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The reception of the Bible in the vernacular sidestepped the controversies that accompanied the circulation of the Bible in early modern Europe. However, unwittingly, it produced the movements of indigenisation and liberation. The stimulus of indigenous theology was often a corollary and consequence of the creation of the vernacular Bible, with the work of field inquiry opening the door to indigenous inquiry and reflection. Bible translation evoked and reinforced the religious substratum of traditional society, with biblical stories opening the way for the recovery of local narrative traditions. With the impetus of the Bible Society of Java, which was founded in 1816, Portuguese gave way to Malay in Bible translation. The religious motive of the missionary vocation often encouraged missionaries to try to produce translations of enduring value. The message of the Bible ended the isolation of tribe and language, slowed the process of neglect and indifference, and allowed translators use obscure languages to produce a simple communication system.
Hans Urs von Balthasar believed that all theology is hermeneutics: theologians should devote their energies to interpreting God's self-revelation in nature, history, and the Bible (TD2, 91). His principal theoretical remarks about scriptural interpretation are found in the first volume of The Glory of the Lord, the second volume of the Theo-Drama, the third volume of the Theo-Logic, and in a handful of essays. Although he sometimes emphasized different aspects of biblical hermeneutics in these discussions, several salient points, summarized briefly here, will be elaborated in this chapter. Balthasar argued that the atrophied aesthetic sensibilities of most modern theologians and biblical scholars have undermined the Church's biblical interpretation in various ways. Appropriating the lessons of premodern theological aesthetics would help to revive a set of ancient and medieval hermeneutical conventions that are not incompatible with certain features of contemporary biblical scholarship. These conventions include viewing the Bible as a self-glossing, christologically focused story, the proper interpretation of which is enabled by the Holy Spirit and nourished by regular liturgical worship. The range of ecclesially fruitful interpretation is constrained both by the intentions of its human and divine authors and by the rule of faith.
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