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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.



Social, Political, and Ideological Criticism

Christopher Rowland

This essay explores ways in which ideological criticism may contribute to biblical studies. The discussion is rooted in the central role that the critique of ideology has within the Marxist tradition (McLellan 1987) and the ways in which that rich tradition of discussion can serve biblical exegesis and theology. I will give two specific examples of the way in which there has been a challenge to dominant ideologies. First of all, the emergence of liberationist hermeneutics (linked as it is with both feminist and ‘Black’ theologies; Rowland 1999) has posed questions to a dominant, ‘First World’, biblical hermeneutics and its idealist presuppositions, in which the history of ideas have taken precedence over their relationship to their social formation. Secondly, there have been throughout the history of Christianity alternative patterns of biblical interpretation, with different priorities and with the interests of readers, from below other than the élites of the day (West 1998). The essay closes with some consideration of the historical dimension of ideological criticism in which different doctrinal and practical priorities have emerged within readings of the Bible which have emerged apart from the dominant ideological contexts.

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