What liberties do we have for interpreting Scripture? Some suggest the social sciences are needed to help explain (or enhance) Scripture. These include anthropology and sociology for the most part. Can these be used to interpret Scripture? What is the danger, if any, in using these disciplines? If we use these disciplines we seem to be saying Scripture is not sufficient…that it has holes thus needing some help. I bring this up because almost every thing I read these days seems to use these sciences in some form or fashion.
Let me give an example that was given to me. This particular example deals with the understanding of honor and shame within first century Palestine. These are two critical areas needed to understand the culture of that time. With these in mind, someone should go to the Gospels now and see how they work out in Scripture.
The example that was given included one of the many encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. This was suppose to reveal a need for understanding honor and shame to enhance my understanding of Scripture. I was told that Jesus always “won” the argument thus gaining honor. The Pharisees always “lost” the argument thus gaining shame (i.e. losing face). Through Jesus’ gifted reasoning and cleverness he won these debates. This is, supposedly, a theme in the Gospels.
I have yet to see the point of this example. In fact, I think it misses the point. I believe it to be very easy to be lost in the woods of the social sciences and miss the meaning of the Scriptures.
I have no intention of giving every detail in this post about defining honor and shame or what the point of the encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. I only write this post to point out and ask your opinion on using the social sciences for interpretation. Just for the record, I believe that Scripture is sufficient and the social sciences are not needed. What do you think reader?