zaterdag 6 augustus 2011

Dr. Agus Setiabudi and reading of the Old Testament

Yesterday, 5 August 2011, Agus Setiabudi defended his doctoral dissertation at the Theological School of Kampen, officially the PThU, Protestantse Theologische Universiteit. The title of the dissertation is:
Taking its Shape. Towards an Indonesian Old Testament Theology. The book discusses the four volume work by Christoph Barth, son of the famous Karl Barth, who for about 25 years taught in Indonesia, Banjarmasin and Jakarta. His Theologia Perjanjian Lama is still reprinted and used at theological schools in Indonesia. Setiabudi analyzed this book, the English translation and some 20 dissertations by Protestants scholars of Indonesia. He concluded that the very strict orthodox theology of Christoph Barth is somewhat altered by the Indonesians: they have more feeling for the value of local traditions and do not see the Old Testament as an isolated truth, towering above all the sins and nonsense of human people, but try more to write biblical interpretation in harmony with their culture. This is a nice description of recent history of Indonesian Protestant theology.
Several readers were surprised to see that a similar book: Walter Lempp's multi-volume Tafsir Perjanjian Lama was not taken into consideration. In fact the two scholars share the same academic and spiritual tradition. Several readers were also surprised that the Catholics were not mentioned at all: no Cletus Groenen, John Prior, Stefanus Darmawijaya (with his nice comparison of the panakawan and the ebed Jahwe or Servant of God) and nothing about the much younger Jesuit Deshi Ramadhani.

Setiabudi wants a specific Indonesian Old Testament Theology and writes at various placed in his book that Islam must be an important context for Bible Interpretation. But I am afraid that he knows very little about the strong biblical background of the Qur'an, little about the extensive reference to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus in the basic text of the Muslim community. In fact, biblical scholars could have an important role in the Indonesian contextual theology, but the European tradition is so strong, that not yet much can be seen here.

Gerrit Singgih will receive an honorary doctorate in Kampen in December. Congratulations! Gerrit was co-promotor in Kampen. Above he is shown together with Barend Drewes, for many years teaching New Testament interpretation in Indonesia.

There is a famous Latin proverb: Timeo hominem unius libri. It must be translated as: I fear someone who only reads/sticks to one book. Scripturalism is the word coined by Clifford Geertz for any style of orthodoxy that claims to return to the text of one book alone. In reality, it is always new interpretations that rise. We should be realistic and not stick to one book alone, Bible or Qur'an.

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