An Eternity of Silence or Merely Half an Hour (Rev 8:1)? Spatial Conflict, the Radical Jesus, and Deaf Liberation

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Few Westerners have had their lives as circumscribed by one biblical text as have the Deaf community. Ironically, through Mark 7.32-37—Jesus’s only healing of a deaf and speech-impeded(?) man—‘liberation’ has usually been imposed through the crushing dominance of a particularly hearing space. For the hearing, Revelation’s “silence in heaven” (8.1) is a passing interlude before all—including the Deaf who have never spoken—fill the spaces of eternity with noisome praise: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty….” (Rev. 4.8). Such a ubiquitous ideology of temporariness cannot but have impacted everyday life. In 1870, for example, as the foundation stone for the first purpose-built church for the “deaf and dumb” in Great Britain was being laid in London, the Jesus for whom the church was named—“St Saviour’s”—was being introduced as the only person who had ever healed a “deaf-mute”, something no prayer or science could replicate. Instead a Jesus-lite cultural healing in which“deaf-mutes” would find their place in society was on offer. Under the practitioners of the ‘Oralist method’ endorsed by the 1880 Milan Congress, this would result in the destruction of sign language and any cultural spaces that it had generated and in an assimilation into society so complete that their deafness would become invisible, a reflection of their heavenly future. Utilising Henri Lefebvre’s notion of space as produced, this paper will examine counter-responses to this hegemonic construction, up to and including ones in which resurgent Deaf spaces define their own salvific norms, their own Jesuses, developing their own conciliatory response to the traditional Jesus who has long-sought to destroy them. In the end, it is not that Christ will save the Deaf, but rather that the Deaf may be willing to save Christ. Communication through sounds in a Hearing-space heaven may in fact be replaced by a visually rich and eternal Deaf-space of (silent) communication through signs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventSociety of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, 2015 - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: 21 Nov 201524 May 2016


ConferenceSociety of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA


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