Wednesday, 5 March, 2014

Public Lecture on "The Bible and Asia"

A public lecture on the book "The Bible and Asia" by Dr. R.S. Sugirtharajah and its review by Mr. Narasiah was held on March 3rd at the Zigenbalg chapel in the UTC. The seminar was jointly organized by the Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC) and the Department of Biblical Studies of the United Theological College.

The session began with opening prayer by  Rev. Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, director of CISRS, Bangalore. Dr. John Samuel Raj, the principal of the United Theological College, Bangalore moderated the session and in his introductory remarks, Dr. John Samuel Raj made initial observations about the relevance of the book. Dr. Mohan Larbeer, BTESSC, formally welcomed the gathering and introduced the guest speaker to the participants.

In his lecture, ‘Celebration of the Book,’ Mr. Narasiah briefly summarized the content of the seven chapters of the book and explained the various stages of the reception of the Bible in Asia. He informed the audience about the several links between the biblical narratives and the native culture of India. He also emphasized the transformation of the Bible from a book of inspiration to a book of religion and later to a book of aggression by colonial powers. He highlighted the fact that the book was about the reception of the Bible in Asia. Narasiah, however, emphasized that the bible could be a medium of coming together of two societies. He congratulated the author for his convictions and courage for initiating a conversation between the two cultures without taking sides.

The response to the review was initiated by Dr. David Joy, who critically viewed  the methodology Sugirtharaj had adapted to study the two cultures – West and East. He also questioned the possibility of how best one can construct the pre-Christian era, without which the study would be superficial. Questions were also raised on the content of myths and metaphors the author used in the book, which are completely ignored as oppressive in nature by the native communities to which the book addresses.

Later, the floor was open for discussion and questions. Critical questions revolved around relevance or irrelevance of post-colonial methodology which the author has adopted in his book, saying it is time to dismantle post colonial methodology and move beyond. Comments were also made of the lack of sensitivity to the Indian and Asian context(s), especially to glaring poverty and inequality. 

Dr. Sugirtharajah was part of the deliberations through video conferencing arranged by the Department of Communication of the UTC. In his response Dr. Sugirtharajah said post colonial methodology is appropriate as long as neo-colonial forces are at work in this world. He also said, we should not consider our contribution to biblical studies as an alternative, but see it along with western methodology. The seminar encouraged the participants to look at the scripture anew. 

The public lecture concluded with the vote of thanks proposed by Dr. Dexter S. Maben, the acting chairperson of the department of Biblical Studies.

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