Original Research

The quest for hermeneutics of appropriation as a thematic approach for critical biblical interpretation

Temba Rugwiji
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a5392 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.5392 | © 2020 Temba Rugwiji | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 January 2019 | Published: 21 January 2020

About the author(s)

Temba Rugwiji, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This study attempts to promulgate a method called ‘hermeneutics of appropriation’ as a thematic approach of a scientific research. ‘Hermeneutics’ is not the same as ‘appropriation’; hermeneutics refers to a science of interpretation, whereas appropriation depicts an idea of adoption. Hermeneutics of appropriation employs themes (hence, thematic analysis) as opposed to contextual biblical hermeneutics that focuses largely on contemporary interpretation of biblical narratives. Thus, adopting the phrase ‘hermeneutics of appropriation’ presents the idea of a scientific interpretation of a theme that is applied in a differing context from which it originated. The present study aims at highlighting some dynamics that illustrate contextual biblical interpretation as a biased approach. Having presented such dynamics, the study will then suggest the employment of hermeneutics of appropriation in which relevant themes from the biblical text are utilised in a hermeneutical discourse. A dialogue with various previous contributions that conferred on contextual biblical hermeneutics will illuminate the above notion. With regard to hermeneutics of appropriation, representative examples of themes from the Judean postexilic context to be appropriated in the Zimbabwean postcolonial discourse comprises of two aspects: (1) geopolitical and socioeconomic crises and (2) Nehemiah’s social justice reforms. The latter consists of five subthemes: public hearing to rebuke the leadership, condemnation of usury, payment of tax, return of personal property to the owner and food donation to the needy.


Hermeneutics of appropriation; Research; Thematic analysis contextual biblical hermeneutics; Ancient biblical texts; Old Testament; Judean postexilic context; Social justice reforms


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1. Exegesis of Romans 13:1–7 and its appropriation to the new dispensation of the Second Republic of Zimbabwe
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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 76  issue: 4  year: 2020  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v76i4.6041