Green - Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics

Joel B. Green - Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics

Joel B. Green - Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011. – 912 p.
ISBN 978-1-4412-3998-3
Forty years ago, when James M. Gustafson surveyed the state of the discipline in Christian ethics, he called attention to the relation of Christian ethics and biblical studies and lamented the “paucity of material that relates the two areas in a scholarly way” (Gustafson 337). Many echoed Gustafson’s complaint, both from within Christian ethics and from within biblical studies. The complaint prompted the development of a considerable literature, as both moral theologians and biblical scholars attempted to relate Scripture and ethics “in a scholarly way.” Whatever else may be lamented about scholarly attention to the relation of Scripture and ethics, one can no longer lament a “paucity of material.”
The growth of this literature is one reason for the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics. Students need a reference tool that will survey the literature and provide an introduction to the ethics of Scripture, to the relevance of Scripture to contemporary moral questions, and to the paths by which one might make a way from ethics to Scripture and back again. Pastors need a reference tool that will survey the relation of Scripture and ethics in a way relevant to their tasks of preaching, teaching, and counseling. And specialists in biblical studies or in Christian ethics who want to enter a conversation with the specialists in the other discipline need a reference tool that will provide an account of particular features of the other discipline that are especially relevant to the conversation between disciplines.
A second reason for compiling the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, however, is that for all the scholarly attention to the relation of Scripture and ethics, it remains a labyrinth. Among some, and for a variety of reasons, the study of Scripture has little, if anything, to contribute to the study of moral theology. There are biblical scholars who regard it as no part of the task of their discipline to form or inform the way Christians understand and embody Scripture. And there are Christian ethicists who regard the biblical text as at best marginally important to the ways in which Christian ethics should be undertaken. On the other hand, there are some who regard the Bible as a timeless moral code that simply needs to be repeated and obeyed today. For still others, the biblical witness may be relevant today, but the trail from ancient Scripture to contemporary moral questions is an arduous one, best left to those who are experts on that trail, to a scholarly or ecclesiastical magisterium. And for yet others, including many scholars, the complexities and language of one discipline or the other make a meaningful conversation difficult, if not impossible.
* * *
Induced abortion (as opposed to spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage) is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy through the destruction and/or removal of the embryo or fetus.
Because recent discussion of abortion, even in the church, has almost universally considered it a political issue addressed within the framework of rights, the first task of Christian ethics is to make the question a truly theological and ecclesial one (Bauerschmidt; Hauerwas), reframing it within the fundamental scriptural framework of covenant faithfulness, or discipleship. How should being a baptized community of faith, hope, and love in Christ shape the way Christians approach abortion?
Recent theological approaches to abortion are parallel to the three traditional theological perspectives on war, though they are major areas on a spectrum, not precisely fixed points. (1) The position that sometimes designates itself “pro-life” or “right-to-life” is similar to the pacifist position, arguing that abortion is (perhaps with rare exceptions) unethical. Unlike pacifism, however, this position sometimes depends on asserting the innocence of the embryo/fetus. (2) The “justifiable abortion” position, existing in various forms (e.g., Steffen), resembles the just-war tradition: abortion is tragic but justified in certain circumstances. The criteria can relate to the status of the fetus/embryo (e.g., deformity, nonviability, threat to the woman’s health) or to the situation of the pregnant woman (e.g., forced pregnancy; economic, emotional, or physical distress). Unlike just-war theory, the just-abortion argument usually recognizes the satisfaction of one criterion as sufficient rather than requiring the satisfaction of multiple criteria. (3) A third position—“pro-choice,” “procreative choice,” or “abortion rights” (e.g., Harrison)—is similar to the holy-war tradition in seeing the agent as sacred and capable of making a free, responsible decision without providing formal justification.
One cause of these various views is Scripture’s apparent silence on the issue. This can lead to certain erroneous or misguided claims: that abortion was unknown in antiquity; that Scripture should have no role in the abortion debate; that Jews and Christians cannot formulate a robust position on the issue; or that Scripture’s silence necessarily implies divine neutrality or approval, and that the faith community should follow suit.
The silence also leads people to look for texts to support their position. Abortion opponents often quote “choose life” (Deut. 30:19). They also appeal to texts about God’s creation and call in the womb (Ps. 139:13–14a; Isa. 44:1–2; Jer. 1:5) and about fetal activity (Luke 1:41, 44) to argue that Scripture considers the embryo/fetus to be God’s direct creation and indeed a human being. Those who disagree respond that, biblically, the embryo/fetus is akin to property that can be damaged (Exod. 21:22–23), and that human life does not begin until the first breath (Gen. 2:7). Each side accuses the other of prooftexting.
Some interpreters, recognizing the impasse created by appeals to such texts, have looked to broader scriptural themes for an implicit position on abortion or a framework for considering it. Abortion opponents have argued that scriptural themes such as creation as divine gift, the summons to welcome children, and the vision of shalom (part of a “consistent ethic of life”) validate their position. Supporters of abortion/choice have argued for the voluntary and relational character of covenants in the Bible and stressed divine grace and forgiveness for poor decisions. They have also appealed to stewardship of creation and to choice (“choose life”), the former accenting human responsibility, the latter human freedom and liberation.
Critics of stewardship as justification for abortion have argued, however, that biblical stewardship does not include the deliberate destruction of creation, especially of human, or even potentially human, life. And critics of human freedom as justification for abortion point out that scriptural freedom is not absolute, that what is chosen is crucial. Moreover, they contend, liberation in Scripture is freedom from false deities, ideologies, and values, and freedom for joyful, bonded, covenantal service to God and others.
One significant aspect of the discussion is the witness of early Judaism (e.g., Sibylline Oracles, Philo, Josephus) and early Christianity against abortion, despite its absence from the Scriptures that have come down to us. (Rabbinic literature would permit abortion to save the woman’s life.) Certain scriptural images and themes, including some noted above, shaped the symbolic world of Jews and then Christians; opposition to abortion, exposure, and infanticide became an ethical boundary marker for both groups in their pagan cultures. In explaining the biblical summons to love of neighbor, both Did. 2.2 and Barn. 19.5 (ca. 95–135) say, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion.” Subsequent Christian writers echo the prohibition and treat the unborn as “the object of God’s care” (Athenagoras, Plea 35) (see Bonner; Gorman, Abortion).
This historical witness demonstrates that Scripture can have a key role in the abortion debate even if exegesis alone, still less prooftexting, is insufficient. A hermeneutic is needed that recognizes the difficulty of the issue, expresses pastoral sensitivity, and preserves the basic requirements of covenant faithfulness. Recent work on metathemes in the Bible’s moral vision, individual and corporate baptismal identity, virtue ethics, narrative, and analogy may provide a way forward.
Richard Hays suggests that the NT’s central themes of cross, community, and new creation compel us to reframe abortion so that a problem pregnancy is not merely about an individual’s decision. Rather, it is an occasion for the church to act together in generous, Christlike, sacrificial love to embrace the pregnant woman and her child in utero with spiritual and tangible support. Believers constitute one body (1 Cor. 12)—indeed, a family—and are called to bear one another’s burdens (Rom. 12:5; Gal. 6:2). Such a view does not, however, eliminate personal responsibility, for the believer’s body is not his or her own but God’s, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19–20). It is the locus and means of self-giving love for God and others (Rom. 6; 12:1–2).
Related to the communal and familial images is the overarching biblical motif of care for the needy (e.g., Matt. 25), including the widow and the orphan (Ps. 82:3–4; Jas. 1:27). The call to protect and provide for the vulnerable may be applied, by analogy, to the situation of both the woman and the developing child. Thus, a text that numerous ethicists (e.g., Bauerschmidt; O’Donovan; Hays) have seen as significant for the church’s response to abortion is the parable of the good Samaritan. The attempt to identify the status of the other (“Who is my neighbor?”) may imply that the inquirer desires to define certain others in such a way that they are incapable of placing a moral demand on the inquirer. Jesus transforms the question about the identity of the neighbor into a summons to actually be a neighbor. Analogously, the contemporary question of the personhood (“neighbor-hood”) of the embryo/fetus should perhaps be reconstituted first of all as a question about the meaning of being a neighbor to the other(s) in need, both those already born and those not yet born. Furthermore, the parable suggests that when the question of identity or status is transformed, the summons to “go and do likewise” requires Jesus’ disciples to be engaged in creative and potentially costly forms of community and ministry, and thus to recognize the neighbor by being a neighbor.
The result is an ethic of cruciform hospitality practiced by those baptized into the master story of Christ (Bauerschmidt; Hays; Stallsworth). Although this approach may not resolve every difficult case, it suggests that the relationship between Scripture and abortion is fundamentally about what kind of community of faith, hope, and love is needed for women and children, seen and unseen, to be welcomed into that community and into the world.
See also Adoption; Birth Control; Body; Children; Family Planning; Infanticide; Procreation; Sanctity of Human Life
Bauerschmidt, F. “Being Baptized: Bodies and Abortion.” Pages 250–62 in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, ed. S. Hauerwas and S. Wells. Blackwell, 2004; Bonner, G. “Abortion and Early Christian Thought.” Pages 93–122 in Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life, ed. J. Channer. Paternoster, 1985; Channer, J., ed. Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life. Paternoster, 1985; Gorman, M. Abortion and the Early Church. Wipf & Stock, 1998; idem, “Scripture, History, and Authority in a Christian View of Abortion: A Response to Paul Simmons.” ChrBio 2 (1996): 83–96; Gorman, M., and A. Brooks. Holy Abortion? A Theological Critique of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Wipf & Stock, 2003; Harrison, B. Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion. Beacon Press, 1983; Hauerwas, S. “Abortion: Why the Arguments Fail.” Pages 295–318 in Abortion: A Reader, ed. L. Steffen. Pilgrim Press, 1996; Hays, R. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, and New Creation; A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, 444–61; John Paul II. The Gospel of Life. Random House, 1995; Johnston, G. Abortion from the Religious and Moral Perspective: An Annotated Bibliography. Prager, 2003; O’Donovan, O. “Again: Who Is a Person?” Pages 125–37 in Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life, ed. J. Channer. Paternoster, 1985; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “Prayerfully Pro-Choice: Resources for Worship.”; Schlossberg, T., and E. Achtemeier. Not My Own: Abortion and the Marks of the Church. Eerdmans, 1995; Simmons, P. “Biblical Authority and the Not-So Strange Silence of Scripture.” ChrBio 2 (1996): 66–82; Stallsworth, P., ed. The Church and Abortion. Abingdon, 1993; Steffen, L. Life/Choice: The Theory of Just Abortion. Wipf & Stock, 2000.
Michael J. Gorman
Crime and Criminal Justice
The Bible has much to say about crime and criminal justice, and what it says has obvious importance for Christian ethical reflection on the subject. But there are considerable complexities in appraising and appropriating the biblical witness.
One immediate difficulty is that criminal legislation in the OT is diverse and scattered. The various criminal codes undoubtedly reflect growth and development over time and reveal the impact of changing historical circumstances. It is also the case that legal outcomes recorded in the narrative literature of the Bible do not always correspond with outcomes specified in the relevant laws. This is partly because biblical law is not legislation in the modern sense; it is a compilation of representative legal problems from which guidelines could be derived for specific cases, not a body of hard-and-fast regulations that cover every eventuality. Judges were guided by oral precedent and individual circumstance as well as by written stipulations. The imperative was to “pursue justice and only justice,” not simply to apply the written word woodenly (Deut. 16:18–20; 17:8–13).
The theoretical basis of the biblical legal system is also quite different from that of the modern Western world. Modern law distinguishes between torts and crimes as well as between civil and criminal jurisdictions. These distinctions are not evident in biblical law. Similarly, in modern law what makes a particular act a crime is that it violates a specific law, instigated by the state, that prohibits the act and that prescribes a penalty for its commission. The deed is classified as criminal because it is considered to be an offense against the community as a whole, with society acting collectively through its institutional mechanisms to repress the behavior. In biblical law, by contrast, responsibility for prosecuting offenses typically rested with the victim or the victim’s family rather than with a public body. The courts regulated appropriate forms of recompense depending on the degree of moral culpability involved and the nature of the harm inflicted, but the initiative rested with the injured party.
Where victims suffered pecuniary losses or material damages, they were entitled to full restitution (Exod. 21:33–36; 22:5–6; Lev. 24:18, 21), plus varying levels of compensation if the offense involved theft or deliberate misappropriation (Exod. 22:1, 4, 7, 9; Lev. 6:1–7; Num. 5:5–8; Prov. 6:30–31). Financial reparation was also considered appropriate for some interpersonal offenses (Exod. 21:22; 22:16–17; Deut. 22:29; Lev. 19:20). For more serious and intentional bodily harms, such as wounding or homicide, victims were entitled to pursue personal vengeance, though they might accept a ransom in lieu of retaliation (Exod. 21:28–32; cf. 2 Sam. 12:13; 14:11). In these cases, the lex talionis governed the level of repayment that could be exacted: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod. 21:20–25; Lev. 24:19–22; Deut. 19:18–21; cf. Gen. 9:5–6). This dramatic formula expresses, with maximum memorability, the basic judicial principle of proportionality: the penalty exacted must not patently exceed the injury inflicted (cf. Gen. 4:23–24).
In cases of culpable homicide, the “life for life” provision was intended literally (Gen. 9:5–6; Exod. 21:12; Lev. 24:21; Num. 35:31). As well as underscoring the unique value of human life, the principle ruled out vicarious or collective punishments that might trigger spiraling blood feuds between families or clans (Deut. 24:16; 2 Kgs. 14:6; Ezek. 18:1–32). Responsibility for carrying out the death sentence rested, in the first instance, with the victim’s avenging kinsman, “the redeemer of blood” (Num. 35:19; Deut. 19:12), though others might sometimes act in his stead (2 Sam. 4:11). In instances of lesser physical injuries, the “like for like” statements in the lex talionis typically were understood to mandate not actual physical mutilation but compensation of equivalent financial (or moral) value to the loss suffered (cf. Exod. 21:18–25; Deut. 19:15–21). Notwithstanding its vivid concrete language, therefore, the lex talionis represented a canon of proportionate restitution, not a sanctioning of imitative retribution.
In general terms, capital crimes were considered a stain on the entire community, a defiling of the land, and an occasion of collective responsibility before God (Lev. 18:26–28; 26:3–45; Deut. 19:10; 21:1–9). It was as if certain crimes produced a kind of environmental pollution that might spread contagiously unless the offender was “cut off” from the community by death or exile (Exod. 31:14–15; Lev. 7:2; 18:7–29). The whole community—“all Israel”—participated in punishing the offender (Lev. 24:14–16, 23; Num. 15:35–36; Deut. 17:7; 21:21; Josh. 7:25; 1 Kgs. 12:18; 2 Chr. 10:18), thereby physically removing and symbolically purging the source of contamination from its midst.
This highlights another important distinction between biblical law and modern law: crime in the Bible is considered to be a transgression against God, not simply an offense against the secular state. The law is given directly by God, so that to violate any of the law’s commandments is to sin against the lawgiver (Ps. 51:1, 4). Law and morality are one. The law’s stipulations, moreover, apply equally to everyone in the community, regardless of class or social status (Exod. 23:2–3; Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16–17; 24:17–18). In other ancient Near Eastern legal collections it was the king or state that promulgated the law, and the social status of the parties and the economic impact of certain behaviors played a determinative role in evaluating harms and allocating penalties.
The religious grounding of biblical law is particularly visible in the criminalizing of a range of distinctively religious behaviors, such as blasphemy, sorcery, idolatry, breach of the Sabbath, and various cultic transgressions. These rank among the most serious forms of criminal wrongdoing, carrying the death penalty. The probable reason why certain sexual activities, such as adultery, also attracted severe punishment of both parties is that they too were considered to be an abomination to God, not simply a violation of the husband’s rights (Gen. 20:6; 39:9).
In considering the nature and content of biblical criminal law, it is important to remember the pedagogical purpose of biblical law. The law was addressed to the entire covenant people (Deut. 29:10–12), not just to the legal establishment, and the religious rationale given for proscribing certain behaviors (e.g., Lev. 19:13–14; 33–37), and the gradation of penalties that attached to them, were intended to inculcate certain values, priorities, and ideals into the mind of the community. It is here that the significance of biblical criminal law for contemporary Christian ethics is mainly to be found. The death penalty was intended to mark out certain behaviors as especially serious, even though death was by no means invariably exacted. Instructively, the death penalty is never imposed for violating property rights, but only for crimes against persons and for deliberate breaches of loyalty to God. This underscores the unique value attached in the Bible to human life and relationships above property and possessions, and to the absolute necessity of Israel maintaining its exclusive devotion to God.
The NT does not contain its own corpus of criminal laws. Its frequent, though largely incidental, references to criminal justice matters are predominantly reflective of prevailing Jewish and Roman legal practice, which it often views in a critical light. Yet NT teaching on justice, love, and forgiveness furnishes the indispensable yardstick for assessing the relevance and application of OT criminal legislation today.
See also Capital Punishment; Justice, Restorative; Justice, Retributive; Law; Law, Civil and Criminal; Punishment
Drapkin, I. Crime and Punishment in the Ancient World. Lexington, 1989; Gorringe, T. God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence, and the Rhetoric of Salvation. CSIR 9. Cambridge University Press, 1996; Jones, M. Criminals of the Bible: Twenty-five Case Studies of Biblical Crimes and Outlaws. FaithWalk, 2006; Marshall, C. Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime and Punishment. Eerdmans, 2001; idem. The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice. Good Books, 2005; Mendelsohn, S. The Criminal Jurisprudence of the Jews. Sepher-Hermon, 1991; Wenham, G. “Law and the Legal System in the Old Testament.” Pages 24–52 in Law, Morality, and the Bible: A Symposium, ed. B. Kaye and G. Wenham. InterVarsity, 1978; Wright, C. Walking in the Ways of the Lord: The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament. InterVarsity, 1995.
Christopher Marshall


Благодарю сайт за публикацию: 

Ваша оценка: Нет Average: 10 (1 vote)
Аватар пользователя brat Vadim