The Bible Darshan – An International Conference, hosted by the Department of Biblical Studies at the United Theological College, Bangalore is a unique experiment to be cherished, in the long history of the College. This is particularly because of the distinguished guests and participants, who represented eight different nations (Australia, Germany, Kuwait, Myanmar, Nigeria, UK, Sweden and the host – India). Participants from India represented twelve states (Andra Pradesh, Araunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradhesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal) and one Union territory (Delhi), thus covering North to South and East to West of India.
Under the theme Exploring the New Frontiers for Post-Western Biblical Studies, the conference attempted to challenge biblical scholars in India and in the West to engage with one another, share insights with each other and evolve new frontiers for further research in India/Asia, thereby seeking to engage with texts and contexts for future engagement in the country and beyond.
The long awaited Bible Darshan, an international conference, hosted by the Biblical Studies Department of the United Theological College, deliberating the theme, Exploring New Frontiers for Post-Western Biblical Studies from 30th to Feb.1, 2014 was inaugurated on Jan 30th at 10:00 A.M. in the Ecemenical Resource Centre of the UTC. The “Lighting of the Lamp”, a symbol of Invitation and Life was initiated through Dr. J. R. John Samuel Raj, Principal, UTC, Dr. Mohan Larbeer, Secretary, BTESSC, Dr. Monica Jyotsna Melanchton, Professor of Old Testament and Secretary, Society of Biblical Studies in Asia (SABS), Dr. Vasanth Rao, Principal ACTC and President Society for Biblical Studies in Asia (SBSI) and Dr. David J. Chalcraft, Professor of Old Testament, University of Sheffield, UK. Dr. Dexter S. Maben, Coordinator, Bible Darshan welcomed and introduced the distinguished participants from home and abroad.
Dr. J. R. John Samuel Raj in his inaugural address, extended his greetings and made clear the college's happiness in hosting the conference here. He expressed, “UTC is a meeting point of God’s people.” He added, it is the first ecumenical college in Asia that has journeyed for 104 years till date. It is the place where Shudra Theology and Dalit Theology emerged. It also has an advanced post-graduate and doctoral program under the Serampore University. By the 1970s, UTC became a place for inter-religious studies and dialogue and a very important India-Pakistan dialogue took place in the campus.
Reflecting from 2 Timothy 4: 1-5, the principal talked on perseverance in life. Teachers from around the globe who taught at UTC have always encouraged the students to persevere and carry out the ministry and responsibilities throughout the world.
Instrumental Fusion by the students of UTC brought about a mood of worship and lifted the floor to praise God. The commitment song “God Bless the child”was very powerful.
Under the promising theme Exploring New Frontiers for Post-Western Biblical Studies, there were altogether twenty presentations – six thematic and fourteen papers. The topics were:
· Sociology and the Study of Cultural Context in Global Biblical Interpretation
· ‘The Other Side of the Coin’: Some Reflections on Post-Western Re-awakening
· The Parables of Two Rich Men and a Beggar (Luke 12:16-20 and 16:19-31): Their Relevance for Interpreting the Bible in India Today
· The Politics of “Invasion” of Greek and the “Demise” of Hebrew of Late Antiquity
· Holiness School’s Response to economic Injustice in Leviticus 25: It’s Relevance to Multi-religious and Cultural Context of India Today
· Ephesians Through a Postcolonial Lens
· Pluralistic Hermeneutics
· Reading Amos 6:1-7 in the Light of Mizo Values and Ethos
· Can Anything Come Out of India for New Testament Background?
· Biblical Concepts and Religious “Other” in India Today
· The Theme of Ordination in the Pastoral Epistles
· Nation and Text: Britain, Germany, India and the Bible
· A Postcolonial Christology Shift in India: Converging Possibilities
· Biblical Prophets as Transformative Leaders
· Living in the Perilous Times: An African Reading of 2 Timothy 3:1-5
· Reading Rizpah Across Borders, Cultures, Belongings
· Creation and Human Movement: Prolegomena for a Biblical Migrant Hermeneutics
· A Dialogue between ‘the Eastern’ and ‘the Western’ in New Testament Scholarship: A Proposal
· “Text, Textures of Life and Diaspora” – A Search for Theoretical Connections
· Marcan Apocalypse (Collaparian Mark 13) as Jesus; Prescience: A Post-Western Critic
All the presentations and deliberations fulfilled the required objective of the Conference. The need for contextual interpretation of the biblical text, in relation to East and West depicted possibilities for venturing into new dimensions of interpretation without bias. The existential biblical and non-biblical issues including textual, traditional, sociological, theological, exegetical and the like led to conceptualizing, visualizing, realistic, context oriented hermeneutics in a pluralistic reality. All the presentations were moderated by the Faculty members of the UTC.
On the sidelines…
During the conference, a public reception in honour of all the delegates was organized on the 31st evening, which was set apart especially for visitors to experience and explore the rich and colorful India with varied traditional performances, depicting regional culture through folk songs, dances, and plays. Various individuals and groups represented different regions of the country with their excelling and captivating performances. It was presided over by Rt. Rev. Dr. G. Devakadasham, President, UTC Society and Bishop in the CSI Kanyakumari Diocese. The main address was delivered by Rt. Rev. Dr. J.S. Sadananda, Bishop CSI Karnataka Southern Diocese and Master, Serampore College (University). The visitors were provided with an opportunity to have a glimpse of the garden city of Bangalore, with a Bangalore City tour, which was arranged for visitors after the Conference, as part of experiencing a part of India.
One of the salient features of the conference, is the fact, that is was organized and supported by local resources, once again challenging us all to rethink the notion of dependency and to explore the potential capacity of local resources. The other feature was the outstanding and exceptional participation of all post-graduate students of biblical studies at UTC, who through their creativity, discipline and hard work, contributed immensely to the hosting of the conference.
It is hoped that this dialogical process of scholarship and engagement will foster new frontiers and provide new vistas in the future. The Department is working towards the publication of the papers and thanks one and all.