of the multi-scriptural Christian community of Asia, will be reiterated and expanded.10

The chapter is roughly divided into two parts. The first part will look at the Asian contexts through the two categories of socio-political aspects and religio-cultural dimensions. Biblical interpretation in terms of the socio-political struggle for liberation of the dalit and minjung will then be briefly presented, to be followed by an analysis of the multi-scriptural reality and its implications for biblical interpretation. The emphasis of the chapter will be placed on the proposal of cross-textual reading and its contribution to the issues of Christian identity and response to the plurality of religions in Asia. The focus on the written tradition in Asia does not intend in any way to undermine Asia's rich oral traditions, nor does it assume that hermeneutics in the textual framework is the only approach to the reading of the Bible.

Within the Asian pluralistic religious world, Asians have been used to having pluralistic scriptural traditions. The Indians and the Chinese in particular are in possession of numerous scriptural texts and have never established a doctrine of scripture that excludes others as pagan and uncivilized. Conversion to Christianity would not, therefore, present any serious conflict and dilemma to the local Christian converts, should there be enough space given to a spontaneous interaction and a mutual transformation without the imposition of the missionary's doctrinal prescription for a total submission to the absolute authority and exclusive claims of the Bible.

Asian Christians have been caught in the situation of having both the native scriptures (Text A) and a newly acquired biblical text (Text B), with great pressure from the Christian community to denounce the former. They have to find ways to resolve the claims of the two texts which respects their loyalty as well as their identity.11 It is imperative to accommodate the two texts in an appropriate way in order to ensure that the meaning of their life will not be fragmented or threatened by the conflict of the 'two worlds' embodied in them. The whole problematic of Asian hermeneutics is largely that while the newly-acquired Christian Bible began to provide them with a new meaning of life, Asian Christians could not completely sever their connection with their community and its

A. C. C. Lee, 'Biblical Interpretation in Asian Perspective', Asia Journal of Theology 7.1 (1993), 35—9;

A. C. C. Lee, 'Cross-Textual Interpretation and Its Implications for Biblical Studies', in Fernando

F. Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert (eds.), Teaching the Bible: Discourses and Politics of Biblical

Pedagogy (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1995), pp. 247—54.

A. C. C. Lee, 'Textual Confluence and Chinese Christian Identity: A Reading of Hanlin', Duo Shu

cultural-religious texts, which had nurtured and shaped their lives and continued to sustain and nourish their well-being.


When we approach the Asian context, there are two major observations: the socio-political reality of suffering and the religio-cultural characteristic of the plurality of religions and cultures. In this section, we will deal briefly with the social dimension first, to be followed by a more detailed analysis of the religious aspect.

Though suffering is universal and not exclusively the plight of Asian people alone, the reality of suffering in Asia in terms of its extensiveness, its magnitude and its far-reaching consequences on the bodies and minds of the people should not be overlooked or brushed aside lightly. Besides natural mishaps and hardships, there are economic exploitation, military violence and political oppression, coupled with the national machinery and the transnational corporations that deliberately violate human rights and transgress human dignity. There are romanticized views that have been presented to give a positive touch to sufferings in Asia. They attempt to uplift the rich spirituality and religiosity of Asian culture as being the result of a long history of experiences brought about by poverty and suffering. The representation of Asia as materially poor and spiritually rich should never be the excuse to push to the background the horrifying reality of pain and afflictions undergone and still being sustained by thousands of innocent human souls caught up in dehumanizing structures, and the ongoing colonial project still in active operation.

Because of the limit of space it is sufficient here just to look at two approaches to the reading of the Bible from the socio-political context of the suffering of the people: the dalit hermeneutics and the minjung interpretation of the Bible.

Dalit are the outcast and out-caste people of India who, under the religious sanction of Hinduism and its elitist monopoly, have been relegated to be the 'untouchables', inhumanly marginalized by society. Segregated social structures have been built to ensure that their rights are taken away from them and that they are cruelly pushed beyond the boundary of normal human community. Dalit Christians face the same oppression even within the Church.12 In recent years dalit theologians

James Massey, Towards Dalit Hermeneutics: Re-reading the Text, the History and the Literature (Delhi: ISPCK, 1994), pp. 38-68.

have attempted to re-read the Bible from the socio-cultural liberation perspective and to make sense of the text for the poor and oppressed dalits in their struggle to regain their freedom and humanity. Dalit hermen-eutics is therefore a counter-hermeneutic, which challenges the classical religio-philosophical interpretation of Brahmanism that justifies the brutal caste system. Biblical interpretation that follows classical religions and philosophical principles, and uses their categories, has been heavily criticized by dalit interpreters as legitimizing the status quo and the social structure of India. The caste hierarchy, supported by Brahmin religious values, is usually endorsed by such an approach. Though similar to many other liberation hermeneutics based on Marxist economic analysis and class struggle, and on gender or racial discrimination, dalit hermeneutics is quite different in its Indian contextuality, in aiming at the dismantlement of the evil caste structure.13

While most of the dalit Christians are kept illiterate, the reading of the Bible as a written text with a logocentric orientation is inappropriate and irrelevant for them. Arul Raja, a dalit scholar, calls for orality as a model for approaching the Bible, in which 'the Bible should be carefully unencoded from the written text and uncoded in the form of oral dalit discourses'.14 Such discourses are oriented towards an 'empirical mode of experiencing reality' and 'basically of the performative order'.15 In terms of resources, dalits are accustomed to 'rich interpretations of the down-to-earth myths and symbols' and hence they are attracted to the world of apocalyptic literature which exhibits the symbolism of evil, the suffering of the marginalized and eschatological hopes.16

Korean minjung hermeneutics, taking seriously the historical experience of the people as the starting point of theological articulation, advocates an interactive socio-political interpretation of the Bible. Minjung interpretation has come to denote a theological construction that engages the plight and aspiration of the deprived and the exploited people, the minjung, a term which is not used to refer to the common folk in general. The specific theological usage constitutes the core concern of minjung theology, in the face of the raging brutality of post-war modernization, and the agonizing experience of the economic growth of Korea. Through an intensive study of the synoptic gospels, Ahn Byung-Mu (1921-97),

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