Jan 24, 2012
Stephen Barton in arguing for the place of social-scientific perspectives in New Testament studies states,
"Once it is recognized that NT interpretation is a necessarily historical enterprise (whatever else it may be), then it is a short step to recognizing that other disciplines from the human sciences have a part to play as well, not least the social sciences. Conventionally, these include sociology, social (or cultural) anthropology, and psychology. These disciplines have the potential for throwing new light on the world behind the text (the world of the author), the world within the text (the narrated world of characters, intentions, and events), and the world in front of the text (the world of the reader).
"The main presupposition that underpins the use of the social sciences in NT interpretation is that the text of the NT is a product, not just of historical conditioning, but of social and cultural conditioning as well. To the extent that cultural factors and social forces played a part in the lives of the individuals and groups that produced the NT or to which the NT refers, sociological analysis is legitimate and necessary. If it is possible to write a social history of early Christianity using the NT as a prime source, is it not possible to engage in social-scientific analysis as well?"
Stephen C. Barton, "Historical Criticism and Social-Scientific Perspectives in New Testament Study," in Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation, 2nd ed., ed. Joel B. Green (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 40-41.