AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?: CHRISTIAN CITIZENSHIP IN A GLOBALIZED SOCIETY (EUGENE, OR: CASCADE BOOKS, 2013)
Q: What inspired you to write on the Cain and Abel story?
A: My dissertation at Cambridge was focused on the transmission of Gen. 4.1-16 but, since most of the analysis focused on translations in ancient languages, I realized that it would appeal to a more scholarly audience (not many people are up on their Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or Syriac!). As I worked through the text, however, I realized that there were so many significant theological issues that the story raised, but that I couldn’t fully bring out in my dissertation. So I decided to write something that brought out, in a simplified way, some of the distinctive points that come through the translations and the ancient interpreters.
Q: So how did that tie into globalisation?
A: During my PhD I led a small men’s group that got together weekly to discuss a biblical text. One thing that kept coming up in our conversations was that our calling to be Christian disciples could no longer be considered simply an individual pursuit without recognizing our connection to the wider world. Whether it is through economics, how we treat the environment, the food we eat or connecting to people via social media, our lives as disciples of Christ must take into account how were affecting those near to us as well as those around the world. Thus we were all challenged about how we viewed discipleship as we questioned our participation in the global economy or in how we were treating our environmental resources.
Q: Why did you choose to talk about Christian ‘citizenship’ rather than ‘discipleship’?
A: The language of citizenship actually came first from a meeting I had with Bishop Richard Chartres who had mentioned it in passing. Later on I was thinking about Augustine’s City of God and remembered that he had written about Cain as the founder of the ‘earthly city’ so I thought I would use this as the overarching metaphor for the book. I think, for myself, I’ve always had an image of what it meant to be a disciple, but the idea of citizenship helped me see my participation in God’s kingdom in a different light. It helped me see beyond the personal feeling of discipleship to corporate responsibility. And not just within the Church, but within the context of a globalised society.
Q: What do you hope people will get out of the book?
A: On one level, I hope that people will come to an appreciation of biblical translation and listening to the voices from the past (whether Christian or Jewish) that have wrestled with the depth and meaning of the Cain and Abel story. On another level I hope that, by touching on contemporary issues associated with globalisation and technology, people will be inspired to consider their own faith in the light of citizenship in the ‘heavenly city’ and what it means to be a disciple of Christ in an unprecedented age where we are connected globally and yet can still remain disconnected from those around us. Hopefully the book will provide a solid biblical theology addressing the issues we face in today’s globalised society and is a reminder about how we can orientate ourselves towards Christ in every aspect of our lives.
Revd Dr Mark Scarlata is a Tutor in Old Testament Studies at St Mellitus College.
For more information about Mark, please view our who's who page.