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Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary

Understanding the Bible Anew Through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard

“Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary” is about learning to read the Bible as the premier guide on our journey of becoming human.

Jesus . . . Yeshuah: “Yahweh saves.” Saves from what? What is salvation in Jesus Christ? How a disciple of Jesus answers this question greatly determines how one reads the Bible. If Jesus came to save us from eternal damnation in hell, for example, and to live with God in heaven in the afterlife, that gives a certain way to read the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

This lectionary website offers a different answer to the question of salvation — and so a different way to read the Bible. This answer: Jesus came to save us from our human origins in violence — opening the possibility to nothing less than a new Way to be human. A Start-over. Human Being 2.0. Read with this perspective, the Bible can be seen as an anthropological revelation every bit as much as a theological one. As we learn who God truly is in Jesus the Messiah, we are empowered by the Spirit to begin living into what it means to be truly human. In a world threatened by human violence, this way of reading the Christian message couldn’t be more timely.

In short, “Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary” reads the Sunday texts from the fresh perspective of a Christian anthropology — that is, an understanding of our humanity that sees itself as both (1) deriving from, and deeply resonant with, the Christian revelation; and (2) bridging the gap from that revelation to the modern science of anthropology.

Specifically, this anthropology is based on the “Mimetic Theory” elaborated by Stanford scholar René Girard (1923-2015). Girard’s recent, peaceful passing in November 2015 has occasioned an excellent beginning place to encounter the groundbreaking nature of this Christian anthropology: a number of tributes to his life and work that offer concise, clear, and accurate introductions to Girard’s “Mimetic Theory.” I have cataloged a number of them on my own tribute page “In Memory of René Girard.”

The significance of an anthropological way of reading the Bible, and the shape of our salvation in Jesus Christ, can be summed up with a quote from acclaimed biblical scholar Walter Wink (1935-2012). Wink was an early supporter of Mimetic Theory, helping to launch the Girardian guild of researchers, the Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R), in 1990. As he looked back over his own life and career in his memoir, Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human, he poignantly writes,

And this is the revelation: God is HUMAN … It is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness — which is to say, we are capable of becoming human. (p. 102)

“Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary” is about learning to read the Bible as the premier guide on our journey of becoming human.

Current Reflection

Proper 16C

(August 21)

Upcoming Reflection

Proper 167C

(August 21)

Or, to find any lectionary page go to the
Main Index and Instructions

Main Index & Instructions

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About Editor Paul Nuechterlein

Paul Nuechterlein is a well-respected voice in theological circles. Recently retired after 30 years of parish ministry in ELCA congregations, he is now able to devote full-time to his passion for spreading the Gospel of peace and justice, which he believes is at the heart of Jesus’ faith. With the birth of Paul’s new ministry, Discipleship Seminars in Mimetic Theory, he looks forward to sharing this passion and learning together with other disciples. Learn more…

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