The Value of Majority-World Contextual Hermeneutics for Western Biblical Interpreters

While the majority of known Christian scholarship has developed in the West, now God’s Word is being interpreted by readers from contexts around the world. As Western interpreters, it would be a mistake to assume that these majority-world interpretations will match our own; instead, these interpreters are often reading the Bible contextually, using their own cultural contexts to illuminate elements of the biblical text. In this paper, I first discuss contextual hermeneutics as a model that describes the reality of any biblical interpretation and propose a new diagram to visualize the model. Then, I develop the metaphor of fish tanks to describe the benefit of learning from these majority-world contextual interpretations for the Western reader, proposing three benefits in particular: (1) Insights into Biblical Culture and Truth, (2) The Removal of Cultural Blinders in Our Applications, and (3) A Return to Interestedness and Accessibility in Scholarship. Finally, I provide three examples of elements within the biblical context that can be better understood by listening to Asian and Asian American interpretations: (1) Family and Community, (2) Shame, and (3) Harmonious Dichotomies.

My research interacts with Te-Li Lau’s Defending Shame (2020), Elizabeth Mburu’s African Hermeneutics (2019), Chin Ming Stephen Lim’s Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics as Multicentric Dialogue (2019), K. K. Yeo’s What Has Jerusalem to Do with Beijing (1998), and C. René Padilla’s “The Interpreted Word: Reflections on Contextual Hermeneutics” (1981) among others.

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