The fact of the matter is that every reading of the New Testament (NT) is a political reading of some sort. Even readings that fail to find political significance in the NT are expressions of (often unconsidered) political positions — so-called ‘spiritual’ readings of the NT, which fail to find any significant political dimensions in Jesus’ teachings, or Paul’s epistles, or whatever else, are often expressed in life by a focus on one’s individual salvation, and a lack of attention to broader social structures… and this itself is a form of politics! The same is true of any reading.
Therefore, the question is not whether or not we should read the NT politically; rather, it is about what type of political reading we should practice.
Consequently, I have begun to compile a list of ‘commentaries’ that can help us properly understand the politics of the NT. This list is just beginning, has many holes, and I would be curious to hear what titles others might wish to add. Here is what I have thus far:
- Mt: Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter
- Mk: Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Gospel by Ched Myers
- Lk: The Gospel of Luke by Joel Green (NICNT)
- Jn: John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter
- Ro: Romans: A Commentary by Robert Jewett (Hermeneia)
- Gal: Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul’s Letter by Justin K. Hardin (WUZNT2)
- Phil: Philippians: From People to Letter by Peter Oakes (SNTS Monograph Series)
- Col: Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat
- 1 Pe: A Home for the Homeless: a social scientific criticism of 1 Peter, its situation and strategy by John H. Elliott
- Rev: Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther
There are, of course, several other studies that deal more generally with the politics of the NT, of Jesus, of Paul, and so on, but I am especially interested in exploring commentaries that take this ’empire-critical’ approach. What would you add to this list?