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Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  190 ratings  ·  22 reviews
This book examines the theology and ethics of land use, especially the practices of modern industrialized agriculture, in light of critical biblical exegesis. Nine interrelated essays explore the biblical writers' pervasive concern for the care of arable land against the background of the geography, social structures, and religious thought of ancient Israel. This approach ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published 2009 by Cambridge University Press (first published October 1st 2008)
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Ian Caveny
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: agrarianism, theology
As the outgrowth of my own personal investment in both the works of Wendell Berry and the deep study of the Old Testament, it seems only natural that I would eventually turn to this stirring combination of those two loves. Ellen F. Davis is perhaps the only theologian I could've imagined to approach the topics of agriculture and agrarianism from the biblical perspective and do so with such intensive mastery. The result of these two streams coming together is majestic, providing both a thorough o ...more
Andrew Russell
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely incredible. It's a hard read. I don't know if it's the way Davis writes, or if I just have trouble reading her style, but I found myself having to reread sections (and even single sentences) multiple times to fully comprehend what she was saying. If you're not familiar with biblical scholarship, this will be an extra challenging read—but it will be worth it. I learned so much about the Bible and the underlying attitudes and cultural assumptions of its authors. This will be invaluable ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ellen Davis has made a careful and through presentation about the relationship between the writing in the Old Testament and an generally agrarian understanding of people's relationship with the land. It is striking how far away from this we have wandered. It is complicated for me because I also understand how much of the writing in the Old Testament is imaginary in the first place, so to find a strong theme of agrarian thought in a book of mostly made up stories is a little surprising. The autho ...more
Joseph Monroe
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Ellen Davis studiously and eloquently works to bring the leaders of all modern fields of expertise: from artists, people of religion, science, politicians, and economists into the conversation about food security and the importance of healthy land. Her hope is that a gathering of minds will occur that recognize "how completely the health of human lives and cultures is bound up with care of the land and just distribution of it's bounty." She paints the bible as a book about people dependent n ...more
Ben Haworth
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Davis’ book should be required reading for all Christians and students of Scripture. Her agrarian reading of the Old Testament is a thorough and fresh reading of the Scriptures. Admittedly, many Christians find parts of the Old Testament (especially parts of the Torah) to be a bit dry. Davis, however, takes those parts of Scripture and brings them to life through an agrarian cultural context. In the age of ecological crisis, Davis’ work is incredibly important fo shaping the relevancy and even t ...more
Justin Dewell
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book will help you see ways the Old Testament reveals the ways our cities, farms, and communities can interact within God's plan for the world.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
One might argue this book is simply an example of a modern reader-response hermeneutic. Rather than read the Bible through a paradigm of power, liberation, patriarchy, feminism, etc., Davis reads the Bible (or to be more precise, the Old Testament) through an agrarian lens. Thus, ones appreciation for her book is really dependent on 1) appreciation of that method of interpretation and 2) her lens of choice.

But to leave it there would do Davis a great disservice. Unlike other similar methodologie
Patrick Walsh
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ellen Davis was interviewed by Krista Tippett in November 2011. When that interview was rebroadcast approximately two years ago, I made a note to add Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible to my "to-read" list.

The marketing copy on the back cover presents the book as a tract against "modern industrialized agriculture." Except for Chapter 6, I did not read many arguments in this area in the book. That is not a criticism of the book by any means. Ellen Davis's thoug
Surprisingly easy to read for series of agrarian exegetical essays.

None of the information was stunning or new, but it was a little interesting at points. Agrarian literature isn't really something I plan to study in depth any time in the future, but for those who do or currently are, this is a good book to have on hand.

I wish the last essay had more vibes throughout the entire book, as Davis focused on applying her findings to a modern world where cities are sprawling and farms are forced into
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is fairly fantastic. The author writes a series of essays delving into the Old Testament and its connections to the agrarian writers of today (mainly, Wendell Berry). Contrary to how some people choose to interpret the injunction in Genesis to rule and subdue Creation, this divine command is not license to misuse the Creation or even to use resources in order to hasten the Lord's return. Rather, the Bible is very much a great foundation for an agrarian mindset. Fascinating, challenging ...more
Feb 15, 2016 added it
"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Psalm 24.1

As an aspiring agrarian and an armchair theologian, this was a great read for me!

pg. 3 - Augustine's interpretive principal - leads to love of God and love of neighbor.
pg. 27 - What impedes proper exegesis?
pg. 84 - Leviticus and the healing of the rupture...
pg. 92 - Sex crimes and a depraved economy.
pg. 105 - The food industry and chronic extreme hunger, the paradox of plenty.
pg. 142 - The concept of sl
Patrick Mulcahy
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Davis has written with eloquence and passion about the intersection of faith and agriculture. Her insights into the agrarian reading of the Scriptures are quite profound. They provide a decisive critique of any Christian spirituality divorced from caring for and using wisely God's good creation. I read this at the same time I was reading Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination; his words about the prophets critiquing empire and providing hope for an alternative society go hand in hand with Davis' wo ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Davis presents some inspiring and well-argued ideas on how Judeo-Christian texts engage agriculture in this series of essays. Her overall message is that sustainability isn't a new fad -- it's as old as the Torah. Highlights: Lots of Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson references and quotes, texts that you might not be familiar with and could come in handy if you write about religion and sustainability (like I do!). Drawback: The essays are very academic and seem better suited for a Religious Studies ...more
Brenda Funk
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Loved this book, like the ideas and the emphasis she puts on the covenant between the people, the land and God, and how they are inter-related. I loved the agrarian reading of the scriptures, and I see all the problems that are current with the way we treat the land....agri-business, the food industry etc. Just wish I had also been given a few more answers, how can we even in small ways, as individuals, change the way things are done? This is always my frustration when reading authors like Ellen ...more
Milk Badger
Jul 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
Skimmed it. I had greatly enjoyed listening to the author's interview with Krista Tippett, but I guess I had been expecting more Biblical exegesis and original thought here, and not the preponderance of engagements with contemporary writers that I found. ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
a book to own, the approach to reading the creation myth with a view for contemplative action has created engaging dialogue with all those I have spoken about it to - this book puts concrete words to ideas bouncing around a good read for emergent church enthusiasts, Wendell Berryites, food justice practitioners, and the agrarian in all of us
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Davis does some ground breaking work here. She takes an important look at what the Hebrew Scriptures have to say about agriculture. So nice to see biblical hermeneutics reach out to engage sustainability in this way. Much food for thought. Brought new depth to passages I'd never thought much about before.
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school, bible
This is such a great example of scholarship engaging in a larger public conversation. Davis takes to the Hebrew Bible with a new lens -- contemporary agrarian writers, especially Wendell Berry. Really interesting reading of texts and thought-provoking in a variety of ways.
Zachary Kovitch
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-s-key-reads
truly amazing. i would call it a masterpiece through and through.
Nov 29, 2014 added it
Fascinating topics, but strangely tedious to get through in a sentence-to-sentence level.
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Incredibly dense. I realize this is meant for seminary students, but a little less seminarian language could be really valuable to regular population.
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