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The Future of the Biblical Past

The Future of the Biblical Past: envisioning biblical studies on a global key

Roland Boer
Fernando F. Segovia
Series: Semeia Studies
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 382
  • Book Info
    The Future of the Biblical Past
    Book Description:

    What does global biblical studies look like in the early decades of the twenty-first century, and what new directions may be discerned? Profound shifts have taken place over the last few decades as voices from the majority of the globe have begun and continue to reshape and relativize biblical studies. With contributors from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America, this volume is a truly global work, offering surveys and assessments of the current situation and suggestions for the future of biblical criticism in all corners of the world. The contributors are Yong-Sung Ahn, George Aichele, Pablo R. Andiñach, Roland Boer, Fiona Black, Philip Chia, Nancy Cardoso Pereira, Jione Havea, Israel Kamudzandu, Milena Kirova, Tat-siong Benny Liew, Monica Melancthon, Judith McKinlay, Sarojini Nadar, Jorge Pixley, Jeremy Punt, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Fernando F. Segovia, Hanna Stenström, Vincent Wimbush, and Gosnell Yorke.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-704-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  3. Introduction: The Futures of Biblical Pasts
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
    Roland Boer and Fernando F. Segovia

    This volume has been so long in the making that between the time when the book was first conceived and its eventual completion the world began one of its accelerated periods of irruptive change. However, given the significance of the mandate we have undertaken here, this collection of essays has required more energy than most. We asked contributors to answer the following twofold question: what does global biblical studies look like in the early decades of the twenty-first century, and what new directions may be espied? The last time such a comprehensive task was undertaken was well over twenty years...

  4. Part 1. Africa

    • 1 Biblical Interpretation and Criticism in Neocolonial Africa: Challenges, Conceptualizations, and Needs in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 3-12)
      Israel Kadmuzandu

      Biblical criticism, unwittingly commemorating liberation in Africa, can become an alibi unless it is situated within the parameters of African culture—past, present, and future. It is no accident that, in spite of Western oppression and apartheid, Christianity has become one of the native religions of Africa to an extent that people in Africa have renamed it “African Christianity.” While the presence of Christianity has deep historical roots that go back to apostolic times, the interpretation of the Bible faces a complex and a daunting challenge. This challenge is motivated by the hunger for an appropriation of the gospel in...

    • 2 Beyond the “Ordinary Reader” and the “Invisible Intellectual”: Pushing the Boundaries of Contextual Bible Study Discourses
      (pp. 13-28)
      Sarojini Nadar

      At the World Forum on Liberation and Theology in Belem, Brazil, January 2009, I was asked to respond to a panel of presentations that dealt with the topic of liberation and embodiment.¹ Chung Hyung Kung, the eminent Korean feminist theologian, began her reflections praising liberation theology for saving her from destruction—physical, mental, and spiritual—but lamented at length about the question one of her Korean students at Union Theological Seminary, New York, had posed to her. It seemed that this student earnestly and seriously wanted to know why, after forty-odd years of liberation theology, the world still faced so...

    • 3 Dealing (with) the Past and Future of Biblical Studies: A New South African Perspective
      (pp. 29-46)
      Jeremy Punt

      This contribution proceeds from the southern African context as its specific social location for reflecting on some aspects of the future of the biblical studies enterprise in light of its past. Cognizant of important changes in the region since the dawn of the post-Apartheid era, the study takes its point of departure from and interacts with the complex settings and legacies of South Africa, given its rich human diversity as a former Dutch settlement, a British colony, and an Apartheid state. In so doing, it attempts to understand the future of biblical studies while recognizing that it does so amid...

  5. Part 2. Asia

    • 4 Unleashing the Power Within: The Bible and Dalits
      (pp. 49-66)
      Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon

      India can legitimately be described as one of the earliest recipients of the Bible (Sugirtharajah 2001, 15–22), and yet Indian biblical scholarship has had little impact if any on biblical studies worldwide. I thus welcome this opportunity to participate inThe Future of the Biblical Past, while aware of the problematic roles that are thrust upon the nonWestern individual when she and her work enter the orbit of certain kinds of academic concerns and discursive practices pursued supposedly and predominantly only in the West. However, biblical study and interpretation are not a project of the West alone. Third World...

    • 5 For A Better Future in Korean Biblical Studies: Dialoguing with Myself in a Different Context
      (pp. 67-80)
      Yong-Sung Ahn

      Korean Christianity has been marked by two features in particular: on the one hand, astonishing church growth, especially among Protestant churches, which has generated megachurches of more than ten thousand members; on the other hand, minjung theology and the active participation of theologians in politics. Both aspects can be understood as responses to the same social phenomenon—miraculous economic growth alongside political suppression, or what has often been referred to as “the tyranny of development.” The majority of Korean churches have supported the side of “development,” strengthening the significance of economic success with their Christian teachings of blessings, while a...

    • 6 Biblical Studies in a Rising Asia: An Asian Perspective on the Future of the Biblical Past
      (pp. 81-96)
      Philip Chia

      The rise of modern biblical studies as a discipline has been, since the heyday of the Enlightenment and the Reformation, a predominantly Western institutional-academic phenomenon closely associated with the modern development of Western culture and the academic enterprise. With the expansion of Western civilization and Christianity in the modern world, biblical scholarship gained access into nonWestern cultures. Western imperial/colonial power spread globally via sea and land, fleets and gunpowder, under theGeistand project of the Enlightenment and modernity. It brought with it the biblical text, which it readily made available to nonWestern peoples, together with modern tools of interpretation...

  6. Part 3. Europe

    • 7 The Future of a Nonexistent Past: Biblical Studies in Bulgaria
      (pp. 99-110)
      Milena Kirova

      Every narrative addressing the state of biblical studies in Bulgaria should begin with an odd and traumatic situation in the distant past of the country. Christianity was not at all a popular religion until the mid-ninth century. Each of the two tribes comprising the Bulgarian state, the local Slavs and the old Bulgarians (or Protobulgarians), who had migrated from Asia, had their established pantheon and rituals. In contrast to the aristocratic circles in both tribes, various pagan gods coexisted quite peacefully in the lives of the common people. The situation in question took place in the year 865 c.e.


    • 8 Unity and Diversity in Nordic Biblical Scholarship
      (pp. 111-134)
      Hanna Stenström

      The topic before me is Scandinavian biblical scholarship: Old¹ and New Testament studies during the twentieth century and up to the present, with a brief reflection on their future(s).² I understand “Scandinavian” in its wider sense, that is, as Denmark (with Greenland and the Faeroe Islands), Finland (with Åland),³ Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—in other words, the five nations called “the Nordic countries” by us who live here. That is why I use this terminology, except in established expressions and phrases such as “The Scandinavian School.”

      The overall aim of this essay is to show that “Nordic biblical scholarship” is...

  7. Part 4. Latin America and the Caribbean

    • 9 Liberation in Latin American Biblical Hermeneutics
      (pp. 137-148)
      Pablo R. Andiñach

      A combination of social changes, the political climate, and various incipient new winds in the life of the Christian churches supplied the fertile ground in which a new mode of reading the Scriptures began to germinate. Around 1970, the need for other tools with which to understand the Christian mission became evident in Latin America, and what would later come to be called the Theology of Liberation was born, a different way of approaching theological reflection. Alongside this theology, as faithful companion, an alternative way of interpreting the Bible came to be, as well. This is what Juan Luis Segundo...

    • 10 Paper Is Patient, History Is Not: Readings and Unreadings of the Bible in Latin America (1985–2005)
      (pp. 149-166)
      Nancy Cardoso Pereira

      The Bible in Latin America is many things at once.¹ As a “book” of a historically imposed religion, the Bible participates in the religious and cultural polyphony of Latin America in a way that is conflictive and marked by ambiguities. As a religion imposed, Christianity has no positive contribution to make. There is no way to change such an assessment without compromising facts as well as historical interpretations well known to all.

      Milton Schwantes and Pablo Richard address this imposition from the point of view of the indigenous peoples (1992, 3): “After 500 years of conquest and colonization, the indigenous...

    • 11 Liberating the Bible: Popular Bible Study and Its Academia Allies
      (pp. 167-178)
      Jorge Pixley

      By popular reading of the Bible we mean in Latin America the use of the Bible in small groups of believers, usually led by a pastoral agent, either a woman religious (a member of a religious order) or, in most cases, a priest. In Protestant circles, where parishes are not so large, a local congregation is usually the place for this type of Bible study. In introducing Catholic and Protestant—including Pentecostal—groups, a brief reflection is necessary.

      For Catholic groups, the use of the Bible is more or less a novelty. Pastoral practice has not usually focused on the...

    • 12 Biblical Studies in the Anglo-Caribbean: Past, Present, and Future Challenges, Opportunities, and Possibilities
      (pp. 179-193)
      Gosnell Yorke

      The Caribbean (historically shaped in its identity formation by Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe) is home to four major linguistic groups, a plurality of Afro-religious and some Indo-religious traditions, including some indigenous ones (Nettleford in Hall 2006, 6–7; Murrell 2009), and a kaleidoscope of cultures (Sunshine 1985, 7). For that reason, it is an extremely complex region (Davis 1990, 5–7). This makes writing about the rainbow-like region of the Caribbean an exceptionally difficult task.

      Current statistics suggest that 70 percent of Caribbean peoples of some sixteen million are of African descent, although we should not overlook the...

  8. Part 5. Pacific

    • 13 Drifting Homes
      (pp. 195-206)
      Jione Havea

      The opportunity to imagine into writing what biblical studies might look like in the future in the islands of the South Pacific (Pasifika) is unsettling. There are several reasons for this.

      First of all, to write about the future is a foreign practice to the oral cultures of islanders, whose lived world and worldviews are fluid and slippery, drifting and laid-back. Our ancestors, male and female, practiced different forms of writing, like thetatau(tattoo),¹ which inscribed their roots and routes on their faces and bodies. The ones who could not bear the cuts of tatau chisels, and who were...

    • 14 Braiding the Traditions in Aotearoa/New Zealand
      (pp. 207-222)
      Judith E. McKinlay

      So writes the Anglican CMS missionary, Samuel Marsden, of Christmas Day 1814, the legendary day of the first Christian service in this land. His text was “Fear not for behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Ironically, most of those listening could neither follow nor understand, but Marsden wrote in his journal, “we could not but feel the strongest persuasion that the time was at hand when the Glory of the Lord would be revealed to those poor benighted Heathens …” (quoted in Davidson 2004, 16).

      In Colin McCahon’s series of crucifixions, painted in the 1940s,...

    • 15 Caught in Between: Australian Biblical Studies between Asia, the Pacific, and the West
      (pp. 223-236)
      Roland Boer

      Biblical criticism in Australia has always suffered from an identity crisis: it has hung on to the idea that it is an outpost of Western scholarship at the same time that it exists at the intersection between the Pacific and Asia. For most of that time, it has valued the first while barely taking notice of the other two. So in this survey and proposal for the future of biblical studies in the in-between zone of Australia, I trace the legacy of Western biblical scholarship and ponder the possibilities of a greater meshing with Asia and the Pacific. I have...

  9. Part 6. North America:: Canada and the United States

    • 16 Reading the Bible in “Our Home and Native Land”: Exploring Some Margins and Migrations in Canadian Biblical Studies (through the Lens of Psalm 137)
      (pp. 239-262)
      Fiona C. Black

      In Canada, it appears that biblical scholars do not often avail themselves of the opportunity to reflect on how their political, historical, and social contexts impact their work on the Bible.¹ This does not mean that Canadian biblical scholarship is not “engaged”; rather, I suspect that it has more to do with a perception that there is not much about biblical studies in this country that marks it as distinct—as any different, say, from American biblical studies in general.² In fact, the reluctance to think about what makes biblical studies in this countryCanadiancould look a little like...

    • 17 The Virtual Bible
      (pp. 263-272)
      George Aichele

      The Bible has always been virtual and so, therefore, has the “biblical past.” Not only are the various and inconsistent pasts and futures narrated or implied within the Bible’s texts virtual, but the past and future of “the Bible” as a Christian¹ entity is virtual, as well. This does not mean that the Bible is somehow unreal or incomplete, nor does it describe another Bible—a Bible that is somehow “other” than the one that people read. Indeed, the virtual Bible is the only one that we know. The virtuality of the Bible is perhaps its most important feature.


    • 18 What Has Been Done? What Can We Learn? Racial/Ethnic Minority Readings of the Bible in the United States
      (pp. 273-288)
      Tat-Siong Benny Liew

      For most people—at least those in the academy of biblical studies—racial/ethnic minority readings of the Bible in the United States started in the 1970s. Michael Joseph Brown’s account of African American biblical scholarship, for instance, dates the rise of what he calls “blackening the Bible” to this same decade (2004, 19). What is also helpful in Brown’s account is that he accounted for the rise of this scholarship, at least partly, on the basis of the pioneering work of black theology in the 1960s (2004, 16–19). The sixties was, of course, a decade of popular or grassroots...

    • 19 Changing the Paradigms: Toward a Feminist Future of the Biblical Past
      (pp. 289-306)
      Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

      I approach the topic of this volume,The Future of the Biblical Past, from the vantage point of a critical feminist rhetoric and hermeneutics of liberation rather than from a culturally or geographically defined position.¹ This may place my reflections somewhat at odds with this volume’s overall organization, which is structured in area² and cultural studies terms around geographical-continental and national-political identity spaces, rather than in terms of theoretical, methodological, or emancipatory³ struggles. By foregrounding identity in geographical-global terms but not in religious (premodern) or methodological (modern) terms, the volume proposal situates it in the postmodern space of globalization via...

    • 20 Cultural Criticism: Expanding the Scope of Biblical Criticism
      (pp. 307-336)
      Fernando F. Segovia

      In the mid 1990s, twenty years after the first rumblings of discursive unease and the initial calls for disciplinary redirection, I undertook the task of mapping the given results of such concerns and moves regarding the conceptualization and exercise of biblical criticism by way of paradigms or umbrella models of interpretation. This was an attempt to outline and explain the critical present, to survey the lay of the land, in terms of its past trajectory. Such mapping, in retrospect, followed a twofold impulse of the times. It was a response to a particular development regarding the scope of the field:...

    • 21 Signifying on the Fetish: Mapping a New Critical Orientation
      (pp. 337-348)
      Vincent L. Wimbush

      This essay makes the case for a new critical orientation that has as its focus not historical criticism and its ever increasing razzle-dazzle offshoots, but a critical history (Nora 1994, 300) involving engagement and fathoming of forms of representations and expressivity (including artifacts), modes of performativity, structures of social-cultural-psychological dynamics and power relations—in effect, the phenomenon most often referred to with the English shorthand “Scriptures.” In this essay about the future of a discourse about Scriptures that has been complexly oriented to the study of the past, I arrogate to myself the right and privilege to think with that...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 349-350)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 351-382)