Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


17. African American Biblical Interpretation

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. How does this chapter understand and describe the terms African American churches and black churches?
  2. How would you characterize the role and significance of the Bible in the African American churches and in the African American community?
  3. What are three common features that have historically shaped the identity of the diverse African American churches?
  4. What are some of the important characteristics of African American biblical scholarship that have developed since the middle of the twentieth century?
  5. Identify and briefly describe the three macrostories that, according to this chapter, have especially shaped African American identity.
  6. How does each of these macrostories reflect and shape the experiences of African Americans?
  7. According to this chapter, what are the future prospects of African American biblical interpretation?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim C. Anthony Hunt makes in this chapter (p. 307):

In the future, African American churches will continue to face the significant challenge of reappropriating ancient biblical stories and themes in ways that are relevant to contemporary realities. This must be accomplished within the context of what philosopher Cornel West refers to as the prevailing condition of the ‘nihilism of black America’—that is, a certain lovelessness, hopelessness, meaninglessness, and nothingness that pervades and permeates much of African American life today (Race Matters, 14).

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In reflecting on the prospect of the Bible being a foundational source for comprehending and appropriating faith in God for African Americans, how do you see this as being the case, historically and contemporarily? How has this changed over time?
  2. Given the proposal that Africa and Africans had a central place in the shaping of the Bible, how do you see this as being the case (or not)? How might an appropriation of this proposal shape biblical interpretation, through preaching and teaching, in the black churches today?
  3. What do you think of the accuracy and the significance of the proposal that there are three major macrostories—exodus, exile, and priestly—that have shaped and continue to shape African American biblical interpretation?
  4. What aspects of African American biblical interpretation should you appreciate, or even consider appropriating, no matter your own interpretive location?