Whakapapa (genealogy), a hermeneutical framework for reading biblical texts: A Māori woman encounters rape and violence in Judges 19-21.

Author: Moana Hall

Hall, Moana, 2017 Whakapapa (genealogy), a hermeneutical framework for reading biblical texts: A Māori woman encounters rape and violence in Judges 19-21., Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis weaves together a reading framework drawn from the worldview of indigenous Māori to read biblical texts. To date Māori voices have been either silent or rarely heard within biblical scholarship so there is an urgent need for Māori to construct and apply ways of reading the bible.

This project develops a Māori hermeneutical framework that proffers a new reading strategy drawn deep from within te āo Māori (the Māori world). By employing the reader-response criticism of Wolfgang Iser (1926-2007) and Stanley Fish this thesis situates a kaupapa Māori (Māori protocol) and mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) within the landscape of biblical scholarship, thereby allowing a Māori reading tool to emerge. The interpretative tool, whakapapa (genealogy), is then applied to Judges 19-21, a difficult text in which biblical scholars have struggled to find God.

Using the metaphor of weaving, multiple textures, approaches, theories, values and beliefs, are gathered, discussed, and synthesized to develop a whakapapa (genealogy) hermeneutic drawn from a Māori view of the world. One of the special features of this hermeneutic is its five different characteristics, which are used in the interpretation process: classifying; narrating; including; reciting; and analysing. These tools interactively explore the world of the implied author, the world of the text and the world of the present reader. The reading framework also uses five Māori elements that are intrinsically linked to whakapapa, namely i) atuatanga (knowing of God), ii) kaitiakitanga (stewardship), iii) mauri (life principle) and iv) tapu (sacred) and noa (ordinary/free from tapu).

The biblical text I have chosen to apply the hermeneutic of whakapapa to is Judges 19-21. This choice of text is deliberate because, according to Phyllis Trible, it is one of the most disturbing texts in the Hebrew Bible.1 Every time I have looked at scholarly readings of this text the focus seems to rest on the namelessness and voicelessness of the characters and the invisibility of the Divine. I have been disturbed by such interpretive themes because they feel foreign to my way of reading.

Reading Judges 19-21 as a Māori woman through the lens of whakapapa (genealogy) the characters in the text prove not to be nameless because of identities grounded in genealogy. Though they are “voiceless” they are not always silenced. And God is very much present.

Furthermore, a character neglected by others – Papatuanuku, earth mother -- is both named and engaged. Biblical interpretation developed by Western interpretative tools, rather than a hermeneutic shaped by a Māori reader’s worldview, is incapable of speaking into the realities of inequality, oppression, assimilation, and exploitation experienced by Māori people through colonization.

I can only hope that my whakapapa (genealogical) reading of Judges 19-21 has the potential to locate new meaning between biblical text and Māori indigenous context – a meaning that resists colonial exegesis and contributes to the empowerment of Māori readers.

1 Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 65-87.

Keywords: Thesis, hall-smith, Maori, whakapapa, genealogy, hermeneutic, Judges 19-21.

Subject: Theology thesis, Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Elizabeth Boase