Nyasha Junior, “Reimagining Hagar: Blackness and Bible” (Oxford UP, 2019)

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Popular culture helps shape how audiences imagine Biblical personalities in our contemporary moment. For many, Warner Sallman’s portrait of Jesus fixes him as white, others envision Moses as Charlton Heston because of Cecil B. DeMille’s film, The Ten Commandments, and the Jezebel stereotype is more well known than the Biblical figure. This merging of cultural productions and scripture clearly intersect in the modern understanding of Hagar as a Black woman.

In Reimagining Hagar: Blackness and Bible (Oxford University Press, 2019), Nyasha Junior, Associate Professor in Temple University’s Department of Religion, sought to understand how Hagar become Black and what purposes that served. Junior lays out the primary sources and the divergent interpretive terrain where this identity makes sense to its readers. In our conversation we discuss Hagar in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Muslim sources, categories of color, ethnicity, and race in ancient contexts, Biblical interpretation in nineteenth-century US debates about enslavement, Hagar in the visual arts, music, and literature, womanist theology, and being a Black scholar in the academy.

Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.

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