Barbara Thiede

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Barbara Thiede’s book has the title Rape Culture in the House of David: A Company of Men and was first published in 2022. The book focuses on the revered character of David, as well as on other characters in the biblical narrative he so dominates. Barbara’s close analysis exposes the rape cultures that are described in and which shaped the narrative. Barbara is now co-editor of the book series.

How do you reflect back on writing your book?

When I began writing, I focused on demonstrating that sexual violence against female characters was not the product of rogue “bad actors.” Rather, a company of men supported Bible’s rape culture through enabling, witnessing, and colluding in sexual violence. While writing, I realized the extent to which male-on-male sexualized violence similarly supported biblical rape culture. This realization generated a recent article on Saul as a trauma victim (“Hidden in Plain Sight: Saul’s Trauma Narrative in 1 Samuel,” Biblical Interpretation) and profoundly affected my forthcoming monograph, Yhwh’s Emotional and Sexual Life in the Books of Samuel. In that work, I analyze how the Israelite deity models the use of male-on-male sexual violence—not only against his enemies, but against his own men.

Writing Rape Culture in the House of David also helped me clarify the ways in which academe continues to repress the ethical interrogation of Bible, particularly in regard to sexual violence. The pages I devoted to the use of the terms rape and rape culture in my introduction helped me think about the ethical foundations this book series rests on. The outcome was an article, “Taking Biblical Authors at Their Word: On Scholarly Ethics, Sexual Violence, and Rape Culture in the Hebrew Bible,” which will be published in the Journal of Biblical Literature. That article is, in a way, partial payment of the debt I owe to the editors of this series for making the work we do possible. 

In short, writing for this series engendered enough ideas to keep me busy for years!

What has been the response to your book? 

The book has helped me connect with other scholars who are working on similar issues; in writing it, I began realizing that I belonged to a community.

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series – which you now co-edit?

We are engaged in an ethical project, one that can have profound impact on real human lives. There is no reason to hold back and every reason to be precise and thorough in interrogating biblical literature for the sexual violence that goes unaddressed by most of its exegetes and readers.

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

We have much to do in exploring male-on-male sexualized violence. Just as importantly, we have only begun to address the ethnic and racial elements that undergird rape culture in biblical literature and in our own time. And finally, we could ask how characters whose gendered presentations do not conform to binary expectations also become victims of brutal and sexualized violence in biblical literature.

Shout out!

I must first note the editorial work of Johanna Stiebert and Caroline Blyth in the series’ formative years. I benefited enormously from their labors on my behalf.

Every single one of the authors who have contributed to this series deserves a shout-out; they are forging pathways, creating a scholarly community, and developing a space for asking the ethical questions that must be made foundational to the academic project. I love reading their work!

Tags : Barbara Thiedeforthcoming publications

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