RELG-455 Senior Inquiry

Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2-2016


Biblical Studies | Christianity | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Religion

Description, Abstract, or Artist's Statement

This paper examines the relationships between and the complexities within biblical inspiration, interpretation, and authority and how they might contribute to liberating and oppressive uses of the Bible. For an example of an oppressive interpretation, the introduction includes a brief case study concerning the interpretive history of 1 Corinthians 11:10 and 1 Timothy 2:12. Continuing, David Law’s book, Inspiration, serves as the main source for theories of inspiration. He discusses two categories of theories—word-centered and non-verbal—and provides his own theory which locates inspiration in relationship between the text and the reader. In response to Law, this paper centralizes around the argument, using Philip Esler's idea, that biblical inspiration should be viewed as humans writing in response to an interaction with the divine. However, the definition of inspiration is not the biggest problem: the use of the "divine authority" of inspiration to oppress is the crux of the issue. The root of the oppressive use of biblical texts is the social context of the readers and writers. Hans-George Gadamer’s Truth and Method provides the foundation for discussing the social context within hermeneutics, specifically with the continuation of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of the pre-conceptions of the reader. Gadamer argues that the preconceptions of readers cause them to extract differing meanings from the text. One deeply problematic preconception of both the readers and writers of biblical texts, stemming from their social contexts, is the inherent inferiority of females. Using Esler's model for biblical interpretation and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza's Democratizing Biblical Studies, I argue that Christians, and humans in general, must call each other out on oppressive interpretations and actions in order to establish analliance in which all humans, especially those who are oppressed have a voice and are treated with the dignity, love, and respect which all humans require.


This is the full-length version of my Senior Inquiry project. I presented an abridged version of the paper at the Midwest American Academy of Religion.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.