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A Post Colonial Liberation Reading Of The Epistle To Philemon

2224 words - 9 pages

To read the texts of the Bible is to immerse oneself in a history, a history of events, and a history of understanding. As we open the pages of the canonical books, we are given a glimpse into the lives and issues of people many thousands of years ago and of the stories that have shaped the development of the church to the current day. At the same time, and following the call of 2 Timothy 3:16 , Christians take seriously what is written and reflect it into their own lives and realities, leading to interpretations and understandings of the text being applied in their own contexts. This application of biblical texts has, on many occasions, resulted in understandings and practices that, perhaps, undermine what is the true message the texts proclaim, an excellent example of this being the Epistle to Philemon in the New Testament. It is the purpose of this assignment to re-interpret this book of the bible, asking questions borne from a Post-Colonial liberation hermeneutic to show the deficit of traditional readings of this text and explore the role of hermeneutic in interpretation. This will be achieved through explaining the term hermeneutic and specifically the Post-Colonial hermeneutic this essay uses before surveying how the Epistle to Philemon has been interpreted and used historically. After this, we will explore the text through the lens of our hermeneutic, discussing how power and empire are spoken of in the text, the manner in which Paul undermines them and the underlying message expressed to the Church.

“We do not read the Bible the way it is; we read it the way we are.” This simple quote, made by Evelyn Uyemura, guides us in somewhat of a direction toward understanding the concept of hermeneutic. Within it lays the essential truth that our approach to the Bible, as with almost any text, is shaped by our own personal histories, worldviews, understandings, and expectations. All of these things shape what could be considered the naïve hermeneutic of all readers, that is, the unknown influencers of understanding that exist any time information is interpreted. Within the field of biblical scholarship, however, the term hermeneutic is more commonly applied to a set strategy of interpretation. This strategy involves exploring the text with a very specific agenda and set of questions in mind. For example, within a Feminist Hermeneutic, the interpreters primary focus are female characters, exploring how they are portrayed and critiquing interpretations which may have traditionally been used to suppress the rights of women in Christian communities. This essays use of the Post-Colonial Liberation hermeneutic functions in a very similar way to this. The primary focus of this hermeneutic are the characters on the margins, the ones without a voice in the literature. In addition to this, the way in which the text deals with concepts of empire in the form of power and authority as well as the actual apparatus’ of imperial rule are of...

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