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  1. Neil
    Safford, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: Male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Outstanding analysis of cultural aspects in hermeneutics
    January 21, 2021
    Neil
    Safford, AZ
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: Male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5


    William Webb's book, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals (IVP, 2001) really needed to be written. In the book, Webb systematizes many features of Hermeneutics that many of us have been using but never really had a basis for feeling confident that our methods are valid. Webb extracts the hermeneutical methods that tend to depend upon cultural context of the biblical text and examines the methodology and analyzes the effectiveness and validity of each method. After explaining each method, Webb applies it to the doctrines of slavery (usually), women (always) and homosexuality (usually).

    The most useful method, in my opinion, is a method that Webb calls Redemptive Movement. Whenever the Bible talks about some doctrine, especially a doctrine about how God's people are supposed to treat others, we should ask ourselves what the culture was like in the context of the biblical saying. For example, the Bible has a lot to say about slaves and most of what it says somewhat turns our stomachs with respect to what our modern western culture thinks about the institution of slavery: We do not believe anybody has the right to own somebody else. However, if we look at what the Bible says about slaves, we see that God's expectation about how his people treat slaves is far more redemptive than the surrounding culture. In New Testament times, the rules about slaves is more redemptive than they are in Old Testament times and they are more redemptive than the social context of the New Testament text. Just examining the redemptive movement of the biblical doctrines surrounding slaves, we can see a movement towards total slave emancipation. The same is true for women. In the Bible, women gain more and more value as members of the faith community. So, when we observe the Biblical redemptive movement regarding women we can follow the trajectory to equal ministry value and roles for women as men within the faith community.

    If we think about it, that is the whole method of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible says, "Do not commit adultry." You should know that the trajectory of that command points to the implied command to not lust. You know that we are commanded to not murder. Don't you realize that the trajectory of that command requires that we don't get angry with people either? Don't call people names either!

    We should be able to apply the trajectory of the biblical commands, especially as they reveal the heart of God. We can examine the commands against their cultural contexts and see where they are going and be able to make the contemporary application which may not be directly addressed in scripture--but is given trajectory within scripture.

    When Webb applies his hermeneutical methods to the morality of homosexuality, we see that the Bible is always more restrictive about homosexuality than is the surrounding culture. The Bible never is more accepting of homosexuality. It is always less accepting of homosexuality than is the cultural context of the times.

    Another of the particularly interesting methods Webb calls "Breakouts." There may be a statement that looks like a command but we look for examples where the command is broken and the ones who break it are commended for breaking what we thought was a command. Those exceptions are called "Breakouts." For example, we believe the Bible forbids women from exercising leadership over men. However, we have many breakout examples such as Deborah, Hultad, Junia, Priscilla, etc. Either what we thought was a rule has a specific and obsolete context or it is not as much of a hard and fast rule as we thought.

    Webb observes that several of the popular hermeneutical methods that Bible students employ are open to poor exegesis. For example, there is a popular exegetical method that Webb calls "Closely Related Issues" (162). Some teachers attempt to condone homosexual practices by comparing those practices with the Old Testament purity laws. For example, in Old Testament times, a man engaging in sexual activity during his wife's menstruation made him unclean for a period of time. Those cultic impurity laws have been abolished in the New Testament. Therefore, the Old Testament commands against homosexuality should also be abolished. The problem is, sex during menstruation and homosexual sex really are not closely related issues. One resulted

    in ceremonial uncleanness. The other resulted in stoning. In the Old Testament, activities that resulted in ceremonial uncleanness were not sins. Homosexuality was--in both testaments. This is an example of trying to make completely dissimilar issues related. Thus, the method is really poor and open to bad exegesis.

    It is interesting that Webb's approach to the women's roles study concedes that there was a curse on the woman (women) in Genesis 3:16 and there is also an injunction against women teaching men in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Even with these concessions, Webb's cultural analysis leads to the equality of women in the church. I believe Webb is wrong in his two concessions; but I think he is clever to yeild to them. It avoids arguments over the meanings of the two passages so that we can get on with the cultural and redemptive analysis of the Biblical text.

    Webb is equally critical of complementarianism and egalitarianism. His criticism of egalitarianism seems almost token. He either mischaracterizes the egalitarian position or he refrences extreme approaches that tend to stray away from the biblical text.

    This book will be a permanent addition to my personal library. It needs to be available for further reference.
  2. transform 777
    Toronto, ON
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    May 16, 2013
    transform 777
    Toronto, ON
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    An important work in the field of hermeneutics. Well articulated ideas about how to carry forward the redemptive essense of scripture and apply it to the challenges of our modern world!
  3. Mike
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    August 1, 2007
    Mike
    Webb's "Slaves, Women and Homosexuals" is one of the most poignant writings on the church's treatment of these aforementioned social groups, as it pertains to western culture today. Webb introduces the idea of the redemptive-hermeneutic, which asks us when studying the Bible, to not only understand what the text states at face value, but to apply the spirit of this text into a greater application. In an example, to employ the cultural use slavery, with regard to what Scripture states at face value, slavery is an acceptable practice. However, slavery has now been abolished and to a certain extent at the hand of the Christian church. A static reading of Scripture today (or a reading of it at face value) would support the modern use of slavery, so why abolish it? But by the using the redemptive-hermeneutic we see the true spirit of redemption within the Biblical text. From the Old Testament into the New we see the cultural use of slaves, but by the laws God has set upon the Israelites there was always a higher standard. The surrounding cultures could beat and kill a slave for no reason if they wanted to. Not so with God's people as God has always had a higher standard for His followers. Moving into the New Testament we still see the use of slaves, but here there is a hint that slavery is being used with less barbarism. Now if slavery has ultimately been eliminated, why not prohibit the church from treating women as less than equals. Why shouldn't women be permitted to teach? A static reading of the Pauline texts might prohibit this, but would it when we take into account the certain cultural phenomena Paul was speaking toward, and would it when we understand the ultimate ethic of redemption? What we move toward in use of the redemptive-hermeneutic is an ultimate ethic of treatment. Eliminate slavery. Restore women to their rightful place as equals. Practice heterosexual monogamy. These are God's higher standards. A very thoughtful book altogether!
  4. Allen R. Mickle, Jr.
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    April 11, 2003
    Allen R. Mickle, Jr.
    Webb, Professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, had published a work, long in the making. It will make waves in the evangelical community as it has been endorsed by good scholars like Darrell Bock, Craig Evans and Craig Keener.Webb's book begins by setting out his rationale. He hopes to bring the evangelical community back together by his "redemptive-movement" hermeneutics. His basic premise is that the more "static" approach of Grudem, Piper and others is lacking in its cultural application. Unfortunately, Webb misses the mark by departing from a grammtical-historical hermeneutic.Webb divides the book into three sections. Slavery, which is his control group, homosexuals, and women. He eventually comes to the conclusion that slavery was a cultural convention of the ANE. Homosexuality, on the other hand is transcultural. The commands against it, go for all time. And finally, women in leadership, he feels was a cultural convention as well. That the arguments against women leadership in the Bible, was a cultural issue.Unfortunately Webb's book does not answer the age old question, that if somethings are cultural, then what isn't cultural? He critizes the patriarchalists because they see slavery as cultural but not the women issue. Webb's basic premise that because life was better in Israel than in the ANE, and that life was better in the Church than it was in ancient Israel, and that life is better now than it was then, shouldn't we now move forward and bring women into the picture as leaders? His point is, why would we perpetuate the curse?Unfortunately, Webb doesn't follow a generally held view of hermeneutics, and this will cause some to shy away from his book right away. A well-trained pastor or teacher could read this book with some profit, but I would not recommend it to anyone else than that.
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