In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Latino/a/e and Latin American Biblical Interpretation

  • Introduction
  • Overviews of Latin American Biblical Interpretation
  • Latin American Liberation Theology and Biblical Interpretation
  • Latino/a/e Theology and the Bible
  • Dimensions and Varieties of Latino/a/e Hermeneutics
  • Latino/a/e Biblical Interpretation: Commentaries and Essay Collections
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals

Biblical Studies Latino/a/e and Latin American Biblical Interpretation
Gilberto A. Ruiz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0330


Latino/a/e biblical interpretation refers to the analysis of biblical texts, of interpretations of biblical texts, and of the process of interpretation itself from the perspective of Latino/a/e identities, experiences, and contexts. It is a form of minoritized biblical criticism that foregrounds Latinx identity and culture (in any of its varieties) as an interpretive lens (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Minoritized Criticism of the New Testament”). Recurring themes include identity, marginalization, race, ethnicity, mestizaje, mulatez, exile, migration, and gender. Often, Latino/a/e biblical critics operate with a sense that their work be informed by the daily lived reality of Latino/a/es and be accountable to the wider Latine community, especially with respect to matters of justice and equity. Still early in its formation, questions remain over what precisely counts as Latino/a/e biblical criticism. For example, does a scholar’s Latino/a/e identity by itself render their analysis an exercise in “Latino/a/e biblical interpretation,” or must they ground it explicitly in contextual Latino/a/e realities to qualify? “Latine” and “Latinx” have emerged as terms that transcend the gender binary implied by “Latino/a” and will appear in the bibliography (including in combinations like “Latino/a/e” and “Latinoax”). So will “Hispanic,” which Latino/a/e biblical critics now use sparingly. Turning to Latin America, biblical criticism there encompasses the diverse methods and approaches employed today, notably historical criticism, literary and semiotic analysis, feminist hermeneutics, and sociological and materialist approaches (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Interpretation and Hermeneutics”). Engagement with sociopolitical and economic realities, the struggles of marginalized communities, matters of social justice and liberation from oppression, the legacy of the region’s colonialization and of more recent political turmoil and rule by repressive dictatorial regimes, indigenous perspectives, and the environment all also characterize Latin American biblical interpretation, which emphasizes situating interpretation within the contextual realities of Latin America. Rather than cover the entire scope of Latin American biblical interpretation, this bibliography focuses on its development in relation to liberation theology, since Latin American liberationist hermeneutics have indelibly shaped biblical studies. Also limiting this bibliography’s scope is its concentration on English translations, because these are more widely available and themselves contain bibliographies to explore Latin American scholarship in its original languages (mainly Spanish and Portuguese). Since Latin American liberationist hermeneutics predate and influenced Latino/a/e biblical criticism, the bibliography first addresses Latin American biblical interpretation before turning to Latino/a/e biblical interpretation.

Overviews of Latin American Biblical Interpretation

The overviews of Latin American biblical interpretation below generally designate the 1960s as their chronological point of departure, which coincides with the advent of liberation theology. This periodization is in line with their tendency to emphasize the influence of liberation theology on the development of a biblical hermeneutics distinct to Latin America. Another characteristic of these surveys is that they do not limit themselves to publications by scholars trained in biblical studies. They discuss how the Bible is read and understood by untrained “ordinary readers” in light of their social location, given that the lectura popular de la Biblia (people’s reading of the Bible) in Latin America, especially in the comunidades de base (small grassroots communities), was so integral to the liberation theology movement. They also examine publications by systematic theologians because, as Andiñach 2012 observes, the relationship between the disciplines of theology and biblical studies in Latin America is too close “to set them clearly apart” without difficulty: “[I]n Latin America theological thought always goes hand in hand with a specific way of understanding the Bible” (p. 141). Barreda Toscano 2015, Míguez and Bruno 2015, Gerstenberger 2006, Míguez 2006, and Schmeller 1999 are entry-level introductions that survey a breadth of material. While Barreda Toscano 2015, Míguez 2006, and Schmeller 1999 categorize and describe different types of interpretation and hermeneutical methods employed in Latin America, Míguez and Bruno 2015, Pereira 2012, and Gerstenberger 2006 take a reception history approach to describe the use of the Bible in Latin America. Míguez and Bruno 2015 in particular constitutes an excellent starting point for serious investigation into that topic. Ruiz 2021, Andiñach 2012, Pereira 2012, and Pixley 2012 offer a “state of the field,” and for that reason have specialists in biblical studies in mind. Nevertheless, they are written in accessible prose. Rowland and Corner 1989, an accessible introduction to liberationist exegesis, is written by two British scholars who sympathize with liberationist hermeneutical method and argue for its implementation in biblical studies in “First World” contexts like the United Kingdom. Ruiz 2021 is a resource to consult for broader overviews of biblical exegesis in Latin America not limited to liberationist approaches.

  • Andiñach, Pablo R. “Liberation in Latin American Biblical Hermeneutics.” In The Future of the Biblical Past: Envisioning Biblical Studies on a Global Key. Edited by Roland Boer and Fernando F. Segovia, 137–148. Semeia Studies 66. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

    Traces the germination of a liberationist hermeneutic that emerged concurrently with, and was influenced by, liberation theology. A selective survey of four models (indigenous, feminist, ecological, intercultural) that influence Latin American biblical interpretation early in the twenty-first century follows succinct descriptions of the hermeneutics of J. Severino Croatto, Carlos Mesters, Jorge Pixley, and Gustavo Gutiérrez. Discerns in Latin American biblical interpretation a tension between sociological and literary approaches.

  • Barreda Toscano, Juan José. “Bible Study in Latin America: An Exploration.” Journal of Latin American Theology 10.5 (2015): 83–109.

    An introductory review of methods written from an evangelical perspective that advocates for critical methods and liberationist approaches to inform interpretation, particularly among evangelical audiences. Topics covered include the biblical canon in relation to current social problems, divine justice for the poor and excluded as a biblical theme, popular readings of the Bible, missiological interpretation, and current reading practices employed in Latin American biblical interpretation at communal and scholarly levels.

  • Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Latin America.” In The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture. Edited by John F. A. Sawyer, 217–231. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405101363.2006.00016.x

    Reviews the reception history of the Bible in Latin America, especially between 1965 and 2005. Outlines the Bible’s role in fomenting a progressive theology of liberation as well as its appropriation by political and religious conservatives vested in upholding ecclesial hierarchies and patriotically supporting governing authorities. Observes that in recent decades an “evolutionary” reading centered on educating about the Bible has replaced “revolutionary reading of the Bible” in Latin America.

  • Míguez, Néstor O. “Latin American Reading of the Bible: Experiences, Challenges and its Practice.” Expository Times 118.3 (December 2006): 120–129.

    DOI: 10.1177/0014524606072693

    A survey of the development of liberationist hermeneutics in Latin America in the latter half of the twentieth century that takes special care to ground this development within its historical and sociopolitical context. Drawing from personal experience, Míguez vividly describes the conditions of reading the Bible within the political atmosphere of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. Previously published in the Journal of Latin American Hermeneutics 1 (2004).

  • Míguez, Néstor O., and Daniel Bruno. “The Bible in Latin America.” In The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Vol. 4, From 1750 to the Present. Edited by John Riches, 427–460. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    Covers the Bible’s reception in Latin America from the colonial period’s end through the twentieth century. Supplies detailed historical information, discusses the Bible’s social and political impact, describes different translations, and treats biblical hermeneutics. The authors note that “in Latin American history the Bible is recognised as a message” as opposed to “a religious artefact and symbol of the authority of its presumed ‘authorised interpreters’: colonial and ecclesiastical authorities” (p. 429).

  • Pereira, Nancy Cardoso. “Paper Is Patient, History Is Not: Readings and Unreadings of the Bible in Latin America (1985–2005).” In The Future of the Biblical Past: Envisioning Biblical Studies on a Global Key. Edited by Roland Boer and Fernando F. Segovia, 149–166. Semeia Studies 66. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

    Focuses on the role played by popular reading in transforming the Bible from a colonizing tool to a text that informs the material experiences of the people on their own terms. Pereira regards the reception history of popular reading of the Bible between 1985 and 2005 as marked by ambivalence: particular gains of this method have been diverted by religious, economic, and cultural forces that seek to commodify, contain, or outright ignore it.

  • Pixley, Jorge. “Liberating the Bible: Popular Bible Study and Its Academia Allies.” In The Future of the Biblical Past: Envisioning Biblical Studies on a Global Key. Edited by Roland Boer and Fernando F. Segovia, 167–178. Semeia Studies 66. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

    Summarizes the historical and religious context that fomented liberation theology and the reading of the Bible in base communities, and then reviews the mutual influence between such popular Bible study and academic biblical scholarship in Latin America. Contains interesting biographical tidbits of certain theologians and biblical scholars, describes how the Revista de Interpretación Biblica Latinoamericana is produced, and identifies five possible avenues of future directions for Latin American biblical studies.

  • Rowland, Christopher, and Mark Corner. Liberating Exegesis: The Challenge of Liberation Theology to Biblical Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989.

    Introduces biblical interpretation as conducted in Latin American liberation theology and argues for its relevance to interpretation in “First World” contexts. Discusses specific examples of interpretation in base communities, foundations of liberation theology in relation to historical criticism, and how liberating exegesis influences the authors’ engagement with the Synoptic Gospels and Revelation. Makes a case for incorporating liberation theology in “First World” contexts.

  • Ruiz, Eleuterio R., ed. 80 años de exégesis bíblica en América Latina: Actas del Congreso Internacional de Estudios Bíblicos organizado con ocasión del 80° aniversario de Revista Bíblica (Buenos Aires, 16 al 19 de julio de 2019). Suplementos a la Revista Bíblica 7. Estella (Navarra), Spain: Editorial Verbo Divino, 2021.

    Proceedings from a conference commemorating the 80th anniversary of the journal Revista Bíblica—sixteen papers in Spanish, three in Portuguese, one in English. Grouped into four parts that indicate their topics (my translation): “Pioneers of Exegesis in Latin America: Points of Interest and Critical Views”; “Preferred and Neglected Themes and Texts in Latin American Exegesis”; “Methods and Approaches Cultivated in Latin America: Diversity and Interdisciplinarity”; “Prospects of Exegesis in Latin America.”

  • Schmeller, Thomas. “Liberation Theologies.” In Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation. 2 vols. Edited by John H. Hayes, 2:66–74. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

    Covers the history and nature of the Bible’s use and interpretation in Latin American liberation theology. Schmeller describes popular exegesis and the use of Scripture by liberation theologians before discussing liberation hermeneutical method from the perspective of academic exegesis. Some bibliographic entries are listed in their German translation even if an English translation is available.

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