Earth Bible Progress Reports
Australian Initiative: A number of people have assumed that an international project such as the Earth Bible would probably be an American or European initiative. We are proud to say that this project is not only an Australian initiative, but seeks to include a range of writers from the Southern hemisphere, including Indigenous writers, as well as writers from Europe and America.
That team now includes Norman Habel (series editor), Vicky Balabanski, Michael Trainor, Marie Turner, Shirley Wurst (co-editor), Peter Trudinger, Ducan Reid, Alan Cadwallader, Charles Biggs. The Earth Bible Project is a program associated with the Centre for Science, Theology and Culture at Flinders University of South Australia and located at the Adelaide College of Divinity.
The year 2001 revealed an increasing international awareness of The Earth Bible. Volume 1 had been launched in Christchurch, New Zealand in July 2000 and Volume 2 in Capetown, South Africa in the same month. Volumes 3 and 4 were launched at the Annual Conference of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver Colorado in November 2001. Dr. Larry Rasmussen, from Union Theological Seminary, an ethicist with a strong ecojustice orientation, officially launched the two volumes, applauding the series as a significant contribution to biblical hermeneutics. One of the valuable features of this occasion was the fact that many of the writers from various parts of the planet, most of whom had never met each other, had a chance to compare notes and share areas of common interest.
Volumes 3 & 4
Volume Three, entitled The Earth Story in the Wisdom Traditions, focuses on discerning the voices of Earth in the Wisdom tradition, whether those voices be articulated or suppressed. The lead article by the Earth Bible team asks the question, 'Where is the voice of Earth in Wisdom Literature?' Some texts reflect an ecokinship between Earth and Wisdom. Texts from Job challenge the cosmic model that gives priority to heaven over Earth, while other texts challenge the mandate to dominate given humans in Genesis 1.28.
Volume Four, The Earth Story in the Psalms and the Prophets, explores a selection of key texts that raise the question of justice for Earth. Three articles challenge popular readings of the Chaoskampf myth, the theophany of Psalm 29, the New Earth in Isaiah 65 and the image of God in Ezekiel. Especially interesting, in this volume, is the contribution of Indigenous writers, including two from Africa.
In the Ezekiel Seminar at the Society of Biblical Conference in November, the Earth Bible approach was a central feature. This led to three papers by Norman Habel, Keith Carley and Kalinda Rose Stevenson focusing on the injustice experienced by Earth, especially at the hands of God. The image of divine cruelty is rather frightening when God is viewed from the perspective of Earth. In her article in Volume 4 of The Earth Bible, Kalinda Rose Stevenson goes so far as to describe the imagery attributed to God as that of a 'wife batterer'.
Volume Five, The Earth Story in the New Testament, is now with the publisher and should be released by November (2002). The lead article by the Earth Bible Team is a reflection in responses to the ecojustice principles employed in the hermeneutic of the project. Several articles offer new insights into New Testament texts that seem to devalue Earth in favour of heaven. The final article by Barbara Rossing challenges the popular apocalyptic notion that in the new age Earth will be terminated. A new feature of this volume is a dialogue between Norman Habel, who argues that John One seems to devalue Earth, and two respondents, Elaine Wainwright and Vicky Balabanski (who is coeditor of this volume with Norman Habel).
An important development of the total project is the development of Earth liturgies in various communities around the world. Norman Habel, who has been involved in developing these liturgies, has edited a collection entitled Seven Songs of Creation. This collection includes Earth liturgies, Earth Songs and related worship resources. This volume is being edited and will hopefully be released by Pilgrim Press mid 2003. One of these liturgies, 'The Song of Earth' was celebrated at Adelaide College of Divinity as part of the Adelaide Fringe festival.
The new Earth Songs emphasise not only the web of creation and the interconnectedness of nature, but also the need to respect Earth as sacred and listen to Earth as a living subject. One song was sung as a themesong at opening of the 2001 Asia Pacific Earth Charter Conference in Brisbane. The Earth Bible was also part of one of the workshop sessions.
A traditional hymn that devalues Earth commences, 'Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.' An Earth Bible re-write of verse one that song follows:
You who watch the highest heavens
Wond'ring where God's mansions are;
You who hope to spot an angel
Spinning like a falling star;
Earth is calling,
Earth is calling,
Come back home and rest in me,
Come back home and rest in me.
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