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Ecology and the sea in the Bible

Ecology and the sea in the Bible

ERMC’s Director of Studies, Dr Rebecca Watson, has been busy with a scholarly contribution to the new Oxford Handbook of the Bible and Ecology. Here Rebecca introduces the topic of her chapter and its contemporary relevance.

“The study of the Bible in the light of ecological concerns is a fast-growing and increasingly important area of research (not just because it is reflected in some of ERMC’s essay titles!). This book reflects this development, with chapters on methodology, specific biblical books and selected biblical themes and contemporary issues, designed to give an overview of the current state of research in each area and to offer a fresh perspective on each. It is unfortunately expensive, but should be available for ERMC students soon via the Hub, along with other, but not all, books in this series.

As one of my main areas of research is on the sea in the Hebrew Bible and I am the co-author of probably the only book solely focused on this topic (Blue Planet, Blue God: The Bible and the Sea, together with oceanographer Meric Srokosz), I was lucky enough to be involved in this project writing the chapter on ‘The Sea and Ecology’. I have tried in a relatively short space to summarise biblical perspectives on both the sea and ‘all that fills it’. I also address a few contemporary concerns, such as overfishing and marine protected areas, as well as the knotty problem of why ‘the sea was no more’ in Rev. 21:1 and to suggest future avenues for research.

“However, much as the areas of study covered in the book all have something valuable to contribute to our understanding of the Bible from an ecological perspective, the Bible, when seen as a whole, arguably has much more to offer. It begins (and ends) with God’s own creation of the world and his concern for it and there are numerous instances in between of his concern for it and continued work in sustaining the world. The Bible also has a huge emphasis on concern for the poor: the orphan, the widow, the stranger in your midst and the poor person who is vulnerable to being exploited by more powerful commercial interests. Given that the most severe climate impacts are already being felt among the world’s poorest, this in itself is good reason for concern and immediate action. Another aspect that comes out very strongly in relation to passages mentioning the sea is our finitude and vulnerability before great forces of creation which we cannot understand or control. But the Bible also offers a message both of hope and of responsibility, both of which are needed if we are to rise to the challenge of taking urgent action now in changing how we live.”

The new Oxford Handbook of the Bible and Ecology, Hilary Marlow and Mark Harris (eds.) is published in June.