonality of postcolonialism as a methodology.” His incoherence I claim is an important demonstration of the generative spirit of Post-Colonialism and how it materializes depending upon the interpreter, which I posit is what is partially central to the very spirit of a pluralistic post-colonialism.
The Christian Church has had quite a perverse history when it comes to colonialism. One only needs to open a history book to hear about it. Colonialism still seems to be prevalent within our society and yes, even still in churches today in different but more naïve forms. Our tendency as humans is to want to colonize what isn’t ours for the taking. Or as psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan once posited, that once we know the other we want to kill it. Theology is one such practice that has been highly affected by colonialism and has helped justify atrocity after atrocity.
This is why “A Postcolonial Commentary On The New Testament Writings” needed to be written, to directly respond to scholarship that has led to some form of destruction or another. Segovia and Sugirtharajah do an amazing job of teasing out not only the colonialism apparent within the New testament, but also points out our dispensation toward reading certain passages as colonial. Through their detailed analysis they bring the context to life all the while, much like a tour guide, point out where we might miss some of the nuanced where colonialism is occurring. They don’t miss a step in how detailed they truly are.
In most sections there are space left for the understanding of the geographical boundaries in place at that time which helps to give a clearer landscape for justifying why the authors were colonial in their writings. They also end each chapter with a wealth of references or notes which help to re-contextualize their scholarship and also are quite handy for further study.
One of the most enlightening chapters is that of the book of Revelation, which also tends to be quite a hot topic in a lot of churches today, especially in terms of, if and how the world might end. This book goes to great lengths not to intentionally debunk orthodoxy but rather enlighten us to the power and environment of a context riddled by colonialism.
This is a great resource for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the world of the first-century and discover the ethos, life, and dispensation toward colonialism and also how we should, as post-colonialists, respond to such a message.
George Elerick is an author, cultural theorist, and human rights advocate. He writes for several publications including for The Huffington Post. He lives in England with his beautiful wife and son. You can find out more about him here: http://theloverevolution.org.uk