What The Body Knows

This special issue is the product of a collaborative, interdisciplinary workshop hosted virtually by Meredith J. C. Warren the Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield in Summer 2020. I am grateful to Dr Amanda Blake Davis, who assisted in running the workshop, and to all who participated. Funding for this workshop was provided by the Sir Henry Stephenson Trust and The University of Sheffield’s Women Academic Returners Programme fund.

Christy Cobb, “Entangled Tongues: A Poststructuralist and Postcolonial Reading of Acts 2:1-13,” 1–16.

KEYWORDS: Glossolalia, Acts of the Apostles, Derrida, Tongues, Empire

This essay explores the meaning of the word glōssa, the tongue, in Acts. The focus of my study will be Acts 2:1-13, the Pentecost narrative, where the reader first interacts with tongues of fire and with the experience of glossolalia, speaking in tongues. I read this passage exegetically (but playfully) while I consider the meaning and usage of the tongue through the theoretical lenses of poststructuralism and postcolonialism. This reading enables me to highlight the sensory elements of the tongue within Acts. How does it shift our view of Acts if we consider the meaning of glōssa to include the physical tongue, the home of our sense of taste? In doing so, I turn to the work of Jacques Derrida in order to suggest that glōssa functions within Acts as a new concept, one of Derrida’s “undecidable” terms. Finally, I will utilise postcolonial theory in order to suggest that glōssa spreads throughout the narrative and counters the major voices within the text. In this way, glōssa functions as an undecidable concept, a tongue that glides throughout the text of Acts, refusing to allow only the main voices to speak and thwarting the domination of the empire.

Read Online | Download PDF

Tom de Bruin, “A Bad Taste in My Mouth: Spirits as Embodied Senses in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” 17–38.

KEYWORDS: Testaments of the Twelve Partiarchs, embodiment, anthropology, demons, senses, the self, aetiology of evil

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs contain nuanced discussions of the nature of sin, which is invariably associated with both demonic forces and the human body. The senses are portrayed as human spirits. These senses, when used inappropriately, can allow the spirits of deceit to overcome a person and lead them to sin. Seeing, tasting and hearing can all be distorted by the spirits of deceit. When this happens a part of person’s nature is replaced with that of the forces of evil. The Testaments thus problematise the self and the body as a bonded category.[

Read Online | Download PDF

Jeannine Marie Hanger, “The Role of Touch in Comprehending Love: Jesus’s Footwashing in John 13,” 39–60.

KEYWORDS: foot washing, touch, tactile, Sensory Anthropology, Affect Theory

When Jesus humbly washes his disciples’ feet (John 13), he engages his friends up close using the sense of touch. This article explores how his touch conveys a quality of love that no other physical sense can capture. Sensory Anthropology reveals how touch is often overlooked and undervalued but is quite potent. We confronted these dynamics most recently when the pandemic reversed our cultural rules around touch: almost overnight, touch became dangerous and distance a kindness. This rule-reversal proves analogous for our exploration of the foot washing. By employing Affect Theory, this study draws on these pandemic experiences alongside two tactile exchanges in the Fourth Gospel (John 9, 12) to examine how Jesus’s touch in the foot washing overturns the “rules” to convey a unique quality of love.

Read Online | Download PDF

Shirley S. Ho, “To Work or Not to Work: The Hand and Embodied Wisdom of the Valiant Woman in Proverbs 31:10–31,” 61–82.

KEYWORDS: Proverbs 31:10–31, valiant woman, knowledge and wisdom, hands, embodied cognition, lazy fool, intercorporeality

The discipline of embodied cognitive science and associated concept of intercorporeality provide the theoretical framework of our analysis of Proverbs 31:10–31. This essay fleshes out the underlying cognitive and meaning-making processes and entailments inherent in the valiant woman’s use of her hands and body as depicted in the poem. The valiant woman is contrasted with the hands and body of the sluggard fool to unveil how the activity or inactivity of the hands (and body) substantially affects the knowing of the valiant woman and the fool. Knowledge and wisdom emerged and are shaped by one’s hands and bodily interaction with the real world.

Read Online | Download PDF

K.L. Jones, “Sensing the Unknowable: Sensing Revelation, Relationship, and Response in Psalm 139,” 83–98.

KEYWORDS: Sensation; embodied experience; Psalms; Hebrew Bible

The Psalms write and express revelation, relationship and response on and through the body; corporeal vocabulary, awareness of embodiment and somatic metaphors abound. This rhetoric draws people in through reference to common experience and uses somatic language to express thoughts and emotions which often escape conceptualisation, such as confusion, fear, and protection. Psalm 139 uses sensory language to stress how the Psalmist cannot escape God’s knowledge and power, and states that understanding God’s power is beyond humans. Movement, pressure and touch highlight presence and protection, and sensory awareness establishes a relationship between the protector and protected. I consider translations of tesukeni and yeshupeni and sensory metaphors, closing with a treatment of sensory awareness and cognitive understanding within the Psalm.

Read Online | Download PDF

Susannah Rees, “By Making Me Stink to the Inhabitants of the Land: Intrusive Smells as a Metaphor for Unwanted Migrants,” 99–118.

KEYWORDS: Migration, senses, smell, ba’ash

The verb ba’ash (lit. “to stink”) is used repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible to describe unwanted groups or individuals (Gen 34:30; Exod 5:21; 1 Sam 13:4; 1 Sam 27:12; 2 Sam 10:6; 1 Chr 19:6). However, there is an overwhelming tendency in English translations and commentaries to translate bet-aleph-shin in a figurative sense as “obnoxious” (NIV, NKJV), “odious” (NASB, ASV) or even “despised” (ISV). This paper answers the call to modern exegetes to read “not only with our eyes but with the other senses alert.” and proposes that by re-centring on and reading through smell, new exegetical possibilities are opened to us. Drawing on recent work on the verb ba’ash and anthropological research on the discourse surrounding smell or perceived social odours of migrants and immigrants, this article will demonstrate that stench and bad odour are employed as a form of metaphorical discourse in these texts to construct a narrative in which immigrants are viewed like bad smells: foreign, pervasive and unwanted.

Read Online | Download PDF

Laura J. Hunt, “Alien and Degenerate Milk: Embodiment, Mapping, and Social Identity in Four Nursing Metaphors,” 119–156.

KEYWORDS: Cognitive metaphor theory; nursing; social identity theory; mother; wet nurse

Using cognitive metaphor theory to examine the four NT nursing metaphors (1 Thess 2:5–9; 1 Cor 3:1–3; Heb 5:11–14; 1 Pet 2:1–3), this article demonstrates that the same nursing frame can be used quite differently. The work of separating the contributions of each input space and then running the blend demonstrates how each metaphor functions and, in 1 Corinthians 3 specifically, the overlaps and gaps that arise in the analysis explain previous discrepant interpretations as well as a new way forward. The nursing frame itself incorporates many different primary metaphors grounded in embodied experiences, but not all of these are activated in every metaphor. Each analysis concludes by pointing out its focus on specific blends and suggests the purpose of this focus through the use of social identity theory.

Read Online | Download PDF

Megan R. Remington, “Making Meaning of Touch: Revelation and Sensorial Participation in Daniel 8–10,” 157–177.

KEYWORDS: Book of Daniel; Apocalypse; Embodiment; Affect Theory; Visions; Touch

Throughout Daniel 8–10, Daniel is touched five times by human-like figures. By these touch interventions, he receives both physical and emotional strength which allow him to continue participating in the revelatory experience. This essay argues that embodied participation marked by the sense of touch not only legitimates an authentic revelation but allows Daniel to make meaning—or make sense—of his experiences. Through embodied affect, repeated interaction, and bodily likeness between the subjects involved, Daniel is an active participant in the revelatory process rather than merely a passive recipient, a feature that provides further nuance for the definition of a literary apocalypse.

Read Online | Download PDF