Arts and Humanities | Religion
It is a tribute to the fairness and large-mindedness of the editors of this commentary that they would solicit and accept as part of this project this trenchant anti-commentary essay. I share the interest held by all contributors to this project (and many beyond it) to contribute to the ongoing political-ideological uplift work of African Americans. But I propose here to contribute to such work through a questioning of and challenge to the traditional and still dominant discursive formation--the commentary--that this larger project reflects and within which the Bible and other scriptures are generally thought about and engaged, and to offer at least the outlines of a different orientation and approach to interpretation. Every discursive formation is political. My basic argument is that the commentary as intellectual project is (politically) very problematic, not because of any specific substantive arguments on the part of commentators--such arguments may run widely within a certain spectrum--but because the commentary necessarily forces a certain delimitation and qualification of questioning and probing. It forces the interpreter to begin not in his or her own time, not in or with his or her own world situation, but in another one--that (one that is imagined or assumed to be) of the text. This orientation to the beginning or first step in interpretation is critical. To be sure, since Origen, biblical exegetes or commentators have tended to range widely with their questions and issues. But the point here is that a dangerous game is set up whereby the commentator feigns to be faithful "to the text" while dancing with another set of issues. This game can--in fact, has--become so twisted and dizzying that it is for the most part and for too many interpreters no longer even recognized for what it is; the game and its effects are acutely and profoundly and with devastating social-political effects obfuscating. There are high stakes in such practice for peoples on the periphery. At the very least, it keeps them distracted, unable to focus on their world situation.
© 2007 Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Wimbush, Vincent L. “We will Make Our own Future Text: A Proposal for an Alternate Interpretive Orientation,” in True to our Native Land: African American New Testament Commentary, ed. Brian Blount, et al (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2007), 43-53.