Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation

By Randall C. Bailey | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Randall C. Bailey Interdenominational Theological Center

In 1989 Setneia 47, [Interpretation for Liberation,] co-edited by Katie Cannon and Elisabeth Schiissler Fiorenza, appeared. This collection of essays written, all but one, by Black scholars, many of whom were in biblical studies and all but one of whom were women, opened the door for examination of new questions growing out of the African American community. This volume also laid a foundation for soon to follow new works that bespoke some challenges to the discipline and some new insights into the budding field of cultural criticism.

In 1991 the volume Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation (Fortress), edited by Cain Hope Felder, appeared. It opened the door to examination of this form of cultural exegesis and interpretation of the text. The volume, which has become a classic, represented the beginning stages of work by Black biblical scholars, many of whose voices had not previously been heard. At the time of publication there were only nine African Americans who held the terminal degree in Hebrew Bible and only eleven who held it in New Testament. This volume concentrated on issues of hermeneutics, the role of ancient Africa in the life of ancient Israel, and identification of biblical passages that had special relevance to this community. As noted in many reviews of this work, two additional areas that needed to be addressed were the adherence to historical-critical methods within this volume and further attention to the history of interpretation within Black religious and cultural traditions.

In 1994 the Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center published a collection of essays by Black biblical scholars that had been produced in the early years of the African American Theology and Biblical Hermeneutics Group of the SBL. Those essays were primarily exegetical in method and related to passages in which Africans appeared in the text, although there were some beginning works relating to cultural criticism.

Since the release of these important works a new generation of Black biblical scholars has arisen, which brings to the fore new questions, application of new methods of interpretation, and new directions for contouring

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