The Bible and Disability: A Commentary
Sarah J. Melcher, Mikeal C. Parsons, Amos Yong, eds.
SCM Press, 2018, xi + 498pp., pbk
This is the first comprehensive commentary from a disability perspective. Numerous, largely compatible, interpretive approaches are employed, which vary in strength and exegetical strain. Melcher’s thorough examination of Genesis could be improved by more reflection upon the wider significance of infertility. Her analysis of Exodus 4 is sounder, and considers the sovereignty of God over health and disability. Stewart highlights tensions in the portrayal of the abilities of the Israelite hero in Deuteronomy. He successfully outlines differences between the role of disability in the P source(s) and the JED sources. Schipper is wary of reading into the text. He notes Joshua does not mention disability, despite chronicling Canaan’s conquest. He argues that Judges employs disability only for literary effect. In the books of Samuel, Schipper observes that, at first, only antagonists suffer disabilities. Wynn picks up on the issue of interpretation. She considers how the theology that lies behind the choice of vocabulary in Chronicles has consequences for the disabled. Impairment is again a Divine punishment, and she warns against objectifying people. She concludes that dependency serves as a call to relate to God. Melcher highlights the correlation between longevity and wisdom in Proverbs, and challenges this ‘tyranny’. In Ecclesiastes, she argues that impairment is normal, as life is ephemeral. Melcher deems worldly justice unreliable for Job, but that he is proved righteous before God through disability. Koosed recognises that, for Psalms, sin manifests itself in bodies, which marginalises the disabled. She holds that pain extends even to the imperfect acrostic structure of Lamentations, and that bodies in the Song of Songs are alluring only because of their strangeness. In Isaiah, Couey argues that disability is normal: it expresses the breakdown in Divine-human relations. In Jeremiah, Couey notes that the post-exilic restoration is made accessible by God specifically for the disabled (Jeremiah 31). He determines that this is a theological discourse about Divine sovereignty over creation.