Item description for Family in the Bible: Exploring Customs, Culture, and Context by Richard S. Hess & M. Daniel Carroll R....
Overview Biblical scholars from around the world survey the Bible, summarize the theology of family that emerges, and discuss its contemporary relevance.
Publishers Description What does the Bible say about the importance of the family? How can we apply these ancient perspectives to modern Christian life? The essays gathered in this volume provide reflections from leading biblical scholars. The authors focus on reading the Scriptures from the perspective of the authors in ancient Israelite society and the surrounding cultures. They find there an overarching sense of the central role the family played in the larger social structure. However different our contemporary culture might be, these reflections can form the basis of an evangelical vision of the family informed by a biblical worldview.
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Richard S. Hess (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado, and editor of the Denver Journal. He is the author or editor of more than forty books, including Ancient Israel's History, Israelite Religions, and Song of Songs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms.
Richard S. Hess currently resides in the state of Colorado.
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The Family System and Structure of Ancient Israel Jun 28, 2006
Introduction: The book of Family in the Bible represents the appreciation of the role of the family as the central unit of the early Israel society. Each of the contributors analyzes and evaluates the diversity of customs and family life in light of contemporary cultures and related passages to make the Bible come alive. Hess and Carroll with an insight into editing this compact and timely useful book must be a great benefit to the readers.
(1) Family in the Pentateuch Wenham argues against the misinterpretation of Gen 2:18 & 24 by Western and Nigerian scholars. He declares that a man should be responsible for his wife's welfare prior to care for his parents because his love for his wife resembles Christ's love for the church (Eph 5.) In ancient Israel society, genealogy determined individual careers, land holding, and other living conditions. Individuals belonged to, relied upon, and were responsible for a father's house, a clan, a tribe, a people, Israel, and God. It was different from modem society where everyone is supposed to be equal, independent, democratic, self-satisfied, self- fulfilling, and free to choose his/her own way of life without permanent attachments to others. The patriarch, who had the ultimate authority over all his family members, carried out the process of family decision-making. Other than this, as Philo indicates that the head of household must be responsible for safety of his whole family. God created Eve for Adam and denoted marriage more than a device for procreation. It implies the divine approval of heterosexual monogamy. Although many were defiled by sin, grace triumphed in families. God never nullified His promise for Abraham, and so the patriarchs sought peace and harmony within and without the families. Descendants should follow their patriarchs' examples of showing forgiveness and seeking reconciliation. However, the son also had the primary duty to care for his widowed mother who lived in "widow's quarters, which was an excellent norm of ancient Israel family. This is what the Bible has emphasized but neglected by our society nowadays. Sanatoriums replace the "widow's quarters," most of modern families tend to send the elderly away to the rest home and hospice, helplessly at the death door far from their own flesh and blood. 1 Tim 5:4, therefore, is a necessary complement to Wenham, "If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God's sight."
(2) Family in the Non-narrative Sections of the Pentateuch Sanchez concentrates on the book of Deuteronomy concerning the family as the place for learning and for living the biblical faith. Home becomes the center of evangelization, humanization, and liberation. He infers that God created the family as a plurality of man, woman, and child in His image. The family implies tribe, clan, and house/father's house that functioned as a kinship group and as a family household. The purpose of formulating laws was to maintain the family as the foundation of God's people and to prevent it from the influence of economic changes, pagan beliefs, and foreign culture. The value of laws included the unity, health, and purity of the extended family. There were laws of levirate, taboos of liaisons, and regulations of divorce, slavery, and the return of property to defend consanguine and a final kin, the integrity of the family, and justice and peace in the community. Israelites must remember the trial of "yesterday" to rectify it "today" and prepare for "tomorrow" and the future. With homiletic approach and pedagogical dialogue, parents explained laws and taught the new generation how to love for, and submit to God. From Sanchez and from Deut 6:4-5, we admit that family as a teaching place is still important to us today. We need to teach children how to discern between the knowledge of God and fictional theology, fallacious interpretation of Scripture, and fake gods. The church should be constructed from the family cells to serve all families. Sanchez's findings were different from that of other ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian who trained children at home, preparing them for the actions and attitudes that will make them a successful official of that state. Unfortunately, most families in the modern society would rather follow other Near East conventions than ancient Israelite tradition. As "fame and gain" become the purpose of family education, so "wealth or social position" is the greatest thing parents expect for their children to achieve. Family would not be a place for learning and for living the biblical faith any longer. Home seldom becomes the center of evangelization. The shortcoming of family pedagogy, the ignorance of instruction in the word of God reflects on the church activities that prefer clubbable to biblical. God commands children to honor father and mother, while they are responsible for the family religious well-being (Deut 4:9; 6:7,) but our X and Y generations and their modern parents all take it for out-of-date.
(3) Family in the Historical Books: Tsumura stresses the positive concern about families in the Book of Joshua. In ancient Canaan, the family represented its entire extended members, including all the descendants of a single living ancestor in a single lineage, the families of their servants, and other resident aliens, except married daughters. In the ancient Near East, a son would inherit his father's profession, land, heir, and even eldest son's fratriarch, but Judges and prophets were not hereditary, except Samuel's two sons. The property was inalienable and forbidden to be sold to those outside the family. The father, who was a patriarch usually engaged in local civic matters as one of the elders of the community, had authority over and responsibility for the family members. Tsumura uses the examples of Ruth, Solomon, and David to explain levirate marriage, property redemption, and to emphasize the curse on polygamy, especially in marriage with foreign wives. In the Near East, kings protected the widows and orphans, but in the northern kingdom, Ahaz and Manasseh even cruelly practiced child sacrifice. In the Historical Books, some great leaders were not good fathers. Eli and Samuel were the eminent cases. Tsumura omits the most famous example in Josh 2:12-13 that Rahab demonstrated her faith not only by protecting the spies (Heb. 11:31; Jas 2:25) but also by showing concern for her family's safety and become God's people to serve the one true God of Israel instead of being enslaved to the Canaanites' vile and degrading idolatry. In a family, the death of a husband or son was most miserable. Therefore, the funeral and caring for the family of the dead was important, but ancestral worship was abominable. Biblical principles and the basic needs of the family in the postmodern society were the same as that in the Old Testament era. We Christians have both an earthly family and a heavenly family, which are beyond physical and cultural concerns. The Chinese traditional family was very close to that of ancient Israelite. Several hundreds extended family members found in an autographical masterpiece, The Ream of Red Chamber, first published in 1791 (Ching Dynasty.) The novel is more than a mere family chronicle; it offers a panoramic view of an entire civilization that was similar to Israelite patriarchal community. However, Chinese traditional family system and family ethics were based on the combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism so that the ancestry worship and polygamy were encouraged. This is one of the reasons that Christianity is tardy for China.
(4) Family in the Wisdom Literature In addition to the Book of Proverbs, Longman includes Ecclesiastes, Job, and even the Song of Songs among the Wisdom Literature. Proverbs presents observation, advice, warnings, and guidance to our biblical lives. Wisdom is called emotional intelligence because it stresses skill more than intellectual knowledge. Proverbs gives the principles of general truth to be applied at specific time and circumstance, but it is not law. From which, Longman suggests five principles of family life in general and the parents-child relationship in particular, and five instructions in the wife-husband relationship. He launches into Ecclesiastes and Job to argue that Proverbs lays the foundation for us to understand wisdom, but Ecclesiastes and Job keep us from "overreading" it. When Qohelet ambivalently sought to give solace of family in the midst of hardship and vanity, the wise man canonically instructed his son to go beyond Qohelet's speech and to fear God and keep His commandments. The Song of Songs reveals the will of God from genuine intimacy of love, not only between a man and his maiden, but also between God and His people. Wisdom applies of God's will to the core of life; then the family can be strong and cohesive, the husband, wife, and children can support one another to live up to biblical life, but now in our society, in contrary to Longman's conclusion, the beatitude of marriage and family are almost destroyed by the numerous cases of divorce and abortion. Furthermore, the excess norms of Gay and Lesbian even make a fool of the Wisdom Literature.
(5) Family in 11w Prophetic Literature According to Carroll, many passages of the Prophetic Literature that relate to the families are usually in the negative, especially, in the view of feminists. This is because the extended family structure of ancient Israel and its traditional faith, ritual, and ethical mores are different from today's society, and because the prophets seriously condemned Israelites' idolatry and immoral behavior. Although they had much constructive welfare such as the mutual help of kinship, the levirate law, the release of slaves, properties, and debts in the Sabbatical year and Jubilee, they failed in training them to be a distinct people under God. The spheres of the moral life and religious belief with its practices were inseparable; the contribution of the extended family was finally gone with its irresponsibility and lack of ethics before Yahweh. However, the metaphors based on the family still are positive models to us. The extended family offered the metaphors for intimate communication with Yahweh, which we can learn today. This includes the parents-child/daughter, husband-wife, and Kinsman/redeemer-family members/properties. With these personal and passionate relationships, Yahweh really will edify and mold us into a good family life.
(6) Family in the Gospels and Acts Westrall indicates that Jesus' teaching explicitly strengthened the family and valued children highly. Jesus emphasized monogamy and fidelity in marriage; on the other hand, He opposed adultery, divorce, incest, abortion, and infanticide. By contrast, Westrall disapproves the shortcoming of Greco-Roman culture and family life. She stresses the teaching of Jesus and the interpretation of related passages in the Four Gospels and Acts. She focuses on the value and importance of children, honoring parents, the relationship between father and son, the priority of discipleship, Kingdom recognition and its relationship, family duties, and the costly religion and family ties. She also illustrates why Jesus relativized His family and why He criticized the bad customs of the traditional Jewish family. After her patient explication of many significant verses in the Four Gospel and Acts, Westrall concludes that Jesus' teachings on the family confronted cultural abuses and formed a basis for the change of society and the growth of the church. We now face more problems than Jesus' contemporaries did and we need to grasp His salvation through our family ties, and to apply to His kingdom relationships as a top priority.
(7) Family in the Epistles Porter acknowledges that the Greek word for family in Eph 3:15 is only once used in the Epistles. However, it means like social groupings under the authority of the Heavenly Father, and is beyond the definition of earthy family. He examines the literary, figurative, and metaphorical meaning of house, household, the household faith, and the household of God. Then, through the Roman law, he opens up the "family and kingship terms" in the Epistles that allude to various family situations. He concentrates on the "language of father/children and brothers/sisters" that has been widely used in the epistles as the figurative and metaphorical family way in the religious community to show intimate relationships with God and other believers. Sparing no efforts, Porter argues against Esler's inappropriate interpretation of those terms. He illustrates the "slave and master language" within God's family. He refutes Brown's supposition that Paul uses "slave of God" as a technical term to refer to himself. Finally, he answers the question as to how slavery to be redeemed and become sonship with God.
Conclusion: From starting with the biblical family to survey the related topics in the Bible is particularly pertinent to the readers. It gives us a new concept to understand the family system and structure of ancient Israel, and a new prospective from which to apply the word of God to daily family life. This book precisely gathers up the cognitive, effective, and theological meaning of familial ethics and morals to draw our attention that we may avoid what is unsuitable for us, and may learn what is normative or helpful to us. However, the postmodern feminists and liberation theologians still criticize the defects of Israel's patriarchal society. Much more than mentioned in this book, they raise the "voices from the margin," in which they blame that "certain texts have consequently been helped up as biblical principles to prove that women's marginalization is natural in daily life." Besides, Derrida's deconstruction theory is a challenge to biblical scholarship. They even dispute that Qohelet's confident affirmation in Ecclesiastes is "a Utopian phrase." Although Bird advocates that the Old Testament is written by males from a society dominated by males, she admits, "Christian faith without the Bible is unthinkable" because the "loss of community is also critical for women who reject a patriarchal Bible and the religious community that bears it." I hope that the benefit of this book would go beyond all different critiques.
A biblical view of family Apr 6, 2005
In this volume seven experts deal with seven areas: the family in the Pentateuch, in the non-narrative sections, in the historical books, in the wisdom literature, in the prophetic literature, in the Gospels and Acts, and in the epistles. Together they provide a comprehensive account of the biblical understanding of the family.
Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham begins the discussion with the important early chapters of Genesis, where God's ideal for the family is first laid out. He notes that in Genesis 2, the divine intention is clearly set out, with the provision of one man and one woman for life as the ideal.
And in contrast to contemporary life, belonging to a family was seen as the highest good for an individual. Indeed, there were no free-floating individuals in ancient Israelite society. One's place in the world was determined by belonging to one's family. The wellbeing of an individual depended on the wellbeing of the family.
In the prophetic literature, there is a lot of information on family . Much of it is negative: families allowing worship of idols and unethical lifestyles, and so on. The injustice and oppression of Israel and Judah are often couched in terms of how families are affected. Thus the prophets railed against economic injustices which broke up the family unit, decimated ancestral family lands, caused debt servitude, etc.
But there is also a positive side. And this comes by way of images of God which draw on the realm of family life. That God so often chooses to express himself by way of these family images shows the importance of marriage and family. Thus a number of rich metaphors of God's relationship with Israel are highlighted, all drawing on the theme of the extended family.
One is the description of God as father. The parent-child relationship is often highlighted, either by referring to God as father, or by referring to Israel as son or daughter, or people or children. Indeed, sometimes (albeit rarely) God is spoken of as a mother as well.
Another family term used is that of husband. God is pictured as married to Israel, and Israel is described as sometimes being the delight of God, or a vexation to God, depending on Israel's faithfulness or lack thereof to Yahweh. A final term that can be mentioned is that of kinsman redeemer. Just as a family member could help to redeem a family member or property sold off into slavery because of debt, so too God acted as a redeemer of Israel, paying the price for her spiritual impoverishment.
When we come to the New Testament, we find a similar high regard for families. Jesus however did put family relationships in their proper context. The focus of Jesus' teaching was not primarily on social or family relationships as such, but the kingdom of God. However, that did not mean that Jesus was against the family. He put family in its proper place, in terms of discipleship and the purposes of the kingdom.
As one writer puts it, "Jesus chose his disciples and taught them and the crowds about discipleship, he relativized the priority of family without being antifamily."
While the demands of Jesus sometimes set one family member against another, it also needs to be kept in mind that the main means by which the early faith spread was through family connections. Thus the emphasis on household salvation, found especially in the book of Acts.
In the New Testament epistles the term family is used rarely, but many family images abound. A key concept would be that of the church as the bride of Christ. That of adoption as sons is another familiar metaphor used.
Then there are the so-called household codes, which are detailed in such places as Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 and 1 Peter 2-3. Extensive discussion of the relationships among family members highlight the importance given to this institution.
In sum, all of Scripture offers a continuity as to the significant place of marriage and family. Different emphasis may arise, but the overall thrust of the biblical record is that family life is affirmed and encouraged throughout. This book attempts to show the vital importance and central role of the family in society according to the biblical worldview. It is an important contribution towards that end.
A new standard text. Mar 25, 2005
The title of this concise book says it all. Coming from an evangelical orientation, the collection of essays in this book on the family focus on (no pun intended) the depiction of the family in the varied times and contexts of the biblical canon. While the book itself is not organized thematically-there are, logically, two parts: Part 1: Family in the Old Testament, and Part 2: Family in the New Testament-some of the contributing writers do approach their treatment thematically. The chapters provide responsible reviews of the biblical content when it pertains to families, describing, but also interpreting, the ways that the family is understood in the section of the Bible under review. The family, as a social unit, is presented in the cultural contexts of the grand scope of the ever-evolving biblical worldviews in the canon. The writing is impressively tight, consistently so, allowing for a rich biblical background resource in a short 175 pages.
Some will undoubtedly be disappointed at a lack of an overall definitive statement about what the Bible has to say about families today-in social, political, ecclesial, or theological contexts. Only one contributor to the volume strays long enough from the biblical evidence to address at any length issues related to, for example, feminist interpretations of the family in scripture. In fact, in the one chapter that a contributor attempted to provide implications for the contemporary family, the statements come across as an overreach of the text and its message. The editors seem content to allow the treatment on the family to remain focused in the text and its context. As such, the conclusions offered in most chapters are short on interpretation and implications for the contemporary family. For those needing more, this may lead to an assumption that the Bible has nothing to say about families for the contemporary world. But that would be a misunderstanding of both the intent and message of this book.
This is a worthy contribution to both biblical studies and fields whose main concern is the family and its place and role in society. The editorial light touch has ensured that the contributors' personal voices contribute to the uniqueness and richness of this work. This is important, given the varied backgrounds of the writers, including England, Canada, Costa Rica, Japan, as well as the United States. This will become a standard work for every academic library.