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VU appoints Arie Zwiep as professor of Hermeneutics

17 May 2021
Het College van Bestuur van de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) heeft Arie Zwiep per 15 mei benoemd tot hoogleraar Hermeneutiek aan de Faculteit Religie en Theologie (FRT).

The chair is founded to study the way confessional and non-confessional communities deal with texts and how these texts become authoritative within these communities. The appointment is an important contribution to the profile of the Faculty.

Hermeneutics and modern society
Within a pluralistic society, where many religions appeal to holy scriptures, it is important to understand how and why they interpret their scriptures the way they do. Arie Zwiep: “Our research will be focused on the relationship between these sources (holy scriptures) and the communities they created. Understanding these dynamics is highly relevant in a society where religion has become again a phenomenon with a far-reaching (constructive and destructive) influence.”

Hermeneutics is not only trying to understand the rules of interpretation, it also aims at creating a dialogue between the different communities on their authoritative scriptures, and thus fits the Faculty vision of engaged scholarship. Dean Ruard Ganzevoort is very pleased with the appointment: “This chair in hermeneutics will analyze and challenge the ways in which sacred texts function to bolster strong and conflicting religious identities. That is an urgent imperative for our multireligious world and a central topic for our faculty.”

Understanding differences
Hermeneutics has a wider scope than interpretive rules, practical applications and nonnegotiable presuppositions. Zwiep: “It is about you and me, and about how we can live together despite all the differences that divide us. I’m intrigued by the observation that, despite the fact that religious texts have a bad reputation, many religious communities still cling to their scriptures for the welfare of the city, as one of the biblical prophets has it.” In popular discourse, hermeneutics is often seen as a science to complicate matters and to only confirm one’s own convictions. Zwiep: “I am convinced that the academic study of sacred writings can help (or at least should help) to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and overcome conflicts rather than create them. It all comes to the will to understand.”

Research and education
Zwiep has a very solid reputation in the domain of hermeneutics as well as in the field of New Testament studies. He is also known for his extensive research on modern philosophical hermeneutics (German and French) as well as his research on New Testament texts. He will continue his research in both fields, in close cooperation with faculty colleagues, and with international colleagues. For example with professor Lukas Bormann from the University of Marburg (Germany) with whom he started a project on the correspondence between the former VU rector Frederik Willem Grosheide and his German colleague Gerhard Kittel.

Arie Zwiep
Zwiep obtained his PhD in Durham where he studied under the supervision of professor James Dunn. He also studied at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit of Louvain (Belgium). He has held several management positions at different theological institutes and currently holds the position of Dean of Education. Professor Zwiep is well known for his knowledge of the philosophical as well as the theological aspects of authoritative texts, which has gained him the reputation of being able to deal with questions raised by believers as well as by non-believers.