Socio-political reading (2022)




Biblical Hermeneutics as we all know is the art and science of interpretation. The interpretation of the text can differ from one person to the others. And one can interpret the scripture according to his or her context. Besides that there are various kinds of approaches coming up on reading of the Bible. Meterialistic reading, Deconstruction reading, Autobiographical reading, Feminist reading etc. are few of them which spring up. Out of which socio-political reading is one of them. Therefore this paper will discuss in brief about socio-political reading of the scripture.



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Socio-political is the combination of social and political. We can also say that it is the way of life in the society and the politics. And with the combination of socio-political reading of the scripture we tend to mean the way one read the scripture according to the context of the way of living in the society. It means contextualizing the scripture in the context of the society and community.

It is often suggested that 'political readings' of Scripture are a recent invention, more especially of Marxist thought. Martin Luther's two-kingdom doctrine, which taught that the Church and the state occupied two quite different spheres of responsibility, and which was very much a response to his own political situation, paved the way for the privatization of religion, especially in pietism. Luther himself, however, did not hesitate to draw the most brutal political consequences from Scripture. Where sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestantism read the whole Bible as the word of God, pietism focused on the New Testament, and the soul's relation to Jesus. The political context of the Old Testament was thereby lost to view. By 1790, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke is telling us that politics and the pulpit 'have little agreement', a foretaste of countless angry protests when church leaders have criticized political policies.



Sarojini Nadar is a senior lecturer at the school of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZuluNatal (South Africa). She is also the Director of the Gender and Religion programme. She teaches Hebrew Bible and specializes in the area of Feminist hermeneutics. According to her view to be a socially engaged biblical scholar, it needs certain challenges and responsibilities. In examining the focus areas of the motivation of social engagement, the method of social engagement and the subsequent representation of social engagement, she tried to show the importance of hermeneutic of transformation. She focuses her reading of socio-political on the basis of the transformation of the community. She holds the view that the primary aim of socio-political reading is not only to change the academy but to change and transform the societies. The challenge which remains is to ensure that our work involves not only patronage, charity or an uncritical acceptance of the hidden transcript of resistance, but a genuine engagement with the community for social transformation.


David Bleich approaches his theory from different angle. His developing and his work is characterized by socio-literary and socio-political context of interests. Bleich’s work focuses on Subjective reading and on human subjectivity. In his book Subjective Criticism, he also share that reading processes are processes in which readers ‘re-symbolize’ and ‘contextualize’ the texts. He firmly emphasizes the creative role of community interests, goals, and epistemological assumptions in shaping or in determining how readers within a community read.

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In a recent doctoral dissertation Mark Labberton notices the coherence of such a general reader- oriented approach with the theological principle that reading biblical texts is an activity of the whole community ,including the ‘ordinary’ reader; not an exclusively activity. Bible reading embraces “Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.” Thus Bleich’s view is that one should read the scripture and try to contextualize the given text in order that the text can be understood according to the context of the society and community.



Liberation theologians and other scholars read scripture not to interpret differently but to change it according to the need and according to the context. The scripture should be read according to the context of the people. If the text is always read in social contexts that are dominated by certain interests, then the perspective of the poor may uniquely qualify them to find a message that eludes the affluent. Mesters acknowledge that in interpreting “from below” the emphasis is not placed on the texts meaning in itself but rather on the meaning the text has for people reading it. The primary text for Mesters is the community’s experience of life. It is precisely this emphasis on the socio-political location of the reader that prompts Thiselton to ask some hard questions of the hermeneutics of liberation. Thus the reading of the scripture should be varied and whether it is socially or politically, it should go in accordance with the line of the context reading. The scripture should be read from the angle of the society on how the situation or context of the mass shows. It should bring development and transformation for the community as a whole.



Reading from the socio-political perspective has to be understood in three levels along the lines of: author centered criticism, text centered criticism and the reader centered criticism. We will see in detail and in brief about the three perspective.

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6.1.Author Centered Criticism: Author centered criticism seeks to examine the original intention of the author, or seeks to bring out the world behind the text. Author centered criticism approaches the text, analysing it in its historical, cultural, geographical, religious, ideological and literary context. This considers the text as a product of author/editors, and the author/editors are the product of an age and so it pays attention to the above mentioned aspects. Without this there will be a fallacy of the absolute text; the fallacy of hypostasizing the text as an authorless entity. Author centered criticism is used to established the social world of the authors/editors in order to establish the worldview of the person behind the text. On the other hand if the worldview of the author is contesting the dominant worldview, it means that the author has placed him/her on the opposing spectrum of the society.

6.2. Text centered criticism: Text centered criticism studies the inner composition of the text and focuses on the world within the text, using the criteria of harmony and appropriateness to study the aesthetic value of the text under consideration.

6.3. Reader centered criticism: Reader centered criticism stresses the importance of the reader’s perception of the text, or the world in front of the text- the world of the reader.

Thus all the components, the author, the text and the reader would be placed in a socially, defined location called ‘margin’. The term margin is to be understood socially, politically and economically and not necessarily geographically. The location called margin will be defined by assessing the worldview of the author present in the text. This makes the text a meeting point of worldview of the reader and the author.

In the conclusion, the question which is placed before us is, how do we address the struggles of the society who are compelled to be integrated into the unifying identities of the dominant? This question is very important as we are surrounded by a number of ethnic conflicts that have ravaged the society, community in different parts of the world. Millions have lost their lives and displaced all over the world because of ethnic conflicts. Therefore the transformation of the community, society is really necessary. The point of our work is not only to change the academy but to change our societies. The challenge for us is our genuine engagement with the community for social transformation.

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What is socio/political study? ›

A socio-political analysis can be defined as a analysis of the social, political and economic factors that shape a particular environment and how these affect the lives and opinions of those who live within it.

What is an example of a sociopolitical? ›

An example of something that is sociopolitical is the issue of environmental conservation, which is influenced by both social attitudes towards "going green" and by political policies. Involving both social and political factors.

What does socio/political context mean? ›

In the field of multicultural education– and across the social sciences– the sociopolitical context refers to the laws, regulations, mandates, policies, practices, traditions, values, and beliefs that exist at the intersection of social life and political life.

What is socio/political criticism? ›

Sociopolitical criticism (also know as socioeconomic criticism or political readings) draws on the insights of Liberation criticism to explore oppression and the use of power and, unlike liberation criticism, it is often based in Europe and the U.S.A.

What are socio/political factors? ›

Hence, the sociopolitical factors can be defined herein as “factors with a significant social dimension (e.g., acceptance, opposition, etc.), which have either underlying social, economic, or political root causes and/or consequences within the social, economic or political spheres”.

How do you write a socio/political analysis paper? ›

Guidelines to Write a Political Essay
  1. Create an argument. Political essays often deal with normative issues. ...
  2. Develop a thesis. ...
  3. Apply theories learned in the course. ...
  4. Define your terms. ...
  5. Cite sources. ...
  6. Write an outline and several drafts.
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