Review of Roland Boer's Marxist Criticism of the Bible

David Jobling
2005 The Bible and Critical Theory  
Roland Boer's book is the most important contribution so far to the discussion of how Marxism is, and may further be, related to biblical studies. The dialogues here proposed and pursued are not confined to traditional 'Marxist' issues (economic, social-scientific, liberationist), but include a great range of issues in literary and cultural criticism. They entail a revisiting of basic canons of the biblical scholarship that has emerged under the hegemony of historical criticism. The main part
more » ... sm. The main part of the book consists of nine chapters, in each of which Boer deals with one Marxist theorist. Each chapter has two parts: a consideration of the theorist centred on one or two of his works (all are male), and a biblical reading stimulated by the theorist's work. The chapters are arranged by (roughly) canonical order of the biblical readings (Genesis 25, Exodus 32, Ruth, 1 Samuel 1-2, 1 Kings 17 -2 Kings 9, Ezekiel 20, Isaiah 5, Psalms, Daniel 7-12). So in relation to chronology or any intrinsic logic within twentieth-century Marxism, the theorists appear in random order: . This surprising organisation seems to me to entail gain rather than loss. The quick leaps from chapter to chapter, the great variety of biblical texts and reading strategies, impress on the reader the overwhelming variety within Marxism, and negate reductionist attempts to define what Marxism 'is'. The book is a cornucopia. Boer does not take up a position of uncritical adulation of his theorists. Several chapters are driven, and the biblical reading shaped, as much by fundamental critique of the theorist in question as by his constructive contribution. This is notably the case with Benjamin and Althusser, and to a lesser extent with Eagleton.
doi:10.2104/bc050032 fatcat:iaok5vond5g7fl6eytfvn5xtfa