Caryn Reeder – The Enemy in the Household


Episode: The prospect of stoning a rebellious son or adulterer, or turning over an unorthodox brother or sister for execution is revolting. But how should a Jewish or Christian believer respond to such ideas when found in their own scripture? While resisting easy answers, Caryn Reeder offers a nuanced approach to books like Deuteronomy, where many of the harshest laws appear. Deuteronomy is the epicenter of legal admonitions to ‘show no pity’ to one’s own family if they prove disloyal to the covenant. Matt L. discusses with Caryn her journey into the world of ‘constructive family violence,’ how the harshest of laws might have made sense in the ancient world, and how interpreters through history have re-framed violent laws in new ways.

Guest: Caryn Reeder is Associate Professor of New Testament at Westmont College in California. She grew up on a farm in central Illinois, and then did her B.A. at Augustana College, M.A. and M.Phil at Wheaton College, and her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. She is the author of The Enemy in the Household: Family Violence in Deuteronomy and Beyond (Baker Academic, 2012), and several other articles and essays on war and violence in the Old and New Testaments. Her current research focuses on the experience of women and children in war in the New Testament and its cultural environment.

Book: The Enemy in the Household: Family Violence in Deuteronomy and Beyond (Baker Academic, 2012) (From the Baker Academic Website) ‘Three laws in Deuteronomy command violence against a family member–the enemy in the household – who leads others away from covenantal obligations to God. Several biblical and post-biblical narratives make use of such violence. In this fresh approach to troubling biblical texts, Caryn Reeder explores the “family violence” passages in Deuteronomy, tracing their ancient interpretation and assessing their contemporary significance. The Enemy in the Household examines such “constructive” violence carried out to protect the covenant community by investigating the reading practices of ancient Jewish and Christian interpreters of Scripture and their applications of these passages. It also provides modern readers with a model for the ethical interpretation of these difficult texts.’

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