According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, August 16, 2020

How To Read The Bible - A New Hermeneutic, Parts 1-6




How To Read The Bible - A New Hermeneutic
Parts 1-6

What Works For Me
When Reading the Bible

by R.E. Slater
August 16, 2020
Revised & Edited, August 24, 2020

The Many Worlds of Hermeneutics

I originally wrote this piece as a single composition as I did not wish to have any of it read alone in its parts as each part is necessary for the other part. However, it is a long piece and so, with reservations, I have divided it up for the convenience of the reader. But for those who wish to read it as a whole I have left the original intact and titled parts 1-6. Thank you. - res

PART 1 - Literal, Historical, Grammatical, Contextual Bible Interpretation

Welcome to the World of Bible Study

I set out not too many years ago to find a way to interpret the bible by re-imagining a hermeneutic which might be helpful to readers in understanding God's revelation. Extra-biblical words I grew up  with such as creedal or doctrinal words like the infallibility of Scripture, or the inerrancy of Scripture, told me the bible could NOT be wrong in (i) its theology of God or in (ii) its epistemological apprehension about God.

For many years I explored exegetical words (cf. last Wikipedia article at the bottom of this post re "Biblical Studies") from the biblical text which might help discern how to read Scripture in its textual themes and traditions. And as I did I kept to the reformed tradition of literal, historical, grammatical, and contextual bible interpretation. This would also include keeping to the "internal and external consistency" of the text of the biblical passage. The following links will show just how popular these set of interpretive methods have been through church history: Wikipedia; Britannica; Christian Publishing House; Redmoon Rapture's site; and EndTimes.org.
I realized quite quickly that by using the Reformed system to interpret the bible it would keep me within Protestantism's borderlands of beliefs which did not allow other "external" voices to be considered. It prescribes a "closed" hermeneutical tradition rather than an "open" interpretive system. There were certain voices I could listen to and other voices I could not. Science, for one, was a big, big problem. Its voice seemed to deny so much in the bible I was raised to believe (I'll say more about this later).
And what were the extra-biblical words which kept this closed hermeneutical tradition pointing inward on itself (or which created a "circular" borderland impervious to contradiction)? Yes, you guessed it, the infallibility and inerrancy of the bible.

Together, these systematic doctrinal words described the bible as God's revealed (special) revelation (as opposed to the general revelation of nature and humanity). That the bible (i) tells us of God and (ii) can be trusted in its telling of God. That the bible's words are infallible and inerrant. The bible will not mislead us nor will it deceive us. It may be trusted.

Wikipedia - Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It addresses issues such as what the Bible teaches about certain topics or what is true about God and his universe. It also builds on biblical disciplines, church history, as well as biblical and historical theology. Systematic theology shares its systematic tasks with other disciplines such as constructive theology, dogmatics, ethics, apologetics, and philosophy of religion.
With a methodological tradition that differs somewhat from biblical theology, systematic theology draws on the core sacred texts of Christianity, while simultaneously investigating the development of Christian doctrine over the course of history, particularly through philosophy, ethics, social sciences, and even natural sciences. Using biblical texts, it attempts to compare and relate all of scripture which led to the creation of a systematized statement on what the whole Bible says about particular issues.
Within Christianity, different traditions (both intellectual and ecclesial) approach systematic theology in different ways impacting a) the method employed to develop the system, b) the understanding of theology's task, c) the doctrines included in the system, and d) the order those doctrines appear. Even with such diversity, it is generally the case that systematic theologies begin with biblical revelation and conclude with eschatology.

Infallibility - What Is It?

Herein lies the problem... (i) "How is the bible infallible," and (ii) "How may it be trusted?" The first area speaks to the kind of theology one is expressing and believes in. The second area speaks to the area of knowledge, assurance, dependability of the Scriptures themselves. Which naturally leads to the question, "Whose theology of God should we be listening to?" And, "Whose epistemic expression of God gives to us the right foundation for credibility?" We might summarize it this way, (i) "How do we know, and (ii) How do we know we know?"

Wikipedia - Infallibility. Refers to the inability to be wrong. The term has significance in both theology and epistemology and its meaning and significance in both fields is the subject of continued debate.
[An important branch in the study of philosophy] is the study of epistemology. It is concerned with the question of what, if anything, humans can know. The answer to the issue of whether or not a human (in Catholic terms), or the bible (in Protestant terms), can be infallible depends on the philosophical school:
  • Infallibilists hold that knowledge requires absolute certainty, in the sense that if one knows that something is true, it is impossible that it could have turned out to be false.
  • Advocates of subjectivism claim that there is no objective reality or truth, and therefore anyone can be considered infallible, since whatever is within a person's consciousness is considered the real and the true.
  • Advocates of reason and rationality claim that one can gain certainty of knowledge, through a process of extreme refinement measures unlikely to be perfected enough for someone to assurably say "certainty of this knowledge is absolute", yet also assume by chance that one could land on the objective without the knowledge being confidently described as "universally certain", thus as a result, advocates tend to avoid this altogether and instead rely upon Occam's Razor as a suitable means for obtaining knowledge.

As you can see, infallibility is a word Christian's throw around a lot when describing the bible and sharing, or teaching, what it says. When a Christian speaks of their faith in God they would like to be able to claim veracity and certainty of their ancient faith. This faith is founded in the bible. It gives to both Jew and Christian their faith. It is meant to communicate to us who God is and what He is doing.

The Good and Bad of the Word Infallible

Herein lies the nub of the problem. It is here we get into the many kinds of religious beliefs, the plethora of denominational creeds and traditions, the differences between mainline and independent faith statements, pulpiteering dictims, doctrinal dogmas, sects, cults, and 'isms. So I share in my sympathy to the Christian of any age - whether new or old in their faith - in trying to discern how to read the bible and take away from it words of wisdom unto salvation.
Yet I think, perhaps the word infallibility takes us too far in our expectations. It was suppose to be a good, meaty doctrinal term expressing assurance of faith based upon the bible's teachings of God and salvation. But in the negative sense of it's usage, infallibility may lead one into misperception and unhelpfulness about the bible's teachings.
For example, "Are women equal with men or subservient to men?" (sic, equalitarianism or complimentarianism):
Complementarianism and egalitarianism are theological views on the relationship between men and women, especially in marriage and in ministry. Complementarianism stresses that although men and women are equal in personhood, they are created for different roles. Egalitarianism also agrees that men and women are equal in personhood but holds that there are no gender-based limitations on the roles of men and women.
When infallibility is used in this way by the teachings of a church, a church congregation, a denomination, or independent bible association, then such teachings may be spoken as de facto statements from God and the bible: "God's Word says it so I believe it and we teach it!" Yet, in so doing, such teaching may in fact both be wrong - and unhelpfully wrong - in living out God's Word.
As example, by misusing the infallibility the bible many false teachings are taught of God; false attitudes are taught towards the world; and false ideas given of worship and witness. This happens all the time when preachers or churches are considered "infallible" and their teachings are based "infallibly" upon God's "infallible" Word. Such dictums or dogmas do not allow themselves to be questioned when they fully should be questioned and held up to rebuttal.
Epistemology - How Do We Know What We know? And Why Do We Know It?

The word infallibility when used as an epistemological expression of belief states both consciously and unconsciously that the bible is never wrong. And yet it is. The bible is fallible in its narratives though one would like to say it is never wrong in its portrayal of God's salvation in the bible. But literary errors of ignorance or misunderstanding from transcriptionists of the bible shouldn't alarm us but provide a degree of assurance which testifies to the bible's ancient legacies and age.

The fallibility of the bible lies in the insistence that its documentaries and narratives are "infalliably accurate". Which isn't so. Like any ancient collection of oral histories the archaeologist and biblical historian will find errors in its collected manuscripts again-and-again. The kind of errors which later oral tellers of its stories, or later authors who collected its stories, would normally make being unacquainted with the history of the past generations of the ancients. You see this all the time in the reading of ancient Greek legends such as Homer's Illiad or Odysssey.
As a benign example, when the domestication of camels occurred challenges the story of Abraham in Genesis 12.16 as some contend the husbandry of camels occured in the United Monarchy period many centuries later (Camel Domestication History Challenges Biblical Narrative). Details like this occur all the time in the bible though the normal bible reader would not know the difference. Similarly with the later transcriber adding or removing details consciously or unconsciously from the world they knew around them.
So by describing the bible as infallible seems more like an epistemic oxymoron to me when trying to describe how we know what we know as a hard-and-fast rule asserting an authoritarian expression of certainty of the Christian's knowledge and trust over the bible. It in no way reflects upon God in the bible's fallible composition or transmission but does reflect how the process of transmission was very human in its capacity to make mistakes as well as the fallible knowledge of the ancient back then in describing the world around them.

Claiming Certainty Doesn't Make Certain

Epistemology is that branch of philosophy which speaks to absolute knowledge in the classical sense. And if used in the modernist's sense of doubt, one might examine how we might know a thing by analyzing the causes and foundations of our beliefs and misbeliefs.

You can see why I think of infallibility as an epistemic oxymoron. Infallibility claims a surety of knowledge - a knowledge which is era-specific and therefore temporal - where no such certainty of knowledge should be claimed if the Christian faith is to remain healthy. More so, we should always challenge why we know or believe something. The challenge itself proves healthy. As does doubt and uncertainty. God would not expect us to carry on in any other way. Nor would any good parent when teaching their children. Mere word alone oftentimes is never enough. Its part of our freewill agency to test and try the wisdom of our peers.

And so, if Christianity does not continually challenged itself towards apprehending God's Self, and His Revelation to us, faithful Christians will eventually lose themselves to internal religious error. Doubt and uncertainty are healthy exchanges in the spiritual aptitude of our souls....

Wikipedia - Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts. Hermeneutics is more than interpretive principles or methods used when immediate comprehension fails and includes the art of understanding and communication.
Modern hermeneutics includes both verbal and non-verbal communication as well as semiotics, presuppositions, and pre-understandings. Hermeneutics has been broadly applied in the humanities, especially in law, history and theology.
Hermeneutics was initially applied to the interpretation, or exegesis, of scripture, and has been later broadened to questions of general interpretation. The terms hermeneutics and exegesis are sometimes used interchangeably. Hermeneutics is a wider discipline which includes written, verbal, and non-verbal communication. Exegesis focuses primarily upon the word and grammar of texts.
  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Wikipedia - Exegesis (/ˌɛksɪˈdʒiːsɪs/; from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι, "to lead out") is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible; however, in modern usage biblical exegesis is used for greater specificity to distinguish it from any other broader critical text explanation.
Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the author, text, and original audience. Other analyses include classification of the type of literary genres presented in the text and analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself.

PART 2 - Another Side to Bible Interpretation

Inerrancy - What Is It?

Another systematic word created much more recently in history is the word inerrancy. It came about in the 1980s at a bible convention of evangelicals (1982) wishing to defend their creedal faith and the epistemology behind their beliefs. In this setting the bible is described as being without error or fault in its original manuscripts. That every word is Spirit written by the finger of God and without error. Yet another quagmire if their ever was one:

The Inerrancy Statement elaborates on various details in articles formed as couplets of "We affirm..." and "We deny...".
  • Under the statement, inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts which no longer exist, but which, its adherents claim, "can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy" (Article 10).
  • In the statement, inerrancy does not refer to a blind literal interpretation, and that "history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth."
  • It also makes clear that the signers deny "that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. [sic, if the bible says it, it is true and trustworthy, regardless of contra-negating external sources or evidences. - res].
  • We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood." [sic, evolution is wrong, wrong, wrong. - res]
  • Signatories to the statement came from a variety of evangelical Christian denominations, and included Robert Preus, James Montgomery Boice, Kenneth Kantzer, J. I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, R. C. Sproul and John F. MacArthur.

As a good evangelical you would say the bible is true truth and the usage of any outside sources may be used to help the bible reader to better understand the bible EXCEPT if those external sources contradict the bible. Consequently, both ancient scholarship, and more recent fundamental and evangelical scholarship of the last 200-300 years, learned to build hermeneutical borderlands around the bible.

To help, self-proclaimed inerrant apologists circle around the bible to keep its true truths from being watered down, removed, or denied. Through preaching and teaching "official versions" of fundamentalism or evangelicalism, apologists attest to the veracity and certitude of the bible's teachings (according to their version of it). Competing for shelf space in bible book stores one will find apologetic works of every kind. From reference volumes, to commentaries, to sermons, to daily devotionals. Each giving a defense for the kind of Christian faith which is wanted and deemed correct.
Jude 1.3 (NASB) - "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (see other cross references here)
Christian Apologetics - The Industry of Defending a Closed System

Giving an apology for one's Christian Faith is an esoteric way of saying one wishes to defend the bible in its theology of God and God's commands. Which is all well and good but it certainly doesn't mean that one is apologetically renouncing one's faith. It means just the opposite... that one is standing-up! for one's faith in high conviction!

However, the manner of apologetic delivery in witness to the Christian faith might be encouraged to always be spoken respectfully and lovingly - though this seldom has been my experience. I do remember a visiting evangelist who admirably lived up to this manner of public speaking and personal compassion. Usually, most apologists aver God and the bible in strong terms of rhetoric and oratory. The good ones are stirring to listen to. They are well spoke and they know what they're doing. They come with ecclesiastical heat and convicting witness tied to their doctrinal deportments of choice.

As such, the ways of defending one's Christian faith may be described as giving an "Apology of the Scriptures and of the Christian Faith." Here is one of many lists of writers/speakers/evangelists/etc who are known as "Defenders of the Faith" and quite admired by today's 2020 contemporary Christian communities:

List of Popular Evangelical Apologists
  1. Norm Geisler: normangeisler.net.
  2. William Lane Craig: Reasonable Faith.org
  3. Ravi Zacharias: RZIM.org
  4. John Lennox: John Lennox.org
  5. Greg Koukl: STR.org
  6. J. Warner Wallace: ColdCaseChristianity.com
  7. Paul Copan: PaulCopan.com
  8. Ed Feser: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/
  9. Lee Strobel: Lee Strobel.com
  10. Josh McDowell: Josh.org
  11. Discovery Institute (Dembski, Meyer, Richards, Luskin, Wells): www.Discovery.org
  12. C.S. Lewis: CSLewis.org
  13. Gary Habermas: GaryHabermas.com
  14. Timothy McGrew: http://historicalapologetics.org/
  15. Dr. Michael Brown: AskDrBRown.org
  16. Richard Howe: Richardghowe.com
  17. Tim Keller: TimothyKeller.com
  18. J. Budziszewski: Undergroundthomist.org
  19. Hank Hanegraaff: Equip.org
  20. Hugh Ross: Reasons.org

The problem of Literalism and Closed Arguments

But this entire industry of Apology is unfortunate in the sense of closing down legitimate questions one should be asking of God and the Bible. It also has given rise to the idea of literally reading the bible word-for-word. Reading the bible literally means if the concept is in the bible then its a true truth. All other concepts are false. It is a very wooden, black-and-white way of reading a collection of ancient documents we call the bible in the worse possible way.
Examples abound: "An eye for an eye." Or, Christianity's "Just War" theologies vs. "Living in peace and love with one's neighbor." Another, "Obeying God's Ten Commandments" coupled with the ills of religious Legalism, Hedonism, Materialism, Secularism, and any other 'ism you might think of. Or finally, what to do with Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" which seems to replace God's Ten Commandments? Reading the bible literally can, and does, present challenges to the Christian faith.
For many exegetes, the word literal is an unfortunate word to be using when interpreting Scripture. But so too is the word symbolical. Those who haven't been taught to read the bible literally have been raised in alternative Reformed traditions of reading Scripture symbolically, metaphorically, or allegorically.

Yes, I believe I said it right. The Reformed tradition is so old and so large as to allow in its early days allegorical interpretation as well as later literal interpretation which arose out of it when Gutenberg's Printing Press (see here and here) began to get the bible's pages out of the monk's hands and into the hands of the commoner.
In Germany, around 1440, goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, which started the Printing Revolution. Modelled on the design of existing screw presses, a single Renaissance printing press could produce up to 3,600 pages per workday, compared to forty by hand-printing and a few by hand-copying.
My German/English seminary professor, Dr. Carl Hoch, would list out 40 different ways the word literal was not literal and misleading to interpreting Scripture. God help me but I wish I could remember that list. Dear Carl was quite humorous to listen to when he got all worked up in his litany of word-tyrannies. When he did, you dropped your pen and stopped any note taking, sat back, and listened with a smile on your face as he rambled on-and-on with no foreseable off-ramp ahead. Lord, how I miss my friend and mentor! (refer to the tongue-in-cheek essay on the word "literally" placed at bottom of this post by Boston.com/Staff)

And so, like the word literal, these allegorical interpretive ways of reading the bible may misdirect, or not allow further considerations of an idea within a textual passage. Both approaches cloud the reading of Scripture and its apprehension. How so? Basically our language and contemporary cultural gets in the way of understanding ancient ways of speaking and communicating with one another back when the passages were composed over their long periods of oral collection.

Playing Fast-and-Loose with the Word Inerrancy

Yet the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy was signed by many prominent evangelicals of the time (as an aside, I believe one of my favs, Dr. Clark Pinnock, made his decision to not sign the statement and began his positive drift away from such hard-headed Christian epistemology).

If you read the Chicago statement carefully (the part which I underlined above in bullet point two), you'll find an evangelical get-out-of-jail-free allowance for not reading the bible literally. How? Should a bible passage or a book be of a certain qualifying literary type such as poetry, a metaphor, a trope, or some other descriptor, a literalist may be forgiven for having questions, doubts, or uncertainty towards those passages.

In one sense then, Relevancy22 is an apology against the literal apologising, or reading of the bible, in a non-exegetical (literal) way. "Literally (pun intended), I love biblical theology... but am not in love with systematic theology." That is to say, if I'm going to systematized the bible at all I would prefer to do it along the lines of an Open and Relational Process Theology rather than the older systematic categories based upon Reformed Theology's Calvinism which teaches ad nauseum God as austere, wrathful, judgmental, and avenging. Or use a "Constructivist Postmodern" approach to the bible. Or a Post-Capitalistic Cosmoecological approach. Even a Continental or Radical Theological approach if I must (which I have done so in past articles and found very helpful to an understanding of God and the bible).
But I approach with skepticism any use of Reformed Systematic forms of interpretive theological systems for what they are. They are closed arguments bound in a closed system forbidding any other interpretive systematics away from its church-approved Christian nomenclatures, traditional Christian creeds, doctrines, folklores and religious borderlands.
The Politics and Polemics of Inerrancy

As a progressive Christian having left conservative evangelicalism I, and many others, have been banned from our former fellowships. We speak a different language and see the world in a different way than the more popular teachings of our former grace fellowships which have embraced a form of Trumpian Christianity as a byproduct of their austere theologies. Like many other Christians, I am glad that I have left these types of conservative fellowships and have taken pains to explain how the Christian faith might grow beyond its nationalised Christianity aligned with Empire and its excluding Ethics.

However, though I do not feel the need to defend God or His Word to the world as an itinerant apologist, I do feel the immense burden to re-teach who God is and isn't to the church at large. I suppose this then makes me God's apologist to His people (or that remnant of His people who are able to listen). Those Christian faithful who are seeking new ways to express their ancient faith in a more contemporary and ethically relevant way in the 21st Century. A faith which might avoid the conflicted worlds of Empire ethics, power, racism, nationalism, and any other horrid policies of exclusionisim. Policies moving rapidly towards the dismantling of an open democracy in favor of an authoritarian form of capitalism. A form which denies open, poly-pural ecological democracies.

Open democracies are based upon multi-representational advocates. In America's case it has been its two-party system which now seem archaic in America's complex poly-plural society. Thus my advocacy for a system holding 4-8 parties which might better represent America's many different peoples each seeing a different part of the nation requiring a voice.

Open democracies are built of many things and as a Christian some of things I wish to advocate for as a Christian is for social justice (in previous eras social justice was known as Christian humanism), Black Lives Matter, Black and Feminist Liberation Theologies, the LGBTQ community, and environmental justice in all its forms. Understanding that each-and-all of these passions lead to ecological civilizations of equality rather than industrialized societies of inequality which we are presently living under which is based upon the several capitalistic forms of State, Financial, and Corporate Capitalism which enslave all (cf. The Contours of a Post-Capitalistic, Whiteheadian-based, Cosmopolitic Ecological Civilization and Society).

The Theologies of Inerrancy

Inerrant-believing Christianity includes all Christian pronouncements advocating for an errorless bible. Who selective enforce the kind of epistemological freedom one should embrace. Whose self-serving defenders help keep the church bounded and bordered from worldly ideas. Whose fellowships act as insular communities to the world around them. At the last, all this activity and ideology but promotes a self-serving land if ever there was one.

A land filled with barbed fortresses instead of open communities. A land of exclusion and judgment willing only to receive those who agree with them and be assimilated into them. A land which ostracizes those who doubt or ask too many questions. Which deems the faithless, the Nones and Dones, the wayward, as the more worldly for their thoughts and actions as compared with the self-righteous religious teachings of the conservative Christian church. This is the downside to dogmatic certitude.

These are the lands the Lord has kept myself, and others, away from. I had good teachers. Good mentors. Good disciplers. They allowed me to think in my own way about God, Scriptures, doctrine, and church history. And "Yes, I passed all their tests, exams, orals, and theses. I am intimately acquainted with my past church history."

And yet. curiously, it was from within conservative evangelicalism Progressive Christianity has raised its voice. Having chosen the theological path of progressiveness in its openness to external voices such as science and whatnot. In so doing it has freed itself from those chaining bonds which kept a "politick" face on all the old forms of Christianity. Progressive Christians are now free to determine a newer, healthier form of hermeneutical expression of God and the bible than the one they had grown up within.

You might consider Progressive Christian voices the "Martin Luther's of their day" banging their new Christian convictions upon the bastioned doors of magazines like Christianity Today, or organizations like James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Family Talk Radio; or Franklin Graham's political organizations (excepting Samaritan's Purse which is a worthy global ministry); or the doors of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Liberty University; or any other Christian universities or churches speaking evangelical conservatism's excluding voice of God and ministry.
Contemporary Christianity is in a turmoil. It is both burning up the gospel it has lived and preached for ages yet at the same time resurrecting from its own decimated ashes to preach the Jesus gospel of freedom and release unbounded from nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and such like. It is a time of revival for the true church to come away again back to the bible and to the God who loves and provides atoning redemption to those who seek.
So then, what is this new hermeneutic which is so freeing? So disturbing? So upsetting to the church? Let's go to the next section to discuss the nub of this article's central message...

PART 3 - A New Hermeneutic

You'll forgive me if I place an abrupt stop here in reciting the fundamental and evangelical history of biblical interpretation and how it developed off the rhetoric of the Textus Receptus or, Received Text, of the Scripture. There are too many books on this subject which have addressed this area from every imaginable angle - some of which I have reviewed here at Relevancy22 under the topics found under "evangelicalism"

My point is, when I was Spirit-led away from the lands of evangelicalism, from the lands of literal thinking and apologising of my Christian faith, I felt an unbounded freedom to explore and approach God and the bible in ways which gave wings to my Christian faith. I no longer needed the worlds of apology. I hungered for the worlds beyond... forbidden to be explored. Along the way I developed a new language and new theologies. All this can be found in the chronologies of my historical journey through Relevancy22.

My language has wandered in-and-out from old to new paradigms as I digested and learned new ways of thinking about God and the bible. Along the way I am learning how to connect the dots and interweave its many pages-and-ideas back inwards-and-through one another. Only recently this past week have I felt I completed this first, primary, task of preliminary studies. And only this present week do I feel I have permission to repeat my journey using the new words and ideas I have learned over so many long years of studying. In many ways, August 2020, has become my watershed moment. Its grand of the Lord to allow me to complete this arduous trek but more daunting now than ever to speak-and-say this new Christian faith rightly to the generations coming forward.

The Jesus Hermeneutic of Love

What I do wish to say is that the most helpful way I am learning to re-read the bible in its depths is the very one I wish to think and talk about of my God, Lord and Saviour. These methods, or overlays to the bible, are not attributable to any one type of bible interpretation or form of hermeneutic. No, on these subjects I have found there are many ways to read and interpret the bible beyond the literal, historic, grammatical, and contextual interpretations I have grown under.

The most helpful overlay which God by His Spirit has been building into the foundations of my heart, head, and voice, is of God's wondrous love. What?? God's Love?? Yes, soooo simple. This "revelation" became my "waking moment" in spirit-renewal and revitalization. By simply substituting God's Love as the central component in my faith and epistemology of knowing I could remove the incipient biblicism (bible idolatry) which had crept in under previous faith cultures.
When I read the bible, I read it through God's love, and not through what I think the bible is saying to me under some interpretive scheme or doctrine. God's love is my primary theme. It is my primary doctrine. It is my principle hermeneutic. I think of God and His Word through the knowledge that God is always, and ever will be, a God of love.
In the center of my Christian faith is no longer the bible but a God of Love. When the bible tells of God saying to His people Israel to go to war and kill their neighbors I now know these "heavenly" commandments did not come from God but from the interpretive reasoning in the skulls of Israel's priestly teachers and appointed kings.

Let us assume then that God's people - those well-meaning Christians embracing the Trumphian age of the Church (or anti-church, as I and other Christians are tending to think of today's conservative evangelicalism) - are hearing God in the way they had been taught to think and reason in accordance with conservative doctrines centering the bible on sin and judgment. How then is white Christian nationalism any different now than early religious nationalism then?

The ancient Israelites claimed they were believers and followers of God yet violence is found throughout their narratives and legends. So too the conservative evangelical churches of today. And yet, one thinks Christians of this sort are but hearing God as they were wont to hear God. Because of this church history is filled with the church killing believers and unbelievers; excluding themselves from society; insulating themselves from the sinful world; and, acting exactly as the world with the same secularity they declare themselves impervious too.
There is then no difference between the Christian faith of the new testament from the Jewish faith of the old testament. The sacrificial blood of Jesus teaching love of neighbor and shunning of legalistic religion is absent today's church. The real church of God loves, binds up wounds, works towards societal policies and politics of goodwill and well being. It shuns false teachers, it ceases to listen to slanderers perpetuating evil as good, and stops societal injustice by measuring wisdom over partisanship.
Jesus as Ethic, Message, and Center of the Christian Faith
When God said to love one another and not kill God meant it. To show this God showed how seriously He takes Love as a guiding principle in living life. God, who could be no other than He really is - as the God of Love - showed us how to read and understand Himself when He came to this earth as Jesus showing us that He is a God who Loves.
Now you might say this is too simple. How can the Love of God cannot be the center of the Christian faith and doctrines? But yet it is. And this is the task we must clothe ourselves of as we speak of the bible and its ancient words to others, including God's wayward church. That the center of our Gospel of Jesus is the Love of God.
When reading the bible we must learn to read it through God's Love. The bible itself is no longer the center of our private or churchly interpretations but God Himself is the center to all thoughts and testimonies. Jesus said "I AM the Word of Life." So let it be. The Word of God has come before us. We have beheld His light and it is the Light of the Life and Love of God" (paraphrased). God, the author of the bible, is our new center to any and all future interpretations of the bible. It couldn't be any more simple.
  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
John 8:12 (ESV) - Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 14.6 (NASB) - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
John 1:4 - In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:17 - For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 10:9 - I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.
John 11:25 - Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 Corinthians 13:13 - And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 John 3:1 - See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 4:7 - Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:8 - Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:16 - And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:19 - We love because he first loved us.
Galatians 2:20 - I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 31:3 - The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Psalm 86:15 - But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Psalm 136:26 - Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Deuteronomy 7:9 - Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Zephaniah 3:17 - The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Ephesians 2:4-5 - But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
1 Peter 5:6-7 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Romans 8:37-39 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

PART 4 - The Difficulties of Leaving Holy Traditions

When faced with a complex subject such as how to read the bible, the principle of Occam's Razor comes to mind.... Occam's Razor states that "the simplest explanation is most likely the correct one." In this case, the bible says God is Love. His Incarnation says God is Love. His life, ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection says God is Love. And His promise to save His creation says God is Love. More simply, God Loves all the time.

Why then have our teachings and doctrines of the bible been so off target? We think of God as judge, jury, death, angry, too holy, too separate, too transcendent, too far away, unconcerned, uncaring, disinterested. We watch God's earthly church place itself in all kinds of nationalist or racist political entanglements, vindictiveness, hardened, hateful, disapproving acts and actions (e.g., separating and caging border children, homosexuality, Muslims). But where is the God of Love in all of this? Between you and me, I don't think God was ever a part of this. This is the sin which grips our hearts - which rejects God's love as true truth - so incredible His majesty to comprehend.

If love is not there, neither is God

Let me summarize. God has said in the bible "He Loves us". God has shown His Love to us in multiple ways and on multiple occasions. God has backed up His words of Love by His actions of Love on the Cross for us.

1 - God says He loves creation and God came to show us He loves creation - not only to man but to all creation. Since we typically define creation in terms of ourselves we naturally think we are the exclusive receptors of God's loving intimacy, presence, and work. But even as God has been reconciling mankind to Himself He also has been reconciling creation to Himself.

Because of God's love, I, and others, have been writing of God's amazing LOVE and what this means to us across the bible's many spectrums, permutations, perturbations, and probabilities as we can.

2 - Along the way I have discovered amazing theologies to help me speak more clearly of God's love including the language of science. A language I insist must be used to its fullest - even when it disagrees with the bible. A bible pieced together and collected from many oral traditions which were written down over a series of historical events (from Genesis to the exile) to which the ancient mindset spoke of God as they could through their own thoughts and imaginations.

In this amazing collection we know as the bible, the Spirit of the Lord guided ancient men and women in their revelatory insights of God's revelation, who subsequently passed along God's self revelation through their lives, experiences, minds, languages, and culture. This then gives to the Jew and Christian the credibility to their faith based upon the very ancient testimony of Scripture.

Yet even when science claims creation to have been created without formal design, in random chaos, and without any specific ending but all endings, I choose to keep the cold hard facts of science over what the bible says. Why? Because the language of science is describing God's creation exactly as it is in its structure, makeup, and nature from historical past to historical future.

Science was something the ancients did not know. They described God and His creative works in Genesis and throughout their lives in personal or tribal terms as they understood God to be - through their own language and culture. Their legends spoke of an Adam and an Eve, a sacred Garden, an evil snake, and difficult choices reflecting divinity.

The postmodern Christian will use these same concepts but speak of them differently, using scientific terminology when possible - as I have done through the years - and come out with the same biblical teachings: "God is Love and Loves His creation." The difference is in the story but not the God who declares Himself our Father, Creator, Saviour, Redeemer.

3 - A chronological reading of my progressive wanderings through the epistemic wildernesses lying ahead of me years ago will show my path was never straight. And yet, under the guidance of the Lord, my Father-God gave certain knowledge to my spirit that everything He was doing past, present, or future, was being done by His love which guided me true as my Cornerstone and centering foundation.

4 - Examples of things I have discovered about God's Love along the way?

  • Violence in the bible? Nope, not of God. But by the hand of religious men claiming God as one thing Who was never that.
  • The killing of women and children, boys and men because God said so? Nope, not true. And when done by man's evil hand than his judgment be upon his own misguided head teaching holy war and not holy love.
  • God's judgment upon the kingdoms of this world? Only insofar as He warned wicked men -  religious or not - to love one another and not hate. But by man's own actions judgment comes by unloving words and deeds.
  • Is Death or Hell from a Loving God? Death... Yes, it comes to all creation as a natural process. But Hell? From a God of LOVE? Not there. Blame Dante. Blame the early Hellenized Church. Blame fanciful Intertestamental eschatologies and early Gnostic writings. If anything, Hell is found in man's own present where his/her sin judges his/her life choices on this earth now. But Hell after death? No, I refer to a final spiritual death as a singular event, or even a series of death events, as an Annihilation of all existing relationships to creation, others, self, and finally to God. Annihilation is not Hell, nor is it Purgatory. These latter concepts are metaphorical descriptors, or theologoumen, describing our present experiences on earth rather than in death when they are meaningless.
  • A theologoumenon is a theological statement or concept that lacks absolute doctrinal authority. It is commonly defined as "a theological assertion or statement not derived from divine revelation," or "a theological statement or concept in the area of individual opinion rather than of authoritative doctrine".

Conclusion

For myself, the former borderlands of my faith are but tomorrow's hinterlands of a yesterday gliding further and further into the rearview mirror of my bible-driving Spirit guide. I've left the wildernesses of unhelpful biblical infallibilities and inerrancies, spoken by misleading doctrines and unquestioning preachers of my faith, to tour the greening countrysides of an open and relational process faith whose very terms are the weighty words I took pains to describe post after post after post. Such terms moved me to rewrite the structures of a postmodern constructivist theology through the Spirit's eyes, and the weightier foundations, of God's love. If God's Love is not there in Christian doctrine then neither is God Himself.
So too with God's Person, Deity, His experience of Creation, His past, present and future, along with all we, His creation, experience in ourselves, with each other, and with God's cosmos. Whoever, or whatever, God is - and He is Many Things - God is above all else, LOVE. All things, all words, all actions of God must be defined exclusively by His Love. It is what God is.
So when centering Christian doctrine on a God of Love instead of Reformed doctrine what might this mean in Christian terms? Or, rather than placing the bible in the center of the Christian faith - from which so many inconsistent or contrary things are taught from it - I find it more preferable to place the Author of the bible, Jesus, in the center of our Christian theology. Can you fault me for doing this? I, and others like me, find a greater hope and truer truth in recentering all theology around Jesus, the God of Love, than is found in the opinions and perspectives of other Christian doctrines admitting God's love while centralizing and practicing everything but God's love.

A New Theology Brings With It New Terms and Consequences

So what changes when we do this? A lot. And dramatically. But I don't think for the worse. If anything it may be for the better as it places spiritual responsibility into our hands to speak and do the right thing. We can no longer blame God, the devil, or others for our lack. All accountability comes forthwith into our own lives. How we use our lives and how we treat others.

Nor may we wait upon some prophetic future, such as "Jesus' Coming," when its plain that if we do not act now no future kingdom of God will ever arise as it cannot become without His church becoming. So says Process Theology. Live with it. My response to those who repeatedly say, "Lord Come," has always been the rejoiner, "Lord, Become" referring back to the Exodus phrase where YHWH says, "I AM WHO I AM BECOMING." God becomes with His creation as His creation becomes in Him. Its a both-and relationship. Not one way. But both ways. Its call partnering (sic, some may remember the classical doctrinal teaching of the Divine-Human Cooperative).

Here's a few other non-Reformed (or, non-Calvinistic) examples:

  • Is God a God of Justice? Yes, BUT Love came first. God Loves, and because He Loves, justice for others is founded in the hoary foundations of God's Love. Holiness, Righteousness, Justice do not come before God's Self. A Self, Essence, or Divine Ontology defined in terms of Love. These attributes are the result of God being a God of Love. To order God's attributes in some kind of priority over Love would be to miss this important ontological fact of God's Self. The doctrines I left were the doctrines which prioritized holiness and judgment over love (sic, loving justice). It's an important distinction many have missed.
  • What can we say about the unknown future? Yes, you heard me right. The future is not determined by God. God is Sovereign but not in the ways Christianity has taught. His divine sovereignty rests in terms of His divine love which guides a freewill creation created with agency in its soul. Divine Love gave to creation its agency. It wasn't decreed by God but transferred from God, or many will say, from God's Image, into creation's very bones.
  • What can we say about the Christian expectation of a Divine Eschatology full of wrath and judgment? Is this something we should expect from God? Since a wrathful future is neither generative nor valuative it is not of God. I can no longer teach an eschatology filled with Tribulation, an Armageddon, or a Final End Time where Hell and Death are Thrown Into the Pit of Fire. These unloving futures are NOT of God. These events have been presently - as they had been historically, and will be later humanity's future - repeatable human events insofar as man refuses to love one another. Doctrinally vouchsafed "biblical periods of judgment" are not from God's loving hand but from our own.
  • But what about the book of Revelation? Anybody can write a fanciful future, the Apostle John did based upon popular gnostic eschatology. And I'm sure he fully believed it even as late Greek Hellenism would have regarded the future as determined by the gods who operated at the hands of fate and fortune. As a postmodern, Process-based Christian, I cannot consider such ancient language as in anyway helpful when by science, process theology, open and relational theism, God is seen repeatedly as a loving God experiencing the present with us moment by moment. This makes the future unknown, undetermined, and pregnant with future possibilities.
  • Teachings of Heaven or Hell? We make them here on this earth. Be mindful then to love one another. And as you try to love with God's love know that God is there to help through hardship, oppression, hatred, even death. The world can be a very wicked place even as it can be a very beautiful place made in God's image. However, nor do I advocate for a universal salvation but a responsible agency taking seriously to live out God's love.

This Isn't Your Father's Christianity Anymore... But It Is His Faith

And so, when I read the bible, of its stories and teachings, I must read of God's love or of the absence of God's love in its pages.

When I read church creeds and doctrines which may express God as an unloving God doing unloving things, I know this is not the God I know, or the bible describes, but a God contrived by the human heart to explain its sinful actions and thoughts about others and the world.

Whether racism, xenophobia, hatred for other religions, or trying to explain Christianized forms of exclusion, these are not from God Himself nor His Word. God loves all men. All races. All genders. All sexes. All religions and cultures. Let us learn to speak to all men, especially the ones different from ourselves, in God's language of love.

This then is how I relearned to read the bible. I threw out all my evangelical and churchly rules and started over in the language of divine love. To that I use all the discoveries found from literary, historical, psychological, sociological, ecological, and scientific sources. They helped me to understand the past, present and future of God's world. I would be foolish not to be conversant in these extra-biblical disciplines while ever mindful of exegeting the bible within its anthropological contexts.
So too in my ever-inquisitive conversations with others in this life. I cannot understand God or His Word if I cannot converse with people. Nor can I speak of God to others without knowing God's people. People come from all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, learnings, insights, and personalities. I would be remiss not to study humanity and try to understand its many comportments. Society informs my reading of the bible as do the sciences, the Scriptures, literatures, essays, and journalisms. The people I meet teach me something everyday about life - from the good to the bad. They are all welcomed to walk with me even as I am privileged to walk with them for as long as the relationship might last. In the same way the bible walks and talks with us as we do with the bible. Its a relational thing because God is a relational God

Learn to listen, to love, to forgive, to try again. Peace my brothers and sisters. May God's Love dwell richly in your words, deeds, and spirit, in whom the Lord God has written His Spirit of Life upon your heart.

R.E. Slater
August 16, 2020
revised & edited August 24, 2020

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PART 5

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How to Read Critically

Co-authored by Jake Adams
Last Updated: June 16, 2020 References


Whether you're reading a textbook or understand literature like your professor does, critical reading is fundamental for getting a full understanding the text. A basic reading tells the reader only what the text says (that is, the claims and facts contained in the text). A critical reading, however, also tells the reader what the text does and what it means. In other words, while basic reading is concerned with what is in a text, critical reading is also concerned with how the text is written and why it is written this way. Critical reading orients the reader to the writer's inferred social, political and economic values.

METHOD 1 - Understanding a Piece of Writing

STEP 1

First, skim read. The first time you work through a piece of writing, it can be helpful to simply skim it. Skim reading involves reading very quickly, only briefly pausing to examine details. Skimming can help you get a general idea of what a piece of writing is about before you read it again, saving you time and energy in the long run.

There's no "right" way to skim read, but one good policy is this:
  • Read the entire intro paragraph
  • Read the first sentence of each body paragraph
  • Read the entire conclusion paragraph

STEP 2

Re-read with greater focus. Now that you've done a skim reading and you know the rough "point" of the essay, it's time to read it "for real." Proceed through the whole essay again, this time reading each sentence slowly and carefully. Don't hesitate to read sentences or paragraphs again if you're having a hard time understanding the content.

Don't rush — slowing down helps you connect with the text.

STEP 3

Make notes while you read. Taking notes in a class can help you retain more information — doing so while reading is no different. Writing down key thoughts and phrases will make you actively pay attention to what’s going on in the text. You can also jot down questions you have so that you can try to answer them later.

Mark words and concepts that you don't understand for later reference.

STEP 4

Look up words and ideas that you don’t know. If you understand every word and concept you came across in the essay, you're in luck — you can move on. However, if there was anything in the essay that you didn't understand, now is your chance to enlighten yourself. Filling in the gaps in your knowledge will help you gain a fuller understanding of the text.

Dictionaries and thesauruses can help with words you don't know. However, technical terms and unknown concepts may require you look up help articles online. For instance, if you're reading an article about "4K" television, you probably won't be able to find a definition for 4K in the dictionary.

STEP 5

Discuss the writing's "main points" in your own words. Now, do another quick skim reading. After each paragraph, ask yourself, "What was the point of what I just read?" Express your answer in your own words — try not to copy the essay's. Working your way through the essay piece by piece and reinterpreting the information each step of the way is a great way to make the most important themes in the writing "stick."

METHOD 2 - Understanding the Bigger Picture

STEP 1

Do some background research on the writing. Critical reading acknowledges that every piece of writing is a product of a certain person, time, and place. This personal, historical context affects both the content of the writing and the voice of the author. Research the context of the piece of writing you're analyzing. Answering the "when," "where," and "who" of the writing is a good place to start.

After this, familiarize yourself with the mindset, beliefs, opinions, and current events that were happening as the writing was created. Ask, "how are these reflected in the writing itself?"

STEP 2

Carefully examine the words the author has chosen to use. A single word can carry many different meanings. Many authors use subtle turns of phrase to convey double meanings or raise questions in the reader's mind. Ask yourself, "does the author of this piece of writing really mean what she/he says? Is there anything ambiguous about the way the work is written?"

If you're not sure whether the work has a hidden meaning, consider why it was written in the first place (your background research can help you here). Is the author just trying to entertain you, or is s/he trying to convince you to accept a certain theory or philosophy?

STEP 3

Note how the work makes you feel. Neither the author nor the reader is a completely cold, logical machine. Recognizing a work's emotional content is also important to gaining a full understanding of it. You don't need to write your emotions down, but instead just think about how the tone, diction, and syntax effects your emotions and interpretations of the text.

While it's important to acknowledge the text's emotional content, a crucial part of critical reading is to take a logical approach to analysis, rather than an emotional one. Recognize your emotions (as well as the author's), but don't let them keep you from thinking about the work with a detached, objective perspective.

STEP 4

Practice metacognition. This just means to think about what you have thought about. Consider your thoughts about the passage you have read. What do they say about your relationship to the author? What do they say about you? Do you find yourself mostly agreeing with the author or mostly disagreeing? Below are just a few tips to help with metacognition:

Challenge or question at least one thing you read in the passage. Then take the author's side and argue for it. Remember: just because you read it doesn't mean it's true!

Consider how the reading may apply to your life. This could mean anything from thinking of when you might need to know what acids and bases are to personally applying a line of poetry which especially moved you.

STEP 5

Try to enjoy what you're reading. Critical reading isn't just a joyless, logical exercise. The feeling of accomplishment you get from working towards an understanding of a complex piece of writing can be an excellent motivator. It's also fun to gain ideas and perspectives that you haven't had before.

There's no escaping it: some passages are just dry or uninteresting. See if you can find at least one thing you like about what you're reading. You can even pretend you're a detective or a reporter and the passage you are reading is involved in an exciting assignment. This makes things a little more fun. If you can't find anything fun in the reading, it's probably advanced academic material. In this case, enjoy feeling smart for reading it!


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PART 6

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Bible Scholar Peter Enns advocates reading the bible around the person and work of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We might also substitute the love of God as a centralizing theme when reading the bible. As such, replacing the bible with God Himself is the nub of the argument. Not binding it to a hermeneutical tradition whether Reformed, Catholic, Jewish, or Islam. But by binding it to the Author of the bible Himself. God is Love and in Love God came to redeem us. His name is Immanuel, Son of God, Christ Jesus, Messiah. By whatever name YHWH is know we know Him as Lover of our souls and our Creator-Redeemer Father-God.

Essentially then, the bible speaks to God Himself, the Author of the bible. Many times the bible is referred to as the Word of God. This means that God has revealed Himself to creation in all that He is. From imbuing God's Self into and through creation (including man) to revealing Himself in manifest ways through oral testimonies which were collected into a set of narratives later to be known first as the Jewish Scriptures and secondly, after God's Incarnation, the Christian Scriptures.

In the Gospel book of John, his opening chapter speaks to Jesus as being the Word of God who revealed God's Self to us even as He was God come in the flesh (incarnation | virgin birth) to testify that God is a God of love come to save the world.

The Deity of Jesus Christ   (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NASB)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 [a]He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [b]comprehend it.
The Witness John [the Baptist, cf. vv 19ff]
6 There [c]came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 [d]He came [e]as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 [f]He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light [g]which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His [h]own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and [k]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [l]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me [m]has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness [n]we have all received, and [o]grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth [p]were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Let's start off then with some quotes by Peter Enns after which we will let Peter explain how to read the bible through the lenses of God's love and Jesus Christ.

R.E. Slater
August 20, 2020


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Quotes by Peter Enns


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Peter Enns_Is the Bible Inerrant?



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How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That's Great News by [Peter Enns]
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How the Bible Actually Works:

In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book
Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers - 
and Why That's Great News

by Peter Enns
February 19, 2019
Hardcover – Illustrated
Controversial evangelical Bible scholar, popular blogger and podcast host of The Bible for Normal People, and author of The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty explains that the Bible is not an instruction manual or rule book but a powerful learning tool that nurtures our spiritual growth by refusing to provide us with easy answers but instead forces us to acquire wisdom.
For many Christians, the Bible is a how-to manual filled with literal truths about belief that must be strictly followed. But the Bible is not static, Peter Enns argues. It does not hold easy answers to the perplexing questions and issues that confront us in our daily lives. Rather, the Bible is a dynamic instrument for study that not only offers an abundance of insights but provokes us to find our own answers to spiritual questions, cultivating God’s wisdom within us.
“The Bible becomes a confusing mess when we expect it to function as a rulebook for faith. But when we allow the Bible to determine our expectations, we see that Wisdom, not answers, is the Bible’s true subject matter,” writes Enns. This distinction, he points out, is important because when we come to the Bible expecting it to be a textbook intended by God to give us unwavering certainty about our faith, we are actually creating problems for ourselves. The Bible, in other words, really isn’t the problem; having the wrong expectation is what interferes with our reading.
Rather than considering the Bible as an ancient book weighed down with problems, flaws, and contradictions that must be defended by modern readers, Enns offers a vision of the holy scriptures as an inspired and empowering resource to help us better understand how to live as a person of faith today.
How the Bible Actually Works makes clear that there is no one right way to read the Bible. Moving us beyond the damaging idea that “being right” is the most important measure of faith, Enns’s freeing approach to Bible study helps us to instead focus on pursuing enlightenment and building our relationship with God—which is exactly what the Bible was designed to do.

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How the Bible ACTUALLY Works | God is Grey





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The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by [Peter Enns]
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The Bible Tells Me So:

Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us
Unable to Read It

by Peter Enns
September 9, 2014

The controversial Bible scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam recounts his transformative spiritual journey in which he discovered a new, more honest way to love and appreciate God’s Word.
Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible, the more he found himself confronted by questions that could neither be answered within the rigid framework of his religious instruction or accepted among the conservative evangelical community.
Rejecting the increasingly complicated intellectual games used by conservative Christians to “protect” the Bible, Enns was conflicted. Is this what God really requires? How could God’s plan for divine inspiration mean ignoring what is really written in the Bible? These questions eventually cost Enns his job—but they also opened a new spiritual path for him to follow.
The Bible Tells Me So chronicles Enns’s spiritual odyssey, how he came to see beyond restrictive doctrine and learned to embrace God’s Word as it is actually written. As he explores questions progressive evangelical readers of Scripture commonly face yet fear voicing, Enns reveals that they are the very questions that God wants us to consider—the essence of our spiritual study.

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Genesis for Normal People: A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood, and Abused Book of the Bible (Second Edition w/ Study Guide) (The Bible for Normal People 1) by [Peter Enns, Jared Byas]
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 Genesis for Normal People:

A Guide to the Most Controversial, Misunderstood,
and Abused Book of the Bible (Second Edition w/ Study Guide)

by Authors Peter Enns and Jared Byas
September 18, 2019 
BOOK BLURB
Given the fever-pitched controversies about evolution, Adam and Eve, and scientific evidence for the Flood, the average person might feel intimidated by the book of Genesis. But behind the heady debates is a terrific story-one that anyone can understand, and one that has gripped people for ages.
If you are not a Bible scholar but want to be able to read Genesis and understand its big picture, this brief, witty book is the guide you've been waiting for. Clear summaries and thought-provoking questions provide direction for personal reflection and group discussion.
Peter Enns, a Biblical Studies professor, and Jared Byas, an Old Testament professor, summarize the book's key themes and help us see Genesis as an ancient story, one with continued relevance for human experience today. Genesis for Normal People illuminates the characters that fill the book of Genesis, causing us to resonate with their choices and struggles even as we marvel at their distant world.
And that's what you'll find here-not scientific proof texts or simple moral tales, but a distant world made available, and a story that is often strange, sometimes dangerous, and always filled with rich possibilities. 
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT GENESIS FOR NORMAL PEOPLE
“This book is a welcome antidote to the mystification about the book of Genesis that goes around. It is accessible for readers who want to take the plunge into this old text. It is gentle in leading readers to a critical sense of the text in response to a “late” trauma in Israel [The Exile]. It is imaginative in its articulation of a book that might otherwise be off-putting. The convergence of accessibility, gentleness, and imagination make this a very fine read.”– Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
Genesis for Normal People is the perfect starting point for Christians who want to read the book of Genesis more faithfully and honestly. Enns and Byas break down the history, genre, culture, and context of this fascinating book of the Bible, so that “normal people”—you know, those who can’t read ancient Hebrew—can get a better sense of its purpose, meaning and relevance. The authors manage to simplify without dumbing down, challenge without confusing, and dig for deep truth without compromising their intellectual integrity. A must–read for anyone who care enough about the Bible to want to read and understand it on its own terms.”– Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood
“The stories in the book of Genesis are among the most well known in the Bible—so much so that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Genesis is an ancient document from a cultural setting very different from our own. Enns and Byas have provided a highly readable volume that reminds readers of its reality while explaining the meaning and significance of Genesis in light of its ancient context. An ideal book for individual and study groups interested in understanding Genesis on its own terms.”– John R. Franke, General Coordinator for The Gospel and Our Culture Network
“Evangelical Old Testament scholarship has come of age and is now coming out from behind the shadows of suppression and secrecy. No one represents this fresh coming of age more than Peter Enns, who, with co-author Jared Byas, makes available to any Bible reader a fresh engagement with Genesis—readable, responsible, and recognizably fresh.”– Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary


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Literally the most misused word

by Boston.com Staff
July 19, 2011

The adverb clutters our speech to the point where
it is in danger of losing its literal meaning.

When “Parks and Recreation’’ co-creator Michael Schur began crafting Rob Lowe’s character for his NBC sitcom, he wanted him to be a man of extremes.
“It was referenced in an episode last year (2010) that he does 10,000 push-ups a day,’’ Schur says of the character Chris Traeger. “He lives every moment of his life to the fullest, so overusing the word ‘literally’ seemed like a good character fit. He’s the kind of guy who is always claiming that something was literally the greatest thing he’s ever seen or something is literally the most fun you could ever have. In real life, it’s something that drives me crazy, because [the word's] so often misused.’’
Schur isn’t the only one peeved by “literally’’ gaining popularity as both a throwaway intensifier and a replacement for “figuratively.’’ It’s a word that has been misused by everyone from fashion stylist Rachel Zoe to President Obama, and linguists predict that it will continue to be led astray from its meaning. There is a good chance the incorrect use of the word eventually will eclipse its original definition.

What the word means is “in a literal or strict sense.’’ Such as: “The novel was translated literally from the Russian.’’

“It should not be used as a synonym for actually or really,’’ writes Paul Brians in “Common Errors in English Usage.’’ “Don’t say of someone that he ‘literally blew up’ unless he swallows a stick of dynamite.’’
“My kids do this all the time,’’ writer and former Time magazine editor James Geary explained in the British newspaper the Guardian last month. “There were ‘literally’ a million people there, or I ‘literally’ died I was so scared. When people use literally in this way, they mean it metaphorically, of course. It’s a worn-out word, though, because it prevents people from thinking up a fresh metaphor for whatever it is they want to describe.’’
Schur is able to capture some of this misuse in the ridiculousness of Lowe’s “Parks and Recreation’’ character (you can watch all of his “literally’’ moments strung together on the Internet). But while Schur can make light of “literally’’ through a sitcom, linguists and academics believe the word will soon join others that are so misused as to be past restoring.
“My impression is that many people don’t have any idea of what ‘literally’ means – or used to mean,’’ says Jean Berko Gleason, a psycholinguist at Boston University. “So they say things like ‘He was literally insane with jealousy.’ If in response, you asked them if this person had been institutionalized, they’d look at you as if you were the crazy one. The new ‘literally’ is being used interchangeably with words such as ‘quite,’ ‘rather,’ and ‘actually.’ ’’
The debate over the misuse of the word can be traced to the 18th or 19th century (depending on whom you ask), and the abuse began gathering legitimacy by 1839, when Charles Dickens wrote in “Nicholas Nickleby’’ that a character “had literally feasted his eyes in silence on his culprit.’’

By 1909, Webster’s New International Dictionary noted the misuse according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. True scorn for the misuse of “literally’’ began to simmer by the 1920s, when lexicographer H.W. Fowler scolded that it was something “we ought to take great pains to repudiate; such false coin makes honest traffic in words impossible.’’

Nothing has done much to discourage incorrect usage of the word. Watch any talk show or listen to any conversation and “literally’’ will pop up as often as “like’’ or “um.’’

In the 1990s, “Mad TV’’ featured a recurring sketch of a pretentious pair who regularly employed “literally.’’ That was followed by a blog that tracked the misuse of the word, and Worcester resident Tyler Hougaboom’s Facebook page condemning it.

MADtv - Literally


All this has sent word nerds into a snit:
“It does at times render the speaker ridiculous,’’ says Martha Brockenbrough, author of “Things That Make Us [Sic].’’ “Indiscriminate use of literally as an intensifier also diminishes the originality of the speaker.’’
The growth of “literally’’ also corresponds to our culture’s increasing desire for drama. Just count the number of times you hear “literally’’ on any reality show (Hello, Rachel Zoe).

“It’s no longer enough to say that ‘I was upset.’ You have to say, ‘My head was literally ready to explode,’ because it’s more dramatic,’’ says Paul Yeager, author of “Literally, the Best Language Book Ever.’’

If misuse of “literally’’ continues at the current rate, its true meaning could meet the fate of words such as “nonplussed’’ (meaning surprised and confused, but often misused as a synonym for disconcerted), or “bemuse’’ (to bewilder or puzzle, but often misused as a synonym for amuse). These are words that have been misused for so long that their original definitions have been completely distorted.

Bryan Garner, author of “Garner’s Modern American Usage,’’ has developed a scale for the five stages of misuse. Stage one is when usage mistakes crop up, but are widely rejected. By the time a word reaches the dreaded stage five, Garner writes that the incorrect definition is “truly universal, and the only people who reject it are eccentrics.’’

Garner now puts “literally’’ at stage three [in the year 2011] which is defined as “being used by a majority of the language community.’’ However, Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, believes “literally’’ has already slipped dangerously close to stage four, which means that it has become ubiquitous and only a few diehards reject the new meaning.
“I go on a lot of talk shows, and people complain about the usual suspects,’’ Zimmer says. “It’s ‘literally’ and ‘hopefully’ that people complain about. But there are many other words that are commonly used: ‘truly,’ ‘positively,’ ‘absolutely.’ But those words don’t stick in people’s craw the way that ‘literally’ does.
Zimmer has a simple solution: Rephrase your sentence.

He points to a recent quote by Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who said, “This is literally a dream come true, just like it is for everyone on this team.’’
“Thomas and his teammates didn’t all ‘literally’ dream about winning the Stanley Cup and then wake up to find themselves acting out their dreams,’’ Zimmer says. “He could have used another intensifier (‘absolutely,’ ‘definitely,’ ‘unquestionably’) to make the same point.’’
Thomas’s teammate Andrew Ference said of the Bruins victory parade, “I can’t wrap my mind around how many people were there. I literally can’t wrap my head around it.’’

Zimmer says, “It’s true, he can’t literally wrap his head around the number of people who went to the parade. And thank goodness – that kind of literal head-wrapping would be very painful indeed. Other intensifiers that could work here include ‘simply,’ ‘honestly,’ and ‘frankly.’ ’’

The ubiquity of the usage does not make it correct.
“Many people still don’t like it,’’ Zimmer says. “Just by rephrasing, you can save yourself a lot of grief.’’


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Biblical studies

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Biblical studies is the academic application of a set of diverse disciplines to the study of the Bible (the Tanakh and the New Testament).[1][2] For its theory and methods, the field draws on disciplines ranging from archaeologyancient historycultural anthropologytextual criticismliterary criticism, historical backgrounds, mythology, and comparative religion.[1]
Many secular as well as religious universities and colleges offer courses in biblical studies, usually in departments of religious studiestheologyJudaic studies, history, or comparative literature. Biblical scholars do not necessarily have a faith commitment to the texts they study, but many do.

Definition

The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies defines the field as a set of various, and in some cases independent disciplines for the study of the collection of ancient texts generally known as the Bible.[1] These disciplines include but are not limited to archaeologyhermeneuticstextual criticismcultural anthropologyhistorysociology and theology[1]patristics and related thomistic philosophy.

Academic societies

Several academic associations and societies promote research in the field. The largest is the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) with around 8,500 members in more than 80 countries. It publishes many books and journals in the biblical studies, including its flagship, the Journal of Biblical Literature. SBL hosts one academic conference in North America and another international conference each year, as well as smaller regional meetings. Others include the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Catholic Biblical Association.

Biblical criticism

Biblical criticism is the scholarly "study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings".[3] Viewing biblical texts as being ordinary pieces of literature, rather than set apart from other literature, as in the traditional view, it asks when and where a particular text originated; how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it was produced; what influences were at work in its production; what sources were used in its composition; and what message it was intended to convey. It will vary slightly depending on whether the focus is on the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, the letters of New Testament or the canonical gospels. It also plays an important role in the quest for a historical Jesus.
It also addresses the physical text, including the meaning of the words and the way in which they are used, its preservation, history and integrity. Biblical criticism draws upon a wide range of scholarly disciplines including archaeologyanthropologyfolklorecomparative religionOral Tradition studies, and historical and religious studies.

Textual criticism

Textual criticism is a branch of textual scholarship, philology, and literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in texts, both manuscripts and printed books. Ancient scribes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand. Given a manuscript copy, several or many copies, but not the original document, the textual critic seeks to reconstruct the original text (the urtextarchetype or autograph) as closely as possible. The same processes can be used to attempt to reconstruct intermediate editions, or recensions, of a document's transcription history. The ultimate objective of the textual critic's work is the production of a "critical edition" containing a text most closely approximating the original.
There are three fundamental approaches to textual criticism: eclecticism, stemmatics, and copy-text editing. Techniques from the biological discipline of cladistics are currently also being used to determine the relationships between manuscripts.
The phrase "lower criticism" is used to describe the contrast between textual criticism and "higher criticism", which is the endeavor to establish the authorship, date, and place of composition of the original text.

History of the Bible

Historical research has often dominated modern biblical studies. Biblical scholars usually try to interpret a particular text within its original historical context and use whatever information is available to reconstruct that setting. Historical criticism aims to determine the provenance, authorship, and process by which ancient texts were composed. Famous theories of historical criticism include the documentary hypothesis, which suggests that the Pentateuch was compiled from four different written sources, and different reconstructions of "the historical Jesus", which are based primarily on the differences between the canonical Gospels.

Original languages

Most of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, which is the basis of the Christian Old Testament, was written in Biblical Hebrew, though a few chapters were written in Biblical Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, with possible Aramaic undertones, as was the first translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament. Therefore, Hebrew, Greek and sometimes Aramaic continue to be taught in most universities, colleges and seminaries with strong programs in biblical studies.

See also



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Biblical hermeneutics
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Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics, which involves the study of principles of interpretation for all forms of communication, nonverbal and verbal.[1]
While Jewish and Christian biblical hermeneutics have some overlap and dialogue, they have distinctly separate interpretative traditions.

Jewish

Traditional

Talmudical hermeneutics (Hebrew: approximately, מידות שהתורה נדרשת בהן) refers to Jewish methods for the investigation and determination of the meaning of the Hebrew Bible, as well as rules by which Jewish law could be established. One well-known summary of these principles appears in the Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael.[citation needed]
Methods by which the Talmud explores the meaning of scripture:
  • grammar and exegesis
  • the interpretation of certain words and letters and apparently superfluous and/or missing words or letters, and prefixes and suffixes
  • the interpretation of those letters which, in certain words, are provided with points
  • the interpretation of the letters in a word according to their numerical value (see Gematria)
  • the interpretation of a word by dividing it into two or more words (see Notarikon)
  • the interpretation of a word according to its consonantal form or according to its vocalization
  • the interpretation of a word by transposing its letters or by changing its vowels
  • the logical deduction of a halakah from a Scriptural text or from another law
The rabbis of the Talmud considered themselves to be the receivers and transmitters of an Oral Torah as to the meaning of the scriptures. They considered this oral tradition to set forth the precise, original meanings of the words, revealed at the same time and by the same means as the original scriptures themselves. Interpretive methods listed above such as word play and letter counting were never used as logical proof of the meaning or teaching of a scripture. Instead they were considered to be an asmakhta, a validation of a meaning that was already set by tradition or a homiletic backing for rabbinic rulings.

Biblical source criticism

Among non-Orthodox Jews, there is growing interest in employing biblical source criticism, such as the Documentary hypothesis and the Supplementary hypothesis, for constructing modern Jewish theology[2] [3] [4] [5], including the following objectives:
  • Reconciling modern morals with biblical passages that condone morally problematic acts, such as genocide and other collective punishment
  • Rejecting or accepting folkways, social norms, and linguistic trends, picking and choosing as more fully informed Jews
  • Learning lessons in spite of biblical underrepresentation, or outright exclusion, of particular modern phenomena[6]
To at least some extent, this is an application of Talmudical hermeneutics to traditional source criticism of the competing Torah schools: PriestlyDeuteronomic, and onetwo, or more that are non-Priestly and non-Deuteronomic.

Christian

Until the Enlightenment, biblical hermeneutics was usually seen as a form of special hermeneutics (like legal hermeneutics); the status of scripture was thought to necessitate a particular form of understanding and interpretation.
In the nineteenth century it became increasingly common to read scripture just like any other writing, although the different interpretations were often disputed. Friedrich Schleiermacher argued against a distinction between "general" and "special" hermeneutics, and for a general theory of hermeneutics applicable to all texts, including the Bible. Various methods of higher criticism sought to understand the Bible purely as a human, historical document.
The concept of hermeneutics has acquired at least two different but related meanings which are in use today. Firstly, in the older sense, biblical hermeneutics may be understood as the theological principles of exegesis which is often virtually synonymous with 'principles of biblical interpretation' or methodology of biblical exegesis. Secondly, the more recent development is to understand the term 'biblical hermeneutics' as the broader philosophy and linguistic underpinnings of interpretation. The question is posed: "How is understanding possible?" The rationale of this approach is that, while Scripture is "more than just an ordinary text," it is certainly "no less than an ordinary text." Scripture is in the first analysis "text" which human beings try to understand; in this sense, the principles of understanding any text apply to the Bible as well (regardless of whatever other additional, specifically theological principles are considered). The rise of narrative criticism in biblical studies attempts to understand biblical texts on its own terms—as fundamentally works of literature.[7]
In this second sense, all aspects of philosophical and linguistic hermeneutics are considered to be applicable to the biblical texts, as well. There are obvious examples of this in the links between 20th-century philosophy and Christian theology. For example, Rudolf Bultmann's hermeneutical approach was strongly influenced by existentialism, and in particular by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger; and since the 1970s, the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer have had a wide-ranging influence on biblical hermeneutics as developed by a wide range of Christian theologians. The French-American philosopher René Girard follows a similar trail.[8]

Diverse interpretations

Biblical scholars have noted the diversity of interpretations by Protestants and to a lesser extent by Catholics. In his forward to R. C. Sproul’s Knowing ScriptureJ. I. Packer observes that Protestant theologians are in conflict about biblical interpretation.[9] To illustrate the diversity of biblical interpretations, William Yarchin[10] pictures a shelf full of religious books saying different things, but all claiming to be faithful interpretations of the Bible.[11] Bernard Ramm observed that such diverse interpretations underlie the doctrinal variations in Christendom.[12] A mid-19th century book on biblical interpretation observed that even those who believe the Bible to be the word of God hold the most discordant views about fundamental doctrines.[13]
The Catholic Church asserts the capital importance of biblical interpretation and Catholic scholars recognize some diversity in the Bible. This allows for an openness of interpretation as long as it stays within the Catholic Church’s theological Tradition.[14] So it is that theological factors set the parameters for interpreting the Scripture that Catholics believe to be the word of God.[15] Such parameters disallow the widely differing interpretations that make it possible for Protestants to prove almost anything by the Bible.[16]

Theological hermeneutics as traditional Christian biblical exegesis

This form of theological hermeneutics in the mainstream Protestant tradition considers Christian biblical hermeneutics in the tradition of explication of the text, or exegesis, to deal with various principles that can be applied to the study of Scripture. If the canon of Scripture is considered as an organic whole, rather than an accumulation of disparate individual texts written and edited in the course of history, then any interpretation that contradicts any other part of scripture is not considered to be sound. Biblical hermeneutics differs from hermeneutics and within traditional Protestant theology, there are a variety of interpretive formulae. Such formulae are generally not mutually exclusive, and interpreters may adhere to several of these approaches at once. These formulae include:[17]
Theological Group of Principles:
  • The Historical-grammatical principle based on historical, socio-political, geographical, cultural and linguistic / grammatical context
  • Alternate, mutually-exclusive, models of history:
    • The Dispensational model or The Chronometrical Principle: "During different periods of time, God has chosen to deal in a particular way with man in respect to sin and man's responsibility."
    • The Covenantal model: "We differentiate between the various contracts that God has made with his people; specifically their provisions, their parties and their purposes."
    • The New-Covenantal model: The Old Testament Laws have been fulfilled and abrogated or cancelled with Christ's death, and replaced with the Law of Christ of the New Covenant, although many of the Old Covenant laws are reinstituted under the New Covenant.
  • The Ethnic Division Principle: "The word of truth is rightly divided in relation to the three classes which it treats, i.e. Jews, Gentiles and the Church."
  • The Breach Principle: Interpretation of a certain verse or passage in Scripture is aided by a consideration of certain breaches, either breaches of promise or breaches of time.
  • The Christo-Centric Principle: "The mind of deity is eternally centered in Christ. All angelic thought and ministry are centered in Christ. All Satanic hatred and subtlety are centered at Christ. All human hopes are, and human occupations should be, centered in Christ. The whole material universe in creation is centered in Christ. The entire written word is centered in Christ."
  • The Moral Principle
  • The Discriminational Principle: "We should divide the word of truth so as to make a distinction where God makes a difference."
  • The Predictive Principle
  • The Application Principle: "An application of truth may be made only after the correct interpretation has been made"
  • The Principle of Human Willingness in Illumination
  • The Context Principle: "God gives light upon a subject through either near or remote passages bearing upon the same subject."
Sub-divided Context/Mention Principles:
  • The First Mention Principle: "God indicates in the first mention of a subject the truth with which that subject stands connected in the mind of God."
  • The Progressive Mention Principle: "God makes the revelation of any given truth increasingly clear as the word proceeds to its consummation."
  • The Comparative Mention Principle
  • The Full Mention Principle or The Complete Mention Principle: "God declares his full mind upon any subject vital to our spiritual life."
  • The Agreement Principle: "The truthfulness and faithfulness of God become the guarantee that he will not set forth any passage in his word that contradicts any other passage."
  • The Direct Statement Principle: "God says what he means and means what he says."
  • The Gap Principle: "God, in the Jewish Scriptures, ignores certain periods of time, leaping over them without comment."
  • The Threefold Principle: "The word of God sets forth the truths of salvation in a three-fold way: past - justification; present - sanctification/transformation; future - glorification/consummation."
  • The Repetition Principle: "God repeats some truth or subject already given, generally with the addition of details not before given."
  • The Synthetic Principle
  • The Principle of Illustrative Mention
  • The Double Reference Principle
Figures of Speech Group of Principles:
  • The Numerical Principle
  • The Symbolic Principle
  • The Typical Principle: "Certain people, events, objects and rituals found in the Old Testament may serve as object lessons and pictures by which God teaches us of his grace and saving power."
  • The Parabolic Principle
  • The Allegorical Principle

Techniques

In the interpretation of a text, hermeneutics considers the original medium[18] as well as what language says, supposes, doesn't say, and implies. The process consists of several steps for best attaining the Scriptural author's intended meaning(s). One such process is taught by Henry A Virkler, in Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation (1981):
  • Lexical-syntactical analysis: This step looks at the words used and the way the words are used. Different order of the sentence, the punctuation, the tense of the verse are all aspects that are looked at in the lexical syntactical method. Here, lexicons and grammar aids can help in extracting meaning from the text.
  • Historical/cultural analysis: The history and culture surrounding the authors is important to understand to aid in interpretation. For instance, understanding the Jewish sects of the Palestine and the government that ruled Palestine in New Testament times increases understanding of Scripture. And, understanding the connotations of positions such as the High Priest and that of the tax collector helps us know what others thought of the people holding these positions.
  • Contextual analysis: A verse out of context can often be taken to mean something completely different from the intention. This method focuses on the importance of looking at the context of a verse in its chapter, book and even biblical context.
  • Theological analysis: It is often said that a single verse usually doesn't make a theology. This is because Scripture often touches on issues in several books. For instance, gifts of the Spirit are spoken about in Romans, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians. To take a verse from Corinthians without taking into account other passages that deal with the same topic can cause a poor interpretation.
  • Special literary analysis: There are several special literary aspects to look at, but the overarching theme is that each genre of Scripture has a different set of rules that applies to it. Of the genres found in Scripture, there are: narratives, histories, prophecies, apocalyptic writings, poetry, psalms and letters. In these, there are differing levels of allegory, figurative language, metaphors, similes and literal language. For instance, the apocalyptic writings and poetry have more figurative and allegorical language than does the narrative or historical writing. These must be addressed, and the genre recognized to gain a full understanding of the intended meaning.
Howard Hendricks, longtime professor of hermeneutics at Dallas Theological Seminary, set out the method of observing the text, interpreting the text, applying the text in his book, Living By the Book. Other major Christian teachers, such as Charles R. (Chuck) Swindoll, who wrote the foreword, Kay Arthur and David Jeremiah have based their hermeneutics on the principles Hendricks teaches.
In his book God Centered Biblical Interpretation (1999), Vern Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, presented a hermeneutical technique based on the pattern of "speaker, discourse, and hearer".[19] According to Poythress, the study of the Bible must acknowledge all three aspects: God as the speaker, the Bible as His speech, and the people to whom He speaks. Thus, context plays a primary role in Poythress's study of biblical teachings. He lists three general concepts to understand about any passage of Scripture:
  • Original time and context: This includes the personal perspective of the writer, the normative perspective of the text itself, and the situational perspective of the original audience.
  • Transmission and its context: Understanding the transmission of Scripture includes contemplating the message being sent through the text, taking into account the concerns of individual writers/translators as well as its broader role in the unraveling narrative of history.
  • Modern context: Poythress calls interpreters to understand Scripture as "what God is saying now" to the individual as well as to the modern church.[20]
David L. Barr states there are three obstacles that stand in the way of correctly interpreting the biblical writings: We speak a different language, we live approximately two millennia later, and we bring different expectations to the text.[21] Additionally, Barr suggests that we approach the reading of the Bible with significantly different literary expectations than those in reading other forms of literature and writing.

Roman Catholic

The Catholic Encyclopedia lists a number of principles guiding Roman Catholic hermeneutics in the article on Exegesis (note: the Catholic Encyclopedia was written in 1917 and does not reflect the changes set forth by the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu published by Pius XII in 1943, which opened modern Catholic biblical scholarship) :
  • Historico-grammatical interpretation - The meaning of the literary expression of the Bible is best learned by a thorough knowledge of the languages in which the original text of Scripture was written, and by acquaintance with the Scriptural way of speaking, including the various customs, laws, habits and national prejudices which influenced the inspired writers as they composed their respective books. John Paul II said that: "A second conclusion is that the very nature of biblical texts means that interpreting them will require continued use of the historical-critical method, at least in its principal procedures. The Bible, in effect, does not present itself as a direct revelation of timeless truths but as the written testimony to a series of interventions in which God reveals himself in human history. In a way that differs from tenets of other religions [such as Islam, for instance], the message of the Bible is solidly grounded in history.[22]
  • Catholic interpretation - Because the Catholic Church is, according to Catholics, the official custodian and interpreter of the Bible, Catholicism's teaching concerning the Sacred Scriptures and their genuine sense must be the supreme guide of the commentator. The Catholic commentator is bound to adhere to the interpretation of texts which the Church has defined either expressly or implicitly.
  • Reverence - Since the Bible is God's own book, its study must be begun and prosecuted with a spirit of reverence and prayer.
  • Inerrancy - Since God is the principal Author of Sacred Scripture, it can be claimed to contain no error, no self-contradiction, nothing contrary to scientific or historical truth (when the original authors intended historical or scientific truth to be portrayed). Minor contradictions are due to copyist errors in the codex or the translation. Catholics believe the Scripture is God's message put in words by men, with the imperfections this very fact necessarily implies. Catholic hermeneutics strongly supports inerrancy when it comes to principles but not, for example, when dealing with Evangelists' orthographic mistakes. According to Pope John Paul II, "Addressing men and women, from the beginnings of the Old Testament onward, God made use of all the possibilities of human language, while at the same time accepting that his word be subject to the constraints caused by the limitations of this language. Proper respect for inspired Scripture requires undertaking all the labors necessary to gain a thorough grasp of its meaning.[22]
  • Patristics - The Holy Fathers are of supreme authority whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith.
Pope Benedict XVI has indicated in Verbum Domini, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the Word of God, that "Christianity...perceives in the words the Word himself, the Logos who displays his mystery through this complexity and the reality of human history". He encourages a “faith-filled interpretation of Sacred Scripture”. He emphasizes that this manner of interpretation, “practiced from antiquity within the Church’s Tradition...recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition". It "seeks to discover the living meaning of the Sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres". Verbum Domini #44.

Eastern Orthodox

  • God is real and is incarnated in our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything pertaining to the Scriptures must be understood ChristologicallyJesus Christ, the incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is the center of all that we as Christians do, and being Himself the very Truth, He is the only gate through which we may enter into understanding of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments (though not all that is contained in the Old Testament is directly relevant for Christians). The Bible ultimately is about Christ and assists us in our union with Him.
  • Only the pure in heart "shall see God." That is, our spiritual state has a direct bearing on our interpretation of the Scriptures. As St. Athanasius said, "One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life." Because the Scripture is a book inspired by the Holy Spirit and given through holy men, one's own holiness is directly relevant to the ability to interpret the book correctly. Unlike any other book, the Bible's words are "spirit and life," and so we must live spiritually in order to drink from this spiritual well. Clearly, prayer and spiritual discipline are necessary in order to understand Scripture properly.
  • Understanding of the Scripture comes with living its contents. As the quote from St. Athanasius illustrates, one must both have a pure mind and be trying to imitate the saints' lives in order to understand their teaching, a dual principle which applies most of all to the teaching of the saints in the Bible. This life is particularly expressed in terms of living out the commandments and attempting to imitate Christ's life of the Gospel.
  • The primary end of Scriptural hermeneutics is that of the whole Christian life, theosis (deification/divinization). That is, our purpose in attempting to understand the Bible must not be merely for academic inquiry but rather must be in order to become fully divinized human beings, soaked with the life of God, participating in His divine energies, growing to the fullness of the stature of Christ. We interpret Scripture in order to become by grace what Christ is by nature, to "become god."
  • Only within the community of the Church can the Bible be understood. It was written by the Church, in the Church and for the Church. Thus, it is a "family document" which is the highest point of Holy Tradition, taken with faith alongside the writings of the Fathers, the Liturgy, the Icons, the Lives of the Saints, and so on.
  • The Scripture is a witness to the truth, not an exhaustive tome on Christian living. Nowhere in the words of Scripture itself can we find the teaching that it is all-sufficient for Christian life. What we as Orthodox Christians do must always be consonant with the Scriptures, but explicit mention of a practice or teaching in the Scripture is not a requirement for its inclusion in the life of the Church. The Apostle Paul himself mentions the reality of unwritten sources of Church Tradition being equally in force for the believer in II Thessalonians 2:15, that these traditions to which we must "stand fast and hold" may be "by word or by our epistle." Examples of practices not explicit in Scripture are making the Sign of the Cross, triple immersion for baptism, and having monasticism. St. Basil the Great even says that without maintaining the unwritten traditions of the Church, we "mutilate the Gospel" (On the Spirit 66).
  • We must respect the integrity of the canon of the Bible as given to us in the Church's Tradition. Searches for other texts written by apostles or prophets may be interesting and of scholarly merit, but they are not part of the hermeneutical project within the Church. Or conversely, attempts to debunk the authorship or authenticity of the books in the canon are also outside the Church's life. If we were to find a verifiable "new" work by St. Paul or to discover that Moses did not in fact write Genesis, neither finding would have any bearing on the canon. It is what it is.
  • We must use every resource at our disposal in interpreting the Scripture to bring ourselves and others to the knowledge of the truth. Certainly, there must be spiritual discernment in knowing how to use those resources, but at least theoretically, anything can be used to come to know the truth better as it is revealed in Holy Writ.
  • We must have humility when approaching Scripture. Even some of the Church's greatest and most philosophically sophisticated saints stated that some passages were difficult for them. We must therefore be prepared to admit that our interpretations may be wrong, submitting them to the judgment of the Church.
  • We may make use in a secondary fashion of the resources of academic scholarship, whether logic, archaeology, linguistics, et cetera. These resources can be helpful in terms of illuminating our understanding of Scripture, but they must always be given only secondary prominence in the project and always only in conjunction with all these other hermeneutic principles. Primary must always be our life in the Church, living, studying and knowing the Bible within that vivified and salvific Holy Tradition.[23]

Trajectory hermeneutics

Trajectory hermeneutics or redemptive-movement hermeneutics (RMH)[24][25][26] is a hermeneutical approach that seeks to locate varying 'voices' in the text and to view these voices as a progressive trajectory through history (or at least through the biblical witness); often a trajectory that progresses through to the present day. The contemporary reader of Scripture is in some way envisaged by the biblical text as standing in continuity with a developing theme therein. The reader, then, is left to discern this trajectory and appropriate it accordingly.
William J. Webb employed such a hermeneutic, in his Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. Webb shows how the moral commands of the Old and New Testament were a significant improvement over the surrounding cultural values and practices. Webb identified 18 different ways in which God dealt with his people moving against the current of popular cultural values. While for Webb the use of this hermeneutic moves to highlight the progressive liberation of women and slaves from oppressive male/bourgeois dominance, the prohibition of homosexual acts consistently moves in a more conservative manner than that of the surrounding Ancient Near East or Graeco-Roman societies. While Paul does not explicitly state that slavery should be abolished, the trajectory seen in Scripture is a progressive liberation of slaves. When this is extended to modern times, it implies that the biblical witness supports the abolition of slavery. The progressive liberation of women from oppressive patriarchalism, traced from Genesis and Exodus through to Paul's own acknowledgement of women as 'co-workers' (Rom. 16:3), sets a precedent that when applied to modern times suggests that women ought to have the same rights and roles afforded to men. Historically, the biblical witness has become progressively more stringent in its views of homosexual practice and the implications of this are not commented upon by Webb.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ferguson, Sinclair B; David F Wright; J. I. Packer (1988). New Dictionary of Theology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1400-0.
  2. ^ https://images.shulcloud.com/3205/uploads/Documents/Why-should-a-Jew-or-anyone-read-the-Bible.pdf
  3. ^ https://networks.h-net.org/node/28655/discussions/3194699/cfp-biblical-scholarship-modern-jewish-hermeneutic-special-issue
  4. ^ https://zeramim.org/past-issues/volume-iii-issue-1-fall-2018-5779-2/a-biblical-challenge-can-an-academic-approach-aimed-at-best-explanation-of-the-biblical-text-be-imported-into-the-synagogue-sermon-world-of-interpretation/
  5. ^ https://zeramim.org/past-issues/volume-iii-issue-3-spring-summer-2019-5779/contemporary-jewish-theology-in-light-of-divergent-biblical-views-on-revelations-content-david-frankel/
  6. ^ https://www.thetorah.com/article/male-homosexual-intercourse-is-prohibited-in-one-part-of-the-torah
  7. ^ James L. ResseguieNarrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 17-21.
  8. ^ Perry, Simon (2005). Resurrecting Interpretation. Bristol Baptist College: University of Bristol.
  9. ^ R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Rev. ed., InterVarsity Press, 2009), 10.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
  11. ^ William Yarchin, History of Biblical Interpretation: a Reader (Hendrickson, 2004), xi.
  12. ^ Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation:A Textbook of Hermeneutics, 3rd rev ed (Baker Academic, 1980), 3.
  13. ^ The Interpretation of the Bible (Boston; Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1844), 15-16.
  14. ^ Peter Williamson, Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 2001), 23, 121, 254.
  15. ^ David M. Williams, Receiving the Bible in Faith: Historical and Theological Exegesis (CUA Press, 2004), 6-7.
  16. ^ Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation (David C. Cook, 1991), 7.
  17. ^ This list of "principles" in conservative evangelical hermeneutics appears to derive from: Hartill, J E 1960. Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  18. ^ Perry, Peter. "Biblical Performance Criticism"www.biblicalperformancecriticism.org.
  19. ^ Poythress, Vern S. (1999). God Centered Biblical Interpretation, p. 109. P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
  20. ^ Ibid., p. 121 -122
  21. ^ New Testament Story, Wadsworth Publishing, 1995, pg. 15
  22. Jump up to:a b Presented by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (1993-04-23). "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church". Retrieved 2007-05-21.
  23. ^ Archpriest Michael Dahulich. "OrthodoxWiki article on Hermeneutics".
  24. ^ Douglas Brown (July–September 2010). "Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic"Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on 2010-12-31.
  25. ^ W. W. Klein; C. L. Blomberg; R. L. Hubbard, Jr. (2004). Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Rev. ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. pp. 497–498. ISBN 0785252258ISBN 978-0-7852-5225-2.
  26. ^ H. A. Virkler; K. Gerber Ayayo (2007). Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group. pp. 202–204. ISBN 978-0-8010-3138-0.

Further reading

  • Brown, Raymond E.Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. (1990). The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-614934-0. See especially: “Modern Criticism” and “Hermeneutics” (pp. 1113-1165).
  • De La Torre, Miguel A., "Reading the Bible from the Margins," Orbis Books, 2002.* Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God's Word: A Hands on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001.
  • Kaiser, Walter C., and Moises Silva. An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning.Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.
  • Kim, Yung Suk. Biblical Interpretation: Theory, Process, and Criteria 2013 ISBN 978-1-61097-646-6* Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Second edition. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006.
  • Klein, William W; Blomberg, Craig L; Hubbard, Robert L (1993), Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Dallas, TX: Word Publishing.
  • Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics. 3rd edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1970.
  • Tate, W. Randolph. Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach. Rev. ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1997.
  • Thistleton, Anthony. New Horizons in Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992.
  • Webb, William J. (2002). Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Authentic Media. ISBN 1-84227-186-5.

External links