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The Bible and Asia

The Bible and Asia

R. S. Sugirtharajah
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Bible and Asia
    Book Description:

    The Bible's influence on the West has received much more attention than its complex career in the East. R. S. Sugirtharajah's expansive study of Asia's idiosyncratic relationship with the Bible tells of missionaries, imperialists, and reformers who molded Biblical texts in order to influence religion, politics, and daily life from India to China.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72646-8
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This volume is about the Bible and Asia. So the inevitable question is: What is Asia? Or, which Asia? Defining Asia has not always been easy. In Asian languages or in the dominant ancient Asian cartographical categories, there was no single term, “Asia,” that covered the whole region, as the designation “Europe” did that continent. There were expressions such as the “Sea of China” or the “Sea of Hind,” which had an analogous meaning in Arabic and in some of the Indian languages.¹ This reluctance and absence of naming was partly due to the fact that the multiple religious, linguistic,...

  4. 1 Merchandise, Moralities, and Poetics of Aryans, Dravidians, and Israelites
    (pp. 13-49)

    Readers of any standard work on the Bible will get the impression that there is a tacit agreement among biblical scholars that both testaments were influenced by Near Eastern and Hellenistic cultures. Before Napoleon’s campaign in the Mediterranean (1798–1801), scholarly investigation of biblical religion and culture was largely confined to the sources supplied by Greco-Latin classical writings. Subsequent to the opening of the Orient, however, and the discovery and decipherment of Sumerian, Hittite, and Ugaritic inscriptions, the history of Israel was placed within what biblical scholars designedly configured as a Near Eastern context. Such a placement radically challenged biblical...

  5. 2 Colonial Bureaucrats and the Search for Older Testaments
    (pp. 50-83)

    There were two prevailing perceptions among European orientalists, missionaries, and colonial administrators. One was that the salvation of Asia depended on rejecting its heathenish religious practices and idolatrous ways and embracing Christianity. The other involved a more cautious and conciliatory approach, seeking common ground as a way of wooing the natives, and did not see conversion as a holy warfare. John Muir (1810–1882), the Scottish Sanskrit scholar, exemplifies this latter position when he says:

    Would it not be possible to demonstrate to the Brahman that the facts which are recorded in the first books of the scriptures, are probably...

  6. 3 Enlisting Christian Texts for Protest in the Empire
    (pp. 84-117)

    Asian biblical interpretation is often viewed as a tame affair. It has frequently been criticized for not producing the sort of vigorous hermeneutical debates that mark such high points of Western biblical interpretation as inerrancy of the Bible, authenticity of the Virgin Birth, or the historicity of the resurrection. However, because Asia has a different reception history of the Bible, these Western disputes are not really an appropriate way of judging the quality and content of Asian biblical interpretation. Asia has its share of biblical controversies, but unlike the Western debates, which were marked by questions posed by the Enlightenment,...

  7. 4 A Buddhist Ascetic and His Maverick Misreadings of the Bible
    (pp. 118-151)

    Asia has produced a number of Hindu and Buddhist interpreters who challenged both colonial rule and the colonial version of their indigenous faith. One of them was Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933), a Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist, who taunted Western missionaries and the British administration. He was one of the “exotic” Orientals, along with Swami Vivekananda, P. C. Mozumdar of India, and the Japanese Zen master Soyen Shaku, who drew much attention at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893.

    Dharmapala, whose original name was Don David Hewavitarane, like many Ceylonese in colonial Ceylon went to a Christian school, where...

  8. 5 Paul the Roman in Asia
    (pp. 152-189)

    Paul was in a way a typical product of the empire. He was born to immigrant parents from Judea who settled in Tarsus, a city colonized by Seleucid and Roman rulers. A Pharisee, at the same time he received his education in the language of the imperialist. He acquired Roman citizenship. How he managed this is a mystery. He may have inherited it from his father or his grandfather for the distinguished services one of them must have rendered to the state. Paul traveled throughout the Roman empire preaching a new message—the Christ crucified—an amalgam that drew on...

  9. 6 Exegesis in Eastern Climes
    (pp. 190-223)

    This chapter brings together some of the distinctive and recent features of the appropriation of the Bible in Asia. It will highlight the following: employment of the Bible in a multireligious context; the recent surfacing of minority voices, such as the Dalits, Burakumin, women, and indigenous people; and the two recent entrants on the scene—postcolonialism and Asian diasporic interpretation. In addressing these, I shall bring out issues at the center of interpretation, the personalities who shaped the debate, historical moments that informed the discourse, and the methods and theories that fashioned reading practices.

    One of the critical questions that...

  10. 7 Between the Lines of Asian Fiction
    (pp. 224-257)

    The Christian Bible, as David Norman wrote, is accorded a “unique place not just in religious consciousness but in linguistic and literary consciousness” of the West.¹ As a foundational text of Western civilization, the Christian Bible has provided rich resources for its language, literature, art, and film. Apart from being treated as a literature in itself, the Christian Bible has been an inspiring source for Western culture. The Book of Books has begotten many books. Freed from their ecclesial and pietistic environment, biblical stories have been retold and modified to meet a variety of needs and occasions. These fictional avatars...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 258-264)

    The Asian biblical interpretations discussed in this volume make clear that the highly cherished Protestant principle of scripture alone has little purchase in Asia. The reformers’ claim that the Bible is sufficient and the sole truth is untenable in a continent that teems with textual traditions. What is more, such a claim is misleading. Asian interpretation has shown that when an Asian Christian reads the Bible, he or she does not read it alone but alongside something else. It has always been the Bible plus the Bhagavad Gita or the Dhammapada or the Analects. Read in Asia, the Christian Bible...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 265-290)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 291-292)
  14. Index of Scriptural References
    (pp. 293-296)
  15. General Index
    (pp. 297-304)