Anabaptist Studies

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Proposal for Reading the Bible After Christendom

I am breathing a sigh of relief as yesterday I submitted a revised proposal for the book together with the introductory chapter. I had submitted a proposal some time ago but grew increasingly unhappy with the proposed outline. I am much happier with the revised version!

On pages 293-300 of Post-Christendom Stuart Murray outlines ways in which the Bible can be used as a resource for post-Christendom. He suggests that there are three primary moves that need to be made in reading the Bible in this fresh environment. The first is that Christendom hermeneutics needs to be disavowed. This involves employing a hermeneutic of suspicion which critically scrutinises long established readings of Scripture. The second is to employ fresh angles of vision with which to approach biblical texts. Finally, a hermeneutic of retrieval is employed so that biblical texts can be read in ways which resonate with our changing context. I am using this three-fold schema as the outline for the book.

After a brief examination of how the Bible was read before Christendom emerged I shall turn to highlighting in subsequent chapters how Christendom readings served to reinforce patriarchy, the ecclesiastical status quo and the interests of the politically and economically powerful respectively. In the second part I shall outline various angles of vision from which to approach the biblical texts. My central thesis is that the Bible needs to be read in the light of characteristics we find in Jesus as revealed in the Gospels. The first of these is prophetic emphasising both the need for a sustained vision of shalom and the consequent call to social justice. The second of these is poetic emphasising the Bible's elusive and subversive character. The third is the pastoral perspective which will focus on the biblical call to discipleship. In the final chapter in this section I shall argue that we need a plurality of perspectives to do justice to the complexity of the Bible. In the third part I will apply these perspectives to various biblical genres and themes as follows:

  • Creation - beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation I shall emphasise the ecological dimension
  • Covenant - rooted in Torah and reinforced in the Prophets I shall emphasise the biblical vision of community in shalom
  • Texts of Terror - in this chapter I shall look at some of the ethically difficult biblical passages
  • Exile - here I shall examine ways in which Israel's experience of exile provides resources for the church on the margins
  • Gospel - here I return to my central thesis concerning the centrality of the gospels
  • Epistle - a fresh look at Paul using the angles of vision outlined in Part Two.
  • Apocalypse - reading Revelation after Christendom
In my concluding chapter I shall summarise what has gone before under the following headings:

  • Reading from the margins
  • Reading in community
  • The Bible as prophetic
  • The Bible as subversive
  • The Bible as sustaining
I hope this whets your appetite for the book. I had better get on with writing it now! Any comments either here or over at the Post-Christendom website will be very much appreciated.


  • Lloyd,

    this looks like it could be a great addition to the series. :)

    Robin Parry

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 AM  

  • Thanks Robin - definitely appreciated coming from you! :)

    By Blogger Lloyd Pietersen, at 11:04 AM  

  • My, you have been working hard, Lloyd! What a wonderful and thorough approach to a very important subject. I hadn't picked up Stuart's suspicion, transformation, retrieval theme before - but then I did read it before I became aware of that theme!

    Are you gonna get straight on with writing it now...?

    By Anonymous Joe Baker, at 8:35 PM  

  • Hi Joe

    Thanks for the comments. I plan to start work in earnest on this from Christmas when the course I am teaching at Bristol will be nearly finished!

    12:23 PM

    By Blogger Lloyd Pietersen, at 12:24 PM  

  • I am so looking forward to this.

    I think that the chapter on Revelation will make this an important contribution to the series.

    By Blogger graham old, at 10:12 PM  

  • Hello from over the water in Canada, Lloyd. I'm just reading Stuart's book 'Church after Christendom' and am really looking forward to your addition to this series.

    By Blogger Tim, at 8:32 AM  

  • Welcome Tim and thanks for your kind comments.

    By Blogger Lloyd Pietersen, at 9:17 AM  

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