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Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis Paperback – May 30, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press; 1st edition (May 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830815619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830815616
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Teaching hermeneutics will never be quite the same after one reads this thought-provoking book. The ethical issues it explores raise even deeper questions of how to apply 'cultural background' in interpreting the Bible. Even those who differ on some details will find most of the book's arguments persuasive and helpful, and no one can afford to ignore the issues it raises." (Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Eastern Seminary)

"Webb has tackled some of the most difficult and controversial issues that have faced the Christian church. Some of these issues, such as the role of women in the church and the question of homosexuality, are especially hot topics today. What makes Webb's book special is that it attempts to work out the hermeneutics involved in distinguishing that which is merely cultural in Scripture from that which is timeless. In my estimation, Webb's insights constitute major, positive progress. This book is must reading." (Craig A. Evans, professor and director of the graduate program in biblical studies, Trinity Western University (Langley, British Columbia))

"This book successfully walks the reader through the hermeneutical maze that accompanies the treatment of each of these areas. The goal is not only to discuss how these groups are to be seen in light of Scripture but to make a case for a specific hermeneutical approach to reading these texts. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals not only advances a discussion of the topics beyond current literature, it takes a markedly new direction toward establishing common ground where possible, potentially breaking down certain walls of hostility within the evangelical community." (Darrell L. Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary (from the foreword))

"The book is well focused, thoroughly researched, carefully argued, meticulously fair to differing views and profoundly biblical. I find it very persuasive." (Stephen R. Spencer, professor of systematic theology, Dallas Theolocial Seminary)

About the Author

William Webb is an adjunct professor of New Testament/Biblical Studies at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. He has also written Returning Home: New Covenant and Second Exodus as the Context for 2 Corinthians 6:14--7:1 (Sheffield) and Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (InterVarsity Press).

Darrell L. Bock (Ph.D., Aberdeen) is research professor of New Testament studies and professor of spiritual development and culture at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He has written the monograph Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus and volumes on Luke in both the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and the IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Bock is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He serves as a corresponding editor for Christianity Today, and he has published articles in Los Angeles Times and the Dallas Morning News.

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Customer Reviews

I was so impressed with the book that I purchased 6 extra copies to give to friends.
M. Yin
This book will make you scratch your head and ask why you believe what you (thought you) believed.
Australian Amazonian ~
He critizes the patriarchalists because they see slavery as cultural but not the women issue.
Allen Mickle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Keen Incite on February 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The goal of most who study the Bible is to dig out those timeless concepts that provide the truth and wisdom necessary to live a holy, joyful and obedient life in the eyes of God. Most of these concepts are easy to discern, however, there are some "borderline" concepts that have been the basis of disagreement among theologians. These disagreements usually center around whether a particular issue described in Scripture is culturally based, (meaning it applied to the culture in which it was written exclusively and therefore, no longer applicable to today's Christian,) or transcultural (meaning it applies at all times in all locations in any culture.) Christians have separated and established new denominations based on these disagreements - such as the Seventh-Day Adventist's insistence on Saturday worship and the Brethren Church's elevation of foot-washing to a sacrament. How can the typical Christian determine what aspects of Scripture are cultural and which are timeless?

William J. Webb's "Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermenuetics of Cultural Analysis" attempts to answer this very question. In this systematic and logically-tight text, Webb presents his argument for what he describes as a "redemptive hermeneutic" using 18 different criteria to determine the directional "redemptive flow" of Scripture on any given topic, thereby being able to determine what aspects are culturally-based and which are transcultural.

For each criterion, Webb uses what he describes as "neutral" issues (issues that have been settled in the Church, such as slavery,) as examples of how the criterion works. He then applies it to two issues still in contention today - women's place in the Church and the legitimacy of homosexuality.
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108 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Fred Jappe on March 5, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I Believe that Webb has done Christians a great service in writing this book. All of us have struggled with the knowledge that some Biblical passages are culturally dependent while others are Trans cultural. Prior to the publishing of this book, we did not have a good set of tools to resolve our questions. Webb helps solves that problem in this book. by giving us 18 criterion by which to analyze a Biblical passage to determine its cultural and Trans cultural components.
The book is remarkable in the thoroughness of its approach. Every verse dealing with the question of the role of women, slaves and homosexuals has been analyzed. I have taught New Testament at the college level for many years and learned a great deal from his approach. He showed great sensitivity to the question of the homosexual, yet, does not compromise the Biblical position.
I currently have a group of people from my church using this set of criterion on the topic of the death penalty. All are impressed with Webb?s high view of scripture and the usefulness of his approach.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Omelianchuk on August 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Perhaps the most interesting and most controversial book on biblical interpretation published in the last ten years is William J. Webb's Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. The austere title signals to the reader three subjects that have been the most debated in the last 200 years. And for good reason: all who make up those people groups have been marginalized and oppressed under those who supposedly hold the authority of scripture.

Webb takes seriously the intuitions of the modern reader who is rightly appalled after reading a text like Exodus 21:20-21:

"If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

What to make of such a barbaric practice, which appears to be sanctioned by the Bible? Webb's answer: read it from the slave's point of view. At the time it was written, this was seen as having a softening effect on the institution of slavery; under the Mosaic Law, slaveholders could not go beyond certain limits, specifically causing the death of their slave. Unlike the surrounding culture, which put no limits on slaveholders, this text has a `redemptive component' that moves the culture towards a better ethic, one that ultimately vindicates the abolition of slavery. Thus, to read the `words on the page' in isolation from their redemptive spirit and ethical movement is to misunderstand the text.

This raises the question of cultural analysis: how to go about it? By what criteria do we discern the cultural components of a text from the transcultural ones?
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100 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Michael N. Thomson on January 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Unlike the previous reviewer I find much to commend in this thoughtful book. He says the author departs from a grammatical-historical hermeneutic. That is an oxymoron... Grammatical and Historical are modes of exegesis, they give us some of the building blocks for understanding the text, but they are not a hermeneutic. The author provides a hermeneutic...which is a means of understanding and appropriating these texts. He argues, rightly I believe, that the New Testament leans in the way of renewal...this is its elan vital. Some of the material in the New Testament (and Old Testament) cultural. It won't do to say flippantly, if some is...what isn't cultural. In fact, the entire New Testament are cultural productions of their times...but some of the nitty gritty specifics cannot be read with a hermeneutic that remains static, as if we could transpose ourselves to the first century and live exactly as they did, because very quickly one is riddled with impossibilities and contradictions. In a flat reading, women are subjected, slavery is endorsed, and we get caught up in such questions as "head-coverings" and "foot washing" etc... With a reading that seeks to discern the direction, trajectory if you will, you can see why at times headcoverings were encouraged and women silenced and other times women encouraged to prophesy in the examining the overall direction of thought. Then, one uses a hermeneutic or mode of understanding, informed by this deeper level ... that allows us not to get caught up in the peripherals. Do we literally need to shake dust off our feet when someone rejects christian preaching? Do we literally need to great each other with a holy kiss? Do we literally castrate those who approach things legalistically (in Galatians)...if so, the gentleman whose review appeared before mine is in big trouble.
All in all, a good read!!!
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