School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Abstracts Keynote Speakers

Abstracts Keynote Speakers

Nicholas Allen, North-West University (
Judith: Embodying Holiness in a Godless Space

This article reviews key aspects of the overtly didactic Judith narrative, especially as this relates to the concepts of body and space, which apart from offering hope to Jews living in Hasmonean times, seems to go far beyond more traditional Jewish practice. In this context, the book of Judith anticipates the ethical monotheistic teachings of more contemporary Jewish thinkers, including Kaplan – the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. Here, an attempt will be made to show that the character of Judith is able to transform the profane into the sacred, by virtue of her embodying the highest ethical standard which is synonymous with a Holy G-d as the highest source of moral authority.

Pieter Botha, University of South Africa (
he Maccabean Literature and Judean Literacy in the Greco-Roman period

The Hasmonean and Roman periods in Judaean history are often described as formative periods for various religious and socio-political developments. The role of literacy in the cultural/social institutions of the time is often neglected by scholars, or, when mentioned, discussed in a rather generalising way. Literacy profoundly determines the experience and interpretation of psychological and physical space, as well as the transmission of traditions. The extent of literacy among Judaeans of the late Hellenistic and early Roman imperial periods is contested, and several methodological and (sociological) theoretical issues must be addressed in order to advance understanding of the role and uses and extent of writing and reading in this period. By means of selected passages from the Maccabean literature some changes in society and in ideas that parallel the adoption of visible language will be charted.

Athalya Brenner, Amsterdam University & Tel Aviv University ( /
lothing Seduces: Did You Think It Was the Naked Flesh that Does It?

Is it the naked body that seduces? In cultural studies, the clothed human body by and large signifies a raw, ‘uncooked’, natural state, whereas the clothed body is the restrained, ‘cooked’ cultured state. In this paper I shall trace descriptions of clothing and clothing changes in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and in Deuterocanonical literature as they appear within stories containing sexual innuendos, especially such stories concerning female literary figures. It would seem, that clothed or covered bodies are more often than not more alluring than naked ones; and that clothing, or the change thereof, serves as fetish, substitute and euphemism for sexual desire, a locus of liminality that belies tidy categories. From the Garden east of Eden to Judith and Madam Potiphar in the Testament of Joseph and beyond, clothing and body covering, rather than the naked sexual object or subject of desire, somehow denote sexual temptation or the impeding act. Possible reasons for this way of description will be advanced, against the backdrop of socio-anthropological theories.

Eugene Coetzer, North-West University (
The Function of the Martyr’s Status in 2 Maccabees

The second book of Maccabees contains a specific rhetorical element which deserves proper attention: the text emphasises and exaggerates the flawless status of those who suffer a noble death. The martyrs are presented as perfect in appearance, piety, bravery and loyalty to the Law of Moses. This article aims to explain the purpose of this stylistic element by connecting it with another aspect: the communication of certain radical ideas. The possibility is explored that the author exploits the martyrs and elevates their status in order to communicate these radical ideas. In this manner, the martyr becomes an ideal spokesperson for the author’s ideas. The usual contract of trust between the author and the reader is replaced by a contract of trust between the martyr and the reader.

Joseph Jacobus de Bruyn, North-West University (
In Remembrance of God’s Messianic Vessel – ‘Body’ and
Space’ in Psalm 151

Applying cognitive linguistics to Psalm 151 is indispensable for our understanding of this song. Studying the author’s use of ‘spatial’ and ‘bodily’ markers’ such as ‘small’, ‘brothers’, ‘hands’, ‘head’ and other spatial features, makes it possible to reconstruct the narrative into a ‘cognitive spatial and body frameset’. In thís particular exegetical frameset, Psalm 151 can be described as a conflict between an earthly authority/power and the God of Israel. In this conflict David is recreated as a vessel or embodiment of God’s authority. In the recreation process, David is lifted up from a human-space-structural environment to be part of God’s god- space. In the conflict between God and the earthly powers, God’s god-space is invaded and threatened. God Himself takes action and recreates David as a messianic vessel to restore God’s authority and order on earth.

Chris L. De Wet, University of South Africa(
usanna’s Body: The Representation, Crisis and Resolution of Socio-Sexual Control in Daniel 13

This study rests on the hypothesis popularized by Michel Foucault in History of Sexuality, that discourses of sexuality are inevitably linked to social control and the production of dominant and dominated subjectivities by means of interrelated ‘polymorphous techniques of power’. What knowledge is borne in, or written on, Susanna’s body and how does her body speak itself? I will start by juxtaposing Susanna’s body to the body of Lucretia, the prima matrona of the Roman Republic, who shares a similar habitus with Susanna to illustrate the corporeal politics of such narratives of disorientation in ancient societies. I will argue that Susanna’s body is a sign and symptom, a representation, of the fragility of Second Temple Jewish society and its preoccupation with socio-sexual control. Thereafter, the crisis of corporeal control in the Susanna-narrative will be examined, with specific reference to the problem of uncontrolled and undisciplined bodies. Susanna’s body will also be examined in the light of other, male bodies in the narrative. Finally, the resolution embodied in violence will be scrutinized, both the violence almost inflicted on Susanna’s body, as well as the violence eventually inflicted on the bodies of the elders.

Busangokwakhe Dlamini, University of KwaZulu-Natal (
pocryphal Literature as a Resource for the Healing of the Nation

Pastoral theology, particularly counselling, uses the Bible as a resource for healing. The meeting of two different cultures is identifiable in Apocryphal literature. In a somewhat similar way, through colonial rule, most African people have been exposed to, and influenced by, European cultures. This has, unfortunately, often led to the abandonment of many positive African values – cultural and religious – resulting in a certain loss of identity and therefore impoverishment. Looking at two books in particular, namely, the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, this paper seeks to approach Apocryphal literature as a resource for healing the current brokenness of the lives of South African people. The hope, and the intention of this paper, is to open up dialogue around the applicability and the usefulness of Apocryphal literature as a resource for healing in a situation where one culture still seems dominant over another, and the impact this has on the practice of faith that teaches the centrality of the human person in God’s plan for creation. Is a better and proper understanding of the Apocryphal literature able to elevate humanity to its rightful, higher, and purposeful relationship with God, marked by the good use of the abilities and powers with which humans are endowed?

Helen Efthimiadis-Keith, University of KwaZulu-Natal (
ish, Food and Death: An Autobiographical Perspective on Tobit According to One Woman’s Binge-eating Disorder

In this paper, I examine the role of food, death and burial in the Book of Tobit from the perspective of my binge-eating disorder. I adopt an explicitly autobiographical approach to Tobit, Raguel, Tobias and the fish while remaining very closely connected to the parent text. The result is a detailed reading of Tobit’s addiction to good works and his fixation on extended kinship ties at the expense of his own family, the juxtaposition of Tobit to Raguel, and the transformative role of the fish in Tobias’ immediate and extended family.

Risimati Hobyane, North-West University (
ody and Space in Judith: A Greimassian Perspective.

The book of Judith (Judith) has been studied by various scholars employing a range of methods with intriguing results. There is, however, a gap in scholarship regarding the use of body and space in Judith. This paper attempts a literary study of Judith using a Greimassian semiotic perspective, focusing on figurative analysis. It appears that no other scholar working on Judith has ever focused on the story using a Greimassian approach. Following this approach has yielded some surprising results. I contend that characterisation and spatialisation play an important role in saving the Jewish people and their religion from impending extinction by the Assyrians. Subsequently, the paper addresses the challenge of ethical limits and implications of the use of the body and space in advancing religious ambitions.

Pierre Jordaan, North-West University (
ody, Space and Narrative in 2 Maccabees 1:1-10a

Over the past forty years, in all major commentaries, the contents of the first interpolated letter at the start of 2 Maccabees have been interpreted in various different ways. Scholars disagree, just to name a few things, on the demarcation, the date, the interpretation of the word “heart”, the purpose and the possible receivers of this letter. The easy way out for scholars, such as Werner Dommershausen (1983) and Shane Berg (2010), was to say as little as possible by simply ignoring certain issues. On the other hand, scholars such as Jonathan Goldstein (1985) and Daniel Schwartz (2008) were so painstaking in their analysis of the text that it seems they overlooked the obvious. The author of this paper attempts to use more recent developments within cognitive linguistic theory, as well as narrative critique, in order to look anew at points of contention. Concepts such as body and space within this letter are looked at differently by using certain theoretical frameworks, with hopefully surprising results.

Dichk Mwambe Kanonge, North-West University (
tre and Paraître – The Games of Truth in the Story of Susanna

Recent literary methods have opened new possibilities in reading and understanding the logic of narratives. One such possibility is offered by the Greimas’ approach to narratives. Though this approach is now accepted as part of the canon of narratology, some of its components have not yet received due attention. This is the case with his veridictory square. The mechanism applies especially to texts in which oppositions such as truth/falseness, hero/villain, subject/anti-subject are prominent themes. The concern in these narratives is not objective truth but persuasion about truth, i.e. veridiction. The production of truth here corresponds to exercising a particular cognitive doing or a causing to appear as true. Such a manipulative truth is aimed at causing to believe. Greimas’ veridictory square is built on opposing modalities of being (être) and seeming (paraître), the contrast between appearance and reality. This paper uses the veridictory square to investigate the games of truth in Susanna. This paper contends that the Greimassian veridictory square offers new insights into the shape of truth in Susanna.

Zacharias Kotzé: North-West University (
ian Archetypes and Individuation in the Book of Baruch It has been suggested that nothing in the apocryphal book of Baruch is original, not even its goal. Read from a depth psychological perspective, however, the book serves as a striking description of the psychological maturation process, called individuation by Jung. This article utilises the archetypal hero’s quest, particularly the descent into the Underworld and return to the Land of the Living, or Great Mother and City in the case of Baruch, as a model for an investigation of the artful way in which the miscellany of the canon can be used as a guide to illumination, or individuation.

George W. E. Nickelsburg, University of Iowa & North-West University (
ce and Time, Body and Psyche in 1 Enoch and 2 Maccabees

In 1 Enoch space is construed from a cosmic perspective with almost no reference to named geographical places, and time is inextricably related to it. In 2 Maccabees space is primarily named places in the Land of Israel and especially the Temple’s sacred space. It is the stage on which events are played out, one after the other often with prior events effecting subsequent events. In 1 Enoch body is mainly alluded to while psychai are more in focus. The author of 2 Maccabees narrates key events in his story with explicit reference to both his characters’ bodies and psychai. In both texts, space and time, body and psyche are the arena and/or objects of divine order and justice.

Marceline Niwenshuti, University of KwaZulu-Natal (
s and Them: Psyche and Violence; Comparing Jewish Persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and the Rwandan 1994 Genocide

Social divisionalism of ‘us and them’-based violence has become a point of concern especially in Africa. This divisionalism takes different forms such as religion and ethnicity. This brief study compares religion-based social divisionalism and violence demonstrated in the persecution of the Jews under the leadership of Antiochus Epiphanes, recorded in the apocryphal book of II Maccabees, and ethnicity-based social divisionalism and violence in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In this comparison, the study explores and uses a theoretical framework of Carl Jung’s concept of the influence of the human psyche on social behaviour. Using this theoretical framework to read through and to compare the two case studies, this paper seeks to address the influence of human identity and power on determining social violence or well-being.

Philip Nolte, North-West University (
A Politics of the Female Body. Reading Esther’s Prayer, Susanna, and Judith in a Brutalized South African Society
South African society could be described as a society infested by rape and violence against female persons. Although nearly eighty percent of South African citizens see themselves as Christian, female rape and violence against women is a common occurrence. The question posed in this paper is whether religious texts can be of value in healing South African society. The paper argues that an uncritical reading of stories such as Esther’s prayer (Additions to Esther), Susanna (Additions to Daniel) and Judith in the Septuagint, aggravates the negative attitudes and behaviour of men towards women. This paper utilizes insights of Michel Foucault as well as Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckmann to show that a responsible reading of religious texts may help with a process of healing and reconstruction in South African society. To arrive at such a reading, Berger and Luckmann’s understanding of the social construction of reality and the role of religion within societies will serve as the theoretical point of departure, together with Foucault’s thoughts on the relation between power and knowledge, the submission of human bodies, and the objectification of the subject.

Paul Onwuegbuchulam & Nneka Ifeoma Okafor, University of KwaZulu-Natal ( &
A Theoretical Investigation into the Politics of Female Body and Beauty in the Book of Judith with Special Reference to Ahebi of Igboland

In the African context, women have never featured prominently in the enterprise of politics and power play. Even when they do rise to power, their achievement is usually attributed to the seductive use of their body. This sexist attitude is clearly seen in the true story of Ahebi of Igboland, who was arguably the only woman warrant chief in colonial West Africa (late 19th century). Her rise to fame and power was attributed to her ability to utilize the power of the female body to seduce the colonial masters into giving her the position. Ahebi’s story finds some parallels in the apocryphal story of Judith, who liberated her people by gaining entrance to Holofernes’ tent through her beauty and seductiveness. This article will explore this sexist attitude and, using some feminist hermeneutic keys as its theoretical framework, will try to analyse the phenomenon of female body power politics. The question is, can we attribute the rise of women to power only to the way they use their bodies as in Judith, or to their own sheer intellectual and political ability? This paper seeks to address this question and posits that women in politics do not rise to power only through the seductive use of their bodies. The theoretical framework is based on Judith Butler’s critique of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts.

Jessie Rogers, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick (Ireland) (
Where is (Woman) Wisdom to be Found and How Can We Apprehend Her?

This paper is based upon a close reading of poems in Proverbs, Sirach and Wisdom which present personified wisdom. I analyse these passages through a two-fold lens: spatial and sensory. The spatial options are initially tracked using a series of binary opposites (inside / outside; public space / private space; heaven / earth), before highlighting specifics of the locations named or implied. The sensory question revolves around how humans are imagined as ‘getting’ wisdom, and the answer given in each text is analysed in terms of the senses invoked – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. The focus on these particular aspects of the textual presentation of Wisdom highlights subtle continuities and discontinuities in the conceptualisation of this figure across the canonical and deuterocanonical wisdom books.

Kudzai Taruona, University of KwaZulu-Natal (
he Universe as Sacred Social Space: Wisdom of Solomon and Environmental Ethics

According to the Wisdom of Solomon, the universe is a sacred social space in which humanity and the rest of creation interact. In addition to these two visible characters in this space, there is also the invisible character, creator and sustainer of both, God. In this space, it is the role of humanity to be stewards of the world in holiness and righteousness, and to administer justice (9: 2-4), a note of enormous ecological implications. Humans are thus responsible for the world and are co-creators with God. In this space, human actions have consequences and effects on nature. Humanity’s evil acts disturb creation (10.7). The beauty of creation is, as it were, a window to the invisible role player (13:1ff). Through it, humanity gets closer to understanding who God truly is. There is a strong sense in the book of the inherent value of the natural world in and of itself, regardless of human interaction with it. This paper is an attempt to show that an ecologically valuable message can be derived from the book of Wisdom. However, we do not pretend that the bible can uncritically be regarded as a ‘green’ text with a clearly ‘green’ message. Thus to derive an ecotheology from the book of Wisdom, we will use a critical eco-justice hermeneutic.

Natashia van der Merwe, University of Johannesburg (
e Identification of the Counter-culture Rhetoric Advocating an Alternative Body Ideology as Hidden Polemic within Judith

Recent scholarly research has highlighted the fact that the book of Judges’ counter-culture rhetoric advocates an alternative body ideology, hidden as polemic throughout the book. Since ambiguity and irony form part of the counter- culture rhetoric, the reader needs to be attentive to the ambiguity and irony that run through the book of Judith. This ambiguity is produced by the juxtaposition of the ideal and non-ideal body; the displacement of honour and shame and the use of deceit and the unconventional to produce survival.

The biblical and Apocryphal writers’ society was driven by a specific dominant body ideology, of which some were proponents and others polemicists. As society developed their ideologies regarding different functioning bodies developed. Their texts would reflect these various ideologies. This paper seeks to highlight that the Apocryphal book of Judith uses the counter-culture rhetoric in Judges with regards to alternative body ideology, to direct the society of that time towards an alternative body ideology instead of a dominant one.

This paper further criticizes the interpretation that the biblical text and Apocryphal texts reflect only an androcentric dominant body ideology alone and hence a monophonic critical interpretation towards women/alternative bodies within the society of that time. Biblical scholarship and faith communities need to re-evaluate the theoretical underpinning regarding the interpretation of dominant ideology within such texts; as such interpretation has been used to sanction discriminatory practices in society in the past and at present.

Jan Willem van Henten, Amsterdam University & Stellenbosch University (
pace and Body in 2 Maccabees

Many scholars work on the Maccabean books as a crucial source for the history of the Jews in the first two centuries

B.C.E. and C.E., which is absolutely important. Few scholars concentrate on how the story of the Jews is told in these books. This paper lines up with the second approach and will offer the results of my attempt to read 2 Maccabees from a narratological perspective. I will focus especially on the ways the author has used the category of space as a narratological tool to articulate his story. Space highlights the body of the protagonists in several sections of the narrative, and the final part of the paper will therefore concentrate on the function of the body as a focal point of space within the story.

Pieter M Venter, University of Pretoria (
patiality in Enoch’s Journeys (1 Enoch 12-36)

An analysis of the three journeys of Enoch (1 Enoch 12-36) shows that preference is given to the spatial aspect in these revelation narratives. The heavenly journey (1 Enoch 12-16), as well as the two earthly journeys to the ends of the earth (1 Enoch 17-36), deal with space. To understand this preference for space the macro social world of the author(s) is to be studied. Attention has to be paid to the historical background, social structure and religious group(s) to which the author(s) belonged in the third century BCE. The Enoch tradition, as reflected in 1 Enoch 12-36, is shown to be a form of apocalyptic thinking influenced by wisdom literature using cosmological schemes to formulate its theology.

Johannes N Vorster, University of South Africa (
4 Maccabees and the Performativity of Pain, Politics, Place and Piety

Although the plethora of problems usually associated with “Introduction” is not to be disregarded, the objective of this paper is to pursue an alternative line of enquiry. Fairly recent analyses from the perspective of Rhetorical and Gender Criticism have laid bare how submerged hegemonic patriarchal structures and strategies competitively exhausted themselves on martyred bodies in 4 Maccabees. In this paper I further pursue this line of enquiry, approaching this writing from the perspective of a rhetoric of the body, introducing the notions of hybridisation and intersectionality, analysing its performativity according to a regulatory body, not only in terms of its appropriation by the early Christian tradition, but also exploring its possibilities to “think with” in a contemporary situation. A final section therefore also pays attention to what a queer reading of 4 Maccabees entails.