This post will put together William Webb’s 18 criteria but will begin with a few of my conclusions about the redemptive trend. You might want to print this out for future use. My suggestion is that you use a set of Bible verses, and I’ll include one set (Deut 22), and ask people why they do or why they do not do such things, and then see which of the criteria emerge. My next post on this theme will be a conversation with Wayne Grudem’s treatment of the redemptive trend.
First, a few thoughts:
1. Everyone uses the redemptive criteria to one degree or another.
2. What matters is which issues you think move beyond the Bible.
3. A good exercise is to read texts like Deut 22 (see below), reflect first on why or why not you do or don’t do these things, compare your own criteria with the criteria and, if possible, see if you would assign your “criteria” to the same overall categories Webb does (persuasive, moderately persuasive, inconclusive, persuasive extrascriptural).
4. Behind much of this debate are three issues: our view of Scripture, our view of the role Church Tradition (which is a kind of redemptive hermeneutic), and what place we are willing to give the Holy Spirit to guide us onward and upward (say John 14:26; 16:13). Lots of us are afraid of issues two and three. Need we be?
5. His decision to put “theological analogy” at #14 as an “inclusive criterion” is a bold move; many make this “persuasive.” My own thought is that we need to distinguish between the “ontic” and the “clearly analogical” — that is what we think is inherent to the “being” of God and what is not inherent. Not easy, but needed process to do this.
6. And I think his willingness to say that something that has been proven scientific may well show some parts of the Bible to be cultural is another bold move. Not all will be happy about this, but it is a move worth thinking about with utter clarity.
What thoughts do you have about the redemptive criteria?
The Eighteen Criteria
#1. Preliminary movement: a component may be culturally bound if the text modifies by suggests more could be done. The biblical message makes a preliminary (not final, absolute) movement by modifying the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman cultural conditions and laws regulating women.
#2. Seed ideas: a component may be culturally bound if the biblical text is a seed that will develop over time.
#3. Breakouts: a component may be cultural if the biblical text is actually broken out of in another biblical text.
#4. Purpose/Intent statements: a biblical text is culturally bound if in following it one no longer fulfills the text’s original intent.
#5. Basis in Fall or Curse: a biblical text may be transcultural if it is rooted in the Fall — since the Fall continues today.
Moderately Persuasive Criteria:
#6. Basis in original creation: patterns. A component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in original creation.
#7. Basis in original creation: primogeniture (priority granted to the oldest). A component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in created order.
#8. Basis in New Creation: a component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in new-creation themes.
#9. Competing options: a component of a text is more likely to be transcultural if presented in a time and setting when other competing options existed in the broader cultures.
#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.]
#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.
#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?
#14: Basis in theological analogy. A component of a text may be transcultural if its basis is rooted in the character of God or Christ through theological analogy.
#15: Contextual comparisons. A text or a component in a text may be transcultural/cultural if other elements in the context are transcultural/cultural.
#16: Appeal to the Old Testament. A practice in the NT may be transcultural if it appeals to the Old Testament in support. Thus, continuity between the testaments might indicate transcultural. But, his view is that continuity between the two testaments may or may not indicate transcultural, while the putting aside of an OT practice surely indicates a cultural element in the OT.
Persuasive Extrascriptural Criteria:
#17: Pragmatic basis between cultures: a component of a text may be cultural if the pragmatic basis for the instruction cannot be sustained from one culture to another. It becomes more transcultural if the pragmatic basis can be sustained.
#18: Scientific and social-scientific evidence: a component of a text may be culturally confined if it is contrary to present-day scientific evidence. If the two conflict, there is a good indicator the text is culturally confined.
Here is Deuteronomy 22, in its entirety, from the TNIV:
If you see someone else’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner. If the owner does not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then give it back. Do the same if you find someone’s donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it.
If you see someone’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet.
A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.
If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.
When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.
Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.a
Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.
Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.
Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.
If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekelsa of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.
But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekelsb of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.