What’s at Stake: “It’s Hermeneutics!” -- By: Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 13:2 (Winter 2008)
Article: What’s at Stake: “It’s Hermeneutics!”
Author: Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger

What’s at Stake: “It’s Hermeneutics!”1

Margaret Köstenberger*

*Wake Forest, North Carolina

Hermeneutics is the unfinished item on our agenda of theological prolegomena. It must be seriously and comprehensively addressed by all evangelical theologians and biblical scholars in the immediate future. Without a hermeneutical consensus, any hope for a consensus in theology and ethics is mere wishful thinking. We evangelicals rightly make a great deal of the normative nature of the biblical text. Our views must be judged in the light of Scripture. But our agreement on this point has real significance only to the extent that we “correctly handle the word of truth.”

— Stanley N. Gundry, “Evangelical Theology: Where Should We Be Going?” (1978)2

Author’s Note: Who was Jesus? Was he a chauvinist? A feminist crusader? An egalitarian emancipator of women? In my forthcoming book Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?, portraits of Jesus painted by proponents of women’s equality are investigated in order to determine how they fit with descriptions in the Gospel narratives. Specific attention is given to the evaluation of the hermeneutical methods employed by the different feminist interpreters. A study of feminist scholarship on Jesus shows that the feminist quest for self-realization has led feminists to distort who Jesus really was. Not only this; the various “Jesuses” resulting from the different feminist attempts to reconstruct Jesus are contradictory, indicating that feminism is a movement divided with regard to Jesus and his approach to women.

The article printed below will appear as chapter 2 of the book. It focuses on special issues in the feminist debate regarding Jesus. Issues that are discussed include the reconstruction of history, epistemology, the role of the reader versus authorial intent, canonicity, the alleged patriarchal nature of Scripture, and fundamentalism. Also, the reader is informed as to the most glaring pitfalls of feminist interpretation.


During the 1992 United States presidential campaign, Bill Clinton’s advisers kept hammering home one simple truth: “It’s the economy!” They were convinced that the state of the American economy was the number-one issue in that election, and in part owing to their dogged insistence and determination their candidate triumphed. As our study of feminist scholarship on Jesus will demonstrate, something similar is the case in biblical studies: “It’s hermeneutics!” In other words, people’s understanding of individual passages of Scri...

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