FEBRUARY 18, 2019: 7:30-9:00 pm Compassion
The Bible teaches many kinds of loving kindness, but the imagery of compassion is special: one person becoming another; the body being turned inside out; God as a parent whose being, evident in the work of creation, is directed toward the children’s good; God as suffering and vulnerable. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the idea of compassion departs sharply from the values of both the materialistic Classical cultures and the harsh god-kingships of the ancient Middle East. The beauty and the intellectual persuasiveness of the Bible depend on the idea of compassion; like everything great in literature, it is both superficially startling and deeply natural.
APRIL 22, 2019: 7:30-9:00 pm Peace/Nonviolence
The Hebrew word shalom is often translated as “peace,” but the concept is much broader, embracing wholeness, wellness, and integrity. Shalom suggests the sincerity and balance necessary for general goodwill, tolerance, and service, as well as for resolving on nonviolence and sticking to the resolution. In the Christian Greek scriptures, the word eirēnē similarly connotes peace in the whole community and the loving resolution of differences. The poetry, story, and preaching of the Bible constantly connect peace to idealistic monotheism: as God is single, perfect, and eternal, society must try to reflect God’s unity and transcendence.
JUNE 24, 2019: 7:30-9:00 pm Justice
In the Bible, the idea of justice differs from the modern Western one, in which individual rights are central. However, the recognition of shared humanity, the urgency of social inclusion, and the authority of the law are common to both traditions. The entire Bible sees justice in dramatic terms and stresses God’s vindication of relatively powerless people (women, foreigners, the poor, the disabled, the dependent) when they have been wronged and abused. But in the Bible, justice is a moving target: power, no matter how justly acquired, is hard for humans to handle, making a self-critical attitude toward wrongdoing necessary. This moral cogency and psychological plausibility lend moving drama to the teachings.
Sarah Ruden, a Quaker by “convincement,” is a poet, translator, essayist, and popularizer of Biblical linguistics. Trained at Harvard as a classical philologist, Sarah has won high praise for her book-length translations of Greek and Roman classics, including Vergil’s Aeneid, Apuleius’ Golden Ass, and Aeschylus’ Oresteia. She has received a Guggenheim fellowship and a Whiting Creative Nonfiction award. She has been a frequent lecturer at churches, colleges, and universities, and a contributor to a variety of journals, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Books & Culture, and Commonweal.
During the past decade, Sarah has turned her attention to Biblical literature. After doing the initial research and writing at Pendle Hill, she published Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time (2010), which provides a fresh look at Paul by detailing the brutal Roman Imperial world against which the evangelist’s message of love stood so strikingly. Rod Dreher of Beliefnet called Paul “[t]he most exciting book of historical analysis I’ve read in ages – indeed the most exciting book period…. What makes reading Ruden such a pleasure, aside from the quality of her thinking and her prose, is her willingness to question settled truths, and to do it with such a lightness of spirit.”
More recently, she published The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible. She is currently working on a new translation of the Gospels, seeking to express more authentically in English the idioms, images, emotions, and ideas of the original text.