Empirical Hermeneutics, Interculturality, and Holy Scripture

by Hans de Wit

Empirical Hermeneutics, Inter­culturality, and Holy Scripture is the first in a new series of monographs initiated by the Foundation Dom Hélder Câmara Chair, VU University Amsterdam. The focus of this series—intercultural hermeneutics—is very much in line with the ideas and passions of Dom Hélder Câmara (1909–1999).

Empirical hermeneutics in intercultural perspective has to do with the question of whether reading Bible stories jointly by groups from often radically different cultural and sociopolitical contexts can contribute to transformation and changed perspectives. In which ways can an intercultural dialogue on the meaning of fundamental narratives—Holy Scripture—contribute to justice and liberation? Can cultural differences, when rendered hermeneutically operative, not give such depth to the dialogue on the meaning of these stories that faith becomes what it is ultimately meant to be, a searching and reaching for the truth?

The practice at the heart of this research consists of bringing small groups together from all continents who read the same Bible story at the same time and discuss the meaning of the story with each other. Groups of desplazados in Colombia read with groups of Christians from Indonesia, groups of dalits from India with Cuban groups, Korean students with Nicaraguan Pentecostals, and Dutch groups with Ghanaian or Filipino groups. Groups can also read with each other within the same region or country; reading groups of Arabic or Ghanaian Christians in the Netherlands also can be connected with groups from Dutch mainline churches.

The reading experiences of these groups are the basic material of the formulation of theory. While Holy Scripture—not only the Qur’an!—is at this time often associated with terror and destruction, and while it is often suggested that a one-to-one relationship exists between sacred texts and human actions, we actually know almost nothing about that relationship.

“In sum, there is no doubt that empirical-intercultural biblical hermeneutics now stands as a solid, indeed ground-breaking, exercise in academic-scholarly as well as religious-theological interpretation of the Bible, and this volume provides the perfect introduction.” - Prof. Dr. Fernando F. Segovia, Oberlin Graduate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity; The Divinity School, The Graduate Department of Religion, The Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University

Empirical Hermeneutics

ISBN 0936273801.

Subscriptions to the monograph series (1-2 a year)

  • US subscriptions: $15 per monograph, including shipping
  • International subscriptions: $18 per monograph, including shipping

Single copies

  • To a US address: $15 plus $3 shipping
  • To an international address: $20 plus $5 shipping

Read more about the Intercultural Biblical Hermeneutics series.

Also see the 2004 publication Through the Eyes of Another: Intercultural reading of the Bible.

“The launching of this new series in intercultural biblical hermeneutics is to be warmly welcomed. For quite some years now, this critical project, which was first given expression in the volume Through the Eyes of Another, has yielded impressive results. Indeed, it has established itself as a highly innovative and sophisticated approach in biblical criticism by way of its focus on real readers in small communities reading the same text and exchanging such readings with other communities and readers around the world—all in the wake and interest of a global Christianity.