The Bible and the Blues

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Although the Book of Lamentations is the central Biblical focus of this short course, it is actually an experiment in comparative Biblical analysis. Lamentations arguably comes from the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and has become a “canonical” expression of sadness for Jewish and Christian tradition. One of the central arguments of Claus Westermann is that it is NOT very central to Christian Theology, however, and he wants to know why not.

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Lamentations can be viewed as the “Hebrew Blues.” To understand more about the Lament and Mourning traditions of the Hebrew Bible, we compare this genre to one of the most powerful musical gifts of the African American experience to the world – the tradition of “The Blues,” and more specifically, “The Delta Blues.” To do this, we go to Memphis, Tennessee!

Just as it is impossible to understand the book of Lamentations without understanding something of the suffering and events of the Babylonian Conquest and Exile, so it is also impossible to fully appreciate the Blues without understanding its’ roots in the African-American experience. Thus, in this course, we work steadily toward a comparison that begins to do justice to Hebrew Blues, and African American Laments – and Hebrew Laments, and African American Blues!

On the Wednesday of this one-week "intensive" course, the entire class takes a "Blues Tour" down into Mississippi to visit historic sites of Blues history, including the spectacular B.B. King Museum in Indianola, Tutwiler, and Clarksdale, MS.

And, of course, it is only proper when studying Theology in Memphis, Tennessee that we have our evening theological discussions over Memphis BBQ around town - and especially while listening to Blues on Beale Street!

group photo of students and professor

group photo of students

To learn more about this exciting opportunity to study the Bible and the Blues in Memphis, please contact Professor Daniel Smith-Christopher.