What Is Queer Biblical Hermeneutics

What is Queer Biblical Hermeneutics?

Queer biblical hermeneutics is a way of looking at the sacred text through the eyes of queer people. It is important to understand the meaning of these terms in relation to the exegetical process. “Queer” is a term that collectively refers to people who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) and to people with fluid and non-binary genders and/or sexualities.[1] Queer interpretations do not follow essentialist ways of defining gender or sexualities. A  “hermeneutic” is “one’s whole method of understanding or interpretation.”[2]  Thus “queer biblical hermeneutics”  is the approach, theory, and prospective that queer people use to understand the Bible.

The queer hermeneutical approach intersects queer theory, theology, and exegesis. Queer theory seeks “to deconstruct hegemonic heteronormativity, looking at sexual identities in their intersectional manifestations, expressions and performances.”[3] Queer theorists seek to make changes to society through intellectual discourse and social change. These theorists maintain that intellectual discourse and social change need to happen in order to deconstruct society’s hegemonic heteronormativity. They also argue that society needs to adopt language not rooted in hegemonic and binary language.[4]  Then queer hermeneutics brings in Theology. Theology is “language or discourse about God” which examines how people talks about God.[5] The merging of queer theory with queer views, talk, and understanding of God frame the biblical interpretation.

Patrick Cheng explains Queer Biblical Hermeneutics in another way.  In Radical Love Cheng outlines at least four ways with which queer people talk and understand God. They are the same ways with which United Methodists understand God. They are based on the quadrilateral: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. First, scripture reveals the Word of God-Jesus Christ; second, tradition illuminates Christian faith; third, reason confirms belief about the Christian Faith; and fourth, personal experience along with community vivifies the Christian faith.[6] Thus, “theology is a synthesis of all four sources, and each of these sources acts as a ‘check and balance’ for the other three.”[7] According to Cheng, queer Bible hermeneutics employs four ways of these understanding the biblical text explains how the Bible speaks to contemporary society.

[1] Patrick S. Cheng, Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 2011), 3-5.

[2] Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms,2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John   Knox Press, 2014), s.v. “hermeneutic”.

[3] Susanne Scholz, Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible: Feminism, Gender Justice, and the Study of the Old Testament (London, UK: Bloomsbury / T&T Clark, 2017), 129-130.

[4] See Scholz, Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible, page#; Pamela R. Lightsey, Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock , 2015), 13-14.

[5] McKim “” P.317.

[6] Geoffroy Moore, (class lecture, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, TX, 1.31.2019).

[7] Cheng, Radical Love, 11.