Social Location and Biblical Interpretation

Two recent articles have spoken to a theme that I believe is important to “hearing the Word.” The focus of each is social location.

Two family members shared this article with me by Brian Zahnd — My Problem With the Bible. Zahnd writes:

I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.

I’m a citizen of a superpower. I was born among the conquerors. I live in the empire. But I want to read the Bible and think it’s talking to me. This is a problem.

This reminded me of Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Robert McAfee Brown, 1984).

The second bit of writing is by Miguel A. De La Torre, author of The Politics of Jesús: A Hispanic Political Theology. This essay–A Colonized Christmas Story–is actually based on that book. He writes:

The Gospel narratives depicts a careful dance which takes place between Rome the colonizer and Jesús the colonized. Not far from the story-telling surface is the real world dynamics and consequences of colonization. We see it throughout Jesús’ everyday experience and how he responded to the circumstances brought about by the economic and political occupation of Judea, as made evident by questions posed concerning paying tribute to Caesar (Mt. 22:20), constantly facing danger for preaching of another reign or kingdom more powerful then the one to which Jews were subjugated (Mk. 1:15), or given a death sentence under the charge of being “king of the Jews,” hence a rival sovereign (Mk. 15:2). Even the very audience that first heard the words of Jesús was fellow colonized compatriots, many of who held an abiding hatred toward the Roman oppressors. From this colonized space, the Gospel message is shaped and formed, and ignoring this historical reality leads to false remembrance, if not pure illusions.

What does my social location blind me too? What steps can I take to change that location or to somehow see with new eyes and hear with new ears? Do I have the courage and desire to do it?

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