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Dalit communities are those who are oppressed by the caste system in India. They account for about 16% of the total population; they are discriminated against for being polluting or untouchable and are relegated to performing occupations such as leather tanning, scavenging, weaving, and fishing, professions that are considered defiling and polluting. Christian missionaries targeted the dominant caste groups to missionize and convert, and, when this failed, they began to evangelize the Dalits. Today, over 90% of the church's membership in India is comprised of Dalits.

The term "Dalit" is a descriptive term, for it portrays the conditions under which Dalit find themselves—oppressed, broken, subordinated, crushed, split, and the like. It is a name that they have given themselves to counter names given by others, such as "untouchables," "harijans," "scheduled classes," and "backward classes."

The Dalit movement is a growing movement both within and outside the church, working for the liberation of Dalits from caste oppression—stigma, discrimination—political, economic, social, and religious. Dalit theology is an emerging discipline that is taking shape against much resistance both from both the dominant groups and from some Dalits themselves, who are still conscious of their status as Dalits and the social ramifications of embracing their Dalit identity.

In this paper we shall be considering some methodological issues prevalent in Dalits' reception and approach to Christian Scripture. The first part of the paper will describe the relationship and between the Bible and Dalits. The second part will look at the manner in which Dalit theologians approach and read the Bible. The third and concluding part will attempt a critique of the approach and offer possible alternatives or correctives.

Dalits and the Bible
That the Bible plays a very important role in Dalit theologizing and faith is emphasized by Dalit theologians. Such an assertion by Dalit theologians is perhaps surprising to some, mainly because the dalits have been traditionally denied access to Scripture both written and heard. In fact, it was said that if a Dalit even heard the Scripture being recited, hot lead would be poured into his/her ear. Such was the hegemony that the dominant castes had over Scripture and its interpretation. It was a means to maintain the status quo and to justify the hierarchical and discriminatory practice of caste.

Not only were Dalits denied access to Scripture by dominant castes, but also to education and literacy. Hence, Maria Arul Raja remarks, "It is an irony to think of a Dalit interpretation of the written text of the Bible, when a vast majority of them are kept as illiterates."[2] Also, it has to be borne in mind that the Bible brought to India by the colonizers was used as an instrument of colonialism. Translation of the Bible into several of the Indian languages was the work of missionaries. Their involvement in the systematization and codification of the grammar of Indian languages can also be seen as part of the colonizing activity of the colonizer to take control of the language, the metaphor, and the worldview of the colonized.[3] It is ironic that the Bible is given such importance in Dalit theologizing and faith despite their being denied access to it and to literacy and the fact that the Bible is in many ways a symbol of colonialism. What might be the factors that contributed to the Dalit acceptance of the Bible?

Sathianathan Clarke, in his article titled, "Viewing the Bible Through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India," speaks of the polyvalency of the Bible and identifies three major aspects that need to be stressed when discussing the Bible in relation to the Subalterns in India:

The Bible entered into a Subaltern world that already had a long history of iconizing material objects, which preserves and manifests magical and mysterious sacred power; the Bible was an important symbol for colonial mission activity which used it as a means of expounding and expanding the Christian religion; and the Bible cannot but be interpreted against the backdrop of the worldview of Hinduism, which kept its sacred book (vedas) beyond the reach of Dalits and Adivasis.[4]

The Bible is an icon, an object that preserves and manifests magical and mysterious sacred power; hence it functions as a native talisman to many. The dalits view the Bible as a sacred object of written testimony that contains and conserves the Divine power. Hence, despite their inability to read it due to being illiterate, many own copies of the Bible and display it prominently in their homes.[5] Although Devsahayam does not actually identify the Bible's function as a sort of talisman, he does agree that "in most Dalit homes in the villages, the only valuable thing is the Bible, which they cherish and value greatly."[6]

The Bible is also looked upon as a "metasymbol of the colonialists' culture of literacy," influencing the manner in which the Dalits envisioned their own future development.[7] Those who sought economic and social development realized that it was necessary to assimilate into the culture of literacy, and it is in this process that the Bible became for some a "colonial fetish":

It functioned as a commodity that determines social, economic and cultural power within a system: even while being the ideological nucleus of the community it constantly eludes their effectual grasp. The power of the Bible thus is enhanced in such ambiguity.[8]

The canopy under which an examination of the Bible and Dalit experience should take place is the scripturality of the Dalit experience; that is, the pervasiveness of scriptural legitimation of upper caste consciousness by Hindu scriptural mandates. It reveals the context in which Dalits have had to read and study any Scripture, including the Bible. That reading and study have not been uncontested. For centuries, Dalits have been and continue to be involved in a struggle for canonical control of Hindu Scriptures, which sanctified and justified the hierarchical and discriminatory system of caste. By being denied education, they were hindered from access to traditional knowledge. Lack of access to Scripture has hindered them from making a contribution to the interpretation of Scripture.

This scriptural rhetoric rested on the pillars of purity and pollution and the determination of the upper castes to conquer through the forces of Hindutva. This "scripturalism"[9] is not confined to the past, but continues to define in large degree contemporary Indian culture. Every time there is a crisis, the caste system has been used to emphasize cohesion and continuity. The Hindu scriptures have become the visceral vortex of deep-seated convictions about the nature of Indian reality and the survival of its customs and mores. As such, they function as a verbal icon whose power has little to do with the content of ancient scriptures, but much more to do with the form of modern Indian life. It solidifies a national identity forged by the Hindu rhetoric of Brahmanical or caste supremacy.

It is against this background that one needs to understand the manner in which the Bible was received and used by the Dalit community. It is impossible to understand fully the Dalit response to the Bible without taking note of how traditional scriptures were used by the caste communities against the Dalits. Accessibility to the Christian sacred Scriptures enabled them to "embrace a central religious symbol that was denied to them by Hinduism."[10]

For a community that was denied access to traditional Scriptures and a community that experienced discrimination sanctified and justified by the same Scriptures, the news of a loving God embodied in Jesus Christ offered the Dalits something unique and foundational that neither governments, socio-economic change, ideology, nor an alternate religious faith could provide; namely, dignity, equality, and a sense of worth. Herein lies the subversive function of the Bible, for it replaced the worldview of the Hindu Scriptures and displaced the Hindu Vedas. The Bible became the Christian "Veda,"[11] filling a void and supplying the Dalits with a framework for knowledge that they did not have to begin with, and which they desired.

It was the Dalits' exceptional need for acceptance that created openness to the Christian message. The Gospel message came to them as the first ray of hope they had ever known. The liberation they sought was not only from physical slavery and serfdom, but also from social stigma and almost total degradation; such liberation, Christians emphasized, was possible only through salvation in Jesus Christ and participation in the life of the Christian Church. The Dalits were therefore offered two things that were closely inter-related. One was a new self-image as a person whom God in fact loves and has already forgiven. The other was hope, primarily for eternal life, but also for a life free from cringing fear and terrorized subservience here and now. Since both of these were denied Dalits by all parties in their existing circumstances, the evangelical message came as good news, and many Dalits responded accordingly and accepted the Bible as their Book of Faith and Scripture.

As the Dalit movement gained momentum and became political, striving towards social change and political participation, it soon realized that there was no Christian theological commitment to political change at either the national or the local level. For Dalits, the good news was still presented in terms of a new self-image; a new community, granting Dalits greater equality, respect, and caring, and a new hope, defined primarily in terms of enhanced opportunities for individual and family mobility, was still a distant dream. Social transformation was confined to social reform, and Christian theology therefore obviously failed to come to terms with Dalit political aspirations in the mid-1900s. This was primarily due to the fact that the Indian church was divided along caste lines and each of the caste groups had different political interests, but more importantly these caste groups within the church were placed in a hierarchic order. Dominant caste groups within the church had more access to education and opportunities for interpreting the Bible. Hence, early theological articulations were done by dominant caste Christians, who did not take into account the experiences and needs and questions of the Dalits.[12] It is not that the dominant caste Christians interpreted the Bible in such a way as to derive from it authority and legitimation for the enslavement of Dalits. Rather, they were silent. They did not address the issue of caste and gave the impression that the caste system was in no way contrary to the will of God. Today, Christian Dalits appeal to the moral thrust of the Bible, especially tin the Exodus narrative and the New Testament, as a guide to ethical behavior. The question therefore is how the Bible should be read rather than what the Bible says about caste.

The invisibility and vulnerability of Dalits within the Church were largely the result of flawed or biased interpretations of the Bible. However, over the last couple of decades, alternate interpretations of the Bible are being rendered within the Dalit Christian community, often at the peril of those considered untutored exegetes. These interpretations are unmistakably shaped by the status of the interpreters as outsiders. It is still the case that the social, political, economic, and aesthetic marginalization of Dalits—the social dislocation of the Dalits both within the society and the Church—conditions their approach to and use of Biblical imagery, precepts, and motifs. Dalit Christians consistently proclaim that God's realm includes those who have been left out. One cannot therefore conceive of a Dalit theology without taking into account the influence of the Bible. It is considered to be the primary, though not exclusive, medium for the community's understanding of God's being and acts. Hence one cannot but notice the centrality of the Bible in Dalit theological discourse. In fact, it is emphatically declared that Dalit theology is biblical.[13] The Bible is seen as a source of power and comfort in moments of crisis, both personal and communal. It is not only a source for Dalit theology, but Bible study is also recognized as an important method for theologizing and reflection. The Bible is also the source that provides Christian identity and continuity with the Christian tradition and therefore holds center stage for the Dalits.[14]

The Bible is also significant for the Dalits because of the commonality that exists between the Dalit experience and the struggles and experiences of the marginalized communities of the Bible. K. Jesuratnam identifies this as the first and most important methodological consideration and notes that there are certain points of convergence in the matrices of both the biblical and the Dalit world. The biblical dictum of a preferential option towards the poor and the Dalit struggle for equality is one such point of convergence.[15]

Thus, this affinity between the marginalized of the Bible and the subjugated Dalits also contributes to the appeal that the Bible holds for the Dalits. This, combined with the potential of biblical texts for liberation negotiated and renegotiated in the light of Dalit experience, makes possible the discovery of God within the Dalit social and cultural milieu and their liberation from oppressive forces.

Dalit Interpretation of the Bible: Method
Dalit Hermeneutic is involved in the dual task of reading both the context as well as the text. M. Gnanavaram, citing Leonado Boff,[16] speaks of the two eyes of Dalit hermeneutics; namely, the "eye behind," which looks at past history and the people and the situations that were involved in the creation of the text, and the "eye before," which looks at the current challenges and the historical reality of the present by using the tools of social analysis and experience. Hence, the context of the text and the context of the present are important in Dalit interpretations of Scripture. These "two eyes" or the "two horizons" are the components of the Dalit hermeneutical cycle.[17] Hence, Dalit heremeneutics is a process of creative interaction and dialectical tension between what is seen by the two eyes, the world or horizon of a text (or an event) and the horizon of the interpreter through which a new world of meaning is brought into being.[18] There is thus a fusion of horizons, which results in the correction, reshaping, and enlarging of the interpreter's own horizons.[19]

The Context and Experience of the Interpreter
The first and foremost issue that is central to Dalit readings of the Bible is the context of the interpreter. Like other Liberation theologians, the Dalit reader of the Bible begins with a reading of the context—the context of the community to which the interpreter belongs. More recently, and particularly in light of the Anti-Conversion bill, prominent leaders of the Dalit cause have been promulgating a paradigm shift in the mission of the church. The shift emphasizes the need to work for the economic and social empowerment of Dalits. The exegetical starting point for such a venture and the material force that grips the Dalit is grounded in a materialistic epistemology that is characterized, among other things, by its location of truth not in a world beyond history, but indeed within the crucible of historical struggles. The social, cultural, economic, and political world of Dalits constitutes the valid hermeneutical staring point for reading Scripture for liberation. The theologizing of Dalits starts from the experience of a denied humanity. Dalits have learnt hard lessons under two gurus—poverty and caste—while Dalit women have a third guru, namely gender discrimination. The first has taught them sacrifice, patience, and forbearance. The second and third have taught them resilience and struggle. Their theologizing starts, as in all other liberation theologies, from their experiences and their engagement. It starts with the experience at the bottom of Indian society. The point of departure here is their experience in their struggle for survival and liberation.[20]

Hence, one can see that Devasahayam, in both his books containing Bible studies, begins with a description of the present context.[21] The emphasis on the context declares that the text does not have a single or timeless meaning, but that it gives new and fresh meanings when read in the light of the context. Hence, a Dalit reading of John 4 will emphasize the manner in which Dalits are hindered from drawing water from the wells or drinking from the pots of the dominant castes. The story of Cain and Abel is read with an emphasis on Abel as the dominant land-owning class who victimized Cain as a result of his profession as a shepherd, traditionally understood as a polluting occupation. The Babylonian captivity is interpreted as caste captivity, Job is seen as the prototype of Dalits, and the prophets are seen as the champions of the poor and the cause of justice. James Massey. in his book Towards Dalit Hermeneutics, draws many parallels, both etymological and experiential, between Dalits and the Hebrew dal or dallim in the Hebrew Bible.[22] The story of the woman with the flow of blood, and her stigmatization and discrimination, resonate with the Dalit experience of stigmatization and discrimination. Jesus is the "word made flesh who lived among us"—with an emphasis on "lived among us"—identified with us, suffered with us, and liberated us from the enslavement of caste.[23] Paying serious attention to the context is one way of exhibiting responsibility to the faith community on behalf of whom the text is being interpreted.

The Context of the Text
Dalit interpreters have also maintained that it is equally important to discern the historical context of the text and read it with critical suspicion.[24] The Bible is received as a text, a result of human effort, that arises out of a particular context and situation of human life. In other words, the Bible is not seen as being divinely inspired, but becomes the "Word" when read in community and in the light of the community's experience. Philip Peacock identifies four major outcomes or significances of accepting the text as the product of human hands and minds. Such a stance enables the Dalit interpreter first to question the text, since it is not divinely sanctioned and facilitates a dialogical approach to the text giving room for multiple meanings.[25] Second, the realization that the text is the creation of human beings removes the necessity of, and dependency on, a priestly class (read Brahmin) to be the interpreters of the text. The Dalit reading of the text therefore does away with the necessity of an "expert" interpreter.[26] Third, such a realization also frees the text from the mysticism attributed to the text. This mystical nature ascribed to the text has often been used to oppress the marginalized and to legitimize their oppression and to stress the notion that the text cannot be argued with. Fourth, and most importantly, such an understanding of the text as human production also brings with it the realization that the biblical text, as all other texts, is ideological and that it either justifies a particular status quo or challenges it. While many Dalit readers of the Bible would like to see the Bible as a book of liberation, there is also a realization that not all texts lend themselves to this position and that several texts also legitimize hierarchies and the status quo.[27]

Peacock's identification of the significances of the text as a human production is accurate but debatable when applied to the majority in Dalit communities because their approach to the Bible is traditional and "loyalist." They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, and they approach the Bible as the "inspired word of God." It can be argued that the Bible that is found in many Dalit homes does hold a very important place often bordering on the magical and the sacred, a totem with special powers, the inspired Word that cannot be questioned. Hence, the untrained Dalit approaches the Bible in a manner very different from the Dalit scholar. Most Dalits seem to be comfortable with traditional renderings and interpretations of the text, which do not investigate the ideological or the socio-historic foundations of the text.

But also, while Dalit interpreters claim in theory to take the context of the text seriously, published Bible studies by Dalit authors reveal the fact that they have not always paid sufficient attention to the context of the text. One gets the impression that historical critical issues and the socio-historic foundations of the text are not as important as the context of the interpreter. Hence, the interpretations identify only the commonalities in the experiences of Dalits and the oppressed in the Bible, without sufficient attention being paid to the inherent and varied ideologies and agendas of the text.

This might be due to the fact that the text is also not seen as belonging to the original author, but to the reader; hence, it is to be read from the perspective of the recipient. Therefore, we see in Dalit readings of the Bible, the text, the context, and the lives of the Dalits all placed alongside each other in a single continuum. These three cannot be separated.

There is growing awareness among Dalit theologians that, in addition to the Biblical text, there are within the lives of Dalits other texts that need to be studied and interpreted. These include folk tales, songs, dances, art, and other cultural productions of the Dalits;[28] namely, the literary works and other writings by Dalit authors, Dalit experiences of revolt, protest and revival, living stories that are told and retold. These are often juxtaposed and brought into conversation with the biblical text and woven together with the use of imagination and drawing upon experience. It is to be noted that these other texts are not restricted to the written but are in a majority of cases oral texts, which by their very nature are fluid and flexible and not always originating in the written word. But they do transform the interpreter and provide new and fresh insights into the meaning of the biblical text. Therefore, to the Dalit, the biblical text is one among other texts that has to be read.

Read with Dalit Consciousness and with a Perspective of Liberation:
The overarching perspective adopted by Dalit interpreters of the Bible is one of liberation. It is a perspective that is influenced by Dalit consciousness, a mind-set influenced not only by the Dalit experience of suffering and rejection but also of overcoming the same. The term "Dalit" is a result of this new consciousness and determination.[29] The name bears witness to their awakening and their awareness of subjugation and of their oppressors. It affirms their determination to annihilate slavery, both internal and external, and their visions for an egalitarian, casteless society. It asserts that their new identity is shaped by shared visions and formed as a counter to imposed oppressive identities.[30] This desire to surmount repression makes their experience a legitimate and creative theological resource. It is within such experience that the affirmation of God's liberating power also takes place. A. P. Nirmal, a pioneering Dalit theologian, compares the Dalit struggle for liberation with that of the slaves in Egypt by identifying five important features of their struggle as mentioned in the Deuteronomic creed (Deut 26: 5-12). These are the affirmation of one's roots, collective struggle, the experience of suffering and of liberation, and the vision of liberation and of restoration.[31] These features are present in the historic struggle of the Dalits and are the ingredients that contribute to the formation of Dalit consciousness. Such consciousness is a prerequisite for reading and interpreting the text for Dalit liberation. Dalit readings of Scripture are therefore not unbiased. They are readings that are committed to the cause of justice and wholistic life for all people and for the entire earth. Hence, the ultimate goal of Dalit readings is to instill in the community the impetus to strive for political and social liberation and to provide the community with possible blueprints for action towards liberation, a new identity, and fullness of life. Therefore, the Dalit reading of the text plays a major part in the social, cultural, and political mobilization of Dalit communities.

The caste system has resulted in a situation that is characterized by discrimination and subjugation of a number of Dalit communities. But with increasing awareness among these communities and the resistance that is building up, there is also increasing suspicion, conflict, and violence in society. Dalit readings of the Bible, which begin with a contextual analysis, identify these caste tensions that exist in society, which enable them to identify similar tensions in the text and the parties that are thereby affected. In many of Devasahayam's Bible studies, the description of the context highlights also the conflicts in society between those with power and the subjugated. This is followed by the identification of similar tensions between groups—namely, the powerful and the powerless—in the text. Against this background of conflict, Devasahayam sees God as one who always takes the side of the oppressed and works for their liberation. Thus, to Devasahayam, the text, as well as the context, is the site where the battle between the oppressed and the oppressor is played out.[32] In the process of reading the text, the Dalit reader notes how God acts on behalf of the oppressed; therefore, the message of the text is that God continues to do the same today.

Remembering is also an important part of the Dalit hermeneutical process. Dalits are a people whose history has been suppressed, and the role of remembering enables them to reclaim their lost identities. The process of remembering is aimed at re-membering; it is a political act to unite Christian Dalits and other Dalits.[33] In the face of a system that suppresses the process of remembering common history and a common heritage, it serves to re-member this broken body.

The task of liberating the Dalits from a life of servitude is therefore comprised of mobilizing the Dalits and equipping them with the social and theological motive to fight for freedom. It also involves the re-membering of Dalit communities and creating links of solidarity between Dalit communities by appealing to their common experience of oppression and enabling them to embrace their identities and their histories. It is to this end that Dalit readings of the Bible are necessary and essential.

Creative Imagination and Performance
I have alluded to the use of imagination earlier in the paper. This tool becomes essential within a semi-literate or illiterate community, where oral narratives take on primacy. Dalit readers use imagination to read the text because imagination enables the interpreter to articulate alternative liberating interpretations that are not based on androcentric dualisms and patriarchal functions of the text and gives voice to the voiceless.[34] Story telling and role playing, the enactment of the biblical story, are alternative methods of reading the text by a community that is largely illiterate. These methods are more popular among Dalit women than men, for such a method, along with the hermeneutic of suspicion, enables women to release themselves from androcentric interpretive processes. In the process of sharing stories and acting those out, the Dalits become participants in the biblical story and not just recipients of it. This creative process enables them to highlight certain aspects of the text that speak to them. It draws the community into the experiences of the characters in the text as well as enables them to draw parallels between their experience and the experience of the characters in the text. This process of acting out the text empowers Dalit women, whom society has trained not to act or to act in certain predefined ways.

In Conclusion...
The methodology and hermeneutical principles employed by Dalit readers bear many similarities within the context of the wider, reader response and post-colonial and post-modern reading strategies being proposed in the two-thirds world. The emphasis in the Dalit readings is on the need to derive meaning from the biblical text in the "here and the now" of the Dalits. The interpretation has to speak to the existential life situation of Dalits and resonate with the "text" of Dalit lives, the women, the poor, and other marginalized communities. It is to be noted that Dalit theologians are using categories and concepts put forward by other attempts or strategies of reading biblical texts that are liberating in their intent and outcome.

The uniqueness of the Dalit readings lies in their emphasis on the Dalit experience and context of caste discrimination, on the lowly and marginally placed history and situation of a group that has been oppressed and excluded for thousands of years. Dalit readings employ a hermeneutical strategy from the below that is in many ways similar to, and yet different from, sexism, racism, and classism. Also, the widespread illiteracy or semi- literacy among Dalits necessitates that we take into cognizance and consideration the important and possibly the more popular role played by oral versions of Scripture that are interpreted through the creative functioning of the ears and the eyes and the body.

Yet, published works by Dalit authors in the area of biblical interpretation are works by theologically trained individuals. While they are committed to the cause of Dalit liberation and are rooted in the Dalit movement, their readings are individual and not community based. Their interpretations of Scripture are done on behalf of the community they represent and not necessarily in conversation with the community. Hence, Peacock rightly says:

The Bible is a community oriented book. It is a book that was written and transmitted by a community and a book that speaks about a community and calls us to live as a community. Therefore readings of the Bible and particularly Dalit readings of the Bible should be done in the context of a community, it should be a community reading of the text.[35]

Peacock further maintains that these readings should not be done for, but with the people. He cautions us that if this were done, it would lead to the re-creation of old hierarchies of the expert reader and a false dependency on the part of the community for the mediation of meaning.[36]

Dalit interpreters of the Bible have to work harder at organizing community readings of the text and come up with a strategy that would make this possible. Such community readings are liberating in and of themselves not only because of the participatory nature of the interpretive exercise, but also because they enable the community to hear voices that are otherwise unheard and identify issues and items that may otherwise be overlooked in individual readings. Such a participatory method will bring to the fore insights and interpretations drawn from the wealth of the varied experiences and skills of the participants and ground Dalit theology within the wider experiences of the Dalit communities. It would also provide opportunities for conversation between Dalit scholars and the so-called unlettered Dalits and help in the demystifying of presuppositions behind the biblical texts, the traditional methods of interpreting texts, and the cognitive tools employed for interpretation.

To add to what has already been said, concerted efforts by Dalit interpreters to study the text in its historic and ideological settings and attention to the polyphonic voices in the Bible may in fact strengthen Dalit biblical interpretation and its contribution to biblical interpretation in general. The perspectives of Dalit women and their insights on biblical texts are still to make it into the mainstream of Dalit theologizing. Dalit women's reflections will have to be taken seriously. Increased conversation between Dalit women and Dalit men on the Bible and collaborative reading by men and women will possibly result in a more holistic interpretation of the text that is useful for the liberation and transformation of the Dalit community.

Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, Chennai, India


Title Note: Sections of this paper have been taken from an earlier paper, titled "Dalit Readers of the Word: The Quest for Hermeneutics and Method," written by this author.

2. A. Maria Arul Raja, S. J., "Some Reflections on a Dalit Reading of the Bible," in Frontiers of Dalit Theology, edited by V. Devasahayam (Chennai/New Delhi: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997) 336.

3. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," a paper presented to a seminar on Biblical Hermeneutics held at the Bishop's College, January 2005, 1.

4. Sathianathan Clarke, "Viewing the Bible through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India," Biblical Interpretation 10, 3, (2002): 251.

5. Sathianathan Clarke, "Viewing the Bible through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India,"253.

6. V. Devasahayam, Doing Dalit Theology in Biblical Key, (Chennai: ISPCK/Gurukul, 1997) 4.

7. Sathianathan Clarke, "Viewing the Bible through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India,"254.

8. Sathianathan Clarke, "Viewing the Bible through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India,"255.

9. Martin A. Marty, Religion and Republic: The American Circumstance, (Boston: Beacon.1987) 40.

10. Sathianathan Clarke "Viewing the Bible through the Eyes and Ears of Subalterns in India,"256-57.

11. Thomas Thangaraj, "The Bible as Veda: Biblical Hermeneutics in Tamil Christianity," in Vernacular Hermeneutics, edited by R. S. Sugirtharajah, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999) 138-39.

12. There are few examples of Dalit theological articulations or biblical interpretations coming from the nineteenth century. Those that have been found may be examples approved by missionaries or dominant caste Christians.

13. Dhyanchand Carr, "Dalit theology is Biblical and it makes the Gospel Relevant," in A Reader in Dalit Theology, edited by A. P. Nirmal, (Chennai: Gurukul, nd) 71-84; V. Devasahayam, Doing Dalit Theology in Biblical Key,(Chennai: ISPCK/Gurukul, 1997); A. Maria Arul Raja S.J. "Some Reflections on a Dalit Reading of the Bible," in Frontiers of Dalit Theology, edited by V. Devasahayam (Chennai/New Delhi: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997) 336-45.

14. V. Devasahayam, ed., Frontiers of Dalit Theology, (Chennai/New Delhi: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997) 4.

15. K. Jesuratnam, "Towards a Dalit Liberative Hermeneutic: Re-reading the Psalms of Lament," Bangalore Theological Forum, Volume 34, Number 1, (June 2002): 2-3.

16. Leonado Boff, Faith on the Edge, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989) 19, 111 in M. Gnanavaram, "Some Reflections on Dalit Hermeneutics," in Frontiers of Dalit Theology, edited by V. Devasahayam (Chennai/New Delhi: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997) 329.

17. M. Gnanavaram, "Some Reflections on Dalit Hermeneutics," 329.

18. See Christopher Duraisingh, "Reflection on Theological Hermeneutics in the Indian Context," Indian Journal of Theology, Vol. 31 Nos. 3-4 (1982) 259.

19. Anthony C. Thiselton, The Two Horizons: New Testament Hermeneutics and Philosophical Description with special reference to Hiedegger, Gadamer and Wittgenstein (Exeter: Paternoster, 1980) xix. Horizon is here is understood a "limits of thought dictated by a given point of view," popularized by Hans-Georg Gadamer.

20. Virginia Fabella, and Mercy A. Oduyoye, eds., With Passion and Compassion, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988) 184-90.

21. V. Devasahayam, Outside the Camp: Bible Studies in Dalit Perspective (Chennai: Gurukul, 1992); Doing Dalit Theology in Biblical Key (Chennai: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997); See also A. Maria Arul Raja, "New Exorcism and Dalit Assertion: A Reinterpretation of Mark 5:1-20," 346ff, and John Jeyaharan, "A Dalit Reading of Lord's Prayer," 357 ff, in Frontiers of Dalit Theology, edited by V. Devasahayam (Chennai/New Delhi: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997)

22. James Massey, Towards Dalit Hermeneutics (New Delhi: ISPCK, 1994).

23. See V. Devasahayam, Outside the Camp: Bible Studies in Dalit Perspective (Chennai: Gurukul, 1992); Doing Dalit Theology in Biblical Key (Chennai: Gurukul/ISPCK, 1997).

24. M. Gnanavaram, "Some Reflections on Dalit Hermeneutics," 333; A. Maria Arul Raja S. J. "Some Reflections on a Dalit Reading of the Bible," 336-38.

25. See A. Maria Arul Raja, S. J., "Some Reflections on a Dalit Reading of the Bible," 336-38; also Kwok Pui Lan "Discovering the Bible in a Non-Biblical World," in R. S. Sugirtharajah, ed., Voices From the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991) 299-315.

26. The contrast between the lettered priest (Brahmin) on the one hand and the unlettered and polluting Dalit on the other has always been dramatically juxtaposed. The non-Brahmin, if allowed, can understand Scripture only through the involvement of the priest. To this extent, the priests have managed to subject non-Brahmins to processes that dramatize their ritual disabilities and hence their inferior status. The priest acts for the benefit of the hearer; such interpretations allow him significant control over others, reducing them to puppets.

27. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," a paper presented to a seminar on Biblical Hermeneutics held at the Bishop's College, January 2005, p. 3-4.

28. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," a paper presented to a seminar on Biblical Hermeneutics held at the Bishop's College, January 2005, 6.

29. Deenabandhu Manchala, "Reading together with the Dalits: An Exploration for Common Hermeneutical Directions Amidst Plurality of Interpretations," Unpublished, (nd) 4.

30. Deenabandhu Manchala, "Reading together with the Dalits: An Exploration for Common Hermeneutical Directions Amidst Plurality of Interpretations," 4.

31. Arvind P. Nirmal, "Towards a Christian Dalit Theology," in A. P. Nirmal, ed., A Reader in Dalit Theology, (Chennai: Gurukul, nd) 65-69

32. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," 7.

33. Cf. James Massey, Towards Dalit Hermeneutics (New Delhi: ISPCK, 1994).

34. Moumita Biswas, "The Unheard Cries of Unnamed Sisters of Queen Esther," In God's Image, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2003) 22.

35. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," 8.

36. Philip V. Peacock, "Methodological Issues in Dalit Biblical Hermeneutics," 8. Emphasis mine.

Citation: Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, " Dalits, Bible, And Method," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Oct 2005]. Online:


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