Reading and Nonspecialist Readers: Raising Consciousness

In: Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics as Multicentric Dialogue

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The main aim of this chapter is to plot out what it means to read in context which keeps in mind nonspecialist readers whom I identify as the Protestant church in Singapore. It is structured as a typology of four reading postures with respect to them: reading without, reading for, reading with and reading from. Reading without is largely those who read for particular academic guilds and thus have little or no interest in reaching out to Christian communities who share the same text. Reading for would reflect majority of biblical scholars who see themselves as reading on behalf of nonspecialist readers which tends to be patriarchal in nature. Reading with follows what Gerald West (1999) has proposed in contextual bible studies in South Africa that takes into consideration the lived experiences of nonspecialist readers and the perspectives they bring to the text. However I argue in Singapore by virtue of the fact the church demographic is mainly constituted by middle to upper class congregations that largely belong to the majority Chinese race, there is a high risk that reading the Bible would serve certain class aspirations and cultural values. Therefore as a corrective I propose reading from which first recognises that the reader is located within a certain epistemic terrain and then identifies standpoints that have been submerged and silenced within that space to bring to the Bible for reading. In short, I argue in this chapter that reading the Bible in Singapore needs to move from reading without/for to reading with/from.