Twenty-five years after the release of the document "Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (1993) Research Seminar on Biblical Interpretation in India took place in Bangalore from 27th to 29th of September 2019.
The primary intention of the Seminar was to examine what effect the document, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, has made on the Church in India in both the academic and the pastoral fields.
Research seminar on Biblical Interpretation in India was the fruit of the coming together of four institutions, CCBI Commission for Bible, NBCLC, CBAI and TPI, involved in the task of Biblical interpretation in India. It was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of the document “The Interpretation of Bible in the Church”. This Biblical Research Seminar was meant to present the current situation in India, with regard to applying the methods or approaches to the text of the Bible and their outcome; to study the various attempts already made on the Indian soil with regard to particular methods or approaches and to make an evaluation of the same; to show the new directions that are opened to us in the fields of Indian Biblical Studies and Biblical Pastoral Ministry.
The seminar began on 27th September 2019, at 4 pm at NBCLC, Bangalore with the arrival of various resource persons and participants from all over India. The participants included Bishops of the CCBI Commission for Bible, Chairmen of Regional Bible Commissions, Regional and Diocesan Secretaries of Bible Commissions, Members of CBAI, ITA, TPI, Professors, Priests, Research scholars and Religious men and women, Lay leaders involved in the Biblical Apostolate, as well as a group of students who were part of the Bible course in NBCLC. There were 127 people who were present.
At 4.30 pm the Prayer Service with the enthronement of the Bible and lighting of the lamp by the dignitaries marked the inauguration and Fr Sagaya John, the director of the NBCLC welcomed the dignitaries (Most Rev. Antonysamy Peter Abir, Chairman of the Bible Commission; Most Rev. T. Joseph Raja Rao, Member Bishop of the Commission; Rev. Fr. A. John Baptist, Executive Secretary, Bible Commission; Rev. Fr. Assisi Saldanha, President, TPI; Rev. Fr. Joy Philip, President, CBAI; Rev. Fr. Stephen Alathara, Deputy Secretary, CCBI; Rev. Fr. Selva Ratinam, Resource Person) and participants.
Thereafter Presidential address was delivered by Most Rev. Antonysamy Peter Abir, Chairman of CCBI Commission for Bible. He began with the words of appreciation, and called attention to the need for political interpretation, proper theologizing, and much more Biblical interpretations in India. He suggested, for the future, some areas of concerns and themes for discussion related to the interpretation of the Bible in India.
The Keynote address by Fr Selva Ratinam SJ, President, JDV, Pune, was very strong and verbal in presenting the reality of the Biblical Interpretation in India. His discussion revolved around the origin of the document and its reception in India. In conclusion, he said that for a responsible interpretation of the Bible, we need to attend to the historical (world behind the text), literary and ideological (world in the text) study of the Bible, keeping in mind the reader (the world in front of the text). The First Paper was presented by Fr. Assisi Saldanha, C.Ss.R. His topic was “The Future of the Historical Method.”
The second day began with the Holy Eucharist presided over by Bishop Peter Abir. After breakfast the input sessions under various topics: “Narrative-Rhetoric and Canonical Methods for the Interpretations of the Bible (Synchronic Approach)” (Fr. Joy Philip CMI, (DVK, Bangalore, the president of CBAI)); “Hope amidst Hopelessness: Subaltern Approaches to the Markan World” (Fr. Maria Arulraja SJ); “Feminist Biblical Scholarship - Before and After the (document) Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” (Sr. Prema Vakayil, CSST, Mysore); “Pastoral Methods used in the Interpretation of the Bible” (Fr Mario Mendes, Mumbai); “Inter-Textual Reading of the Bible with the Sacred Scriptures of other Indian Belief Traditions” (Mr Shilanand Hemraj, Bangalore);
The third day, 30th September, began with the Eucharist celebrated by Most Rev. Raja Rao, Member Bishop of the Commission. The seventh session was presented by Fr Jerome Sylvester IMS, Varanasi, on “Interpretation of the Bible among Khristbhaktas”. Fr Samuel Kapani from Northeast of India presented the eight paper on “Tribal Reading and Methods used for the Interpretation of the Bible. Many regional secretaries and others moderated the sessions.
After the Tea break there was the Panel Discussion on “New Avenues and Future Orientations for the Interpretation of the Bible in India”. The discussion was moderated by Fr. A. John Baptist, CCBI Commission for the Bible. The three Panellists were Fr. Yesu Karunanidi, Sr. Virginia Rajakumari, Mr. Nigel Fernandes. The paper of Sr Virginia Rajakumari, SAB was presented by Fr Lawrence Calus.
The concluding session was filled with the note of gratitude, feedbacks and suggestions for the future. Many appreciated the joint venture and networking of the four institutions.
There were some suggestions:
To make available the bibliographies of Indian Biblical Scholars for the future Biblical Mission.
To bridge the gap between the Biblical Scholarship and Biblical Pastoral Ministry.
To encourage active participation of more members (to present the papers) with inputs and not just silent participation alone.
Need to include different type of cultures and explore different type of interpretations and prepare leaflets to disseminate this knowledge.
To encourage the Laity to challenge the scholar and demand the right and needed interpretation of the Bible, like the South American experience.
Fr. Sagaya John at the end proposed the vote of thanks. Fr. Joy Philip thanked Fr. Sagaya John, the Director of NBCLC and its staff members for their hard work and the hospitality. Bishop Raja Rao said the final prayer and blessed the participants. The participants departed to their respective places after the lunch.
Report prepared by Fr. A. John Baptist with the input from Rev. Sr. Antonette Jesumani DSP