The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation is a cooperation of the Protestant Theological University and the Faculty of Religion and Theology of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It stimulates and organizes various activities concerning reading and interpretation of the Bible and develops activities in both teaching and research. It brings together people using the Bible in different contexts and from different perspectives. Special attention is given to different cultural contexts. Another goal is to bring together the professional and the intuitive reading.
The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation engages in cutting edge academic research: the interaction between socio-cultural and socio-economic factors as well as established traditions of reading on the one hand and scriptural interpretation on the other hand. In particular, it does so by researching the hermeneutical and transformative potential that the encounter between diverse communities of interpretation has. In doing so, the research of the Centre has a clear interest in reading strategies that are societally beneficial and factors that help or hinder them. Reading strategies that might be considered beneficial are such that further respectful encounter, dialogue, rapprochement and mutual understanding between different communities of interpretation of the Bible. Such reading strategies contribute to actualization of the potential for social transformation that sacred scriptures hold.
Hermeneutically speaking, the Centre’s research has as its vantage point the (empirical) fact that the potential for meaning of (religious) texts is inexhaustible and is expanded by every (re)reading of a text, while each (re)reading of a text can be conceptualized as an encounter, both between the reader, or a reading community, and the text, as well as between the reader (or reading community) and other readers (or reading communities). Such encounter is necessary both to further appreciate a text and its (ever new) meaning as well as to understand (and, if necessary, challenge) one’s own interpretation. The encounter with the (textual) other creates the space needed for the emergence of new meaning.
Methodologically, the Centre’s research is empirical in nature, in the sense that “real” (i.e. both contemporary and historical) interpretations of sacred scriptures are analyzed. The empirical method that is used uses an intercultural lens, aware of the fact that each and every interpretation, including interpretations of interpretations, such as they result from the Centre’s scholarship, is culturally influenced, which needs to be factored in in the analysis. These methodological considerations are brought to bear in particular on research on dialogues between communities of reading from different contexts, as facilitated by the Centre, in which both the intercultural factor as well as the factor of “difference” as a prerequisite for interpretation can be studied.
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