Symposium Introduction


Laura Suzanne Lieber
Stephanie Powell
Willie James Jennings




The environmental crisis has prompted religious leaders and lay people to look to their traditions for resources to respond to environmental degradation. In this book, Mari Joerstad contributes to this effort by examining an ignored feature of the Hebrew Bible: its attribution of activity and affect to trees, fields, soil, and mountains. The Bible presents a social cosmos, in which humans are one kind of person among many. Using a combination of the tools of biblical studies and anthropological writings on animism, Joerstad traces the activity of non-animal nature through the canon. She shows how biblical writers go beyond sustainable development, asking us to be good neighbors to mountains and trees, and to be generous to our fields and vineyards. They envision human communities that are sources of joy to plants and animals. The Biblical writers’ attention to inhabited spaces is particularly salient for contemporary environmental ethics in their insistence that our cities, suburbs, and villages contribute to flourishing landscapes.


Reviews and Endorsements


‘In this groundbreaking study, Mari Joerstad has found a new convergence between biblical studies and ecology. Exploring the ‘living landscapes’ of the Bible, from the creation texts of Genesis to the Song of Songs, Joerstad has charted a new landscape of research as well as a new pathway for action, one that has a distinctly aesthetic trajectory. In this work, the author proves to be both an artist and an exegete, a welcome combination.’––William P. Brown – William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

‘This book is a wide-ranging and important study of environmental ethics in relation to the Hebrew Bible but in the broad context of studies in animism, anthropology and metaphor theory. It is at the cutting edge of ideas about the role of nature in human life and thought and the way that is depicted through metaphorical language in the Hebrew Bible. It is a highly readable book, with the author persuading us that the topic is integral to our understanding of ourselves as human beings both in relationship to, and with responsibility for, the world around us.’––Katharine J. Dell – University of Cambridge

‘Her book offers scriptural groundwork for cultivating the kind of religious imagination that makes sense of the spiritual need people have for a holy space in which to confess environmental sins together and repent for the harm they’ve caused.’––Isaac S. Villegas Source: The Christian Century

‘This is a stunning book. It will challenge and teach you; it is both academic and radical. It will alter the way that you approach and read the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as at least the gospels and Revelation in the New Testament. It will make you think afresh about the world we live in, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, even the place you live in. This book is important because it is ground-breaking. It gathers together cohering lines of biblical investigation and Hebrew scholarship with some key environmental issues, and spiritual/faith questions within biblical exegesis and discovery, which each of us must wrestle with. The text fulfils the inclusivity of the book’s title.’––Andrew Francis Source: Anabaptism Today

‘… the book is a lively, thought-provoking contribution to a “green” hermeneutic.’––Source: A Journal of Bible and Theology

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