Social Sciences and the New Testament

Dietmar Neufeld

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Social Sciences and the New Testament


Social-scientific criticism is the stage in the exegetical process that brings scrutiny to bear on the religious, geographical, historical, economic, social codes, and cultural values operative within the world of early Christianity. It does so by utilizing the perspectives, theories, and models generated by the social sciences. Broadly defined, social-scientific criticism approaches the texts of the New Testament from the viewpoint that meaning in language is embedded in a social system that is shared and understood by speakers, hearers, and readers in the communication process. It investigates the social features of the form and content of the texts along with the factors that gave shape to them. It seeks to discover the intended consequences of the communication process. It looks for complementary relationships between the texts linguistic, literary, ideological, and social dimensions—each of which contributes to a proper analysis and understanding of the texts of the New Testament. Social-scientific criticism investigates the manner of textual communication—that texts were strategically designed for effective social interaction that had social, literary, and theological consequence. Most significantly, it seeks to isolate the social data embedded in texts and constructs models that simplify and systematize the data for comparative purposes. Models of social phenomena such as kinship and family, honor and shame, patronage and clientage, collectivism, social status, limited good, evil eye, purity and pollution, ritual, gender and sexuality, landscape and spatiality, ancient economies, healing and health, and social memory permit the careful examination of these issues in biblical texts in socially significant ways.

Article.  10630 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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