Hartford Seminary

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The Marks of Empire: A Message from the Woman “Babylon” in the Book of Revelation to the City of Hartford

The woman Babylon in the Book of Revelation has had more than her share of violence, both in the Christian Bible, as well as in the scholarly writings about her text. Having the name, ?Babylon,? she is automatically negatively perceived before one gets a chance to know her. Yet the woman Babylon is so much more than her name. She is so much more than a female-gendered metaphor for a city – representing the Roman Empire – that will be overturned by God?s Empire. She just may be more akin to us than we would ever dare to imagine. By reading the woman Babylon?s text from a postcolonial womanist perspective, the Reverend Dr. Shanell T. Smith will highlight the woman Babylon?s simultaneous ambivalent identification as a ?brothel slavewoman? and as an ?empress/imperial city.? She will then discuss how the woman Babylon incites tension within her because she reflects ever so sharply her continual conflicting reality of being simultaneously a victim of, and participant in, empire. Certainly, by the looks of Hartford, she is not alone.

The Rev. Dr. Shanell T. Smith is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins. Smith teaches postcolonial, feminist, and womanist forms of Biblical interpretation. She earned a Ph.D. at The Theological School of Drew University, and a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her dissertation topic, for which Drew awarded her the Rabbi Dr. Sheldon J. Weltman Prize for the Best Dissertation in Biblical Studies, was ?Empire, Gender and Ambiveilence: Toward a Postcolonial Womanist Interpretation of the Woman Babylon in the Book of Revelation.? Previously, Smith was an instructor at Drew University and a Teaching Assistant at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), serving on the Committee for Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession. In 2011, Smith served on the Steering Committee of the African American Biblical Hermeneutics Program Unit of SBL. Smith has written ?A Perspective on Revelation? in ?Global Perspectives on the Bible? (Pearson Prentice Hall, forthcoming).

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