Between “I” And “We”: The Anthropology Of The Hebrew Bible And Its Importance For A 21st-Century Ecclesiology -- By: Gerald A. Klingbeil

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 19:3 (NA 2009)
Article: Between “I” And “We”: The Anthropology Of The Hebrew Bible And Its Importance For A 21st-Century Ecclesiology
Author: Gerald A. Klingbeil


Between “I” And “We”: The Anthropology Of The Hebrew Bible And Its Importance For A 21st-Century Ecclesiology

Gerald A. Klingbeil

Andrews University

Individualism and collectivism are categories employed by sociologists to describe the characteristics of a particular people or culture. These elements and their importance depend heavily upon the culture’s particular world view. This study examines these extremes—particularly in the context of the NT metaphor of the church as a body.1 In light of the fact that the data of the Hebrew Bible are often ignored, in this study I will review five controversial passages from the Hebrew Bible that are relevant to the topic (i.e., Abraham’s household and the blessing of the covenant, the commandment language, divine transgenerational retribution, and individual responsibility) and will probe their significance for a Scripture-based ecclesiology.

Key Words: individualism, collectivism, biblical theology, anthropology, world view, ecclesiology

Introduction

Living at the beginning of the 21st century is not always easy. While it is a pleasure to enjoy running clean water (though still often limited to the western hemisphere), electricity, an improved health care system, and higher life expectancy, profound world view changes have taken place over the past century or two. We live more isolated than we did 200 years ago when the next-door neighbor lived one or two kilometers down the road.2 We do not know the ones living next to us—and sometimes we simply do not care. This change is not an accidental change. It is the subtle result of a changed paradigm of roles involving myself, my family (or clan), the community I live in, the country whose passport I hold, and the church I belong to (if I belong at all!). Sociology has provided some helpful criteria for describing culture.3 Individualism versus collectivism is one of these criteria, on which I would like to focus in this study and which also seems to be useful when considering the anthropology of the Hebrew Bible. A brief look at U.S. culture in the 21st century clearly suggests a strong emphasis on the individualistic side of this continuum. Furthermore, due to the dominant political, economic, and technological position of the U.S. in the international context, one can note a strong cultural influence in most areas of daily life that goes beyond New York, Los Angeles, or Washington DC, reaching New Delhi, Manila, Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Capetown....

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