Introducing three more contributors to “The Bible and Violence” – Joyce Boham, Helen Paynter and Mothy Varkey

Bible picture with a 'warning' sign.
Creative Commons Image (2.0 Generic Licence, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Joyce Boham is Deputy Director of the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at the Talitha Qumi Centre of Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon (Ghana) and the Anglophone West African Coordinator of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. She has worked many years assisting Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye, founder of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians and, until her retirement, first Director of the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture. Joyce is interested in women’s empowerment through public education and counselling. Her target groups consist of Christian and Muslim women, traditional women leaders (such as Queen Mothers), and seminarians. She is passionate about gender sensitization and gender justice. Joyce has organized several public education programmes focusing on such issues as women’s health, women and cultural practices, women and economic empowerment, and at how religion influences Ghanaian women’s lives in these areas. Joyce is writing the chapter on Liberative Bible Reading at the Talitha Qumi Centre (Legon, Ghana) to Combat Violence.

For many years Ghanaian culture, through language, behaviour, and actions, has glorified the notion that women’s ‘silence is golden’. Hence, the idealized Ghanaian woman bears all things, good and bad, quietly, humbly, without fuss or complaint. This has been reinforced by religion in ways that over the years and up to the present has proven detrimental to women’s lives. 

At the Talitha Qumi Centre we try to give voice to women’s experience of suffering and to draw attention to the life-giving potential of religion and scripture, such as by using the example of Mark 5:21-43. This passage contains the stories of a woman healed from a constant discharge of blood and of a girl restored to life when Jesus says to her ‘Talitha, qumi’, ‘little girl, arise’ (the words that give our Centre its name). The goal has been to draw attention to and acknowledge both violence and suffering but also hope of healing. In the past, our liberative theological efforts have focused on how to include and help Ghanaian women through public education to understand that if culture or religion bring pain and violence, or hide pain and violence, they are not just.  Through our work at the Centre, we have also identified the urgent need to include seminarians in our training programmes so they are better equipped to lead congregations in confronting and preventing violence. The purpose of our training is to draw seminarians’ attention to the need for and importance of gender sensitivity and gender justice: in their work both in the liturgical space and in the wider community, in their pastoral duties and in their teaching and preaching. This has become particularly necessary, given the recent rise and prominence of domestic and intimate partner violence cases and the passive role of the church in the light of these cases. 

In my chapter, I will share the Talitha Qumi Centre’s liberative theological methods when working with various women’s groups, as well as some insights from discussions in gender sensitization and gender justice with our seminarians who are mostly male. The chapter will also bring out some of the challenges the Centre faces in its efforts and recommendations for the way forward.


Helen Paynter is a Baptist minister in Bristol, England. She teaches biblical studies (mainly Old Testament and biblical theology) at the Bristol Baptist College. She is also the founding director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence (see here). Helen is the author of several books on violence and Scripture: God of Violence Yesterday, God of Love Today? Wrestling honestly with the Old Testament (BRF, 2019); Telling Terror in Judges 19: Rape and Reparation for the Levite’s Wife (Routledge, 2020); and The Bible Doesn’t Tell Me So: Why you don’t have to submit to domestic abuse and coercive control (BRF, 2020).Additionally, Helen has edited several volumes on topics of violence and Scripture and authored numerous shorter publications. Helen is writing two chapters: one on Violence in Numbers and one on Violence in Kings.

Violence in the Old Testament presents a number of problems. To believers, it generates questions around the goodness of God or the reliability of Scripture. But, more broadly, it has been used in many times across centuries and continents to justify violent and abusive actions. Contemporary interpretations, whether by those with a faith commitment to the text, or those without one, mandate wisdom and discretion in the ways that biblical texts might be appropriated for violent ends.

However, ‘violence’ in the Hebrew Bible is not a homogenous phenomenon. We read of violent actions portrayed, commanded, exhorted, condemned, judged, and vindicated. I am writing two chapters for the Bible and Violence Project: Violence in the book of Numbers, and Violence in the books of Kings. The chapter on Kings will draw on my doctoral work, where I explored their dark (and often violent) humour, arguing that these books constitute a seriocomedy which subverts many of the certainties of theocracy. My chapter on Numbers will connect with work I am currently undertaking, writing a Bible Commentary for Wipf and Stock. This commentary series, entitled The Bible in God’s World is intended to connect with themes of social justice. Numbers contains texts which will be challenging in this regard, including the test for a potentially unfaithful wife (Numbers 5), and the treatment of female war captives (Numbers 31). I will seek to explore how the violence in these and other texts is being used by the narrator to further theological and ideological ends.

For a full list of Helen’s publications, see here.


Rev. Dr. Mothy Varkey is Professor of New Testament Studies at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary in Kerala, India. He specialises in Biblical Hermeneutics, Disability Studies, the Synoptic Gospels, and Pauline Theology. Mothy has published several monographs in English, Malayalam, and Tamil: The Gospel According to Matthew: A Soteriological Commentary (2022); Church and Diakonia in the Age of COVID-19 (2021); Inheritance and Resistance: Reclaiming Bible, Body, and Power (2021); Salvation in Continuity: Reconsidering Matthew’s Soteriology (2017); The Concept of Power in the Sermon on the Mount: A Postcolonial Reading (2010). He has also published articles in international journals and contributed essays in edited volumes. Mothy enjoys the privilege of teaching and of supervising graduate and doctoral students, as well as postgraduates. Mothy is writing the chapter on Violence in Words Attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. 

I will try to explain how words and teachings attributed to Jesus were used to normalise and legalise various forms of violence. It will also explore alternative ways of reimagining such words of terror.  

Tags : Helen PaynterJoyce BohamKingsTalitha QumiWords of Jesus

1 Comment

  1. I just came across this blog and I am so impressed with the depth of the biblical knowledge and insights shared. It’s refreshing to see the Word of God being shared in such a plain and applicable way. Keep up the nice work of spreading the Good news and encouraging fellow believers in their faith adventure.

Leave a Response

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.