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Reading the Bible from the Margins
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
De La Torre must have learned a lot about how to explain difficult concepts about biblical interpretation by teaching undergraduates right out of their church youth groups at an evangelical college.
He has used his classroom experience to write a crystal-clear, focused and even entertaining book explaining that our interpretations of the Bible are culturally influenced in such a way as to reinforce ideas and practices that baptize our own privileges and justify the oppression of others.
The first several chapters of the book are as clear an explanation of how biblical interpretations can be culturally flavored in such a way as to under gird the reader's self-interest as I have read anywhere.
However, De La Torre never depreciates Scripture or undermines its value and authority. He is unabashedly Christian. He affirms his commitment to his faith and the book which is its foundation.
At the same time, he is clear that Scripture has commonly been read and interpreted by the advantaged and learned in such a way as to justify racist, misogynist and homophobic biases.
He uses illustrations from his own experience as a Hispanic man to help his readers begin to understand that what often seems straightforward and obvious in Scripture isn't necessarily so.
He has also carefully listened to African-American, Asian-American, feminist and gay thinkers; he includes in his book their thoughts about how their ethnic and class perspectives open to them new insights into the meaning of Scripture that the dominant church culture usually misses.
Later chapters in the book, in which De La Torre makes a case for cultural interpretations of Christ are a tad more forced and less satisfying. (Surely we don't need to make Christ Hispanic in order for the cross and resurrection to be relevant for the experience of Hispanic people. The oppressed can experience God identifying with their oppression through Christ without having to change Jesus' genes. He is still a marginalized Jew, and this is why he speaks today to marginalized people of whatever race or culture.)
Yet, this is quibbling. This is a fine book that should make all Christians rethink the way we read the Bible and help the church become more like Christ. I am using it to teach a class for my congregation and encouraging my members to read it.
The material in this book, thanks to De La Torre's patient and clear writing, is accessible to almost anybody sitting in our pews. Some may be convinced; everyone will be pushed to rethink easy assumptions about Scripture.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the best introductory texts on liberation theology available. It is concise, straightforward, and can be easily understood by those with little or no formal training in theology. The first four chapters deal primarily with biblical interpretation, showing how the Bible has been interpreted to justify race, class, and gender oppression as well as how oppressed communities are using the Bible to liberate themselves from such oppression. The final three chapters are devoted to a theological analysis of Christ, salvation, and reconciliation.

The theological perspectives introduced are limited to U.S. minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, women, and gays), making this text primarily an introduction to U.S. liberation theologies rather than third-world theologies. Helpful companion books would be Introducing Liberation Theology by Leonardo and Clodovis Boff (Latin American) or My Soul Looks Back by James Cone (African American).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2006
De La Torre's book, Reading the Bible from the Margins, surprised me. De La Torre's premise--that the Bible has been mis-read because many Christians have approached the text from too distant a social vantage point--is a serious challenge to conventional scriptural hermeneutics. While De La Torre appears superficially to take a reader's perspective, he has, in fact, provided new insight into the author's perspective. This is surprising to me because the dark voice that he projects in the book misled me into thinking that he was offering a post-modern interpretation.

Think of a dark room where the artist walks about the room with a spotlight. The subject sits in the middle of the room with different scenery in each of the four directions--north, south, east, and west. As we watch the subject from the perspective of the circling artist, the picture we see varies dramatically with the backgrounds that flash by. The different backgrounds color what we see in the subject and, yet, the subject is the same. Only the backgrounds change based on the artist's view. In this same way, De La Torre presents us with views of the Bible that differ with the "social location" of the reader. Like the views of our artists, the views that De La Torre gives are each valid and provide insight into the complex text which is Holy Scripture.

This exercise was a hard read for me. The discussions of racism, classism, and sexism challenged my reading of a number of passages. De La Torre's dark voice in discussing these issues was a stumbling block for me even when I accepted his analysis. Nevertheless, as we study scripture we are called to step outside ourselves and look for the voice of God. De La Torre's book provides new insight.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
De La Torre confronts the issue that isolates Christians from understanding one another across race and socio-economic lines. I'm grateful to his candor and boldness to confront metaphorical readings of the text and encouragement to read the Bible simply while listening to the perspectives of "the least of these, my brothers."
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on June 28, 2013
Reading the Bible from the Margins invites its readers to look at Scripture from an entirely different perspective, through the eyes of the poor, the outcast, those who are different. It challenges the status quo, the "comfortable" way one can read the Bible, picking and choosing what seems "nice," while thinking the challenge is for someone else, or that perhaps it doesn't apply to the 21st century. Reading through the eyes of those who are marginalized turns the world upside down and gives status to those who seem insignificant. De la Torre's book inspires a new vision and a deeper understanding of the Word of God. It iinvites the reader to recognize a God who really loves those who are oppressed as well as the oppressors. In this is freedom for both the "haves" and the "have not's." Anyone with a willingness and the courage to be uncomfortable, to be led to conversion of heart and deeper wisdom will find this book a means to that end.
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This is an excellent book on "Liberation Theology" written in plain, easy-to-understand English. Don't worry, it's not a dumbed-down version of this topic, it is just written in an enjoyable manner that explains how to read the Bible from the perspective of the poor, the oppressed, and victims of discrimination over the ages and still to this day (specifically hispanics, amerindians, asians, blacks, females and gays). Chapters look at the importance of language, reading the Bible from the Center (i.e. from the viewpoint of the privileged), unmasking the Biblical justification of Racism and Classism and Sexism, amongst other topics. The author peppers the book with examples from his own life within hispanic culture. I highly recommend it!
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on September 17, 2008
Reading the Bible from the Margins is a vital resource for the post-modern world. Although Miguel A. de La Torre did not posit an entirely new thesis, this book is articulate, well researched and easy to read. For those seeking an understanding of Liberation Theology, this book is the place to begin. Most impressive is the author's credentials -- not his academic background (which is considerable), but the fact that he is speaking from the margins because he is of the margins. If a person wants to learn a way to improve the world -- all of the world, Reading the Bible from the Margins is an excellent, thought-provoking beginning.
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on May 14, 2015
Worst book ever... Book is written in a social point of view and racial pint of view. Author seems as though he has a lot of anger and tries to rewrite the meaning of the Bible. I.E. He claims Moses sister was black because she was cured and her skin was turned white. If you read the Hebrew Bible it states her disease she was cured with was white as snow. She could have been white, red, black, brown, yellow, we don't know for sure. But this is how the book is written. Our entire class came to the same point of view about the author and his social gospel opinion. Buy if you like, but you may be disappointed.
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on May 14, 2014
In this book the author explains the purpose of a interacting with the Bible from the perspective of those on the margins. The book offers a good overview of discussions that have emerged in response to traditional "white" theology in a way that it is an ideal primer for seminary students, ministry professionals and laymen alike. There are several scriptural insights that will absolutely blow your mind! I will never read the bible the same thanks to the exceptional scholarship and relevance of this book.
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on March 22, 2015
indispensable as part of our education on reading our sacred text through different eyes.
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