Recently, a South African scholar, Madipoane Masenya voiced the need to tap African proverbs as key to African hermeneutics. Gerald West West and Tinyiko Maluleke Maluleke also gave us glimpses regarding how the African interpreted the Bible saying that the Africans negotiated and transacted with the Bible 'appropriating, relativising it and finding existential meaning to their situations. The advantage of a contextual approach is the serious consideration of the social context of the readers as basis to create meaning from the Bible.
Unlike historical methods that confine the meaning of the Bible to the past, contextual approaches consider the transaction between the experiences of the readers and the Bible as a locus for meaning. Through a contextual approach, readers re-contextualise Bible images. In my view, both the Western traditional approaches and the contextual perspectives should be used as foundational approaches. My argument is based on the fact that 1 post-modernity cut the exclusive right to meaning, which suggests that interpretation should not be based on particular theories to be regarded as true; and 2 interdisciplinary interaction with other disciplines in the Faculty of Human Sciences should broaden the tools for presenting biblical studies.
My argument is that biblical studies should not be only about the search for historical truth regarding the ancient Mediterranean societies; neither should it only focus on contextual methods between the world of the Bible and the present. Instead, it should focus on how truths about both the past and the present are galvanised through use of the Bible. Building upon this perspective, this means that biblical interpretation is an ideological and political contest. Reconstruction of the biblical world using archaeology, anthropology or other methods serve as an implicit reconstruction of our own ideologies, agenda and histories and are not an objective undertaking.
Hence, biblical studies should move from asking the question what happened in the past to asking how past events are reinterpreted in view of our own idiosyncrasies. Instead of asking how the Exodus event happened, we should ask how those who are suffering use the Exodus event as ideology to establish collective identities.
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How is the Bible used as ideology to claim the right of the present nation of Israel to exist as a nation? How is the Bible used as ideology to deny gay rights? How is it used as ideology to justify a patriarchal family structure? This perspective is possible through use of a multidisciplinary approach or cultural studies. The strength of my study is by proposing the use of cultural studies or an interdisciplinary approach to study the Bible at public universities.
I used interdisciplinary interchangeably with cultural studies because cultural studies 'does not speak with one voice, it cannot be spoken with one voice, and I do not have one voice with which to represent it. It draws upon various fields. It is concerned with matters of power and politics by:. Hence Cultural studies is a body of theory generated by thinkers who regard the production of theoretical knowledge as a political practice.
Baker It assumes that knowledge is 'never a neutral or objective phenomenon but a matter of positionality that is, of the place from which one speaks, to whom and for what purpose' Baker Using cultural studies as basis for the discussion, we ask: What is the core business of biblical studies? I must reiterate that use of cultural studies does not obliterate the traditional Western and the contextual approaches, but instead, it seeks to strengthen the way Bible studies are rendered by further inquiring how the Bible is part of creating identities and solidifying certain perceptions or truth claims.
When using cultural studies, emphasis should be placed on how power is maintained and gained through particular meanings. This means that biblical interpretation is not an innocent search for meaning, or a purely illuminated knowledge about the past, but instead, it unravels how interpretation is intertwined with ideology and power. Let me illustrate using the view of Michel Foucault to show how biblical interpretation is intertwined with power and ideology.
Foucault discusses how the government controls people through use of the army, police and actions such as surveillances. He also noted that centres of knowledge such as universities and psychiatric institutions function to delimit people's freedom and knowledge. For him, universities and colleges are centres of knowledge in the society. Yet, the academy can also be centres that stifle knowledge and alienate truth.
Foucault illustrates this point by saying that educational institutions function to produce 'truth', which is not neutral, instead, 'truth is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produces and sustains it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it' Foucault I greatly value Foucault's perspective because it supports the argument of this article. In simple terms, theories are not neutral; instead, they are used to channel people's views and perceptions, thus making people to think in a certain way.
Using the methods and the theories, the academy implicitly produces scholars who are receptive to particular ideologies. This does not only apply to the academy, but also to the communities in the manner in which patriarchal positions are solidified and sustained using the Bible. In various churches, though women register higher attendance, but the few men who attend the church service are given church leadership positions.
To justify such practices, for example, the biblical passages that say that man was created first and then a woman, are used to justify men's patriarchal ideology. Other passages that are frequently used are those that say that Jesus is the head of the church and a man is the head of the family.
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To delimit the scope of the article, it would be a folly to attempt to exhaust all areas that could be discussed. I therefore round up by illustrating how cultural studies can be used to refocus biblical studies at public universities. The following below are my suggested proposals. The subject of Biblical Studies at public universities should use views from sociology and psychology to raise issues about how the Bible is used to establish individual and collective identities. As Segovia a:4 noted, the biblical text should be viewed as literary text or artistic products, rhetorical and.
In my view this means that when people read the Bible they are less interested in the historical context of the Bible, than with what it means to their lives.
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In this case biblical studies, using cultural studies should investigate the social realities affecting people and how the Bible is used as a central tool in meaning making. In communities the Bible is not regarded as a historical book, but rather, it is a living book, which is vibrant and living in people's lives. As a result, churches and church camps and fellowship groups are attended in great numbers by people. Theories in psychology and sociology will complement theories already used in biblical departments to further investigate, sociologically, why the Bible is such a central book in people's lives.
The subject of Biblical Studies at public universities should incorporate views from media studies to investigate the appropriation and deployment of biblical motifs, scenes, situations and themes in diverse fields such as art, films, music.
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This means that the Bible is not only a religious book but also that it's meaning is a cultural product. It should raise questions such as: How is religion incorporated in films, art and music? For example, during the height of political violence in Zimbabwe, the national television and radio played more religious songs compared to other songs. This was evidenced by the fact that during the annual Zimbabwe Music Awards ZIMA , gospel musicians scooped more awards compared to their compatriots; and in most Nigerian movies religious themes are emphasised.
A common and predictable theme in Nigerian movies is where an actor in the movie faces challenges in life, and he or she tries various solutions but to no avail and finally he or she goes to church and events tilt in his or her favour.
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This can also be traced in other African movies where the church is projected as a place of refuge and personal fortunes. Using cultural studies, biblical studies have a fertile ground to explore how religion is projected in movies and art. The subject of Biblical studies at public universities should incorporate views that arise from social sciences to investigate how power is solidified through textual interpretations. I use the term 'power' to refer to personal advantages and material privileges that are gained at the expense of others.
On this, I will raise three areas of investigation. Firstly, views from gender studies can be used to investigate how the Bible is used to solidify patriarchal cultural practices. For example, how the Old Testament patriarchal narratives and the story of Hanna who prayed for a male child or Jesus who singled out 12 male disciples, seem to support African culture's preference of male children. In using cultural studies, the focus is not on how the African culture and the biblical world compliment each other, but instead the focus will be on how the Bible is used as ideology to support patriarchal cultural practices.
Feminist biblical scholars such as Mercy Oduyoye , Musimbi Kanyoro , Musa Dube and Madipoane Masenya have commented on the way the Bible is used to support patriarchal structures. Secondly, power is also political. With this in mind, the scholars at the departments of Biblical Studies at universities should critique how the Bible is used to maintain structures of power. As Segovia a says, biblical scholars should investigate how religious rhetoric is used by those in power to perpetuate oppression.
Hence, there is need to:. Scholars of Biblical Studies should investigate how popular culture that celebrates power, competition and victory seem to permeate and find expression through catchphrases such as 'the mighty Jesus' 'powerful Jesus' and 'victorious Jesus'.
This shows how popular culture is central in our subjective interpretation of religious images.
In a blog post, a Sheffield university scholar, James Crossly illustrates this by saying that:. Social ecology theory views health-related behaviours as the result of influences at multiple levels: intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy — hence, the most effective interventions tend to be multi-level [ 57 ].