anthropology and Rene Girard
The best description of a biblical anthropology I’ve found comes through the work of Rene Girard. He roots the basis of identity in desire, and that our desires are mediated to us through a model. He names this desire mimesis or mimetic desire. The implication of mimesis is that when we desire things that cannot be shared, we develop rivalries. This leads to alienation, resentment, chaos and even murder.
This problem finds “resolution” through the following process: As a group of people live in this chaotic rivalry, two people find themselves joining together in their resentment of the same individual. This creates a gravitational pull which draws in others until all join except one. All the hostility is redirected to this one scapegoat and the newly formed community collectively murders the scapegoat. Suddenly “peace” is present, so the community finds it important to “remember” this event. The scapegoat is deified for the peace he/she brought, and ascribed magical powers. This places latent fears within the community for the retribution of the scapegoat. The breakout of rivalry is the basic fear and order is maintained through prohibition, myth and ritual based on the founding murder. All religions have vestiges of a partially hidden founding murder. All religions place god on the side of the winners, with the losers in life deserving their fate. If the fear of the god fades, rivalry re-emerges and another founding murder regenerates.
The uniqueness of the Old Testament is that it tells the story of the scapegoat. It speaks history from the perspective of the oppressed rather than the oppressors. The founding murder of Abel recognizes his innocence.
I won’t go into detail in this section, but part of the uniqueness of Jesus is that all he desired and valued were things that are generously available to all. I’m curious to see what the rest of you think about this perspective of anthropology.