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A Plea for the Historical-Narrative Hermeneutic: A Critical Examination of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s, “By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life”

A Plea for the Historical-Narrative Hermeneutic: A Critical Examination of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s, “By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life”

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Published by B.E. Lewis
A Plea for the Historical-Narrative Hermeneutic: A Critical Examination of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s, “By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life”
A Plea for the Historical-Narrative Hermeneutic: A Critical Examination of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s, “By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life”

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Published by: B.E. Lewis on Oct 19, 2012
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Bryan E. LewisDIV2503, Hebrew BibleDr. Douglas A. Knight10/15/2012
A Plea for the Historical-Narrative Hermeneutic
A Critical Examination of Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s, “By the Rivers of Babylon:Exile as a Way of Life”
 
In her lengthy chapter, "By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life," Dr.Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz (March 22, 1943 – May 13, 2012) argues for the "theology of liberation." This is no surprise, since she is [was] a Hispanic women's liberationtheologian. For her, Psalm 137 is a way to deal with the sorrow that comes with her beinga refugee after the Cuban Missile crisis. Her theology, as she admits, is shaped by her experiences; and her biblical hermeneutics, has as its core presupposition, "binomialoppression-liberation."
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By this, she insists on creating what I regard as a
tangiblemodern relevance
for the text by relating Psalm 137 to modern issues of social justice for the oppressed, poor, minority, marginalized, and those who have been taken advantage of through socio-political, economic, and religious tyranny. For her, these are all modernforms of exile.Dr. Isasi-Diaz’s primary presuppositions that influence her work are easy tolocate, because she makes them known in this chapter. In her analysis, scientific exegesis,a form of historical-criticism, is inadequate in answering the questions raised by commonlaity. Mainly, because it fails to answer the particular question she is seeking, i.e., what
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Segovia, Fernando F., and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz. "By the Rivers of Babylon: Exile as a Way of Life."
 In Reading from this place. Volume 1.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. 154.
 
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does a particular biblical text mean for us today? Thus, she seeks to find a tangiblemodern relevance for the text through her own experience; thus, making a modernapplication of ancient Israel’s exile, as a form of oppression.Moreover, professor Isasi-Diaz postulates that the "meaning of every text is foundin the relationship that is created between the reader, the writer, and the text."
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Thus, shesuggest that one's "hermeneutics will ultimately influence what the text is understood tohave meant and to mean today."
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I am inclined to agree with that point. However, thisdoes not necessarily mean that the hermeneutical relationship that is ultimately created isalways the one that has the original writer’s intent in mind. To assume this would allowfor multiple meanings of the given text not intended by the original writer. Instead, Iwould argue that when one’s hermeneutic is used without any regard for the historicalcontext; it severely perverts the original author's intended meaning. Furthermore, a morecrucial point that needs to be made is that when one’s hermeneutic is bent on separatingthe continuity of meaning from its original context in an effort to find a tangible modernrelevance for laity, it likewise, severely perverts the original author's intended meaning.Before I set forward what I believe is a better solution to this problem, allow meto begin by setting forth my own hermeneutical presuppositions. They are “historical-narrative”
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in nature. First, I am fully committed to a historical-narrative hermeneuticalapproach, i.e., an approach that seeks to only uncover the original intentions of theauthors by always considering the historical context of a given text. Therefore, my firstand foremost presupposition is that no text can be properly understood apart from its
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Ibid., 151.
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Ibid., 151.
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A term and method used by Andrew Perriman in his book,
The Coming of the Son of Man: NewTestament Eschatology for an Emerging Church
. Milton Keynes, U.K.: Paternoster, 2005. Other scholarssuch as, N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight have set forth a similar hermeneutic.
 
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historical context. Secondly, I am faithful to this method without the tendency to separatethe text’s meaning from the narrative whole. Both theologians and biblical scholarsacknowledge the importance of historical context, but many are bent on breaking with theoriginal narrative in an effort to find a tangible
 
modern meaning or application.Unfortunately, this is done in an attempt to fulfill the need to find relevance for today.Likewise, this is done, because since the enlightenment, there has existed an antagonistic battle between theologically-bent hermeneutics and historical-critical approaches, an ideathat history and theology are antithetical to each other.Moreover, another one of my presuppositions is that I see both the Hebrew Bibleand the New Testament as a narrative whole. The Hebrew Bible's narrative continues intothe New Testament. This is evident by the various Hebrew Bible allusions, use of inclusio (a literary device common in the Hebrew Bible), and quotes found in the NewTestament. Thus, I see continuity of purpose from Genesis through Revelation.Finally, I am committed to a reconstruction of the historical Jesus that paints himas an apocalyptic prophet, one whose concern was primarily for the “restoration andredemption of ancient Israel.”
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Therefore, I give prominence to placing Jesus within hisJudean culture, within the first-century and second-temple Judaism.With this in mind, we can discuss further what exactly I see in the historical-narrative hermeneutic. As already mentioned, I view a hermeneutical approach that isfully committed to the historical context of a given text, but is not bent on separating thenarrative meaning. It rejects the idea that says, "What a text meant during the writers timemay not be what it means for us today." Instead, it argues for a narrative connection
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An argument set forth by E.P. Sanders in his book,
 Jesus and Judaism
. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.Also by N.T. Wright in his book 
 , Jesus and the Victory of God 
. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

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