This article explores the issue of the normativity of the Bible, particularly in view of the passages that are problematic from an ethical point of view: portraying the image of a violent God, the acceptance of slavery, the subordination of women. This question has become particularly pressing as a result of the historical-critical approach that aims at determining the original meaning of texts and limits this investigation to this historical meaning. While an examination of original and later historical meanings is crucial, the hermeneutical approach of Gadamer points to the need to recognise the specific horizon within which historians reconstruct the past. In this understanding the normative meaning of a text is not to be identified with a determinate and fixed original meaning of the past, but is the fruit of the ongoing interaction between understanding the meanings of the past and applying these to the present. The normative meanings emerge as present-day readers discern through all this an actualization that is “worthy of God” (Origen). Recalling the contributions by K. Stendahl, S. Schneiders, R. Bieringer, and J. Draper, together with a reflection on the Early Jewish and Christian approaches, opens fresh perspectives on an understanding of the normativity of the Bible in which the responsibility of the reader and of the reading communities is again more fully recognised.


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pp. 187-211
Launched on MUSE
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