Reading the Bible in the Context of Islam
Some Muslims read the Bible for various reasons, and some Christians read the Bible in Islamic contexts, yet there is little explicit reflection on the process of so doing and few publications presenting biblical interpretations affected by Islamic contexts.
About the Project
From a Christian perspective, this venture is hugely important. Christians read the Bible in the context of the world in which they live, and that world includes many Muslims. There is, at present, much disagreement about how Christians should regard Islam, and how they should respond to Muslim actions which they deem to be wrong. For the majority, the Bible is cited as their major authority, but there appears to be as yet little specific reflection on how the Bible should be read and applied in relation to Muslims. This venture therefore is important for faithful Christian living.
From a socio-political perspective, this venture is urgent. Bible-believing Christians have a great deal of political influence in, for example, the USA and Nigeria: serious engagement with the Bible should enable deeper reflection on ways in which they are responding to Muslims.
From an Islamic perspective, this venture is also important. Without serious engagement with the Bible, and Christian views of it, Muslims cannot understand how Christians think. A biblical worldview has also deeply affected the development of Western thought as well as of Christian thought in Muslim lands; and the history of Muslim engagement with the Bible can indicate some of the roots of Christian negativity about Islam as well as Muslim negativity about Christianity.
Our project conference in September 2015 drew 42 scholars including our ‘home team’ – Muslims and Christians; evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Orthodox; academics, Bible translators, missionaries and pastors. There were over 20 papers and speakers travelled from far afield, including USA, Turkey, Egypt – and Cambridge.
Reading the Bible in the context of Islam is a complex activity. It is not just a matter of explicit reflection on the contextual side of the hermeneutical spiral between text and context: it also needs to inscribe into that spiral the Qur’an, as a second text that is part of the context. The Qur’an effectively offers its own reading of the Bible, and reading between Bible and Qur’an can develop as a hermeneutical spiral in its own right. To these two spirals must be added the dimension of the history of interaction with the Bible in the context of the interactions between Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as the ways in which the respective communities handle and have handled their own Scriptures. In sum, the venture is not only contextual but also inter-textual, historical and sociological.
From an academic perspective, the complexity is so great that it is unlikely that any individual will be able to handle it satisfactorily. Bold individuals work in the simpler overlaps — between Bible and Qur’an, between Bible and community, between Qur’an and community, and between Muslim and Christian readers within the community. They have to take account of the fact that both Bible and Qur’an are read from particular perspectives, that Muslims as well as Christians read the Bible, and that Christians as well as Muslims read the Qur’an: it is a long journey to such expertise.
Difficult though it may be, then, the academic venture must be attempted.
The overall focus is on biblical interpretation. Factors that can be taken into account might include:
Muslim readings of the Bible;
The interface between the Bible and the Qur’an;
The history of biblical interpretation in Islamic contexts;
Questions that arise for Christians in Islamic contexts – for example, relating to ethics, politics, theology, anthropology, law, purity, family and worship;
Christian-Muslim communication – including dialogue, evangelism and da’wah; and
The aim is to provide the following output:
A range of publications on the reading of the Bible in Islamic context;
The inception of a series of biblical commentaries that take Islam into account from various perspectives;
4-6 graduate seminars per year;
A major conference on ‘Reading the Bible in the Context of Islam’ at the end of the third year of the project; and
In 5-7 years, the discipline of reading the Bible in the context of Islam will be established within the University and beyond, and that there will be a pool of scholars equipped to continue to develop it.
Something to contribute?
If you feel qualified to contribute to this research project, we'd love to talk to you. Please get in touch.
Research grants will be open to both doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars. The research group will have regular meetings for discussion and offer occasional seminars/seminar series to extend the discussion more widely.
Project Director: Dr Ida Glaser
Senior Research Scholar: Shabbir Akhtar
Post Doctoral Research Fellows: Dr Shirin Shafaie and Dr Danny Crowther.
Funding Our Research
Our research projects are central to the work we do at CMCS, as they inform our teaching and public education work. Research is often funded by large organisations, but - as with any academic institution - we sometimes struggle to fund all of the research we would like to carry out.
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