Posted By MSH on July 31, 2009
One of the responders accuse me of being extrabiblical in my approach to Romans 5:12. Actually, I’m being explicitly biblical, since I refuse to de-contextualize the Bible in favor of rendering interpretations that are comfortable, or that are European, American, or anything else besides the original culture in which the Bible was inspired. My approach yields something that not only gets Jesus off the hook (still unaddressed, I remind you all), but makes sense within the ancient cultural situation. Here’s the bottom line: The Bible is NOT to be interpreted through the grid of modern culture or our own cultures which are modern. It is to be interpreted in light of the context in which it was given. If anyone has any interest in getting to what the text meant when God inspired its creation, THAT is the proper method — not appealing to 16th century Europeans or anyone else outside the divinely chosen cultural context. The latter is to recreate or filter the Bible in or through our own image.
Here’s the lion’s share of my comment to him:
. . . [My] distinction [is one] made across the board in ancient near eastern cultures, of which Israel was one. You can’t have Israel being some sort of “non earthly” culture when practically everything about Israelite religion has an ancient near eastern cultural flavor or equivalent. The temple is typical Canaanite, with some Egyptian elements (the furniture); the “tent” language of the tabernacle and temple has explicit, point-for-point equivalents in Canaanite (esp. Ugaritic) culture. I could list dozens, maybe triple digit examples of this, but you are better off just getting a good archaeological reference work and reading it closely. EVERY culture in the ANE world had a distinction between common/profane and moral offense. They were all “violations” but not all categorized the same way. This is why some “fallings short” were punished and others simply required ritual washings, periods of exclusion from holy ground, etc.
And which one of these could the human conceptus commit, anyway?
All I’m doing is what others claim to do, but refuse to do when it comes to exegesis involving theology: CONTEXTUALIZING the Bible. It is what it is, inspired when it was and in the context of the culture of the time. Most biblical scholars restrict that to things like pots and clay jars. THAT is picking and choosing. I don’t select the contextualizations I like and discard the others. I aim to be consistent. Like it or not, the Bible is fixed within a cultural context, and we do injustice to it when we ignore God’s choice of timing and culture when interpreting it.