Cross-cultural exegesis refers to biblical analysis that intentionally draws from the cultural background and experiences of the scholar him/herself in order to suggest analogies to historical phenomena in biblical history, propose alternative views on the context of a biblical passage, or otherwise nuance an interpretation of a text and/or artifact.

The Contours of “Cross-Cultural Exegesis.”

There is some debate about differentiating between cultural perspectives that may be considered relevant for historical or textual analysis itself (i.e., what the text is understood to be referring to historically: “what it meant then”), or cultural perspectives that influence the assessment of the wider significance of a given text or historical event (what the possible interpretations or significances of the text may be: “what it means now”). There are important methodological differences between those two endeavors, but many scholars working in cross-cultural exegesis often raise questions about whether the classic difference between the historical-critical and the theological significance can really be so cleanly separated. Furthermore, it is also true that cross-cultural exegesis in many cultural/national traditions is not easily separated into the discrete fields of theology and biblical studies, which is a long established European distinction in theological studies departments generally. Finally, particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, many “cultural” traditions have found it difficult if not impossible to consider “cultural” apart from political contexts, and thus in the twenty-first century, “cross-cultural” exegesis is often present in the same studies with conscious applications of postcolonial categories of analysis. One of the most influential early collections of essays, for example, Voices from the Margin, continued to mix approaches in its various updated editions (Sugirtharajah 1995, 2006).

The most common practice for cross-cultural exegesis, however, has been to draw on one’s own tradition and/or experiences in reference to a proposed biblical analysis. However, particular scholars may also draw on information from other cultural traditions (anthropological studies, cultural studies, or the work of biblical scholars in other traditions/cultures). In addition, there is a clear tendency to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries within their own defined cultural tradition. For example, an African American biblical scholar may draw from significant work by African American historians or novelists, but also historical sources such as slave narratives, lyrics of spirituals or blues, or texts of sermons, because the other approach (i.e., drawing on more than one tradition or culture) is typically not exclusive of economic, social, or political perspectives that are also cited for suggestive perspectives in dealing with particular biblical texts.

In addition, “cross-cultural exegesis” is virtually synonymous with such terms as “cultural interpretation” (Blount 1995); “cultural exegesis” (Smith-Christopher 1995), and arguably quite similar to perspectives such as: “global” commentaries (Patte 2004 ); “Intercultural reading” (de Wit 2004); some aspects of “Readings from a Social Location” (Segovia and Tolbert 1995); and “heritagist readings” (Sugirtharajah 2002); as well as certain aspects of “liberationist” readings where there is a more consciously cultural rather than economic/Marxist emphasis (Mesters 1989; Romero 1992) or some entries featured in “The People’s Companion to the Bible” (DeYoung et. al. 2010). Having said this, however, “cross-cultural” perspectives rarely are the exclusive style of arguments, comparative examples, or analogies that biblical scholars draw upon in constructing their culturally informed analysis of texts. As such, cross-cultural exegesis is rarely an exclusive methodological approach in any given study, especially in twenty-first century published work.

As with many (if not most) “methods” or “approaches” to biblical analysis developed in the twentieth century, there are clear lines of influence on biblical scholarship that can be traced back to other disciplines (postmodernist literary analysis, Marxist economic analysis, psychotherapeutic interpretations, etc.). It is notable, however, in the case of cross-cultural analysis of the Bible, that there is no single or even predominant disciplinary influence from outside theological studies that led directly to cross-cultural approaches to biblical analysis in the way that, for example “reader response” approaches to literary work led directly to a “reader response” approach to biblical analysis.

Finally, an emerging “school” largely found in recent studies of mission history and historical cases of conversion is also identifying ways in which converted peoples assert their own interpretations and readings of the Bible in direct contrast (and often opposition) to the readings/meanings that European missionaries attempted to impose upon them. Where these cases can document particular readings of scripture, they are beginning to be highlighted as important examples of cross-cultural exegesis worthy of renewed modern attention (McNally 2000).

What Isn’t a Cultural Reading?

One celebrated way to define an intellectual “school” that is typically considered subsidiary to a larger defined discipline (e.g., “surrealist” art, “liberationist” theology, “cladist” approaches to zoological taxonomy, and therefore also cross-cultural biblical analysis) would be to simply provide an annotated bibliography of significant works that have collectively contributed to the suggested “school,” “movement,” or “category.” Such an approach presumes that reading a significant number of these suggested works allows one to become more aware of the parameters of the topic (and perhaps also become more aware of the difficulties of being too narrow in defining terms!). In the case of cross-cultural analysis of scripture, however, there is arguably an inherent danger with this kind of approach—namely that the determination of items that are considered appropriate to the list often already hides dubious presumptions.

It is important that a variety of examples are highlighted, even if it is impossible to be comprehensive in such an introductory overview. However, at the outset, it is critical to highlight the observation that all exegesis of the Bible is “cultural” (Donaldson 1998). Virtually all scholars whose work can be called “cross-cultural exegesis” insist that there can be no such thing as “noncultural” (and thus a purely “objective”) approaches to the interpretation of ancient texts any more than there is purely objective analysis of artifacts, whether ancient or modern. There ought to be little tolerance, therefore, with any temptation to label “cross-cultural” approaches to the Bible as virtually synonymous with “non-European” (or worse: “other than mainline”) approaches. Indeed, recent studies of European bias in the analysis of ancient texts (Holloway 2002), archaeological analysis (Dietler 2005), and cultural studies (Said 1979) clearly point to European (and European Diaspora) biblical studies as themselves also examples of analysis in a “cultural context” that is typically unexamined because of the false claims of noncultural “objectivity.”

Locating Cross-Cultural Exegesis in Hermeneutical Methodology.

An important conceptual foundation for cross-cultural exegesis of the Bible is to establish some of the epistemological presumptions of this method. Here we return to the problem of separating questions about analyzing the historical texts (what the text actually said at the stages of writing and final editing) and contemporary assessments (how people read and understood the finished text over time). While most scholars would agree that cultural perspectives are obviously relevant to the second question (assessment, evaluation, theological development, etc.)—is it possible that cultural perspectives can actually also enhance the understanding and historical-critical analysis of a text even on the level of grammatical, philological, and lexical issues? There are a variety of arguments that would strongly suggest an affirmative answer to this provocative question—provocative because it is at this level of textual analysis that one normally encounters the most vehement insistence that such detailed historical-critical work can be, and indeed must be, “objective” based on a scientific and rational model. The analogy with scientific method, however, encounters interesting difficulties at this point, because subjective perspectives are now widely acknowledged even in this intellectual paragon of modernist objectivity (so Kuhn 1962; Feyerabend 1975). Taking this more open approach to models of scientific investigation (open, that is, to what was previously thought to be “inappropriately subjective” elements in determining scientific method or hypotheses for investigation) would be to suggest that opening up the analysis of ancient texts to cross-cultural perspectives is not only an issue of moral virtue (e.g., a more virtuous practice, a foundation that may not be universally convincing) but is rather to suggest alternative approaches that may or may not yield significant, verifiable results or probabilities in historical-critical analysis. New forays (however they may be inspired by a cultural “cue” or insights) can thus redefine a new “obvious,” a more nuanced sense of “normal,” or to put it bluntly, a “redefined objectivity.” In short, “cross-cultural” exegesis could well be defined as a presumed baseline for all contemporary biblical studies.

Perhaps the most straightforward way to further establish the rationality of this argument in a morally neutral way (and thus further establish the intellectual need for encouraging cross-cultural analysis) is to consider important work in the psychology of cross-cultural perception (which is, itself, not a recent study). In sum, scholars in this field have clearly established that there are genuinely significant differences across cultures in the perception of phenomena, most particularly visual phenomena (Deregowski 1980; McPherson 1965; Lee 1950), but also cross-cultural differences in the perception of photographs (Wendl 1996) and music (Balkwill and Thompson 1999). Lee, in her work with what she called Native American cultural “codes” (e.g., modes of perception and appropriation) already in the mid-twentieth century provocatively concluded that interacting with culturally different perspectives of the same phenomenon (as in a kind of cross-culturally “synoptic” view) may actually “lead us to aspects of reality from which our own…[cultural]…code excludes us” (Lee 1950).

A second approach, less interested in a rational/empirically analogous defense, would be to simply affirm the methodological validity of “interested” perspectives. Citing the earliest work by feminist scholars of the Bible, for example, Fiorenza points out that “interested” perspectives are methods of study that are willing to be open about the academic questions they bring to the study of texts and history (Fiorenza 2009). These questions are explicitly generated by the “interests” or commitments of the scholars themselves, (e.g., female academics who investigate the role of women in novels, plays, or biblical texts). Therefore, other “interests” could follow, such as the role of minorities, the presence and role of class conflict in ancient texts, or the evidence for phenomena that today are identified under quite different terms, (e.g., spirit possession vs. contemporary psychological analysis vs. post-traumatic stress disorder, etc). Cross-cultural analysis, then, would simply be grouped with “interested” approaches to biblical analysis.

Examples of Cross-Cultural Exegesis.

To illustrate how this may work, one may cite the provocative suggestions of C. Gilbert Romero. In his 1992 essay, “Tradition and Symbol as Biblical Keys for a U. S. Hispanic Theology,” Romero proposed that contemporary Mexican-American cultural practices (e.g., home altars; only one of his examples) may provide significant clues to fully understanding the ritual experience of ancient Israel as it is described in the biblical text in a way that those from less ritualized cultural experiences could easily miss. It was thus not the contemporary significance of biblical texts that Romero was exclusively interested in—but also the historical comprehension of the Israelite traditions themselves.

Similarly, Hisao Kayama proposed that Japanese cultural perspectives in relation to the status of the Burakumin minority in Japan may enhance an understanding of the relation between ancient Hebrew categories of clean and unclean as they may have applied in the Cornelius Story of Acts 10 (Kayama 1995). Note that there is a methodological similarity here with an analysis of a biblical text that applies, for example, Freudian categories of analysis to clarifying the text of Ezekiel (e.g., Halperin 1993), or Marxist economic analysis for possibly achieving a clearer understanding of ancient peasant economies of Iron Age Israel as represented in the Hebrew texts (Premnath 2003).

Finally, the work of David Sanchez (2008) illustrates what he calls a “dialogue” with the text of Revelation. By surveying the ubiquity and meaning of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the Mexican-American context of Los Angeles, he then offers new insights into the potential Roman period significance of the “Virgin versus the Dragon” themes in the book of Revelation.

What differentiates these arguments from the more widely practiced “contextual based reading of texts” approach is that the emphasis of the former is on making contributions to a historical-critical goal of clarifying the actual text, rather than a focus on assessing various interpretations, applications, or theological development performed on the basis of the biblical texts. “Cross-cultural exegesis” works on both questions, and even though some biblical scholars seriously question the possibility of separating these kinds of studies, there is a conceptual difference that is important to maintain. In sum, virtually every historical and even (at times) lexical analysis progresses by analogy, hypothesis, and evaluation of data. The promise of cross-cultural exegesis is that it enriches the repertoire of analogous possibilities, grammatical or societal possibilities, and even the assessment of what can, and should, be considered as “data.”

Clearly, however, there are also many important examples of the other primary approach identified here—namely a culturally based “appreciation” or commentary on the significance of a given text, apart from critical reconstructions of the text (and its historical context). To better engage these aspects of cross-cultural exegesis, however, it is important to turn to a cursory survey in order to illustrate something of the depth, and range, of studies that contribute to the notable accomplishments of this approach to biblical analysis. The summaries provided here are not intended to be comprehensive in any sense, but simply to point readers in general directions so that they can follow up on particular writers, cultural traditions, or particular studies. Finally, however, these summaries intend to clearly communicate that cross-cultural exegesis is a global undertaking, promising a new level of dialogue across virtually all contemporary social and cultural contexts.


Work by the late Ferdinand Deist (1994) and modern work by Gerald West (e.g., 2007) illustrates an interesting awareness of the South African context for both European and African populations. A historically important contribution was Mosala’s monograph of 1989, and but important work also continues in the Black South African contexts with the continued work of Masenya (1995, 1997, 1998). African scholars, along with African American and other “Diaspora” African scholars contributed to the important “Africana Bible” project (Page et al. 2009), and in this regard, the more evangelical-based work, the Africa Bible Commentary (Tokunboh 2010) is also significant for wide variety of continental African participation. Aliou Niang (2009), a Senegalese-American scholar teaching in the United States, produced a detailed monograph examining Galatians in its historical critical context, but consciously drawing on his own (Senegalese) African cultural context to inform his New Testament analysis. Interesting work is also being done drawing on older African Christian traditions, such as those of Ethiopia, in the context of thinking about African culturally based contemporary readings (Cowley 1989 ). The amount of work coming from Nigeria is particularly noteworthy (Dada 2010) and Nigerian scholars continue to develop themes of comparing African tribal/social/cultural practices and traditions with biblical examples that are illuminated by the comparison (e.g., chieftaincy; see Asaju 2005).


The work of Norman Habel (1993) arguably laid the groundwork in Australia for reading biblical texts from a uniquely Australian perspective, although he has since moved toward environmental issues (which represent a major concern for the churches in Australia and New Zealand). Other Euro-Australian scholars have taken steps toward thinking about doing biblical analysis in the context of a frightening history of the abuse of the indigenous people of Australia. Again, many of these studies cross the disciplinary lines that often separate theology and biblical studies. The work of Brett (2009), Boer (2008), and Budden (2009) have pointed in notable directions. There are significant beginnings of Aboriginal Christian engagement with academic biblical studies in the works of Pattel-Gray (1996), and Djiniyini Gondarra (1996). Some of the newsletters of the Aboriginal Australian training school for ministry, Nungalinya College in Darwin, also include thoughtful considerations of Aboriginal appropriation of scripture, and there is growing interest in examining Aboriginal song traditions, including the lyrics of Aboriginal Christian songs (similar to interest in African American “spirituals” in the American experience) for sources of Aboriginal reflection on scripture (Magowan 2007 ).


The work of Canadian scholars unfortunately too often falls under the shadow of American scholarship, but there are notable developments among Canadian biblical scholars, many of whom work in the United States as well as in Canadian universities. Some Canadian biblical scholars are thinking seriously about the unique contextual challenges and cultural perspectives in the particularities of the Canadian context. Barbara Lai’s essay, “Engaging Daniel Ethno-Culturally: A Chinese-Canadian Reading,” for example, pursues questions of immigrant communities’ interaction with scripture in the Canadian context. Her essay is scheduled to appear in an important new book with chapters featuring Korean, Latino, Indian, First Nation, Chinese, Jamaican, and Ghanaian perspectives rooted in the Canadian experience (Reading in Between: Biblical Interpretation in Canada, 2012). Medina has engaged in a critical review of mestizaje theological proposals, which includes serious thinking about the biblical analysis involved in that movement (Medina 2009 ). Important “First Nation” reflections are part of innovative programs such as the indigenous emphasis at Vancouver School of Theology, but publications are not yet available.


For an introduction to biblical studies in India, note Premnath’s important overview (Premnath 2006). There are significant biblical studies journals in India, including two from Catholic seminaries (Bible Bhashyam; see, e.g., Soares-Prabhu 1978; and Jeevadhara; see, e.g., Kuzhuvelil 1982) and biblical essays often appear in the Indian Journal of Theology. ISPCK (New Delhi) has been a helpful publisher of Indian theology, especially of materials related to Christian theology and the Dalits (low-caste and tribal groups) in India. A significant amount of Indian cross-cultural analysis has tended to deal with themes suggested from the struggles of low-caste and tribal peoples in India (for studies of the legacy of the significant rate of conversion to Christianity that occurred among these subordinated peoples in the Indian context, see Rayan 1978; Clarke 2002). The Centre for Dalit/Subaltern Studies has been working on a commentary series reflecting these significant social issues in the Indian context (ten volumes of New Testament studies were published from 2006 through 2009, and five of an anticipated twenty volumes of Old Testament commentaries appeared in 2011). Massey, one of the general editors, states that these commentaries are “not reader-response…but a challenge-response to the caste context of rejection, subjugation and violence” (Massey 2010).

Earlier cross-cultural experiments with Indian textual traditions and exegetical methods applied to biblical studies were suggestive (note attempts to use “Dhvani” methods derived from the analysis of Sanskrit poetics; see Vellanickal 1995, and Soares-Prabhu 1978). Soares-Prabhu was particularly important among Indian New Testament scholars interested in cross-cultural readings, and he was especially interested in developing New Testament themes (1980a, 1980b), and more recently, Monica Melanchthon is among the current generation of Indian scholars consciously working on cross-cultural approaches to Old Testament analysis while also creatively incorporating work in feminist analysis (2007, 2010a, 2010b).

New Zealand.

Similar to the Australian context, New Zealand has begun to emerge as a center for South Pacific thinking on biblical analysis. While traditional academic biblical studies have been a mainstay of institutions such as Victoria (Wellington) and Otago Universities, and more recently also University of Auckland, there are significant moves in the direction of cultural interests in biblical analysis.

The publication, “Out of Place: Doing Theology on the Crosscultural Brink” represents an important step toward a maturing of Oceania perspectives in biblical analysis. Notable in this regard is the work of Dr. Jione Havea (Havea is Tongan, currently teaching in Australia; see Havea, (2004, 2011) and Nasili Vaka’uta (Vaka’uta 2011), who both approach Old Testament themes from a consciously South Pacific perspective and analytical framework. Vaka’uta’s work, for example, is an important re-reading of the mixed marriage crisis in Ezra 9—10 from the perspective of South Pacific cultural and familial structures (Vaka’uta is also Tongan, based at the University of Auckland, New Zealand). The establishment of the Oceania Biblical Scholars Association is promising and publication efforts are under way. The recent presentation at the Annual Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature (2011, San Francisco) by Rev. Donald Tamihere, which featured the “reading” of an actual Maori carved rendering of Micah 4:1–5, points toward important developments in thinking about Maori approaches to biblical analysis based in Gisborne, New Zealand.


Any overview of contemporary Chinese work on the Bible (as opposed to “Chinese American” or “Asian American”) from a specifically national Chinese perspective is advanced by Yieh’s important survey (2006). Liang Gong edits the only biblical studies journal in China, Biblical Literature Studies, and is chair of the only program in China allowed to use the term “biblical” (the Biblical Literature Studies program) at Henan University. In Hong Kong, however, Archie C. C. Lee, has been quite active at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for many years and publishes in cross-cultural approaches to Old Testament texts—especially comparative analysis that he has called “cross textual analysis” (Lee 1994, 1999).

Debates in the United States.

Although the United States shares its predominant multicultural reality with other historically immigrant/forced migration countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is arguably the case that discussions in biblical studies—fostered especially by a very active American disciplinary academic organization, the Society of Biblical Literature—have been especially voluminous in the United States, and particularly among Hispanic/Latino/a scholars, African American scholars, and Asian American scholars. There are notable beginnings among Native Americans, but this still needs to be nurtured within the discipline at this writing, particularly given the critically difficult circumstances still faced by the Native American population as a whole, including higher education opportunities (see Charleston 1996).

Hispanic/Latino/a Cultures.

In a 2011 article in Princeton’s journal, Theology Today, Aguiles Ernesto Martinez writes that although Hispanic/Latino/a theology has “reached maturity.…Sadly, we cannot make the same enthusiastic claim about the work of our ‘biblistas’ in helping us articulate our Latino/a biblical interpretation.” (Martinez 2011, p. 134). To be self-critical is usually a good trait for scholars, but in this case, the sweeping generalization may overly detract from important work that has certainly taken place in the Hispanic/Latino/a contexts at the time of this writing. Here, attention can be drawn to three important contributors to the maturing of Hispanic/Latino/a biblical analysis in the US context (but including a trans-national perspective from those whose identification is more than one geographical territory).

As a starting point, González’s Santa Biblia (1996) set out to make some preliminary discussions for reading the Bible “Through Hispanic Eyes.” After firmly establishing a central plank of the “cross-cultural exegesis” platform, namely the inescapable reality of a reader’s context and perspective, González named his brief chapters for themes that he thought contributed to a Hispanic perspective and context for interpreting scripture: marginality, poverty, mestizaje and mulatez (the “mixed” racial and cultural identities of many Hispanic national contexts), exiles and aliens, and solidarity.

One of the most voluminous and articulate contributions has been made by the many writings of Cuban American New Testament scholar Fernando Segovia. To date, his fullest exposition of his methodological suggestions for biblical analysis is his work, Decolonizing Biblical Studies (2000) with the interesting subtitle, A View from the Margins. Segovia, however, ranges far wider than a “cross-cultural” approach, and has moved toward a “diasporic” perspective more in dialogue with postcolonial criticism of the Bible, although always rooted in his perspectives as a Cuban American biblical scholar.

Along these lines, it is significant to take note of the work of Jean-Pierre Ruiz. Ruiz’s 2011 work, Readings from the Edges: The Bible and People on the Move is notable for a number of reasons. First, in the acknowledgments, one is struck by the number of formal organizations of Hispanic/Latino/a scholars that Ruiz names, acknowledges, and thanks. Clearly, there has been an impressive growth of formal academic associations. Secondly, however, Ruiz’s work, somewhat similar to González’s earlier work, also focusses on particular contexts and settings for reading the text in a Hispanic/Latino/a perspective—although some important new themes are identified by Ruiz, clearly having become important in the years subsequent to González’s listing of contexts. Ruiz includes immigration reform and borders as important themes, but also urbanization, exile, and relations with other Hispanic countries and populations. Further, Ruiz’s reading is a more sophisticated analysis than González’s intentionally popular approach, and is in dialogue with a wide range of critical literature with which he is in dialogue.

Finally, one must acknowledge the critical work of Miguel De La Torre, who has published monographs and commentaries on Old Testament themes (and was not even mentioned by Martinez in his critical review) as well as the ground breaking work of Gregory Lee Cuellar, whose work comparing passages of Isaiah to Mexican Corridos lyrics represents striking examples of culturally grounded analysis of scripture (Cuellar 2008).

De La Torre, however, has taken a somewhat pessimistic attitude as to whether cross-cultural analysis of the text will impact the general discipline. De La Torre is clear—Euro-Americans are largely not trusted for a credible analysis, because “Euroamerican Christians, either from the fundamentalist right or the far liberal left, probably have more in common with each other and understand each other better than they do Christians on the other side of the racial and ethnic divide” (De La Torre 2007, p. 125).

African American and “African Diaspora” Cultures.

In the African American tradition, there is a tremendously rich literature. As in the cases of Latino/a scholarship and Asian American scholarship, the interaction between those who do “theology” and those who focus on “scripture” is often very close. “African American History” and “Cultural Studies” is also influential. Scholars such as Vincent Wimbush, Charles Copher, and Cain Hope Felder have noted the long-term engagement of African Americans with the Bible in North America. Wimbush helpfully outlined roughly identifiable “stages” of African American engagement with scripture, beginning with a kind of mystification of the book that slave holders held in such esteem in seventeenth and eighteenth century experiences, and moving through periods of increasing familiarity, toward stronger emphases on exodus and exile (evident in the lyrics of spirituals and content of sermons; see Raboteau [2004]; and Brooks 2003), toward a modern situation of some conflict between fundamentalist appropriation of conservative Protestant attitudes toward the Bible that discourages historical critical study, to the beginnings of an African American critical engagement that grew into a significant literature by the beginning of the twenty-first century.

As with other cultural groups, a strong emphasis has emerged on African Americans reading scripture from a context of oppression and marginalization in the North American contexts. However, there have been some notable works that significantly contributed to biblical scholarship. Among many, two are especially important. Renita Weems’s work, Battered Love (1995), represented a feminist/womanist perspective that raised serious questions about the violence toward women that is evident in imagery used especially by the prophets Hosea and Ezekiel (a concern shared by other scholars such as Randall Bailey). Secondly, the work of African American scholars largely within the Society of Biblical Literature resulted in the publication of Stony the Road We Trod (1991), a summary and “state of the art” compendium of essays by significant scholars in the field, past and present.

Asian American Cultures.

While there have been important works from Asian American biblical scholars in the late twentieth century that consciously draw on Asian themes and identity (Yeo 1997, 1998; Wan 1995), a significant milestone was the publication in 2006 of the collected volume Ways of Being, Ways of Reading (2006, comparable in many ways to the impact of Stony the Road we Trod in the African American scholarly context), which included retrospective and survey essays, personal reflections on academic work (Yee 2006; Lee 2006; Yamada 2006; cf. Liew 2008), as well as examples of contemporary work of some of the most prominent American scholars working in cross-cultural approaches. In some cases, scholars initially drawing on reflections of personal or national experience (reflections on the Korean context, so Ahn 2006, Kim 2006) then led to major monographs in historical-critical analysis that develop these insights in great detail (thus Ahn 2010; Kim 2005). Further development of methodology and hermeneutical theory for Asian American biblical analysis is evident in Tat-Siong Benny Liew’s detailed monograph outlining implications for New Testament work (Liew 2008), which suggests that future Asian American analysis will need to be in deeper dialogue with other emerging trends in biblical analysis such as post-colonialism.

Finally, in terms of the American context, it is notable that Segovia, Liew, and Bailey have initiated a dialogue between these three representatives of Latino/a-American, Asian-American, and African American scholarship in hopes of finding common ground in “minority” analysis of the Bible (Bailey, Liew, and Segovia 2009).


At an early gathering to explore the meaning of “Cultural Exegesis” held at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (Smith-Christopher 1995), Finnish scholar Roger Syren reflected on the cultural context of Scandinavian biblical analysis, one of the most striking examples of profound (and historically productive) cultural influences on biblical analysis (Syren 1995), and John Barton explored how a cultural approach to the work of Julius Wellhausen might also be fruitful (Barton, 1995, cf. Pasto, 1998). The continued work of John Rogerson (1984, 2009), particularly on the history of English and German biblical scholarship, provides a foundation for reflecting on the cultural contexts for the rise of the historical-critical method itself. Finally, Anthony Reddie (2006, 2008) writes from a consciously African-British (Caribbean) identity, illustrating a move toward reflections of minorities within the European cultural contexts as well.

Caribbean Contexts.

With the move in African American cultural studies more generally toward concepts of the “African Diaspora,” there is thus a widening dialogue that includes biblical analysis from North-American, but also Afro-Hispanic and Afro-Caribbean perspectives on Scripture (Jennings, 2007; Davidson 2011).

South America.

South American biblical analysis from a cultural perspective is almost entirely a joint product with the prodigious production of writings associated with liberation theology. Beginning with the classic of liberation theology, Gustavo Gutierrez’s 1974 work A Theology of Liberation, biblical analysis—especially of the exodus narrative—was arguably much more central to this theological school than biblical studies has been in other similarly influential theological schools of thought. Not surprisingly, then, when the “cultural move” seemed to indicate a unique direction in South American biblical analysis, it was led by many scholars who also had roots in liberationist concerns. The late Argentinian Old Testament scholar J. Severino Croatto also worked on the “Popular Reading” of the Bible in addition to his own academic work (1981), and another early work that focused specifically on “peasant readings” of the Bible was Carlos Mesters Defenseless Flower (1989). Pablo Richard’s work on Revelation (2009) also crosses between a politically concerned “liberationist reading” and “cross-cultural exegesis,” and, indeed, the South American context is perhaps one of the most difficult geographical locations for attempting a clear differentiation between liberationist and cultural approaches to the text. Ruiz now refers to the wider “cross-border” work being done in Latin American countries, and among Latin American scholars in the United States. The dialogue across the border is especially noteworthy in the biblical work of Mexican-born liberation theologian Elsa Tamez (2002, 2006).

Readings outside Christianity.

What should be called “cross-cultural” readings of the Bible are not limited to Christian scholars, of course. Although usually not identified as “cultural,” some Jewish approaches to reading scripture arguably qualify as such, applying historical approaches identified, for example, from Rabbinic and later Jewish traditions of textual analysis. Certainly Daniel Boyarin’s critique of Paul (1997) is a Jewish cultural perspective on Paul (but including historical analysis) and reflects contemporary as well as historical cultural concerns. Reynolds’s analysis of the Quʾran (2010) in the light of Jewish and Christian scriptures is mainly historical, but with Khalidi’s gathering of Islamic sayings of Jesus (2003; Khalidi often points out New Testament parallels) presents the beginnings of Islamic analysis of biblical literature and traditions that should also be noted.



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Daniel Smith-Christopher