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Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation

The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) is a partnership between the Protestant Theological University and the Faculty of Religion and Theology of VU University Amsterdam.

It promotes and organises education, research and outreach activities in the area of Contextual Biblical Interpretation. The CCBI brings together people who use the Bible in different contexts and from different perspectives. Special attention is given to different cultural contexts. One particular goal is to bring together professional and intuitive approaches to the Bible.

The mission of the Centre for Contextual Bible Interpretation

The CCBI carries out innovative academic research. In doing so, it focuses on the interaction between socio-cultural and socio-economic factors, traditional ways of reading and a critical approach to Scripture. The CCBI conducts this research in particular by analysing the hermeneutical potential and the potential for change that the encounter between various communities of interpretation has.

In this way, the CCBI's research pays particular attention to ways of reading that promote a more humane society and to factors that promote or counteract these ways of reading. Such ways of reading include approaches that promote respectful encounter, dialogue, rapprochement and understanding between different reading communities. Such ways of reading contribute to realising the potential for social change inherent in sacred texts.

From a hermeneutical point of view, the research of the CCBI is based on the (empirical) fact that (religious) texts have an infinite potential for meanings that is expanded with every (re)interpretation of a text. In this respect, every (re)reading of a text can be seen as an encounter, both between the reader, or the reading community, and the text, and  between the reader (or reading community) and other readers (or reading communities). Such an encounter is necessary on the one hand to be able to understand a text and its (new) meaning and on the other hand, if necessary, to put one's own interpretation to the test. The encounter with the (textual) other creates the space necessary for new meanings to emerge.

Methodologically, the research of the CCBI is often empirical in nature. This means that the "real" (i.e. both historical and contemporary) interpretations of sacred texts are analysed. For this, an interculturally sensitive empirical method is used. This means that the researchers take into account that all research, including that of the CCBI, is culturally influenced and that this should be taken into account. These methodological considerations are particularly applied to dialogues between reading communities from different contexts, as facilitated by the CCBI. In doing so, this research also looks at how interculturality and difference are prerequisites for arriving at new interpretations of texts.

Research

The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) was established in autumn 2016 with the mission of developing research on contextual biblical interpretation. This is done through the research programme Contextuality as Catalyst. The programme initiates and brings together research projects in which contextuality helps scholars ask innovative research questions of ancient sacred texts. Through this approach, the texts are explored in a new way and are once again given a role in contemporary debates. Contextuality as Catalyst therefore focuses on both conducting innovative research and on the paradigm of 'science for society'. The programme focuses on different forms of biblical interpretation that contribute to the humanisation of society and a sustainable way of life.

This covers topics such as:

  • social, mental and spiritual resilience in faith communities;
  • the reciprocal relationship between gender and religion, and between religion and violence;
  • religious / theological anthropology and sacred texts;
  • Biblical interpretation in the context of migration and land competition;
  • the interaction between sacred texts and ritual practices (in particular concerning food and water).

The programme is managed by both directors of the CCBI; Prof. Dr. K. Spronk and Prof. Dr. P.-B. Smit.

Activities of the CCBI

The CCBI offers the following activities:

  • Courses in BA and MA and the MA track Contextual Biblical Interpretation in the MA Exploring a Discipline (more information: coordinator Peter-Ben Smit - p.b.a.smit@vu.nl).
  • The annual Dom Hélder Câmar Lecture (in cooperation with Kerk in Actie and the Netherlands Missionary Council). The lecture was
    • in 2018 held by Prof. Dr. Louise Lawrence (University of Exeter), on 'Bible and limitation', published as Bijbel en beperking: contextuele en missiologische perspectieven (NZR, 2019);
    • held in 2019 by Dr Mery Kolimon (Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana), on 'Reading the Bible in a context of drought' ('Reading the Bible in Dry Land'), published as:  De schepping in het midden. Klimaatcrisis als theologische uitdaging (NZR, 2020);
    • in 2020 held by Prof. Marilu Rojas Salazar (Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla), on 'God reveals himself in the everyday struggle for a good life. Perspectives from Latin American ecofeminist theology,' the lecture will be published, together with other contributions, by the Dutch Missionary Council in 2021.
  • The exchange programme Bridging Gaps, in cooperation with various social partners.
  • Study days in Contextual Biblical Interpretation in cooperation with Kerk in Actie and the Arminius Institute; the next one is planned for the spring of 2022 on the theme 'Trust'. Earlier study days dealt with different themes, such as 'Bible and restriction' in 2019 and 'The city and the Bible' in 2018.

Research group

The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation is closely linked to the research group Contextual Biblical Interpretation and Theologies. At the group’s page, you can also find more information about ongoing research and researchers involved.

In this context the academic colloquium Contextual Biblical Interpretation also takes place, for information: coordinator: Eva van Urk (e.van.urk@vu.nl).

More information

For more information, see also: Centrum voor Contextuele Bijbelinterpretatie (CCBI).