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Generational Curses in the Pentateuch

An American and Maasai Intercultural Analysis

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Beth E. Elness-Hanson

Although the demographics of World Christianity demonstrate a population shift to the Global South, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, the preponderance of biblical scholarship continues to be dominated by Western scholars in pursuit of their contextual questions that are influenced by an Enlightenment-oriented worldview. Unfortunately, nascent methodologies used to bridge this chasm often continue to marginalize indigenous voices. In contradistinction, Beth E. Elness-Hanson’s research challenges biblical scholars to engage stronger methods for dialogue with global voices, as well as encourages Majority World scholars to share their perspectives with the West.

Elness-Hanson’s fundamental question is: How do we more fully understand the “generational curses” in the Pentateuch? The phrase, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation,” appears four times in the Pentateuch: Exod 20:4–6; Exod 34:6–7; Num 14:18; and Deut 5:8–10. While generational curses remain prevalent within the Maasai worldview in East Africa, an Enlightenment-influenced worldview diminishes curses as a phenomenon. However, fuller understandings develop as we listen and learn from each other.

This research develops a theoretical framework from Hans-Georg Gadamer’s “fusion of horizons” and applies it through Ellen Herda’s anthropological protocol of “participatory inquiry.” The resulting dialogue with Maasai theologians in Tanzania, builds bridges of understanding across cultures. Elness-Hanson’s intercultural analysis of American and Maasai interpretations of the Pentateuchal texts on the generational curses demonstrates that intercultural dialogues increase understandings, which otherwise are limited by one worldview.

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Chapter Two: Theoretical Framework for Intercultural Hermeneutics

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CHAPTER TWO

Theoretical Framework for Intercultural Hermeneutics



Introduction

The lack of authentic models in intercultural biblical hermeneutics—or models which do not measure the “other” marginalized voice against an established Western interpretation—demonstrates the need for more thoughtful methods to engage other voices. This chapter begins with an overview of different intercultural approaches. Yet, each approach is more or less inadequate for the scope of primary question in this research, which will be identified. Next, the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer will be introduced with a description as to how his “fusion of horizons” has been incorporated as a theoretical framework for this research project. Each subsection dealing with Gadamer’s thought will conclude with how this pragmatically relates or can be integrated into intercultural hermeneutics. This is followed by a discussion of four key exponents of intercultural hermeneutics with identification of Gadamerian themes that resonate within their writings. This chapter closes with two brief discussions on multidimensional exegesis and speech-act theory. In summary, this chapter will provide core theoretical tools for the analysis in the subsequent chapters. ← 29 | 30 →

Overview of Intercultural Hermeneutics

To begin, I sample different methods utilized in intercultural hermeneutics. This reveals that authentically synthesizing scholarly or trained voices from distinctive cultural contexts are not prevalent. Often, for both Western and African theologians, after establishing a Western view using classical historical- and/or narrative-critical methodology, a non-Western view is compared and contrasted to...

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