Vanderbilt University
Department of  Religious Studies, College of Arts and Science

RLST 206 and DIV/REL 3845 Global Interpretaions of Christian Scriptures

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Global Interpretations of Christian Scriptures!
Garland 301F: Wednesday 3:10-5:40 pm


Daniel Patte (Garland Hall, 301G)
Office Hours: T 2:10-3:00pm , or
W 1:10-2:00pm & by appointments
Office: 322-6359; Home: 269-0954

Menghun Goh
Office Hours: W 1:00-3:00pm & by appointments

Course Description: Global Interpretations of Christian Scriptures
Comparative interpretations of Biblical texts by Christians in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania--with those by Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and by Catholics and Protestants in Western Europe and North America. The role of culture in each type of biblical interpretation.


The goal of this seminar on "Global Interpretations of Christian Scriptures" is to help its members:

 A. To learn about distinctive interpretations of the Bible as Christian Scriptures around the world.

Why? a) Because most of the readers of the Bible are believers-a fact that one cannot afford to bracket-out be it in religious studies, critical studies of the Bible, or in theology; b) because most of the readers of the Bible are Christian believers or people who read it with an awareness that Christians view these texts as Scripture; c) because 2/3 of Christian readers of the Bible are in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania, as well as in Eastern Europe and the Middle East (Orthodox Christians), and 1/3 in Western Europe and North America (Catholics and Protestants).

B. To gain a solid understanding of:

1) What is involved in any "interpretation of Scriptures." How it is related to: a) their view of what is most significatn in the biblical text. [Analytical Choices]; b) the believers'vision of life, structured by religious experience and culture; [Hermeneutical, Theological Choices]; c) their concerns and commitments in the concrete social, economic, political reality of their life-context, and thus to their ídeology"; [Contextual Choices]

2) What is involved in "interpretations of Christian Scriptures," i.e., both in the interpretation of the Scriptures that are exclusively Christian (the New Testament) as well as the Christian interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures (Tanakh or Hebrew Bible). What distinguish these Christian interpretations?

i. A certain Christian vision of life? Christian religious experience? A particular way in which this vision of life is related to the believers' given cultures? [Hermeneutical, Theological Choices]

ii. A certain conception of the believers' relationship to their life-context? of the believers' relationship to power and authority? of the believers' sense of responsibility for those in need, in their family, their Christian community, their society, and/or in the international context? [Contextual Choices]

iii. A certain view of what is most significant in the biblical texts? Its "narrative" (e.g., because believers view it as their story)? Its moral teaching (e.g., because it aims to transform its readers' behavior)? Its symbolism (e.g., because it contributes to establish the believers' view of life)? Its rhetorical dimension (e.g., because it aims to transform its readers' vision of life and behavior)? [Analytical Choices]

3) The diversified nature of "Global interpretations of Christian Scriptures." Because interpretations performed in different parts of the world are "foreign" to us, they help us to recognize the diverse ways in which Christian interpretations of Scripture are related to: a) the believers' vision of life [[H choices]]; b) the believers' concerns and commitments in the concrete reality of their life-context [[C choices]]; and c) their view of what is most significant in the biblical text [[A choices]].

C. To recognize that Christian believers and scholars are

  • always making a choice among several possibilities of relating the teaching of the Bible:

    a) to their cultures (from "total separation" to "inculturation") and their religious experiences (from ardent spiritual experiences to total lack of such experience in a secular life); [[H choices]]

    b) to their life contexts (from concerns for the needs of people every where to concerns exclusively limited to people close to us).[[C choices]]

    c) and this, by choosing as most significant one or another aspect of each Biblical text. [[A choices]]

  • always very much concerned to assess the relative value of the teachings of the Bible resulting from each interpretation, as they try to discern (with religious discernment) those which are beneficial and those which are destructive in their context.
    • As 2 Peter 3:15-17 warns regarding the interpretation of Paul: " So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability." NRSV

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