Saturday, April 4, 2009

Reading in Context

On his blog Adam, OHC, recommends a book for better understanding the NT social context of the Gospel:
An old friend, Phina Borgeson, years ago, recommended the work of a cultural anthropologist named Bruce Malina to me. I went looking and eventually discovered his major work, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology. Originally written in 1979, and now in its third edition, Malina outlines major cultural categories that are different from ours. I have to say that this book completely changed the way I have read older texts, and not just the ones from the New Testament period. This alternative cultural understanding opened my eyes to the possibility of the double focus, the hermeneutic shift, not simply as a theoretical possibility but actually.

Malina uses major categories of cultural anthropology and compares those of the New Testament period with our own: Honor as the primary cultural value instead of material and professional success; the absolute importance of locating oneself in one's in-group for identity instead of achieving one's own autonomy; finding one's psychological identity in what others think of you instead of cultivating your own interior self (the dyadic personality); the idea that the wealth of the world is a fixed quantity (limited good) and all that flows from that in terms of fixed status hierarchies instead of our assumptions of social mobility; and so much more. (source)

Seems like a worthy book to explore...


No comments: