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Bible with reference to Hindu scriptures making waves

Usha Ram Manohar in Kochi | August 05, 2008 12:27 IST
Last Updated: August 05, 2008 12:56 IST

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An 'Indianised' Bible with references to the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Manusmriti and drawings of a turbaned Joseph and sari-clad Mary with baby Jesus in her arms, is making waves in Kerala [Images].

This is an unprecedented venture as Indian scriptures Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Mausmriti have been used in a Bible by way of interpretations to biblical passages for the first time, says Catholic church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekat. This is an attempt to make contextual reading and understanding.

There are 24 line drawings, including those of mosque, temple and church with slippers outside, by the late Christopher Coelho.

The Mumbai-based publishing house, St Pauls, which brings out religious books, has come out with the new Indian Bible, which also has references to Meerabai, Mahatma Gandhi [Images], and Rabindranath Tagore in the interpretations of biblical passages, Father Thelekat told PTI.

As far as Catholics are concerned, they have to live and interpret their Christian faith and scriptures within the given culture. So they have to understand and interpret the culture, he said.

The New Community Bible is a revised edition of the popular Christian Bible translated by Late Bernardo Hurault, published from the Philippines. About 30 scholars have worked on it from 1980 and made the interpretations which are published at the bottom part of the Bible, Fr Thekekat said.

The text of the Bible is the accepted Catholic version, whose interpretations are made with an Indian cultural perspective.

Thiruvananthpuam Archbishop Sosa Pakiam, in his preface to the Bible, says a unique feature of the New Bible is that it has many references to the spiritual message and biblical references to that of spiritual message and biblical values found in the scriptures of other great Indian religions.

The article, quoting Fr Augustine Kanachikuzhy, general editor of the new Bible, says the references and quotations used in the Bible from non Christian scriptures "does not imply in any way, the Indian scriptural terms are parallel to Biblical terms or that the parallel references are saying the same thing as the Biblical text."

Thelekat said while interpreting Treasure in Heaven of Mt 6:19.21, "This concept is found a classical expression in the Bhagavad Gita's call to disinterested action: 'Work alone is your proper business never the fruits it may produce.'" (2:47), or while commenting on the third appearance of Jesus to disciples (John 21:1.14)... "The Lord ever stands on the shores of our life every moment and every age, every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes' (Gitanjali XLV).

Indian texts are used to interpret not only the New Testament, but also the Old Testament. The deluge story of the Book of Genesis is interpreted with reference of such stories in Mesopotamia and Satapath Brahmana (1.8.1-10) and
Mahabharata [Images].

In passages where the Biblical interpretation differs from the Indian scriptures, that fact is also made clear, Thelekat said.

Over such 70 references to non Christian texts have been made in the Bible and 30 scholars participated in making the commentary, Fr Thelekat said.

"An attempt has been made to give a Bible which is more relevant for India. There is nothing added or subtracted from the text of the Bible, which has been reproduced as such," Fr Thelekat added.

Bishop Thomas Dabre, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, gave the official no objection certificate for publication of the Bible.

SatyaDeepam, a fortnightly highlighting Christian values, quoting Bishop Dabre, said, "We cannot simply have a re-reproduction of the Bible. People must be able to assimilate and appreciate the Bible. The texts of the Bible must come alive."

The Bible throws light on the non Christian texts, for example, the 'Gayatri Mantra', which is a prayer addressed to the Sun god. "But actually for us Christ is the light. We can use it as a prayer of divine light, which illumines the human mind," the bishop said.

Bishop Dabre said there could be resistance to such introductions.

"For so many centuries we have not been able to read the text of the sacred scripture without Indian traditions at the background. Our sacred text also must become meaningful to Indians of different religions. It will help to project our Bible in their context," he said.

Father Thekelat said this is a positive step to understand in a positive manner, the sacred scriptures and literary texts of the land. Even St Paul quoted the local poet, he said.

A Bible can be printed only after a non-objection certificate and express permission to print is given by the Mumbai archbishop.

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