The study of the family in the classical period is gaining momentum and continues to engage amongst others, biblical scholars. This mounting interest by biblical critics is indicative of the fact that the family as reality and imagery could be a hermeneutical procedure and methodology through which the Gospels and other New Testament texts and message could be interpreted. The researcher has chosen the Roman, Jewish, African and New Testament families to substantiate this assertion. The contribution of the social-scientific scholars to an understanding of how the family could be utilised as a paradigm in biblical criticism, is the first aspect to be stated and discussed. Their major thrust as far as the family is concerned is that the New Testament is both a reflection of and a response to the social and cultural setting in which the text was produced. Therefore, meanings explicit and implicit in the text are determined by the social and cultural systems inhabited by both authors and intended readers. The researcher goes beyond the contribution of the Western and North American scholars by postulating what he calls the African social-descriptive approach. It is an attempt to appropriate the results of the social-scientific biblical critics from an African perspective. It is therefore, contended that the concept and experience of the African family is closer to the narratological symbolic world of the Gospels during the Graeco-Roman era. As a result, the New Testament message can be proclaimed and interpreted in the context of the cultural milieu already experienced in Africa. Concerning the Roman and Jewish families, it is asserted that when Christianity entered these cultures, a negotiation of meaning was necessary. To the Romans the Christian faith was to a large extent presented in a language of something valued by the Romans, the family. Whatever the obstacles in other respects to accepting the new religion, the Romans would find the Christian symbolism of the family recognisable and intellectually comprehensible. They would therefore, understand something new, Christianity by means of something old, the family. The Jewish tradition was also indelibly interwoven into family life. Although at that time the Gentile converts were welcomed, Palestine Judaism remained fundamentally an ethnic tradition fostering a conception and praxis of religion, which was bound up with Jewish ethnic identity. The family symbolism in the Gospels had much affinity with the Old Testament. For instance, God as the Father had converted Israel from a barren couple (Abraham and Sarah) and adopted them as his own. The New Testament message of the church as a family consisting of those redeemed and born in God's family was not to be new to the Jews. The New Testament perspectives of family is also discussed by referring to the synoptic gospels and John. These New Testament writers use many analogies to describe the nature and identity of the church. One of the most common analogies was that Jesus came and altered the existing conceptions and experience of family ties. Those he called his disciples, the propagators of the post-Easter faith subordinated their natural family ties in order for them to be with Him and to be engaged in his mission for the sake of the gospel. They obeyed Jesus, even at the cost of household based security and identity - the family. In line with the New Testament family, the African family values are brought to the fore. The two are compared and contrasted. The areas of convergence are indicative of the fact that the New Testament could be appropriated in an African family context. There are also differences. These dissimilarities illustrate that the New Testament can impact the family values in compliance with the biblical text and message. The research closes with a suggestion that at the threshold of the new millennium, where the family institution is tremendously under stress, the New Testament family is an ideal model.
Thesis (PhD (NT Studies))--University of Pretoria, 2007.