The Subversive Gospel
ebook ∣ A New Testament Commentary of Liberation
By Tom Hanks
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What do the New Testament writers actually teach about (1) the poor, (2) women, and (3) sexual minorities? Why do traditional commentaries and introductions so often ignore or treat superficially such burning questions churches grapple with today? Must we seek out specialized monographs to get adequate information and satisfactory answers in each area? At last, in a single volume Tom Hanks brings together the fruit of decades of study, examining each New Testament book in each of these three crucial areas, which often overlap in human experience (Latin American male liberation theologians often forget that the "option for the poor" may involve solidarity with a lesbian of color who wants to be ordained!). Building on his pioneering study on oppression and poverty in Biblical theology (Orbis 1984; Wipf 2000) and his Anchor Bible Dictionary article on "Poverty" in the New Testament (which the New York Times review commended for its balance), Hanks analyzes the teaching of each New Testament book regarding the main cause of poverty (oppression) and the variety of liberating Christian responses. Feminist and womanist studies are mined to highlight the presence/absence and role/leadership of women in each New Testament book. The remarkable absence of modern notions of "family" and "family values" in the New Testament books is emphasized, along with the prominence of sexual minorities as authors and subjects of the New Testament books. L. William Countryman comments regarding the poor, women and sexual minorities: "Tom Hanks has brought these issues to the exegesis of the New Testament in a sustained and orderly fashion. He demonstrates beyond question that most of the New Testament authors were not interested in maintaining the household structures of the ancient Mediterranean and that, indeed, most of the individuals presented in the New Testament documents would not have seemed to be models of 'family values' either in their time or today....The works of Hanks and [Theodore W.] Jennings, with their detailed and careful argumentation, show that excellent work is being done in this vein. However surprising their conclusions may be to casual readers (or offensive to readers protecting what they conceive as orthodoxy), they are, in fact, deeply grounded in attentive scholarly work" (Dirt, Greed & Sex, Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007, p. 251-252).