Injury and blessing : a challenge to current readings of biblical discourse concerning impairment
In the ancient world, impairment was common knowledge: archaeological and written material demonstrate that people with impairments were included in society. Impairment was well understood and, in the rhetorical dynamic between author and reader, it was imaginatively used. The Early Church, for instance, developed established impairment themes in order to articulate, explain, and demonstrate central conceptions and experiences of divine activity and human discipleship. Peculiar to the modern era has been the disappearance of people living impairment from mainstream experience. As a result of this culturally-shaped process, modern presuppositions about impairment have emerged that are experienced by people living impairment as profoundly negative and disabling. Modern biblical interpretation both reflects and reinforces these presuppositions, overlooking the wide range of uses of impairment in ancient texts, and causing alienation and damage to people living impairment. To read texts of the Bible informed by an investigation of the perspectives on impairment in the ancient world presents a challenge in two respects. It identifies the inadequacies and impoverishment of uncritical modern interpretation of the biblical impairment texts. It also stimulates new and fresh liberatory readings, which reclaim as the proper focus for the interpretation of these texts the experience of lived impairment.