Scholarly publications are rare and sporadic. Professors seldom do scholarly work because of administrative and pastoral duties. Scholarly articles are published in local academic journals and hardly ever in international journals. Most published works are merely introductory (like A Key to the Understanding series by Maryhill School of Theology). No scholarly commentaries have ever been published. There are two exceptions however. The late Belgian CICM NT scholar Herman Hendrickx had come out with a five volume commentary on Luke's Gospel (The Third Gospel for the Third World, Claretian Publications) but unfinished (up to chapter 19 only). The untimely demise of this missionary has terminated what could have been the longest commentary on Luke.
Anthony Ceresko, OSFS, a North American, had been Old Testament studies and biblical languages at Divine Word School of Theology (Tagaytay City) untill his death last 14 August 2006. Before his death, he was the only one in the country who had a doctorate in Sacred Scripture (SSD). Ceresko, who did his doctoral dissertation on the Book of Job at the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (Biblicum) and was the most productive among the biblical scholars in the Philippines. His two books, Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to Old Testament Wisdom (both locally published by Claretian Publications) are both scholarly and pastoral in their approach, written in a liberation theology perspective. Ceresko wrote scholarly articles published locally and internationally. His last book, launched in Bangalore, in May last year was on St. Francis de Sales and the Bible.
These two scholars, however, were non-Filipinos. Nonetheless, we can always say that the class lectures, talks, conferences and seminars given to many church groups in the country would serve as our Filipino biblical exegetes' "works".
Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) now running on its sixth year holds an annual convention in which a scholar from abroad is invited to deliver an academic paper. Those who had been invited so far were James Swetnam (Biblicum), Jan Lambrecht (Catholic University of Louvain), Francis Moloney (Australian Catholic University), John Pilch (Georgetown University), Charles Conroy (Gregorian University), Amy Jill Levine (Vanderbilt University), Paul D. Hanson (Harvard University). This year's keynote speaker is Gale Yee (Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA). On those said conventions, selected local members presented their scholarly works and later on were published as official proceedings. The CBAP has also collected, edited and published the public lectures of the visiting scholars from abroad usually consisting of four to five articles.
The ecumenical effort to translate the Bible into the local dialects under the supervision of the Philippine Bible Society is another plus factor for the popular reading of the Bible. The publications of cheap and subsidized bibles have been beneficial to the poor. Today the bible is accessible in one's own dialect, including the dialects of the indigenous peoples. However, translations need to be polished and improved. Since many of the translators lacked sufficient knowledge of the biblical languages and formal biblical studies, Filipino translations of the bible today are still unreliable.
The World of the Author
Understanding the world of the author brings us closer to what he or she originally intended to mean in the text. The theological assumption of our concern for the author's intention lies in the concept of inspiration. Dei Verbum speaks of the author as "sacred writer(s)" in which through his or her intention God had chosen to manifest his will (no. 12). Biblical scholarship and teaching certainly play a big part in this quest for the meaning of the text as intended by the author. The scientific investigation of the text using the historical-critical method is indispensable. Scholars need to employ carefully and methodically the disciplines of the method beginning from textual criticism and moving to philological analysis, source and redaction criticism. Such diachronic process is complemented by a historical investigation of the culture, society, philosophy, and literature of the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world. Because of the socio-political and economic situation in the Philippines, scholars can shed light to this through focusing their research on such social issues in the bible like the concept of justice and injustice, liberation, the meaning of poverty, slavery, corruption, oppression, suffering and hope, women, children, ecology, peace, inculturation and the like.
The World of the Text
Meaning does not rest only in the authorial intention. The text itself has an openness and potential to mean more than the author originally meant. Once the text becomes a written text, it gains a life of its own. The author is now situated apart from his or her work, both in space and time. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur terms as "distantiation this disjunction between the author's intended meaning and the referential meaning of the text. The text becomes autonomous with respect to the intention of the author; it escapes or "explodes" the world of the author to the world of the text thereby creating a surplus of meaning.
Understanding however the world of the text entails analysis of the intricate composition of the text. This presupposes of the original languages of text and other Semitic and ancient languages that may shed light on a particular biblical word or expression. Furthermore, the world of the text is unfolded in the final form reading of the text, unfolding its literary structure, explicating its narrative style, literary, poetic and rhetorical techniques inherent in the text. Here, literary analysis like narrative and rhetorical criticisms, is a valuable instrument to uncover the meaning of the text.
The World of the Reader/Listener
The text is simply antiquated or dead without a reader or a listener. Since there is already distanciation between the author and his/her text, the situation of the present reader can shed meaning to it. The reader brings with him/her background, education, cultural values, philosophy in life, etc in interpreting the text. Indeed the text can shed light and provide hope to the reader's situation and vice versa. That is why the reader's consciousness of his/her own sitze im Leben can lead to a fruitful interaction between him/r her, the author, and the text.
It is on this aspect that popular reading of the bible in BEC's for instance, is important to biblical interpretation. The world of the reader also includes those who have interpreted the text in the past. Hence, the so-called history of the influence of the text plays an important interpretative role, which should include both the Church Fathers and Jewish approaches of interpretation. The works of the artists, playwrights, songwriters interpreting the biblical text in artistic and literary way are just examples of the world of the reader interacting with the other two worlds.