“A warm welcome to Zingcreed.

Professor Elsa Tamez‘s ‘Bible of the Oppressed’ is one of the key red Christian documents to come out of the movement known as ‘Liberation Theology’. In fact I would rank it as one of the key theological books of the twentieth century. It is simple and straightforward and only 80-odd pages long. Picking a representative page from it for this ‘document’ series was very difficult – it’s all so good I felt like reproducing the whole book! In the end I chose part of chapter 5 ‘God and Liberation’.

When it came out, reviewers said things like:-
– “Books like this make it more and more difficult for any reasonable person to ignore the Bible’s pervasive witness to God’s intolerance of oppression.”
– “…the Bible is a book about social justice for the oppressed and this indeed is the Good News.”
– “Why haven’t we North American biblical scholars done such a systematic study of the words for oppression in the Bible? If the answer is that we who possess the critical skills are not ourselves oppressed or identified with communities of the oppressed, then it becomes imperative that we listen all the more carefully to these voices from the South.”

I seriously recommend the purchase of the original book. ( $9 new on Amazon and $6 used, September 2014)”
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

Red Christian documents #26

Bible of the Oppressed

by Elsa Tamez (Costa Rica, 1982)
(Edited by Peter Turner)

If we are to grasp in a Christian perspective the special nature of the historical agent of liberation (Yahweh), it is important that we take into account the language of the Bible texts (i.e. the Old Testament – the only Bible Jesus knew) and the conception of God which the oppressed people have.

Oppression and liberation are in conflict with each other because one is sin and the other salvation. The Bible texts considered earlier  show three phases: (i)oppression, (ii) liberation and (iii) a new and just order.

Phase one:

On the one hand then the injustice that marks situations of oppression is to be seen in:

  • the accumulation of wealth stolen from the poor (their land, wages, food, houses, pledges)
  • the powerlessness of the poor
  • idolatry
  • unjust administration of authority
  • degradation of the oppressed
  • violence
  • death
  • subjection
  • deception, lies
  • suffering

Phase two :

Liberation, leading to –

Phase three:

On the other hand, the justice that marks a free life finds expression in:

  • an equitable  distribution of possessions and power and, with it, the elimination of poverty
  • the presence of God
  • just government
  • humanisation
  • peace
  • life
  • freedom
  • truth
  • joy.

What is involved in the new life of freedom we find in phase three?
This freedom has nothing to do with the liberal ideology that talks so glibly of the “right to freedom”.
“Freedom” in the present context means essentially the actual recovery of those basic necessities that the oppressor has taken from the poor: their land (Lev.25), the wages of the day labourer (Jer.22:13), the object given as a pledge (usually the blanket with which people cover themselves ) (Hab.2:6), their dwellings (Job 20:19), and their human dignity.

Tamez, E. “Bible of the oppressed” Orbis (1982)

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Alphabetical index of other ‘Red Christian documents’ Posts
Liberation theology, alive or dead?
Jesus’ real political message
“Jesus as liberator” Paul van Buren

[333, indexed & linked, t&c]


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