Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI)

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The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) is a cooperation of the Protestant Theological University and the Faculty of Religion and Theology of VU Amsterdam. It stimulates and organizes various activities concerning reading and interpretation of the Bible and develops activities in both teaching and research. It brings together people using the Bible in different contexts and from different perspectives. Special attention is given to different cultural contexts. Another goal is to bring together the professional and the intuitive reading.

Mission CCBI

The Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) engages in cutting edge academic research: the interaction between socio-cultural and socio-economic factors as well as established traditions of reading on the one hand and scriptural interpretation on the other hand. In particular, it does so by researching the hermeneutical and transformative potential that the encounter between diverse communities of interpretation has. In doing so, the research of the centre has a clear interest in reading strategies that are societally beneficial and factors that help or hinder them. Reading strategies that might be considered beneficial are such that further respectful encounter, dialogue, rapprochement and mutual understanding between different communities of interpretation of the Bible. Such reading strategies contribute to actualization of the potential for social transformation that sacred scriptures hold.

Hermeneutically speaking, the centre’s research has as its vantage point the (empirical) fact that the potential for meaning of (religious) texts is inexhaustible and is expanded by every (re)reading of a text, while each (re)reading of a text can be conceptualized as an encounter, both between the reader, or a reading community, and the text, as well as between the reader (or reading community) and other readers (or reading communities). Such encounter is necessary both to further appreciate a text and its (ever new) meaning as well as to understand (and, if necessary, challenge) one’s own interpretation. The encounter with the (textual) other creates the space needed for the emergence of new meaning.

Methodologically, the centre’s research is empirical in nature, in the sense that “real” (i.e. both contemporary and historical) interpretations of sacred scriptures are analyzed. The empirical method that is used uses an intercultural lens, aware of the fact that each and every interpretation, including interpretations of interpretations, such as they result from the Centre’s scholarship, is culturally influenced, which needs to be factored in in the analysis. These methodological considerations are brought to bear in particular on research on dialogues between communities of reading from different contexts, as facilitated by the centre, in which both the intercultural factor as well as the factor of “difference” as a prerequisite for interpretation can be studied.

Research Programme

In the fall of 2016, the Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI) was founded with a mission to develop research in contextual biblical studies. This takes place through its research programme Contextuality as Catalyst. The programme initiates and brings together research projects in which the contextuality of the scholar aids to ask innovative research questions to the ancient texts, doing so in such a manner that the texts are both explored in a new way and also to become voices in contemporary debates. The programme is thus dedicated to both original research and to the paradigm of ‘science for society.’ Thereby, it focuses on forms of biblical interpretation that contribute to the humanization of society and a sustainable way of living.

This pertains to topics such as:
- social, mental and spiritual resilience in faith communities;
- the reciprocal relationship between gender and religion as well as between religion and violence;
- religious/theological anthropologies and biblical sources;
- biblical interpretation in the context of migration and competition for land;
- the interaction between biblical texts and ritual practices (esp. concerning food and water).

The programme is co-directed by the directors of CCBI, Prof. Dr K. Spronk and Prof. Dr P.-B. Smit.

CCBI activities

The CCBI offers the following activities:

  • Courses in the Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Exploring a Discipline
    coordinator Peter-Ben Smit (p.b.a.smit@vu.nl)
  • The annual Dom Hélder Câmara lecture
    In collaboration with Kerk in Actie and the Dutch Mission Council
    Maintained in 2018 by Prof. Louise Lawrence, on 'Bible and limitation'
  • The scientific colloquium Contextual Bible Interpretation
    By invitation, for information: coordinator: Eva van Urk (eva.van.urk@vu.nl)
  • The Bridging Gaps exchange programme
    In collaboration with various social partners
  • Inspiration days Contextual Bible Interpretation
    In collaboration with Kerk in Actie and the Arminius Institute

More information

Further information about the Centre for Contextual Biblical Interpretation (CCBI).