Last revised: August 5, 2012
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PROPER 7 (June 19-25) -- YEAR B / Ordinary Time 12
RCL: 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11,19-23) 32-49; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
RoCa: Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

Job 38:1, 8-11


1. René Girard, Job: The Victim of His People, pp. 141ff., on the "God of the Whirlwind" passage. Girard takes chs. 16 & 19 as the highpoint of revealing the God of victims in the original dialogues of Job; and he thinks that chs. 38-42 can be included with the prologue and epilogue as additions by a later redactor. Putting it bluntly, he says, "It is difficult to take this farce seriously." I am sympathetic with Girard's view, having always been suspicious of this "God of the Whirlwind" who seemingly intimidates Job into submission. I think that Girard is correct in saying that this God of the whirlwind simply doesn't fit a God of victims whom Job calls upon to vindicate him. For a flavor of Girard's reading, link to an excerpt of the last chapter, "The God of Victims."

2. Sandor Goodhart, Sacrificing Commentary, ch. 6, "'The End from the Beginning': Evil and Accusation in the Book of Job." Goodhart agrees with Girard on his basic reading of Job as the scapegoat, but he disagrees with Girard's assessment of chs. 38-42.

3. James G. Williams, ch. 6, "Job Versus the 'Friends': The Failed Scapegoat," in The Bible, Violence & the Sacred; and ch. 13, "Job and the God of Victims," in The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job, a collection of fine essays on Job edited by Leo G. Perdue and W. Clark Gilpin [Abingdon, 1992]. Both of these chapters give another excellent Girardian reading of the Book of Job.

4. René Girard also has two capsulizations of his book on Job: ch. 12, "Job as Failed Scapegoat," in the Perdue/Gilpin volume above; and "'The Ancient Trail Trodden by the Wicked': Job as Scapegoat," pp. 13-41 in Semeia: an experimental journal for biblical criticism, vol. 33, 1985, a special edition devoted to "René Girard and Biblical Studies." In the latter volume, Baruch Levine has a response to Girard's reading of Job, pp. 125-134.

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11,19-23) 32-49


1. Dan Clendenin, "Texts of Terror and the Enemies of God: What Should We Do When Religion Becomes Evil?" This is an excellent essay on what mimetic theory refers to as sacred violence, that is, divinely sanctioned violence. One source Clendenin cites is Mark Juergensmeyer's Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, who uses mimetic theory in his book. But Clendenin displays no other exposure to mimetic theory -- which nevertheless does not detract from the excellence of this essay. He has a good quote from anti-Nazi German pastor Martin Niemoeller, and then follows it up with one he attributes to Anne Lamott: "When God hates all the same people that you hate, you can be absolutely certain that you have created him in your own image." He also has a good list of "warning signs that religion has become evil and evil has become religious":

2. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from July 1, 2001 (Woodside Village Church), 2nd in a series of ten sermons on King David and King Solomon.

3. Tom Truby, a member of Theology & Peace, used Girardian insights to offer a sermon in 2012, titled "Bible School for Adults."

2 Corinthians 6:1-13


1. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, pp. 177-179. For example: "Paul uses the two peristaseis lists (2 Cor 4:7-12; 6:4-10) in that letter to bracket the discussion of reconciliation, as if to say that reconciliation can take place only through knowledge of the mechanism of the scapegoat." (p. 177) [Same reference as three weeks ago.] Link to an excerpt of "The Church as a Structure of Agape Based on the Imitation of Christ Crucified."

Mark 4:35-41


1. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, The Gospel and the Sacred, pp. 85-92. Hamerton-Kelly shapes this section around the notion of faith as stepping out from the crowd. The one who steps out from the crowd not only steps away from the scapegoating mob but risks becoming their victim as one who stands out. Hamerton-Kelly says:

Because this mythic world is maintained by a conspiracy of myth-interpretation, its stability depends on the unanimity of the crowd. As long as the mass mind buys into the conspiracy, the Sacred is safe, but as soon as an individual breaks ranks and speaks the truth, the conspiracy is threatened. Mark calls this taking of responsibility for speaking the truth, this stepping out of the crowd, faith. It takes the form of an active decoding of the divine communication that comes per contra. Faith sees the strength in divine weakness and the weakness in sacred power.

A message that requires an active decoding in the form of a faithful response is radically noncoercive. It is at the other extreme from modern advertising, which is the apex of communicative violence. It is also different from law. It never occurs in the apodictic or casuistic imperative but always in the indicative or subjunctive mood.... The divine revelation does not tear the covers away from mythology, but it does invite one to lift the veil for oneself. (pp. 90-91)

Hamerton-Kelly then comments on the stilling of the storm:
The fact that the disciples need special instruction (4:34) shows that they cannot spontaneously grasp the revelation in the parables. Their inability to understand becomes clearer in the subsequent miracle story which leaves them puzzling "Who then is this, because even the wind and the sea obey him?" (4:41). The miracle of the stilling of the storm introduces a series of portentous actions that disclose the mysterious power of Jesus and the essential incomprehension of even those closest to him. In the previous set of such miracle stories in the Gospel (the "conflict stories" in 2:1-3:6), the opposition is the religio-political vested interests; here, it is incomprehension and misunderstanding on the part of the disciples themselves. We are being shown how it is possible that three quarters of the hearers of the word could prove unfruitful, as well as the crucial fact that the insiders are in no better case than the outsiders.

This irony of the excluded insider is part of the poetics of sacred violence. Those who go into the house with Jesus for private instruction are no better off than those who remain outside because they do not yet understand the cross. They treat Jesus as the demons do, as "the holy one of God" (1:24), the messianic bearer of sacred prestige. The exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac (5:1-20) ironically underlines this incomprehension (see R. Girard, The Scapegoat, 165-83). The Gadarenes, in asking Jesus to go away and leave them alone, not to tamper with the order of the Sacred in which they live, paradoxically understand Jesus better than the disciples do. (p. 92)

I would also recommend reading Girard's essay on the Garasene demoniac as a way to read this passage in context.

2. Mary Ann Tolbert, Sowing the Gospel. Tolbert has a ingenuitive thesis that the Parable of the Sower lays out the different kinds of soil as a summary of the characters we meet in Mark's gospel. She suggests that the rocky soil -- those who "when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away" -- is the disciples in Mark's gospel, led by Simon who is dubbed "Rocky." Immediately after these parables, they begin to show their true colors by showing fear in the face of a storm. Ultimately, they will go with their fear and fall away.

3. In years when Easter is late, we often miss perhaps the most crucial text in Mark, especially from a Girardian standpoint: the "parable" of Satan casting out Satan. Link to Proper 5B for Girard's reading of this parable, which is not only a key for understanding Mark's Gospel but also for Girard's substantial work on the figure of Satan in the New Testament. (It has been interesting to note that N. T. Wright's magnum opus on the historical Jesus, Jesus and the Victory of God, ends up centering on the figure of Satan as well -- but regrettably has missed the profound underpinnings which Girard's anthropological work could have provided.)

4. Robert Hamerton-Kelly, sermon from June 25, 2006 (Society of St. John at St. Mark's Chapel, Palo Alto).

Reflections and Questions

1. Is this story a foil for the one in the garden of Gethsemane? In the latter story it is the disciples who are asleep at a time of need. We can compare the disciples reaction of panic in the storm narrative -- "Do you not care that we are perishing? -- with Jesus words of preparation: "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake." He then has to chide them to stay awake. Another difference is that with the sea and wind, Jesus is in control and can bring peace. But with the scapegoating mechanism, he is relinquishing control and letting it overwhelm him as the way to bring peace. It is immediately after the garden scene that the disciples prove themselves to be rocky soil, falling away as persecution arrives.

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