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Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis
Throughout, Webb attempts to "work out the hermeneutics involved in distinguishing that which is merely cultural in Scripture from that which is timeless" (Craig A. Evans). By the conclusion, Webb has introduced and developed a "redemptive hermeneutic" that can be applied to many issues that cause similar dilemmas. Darrel L. Bock writes in the foreword of Webb's work, "His goal is not only to discuss how these groups are to be seen in light of Scriptures but to make a case for a specific hermeneutical approach to reading these texts....This book not only advances a discussion of the topics, but it also takes a markedly new direction toward establishing common ground where possible, potentially breaking down certain walls of hostility within the evangelical community."
|Title: Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis|
By: William J. Webb
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: 2001
|Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)|
Weight: 1 pound 1 ounce
Stock No: WW15614
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William J. Webb's Slaves, Women and Homosexuals is a hermeneutical tour de force. Webb severs ties with traditional hermeneutical textbooks by offering intra-scriptural and extra-scriptural criteria and a case study approach (akin to W. M. Swartley's Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women) rather than a step-by-step methodology. Webb tackles these issues collectively (i.e., there is no specific chapter on homosexual hermeneutical issues), modeling that interpretative issues need to be grappled with corporately (read here biblically—both testaments) rather than individually, as isolated pericopes. Exhaustive word analyses rarely win hermeneutical arguments (think of all the ink spilled on the Greek word headship); rather, it is reading texts holistically (vís-a-vís "cultural analysis") that determines interpretation.
Webb's holistic approach is a redemptive-movement hermeneutic that is the engagement of "the redemptive spirit of the text in a way that moves the contemporary appropriation of the text beyond its original-application framing" (p. 30). A key component of a redemptive movement is the idea of movement. Thus, Webb sketches this movement as an "XYZ model," beginning with the Original Culture (X) → Bible (Y) → Our Culture → Ultimate Ethic (Z). Webb then appropriates eighteen criteria, ranging from seed ideas (persuasive criterion) to contextual comparisons (inconclusive criterion) to evaluate interpretive issues indicated in the title of his book.
Webb's most stimulating chapter is his final one: "What If I Am Wrong?" where he develops his default position, or, in other words, plays "devil's advocate." I appreciate his disposition here. Often hermeneutical textbooks suffer from foreclosure, rather than foresight, when involved knotty interpretative issues are involved. This is not to say Webb is hermeneutically ambiguous and adrift: he makes decisions based on his criteria. But he is also aware of the complexity of the cultural issues. He maintains a "complementary egalitarian" position on women, yet notes that "ultra-soft patriarchy" is a "significant possibility" (p. 250). This kind of dialogue (and courage) is needed by more biblical scholars.
Webb's book should be read, discussed, and digested by everyone who is interested in understanding what Krister Stendahl once remarked forty years ago as the descriptive task of biblical theology: the process of moving from "what it [the text] meant" to "what it means." This is a critical journey to embark upon as Christians, especially in a culture that diminishes the authority of the Bible. Webb is an outstanding tour guide. Let the journey begin!
---Joseph B. Modica, Chaplain and Assistant Professor at Eastern University, St. Davids, PA.
---Used with permission from Christians for Biblical Equality
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