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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Hermeneutic of Trust.

A week or so ago I was listening to my favorite podcast during my morning commute, when I was surprised by a swell of unexpected emotion. Unexpected, because while my obsession with The Bible Project often leads to audible conversations with no one in particular while traveling alone in my car, it rarely elicits tears.

I’d been catching up on skipped episodes, and this particular installment was an interview from February 2021, with a New Testament scholar named Esau McCaulley. I listened to it twice. And have since purchased two copies of Esau’s book via Amazon Prime—one for myself, and one for delivery to my NYC daughter-in-law, who happens to share my birthday. All this, in spite of the fact that neither Ali nor I are Esau’s intended audience. His book is titled, Reading While Black.

While I think it’s safe to assume Esau and I have little in common related to ethnicity or culture or geographic location (he is black, and grew up in Alabama) I was shocked by the relatability of his story regarding the Bible and church. (Maybe this is why BP’s Tim Mackie insists on referring to the Church as y’all.) McCaulley has loved Jesus and loved his Bible since he was a child, and biblical scholarship has long been his greatest passion. And yet. Esau has always known, when it comes to interpretation, his is a minority voice.

The subtitle of the book is African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope—and Esau’s is a very hopeful message. I found myself riveted during the podcast interview, and riveted again reading the first chapter of my newly purchased book. But it was one phrase in particular that grabbed my attention and proved my sisterhood in Esau’s family.

I propose…we adopt a hermeneutic of trust.

Cue the tears. LOL.

But seriously. Esau was speaking my language.

With full awareness of ALL the ways my own story is nothing like that of a black man raised in the church of the south—I will humbly suggest we do have a few things in common. I, too, have loved Jesus and my Bible since I was a child. Biblical scholarship has long been my greatest passion. (To be clear. Esau McCaulley has a Ph.D., while my scholarship includes a half a master’s degree and a miscellany of independent study.) And also, as a woman in the Church, I can identify as a minority voice.

But best of all, Esau and I share this—

By sheer wonder of His amazing grace, God has shown me, too, this particular lens of interpreting scripture—

This hermeneutic of trust.

God, I trust you. This simple utterance, embedded deep in my psyche is my core belief. My prayer that can’t fail.

Last week I returned to my publisher what ought to be close to the the final edition of my own thoroughly edited manuscript. A book I started writing close to a decade ago. My beloved Covenant Story (although the exact title is still TBD) is a book God gave me, from beginning to end. And so is the hermeneutic. A retelling (or interpretation) of the biblical narrative, which leads ultimately to this conclusion:

We can trust our God, and we can trust His story.

Of course McCaulley’s book covers a whole lot of ground I wouldn’t know the first thing about. It asks questions I would never think to ask, and looks at life from a perspective I have never lived. His community of origin is as different from mine as our skin tones. And yet. Somewhat miraculously, our shared love of a similar hermeneutic unifies us in ways only possible through the Holy Spirit. We are together the family of Jesus.

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