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Milt Hankins: Try new perspectives on reading the Bible

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Have you thought about reading Bible stories from a different perspective -- forgetting for a few minutes your favored position, your bias, your customary way of reading the words without giving thought to those people who had life circumstances and experiences totally different from your own?

Consider, for example, reading the passage "You wives must submit to your husbands' leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the church...." (Ephesians 5:22-23aNASB) And, continuing, "But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:24NASB). Now try to think of these from the perspective of countless women who are being abused by their husbands? How to they deal with these verses?

Or, from the perspective of the child who is being abused by his father or mother: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)." (Ephesians 6:1)

I wonder how slaves felt when they read, "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)

Sometime, putting aside the common lessons and the customary exegesis of a passage, try putting yourself in the position, for example, of the Canaanite woman to whom Jesus said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." This woman, who so much believed that Jesus could heal her daughter, who had such great faith... being called "a dog" because she was not of "the house of Israel." (see Matthew 15:22-28)

Can we put ourselves in the shoes of the Samaritan woman at the well when we read that passage? (John 4:1-9) Are we so caught up by the words of Jesus, his writing in the sand, or the response of the Pharisees, that we forget to put ourselves, for a few moments, in the position of the woman who was taken in the act of adultery (which called for the death penalty) and thrown at Jesus's feet? (John 8:1-10) Was she married? Or was her unmentioned partner?

I could have selected many examples, but these will suffice.

My point is that we do ourselves and the Bible great disservice by skimming across these and other significant passages with the attitude that we "know the story;" when we have considered only our well-worn, well-digested interpretation.

Looking over this article, it suddenly occurred to me that all of the examples were situations experienced by women and children, situations related by men from the dominant masculine point of view. Not a single example in the New Testament, that I can recall, with the exception of Mary and Martha, is related from a woman's point of view.

Today, determined, courageous women are still trying to be heard!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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