Cultural Interpretations

Cultural Interpretations


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



His analysis demonstrates the social intent of every reading and shows the influence

of communicative context in such diverse readings of the Bible as Rudolf Bultmann’s,

the peasants of Solentiname, the Negro spirituals, and black church sermons.



Books by Brian K. Blount


Cultural Interpretations  /  Then The Whisper Put On Flesh  / Go Preach! Mark’s Kingdom Message


Can I Get A Witness / True to Our Native Land


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Cultural Interpretations: Reorienting New Testament Criticism


By Brian K. Blount

Building on insights into the social functions of language, especially its interpersonal dimensions, Blount constructs a culturally sensitive model of interpretation that provides a sound basis for ethnographic and popular, as well as historical-critical, readings of the biblical text.

Blount’s framework does more than acknowledge the inevitability of multiple interpretations; it foments them. His analysis demonstrates the social intent of every reading and shows the influence of communicative context in such diverse readings of the Bible as Rudolf Bultmann’s, the peasants of Solentiname, the Negro spirituals, and black church sermons. Then Blount turns to Mark’s account of the trial of Jesus, where he shows how this hermeneutical scheme helps to assess the emergence and validity of multiple readings of the text and the figure of Jesus.

Blount’s expansive interpretive proposal will help scholars and students open up the possibilities of the text without abandoning it

— Fortress Press, Publisher

A well-conceived, thoroughly researched, and elegantly written work, Cultural Interpretations: Reorienting New Testament Criticism  establishes Blount as a sophisticated voice with new and provocative challenges for church, academy, and culture. As a demonstration of the power of sociolinguistics for ‘de-centering’ and establishing the cultural variability of biblical interpretation, his book has far reaching ramifications for biblical scholarship. . . . Required reading for all serious students of the Bible,

–Vincent L. Wimbush, Union Theological Seminary, New York City




       1      A Contextual Approach to new Testament Interpretation  


Part One     Cultural Contexts and Biblical Interpretation        2     Existential Interpretation  


       3     The Gospel in Solentiname


       4     The Negro Spiritual


       5     The Sermon in the Black Church  


Part Two  Interpreting the Trial of Jesus in Mark

       6     Potential Meaning in Mark’s Trial Scenes


       7     Jesus the Redeemer


       8     Jesus the Tragic Hero 


       9     Jesus the Revolutionary 


      10    Jesus Man of the People 


      11    Beyond Interpretative Boundaries








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Professor Blount’s most recent publications include a volume edited along with Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Making Room At The Table:  An Invitation To Multicultural Worship (WJK, 2000), Then The Whisper Put On Flesh:  New Testament Ethics In An African American Context (Abingdon, 2001) and Struggling With Scripture, with Walter Brueggemann and William Placher (WJK, 2002).  He has also completed an article entitled, “Teaching Across Borders: Experimental Biblical Pedagogy.”  It is awaiting publication in the journal SEMEIA.  He has been working jointly with Dr. Gary W. Charles, pastor of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, VA, on Preaching Mark In Two Voices (Westminster John Knox, 2003). Professor Blount will do the John Albert Hall Lectures for the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria in Vancouver, Canada in the Fall of 2003.  Sometime during this period he anticipates the publication of the Discipleship Study Bible by Westminister John Knox Press.  He is an editor along with Professors W. Sibley Towner, Bruce Birch, and Gail R. O’Day.  He has also written the introduction and notes for Mark and Matthew.  Currently, he is preparing a commentary on the Book of Revelation (WJK).  

Brian K. Blount, associate professor of New Testament, earned his M.Div. from Princeton in 1981, when he received the Edler Garnet Hawkins Award for Scholastic Excellence. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Dr. Blount served for six years as pastor of Carver Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia, before returning to academia in 1988 as a Woodruff Fellow at Emory University. Within the field of New Testament studies, he specializes in the Kingdom of God language in the Gospel of Mark, New Testament ethics, the relationship of the New Testament to the Black church, and Revelation.

His recent publications include Cultural Interpretations: Reorienting New Testament Criticism  and Go Preach! Mark’s Kingdom Message and the Black Church Today. Forthcoming are a book on New Testament ethics for Abingdon Press and a commentary on Revelation for Westminster John Knox Press. Brian K. Blount 110 Stockton Street  497-7836 

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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update 4 October 2011




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