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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

Liberation Theology: Europe

Luise Schottroff

John Rogerson

By ‘liberation theology’ I understand theology that arises from the processes of liberation in social communities. The interpretation of the Bible from the perspective of liberation theology can be found in many countries of Europe. However, this article can only deal with the subject from a particular perspective: that of a West German feminist liberation theologian. A survey of European liberation theology has not yet been undertaken; neither is there any systematic account of liberation theology in the German context. Because there are no institutions through which liberation theology is organized there are scarcely any conferences dedicated to it, and the material is often ‘grey’ literature. Research into the history of liberation theology in Europe is badly needed.

Courtesy Martin-Luther-Kirche, Rottenburg am der Fulder.

Courtesy Continuum International Publishing Group, photo Hans Lachmann.

The term ‘liberation theology’ has its origins in the work of the liberation theologians of Latin America after which it came to be applied to the contextual theologies of other parts of the ‘two-thirds’ world. From here it can be connected with contextual theologies of the First World whether or not they actually regard themselves as liberation theologies. For a long time there was reluctance in the European context to use the term liberation theology for theologies of the First World, in order not to provoke the misunderstanding that it was possible in Europe to copy or to take over the liberation theology of Latin America and in this way to perpetuate European colonialism. For this reason many European theologians, such as Metz and Greinacher, prefer to use the terms ‘political’ theology or ‘prophetic’ theology for their work, or ‘theology of life’. On the other hand there are male and female theologians who deliberately use the term liberation theology in order to express their respect for and solidarity with the liberation theologians of the ‘two-thirds’ world, and to make clear that liberation theology is a world-wide religious movement. This is done, however, without relinquishing the connection to specific regional contexts. It is often argued that there can be no liberation theology in Europe because there are no base communities as in Latin America, and that it is necessary for such base communities to come into existence in Europe first. In what follows I shall none the less designate as liberation theology the work of those groups that have read the Bible in connection with specific movements of liberation and have worked for the liberation of people regardless of whether they have adopted the term liberation theology or not. The ‘Christian renewal movement’ (Tamayo), for example, can be regarded as an instance of European liberation theology and base communities. Basic structures similar to those of the liberation theology of the ‘two-thirds’ world can be recognized in European theologies and readings of the Bible that have arisen from praxis, whether they have been adopted from the ‘two- thirds’ world or not.

Instances of liberation theology readings of the Bible in West Germany since about 1965 can be mentioned here as examples. Of particular historical significance for liberation theology reading of the Bible in the European context is the ‘Political Night Prayer’ in Cologne (1968–72; the group began in 1966). An ecumenical group of about 40 people addressed contemporary political questions in the course of worship services of a hitherto unknown form. This group understood itself as a ‘new congregation’ which was separate from the local parish congregation. The services were based upon three steps: analysis, meditation, and orientation to praxis (information, meditation, action). Prayers and readings of the Bible therefore grew from the analysis of contemporary political injustice. Two examples can be given: the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on 20 August 1968 was, together with the United States war in Vietnam, analysed as genocide at a service on 1 October 1968 and at the same time was enlisted for the continuation of the western policy of détente. The first step of the analysis ended in the quotation of Matthew 5: 21 : ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.”’ With the heading ‘today these words mean’ they were interpreted as ‘those who think that it is only the communists who have let their masks drop and that the politics of détente is therefore false, make themselves guilty.’ The saying of Jesus was interpreted in terms of the political controversy so that the actor and the victim within the meaning of the biblical text received a name and address according to the situation of the community reading the Bible. The second example comes from the Credo of Dorothee Sölle that was recited at the same act of worship and which brought the charge of heresy against the night prayer in general and Dorothee Sölle in particular, from both the Catholic Vicar-General and the Bishop (Präses) of the Protestant church in Rhineland:

I believe in Jesus Christ who was right when he, an individual who like us could do nothing, worked for the transformation of all conditions and perished as a result. … I believe in Jesus Christ who is resurrected in our life in order that we should become free from prejudice and presumption, from anxiety and hate and that we should further his revolution. (D. Sölle and F. Steffensky, Politisches Nachtgebet, 27)

The Christology of this Credo understands the relationship to Christ not as a relationship from above to beneath, but sees Christ by and in those who pray. No distinction is made between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith although this distinction currently affects academic and popular theological discussions. Also, the relationship to the Jesus of history is understood as faith. The historical experiences of the life of Jesus are seen as analogous to the social experiences of the community of the present world. It is taken as given that it is possible to compare power, injustice, and work for justice in one's own situation with that of the epoch of Jesus and other epochs of history. The ‘political night prayers’ that were held in Cologne have enjoyed widespread influence, both in their forms of worship which combined political analysis with meditation and liberating praxis, and particularly in the use of the prayer texts of the night prayer.

Two books were particularly important for the liberation theology Bible readings in the middle 1970s: The Gospel in Solentiname (first volume translated into German in 1976) and Fernando Belo's Lecture matérialiste de l' Évangile de Marc which appeared in French in 1976 and in German in 1980. Both books were read in Christian political groups and the impulse that they gave was developed by these groups for their own work. In The Gospel in Solentiname Ernesto Cardenal recorded the conversations of the male and female peasants in Solentiname concerning the Bible during and after Holy Mass. In these conversations, centred on biblical texts, a connection was made between the social analysis of the experiences of the population of Nicaragua of poverty and oppression under the Somoza regime and the reading of biblical texts in their social-historical context. Teresita says in connection with Luke 1: 48 : ‘he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant’,

one must recognize that at the time when Mary called herself a servant or slave, slavery was the accepted state of affairs … Slavery still exists today but under another name. Today the slaves are the proletariat or the peasants. I believe that Mary therefore called herself a slave so as to show solidarity with the oppressed. Today she would perhaps have called herself a member of the proletariat or a peasant woman of Solentiname. (p. 30 )

From the point of view of European Christian biblical scholarship The Gospel in Solentiname was naïve. However, it opened up a new way into the Bible for theologically educated people who were working together in such groups as Third World solidarity groups. They discovered the vitality of the Bible read in a social-historical way, and they discovered that biblical hermeneutics can involve theoretical and practical reflections upon the social situation of the reader as a member of an affluent society. The poverty and oppression of the male and female peasants of Solentiname became a political and spiritual challenge to wealthy Christians in western Europe.

Courtesy Prof. Dr. Luise Schottrof.

The rediscovery of the power of the Bible in concrete political confrontations was also strongly affected by the ‘materialist reading’ deriving from French priests. Fernando Belo wrote a scholarly commentary on the Gospel of Mark in which social history at the time of the gospel and in the present was read with the help of a Marxist concept, and the actions of Jesus were described as actions with hands (the economy), feet (the path to the Kingdom of God), and eyes (opposing the ruling ideology). The concept of messianic praxis that was developed from this became the core of a ‘materialist ecclesiology’. The writings of Michel Clévenot popularized materialist readings of the Bible in wider circles: Approches matérialistes de la Bible (1976) and The Counter-Gospel of Anatole (1975, 1979). The materialist readings of the Bible were carried on above all by the new groups that came into existence under the title ‘Christians for Socialism’. This movement was founded, so far as Europe was concerned, in Bologna, Lyons, and Arnhem in Holland in 1973 in deliberate imitation of the ‘Christians for Socialism’ movement which was formed in 1970 during the elections in Chile and which soon had groups in the whole of Latin America. Books and lectures by the French Protestant Georges Casalis and the German Catholic Kuno Füssel enabled materialist reading of the Bible to be consolidated and extended.

In 1977 the ‘Heidelberg Working Group for Social-Historical Interpretation of the Bible’ was formed, a group in which biblical scholars, church workers, and members of the laity worked together on the social questions of their time. The biblical scholarship which several of the members carried out in the universities was no longer to be oriented to academic consensus and thus to an academic career, but was to be oriented towards the work of groups that were engaged for world-wide justice as in the 1980 World Council of Churches document Towards a Church in Solidarity with the Poor. The group did not call its work ‘materialist’. This was not in order to distance its work politically from the ‘lecture matérialiste’ but because the social-historical reading of the Bible was carried on from the scholarly point of view in the tradition of academic exegesis of the Bible in Germany (that of H. Gunkel's ‘Form Criticism’, the history of life and customs, and archaeology) and did not belong to the philosophical tradition of French structuralism from which the ‘lecture matérialiste’ derived. Instead, the social analysis was undertaken by this group in a pragmatic and biblically oriented way. Questions were posed which came from the tradition of Marxist analysis of class: questions concerning power, authority, and money, and freedom from this unjust system. The Bible was discovered as a social-historical source in its own right. The group was also involved from the outset in Jewish- Christian dialogue: it engaged critically with the stereotypes of Christian anti-Judaism, and was from the beginning involved with the feminist theological movement that arose at about the same time. The biblical interpretations of this group were taken up in many church groups that were working for justice and peace.

Through work on the Bible which several of its members presented at German Protestant Church conferences (Kirchentage) from 1981 onwards, this way of reading the Bible became more widely known in church circles. The group still exists and it is concerned, for example, with questions of financial markets and globalization.

Gamma/Frank Spooner Pictures.

The peace movement against the stationing of new American middle-range atomic weapons reached its high point in 1981–6, NATO having decided on 12 December 1979 to re-equip western Europe with US middle-range rockets. The movement initiated a sharp political debate which was taken seriously in many circles. This debate was at the same time a debate about the Bible and particularly the Sermon on the Mount and Christian identity. Dutch and German responses from the Reformed Church gave an uncompromising ‘no’ to atomic weapons as a command of Christian faith, which became a paradigm for more than just the Reformed Churches. The debate about the Sermon on the Mount touched on fundamental questions: should Christians base their actions on the Sermon on the Mount when social or national decisions are concerned, or is the Sermon on the Mount valid only for the private lives of individuals who accept that powerlessness is the right way for them personally? The spiritual strength of the peace movement expressed itself in services of worship often immediately outside the camps where the atomic rockets were stored, in isolated forests. Here, affected by the place where the service was being held and the efforts of those taking part in many forms of work for peace often without any explicit analysis of the political situation in the worship, the prayers and the psalms became the language of hope in a situation that suggested resignation. Those who took part in the services saw themselves as a congregation. The spiritual strength of these elements of worship also characterized the resistance of the citizens of the German Democratic Republic which contributed to the destruction of the wall between eastern Europe and the capitalist countries in 1989. There were hymns which used the same language in both the West German Peace Movement and the services of resistance in the GDR: ‘May God keep us, May God protect us and be with us on our ways. Be a fountain and bread in the desert, Be with us with your blessing’ (text, Eugen Eckert, 1985; melody Anders Ruuth, c.1968, ‘La Paz del Señor’). The peace movement was the point of departure for the ‘conciliar process’ in the context of Europe, which additionally brought about a broad anchoring of impulses from liberation theology in the churches.

Important places for liberation theology readings of the Bible were and are projects carried out by women who did not see themselves as feminist in the narrow sense, but who were often bound up in a personal way with the feminist-theological movement. Two such projects can be mentioned here; first, the women's boycott campaign ‘Do Not Buy Any Fruits of Apartheid 1977–1992’. The anti-racist decision of the World Council of Churches in 1969 had provoked a bitter controversy in the churches about the theological evaluation of racism as a sin, and the willingness for church finances to be used for the liberation struggle of non-whites. The women's boycott took up the cause of the movement for solidarity with the black population of South Africa in the context of the ecumenical programme against racism, and developed the politics of the shopping basket into an instrument of resistance from below, with implications for future forms of resistance. This movement also had its spiritual origins in joint services of supporter groups and their Bible readings.

The second project was, the Women's World Day of Prayer, whose history goes back to the nineteenth century. It is a movement of lay women from about 170 countries which spans confessional and national barriers. It sharpens awareness of the world-wide political situation and the particular context of those who pray, through the detailed information provided by those who have written the liturgy for that particular year concerning their regional situation. It is exemplary in its contextualization of faith and Bible reading, and as a spiritual workshop of women.

In the feminist-theological movement only some of the women explicitly regard themselves as feminist liberation theologians; nevertheless their actual interpretation of the Bible is strongly indebted to liberation theology. This expresses itself in the aim of the liberation of women, who must not be seen as isolated but as part of the overall liberation of men, women, and children from the structures of sexism but also of racism and economic and ecological exploitation. The connection with liberation theology expresses itself further in the methodological requirement of contextualization, and sometimes also in the requirement of a paradigm change in scholarship. The reception of feminist liberation theology from Latin America as well as other lands of the ‘two-thirds world’ increases with the awareness for the necessity of inter-cultural dialogues.

For the further development of European liberation theology and Bible reading, notice must be taken of Kairos Europa, which has developed ‘an alliance for the freedom from the dictatorship of the de-regulated global economy and its culture of competition’ (see the European Kairos document, 1998). Also, feminist liberation theology reading of the Bible will have an effect in the future in the work of the women of the European Society of Women in Theological Research.

The hermeneutical basis of liberation theology readings of the Bible in the context of Europe can be described as a structure which, in spite of the varying contexts and presuppositions of those who take part, is relatively homogeneous. In the first political night prayer in Cologne of 1 October 1968 it was affirmed that

in prayer, humans express themselves in the presence of God. They express themselves in their pain over the not-yet-present kingdom of God and they express their hope for the coming of this kingdom. … Christ took sides because he put himself on the side of truth and justice, and we will be recognized as his followers by taking the same stand.

Hope and taking a particular stand are regarded as vital steps in this reading of the Bible and they can be supported biblically from the gospels of the New Testament in particular. In the same way the orientation towards praxis of faith can be defended against the Lutheran charge of legalism. ‘When Jesus says “Go and do likewise” should that be regarded as being under the law? Are we not rather being given an example … in a demand that presupposes the ability to be free to live differently?’ (Sölle and Steffensky, Politisches Nachtgebet, 136). With this is bound the implication of a critical and new Christian anthropology as opposed to that of traditional Christian, and above all Lutheran, dogmatic theology. Sin is confused in Protestantism with weakness. ‘In fact by sin we understand neither individual personal matters that mostly have to do with the area of sexuality, nor that Protestant global feeling of powerlessness according to which we can do nothing in our own strength. … We are the collaborators of sin simply by the fact that we belong to the Northern rich world’ (ibid. 236). Also the challenge of the dualism of this world and of the world to come, in the hope in resurrection, is clearly formulated here (as in the Credo from Dorothee Sölle on 1 October 1968). The recognition that this hermeneutic is in contradiction to the predominant theology of the churches and universities becomes particularly clear. Dorothee Sölle has always worked out the hermeneutical structures of a European liberation theology in opposition to those of the predominant Christian theology and in connection with this has spoken of two ‘theologies’.

No dialogue between the two different theologies has taken place because the representatives of the predominant theology almost entirely ignore the new liberation theology in their own context and have not found it necessary to engage in dialogue with it because the impulses of liberation theology have no institutional anchoring. The unequal division of power relationships is expressed in this act of ignoring, and becomes obvious in the few written observations of those who represent the traditional theology. Eduard Lohse, for example, in an article published in 1981 has answered the ecumenical challenge of the poor churches to the rich churches with the observation that this challenge must be taken seriously and that the Western churches should be guided by the New Testament. The relevant New Testament passages, for example Matthew 5: 3 and Mark 10: 25 , are interpreted by him to mean that the rich should not set their hearts on riches but should give gladly and support the churches of the poor. He interprets Mark 10: 42 as follows: here one is reminded ‘in all sobriety that there exist in this world and will continue to exist power and authority, distress and need, wealth and poverty’ (p. 63 ). The social-historical book by Luise Schottroff and W. Stegemann, Jesus of Nazareth: Hope of the Poor (1978) and the Lecture matérialiste (he names Belo and Casalis) are dismissed by him as Marxist ideology and countered with the argument that these expositions of the New Testament do not really match the sense of the biblical words (p. 53 ). The defective hermeneutical awareness of this position expresses itself in the fact that historical-critical interpretation of the Bible as practised by the author and his colleagues is regarded as the only correct method. No attempt is made to question the presuppositions of his own interpretation. The certainty with which the almsgiving practice of the rich is insisted on as the only true interpretation of the Bible is at the same time an expression of the political power relationships between the First and the ‘two-thirds world’. The critical challenges from the ‘two-thirds world’ are handled with goodwill while at the same time it is asserted that their voices utter confused sounds (p. 52 ). The challenges to the exegesis and political praxis of wealthy theologians from the same context are dismissed with the anti-Communist argument (they are ‘ideology’) and the academic argument (they are not satisfactory scientifically). This article makes clear what is otherwise almost never openly documented in printed texts. Similar arguments have been used against all the groups and persons described so far in this essay, not in dialogues but in conversations with like-minded people between institutions (‘such people cannot expect to get a post in a university or a relevant invitation to academic conferences, etc.’). A limitation of academic awareness and a distancing from liberation theology praxis in one's own context is also a feature of the 1994 book by Thomas Schmeller. It shows that in the very place where at least Latin American liberation theology has made a breakthrough into the Western academic context it is not able to penetrate the barriers of the Western academic and political consensus. Schmeller simply denies that the ‘lecture matérialiste’ is liberation theology (p. 279 ). Here the strategy of established academic institutions becomes implicitly visible; it aims to make liberation theology invisible in one's own context in order to avoid raising social questions.

In the following outline of a liberation theology reading of the Bible two steps will be taken: taking key passages from the New Testament I shall place in juxta-position the outlines of traditional interpretation which I must always call the predominant one, and a liberation theology exposition from my perspective. I shall simply sketch the liberation theology interpretation without referring to particular references in order to make clear that this interpretation is anchored in the community of groups oriented to liberation theology and is not only the work of a particular person.

Matthew 5: 3 , ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’/Luke 6: 20 , ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’. The blessing of the poor and the criticism of the divine incompatibility of wealth (compare Mark 10: 25 ) are understood in the traditional Western exegesis, as has already been made clear, in the sense of the benevolence of the wealthy. Alternatively they are interpreted moralistically: only those who make wealth their sole aim distance themselves from God; wealth as such is not the problem. In the liberation theology interpretation God's bias for the poor is emphasized. God's action for justice begins with the ‘last’ (Matthew 20: 16 ). Justice is a process in which the poor of the world are placed in the centre. The ‘teaching office of the poor’ means, ‘that the poor pose the questions, for example about water’ (D. Sölle, Mystik und Widerstand, 353). The belief in God of the rich begins with listening to this question of the poor. The history of liberation theology interpretation of the Bible in Western contexts shows that the demand of the gospel of the poor is a stumbling-block in a particular way. The peace movement is concerned with issues that immediately affect the interests of the people of Western Europe. The liberation theology interpretation of the biblical message of peace has found a much broader basis than the gospel of the poor. It touches the political and economic identity of the Western world and causes anxiety about the (further) loss of prosperity. The gospel of the poor makes visible that injustice upon which the prosperity and might of the Western world is based.

The story of the disciples plucking ears of corn on the sabbath (Mark 2: 23–8 and parallels) is interpreted in the traditional exegesis in an anti-Jewish manner. Jesus brings freedom from the Sabbath and from the Jewish law that enslaves humankind. The freedom from law in the gospel confronts petty Pharisaic observance of the Sabbath and legalism: ‘the Sabbath was made for humankind’, while in Judaism ‘humankind was made for the Sabbath’. The hunger of the disciples of Jesus, which is the reason for plucking the ears of corn, appears simply as a convenient means of confrontation with Pharisaic or Jewish legalism. A liberation theology interpretation of the incident starts from the hunger of the disciples and with it that of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus. According to Mark 2: 23–8 and its parallels the Sabbath presumes that people will have had enough to eat when they praise God. The bodies of humans are a part of their relationship to God. Thus the violation of the Sabbath commandment is the expression of a need that is so great that it displaces the Sabbath. The Jewish interpretation of the law is positively utilized and it is assumed, in agreement with the Pharisees, that God in creation made the Sabbath for human beings. The liberation theology interpretation of the Bible in the German context has devoted considerable energy since its beginning in the 1970s to the critical revision of traditional Christian anti-Judaism and in co-operation with Jewish–Christian dialogue has also made it possible for wider church circles to become aware of this problem. I refer for this discussion here simply to an important and much read book by F. Crüsemann. Particularly influential was the vigorous debate among feminists over the anti-Judaism of the initial feminist biblical interpretation movement. In liberation theology interpretation of the Bible hope is understood as part of belief, and resignation as distancing from God. The hope of believers centres on the parables and pictures of the kingdom of God in the New Testament. The traditional Western idea of the kingdom of God, which comes from academic exegesis but has affected circles beyond that, spoke of a ‘delay in the parousia’ and the ‘mistake’ of the expectation of the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God on the part of Jesus and Paul. The kingdom of God became a subject for the study of religions and was no more a vital dimension of faith. In addition it was interpreted dualistically: we live in this world, the kingdom of God is a hope beyond this earth and death. For the political night prayers in Cologne a central part of faith was hope for the kingdom of God and joy that it was possible to work together in order to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The prayers and the hymns that arose in liberation theology working groups deal again and again with the nearness of God and the kingdom of God. ‘Nearness’ is not understood in the sense of a linear chronology, as in the concept of the delay of the parousia. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1: 15 and parallels) is a promise of the nearness of God that encourages and strengthens those who believe. ‘Nearness’ is a relational term and cannot be pressed into a time scheme. Naturally the eschatology of the New Testament contains elements of an apocalyptic myth which, as myth, has not become untrue but is true in the sense that poetry expresses truth. Jürgen Ebach has developed an important social historical account of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic in the context of liberation theology work.

The critical questions concerning Paul which have been widely discussed in the feminist theological movement have a pre-history in liberation theology and philosophy (Ernst Bloch). Paul has been criticized because of his texts that are oppressive to women. In 1 Corinthians 11: 2–16 the woman is not, like the man, called the image of God; there is a theologically based hierarchy of Christ–man–woman. He is also criticized because of his theology of the cross. According to this criticism his theology of the cross is an instrument that prevents the human race from taking responsibility for itself (thus Ernst Bloch) and which also prescribes for women the role of sacrifice. Here the deepest divisions between the insights of (feminist) liberation theology in the European/Western context and in Latin American liberation theology become apparent. In contemporary Latin America the experience of martyrdom and its Catholic piety, for example, in the stations of the cross, have made possible a positive view of the theology of the cross. In many circles of the feminist movement the theology of the cross has been particularly criticized. Meanwhile feminist and liberation theology discussion in the Western context has become more cautious and more often includes historical reflection on the social-historical context of the crucifixion of Jesus by representatives of the oppressive Pax Romana, as well as on the theology of the cross in early Christianity.

However, the criticism of Paul is only one side of the liberation theology dispute with Paul. Liberation theology anthropology with its criticism of the traditional Christian view of sin (see above), its concept of ‘structural sin’, and the social-historical research which has arisen in connection with liberation theology have led to a new engagement with Paul and a new theological evaluation of him. I can illustrate this new reading on the basis of Galatians 2: 16 :

we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

The traditional interpretation is as follows: on the basis of the works of the law ‘the Jew’ seeks justification before God. For this reason the law leads people into sin, namely to pious achievement which desires to gain salvation by human efforts and to break free from God or even reject him. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, God has acted on behalf of those who are caught up in this sin and has made the godless righteous. The law is now abrogated as a way of salvation. It now has significance for Christian belief only as an ethical tradition. The ‘ritual law’, above all circumcision, is no longer binding on Christians. The circumcision of non-Jewish Christian males brings them under the law and not to righteousness before God. The key for a new reading of the theology of Paul is the understanding of sin. Paul says nowhere that the desire of people to fulfil the law is sin. He says that all sin because all have broken the law, that is, they do not live according to the will of God (compare Romans 2: 17–24; 3: 9ff; 7: 14–25 ). It is the false way of living which destroys the life that God wills. The false way of life comes from structural sin whose power is omnipresent and which turns people into murderers. The death and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus indicate God's intervention on behalf of the life of an alienated humanity. Now we are free from the domination of false praxis. We are able ‘to walk in new life’ (Romans 6: 4 ), that is, to live according to the Torah. Paul represented rigorously the following standpoint: without belief in Christ, life according to the will of God, the Torah, is not possible. Most of the Jews of his time, assuming that they knew it, did not accept this standpoint, to Paul's sorrow. His standpoint, however, did not mean that he no longer regarded himself as a Jew. Here both the traditional anti-Jewish reading of Paul's view of the ‘the law’ and his anthropology and idea of sin can be seen in a completely new light. Paul thus becomes the advocate of a clear analysis of the death-dealing social structures of that time, and as a teacher of loyalty to the law.

Liberation theology reading of the Bible in the West European context arose from the work of the political night prayer, Third World solidarity groups, the peace movement, and the women's movement. It already has a long history. It has its roots in the life-and-death questions of Western society, in which Christians have worked together for the alteration of death-dealing structures. Their identification as liberation theology, which is not always made, corresponds, however, to their dialogue and solidarity with the ‘two-thirds world’, and their analysis which identifies Western power and Western prosperity as the cause of the poverty of the poor: world-wide and in their own country.

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