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Reading the Bible Contextually

This unit studies the place of Contextual Bible Study within biblical studies, arising from liberation hermeneutics and related to postcolonial and intercultural studies. It examines the Bible both as a site of struggle between liberating and dominating discourses, and as a substantive resource for transformation within and beyond faith communities. The unit will enable students to study specific contemporary contexts (for example developing world, post-church, feminist, and indigenous), and to develop tools for assisting ‘socially engaged’ Bible study in such contexts, using a number of key texts from (among others) Genesis, Samuel, Kings, Job, and Psalms.

Offered: Refer to Timetable

Undergraduate: Level 3
Postgraduate: Level 9 elective unit 

Undergraduate: 54 points in Field B
Postgraduate: 24 points in Field B

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Discuss the relationship between Contextual Bible Study and biblical liberation, postcolonial and intercultural hermeneutics
  2. Analyse specific cultural contexts, both within key biblical texts and in chosen contemporary communities
  3. Formulate and evaluate a project for practicing contextual readings of the Bible within a chosen specific community
  4. (undergraduate) Formulate a project for applying the studied methods within a particular context.
  5. (postgraduate) Bring critical reading in biblical hermeneutics into dialogue with the concerns of specific communities.


Level 3 (undergraduate)
1 x 2,000 critical book review    30%
1 x 3,000 word research essay   70%

Level 9 (postgraduate)
1 x 2,000 critical book review    30%
1 x 4,000 word research essay   70%

Select Bibliography:

*Boer, Roland & Fernando F. Segovia, eds.The future of the biblical past: envisioning biblical studies on a global key. Atlanta: SBL, 2012.
Crouch, C. I. & Jonathan Stokl, eds. In the name of God. Brill: Leiden, 2014.
Dube, Musa W., Andrew M. Mbuvi, & Dora R. Mbuwayesango, eds. Postcolonial perspectives in African biblical interpretation. Atlanta: SBL, 2012.
*Dyksta, Laurel & Ched Myers, eds. Liberating biblical study. Eugene: Cascade/Wipf & Stock, 2011.
Havea, Jione, David J. Neville, & Elaine M. Cartwright, eds. Bible, borders, belonging(s): engaging readings from Oceania. Atlanta: SBL, 2014.
*Patte, Daniel, general editor. The global Bible commentary. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004.
Smith-Christopher, Daniel, ed. Towards a cultural exegesis of the Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995.
Sugirtharajah, R. S, ed. The postcolonial biblical reader. Blackwell: Oxford, 2006.
Sugirtharajah, R. S. Troublesome texts: the Bible in colonial & contemporary culture. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008.
*West, Gerald, ed. Reading otherwise: socially engaged biblical scholars reading with their local communities. Atlanta: SBL. 2007.
West, Gerald. The academy of the poor: towards a dialogical reading of the Bible. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1999.