Journal Article

Beyond Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Conservative Protestants and the Hermeneutic Interpretation of Scripture

John Bartkowski

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 57, issue 3, pages 259-272
Published in print January 1996 | ISSN: 1069-4404
e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712156
Beyond Biblical Literalism and Inerrancy: Conservative Protestants and the Hermeneutic Interpretation of Scripture

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This study highlights the limitations associated with sociological conceptualizations of “biblical literalism” and “biblical inerrancy,” and proposes an alternate theoretical model for illuminating conservative Protestant scriptural interpretations. In an effort to redress these conceptual limitations, I bring insights from the field of hermeneutics to bear on the literalism-inerrancy problem. Hermeneuticists maintain that a reader's interpretation of a text may be explained (1) by examining the presuppositions (or “prejudices”) which the reader brings to the text, and (2) by evaluating the circular process by which a reader imparts meaning to the text (i.e., the hermeneutic circle). After outlining the contours of the hermeneutic model of textual interpretation, I apply this model to explain contradictory scriptural interpretations advanced by leading conservative Protestants concerning (1) the concept of “submission” in conservative Christian marital relations, and (2) the role of corporal punishment in conservative Protestant parenting ideology. I conclude by specifying avenues for future research.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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