"And the rulers of the nations
shall bring their treasures into it":
A Survey of Biblical Exegesis in Africa
FOR MOST of the first two millennia of Christian history the geographical
centre of Christianity has been the northern hemisphere. During
this century a radical shift has been taking place. Most of the
western world is now secularized, with church membership shrinking
drastically, and Christian influence on the wane.
situation in the southern hemisphere is quite different. Particularly
in Africa the Church has been growing at an amazing rate. According
to the World Christian Encyclopedia, in 1900 there were 10,000,000
Christians in Africa, mostly in Ethiopia, Egypt, and South Africa.
Christians made up only 9.2% of the African population. By June
1980 there were approximately 203,500,000 Christians in Africa,
amounting to 45.4% of the population. The current growth rate
of the Churches is 3.55%, well above the birth rate of 2.7%. At
the current rate of growth there will be 400,000,000 Christians
in Africa by the year 2000, or about 50% of the population.
Church structure around the world has not yet caught up to this
reality. At the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1988,
for example, the bishops from Canada, the U.S., and England by
far outnumbered the bishops from Africa, in spite of the fact
that there are more Anglican Christians in Nigeria alone than
in all three of those Western countries combined.
Similarly, Western scholarship has not yet caught up to the reality
of African Christianity. Can you imagine, for example, attempting
to compile a bibliography of western biblical scholarship? How
about narrowing the subject to German scholarship, or even Canadian
scholarship? The task would be enormous. And yet when I mentioned
to a former professor that I was working on African biblical scholarship
he scratched his head for a moment and then responded, "There
isn't enough material." Indeed, even the fact that one can
try to compile a bibliography on the use of the Bible in Africa
suggests that African scholarship is at a very early stage. Nevertheless,
the Bible is being translated, read, and interpreted by African
theologians, and although little of their work is known in the
West, I believe that it is in our interest to know about this
work and to reflect on the implications of this new branch of
This paper will take the form of a report rather than an argument.
I am assuming that most readers are unfamiliar with African biblical
scholarship, because African scholarship is in one sense new on
the scene and because much of the work of African biblical scholars
is either unpublished or only published locally. Much of this
presentation will be a kind of academic "show and tell."
of African Theology
we examine African exegesis per se, it is useful to make two comments
about African theology in general, one about its methods and one
about its focus.
First, John Mbiti divides "African Christian Theology"
into three areas: written, oral, and symbolic.
Written African theology is the privilege of a few Christians
who have had considerable education and who generally articulate
their theological reflection in articles and (so far few) books,
mostly in English, French, German, or another European language.
Oral theology is produced in the fields, by the masses, through
song, sermon, teaching, prayer, conversation, etc. It is theology
in the open air, often unrecorded, often heard only by small
groups, and generally lost to libraries and seminaries. Symbolic
theology is expressed through art, sculpture, drama, symbols,
dance, colours, numbers, etc. ("The Biblical Basis for
Present Trends in African Theology," p.84)
has been written about "oral" and "symbolic"
Christian theology in Africa. In his book Images of Jesus:
How Jesus is Perceived and Portrayed in Non-European Cultures
(Eerdmans, 1990), Anton Wessels included two chapters which make
reference to African art. African liturgies which take account
of African cultural symbols and traditions are now being written
and used (the Anglican liturgy from Kenya, for example). Some
studies have been done of African preaching, the most thorough
being the work of H. W. Turner on the preaching of the Aladura
churches of Nigeria (Profile through Preaching, London:
Edinburgh House, 1965). Other examples include the small but volatile
book of four sermons by Bishop David Gitari, Let the Bishop
Speak, published in Kenya together with the press clippings
reporting on the sermons and the reactions of Kenyan politicians
to the sermons (Nairobi: Uzima, 1988). Much more work needs to
be done on the songs, sermons, prayers of African Christians and
on the use of the Bible in this oral and symbolic theology.
This paper will focus on written African theology, and in particular
on what is written about the Bible by Biblical scholars in the
Second, John Pobee from Ghana has summarized the driving theme
of African theology by saying that when so-called third world
theologians gather, the Latin Americans want to talk about "justice,"
the Asians want to talk about "religion," and the Africans
want to talk about "culture." This is true of all branches
of theology in Africa, whether written, oral, or symbolic, popular
or academic. We will return to this observation later in the paper.
to African exegesis. Let me review the potential candidates for
a survey of African Biblical scholarship.
(1) Patristic African Exegesis. I said that African biblical
scholarship is a new thing. In one sense this is true. In another
sense, as Martin Hengel reminds readers in the foreword to Teresa
Okure's recent The Johannine Approach to Mission (Tubingen:
J.C.B. Mohr), "the two most important commentaries on John
from the early church were written by Africans." Origen started
his book on John in Alexandria and Augustine wrote his In Iohannis
Evangelium Tractatus CXXIV in Hippo. "Indeed," wrote
Hengel, " . . . the two most important centers of Greek and
Latin theology, Alexandria and Carthage, lay on African soil.")
We should not be too hasty to exclude the great exegetes of the
ancient Church from a survey of African Christianity. These "African
Fathers" are an important memory for modern African Christians
(2) Missionary Exegesis. In the modern period Christianity
was brought to Africa by Western missionaries. Missionary expansion
into Africa involved great dedication and often great suffering
for the missionaries. I have met few African Christians who are
not thankful for the work of missionaries, both past and present.
I have also met few African Christians who are unaware of the
cultural blindness and the racial prejudice of much mission activity.
One cannot spend many days in Africa before one hears this story:
"When the white men came they told us that our way of praying
was wrong - one should not pray with one's eyes open but with
one's eyes closed. So we closed our eyes to pray. When we opened
our eyes we had the Bible but the white man had the land. The
trick now is how to get the land back while keeping the Bible."
The missionary who came with the Bible was also the interpreter
of the Bible. Most black clergy and most African biblical scholars
in Africa today from the so-called "mainline" Churches
or "mission-founded" Churches were trained by white
teachers who, to one degree or another, used Western methods of
exegesis. Most text books in African seminaries were written in
the West, out of a Western philosophical and theological tradition,
with Western needs and interests in mind. Few African scholars
wish to jettison this Western learning; but fewer believe it to
have been adequate. Note the opinion of Samuel Abogunrin, in his
preface to the African Bible Commentaries:
When Christianity, which from the earliest period has existed
in parts of North Africa and Ethiopia, was introduced into the
rest of Black Africa, the world view of Western Christian theologians
retained only a veneer of Biblical world-view. The world-view
of the Western missionaries who preached the Gospel in Africa
had by then become quasi-scientific.
teachers continue to teach in African seminaries, to translate
the Bible into African languages (see Philip Stine & Ernest
Wendland's Bridging the Gap: African Traditional Religion and
Bible Translation) and to write books of Biblical exegesis
directed to the African reader (see Burney). These efforts are
usually encouraged by African leaders, but more effort is needed
in the training of scholars who have first-hand knowledge of African
languages, traditions, and needs to carry on the work of scholarship
in that context.
White South African Exegesis. Another potential candidate
for a survey of African Biblical scholarship is the work of white
South African Biblical scholars in South African universities
and seminaries. They have tended to concentrate more on textual
criticism and literary-aesthetic criticism than in Europe and
North America, probably because these areas of criticism are less
likely to raise the doctrinal hackles of the very conservative
Churches in South Africa.
Mbiti excluded them from his purview in Bible and Theology
in African Christianity (Nairobi: Oxford, 1986) because white
South African scholarship is "still European" and "closed
to the realities of African presence." "I do not draw
from this strand of Christianity in my presentation," he
wrote, "because it does not speak the language of indigenous
African Christianity and because it has excluded itself from African
life" (p.18). I have much sympathy with Mbiti's position,
and it would be much simpler to exclude this material for two
First, it is voluminous. A number of theological journals, some
dedicated exclusively or substantially to biblical scholarship,
are published in South Africa: Scriptura, Neotestimentica,
Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, etc. Commentaries
and monographs have been produced by white South African scholars
for years. To survey this material would be an awesome task.
Second, it is disturbing. To read Kittel's Wordbook is
one thing; to read it knowing that this eminent German scholar
was wearing a Nazi armband as he did his editorial work is quite
another. Similarly, it is impossible to read white South African
biblical scholarship without being aware of the racist system
in which this work has been and is being produced. In fact the
apartheid system has made it possible for South Africa to have
so many universities and seminaries in which white students may
study and white professors may teach and do research.
It is exactly for this reason that Mbiti's decision to bracket
out white South African scholarship is impossible. Biblical scholarship
in South Africa is not simply transplanted European scholarship.
This may be true of the exegetical methods used, but neither the
historical critical method nor the user of these methods is as
"objective" as the 19th century formulators envisioned.
In a pair of articles in the South African journal Scriptura
("The Ethics of Interpretation: New Voices from the USA"
and "The Ethics of Interpretation and South Africa"
33), Dirk J. Smit outlined three stages in the history of white
biblical scholarship in South Africa
In a first stage, prominent scholars played an important role
in legitimizing apartheid and opponents were ostracized from
the South African scholarly scene. In a second stage, the socio-political
interpretation of the Bible has been strongly rejected, in the
name of the ethos of scientific research. At present, in a third
stage, the debate between scientific, historical scholarship
and committed, socio-politically involved reading, is urgent
but diffuse, since it is being argued at so many different fronts.
(quoted in Gerald West, Biblical Hermeneutics of Liberation:
Modes of Reading the Bible in the South African Context,
Pietermaritzburg: Cluster, 1991, p. 32)
South African scholarship has been shaped by and has supported
the structures of apartheid. Until recently these scholars have
at worst attempted to use the Bible, especially the stories of
the curse of Ham and the conquest of Canaan, to defend Afrikaner
nationalism and so-called "separate development." At
best they attempted to ignore the societal context in which their
scholarship was being done. By not treating white South African
scholarship Mbiti has ignored part of the African context - a
context of oppression, supported in large measure by Christian
institutions and by Western-style institutions of higher learning.
Liberation Exegesis in South Africa. I will concentrate
less on this section than on the next, partly because the situation
in South Africa is better known to us in the West, and the works
of black South African theologians are much more readily available,
and partly because liberation theology in South Africa is much
less distinctive than "African" theology, having much
in common with American black theology and Latin American liberation
Biblical exegesis as it is practiced by black theologians in South
Africa, and by a growing number of white theologians, is done
within a context of struggle. Black biblical scholars cannot ignore
the fact that they live within an oppressive system. Gerald West
has discerned two trends among liberation scholars, one which
focuses on the text and one which looks behind the text for the
ideology that produced it.
Some, like Allan Boesak, and like most liberation theology in
Latin America, find liberation themes in the text. The Exodus
becomes a paradigm for theological reflection. The Bible is, therefore,
read as a liberating text. Those who find justification for apartheid
in the Bible are told that they are misusing the Bible.
Others look behind the text for clues to the ideology that produced
it. Itumeleng Mosala criticized Boesak for not recognizing that
the text itself is a product of class struggle. In his study of
Luke, for example, Mosala argued that the theme of the
poor in Luke's writings, a theme so well liked by liberation writers,
is in fact not a liberating theme for the poor. The text of Luke
itself treats the poor as a subject - but the text is written
by and addressed to the rich. "By turning the experiences
of the poor into the moral virtues of the rich, Luke has effectively
eliminated the poor from his Gospel," Mosala argued. He advocated
a hermeneutic which uses an explicitly Marxist materialistic analysis
to "liberate the Bible" by exposing not only its oppressive
use, but its origins in the struggle of oppression.
What is significant in the works of both groups is the centrality
of the context of the struggle against the apartheid regime in
South Africa. Whether the reading is literary, focusing on the
text (Boesak), or sociological, focusing on the situation behind
the text (Mosala), the exegete desires the liberation of the community.
(5) Biblical Exegesis in Independent Africa. There is a
growing corpus of biblical scholarship emerging in independent
sub-Saharan Africa. Very little of this literature falls in the
category of what Mbiti misleadingly calls "pure" scholarship,
that is, exegetical work which focuses on the context of the biblical
world without any explicit attempt to relate the text to the contemporary
situation. In 1986 Mbiti was able to point to only one example
of this type of exegesis, the dissertation of Leonidas Kalugila,
The Wise King: Studies in Royal Wisdom as Divine Revelation
in the Old Testament and its Environment (Lund: CWK Gleerup,
1980). Mbiti evidently did not know of Pobee's Persecution
and Martyrdom in the Theology of Paul and we now have Teresa
Okure's The Johannine Approach to Mission, and a number
of other important studies.
Although the African context is not mentioned explicitly in the
text of any of these three works (with the possible exception
of footnote 11 on p. 296 of Okure's book), it is doubtful whether
any were written without an eye on the African situation. In his
preface Pobee gives the following as one of the reasons for his
choice of thesis topic: "Though a happy and privileged sojourner
in Cambridge, my heart was bleeding for my motherland, Ghana,
which had come into the grip of a corrupt and ruthless tyrant
and government. While I laboured to follow my calling as a New
Testament scholar, I also agonized over the fate of loved ones
back home, my parents and the Church of God."
Similarly, Okure says in the preface to her study,
My interest in mission dates back to my childhood days, and
was inspired by my living experiences of mission in the African
context. I was often struck by the contrast between certain
statements of Jesus found mostly in John's Gospel concerning
his mission from the Father and the actual conception and exercise
of mission which obtained in my context. This contrast belonged
mostly in the order of the attitude of the missionary to the
work and the people, and of the method in the exercise of mission.
the whole experience raised for me a number of unanswered questions
concerning the relationship of the mission exercised in my context
to the mission of Jesus. In the course of my biblical studies,
however, I had completely forgotten that I had these questions.
The choice of the topic for this work was therefore not consciously
connected with them. This was largely due to the biblical discipline
itself which, like most theological disciplines of this century
was, and to a large extent still is, literary and academically
oriented, not designed to address real life issues. It was only
afterwards, indeed as I was reflecting on a suitable preface
for this book, that I remembered that I had had these questions,
and that here in the pages of this book I had finally found
personally satisfying answers to them.
such statement can be found in the preface to Kalugila's book,
but as I read his book I could not help but think that the choice
of the topic of royal wisdom may have been determined in part
by the opportunity to compare the Old Testament view of kingship
with an ancient African (that is, Egyptian) view of kingship.
This "hunch" was confirmed by a personal conversation
with Kalugila in 1993.
These works which on one level appear to be "pure" scholarship,
works that focus on ancient literatures in their own historical
and literary context, turn out to have been determined in part
by a far different context, the present day context of African
suffering, African mission, and memories of African glory and
Apart from these three books, very little biblical scholarship
from Africa has the world of the Bible as its primary focus. Although
I know of no African scholar who is not interested in reading
the Bible in its original historical and literary context, none
that I know of are willing to leave the text in the past. The
context of the reader tends to be a higher priority than the context
of the text.
Actually, this way of stating the issue, as a dialect between
reader and text, needs a bit of refinement. No African would conceive
of the individual alone as the interpreter. Mbiti sums up the
worldview of the African with the words "I am, because we
are" (African Religions and Philosophy, Nairobi/London:
Heinemann, 1969). The dialectic or dialogue, therefore, is not
so much between reader and text as between community and text.
The African reader of the text cannot be separated from her or
his context in the community.
four main issues
this reason African exegesis is far more explicit than Western
scholarship in its interest in how the Bible relates to the cultural
situation. Four contexts from the African world appear to be uppermost
in the minds of African exegetes: the context of mission, the
context of African traditional religion and culture, the context
of suffering, and the context of faith. We will discuss these
briefly in turn.
The Context of Mission. African Christians have an acute
awareness of having been "evangelized," of having received
the Gospel from outside, from the West. They are also aware that
the gospel which came to them from the western missionary, no
matter how well-intentioned that missionary may have been, was
a westernized gospel. When Livingston preached in England about
the need for missionaries to go to Africa he did not say that
they were needed just for the purposes of bringing Christianity,
but to bring to Africa both Christianity and civilization.
It has been no simple thing to discern the difference between
the Gospel and Western culture, between charity and cultural imposition.
To take a notoriously difficult and complicated example, when
missionaries came to Africa some condemned polygamy as unchristian
and unbiblical. When the Bible was translated into African languages
it did not escape notice that many of the great heroes of the
faith had a lot of wives. Examples of this kind can be multiplied.
An excellent example of exegesis done against the background of
the missionary context is Mbiti's New Testament Eschatology
in an African Background (Oxford, 1971) . The title of the
original thesis from which the book developed is significant:
"Christian Eschatology in Relation to Evangelisation of Tribal
Africa." The issue which Mbiti attempted to deal with is
the disjunction, not only between African culture and western
culture, but also between African culture and the bible itself.
The problem which he grappled with is the difference between (1)
the NT concept of time, (2) the futuristic eschatology of the
teaching among the Akamba of Kenya of the Africa Inland Mission
with its dispensationalist stress on the second coming of Christ,
the millennium, the rapture, etc., and (3) what Mbiti takes to
be the African conception of time.
The concept of time in Africa (or least in Akamba society) is
very different from the Western concept. "[A]ccording to
traditional [African] concepts, time is a two-dimensional phenomenon,
with a long past, a present, and virtually no future. The linear
concept of time in western thought, with an indefinite past, present
and infinite future, is practically foreign to African thinking"
He argued that the New Testament occupies a middle ground between
the concept of time of the missionaries which is vertical and
future oriented, and the more horizontal and present oriented
concept of African thought.
The New Testament . . . makes it absolutely clear that Time
is subject to Eschatology and not vice versa. Whenever Christians
have reversed this order of priorities, they have ended up with
a false Eschatology. . . . Time helps us to understand the horizontal
dimension of Eschatology; but Eschatology has also the vertical
dimension which is non-temporal and which defies all attempts
to "horizontalize" it. (New Testament Eschatology
in an African Background).
has been criticized on a number of grounds, particularly for seeming
to imply that Africans have little or no concept of the future
and for generalizing from Akamba ideas to Africa in general. His
method, however, of reading the New Testament with one eye on
the context of the first century context and one eye on the African
missionary context is typical of African exegesis.
The Context of African Culture. Related to the kind of
reading we find in Mbiti's monograph is a large corpus of material
which attempts to read the Bible against the background of African
culture. It has long been noted that there are similarities between
the biblical world and the African world. African Old Testament
scholars in particular have highlighted the continuity, and the
discontinuity, between Africa and the Bible. Some, like Modupe
Oduyoye, have attempted to trace genealogical relationships between
the Bible and Africa on the basis of linguistic and cultural similarities.
Most, like Kwesi Dickson, are content to see analogical relationships
between these cultures.
Two examples of the similarity between the Africa and biblical
world will suffice to show how biblical interpretation in Africa
differs from Western interpretation.
First, the miraculous. The worldview of the West after the Enlightenment,
and the dominant assumption in biblical scholarship, has little
room for miracles. Many African scholars see this anti-supernaturalistic
bias as detrimental to interpretation. Abogunrin has noted that
"Western Biblical exegetes think it necessary to reinterpret
spiritual forces and demon-possession." Africa, however,
needs a reading of the Bible which emphasizes "the power
of Jesus which destroys the power of the devil and delivers from
all evil spiritual forces" (African Bible Commentaries).
In The Synoptic Gospel Debate he wrote that "The majority
of African Christians still live in the world of the New Testament,
where belief in demons and a host of unseen supernatural powers
was potent and real. A Jesus emptied of all the supernatural contained
in the Gospels would be meaningless in the African context."
Second, family and society. As we have seen, the individualism
of the West is foreign to Africa. Africa shares with the Biblical
world the sense that the community defines the individual. This
is expressed in such things as the veneration of ancestors and
the establishing of covenants often involving sacrificial ritual,
customs which African cultures share with the Bible. The titles
of two recent doctoral dissertations serve as examples of the
importance of these themes: C. S. Mngadi's "The Significance
of Blood in the OT Sacrifices and its Relevance for the church
in Africa" (Theologia Evangelica 15/3 ) and
Samuel Ngewa's The biblical idea of substitution versus the
idea of substitution in African traditional sacrifices: a case
study of hermeneutics for African Christian theology (Ph.D.
dissertation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1987). In a very
different context the film "Prophet Healers of Northern Malawi"
which was shown at the SBL/AAR meetings in November 1991 contained
footage of a sacrificial ritual of a tribe in Northern Malawi
who have been influenced by the Bible and who now follow instructions
from the book of Leviticus in performing their rites.
The unifying theological issue underlying this search for the
common ground between the Bible and African culture is general
revelation. African theologians and Bible scholars are concerned
to show that God had not abandoned Africa until the missionaries
came. Just as God was at work in the cultures of the Bible, so
he was at work in Africa. Biblical revelation may be unique and
necessary but it was not completely new. What is more, if God
could work within the culture of the Israelites in the Old Testament
and the Greco-Roman world in the New Testament period, surely
God could work within African culture. At the least there was
in African culture what the African theologian Clement of Alexandria
would have called a "preparation for the gospel." "In
relation to culture, the Gospel is not meant to remove Christians
from their cultural environment," wrote Abogunrin. "The
Gospel seeks to retain everything that is beautiful in every culture"
This leads us back to our previous issue of the missionary context.
One of the reasons why Africans are so concerned to establish
the common ground between the Bible and African culture is precisely
because the missionaries said that African culture was "satanic."
Once Africans could read the Bible, its culture seemed very close
to the culture of which they had been taught to be ashamed. The
theological buzz words in many African works on the Bible are
"incarnation," "adaptation," "inculturation,"
"indigenization." African scholars attempt to move from
the culture of the biblical periods to the cultures of Africa,
comparing, contrasting, attempting to relate the biblical world
to their world. Listen to Abogunrin in his commentary on 1
Corinthians: "By the study of 1 Corinthians we
can examine discipline in African Churches both now and in the
past in the light of the situations in Africa and Corinth and
how Pauline the Church in Africa is with regard to the exercise
of discipline." Ironically, perhaps, Biblical scholarship
functions in giving people back their traditions.
Some have seen this kind of reading as "non-political."
It seems more interested in traditions, matters of worship, and
health than liberation politics. On the contrary, however, African
theology, including exegetical theology, is engaged in the attempt
to reclaim that which was and is helpful in African life and thought.
(What Michel Foucault called "subjugated knowledges"
and "dangerous memories."). As Pobee has said in a sermon
given in Canada, "where two or three are gathered together,
there is politics."
The Context of Suffering. The issue of suffering is important
for exegetes in independent Africa as well as South Africa. Independence
is not liberation. Independence has not done away with war, hunger,
exploitation, and tyranny. These issues, as we have already seen
from the quotation from John Pobee's thesis, are crucial for African
exegetes. Articles with titles such as "God the Father and
Hunger in Africa: Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread," "The
Community of Goods in the Early Church and the Distribution of
National Wealth," remind us that what we read and how we
read will very often depend on the situation in which we live.
The Context of Faith. In the West biblical scholarship
has been done primarily within the academy. There, in the interest
of "objectivity," "scientific" scholarship,
critical methods are used to uncover the meaning of the text in
its original context. The faith stance is considered to be, or
hoped to be, irrelevant in the unbiased search for truth. Liberation
theology, feminist theology, and indeed post-modernist thought
in general are now questioning the assumptions behind this kind
of "detached" scholarship.
In Africa there is no rift between biblical scholarship and a
believing scholar. Faith and exegesis go hand in hand. Perhaps
the most eloquent (and least polemical) example of this is once
again from the preface of Teresa Okure's monograph. After acknowledging
the help of parents, supervisors and funding agencies we read
an acknowledgement unlike any I have seen in a thesis written
by a western scholar:
This litany of acknowledgements would be incomplete without
the special mention of Jesus. The statement of the Psalmist
applies most aptly in my case: "If the Lord had not been
my help," this work would never have seen the light of
day (Psalm 94:17). Jesus' unfailing help sustained me most tangibly
throughout my entire course of study in ways that might be described
as miraculous. . . . For the schooling in trust which he provided
for me through these trying circumstances, I am deeply grateful
to him. It is but a small token of gratitude that I should dedicate
this book to his Mother on this feast of her birthday, September
8, as her birthday present.
Problems. The most pressing problems for African biblical
exegesis are practical ones. There is rarely enough money for
African scholars, seminaries, and universities to buy books. Most
scholars are writing in their second or third language. Publishing
houses in Africa have a very small market for scholarly books.
The best educated theologians have a very short teaching and research
life since they are usually snatched up into denominational leadership
very quickly. War, political unrest, and lack of water play havoc
with the running of theological institutions.
Signs of growth. On the other hand, biblical studies in
Africa is beginning to garner attention, both inside and outside
of the continent. The Society of Biblical Literature now has a
seminar called "The Bible in Africa, Asia and Latin America."
A project called "Interpreting the Bible in African Contexts:
Implications for Biblical Studies in a Global Context" is
now under way jointly sponsored by the University of Glasgow,
the Catholic Institute of West Africa, and the Department of Religious
Studies, Harare (and funded with German money). A journal, The
African Journal of Biblical Studies, a commentary series,
The African Bible Commentaries, have been published in
Issues and challenges. The most pressing scholarly issue
for the African exegesis is whether a hermeneutics which so stresses
the reader pole of the text-reader continuum will be aware of
the constant danger of bypassing the text itself. For the Western
scholar, African exegesis is a reminder that the text has, is
and will be read in more than the ancient historical context and
the academic context.
In the end, says the Book, "the last will be first."
It may be that the most significant readings, at least in the
eyes of the Creator, are not those of detached, objective scholarship
but of committed, engaged scholarship. If any of the "rulers
of the nations" who bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem
are biblical scholars they may turn out to be the poor of the
nations who have sought to be faithful readers of the text for
BIBLIOGRAPHY of African Biblical Studies
book I recommend on African religion and philosophy is: John S.
Mbiti's African Religions and Philosophy (Nairobi/London:
books consulted are:
Appiah-Kubi, Kofu & Sergio Torres, editors, African Theology
en Route (Maryknoll Orbis, 1979). Especially recommended are
K. Dickson's "Continuity and Discontinuity Between the Old
Testament and African Thought and Life" (pp.95-108) and J.
Mbiti's "The Biblical Basis for Present Trends in African
Dickson, Kwesi A., Theology in Africa (London/Maryknoll:
Darton, Longman & Todd/Orbis, 1984). Especially helpful are
the chapters "Cultural Continuity with the Bible" (pp.
141-184) and "The Theology of the Cross in Context"
Mbiti, John S., Bible and Theology in African Christianity
(Nairobi: Oxford, 1986).
Onwu, N., "The Current State of Biblical Studies in Africa"
The Journal of Religious Thought 42/2 (1985-6) pp. 35-46
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IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH..........