RHETORICS OF A VISIT
Robert P. Carroll1
Ex Africa semper aliquid novi: something new is always coming out of Africa (Pliny the Elder).
The heaven of Europe is empty, like a Schloss Abandoned because of taxes…(Wallace 1990: 4).
One of the most lasting merits of the historical-critical approach to reading the Bible has been its insistence on the need for the focus to be on the historical retrieval of local traditions embedded in the biblical text as sources and building blocks of the biblical tradition (Redaktionsgeschichte), thus opening up a plurality of readings and perspectives for all subsequent work on the Bible (Rezeptionsgeschichte). So local communities can imitate scripture itself by supplying their own local stories as continua of biblical performance (see West 1993, and especially West 1999). In this paper I want to take a very modest approach to the topos of reading Africa in relation to reading the Bible by telling my own story of a visit to South Africa which I made in August-September of the year 1993 and by reflecting on that story for what it may yield by way of rhetorical and hermeneutical insights. This is my story of Africa. A part of my own larger personal story as an academic biblical scholar, and it reflects what little I now know about the continent. These are my hermeneutical reflections on the rhetorics of my story and I offer them to the Guild of Biblical Studies as my very small contribution to mapping the mosaic of reading the Bible in an African context.
What on earth do I know about Africa? The continent is far too big to be encompassed by the mind of a European used to living within the small distances of the myriad cultures and languages constituting Europe. As well as on a set of very small islands off the northwest coast of the European landmass. Born and reared in____________________