Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Snap: William Webb's "Corporal Punishment in the Bible"

Although this book's title indicates a focus on corporal punishment, it's much more than that: It's also a primer on reading the Bible contextually (read: not like a fundy, or a fundy atheist). Webb combines this with what he calls a "redemptive-movement approach" to certain Scriptures on punishment (which amounts to something I said elsewhere, indicating that the text should be understood as didactic in a "Martin Luther King" way, rather than a "Malcolm X" way).

In terms of the specific topic, Webb notes that Christian advocates of corporal punishment today, although they appeal to the Bible for support, are unwittingly already advocating such an approach, since they do not follow the text literally (save for some wacko fundy types). It's also not entirely about corporal punishment applied to children; it also deals with several texts that have to do with adult corporal punishment, with special focus comparing the Biblical prescriptions to other ANE prescriptions (something Paul Copan did a bit in his Is God a Moral Monster?). I was especially pleased that Webb verified my findings in an E-Block series that it was pro-slavery advocates in America who read the text in a "fundamentalist" way, and that he advocates pastors being better informed in contextual studies.

So, despite the title, the focus of this book is much broader and of much greater value than it seems. Highly recommended as a headache for fundies and fundy atheists alike.


  1. More from Webb? Most excellent. It'll be interesting to see how he builds upon his superb work in Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.

  2. It sounds like one to look out for.