Gandhi’s Use of Scriptures: A Hermeneutic of Nonviolence against Letters That Kill

Ed Noort*

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

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    2 Citaten (Scopus)
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    Against the background of differing opinions about Gandhi’s views on the relationship between political action and religious inspiration, this paper examines his use of scriptures, if he made hermeneutical decisions and if so, what they were. The starting point is a letter from Gandhi in which he pleaded against reading the scriptures literally and named truth, ahiṃsā, and a living faith as criteria. Reason is most important, but with limitations; ahiṃsā, nonviolence, is never at stake, but the definition of what may be called hiṃsā, or ahiṃsā, is dependent on place, time, and situation. Faith-based truth as Faith = God enabled the use of religious language and definitively bridged the religious and the secular. For an understanding of Gandhi’s personal faith, his statements on Rama and Ramarajya as the Kingdom of God on earth are important. Gandhi found a leading principle in 2 Cor 3:6: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” comparing it often with a literal vs. figurative reading. The connecting factor between Gandhi and Paul was their situation, which is more fully explained for Paul. Both tried from a different perspective to reformulate their religious heritages in a new way by claiming that their now-defended truth was already present in the scriptures. Both needed a hermeneutical key and found it in the killing letter and the life-giving Spirit. For Gandhi, it meant the right to expand the original meaning of texts to realise ahiṃsā hic et nunc. The last section of this paper offers examples of Gandhi’s use of this principle in changing contexts: the opening of the temples of Travancore, his approaches to the Gita, his exegesis of Galatians, and his readings of the Hebrew Bible.

    Originele taal-2English
    Artikelnummer153
    Aantal pagina's19
    TijdschriftReligions
    Volume13
    Nummer van het tijdschrift2
    DOI's
    StatusPublished - feb.-2022

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