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Mikhail Bakhtin and Biblical Studies: An Introduction
Barbara Green
SemeiaSt 38
Publication Date
October 2000


Although the work of Mikhail Bakhtin (1895–1975) has been widely appropriated in the various humanities and social-science fields, his thought has not yet been widely utilized in biblical studies. This book presents both the wide-ranging elements of his complex thought and also sketches the context of the life from which it emerged. It also offers access to the conversation going on in circles beyond the study of religion, specifically philosophy, anthropology, and literary studies.

Bakhtin’s interest in matters specifically literary as well as more broadly cultural make him a theorist helpful to biblical scholars seeking to renegotiate the sometimes disparate realms of language and history. Bakhtin’s careful attention to details of language shared by narrator and characters as well as his far-reaching sense of what happens when language is reused repeatedly within the tradition make his ideas stimulating within the vortex of current biblical discourse. His insistence that the multiplicity of voices decenters control from any single speaking or interpreting position challenges a number of positions in theology and hermeneutics, while his sense that the author does not disappear from the work of art challenges recent suppositions of language theory and linguistics.

“This is the book for every biblical scholar who has paused at the shelf of volumes by and about Mikhail Bakhtin and then passed on, not sure where to start or whether it would be worth the time. Barbara Green has written a valuable introduction that is clear and insightful, appreciative and critical. A distinguishing feature of the volume is that it goes beyond a mere descriptive summary of Bakhtin’s thought to model a reading informed by Bakhtin’s thought and to analyze how Bakhtin has already been used (and occasionally misused) in biblical studies to date. Green persuasively makes her case for the fruitfulness of the engagement of Bakhtin and biblical studies.”
—Carol A. Newsom, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Barbara Green is Professor of Biblical Studies at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California.