Volume 3, Issue 1

Summer 2021 — The Bible & Speculative Fiction

Shayna Sheinfeld, “The Old Gods Are Fighting Back: Mono- and Polytheistic Tensions in Battlestar Galactica and Jewish Biblical Interpretation,” 1–19

KEYWORDS: Battlestar Galactica; Abraham; Gaius Baltar; Monotheism; Polytheism; Second Temple; Rabbinics; Judaism

Abstract

The representations of religious tension between the polytheistic humans and the monotheistic Cylons in the Sci Fi (now Syfy) channel’s hit series Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009) is nowhere more evident than in the human “convert” to monotheism, Gaius Baltar, who struggles to proselytize his minority beliefs to other humans. Ancient Jewish literature also highlights the patriarch Abraham’s turn from a polytheistic past to a believer and follower of the one God. This article seeks to understand Baltar’s belief and actions in light of Abraham’s shift from polytheism to monotheism in ancient Jewish literature.

Rebekah Dyer, In You All Things”: Biblical Influences on Story, Gameplay, and Aesthetics in Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn,” 20–43.

KEYWORDS: Biblical reception; Video games; Horizon Zero Dawn; Guerrilla Games; Science fiction; Apocalyptic; Post- apocalyptic; Artificial intelligence (AI); Biblical imagery; Creation and re-creation; Genesis; Exodus; David and Goliath; Jesus; Revelation; Biblical plagues; Environmental ethics; Religion in video games; Storytelling in video games; Gameplay; Mythology; Myth-making

Abstract

This article considers several instances of biblical reception in the science-fiction role-playing game Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony, 2017). The game’s characterisation of technology, science, and religion has led some commentators to understand Horizon Zero Dawn as presenting a firm rejection of religious narratives in favour of scientific perspectives. However, closer examination of the game’s biblical influences reveals that Horizon Zero Dawn employs religious ideas of the past and present to articulate its vision of a post apocalyptic future. The integration of biblical material into the story, aesthetics, and gameplay of Horizon Zero Dawn provides multi-layered interactions with specific characters, images, and ideas from the Bible. The game engages with the narrative of David and Goliath, the plague imagery of the Exodus narrative, and New Testament apocalyptic imagery in order to tell a story of ecological collapse, global apocalypse, and technological re- creation. Investigation of its biblical influences demonstrates that Horizon Zero Dawn embraces religious narratives insofar as they may be integrated into the game’s discussion of human responsibility, environmental sustainability, and the existential concerns of its post-apocalyptic scenario.

Aaron Ricker, “Call it Science: Biblical Studies, Science Fiction, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” 44–73.

KEYWORDS: Science; Science Fiction; Apocalyptic; Popular Culture; Miracles; Wonder; Marvel Cinematic Universe

Abstract

In the virtual world elaborated in Marvel’s movies (the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” or MCU), “science” is creatively, strategically confused with “magic” and/or “religion.” Key supernatural/magical elements of the franchise’s comic-book source material are “retconned” (retroactively granted new narrative coherence and continuity) as advanced scientific marvels. I argue in the first section that a biblical studies perspective can shed valuable light on this contemporary sci-fi phenomenon, by highlighting the ideologically interested and culturally contingent character of “religious” phenomena like canons and marvels. The perspective thus provided can help elucidate the contexts and consequences of the MCU decision to retcon magical and religious cultural materials as scientific wonders. In the second section, I argue further that such reflection on science fiction and the MCU offers valuable perspective to biblical studies in return by opening new research avenues into the human and historical meaning of certain biblical traditions, in this case by recalling the sense of technology shock that must have sometimes accompanied ancient developments like the widespread use of war horses or the mass production of books—world-changing developments that modern biblical critics are not culturally primed to perceive and investigate as technological marvels.

Nicole L. Tilford, “The Women of Noah in Early Twentieth-Century Science Fiction,” 74–94.

KEYWORDS: Noah; Woman; Science fiction

Abstract

Modern science fiction writers often draw upon the biblical flood story as inspiration for their own narratives. It is not uncommon to find humans fleeing on space arks to escape some cosmic disaster. In the process of adapting the biblical narrative to contemporary circumstances, these writers also frequently transform the unnamed female characters in the biblical story. Noah’s wife, Noah’s daughters-in-law, and the daughters of men become dynamic characters that actively shape the narrative and are vital to the survival of the human race. This article examines the character type of the “Noahic woman” as it appears in three early twentieth century science fiction narratives. 

Lois Wilson, “Suspicion Is More Likely To Keep You Alive Than Trust:” Affective Relationships with the Bible in Octavia Butler’s Parables,” 95–121.

KEYWORDS: Octavia E. Butler; Alicia Suskin Ostriker; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick; biblical hermeneutics; feminist re-vision; Parable of the Sower; Parable of the Talents.

Abstract

Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents provide readers with often radical re- visions and critiques of biblical texts. This article asks how the principal characters’ affective engagements with Scripture vary, and considers the extent to which fiction may “play” with the Bible, despite its authoritative distance. It employs Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s approaches from her 1993 monograph Feminist Revision and the Bible: a hermeneutics of suspicion, a hermeneutics of desire, and a hermeneutics of indeterminacy. Aligning these modes with the affect theory of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, this research finds that the position of a character’s ego (paranoiac versus depressive) affects how they may approach the “lost object” of religious authority. The more the reader is awakened to these different positions, the more they may eventually become comfortable with indeterminacy. Such freedom from a sense of the monologic permits creative engagement with the Bible that reflects recent aims of feminist and womanist theologies.

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Volume 3, Issue 2

Open Issue

Blossom Stefaniw, “At Home in Archival Grief: Lost Canons and Displaced Stories,” 1-17.

KEYWORDS: Canon, archive, Christian history, ethics of scholarship, imagination.

Abstract

What happens when desires for homogeneity, belonging and possession conflict with realities of migration and loss? What happens when the life of the scholar and the life of the exile are imagined together? What does it mean to live simultaneously within two clashing narratives, as so many scholars do? And what if we treat the past as something other than our homeland? The following stories about archive, canon, and patrimony are also questions about scholarly subjectivity. By recounting scenes of living at odds with racialized or gendered narratives of the proper location and embodiment of knowledge, I seek to expand scholarly imagination. There are many more ways to relate to the past through the Classical or Christian archive than through simple assertions of continuity. Archival grief may be the condition to which the scholarly imaginary is subject.

Huw Thomas, “‘The Mote in Thine Eye’: An Analysis of the Bible in Cartoons,” 18-40.

KEYWORDS: cartoons, editorial cartoons, humour, General Theory of Verbal Humour (GTVH), visual metaphor, Knowledge Resources, intertextuality, script opposition, targeting, Jyllands-Posten controversy.

Abstract

The targeting of religion in editorial cartoons has become a source of controversy. Particular tensions emerged following the publication of the Danish cartoons, a set of cartoons representing the Prophet Mohammed, published in Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. This research analyses cartoons from a different source, the satirical magazine Private Eye, with an eye towards the varied treatment of religion in this publication and the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. It focuses on the way the Bible features in Private Eye cartoons, and uses the semantic tool, the General Theory of Verbal Humour (GTVH), to analyse the way humour works in these cartoons, the target they aim at and the way the Bible features in the intertextual references of the reader. Analysing the targeting of such cartoons it concludes that there is a difference between the use of the Bible as a means of targeting other subject matter, as is evident in Private Eye examples, and the targeting within the Danish cartoons.

Rebecca Raphael, “Sacred Schematics, or Ships and Sanctuaries,” 41-62.

KEYWORDS: Star Trek, fan studies, Jewish temple, Ezekiel, Talmud.

Abstract

This paper compares the development of fictional ship schematics for the original Star Trek’s Enterprise to the scribal schematics of the Temple in two key biblical passages (1 Kings 6 and Ezekiel 40-44) and a Talmudic discussion of the Hall of the Hearth. By centralizing spatial construction over narrative or historicity, we can see some features of fan creative activity that are distinctive to spatiality. While a connection between these documents and actual structures (temple, spaceship) is both possible but not-currently-real, I argue that such passages have a similar blending of basic concepts, real structures, and sheer imaginal elaboration. As with the fan’s engagement with ship schematics, the scribe or exegete’s activity in Temple schematics finds a significant part of its value in the imaginal activity itself, which demands a deep attentiveness and opens on to imaginal independence from “real” places.

Tom de Bruin, “The Haunting of Jesus: Reading Mark Through the Gothic Mode,” 63-86.

KEYWORDS: Gothic, Hauntology, Insanity, Mark (Gospel), Messianic Secret, Spirits.

Abstract

Spirits and the associated messianic secret play a central role in the Gospel of Mark. In this article I present a Gothic reading of the gospel. In the beginning of Mark, Jesus is driven by a spirit into the wilderness. In this Gothic, liminal space—filled with beasts, demons, and angels—he battles and overcomes the forces of darkness. Yet evil powers continue to make their presence felt in the rest of the narrative. Gothic literary criticism provides a fruitful domain in which to explore the way the spirits haunt Jesus. Utilising the concept of hauntology, I examine the interplay between Jesus and those that haunt him: the demons and his messianic secret. Gothic theory and hauntology elucidate the dark side to the good news Jesus preaches, demonstrating how Jesus and his good news haunt his followers and Mark himself.