Original Research

The Bible and ethics: Pathways for dialogue

Volker Rabens
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2246 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2246 | © 2017 Volker Rabens | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 February 2017 | Published: 31 May 2017

About the author(s)

Volker Rabens, Faculty of Theology, University of Jena, Germany and Unit for Reformed Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa

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The potential relevance of biblical ethics for today is a contested issue. What is the significance of individual ethical texts of the Bible, and how – if at all – can they be dialogue partners for the ethical discourses of the 21st century? This article suggests and discusses a number of interpretative steps on the way towards a fruitful dialogue between the biblical text and contemporary concerns of religious-ethical life. After some introductory remarks on the use of the Bible in a Christian context, the article submits six different parameters of practical hermeneutics in two sections: 1. Text and culture; and 2. Text and canon. From the perspective of the parameter of canonical centrality, for example, it is argued that the biblical narrative of love, as it culminates in the gospel of Jesus Christ, stands out as a primus inter pares reference point for the dialogue between biblical ethics and ethics today. In the course of a nuanced discussion of these hermeneutical parameters, the article also provides a critical review of a number of alternative proposals on the relationship of the Bible and ethics.


Bible; ethics; hermeneutics; interpretation; application; contextualization; methodology; theology


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