chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 28

bridges gaps
black women,
and church
SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013
evolved as they traveled across geographical borders. What hap-
pens when artifacts relocate and change owners? What is lost
and gained? What do we learn about economies and societal
values? Annette Schellenberg’s word study on “border” terms
in the Tanakh highlighted the correlation among borders of
social status, purity, and geography. NYU scholar Alexander
Sokolicek drew upon his archaeological expedition that uncov-
ered ancient stone walls and gates. This physical approach to
borders ultimately revealed the marriage between physical and
figurative borders: we see how cultures construct ideological
boundaries, in this case adulthood, and then monumentalize
them through spectacle and display.
If Sokolicek raised the wall, Weissenrieder tore it down.
Ephesians 2:14 describes a Jesus who breaks down division,
and in Paul’s attempt to mend fracturing communities, he
employs “temple” language (2:21). The adoption of Hellenis-
tic terminology supports the idea that Paul tactfully tried to
use the vocabulary of the people he was trying to win over.
Through mimicry, Paul spoke as an insider in order to expand
the group to include more insiders, the circumcised. Thus, we
see language, bodily mutilation, and belief all acting as borders
of religious and social status. Who is alienated from the body?
Who defines who is a part of the body? Now that circumci-
sion does not function as a rite of passage, what initiates full
participation? When Jesus breaks some borders, what do the
new borders look like?
University of California-Berkeley, scholar Erich Gruen
shared his paper, “The Assimilated Jew.” Just as Weissenrie-
der recalled the fluctuating conflicts in Ephesus, Gruen gath-
ered evidence demonstrating Jewish/pagan hybridity. What
situations permitted this fusion? Could Jews really retain their
identity as they crossed borders? What did it mean to convert?
Were identity boundaries perhaps more fluid? New Testament
scholar David Trobisch continued the conversation on “Jews
and Gentiles.” And finally, Stefan Esders (Freie Universitat
Berlin) picked up the theme of conversion and placed it in the
context of the “Integration of Barbarians in the Later Roman
Empire.” The Romans believed that in order to build trust and
fidelity, a common faith was needed to unite the geographical
and cultural divides, and this was signified through the rite of
baptism. How did conversion to a religion lead to entrance into
a state? How did the Visigoths retain their tribal characteristics
while relinquishing sovereignty to Rome?
Although the conference delved into many disciplines,
one might deduce that borders are built when two or more
parties experience friction. Friction follows when one people’s
wills, desires, and needs clash with another’s. Borders are then
erected where people negotiate these tensions. The form these
boundaries take reflects the power dynamics, and our study of
borders critiques these powers and holds them accountable.
Rhian Roberts is a student at Church Divinty School of the Pacific
(M.Div ’13, MA Theology ’14)
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