Friday, March 31, 2017
Home Tags Studies in Hermeneutics

Tag: Studies in Hermeneutics

Biblical Studies in Hermeneutics Series Index

Examining the “Clobber Passages”

Reta Halteman Finger continues her Bible study blog, Reta’s Reflections, with this feature, Studies in Hermeneutics. Learn more about CFT’s Reta’s Reflections Bible Study blog.

Reta says that this new series differs from her earlier studies, which were based on particular books of the Bible. “Rather, this series will deal with the broader issue of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation as it relates to how we understand our Scriptures. The question of how we interpret authoritative texts becomes acute when current social, economic, or political issues divide believers who look to these texts for answers.”

Throughout the series, Reta uses as a case study the “clobber passages” (the verses cited by conservatives to support their view that LGBTQ people are acting against the will of God). By presenting an in-depth look at the historical and cultural context of various scripture texts, she shows how context must be taken into account to grasp each author’s intent,  the original audience’s understandings of the teachings presented, and how various scholars have sometimes translated certain scripture passages within the cultural contexts of their own times.

This is an index of posts in that series.

(Posts are in reverse order on this page, with the first of the series at the bottom.)

Conclusion: The ongoing challenge of biblical interpretation

We need church leaders and pastors who learn Hebrew and Greek well enough to use available resources and then help laypersons better understand how translation works across time and cultures. Instead, I fear many churchgoing Christians who sincerely care about the Bible read it 'on the flat,' as if the writings were written in our native language and reflect contemporary assumptions."

“Strenuous Tolerance”:  Can we get along when we don’t agree?

According to Romans 14:1–15:6, what really matters ethically is how we treat other people and how consistent we are in living by our own consciences without condemning others who differ from us. The challenge—especially in matters relating to sexuality—is deciding which actions are intrinsically hurtful to others and which are not.

The Bigger Picture:  Sin as a Moving Target

“So how do we relate to more conservative friends, relatives, or fellow church members who complain that the church ‘is not calling sin sin anymore’? After our Bible study in the local Mennonite church, I spoke with a friend who is part of that congregation and understands the resistance of some people to accept same-sex marriage. ‘In their lifetime,’ she said, ‘these older people have had to make so many adjustments and changes in the church. This is just one more change that seems too hard to make.’ I appreciated her compassion and understanding, but for those to whom scripture matters, both conservatives and revisionists must do their biblical homework as well.”

“Inheriting the Kingdom of God”—1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and...

Many Christians still read these three texts as a handy, short-cut way to condemn all persons with any same-sex orientation or who are in committed, same-gender relationships. In light of these cultural and literary contexts, it is inappropriate to translate either malakoi or arsenokoitai as 'homosexuals.'

Inflammatory Words in Romans 1:24-27

“Although today we tend to see sexual attraction as something deep within the individual, these ancient writers used fire imagery to show that ‘sexual passion is a force which invades the lover from the outside’ (Fredrickson, p. 211). Thus Paul uses ekkaiō in the passive voice—‘to be inflamed.’ This is illustrated by the god Eros shooting his burning arrows into the hearts of hapless lovers. Fire is also insubstantial and fleeting. Thus the lover is never satisfied with sexual consummation, but keeps seeking more and more exotic experiences (p. 212), like drinking salty water that only makes one thirstier.”

What Is Natural and Unnatural Sex in Romans 1:24-27?

"Besides the analogy of food to explain using persons of either gender as sexual objects, Greco-Romans also compared sexual use to household management. Wives were part of the property of a man’s household, as were his slaves, and he could 'use' them as he wished.

The Love and Sex Lives of Ancient Greeks and Romans

“In the Roman Empire, marriage was for procreation. Unless enslaved, males would marry in order to produce offspring, preferably sons, to whom they would pass on their lineage and wealth. Parents arranged marriages for reasons of social class and economics—usually a virgin adolescent girl paired with a sexually experienced man about ten years older.

Romans 1:24-27 and Pornography: “God gave them up…”

"I was stunned to realize that this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1:24-27! A constant exposure to sexual images of pleasure, power, and domination lead to a search for new highs. Normal sexual relationships no longer satisfy, so people experiment with ever more exotic and abusive acts.

The Historical and Literary Setting for Romans 1:24-27

"We cannot do justice to this passage until we understand its purpose in Paul’s lengthy theological letter to the Roman Christians—which is actually composed as a speech to be delivered publicly and passionately. Why did Paul write this speech to believers living in a city he had never visited? It’s a long story, which will take up the rest of this lesson."

Sodom’s Sin: What Does the Bible Actually Say?

"And so, dear reader, that concludes our analysis of all Old Testament references used against LGBTQ people today. Slim pickings, indeed. Not a word about women’s sexuality. And three references (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; and Genesis 19:1-11) emphasizing how horrible it would be for any free male to lose honor by being raped or forced to take the woman’s passive role in this highly patriarchal ancient culture."

Levitical Laws:  “Thou shalt not”. . . But why not?

As Christians today debate LGBTQ issues, they weight these elements in different ways. Conservative believers rely more on Scripture and tradition, while progressives stress experience. (And too often reason flies out the window!)

A Challenge for LGBTQ Biblical Progressives

"Revisionist biblical scholars have examined the texts that refer negatively to non-heterosexual sexual behavior (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Gen 19; Judg 19; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7). Though interpretations vary in the details, these scholars conclude such texts say nothing about sexual orientation or love-based, consensual same-gender sexual relations and certainly nothing about gay marriage.

Does the Bible Teach Biological Complementarity?

“For many Christians [who voice opinions about same-sex sexual expression], these disapproving biblical verses imply the case is closed. But why does scripture (or God) disapprove? Or as James Brownson puts it in Bible, Gender, Sexuality, (mentioned in Lesson 8), what is the ‘moral logic’ behind this disapproval?”

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope—or Climbing Upward?

"But this complementarian position can only be held if the Bible is read 'on the flat,' as if it were written for contemporary people and contained no scientific or historical errors. In Lesson 5 on 'gender disputes in Bible translation,' I referred to the book co-written by Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress called The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. A light bulb went on for me at that point. These authors really believe God is masculine and, further, that the male leadership and patriarchy pervading the biblical texts is not simply a reflection of these ancient cultures but is part of God’s plan for humankind."

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: Some Resources

"My concern in this series of lessons is this: how do we discuss this issue with people who hold a traditional view and see that view as more biblically-based than ours? Can we adequately interact with the so-called “clobber-texts” used to condemn same-sex sexual expression (i.e., Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1: 24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10)? How do we respond to traditional views of the creation of male and female in Genesis 1 and 2 and to Jesus’s references to heterosexual marriage? Or do we just ignore these texts and assume that no real dialogue is possible?"

Can You Read the Signs? Principles of Interpretation

“Biblical texts come alive through archeological discoveries, as well as sociology and anthropology, which help modern people understand the different traditions and habits of ancient peoples. For example, male honor was more important than female honor. Read the stories of attempted rape at Sodom in Genesis 19:1-11 and the actual rape of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19. In each case, men offered their women to the rapists while preserving the honor of the men within the house.”

Different Interpretations—Different Missions

“It is small wonder that Christians assuming different biblical hermeneutics often talk past each other. As one who deeply loves and respects the Bible, I will not try to protect it. It may be God-breathed, but it is also a human product with perspectives limited by time and culture. “

Gender Disputes in Bible Translation

The translation was called Today’s New International Version of the Bible (TNIV), an updated edition of the New International Version (NIV), a favorite of conservative Christians. And many of them were not happy with the new edition. Why the unhappiness? Because the TNIV was the first NIV updating to use gender-inclusive people language.

Problems with Biblical Inerrancy

As someone who has loved the Bible since childhood and has devoted her life and career to better understanding it, I find this view of strict verbal inspiration incomprehensible. I suppose it can be held in the mind as theory, but not in practice.

A Brief History of Biblical Inspiration

Through worship and study, the written word became divine revelation... By the time some of them returned to Jerusalem from exile (permitted by the Persian ruler, Cyrus, beginning in 539 BCE), they had a collection of writings that became guides for their priests, prophets, and all the people of Yahweh (see Nehemiah 8:1-12)."

Is the Bible Divinely Inspired?

"Is the Bible divinely inspired and thus authoritative? Discussions on inspiration often start by quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 from the New Testament. The NRSV reads, 'All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.' This is the usual translation, but it is not the only one. A footnote in the NRSV includes this alternative: 'Every scripture inspired by God is also…' The difference is significant."

Biblical Interpretation: Can We Get It Right?

"This new series of lessons in Reta’s Reflections will not be a book study, as earlier studies have been. Rather, it will deal with the broader issue of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation as it relates to how we understand our Scriptures. The question of how we interpret authoritative texts becomes acute when current social, economic, or political issues divide believers who look to these texts for answers."

Latest Posts on CFT

Sweden: World’s First Feminist Government?

March  27, 2017 "'The first feminist government in the world' - that is how the Swedish government describes itself. So how is that feminist agenda...

Editor's Choice

In Search of Life-Giving Christian Symbols

For many years I have also believed that a symbol other than the cross should be at the center of Christianity. The emphasis on the cross leads to the glorification of violence and death rather than the love and abundant life that Jesus taught.