Episode 184 – David M. Carr


Virtual Memories Show #184: David M. Carr

“There’s a deeper music that runs through and beneath the Bible.”

2803d239361d1148d0f5ff5ea09e7358Biblical scholar David M. Carr joins the show to talk about his book, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press). We get into how the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were shaped, the parallels between trauma and religion, the personal trauma that led to his thesis, the perils of applying modern psychology to people in antiquity, how he balances his faith with his scholarship, the problems with seeing yourself as “chosen”, the personal and communal trauma of 9/11 (it gets pretty heavy), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Holy Resilience!

“I find Paul a fascinating figure. He’s incredibly irritating. He’s all over the place, in some ways. You can never pin him down. But he’s grappling with the reality of life, and life is itself untamable, so it’s an untamable text.”

We also discuss his favorite parts of scripture (something Old, something New), the social justice work that drew him into biblical scholarship, the difference between writing for other scholars and writing for a lay audience, the conflicted nature of Paul the Apostle and the enormous ramifications of that conflict, the tension between monotheism and cosmotheism, and the uncanny nature of celebrating the Cross as a symbol. BONUS: I ramble about visiting a sculpture exhibition in a cow pasture (photoset over here, plus these whitewalkers below)! Now go listen to the show!

“For some people this may be their first encounter with seeing the Bible as a human product, and it can be a little shocking.”


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

David Carr is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Over his decades-long academic career, he has become an international authority on the formation of the Bible, ancient scribal culture, and issues of the Bible and sexuality. He has written numerous books and articles, including The Erotic Word: Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Bible and Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, both published by Oxford University Press. He is now working on a major scholarly commentary on Genesis 1-11.

Decades into a career as a biblical scholar, he suffered a life-threatening bicycle accident that changed his view of the scriptures he had devoted his life to studying. As he grappled with his own individual trauma and survival of it, he became interested in how the collective trauma of Israel and the early church had shaped the Bible. He saw that these holy texts are defined by survival of communal catastrophe. This is part of what makes them special, what made them last. The result of this basic insight is Carr’s work, Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (Yale University Press).

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Carr’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photo of Mr. Carr by me.