Ecological Hermeneutics and the Interpretation of Biblical Texts Yesterday, Today and Onwards: Critical Reflection and Assessment


This article critically explores various approaches in which interpreters operate in recent attempts to apply ecological hermeneutics to biblical texts. It engages with the strengths and weaknesses of the works of the apologetic readers (reading of recovery), the Earth Bible Project (reading of resistance 1), the anti-ecological reading (reading of resistance 2), the revisionist readers (mostly the Exeter Project), the Eco-Feminists and the Eco-theological voices of African scholars. Finally, the article draws critical evaluation, assessment and acknowledgment of the need of complementary insights from different reading stances. Finally, the article argues that, for a fruitful ecological reading of the Bible, one must admit that biblical texts were formulated in a world that knew nothing about modern ecological problems. Thus, the aim of a fruitful reading should direct the reader towards the critical power and relevant stimulus of biblical texts for our questions. In whichever reading, the interpreter is invited not to mix in one mould the biblical statements and his/her current realities. This means that our realities should never dictate the direction of biblical interpretation, but both worlds should remain in a constantly enriching dialogue.



Ademiluka, Salomon O. “An Ecological Interpretation of Leviticus 11-15 in an African (Nigerian) Context” Old Testament Essays 22/3 (2009), 525-534.

Anderson, Bernhard W. From Creation to New Creation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

Barr, James. “Man and Nature. The Ecological Controversy and Old Testament.” BJRL 55 (1972), 9-32.

Bauckham, Richard J. God and the Crisis of Freedom: Biblical and Contemporary Perspectives. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox, 2002.

Berry, Thomas. The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988.

Bouma-Prediger, Steven. For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Boyer, Paul. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Brady, Veronica. “Preface.” Pages 13-17 in Reading From the Perspective of Earth. Ed. Norman C. Habel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Conradie, Ernest. “The Road Towards an Ecological Biblical and Theological Hermeneutics.” Scriptura 93 (2006), 305-314.

Conradie, Ernest. “Towards an Ecological Biblical Hermeneutics: A Review Essay on the Earth Bible Project.” Scriptura 85 (2004), 123-135.

Conradie, Ernest. “What on Earth is an Ecological Hermeneutics? Some Broad Parameters.” Pages 295-313 in Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives, ed. Horrell, D G, Hunt, C & Southgate, C (New York: T&T Clark, 2010.

Cumbey, Constance. The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow: The New Age Movement and our Coming Age of Barbarism. Lafayette: Huntington House, 1983.

Eaton, Heather. “Ecofeminist Contribution to an Ecojustice Hermeneutics.” Pages 54-71 in Reading From the Perspective of Earth, ed. Norman C. Habel. Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Eckberg, Douglas L and Blocker, Jean. “Christianity, Environmentalism, and the Theoretical Problem of Fundamentalism.” JSSR 35 (1996), 343-355.

Esias E. Meyer, “Respect for Animal Life in the Book of Leviticus: How Green were the Priestly Authors?” Old Testament Essays 24/1 (2011), 142-158.

Fowler, Robert B. The Greening of Protestant Thought. London: North Carolina University press, 1995..

Gadamer, Hans-G. Truth and Method. New York: Seabury, 1970.

Gebara, Yvonne. “Cosmic Theology: Ecofeminism and Panentheism,” Pages 208-213 in Readings in Ecology and Feminist Theology, eds. Mackinnon, M H & McIntyre. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward, 1995.

Groothuis, Douglas R. Confronting the New Age: How to Resist a Growing Religious Movement. Downers Drove: Intervarsity Press, 1988.

Habel, Norman C. “Introducing the Earth Bible.” Pages 25-37 in Reading From the Perspective of Earth, ed. Norman C. Habel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Habel, Norman C. “The Origins and Challenges of an Eco-justice Hermeneutics,” Pages 290-306 in Relating to the Text: An Interdisciplinary and Form-Critical Insights on the Bible. eds. TJ Sandoval and C Madolfo. New York: T&T Clark, 2003.

Habel, Norman C. The Birth, the Curse and the Greening of Earth: An Ecological Reading of Genesis 1-11. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2011.

Hegel, Friedrich, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: Introduction and the Concept of Religion. Vol.1. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1984.

Hierbert, Theodore. The Yahwist’s Landscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Horrell, David G. “The Ecological Challenge to Biblical Studies.” Theology 112 (2009), 163-171.

Horrell, David G. “The Green Bible: A timely Idea Deeply Flawed.” ExpT 121/4 (2010), 180-186.

Horrell, David G. and Southgate, Christopher. “Appeal to the Bible in Ecotheology and Environmental Ethics: A Typology of Hermeneutical Stances.” SCE 21/2 (2008), 219-238.

Horrell, David G. The Bible and the Environment: Towards a Critical Ecological Biblical Theology. London, Oakville: Equinox, 2010.

Johnson, Elisabeth A. “Losing and Finding Creation in the Christian Tradition.” Pages 3-22 in Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Wellbeing of Earth and Humans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Kestler-D’Amour, Jilian. “US president is rolling back the country's efforts to fight climate change. Here's a look at what he has done so far”, One year under Trump: Attack on Climate change fight, 17 January 2018.

Lim, Johnson T.K. A Strategy for Reading Biblical Texts. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Limburg, James. “The Responsibility of Royalty: Genesis 1-11 and the Care of the Earth.” WW 11/2 (1991), 124-130.

Loader, James A. “Image and Order: Old Testament Perspectives on Ecological Crisis,” in Are we killing God’s Earth? Ecology and Theology, Edited by Vorster, V S. Pretoria: UNISA Press, 1987.

Marlow, Hillary. Biblical Prophets: Contemporary Environmental Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press 2009.

Masenya, Madipoane J. “An Ecobosadi Reading of Psalm 127:3-5.” Pages 109-122 in The Earth Story in the Psalms and the Prophets, ed. Norman C. Habel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Mellor, Mary. Feminism and Ecology. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Mueller-Vollmer, Kurt M. “Language, Mind, and Artefact: An Outline of Hermeneutics theory since the Enlightenment.” Pages 1-53 in The Hermeneutics Reader, ed. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer (Oxford: The Continuum, 1985).

Nicola H. Creegan, “Theological Foundations of the Ecological Crisis.” Stimulus 12/4 (2004), 30-34.

Palmer, Richard E. Hermeneutics. Evanston: North-western University Press, 1969.

Plumwood, Val. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routlegde, 1993.

Primavesi, Anne. From Apocalypse to Genesis: Ecology, Feminism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

Ruether, Rosemary R. “Eco-Feminism: The Challenge to theology.” Pages 97-112 in Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Wellbeing of Earth and Humans, eds. Hessel, D T & Ruether, R R. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Santmire, Paul. Nature Reborn: The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2000.

Schabas, William. Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Schmid, Hans H. “Creation, Righteousness, and Salvation: Creation Theology as the Broad Horizon of Biblical Theology.” Pages 102-117 in Creation in the Old Testament, ed. Bernhard W. Anderson. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Sider, Ronald J. “Biblical Foundation for Creation Care.” Pages 43-49 in The Care of Creation: Focusing Concern and Action, ed. RJ Berry. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000.

Steck, Odil H. World and Environment. Nashville: Abingdon, 1980.

Strickland, Spencer. “Beware of Global Warming! (2 Peter 3:6-7)”, Saving Earth on human at a time: my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, 7 August 2008.

The Earth Bible Team. “Guiding Ecojustice Principles.” Pages 38-53 in Reading from the Perspective of Earth, ed. Norman C. Habel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2000.

Tutu, Desmond. “Foreword.” Pages 7-8 in Reading From the Perspective of Earth. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Van Dyk, Peet. “A Cosmological Interpretation of the Old Testament: Ecological Implications. Paper presented at the 6th AASR conference on ‘Religion, Ecology and the Environment in Africa and the African Diaspora’, held from 30 July-2 August 2014, Cape Town.

Van Heerden, Willie. “Dealing with the history-nature dualism in ecological theology.” Journal for Semitics 23/2i (2014), 547-568.

Van Heerden, Willie. “Ecological interpretations of the Jonah narrative – have they succeeded in overcoming anthropocentrism?” Journal for Semitics 23/1 (2014), 114-134.

van Heerden, Willie. “Taking History Seriously in our Understanding of How we Humans Value the World in which we Live. Paper presented at the Conference of the Sustainability Institute on “Christian Faith and the Earth: Respice et Prospice, Stellenbosch 9 August 2012.

Von Rad, Gerhard. “The Theological Problem of the Old Testament Doctrine of creation.” Pages 131-143 in the Problem of The Hexateuch and Other Essays. London: SCM Press, 1984.

Warren, Karen P. “The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism.” Pages 172-195 in Reading in Ecology and Feminist Theology, ed. Mackinnon, M H & McIntyre, M. Kansas City: Sheed &Ward, 1995.

Watson, Francis. “Strategies of Recovery and Resistance: Hermeneutical Reflection on Genesis 1-3 and its Pauline Reception.” JSNT 45 (1992), 79-103.

Westermann, Claus. Creation. London: SPCK, 1974.

White, Lynn. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Science 155 (1967), 1203-1207.

Wilkinson, Loren. “New Age, New Consciousness, and the New Creation.” Pages 6-29 in Tending the Garden. ed. Wesler Granberg-Michaelson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.

Wright, Ernest. God Who Acts: Biblical Theology as Recital. London: SCM, 1952.

Wright, NT. New Heavens, New Earth: The Biblical Picture of Christian Hope. Cambridge: Grove, 1992.