Along with gunboats, opium, slaves and treaties, the Christian Bible became a defining symbol of European expansion. The underlying purpose of this volume is to trace how the Christian Bible, the ur text of European culture, as Stephen Prickett calls it, has been transmitted, received, appropriated and even subverted by Third World people. It narrates the arrival of the Bible in precolonial days, through to its appropriation in the postcolonial context, both by the colonizer and colonized.
Some of the organizing terms in the volume may cause uneasiness and anxiety, hence they need elaboration and explanation. Firstly, the use of ‘Third World’ in the title: ever since the term gained currency in the public domain, invigorating discussions have been going on regarding its value and limitation. It was introduced by the French economist and demographer, Alfred Sauvy. His intention was to bring out two aspects – the idea of exclusion, and the aspiration of Third World people. He saw in that class of commoners the Third Estate of the French Revolution, which not only suggested exclusion but also stood for the idea of revolutionary potential. However, Sauvy did not see the Third Estate as being in a numerical hierarchy, below the French aristocracy and the clergy, but as being ‘excluded from its proper role in the world by two other worlds’. His contention was that ‘the Third World has, like the Third Estate, been ignored and despised and it too wants to be something’.