On Nov. 15 at 4 p.m., Wilton Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Dr. K. Jason Coker will discuss at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown his recent book, James in Postcolonial Perspective, and field questions from attendees. All are welcome.
James in Postcolonial Perspective deals with early Judaism and the New Testament, and tells of how two First-Century Jews, both followers of Jesus, negotiated Jewish identity in relation to the Roman Empire.
James, Jesus’s brother, argued that Jewish identity should not assimilate with Roman systems of belief, while Paul sought to unify Judaism and Greco-Roman culture.
“It’s an incredible moment in history for both Christianity and Judaism,” Coker told The Bulletin.
Coker worked on the book over two years’ time for his doctoral dissertation at Drew University, and in fact finished it in the library at Temple B’nai Chaim during a two-month sabbatical granted him by Wilton Baptist Church.
Originally intended for educational purposes but picked up for publication by Fortress Press and published Aug. 1, Coker’s book “uses modern postcolonial theory as a lens to understand how those early biblical authors negotiated identity in relation to the Roman Empire,” he said.
By analyzing the histories of two men who attempted to answer the question of what it truly means to be a Jew, Coker hopes to shine new light on relations between Jews and Christians, considering the New Testament as an originally Jewish text later adopted by gentiles.
“By really concentrating and focusing on the New Testament as a Jewish product that has been totally accommodated by gentile Christianity,” said Coker, “it reconfigures the conversation around what early Christianity was, and by doing that, it gives us new ground to reconfigure Jewish-Christian relations today.”
In addition to addressing the faith-to-faith relationship between Judaism and Christianity, Coker’s book considers the relationship between faith and empire in general and the modern implications of that timeless concept.
Coker said, “When you look at ancient empire, specifically the Roman Empire, and how empire dominated culture, it begs the question Where is empire today? What does that look like? What are the cultural forces at work?
“Those are all relevant questions, especially for people like me who are religious people that also live in the modern world. What does faith say to oppressive empire? How do we continue to negotiate identity in the modern world in ways that are similar and dissimilar to some of the biblical writers? I think that’s important for ethical reasons.”
Temple B’nai Chaim is located at 82 Portland Avenue, Georgetown.