Exile and Return: Trauma and the Unfinished Theological Task of Christian Preaching of the Hebrew Bible


  • David Schnasa Jacobsen Boston University School of Theology



christian preaching, old testament, trauma, hermeneutics, christology, identity


David Stark argues the problem of Christians preaching the Hebrew Bible remains stuck in a binary between historical-critical approaches and christological allegorization. I view the problem as also a homiletical-theological one: Christians narrating the two-part canon unidirectionally, e.g., promise/fulfillment. In light of a rethinking of the reception of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in practice, I propose an alternative metaphor, “exile and return,” influenced by Cathy Caruth’s work on trauma, narrative, and history. I then concretize the complexity of trauma and history in the two-part canon itself through David Carr’s Holy Resilience. As for the other part of Stark’s binary, I propose revising our homiletical Christologies to emphasize Jesus’ Jewishness in differentiated relation to us, following J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account. My revisions loosen Stark’s binary by relating Christology across differences of identity today within a trauma-informed hermeneutic. I conclude by proposing a homiletical model that (1) embraces a trauma-informed “not yet” in Christian proclamation of the Hebrew Bible, (2) re-focuses preaching “in Christ” as an identity-related homiletical point-of-view, and (3) acknowledges how struggles with trauma and point of view can foreground relations with inter-religious others today.

Author Biography

David Schnasa Jacobsen, Boston University School of Theology

David Schnasa Jacobsen is Bishops Scholar in Homiletics and Preaching and Director of the Homiletical Theology Project at Boston University School of Theology, Boston, USA. His most recent volume, for which he served as contributing editor, is Toward a Homiletical Theology of Promise (Eugene: Cascade, 2018).