We are looking at William Webb’s Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals, and the “redemptive trend” hermeneutic, which states that to apply the Bible in our world involves participation in the redemptive trend that began in the Bible. Today we look at the remaining “moderately persuasive criteria” (#s 10-13), and since it is Martin Luther King Jr Day here in the USA, it is a good time also to think about justice inside the walls of the Church.
Questions: Does the redemptive trend hermeneutic — which asks us to see movement in the Bible and beyond and to take that movement into mind when we apply the Bible –, so: Does the redemptive trend take the Bible from the lay person’s hands or does it make explicit what we (and the Church) have been doing all along? How many of us think it is wrong to wear clothing of two different kinds of material (Lev 19:19)? How many of us think Jesus’ statement to sell our possessions and give to poor (Luke 12:33) is permanent? How many of us think women need to cover their heads (1 Cor 11:6-7)? Now I don’t want to debate specifics, but I do want us to grapple with how we treat such statements and why we treat them the way we do and to ask if we don’t already have a redemptive trend hermeneutic at work but are just uncomfortable with applying it to women in the Church? (I know, that’s a long question.)
#10: Opposition to original culture: a text is more likely to be transcultural if it counters or stands in opposition to the original culture. Dissonance indicates permanence. Thus, a text is more cultural where it goes along with a given cultural norm. [Limited usefulness, but generally useful.]
Examples: slavery is not challenged as a social institution in the Bible — thus, it is more culturally normed in that day. Worshiping false gods is challenged — thus, it is more transcultural.
On women: Paul offers a softening of hierarchy and patriarchy and thereby opposes a cultural norm (transcultural trend).
#11: Closely related issues: if a given issue (say patriarchy) is expressed in specific instances (closely related issues like women as property or polygamy), then it is more likely that the specific instances are cultural and not permanent. [I don’t think Webb’s argument is as clear as it could have been, and I may have misunderstood this one.]
#12: Penal code: the degree of severity of punishment in legal codes is a potential indicator of whether or not a given item is transcultural or cultural. The more severe, the more transcultural. The lack of any penalty in OT codes for a woman’s insubordination indicates a cultural norm and may indicate that patriarchy itself is a cultural code.
#13: Specific vs. General: a component may be culturally relative if its specifics are against a general principle of Scripture, and the two major principles here are love and justice. Is the power inequity (in ancient culture) a justice issue?
Webb thinks these criteria have been weighed in the balance with other criteria to find their strength.