Europe Contested: Contemporary Bible Readings Performed by ‘Ordinary’ Readers in a European Context


This workshop aims to begin an investigation into how ‘ordinary’ Europeans read and interpret the Bible – and into the methodological challenges experienced when undertaking research in this field. In particular, emphasis will be placed upon analysing how the unique contextual realities of present-day Europe effect the way ‘ordinary’ people read and interpret biblical texts.

Please note: ‘European’ is used in this context to refer solely to the geographical borders of Europe. Similarly, ‘ordinary’ refers to untrained readers of the Bible.

This workshop therefore seeks to provide an academic forum within which the study of European contextual interpretations of the Bible produced by ‘ordinary’ readers can be discussed.

The aim of the workshop is fivefold: By the aid of contextual Bible studies with ‘ordinary’ European readers, we would like to explore; (i.) how contemporary negotiations of economic issues, and also of identity, effect how European readers interpret and understand biblical texts; ii.) how at a local level, the economic and cultural changes in present day Europe influence and challenge European identity; iii.) how these contemporary readings may ‘talk back’ and shed new light on our understanding of Biblical texts; iv. ) how we can develop apt methods for contextual Bible studies which may provide us with new knowledge with regard to the above mentioned issues (i-iii.). In addition to this (v.), the session will also allow for the development of a research network for scholars working within this growing field of Biblical Studies.


Tiffany Webster

Gitte Buch-Hansen


Cordoba 2015

Session one – Invited papers only. Theme: Methods for developing ‘ordinary’ European contextual interpretations of the Bible

Scholars who have extensive experience of working within this field of Biblical Studies will be invited to present papers on the methodologies typically used for carrying out research in this field (for example, Contextual Bible Study) and the unique challenges that using such methodologies within a European context bring. For example, the following issues could be addressed: i.) To what degree should the researcher interfere with the reading processes of the group? ii.) Must the documentation of the ‘ordinary’ readers’ interpretations be balanced by the researcher’s participatory/ethnographic observations? Scholars contributing to this session will draw upon case studies from their own work out in the field and the methodological challenges they experienced whilst completing their research.

Session two – Open call for papers. Theme: Examples of how modern ‘ordinary’ readers in a European context have interpreted the Bible

The goal of this session is provide a formal yet supportive platform upon which scholars working within the field of how the Bible can be interpreted by ‘ordinary’ readers in a European context can present and share their fieldwork findings. In order to support and develop the participants’ critical engagement with their data, an experienced respondent will be invited. Consequently, the papers must be submitted in advance.

The session welcomes contextual readings of any biblical texts by groups of ‘ordinary’ readers from faith, interfaith or non-faith perspectives, so long as such papers explore readings produced in a European context. ‘European’ in this context refers solely to the geographical borders of Europe, as opposed to any definition based upon ethnicity.

The Annual Conference 2021
takes place 2-5 August
in Wuppertal. Read more.