The Jubilee in Leviticus 25 : a theological ethical interpretation from a South African perspective

Meyer, Esias Engelbertus (2004-04)

Thesis (D. Th.)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Jubilee year in Leviticus 25 has received a fair amount of attention towards the end of the previous millennium with the movements such as the Jubilee 2000, which campaigned for the remissions of debt in the so-called Third World. The text thus has a very liberating image and this is where the problem lies, because a critical reading of the text creates a far more oppressive picture. The question then becomes how the biblical critic is to respond, especially when she/he is sympathetic towards the objectives of the Jubilee 2000 movement. In this study it is argued that there is only one way to respond and that is to play the critical role that biblical scholars have always attempted to play. This means that it would be ethically irresponsible for biblical critics to shy away from exposing the oppressive sides of a biblical text. An ideological-critical approach is then proposed which attempts to construct the world-view or ideology that could be glimpsed from the text. This kind of reading is suspicious of what the biblical text claims and it further attempts to identify political and other interests in the text. An ideological critical reading also takes stock of the “ideological holdings” of the interpreter. In this regard the author argues that the history of Apartheid and specifically the way in which the Bible was used to legitimate Apartheid is one of his main ideological holdings that predisposes him to read in a certain manner. Leviticus 25 is then subjected to very close synchronic scrutiny. Firstly the most salient grammatical features of the text are identified and secondly it is asked how these features were used in order to persuade. This second reading is thus a kind of rhetorical reading that specifically focuses on ways in which the relationship between the addressees, the land, YHWH and other groups in the text is portrayed. This enables the author to describe the world-view or ideology of the authors and addressees of Leviticus 25. These same interests are also identified in some of the chapters surrounding chapter 25. Eventually this leads to dating the composition of this text in the Second Temple Period and it specifically identifies the interests of this text with those of the returning Elite. This interpretation presents the text as rather oppressive and instead of preventing poverty it actually reinstated poverty, which means that some dark sides of the text are exposed. The study is then concluded with some theological-ethical observations where it is reiterated that one of the tasks of the biblical critic is to give some voice to people that were voiceless in the biblical text. The study also shows that despite these dark sides to the text, there still is liberating potential in the Jubilee.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Jubeljaar in Levitikus 25 het veral aandag getrek aan die einde van die vorige millennium toe bewegings soos die “Jubilee 2000” beweging hulle beywer het vir die afskrywe van skuld in die sogenaamde Derde Wêreld. Die teks het dus ‘n “bevrydende beeld” en dit is juis waar die probleem lê, want ‘n kritiese lees van die teks skep ‘n baie meer verdrukkende prentjie. Die vraag is nou hoe die bybelwetenskaplike moet reageer, veral indien sy/hy die doelwitte van die Jubilee 2000 beweging ondersteun. Daar word dan in hierdie studie geargumenteer dat daar eintlik maar net een manier is waarop ‘n mens sou kon reageer en dit is deur die kritiese rol te speel wat bybelwetenskaplikes nog altyd nagestreef het. Dit beteken dat dit eties onverantwoordelik sou wees om weg te skram van die verdrukkende kante van ‘n bybelse teks. ‘n Ideologiekritiese benadering word dan voorgestel wat poog om die wêreldbeeld of ideologie te konstrueer wat ‘n mens in die teks sou kon bespeur. Hierdie soort lesing staan redelik agterdogtig teenoor wat die teks beweer en poog dan om politieke en ander belange in die teks te identifiseer. So ‘n ideologie-kritiese lees poog ook om die “ideologiese erfenis” van die interpreteerder te verwoord. In hierdie opsig argumenteer die outeur dat die geskiedenis van Apartheid en veral die manier waarop die Bybel gebruik is om dit te legitimeer een van sy ideologiese erfenisse is wat aanleiding daartoe gee dat hy op ‘n bepaalde manier lees. Levitikus 25 word dan onder ‘n deeglike sinkroniese loep geneem. Eerstens word die mees uitstaande grammatikale kenmerke van die teks geïdentifiseer en tweedens word gevra hoe hierdie kenmerke gebruik sou kon word om te oortuig. Hierdie tweede lesing is ‘n soort retoriese lesing wat spesifiek fokus op hoe die verhouding tussen die aangespreektes, die land, YHWH en ander groepe in die teks uitgebeeld word. Dit stel die outeur in staat om die wêreldbeeld of ideologie van die skrywers en aangespreektes te omskryf. Hierdie selfde belange word dan ook in die omringende teks van hoofstuk 25 geïdentifiseer. Uiteindelik word die komposisie van hierdie teks in die Tweede Tempeltydperk gedateer en word die belange in die teks verbind met die belange van die terugkerende hoërklas. Hierdie interpretasie stel dan die teks as redelik verdrukkend voor en in plaas daarvan dat dit armoed teengewerk het, het dit armoede teweeggebring wat natuurlik beteken dat donker kante van die teks blootgelê word. Die studie sluit dan af met ‘n paar teologieseetiese waarnemings waar dit weereens beklemtoon word dat een van die take van die bybelwetenskaplike juis is om ‘n stem te gee aan die mense wat in die antieke teks stemloos was. Die studie wys ook uit dat daar ten spyte van hierdie moontlike donker kante van die teks daar tog nog bevrydende potensiaal in die Jubeljaar is.

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