Cultural Criticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Definition, Origins, Benefits, and Challenges -- By: Gerald A. Klingbeil

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 15:2 (NA 2005)
Article: Cultural Criticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Definition, Origins, Benefits, and Challenges
Author: Gerald A. Klingbeil


Cultural Criticism and Biblical Hermeneutics: Definition, Origins, Benefits, and Challenges

Gerald A. Klingbeil

River Plate Adventist University
Libertador San Martín, Argentina

Over the past 30 years, methods of hermeneutics in the context of biblical studies have diversified impressively. Even for the specialist it is often challenging to stay up-to-date in the labyrinth of new methodologies and proposals for biblical interpretation. Over the past decade, cultural criticism has become an important critical tool and has gained significant recognition. In the present study I seek, first, to define this hermeneutical phenomenon and describe its origins in the larger context of humanities. This is followed, second, by a summary of the methods, hermeneutical presuppositions and applications of cultural criticism by some of its more important practitioners. Third, I seek to evaluate how evangelical scholarship has reacted to and interacted with cultural criticism. Finally, some of the possible challenges of and benefits to a Bible-based hermeneutic are presented, including its missiological repercussions.

Key Words: hermeneutics, cultural criticism, social sciences, evangelicalism, biblical interpretation

Introduction

Cultural criticism is a beast of none too certain characteristics. It is referred to in an up-to-date review article by William Telford focusing upon Biblical Interpretation and its methodologies, although without a detailed discussion.1 It appears in Werner Jeanrond’s review article on

the “History of Interpretation” in the prestigious Anchor Bible Dictionary under the heading of “Current Developments in Biblical Hermeneutics” in a brief paragraph.2 However, no major discussion is provided. William Baird does not include it in his treatment of “Biblical Criticism” in the same work;3 neither does Rudolf Smend or Jürgen Roloff in their discussions of “Biblical Exegesis (OT)” and “Biblical Exegesis (NT),” respectively, in the newly published Encyclopedia of Christianity.4 In the fairly up-to-date (1999) introductory volume on Biblical Criticism, edited by McKenzie and Haynes and published by Westminster John Knox, it does not appear either.5

While there is no universal agreement about the methodology and focus of cultural criticism (including the terminology used), it pops up more and more in recent hermeneut...

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