The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) was founded in the fall of 2016 with a mission to develop research in contextual biblical studies.
Seeking the encounter
CCBI 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.
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.
The Centre’s research is empirical in nature, in the sense that 'real' (i.e. both contemporary and historical) interpretations of sacred scriptures are analysed. 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.
The place of the Centre immediately appears as interdisciplinary. While it uses insights from the biblical disciplines, it also goes beyond it, because it focuses on “real” communities of interpretation and their readings. At the same time, it also goes beyond much research into intercultural theology and missiology, because of its close connection with research in biblical disciplines as it is conducted in other academic contexts. This also applies to the relationship of the Centre to research into the sociology of literature (e.g., into the nature of canonical texts) and anthropological research on the functioning of sacred texts. or Thus, the Centre draws on insights from a number of disciplines and establishes its own place and focus, hermeneutically and methodologically, through their combination and a focus on the dynamics of interpretation in real, empirical, communities of interpretation in their difference and with an eye to societal transformation.
The centre initiates and brings together research projects in which the contextuality of the scholar aids to ask innovative research questions to the ancient texts, doing so in such a manner that the texts are both explored in a new way and also to become voices in contemporary debates. The program is thus dedicated to both original research and to the paradigm of ‘science for society.’ In doing so, it focuses on forms of biblical interpretation that contribute to the humanization of society and a sustainable way of living. This pertains to topics such as: social, mental and spiritual resilience in faith communities; the reciprocal relationship between gender and religion as well as between religion and violence; religious/theological anthropologies and biblical sources; biblical interpretation in the context of migration and competition for land; the interaction between biblical texts and ritual practices (especially concerning food and water).