The Society of Asian Biblical Studies (SABS) owes its origin to the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS). Since the very first CATS gathering in Seoul, Korea in 1997, scholars interested in Asian biblical interpretation and hermeneutics have been discussing and envisioning the formation of a professional academic society to promote biblical interpretation and research in Asia and/or through Asian lenses.
The dream began to take shape with a planning committee formed during the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Singapore in the summer of 2005. The task of the planning committee was to organize an inaugural conference for SABS at the end of CATS in Hong Kong in August of 2006.
Almost a decade beyond the initial conversations in Seoul, and thanks to the persistence and ingenuity of many persons, SABS finally became a reality with the inaugural conference held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong from August 22-26, 2006. In attendance were thirty-five biblical scholars, including not only those who work and live in various parts of Asia, but also Asian scholars who are in diaspora in different corners of the world. In addition to the presentation of eleven academic papers, an inaugural address, entitled, Future Imperfect: Asia, The Bible and Biblical Interpretation, was delivered by Professor R. S. Sugirtharajah of the University of Birmingham (UK).
The purpose of the Society is to foster Asian Biblical Studies and Interpretation. For that purpose, we have the following vision:
- Create opportunities for members to share and exchange research and scholarship in Asian Biblical studies and interpretation, foster mutual support, intellectual growth, and professional development as teachers, interpreters and scholars
- Facilitate a broad and open discussion from a variety of perspectives, particularly that of the minorities and the marginalized in Asia
- Encourage study and interpretation of biblical literature and related literature using traditional and diverse methods and approaches in the varied Asian cultural and lingual contexts
- Collaborate with educational institutions and other appropriate organizations to support contextual biblical scholarship, interpretation and teaching
- Develop and publish resources for diverse audiences, including students, religious communities and the general public in both English and the vernacular languages
- Discuss and develop a viable biblical curriculum in the cultural setting of Asia
SABS has since met every two years and has focused on a theme pertinent to the Asian context.
- 2008 – Methodist Theological University in Seoul, Korea (14-16 July) – “Mapping and engaging the Bible in Asian Cultures”
- 2010 – Chung Chi College of Divinity, CUHK, Hong Kong (14-16 June) Ecology, Economy and Asian Biblical Interpretation
- 2012 – Sabah Theological Seminary, Sabah, Malaysia (13-15 June) Migration, Diaspora: Asia and the Bible
- 2014 – 75th Anniversary Building, CCT, Chiang Mai, Thailand ( 23-25 June) – Violence in the Human and Earth Community
- 2016 – Methodist Theological University, Seoul, Korea, (2-7 July) – Moving Margins: Biblical Studies in 21st century Asia.
- 2018 – Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Teologi Widya Sasana Malang, Indonesia (17-19 July) – Bible and Empire in Asia: Past and Present.
- 2020 – Wisma Methodist, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (9-13 June) – Bible and Hospitality
Regular participants and paper presenters in the SABS meetings have found the experience invaluable. They have appreciated the opportunity to meet and network with others in the field from the vast region that is Asia and those who are in diaspora, and others, but all with a keen interest and commitment to promote Asian interpretations and reflections on the Bible.
In 2020, SABS will meet at the Wisma Methodist, Lorong Hang Jebat, City Centre, 50150, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (with arrival on 9 June and departure on the June 13). We encourage your attendance at this meeting and we welcome paper proposals on any book of the Bible as well as on any topic that deals with the Bible in Asia. However, one of the main objectives of this society is to foster biblical scholarship and research in Asia that takes seriously the Asian context—its cultures, religions, and methodologies. It is therefore strongly desirable that papers presented at this meeting are attempts to understand the Bible from varied Asian perspectives.
For this coming meeting, we are especially hoping for papers that deal with the theme: “Bible and Hospitality”. The understanding of “hospitality” is broad, for the term refers to service (to others), industry (for profit), attitude (of generosity) and ideology (with openness). In other words, the topic “Bible and hospitality” is hospitable and SABS 2020 will make space for attention to biblical texts about hospitality, for using biblical texts to (re)define hospitality, and for ways to make the Bible more or less hospitable.
Monica Jyotsna Melanchthon, President
Society of Asian Biblical Studies