An excerpt from “Who is not at the table? Women’s perspectives of holistic mission as mutually inclusive” by Fulata L. Moyo.

The Contextual Bible Study (CBS) was developed by Sarojini Nadar, a senior lecturer of Biblical Studies and coordinator of the Gender, Religion and Theology Department at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, as well as an active member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. This methodology is a brainchild of liberation theology and a community-based process of awareness-raising, sometimes using biblical texts that are difficult to approach but can lead to transformation. It is an interactive study in which the context of the reader and the context of the Bible are put into a dialogue guided by the questions asked by the facilitator to raise awareness for transformation on a specific issue of concern within the community that has requested such a process.

The five Cs expressing the keywords that characterize CBS are: interactive – Community; context of the reader – Context (Social Location); context of the Bible – Criticality; for raising awareness – Conscientization; transformation – Change. To ensure that the process of praxis for transformation takes place, the final questions always call for participants to develop an action plan. The questions are usually: What will you do now in response to this Bible study? Are there available resources for what you want to do?

How Do We Design a CBS?

Contextual Bible Study is designed along traditional hermeneutical principles. Hermeneutics is made up of two parts:

  1. Exegesis: Understanding the text in its own context.
  2. Interpretation: Understanding the text in our own context                                                                                               

There are two types of questions:

  1. Exegetical >> Literary or critical consciousness questions – draws on tools from biblical studies.
  2. Interpretive >> Community consciousness questions – draws on feelings, experiences and resources from the community.

Dr. Sarojini Nadar was one of the founding members of the Tamar Campaign Against Violence Against Women and Children, a campaign at the Ujamaa Centre that is based on the story from II Samuel 13:1-22. For more information, including detailed notes about CBS, visit the Ujamaa website: http://ujamaa.ukzn.ac.za/.

Fulata Moyo