by Esau McCaulley – IVP

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2021 Christianity Today Book Award – Beautiful Orthodoxy

2020 The Gospel Coalition Book Award – Popular Theology – Honorable Mention

2020 Emerging Public Intellectual Award

Growing up in the American South, Esau McCaulley knew firsthand the ongoing struggle between despair and hope that marks the lives of some in the African American context. A key element in the fight for hope, he discovered, has long been the practice of Bible reading and interpretation that comes out of traditional Black churches. This ecclesial tradition is often disregarded or viewed with suspicion by much of the wider church and academy, but it has something vital to say. Reading While Black is a personal and scholarly testament to the power and hope of Black biblical interpretation. At a time in which some within the African American community are questioning the place of the Christian faith in the struggle for justice, New Testament scholar McCaulley argues that reading Scripture from the perspective of Black church tradition is invaluable for connecting with a rich faith history and addressing the urgent issues of our times. He advocates for a model of interpretation that involves an ongoing conversation between the collective Black experience and the Bible, in which the particular questions coming out of Black communities are given pride of place and the Bible is given space to respond by affirming, challenging, and, at times, reshaping Black concerns. McCaulley demonstrates this model with studies on how Scripture speaks to topics often overlooked by white interpreters, such as ethnicity, political protest, policing, and slavery. Ultimately McCaulley calls the church to a dynamic theological engagement with Scripture, in which Christians of diverse backgrounds dialogue with their own social location as well as the cultures of others. Reading While Black moves the conversation forward.

“Although the African American Christian experience is not monolithic, we have generally sought to understand the Bible and live according to its teachings. Along the way, many of us have rejected white supremacist readings of the Bible while clinging to the God of the Bible. In Reading While Black, McCaulley does careful exegetical and historical analysis, explaining and illustrating how interpretations of Scripture by Black people can bolster faith in a liberating God. McCaulley gives us more than a theoretical methodology; he demonstrates how we can approach and apply texts―even ones that were previously used against us―without jettisoning our faith or succumbing to oppressive readings. Reading While Black is a welcome addition to the study of African American hermeneutics.”– Dennis R. Edwards, associate professor of New Testament at North Park University

“I’m extremely grateful to have a voice in my time to speak with nuance, grace, and cultural awareness. Esau has given us a healthy marriage for understanding theology and blackness. This is a must-read!”– Lecrae, hip hop recording artist

“It is enlightening, moving, and galvanizing to overhear these notes of appreciation and reciprocated encouragement from a son of the Black church to the Black ecclesial interpreters who nurtured and continue to nourish him. From here on out, this book will be required reading in any course on biblical hermeneutics that I teach.”– Wesley Hill, associate professor of biblical studies, Trinity School for Ministry

“When I was a student, I was explicitly and implicitly trained to focus exclusively on the ancient context of Scripture and read ‘objectively.’ Bible study could easily become a disembodied experience. McCaulley makes a compelling case, in this engagement with African American biblical interpretation, that not only is the reader’s culture and experience not a hindrance to interpretation per se but can enrich it greatly. Reading While Black is a unique and successful blend of biblical hermeneutics, autobiography, black history and spirituality, incisive cultural commentary on race matters in America, and insightful exegesis of select New Testament texts.”– Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary

“Throughout history the church, as it strives to be faithful in particular times and places, has had to bring the core cultural concerns of their neighbors to Scripture for answers. This is the work of loving our neighbors well. What does God have to say about the animating issues of our lives and communities? In Reading While Black, Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley puts in bold relief before us the historic and present concerns of the African American community. Does God have a word for us about policing? Is there any guidance from on high about Black identity, justice, righteous anger, slavery, and oppression? With sound exegetical method, deep cultural insight, and skillful application he brings us into the heart of God on these issues. Know, however, that this is not just a book for Black people. Far from it. Anyone who desires to engage these questions with gospel hope should take up and read.”– Irwyn L. Ince Jr., director of the GraceDC Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission and author of The Beautiful Community

“What does the Bible have to say to Black Christians seeking justice? By looking at well-known, overlooked, underinterpreted, and misinterpreted texts, Esau McCaulley tells us that a faithful reading of Scripture as the Word of God summons Black Christians (and others) to a cluster of practices. These include naming and protesting evil, expressing anger, and pursuing freedom and justice, but also promoting reconciliation, practicing forgiveness, and living in hope―all as aspects of proclaiming the gospel of the God revealed in Jesus. An important book.”– Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore

“In Reading While Black, Dr. Esau McCaulley combines his training in New Testament scholarship with his love for the Black church tradition. The result of his labor is a fresh and accessible contribution to African American reception history of the Bible. Even when readers disagree with his arguments and conclusions, they will learn how some African Americans interpreted Scripture in diverse contexts. McCaulley argues in these pages that African American Christian ecclesial readings of Scripture were an exercise of hope.”– Jarvis J. Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“How can the church today effectively address the racial tensions that plague our nation? Esau McCaulley has convinced me that the Black church tradition holds the key―maintaining fidelity to the Scriptures while fully engaging in the struggle for justice. This book is an excellent starting point for those who want to listen and learn a new way forward. Esau’s prophetic voice is rooted in Scripture and full of hope. Highly recommended!”– Carmen Joy Imes, associate professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada, and author of Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters

“Esau McCaulley’s voice is one we urgently need to hear. This book is prophetic, biblical, measured, wise, friendly, and well-reasoned―and thus all the more hard-hitting. A powerful word for our times.”– N. T. Wright, professor of New Testament at the University of St Andrews, senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

“In Reading While Black, Esau McCaulley is unapologetically Black, Christian, and committed to reading the Bible as Scripture and as relevant to the experience of Black folks. McCaulley demonstrates how the intuition and habits of Black biblical interpretation and the Black ecclesial tradition can help all readers connect the Bible and theology with the pressing issues of the day. His book is a must-read for any pastor, undergraduate student, seminarian, or student of the Bible who is ready to reckon with and be awakened by McCaulley’s fresh and constructive readings of Scripture. With interpretations that are rooted in the tradition of his ancestors, McCaulley is undeterred in calling out racist assumptions, engaged in dialogue with other interpretive traditions, and guided by a hermeneutic of trust. Those who grab hold of this book and wrestle with it will be blessed.”– Janette H. Ok, associate professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary