I have a guest post over on the Political Theology blog, in which I discuss the importance of considering our broader culture of textual production, ownership, and use when considering questions of scriptural authority.
In an age of mass production and digital replication, we are frequently forgetful of the materiality and particularity of entities. To those accustomed to a world of fungible commodities, any physical instantiation of a commodity is largely interchangeable with any other. There is an implicit metaphysics operative here, whereby an object’s existence qua commodity is one in which all its physical and sensory qualities are rendered entirely accidental, falling away from our view. The commodity itself is an abstract and immaterial thing.
Such a characteristically modern phenomenological relationship with the world—a relationship with the world shaped by the radical fungibility established by money, mass production, and digital replication—can affect our understandings of sacred texts too. For us, a text can function like the commodity, existing behind the realm of the particular as an entirely immaterial entity, manifested in the realm of the particular in fungible material and digital form. People accustomed to thinking of sacred scriptures as immaterial ‘texts’ can be unmindful or instinctively dismissive of the significance of sacred scriptures’ existence as material ‘books’. Yet any consideration of the question of the political implications of naming certain scriptures ‘sacred’ will be severely limited if it is not attentive to sacred scriptures qua material (or digital) books.
Read the whole thing here.