The Power of the Bible
Rev. Mona West, Ph.D.
31 December 2020 at 1:00:00 pm
The Bible is a powerful book. What is more important to realize is that interpretations of the Bible are just as powerful. New Testament scholar, Mary Ann Tolbert, points out that every interpretation of a text in the Bible is a combination of the stories themselves and the interests, commitments, and beliefs of the person or groups reading the stories.
Different Voices Interpreting Scripture Because the Bible was written centuries ago and came from an ancient near eastern culture, it is difficult at times to know exactly what the Bible says about certain issues
especially contemporary ones. For a long time it was thought that the best way, the scientific way, of interpreting the Bible was to discover the original intent of the author of a particular biblical passage. It was also thought that meaning could only be found in the words of the text of the Bible itself.
However, in the 1980’s this approach to interpreting the Bible was called into question, most specifically by women. Feminist approaches to scripture discovered that what had been presented as ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’ biblical interpretations, were actually forms of interpretation done from the bias of a particular group: white, heterosexual men with a Eurocentric focus—a group that had been (and continues to be) in positions of power in universities and seminaries where the Bible is studied and biblical interpretation is taught. This same group also dominated (and still does) pulpits where the Bible is interpreted. Feminists and other groups discovered that there has been a long legacy of biblical interpretation that kept a certain group in power. Such groups influence the way the Bible is read and understood in any given society.
Once this bias was exposed by feminists, there were other groups that began to realize they had been left out of the interpretive enterprise: African, Latin, Asian and Native peoples in particular. These groups began to add their own voices and understandings to biblical interpretation.
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