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What Is A Contextualist Approach

Decent Essays
In “Scripture: Nourished by the Word (Catholic Basics: A Pastoral Ministry Series)” Ralph (2001) emphasises the importance of a contextualist approach when reading scripture. Firstly, this essay will discuss Ralph’s statement and outline the difference between a fundamental and contextual approach towards reading the Bible. Secondly, these different approaches will be demonstrated on three different examples: the Genesis’ creation accounts, the stories of miracles in the Gospel writings, and Jesus’ words towards his mother Mary just before his crucifixion. Finally, a conclusion is drawn on how a contextualist approach assists in gaining a better understanding of God.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches the use of a contextualist approach for
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Genesis 1-3 contains the creation story, so the origin of the earth. Describing events before human existence it cannot be a report of historical events. By definition, the creation story is a myth, as its topic is “beyond anyone’s experience or total understanding” (Ralph & Walters, 2001). To fully understand the story, one must consider the ancient context of the time Genesis was written. Documented after the Babylonian exile, the first creation story aims to re-establish the beliefs of the Israelites. While being held captive in Babylon, Judahites were confronted with beliefs opposing to their own. For instance, Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation story, displays the faith in a good spirit, but bad matter. On the contrary, Israelites believed in the goodness of all. Furthermore, Babylonians assumed that humans were, at their core, not good. Genesis was therefore written as a contrast to Enuma Elish, emphasising and reaffirming the Israelites’ believe of humans being good, because they were created in the image of God (Ralph & Walters, 2001). A fundamentalist point of view does not take the beliefs of the time into account. It is impossible to fully appreciate the distinct theology of Genesis without considering Enuma Elish and other ancient narratives. Another major distinction between a fundamentalist and contextualist interpretation of the first creation story is how the cultural setting of the author determines the narrative. Contextualists correctly understand that the origin of Sabbath is due to the workweek structure of the author’s society. Contrasting, fundamentalists presume that because the story presents God’s point of view, Sabbath must originate from God resting on the seventh day. Misinterpreting these details leads to misunderstanding the relationship between God and humans. God had to work through human authors to pass on knowledge and insight
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