Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Revelation, the Religions, and Violence

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Revelation, the Religions, and Violence

Article excerpt

Revelation, the Religions, and Violence. By Leo D. Lefebure. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2000. xvii + 244 pp. $20.00 (paper).

Leo Lefebure's book arrived at my office just in time. The bookstore was forcing me to decide what books I wanted to teach for the next semester long before I was ready. Ambitious and comprehensive, this book perfectly fits the goals of our senior seminar on the nature of religion. The title of the book says it all. Lefebure covers nearly everything, and his clarity and depth are impressive. The book does not answer all of the questions it raises, but it might teach as much through its failures as its successes.

A veteran of religious dialogue, Lefebure is especially concerned about the violence that he sees as an integral part of Christian history. To understand this violence, he both appropriates and criticizes the work of Rene Girard. Lefebure does not like the way Girard privileges biblical revelation or insists on the foundational role of scapegoating. One is tempted to ask why Lefebure uses Girard at all, since he strips him of much that makes him so fascinating. Moreover, Girard tends to drop out of Lefebure's book as it progress, making only brief appearances in a discussion of John the Baptist and Buddhism.

Lefebure's real focus is the wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures. He presents the wisdom literature as the universal dimension to the particular revelation at Sinai. He thus places the history of Israel in the cosmic context of wisdom, rather than showing how wisdom functions as a way of making sense of God's choice of Israel. Lefebure then argues that Jesus too was a wisdom teacher who called into question any final comprehension of God. Biblical revelation is thus open to learning about God from other sources.

Lefebure does not try to harmonize the Bible's views on violence. Instead, he basically contrasts the divine warrior of the Old Testament with the Gospel of the Crucified God, while being sensitive to the violent language of the New Testament concerning the Jews. …

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