Netherlands, Utrecht

The Bible in a Secularized Setting: Dutch Contexts and Biblical Interpretation

when 2 July 2018 - 6 July 2018
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 400

How is the Bible read by people in a secularized context? This question drives “The Bible in a Secularized Setting: Dutch Contexts and Biblical Interpretation.” The course explores research into the use of the Bible in the Netherlands and contextual approaches to reading Bible. The program includes presentations on empirical research into the use of the Bible in the Netherlands and seminars on the contextually sensitive use of the Bible in urban (Amsterdam) and rural (Groningen) parts of the country. The course also offers classes on the relevance of contextually sensitive biblical interpretation for academic exegesis.

This course focus on the use and reception of the Bible in the secularized context of the Netherlands. It pursues question such as: how is the Bible read by people in a secularized context? Does such a context make any difference at all? If so, what aspects of people’s identities, such as gender, social class, education, etc., play a role and influence interpretation?
The course has the following foci:

- The Bible in the Netherlands: a survey of contemporary and historical biblical interpretation in this country. It is based in part on a recent research project initiated by the Bible Society of the Netherlands (2017) . How many people—from marginally religious to evangelical Christian—do actually read the Bible? With what expectations? How do they view the book?

- New meanings for old texts (A): an excursion through heavily secularized city of Utrecht—formerly the centre of religious life in the Netherlands—, familiarizes students with the context of biblical interpretation in this part of the Netherlands. At this background, students participate in a seminar in hands-on contextual biblical interpretation, employing a method used by many Dutch churches and led by Rev. Inge Landman, a trainer and consultant in the field of contextual biblical interpretation (Kerk in Actie agency).

- New meanings for old texts (B): Both in urban Amsterdam, a wildly diverse and highly secularized city, and in rural Groningen, torn apart by earthquakes due to gas extraction, new groups of people read the Bible and make sense of it in unique ways. How does this work? What effect does this have? Rev. Willemien van Berkum and Jacobine Gelderloos, pioneers in the field offer seminars on their work and analyze it with the participants.

- The academic relevance of “contextual” interpretation of the Bible: what new insights are enabled by secular perspectives on the Bible? What does the ordinary reader see that the professional exegete overlooks? Professors Klaas Spronk and Peter-Ben Smit offer Old and New Testament case studies, focusing on topics such as gender equality (male/female, transgenderism) and biblical interpretation and translation.

In order to gain an appreciation of the history of religion in the Netherlands, the course also includes an excursion to the premier museum of religious art, Catharijneconvent (Utrecht), and to one of the new “pioneering” ministries as they have mushroomed in the Netherlands recently, typically exploring new approaches to the Bible.

Course leader

Prof. dr. Peter-Ben Smit

Target group

- Scholars and students of theology and religious studies interested in religion in a secularized world.
- Scholars and students of biblical studies interested in the contemporary reception of the Bible.
- Religious professionals (pastors, church planters, teachers, etc.) seeking to enhance their knowledge of biblical interpretation in secular setting.

Course aim

The goals of the course are the following. Upon completing the course:

- Will be familiar with key characteristics of biblical interpretation in the secularized setting of the Netherlands.
- The student has advanced knowledge of the kind of new meaning that is produced by ordinary readers in the Netherlands and its significance for biblical interpretation.
- The student will have insight into and personal experience with methods that are employed in the contextually sensitive interpretation of the Bible in the Netherlands.

Fee info

EUR 400: Course + course materials
EUR 200: Housing


Work/study options may be available.

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