The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

By Gerald O. West; Musa W. Dube | Go to book overview
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and 7 were concerned, the Geneva Bible was Simond's main source. The same can probably be said of the other psalms “translated” by the French pastor. He may have checked a few words in the Hebrew Bible. There is little doubt that he had a working knowledge of the Hebrew language. But to consider his version of the Psalms as a translation would be misleading. How could he have possibly “translated” Psalm 50 in a hour and a half as he said he did in the preface to Les Veilles Afriquaines? What he did, in fact, was to propose a new paraphrase in rhymes of the common French version in prose, more appropriate, in his view, than the two metrical versions then in use in the French reformed churches. He had both of them on this desk, as well as Diodati's and Calvin's Latin translation of the Psalms. He made use of each of these texts, but the Geneva Bible was his main source of inspiration. Most of the additions and corrections made to the original document, one should add, were his own. As can be expected, the text in rhyme is considerably longer that the one in prose. To follow the rules of versification, as laid down by Port-Royal, he had to expand the text considerably.

Only his “translation” of the first fifty psalms and a few others were printed. Simond had no doubt that his work was inspired by God. That it had been composed in a dark corner of Africa was, for him, a further argument of God's benevolence towards him. The synod of the Walloon churches in the Netherlands decided otherwise. For us the fact that a piece of biblical scholarship was produced at the Cape as early as the late seventeenth century is worth being remembered. Les Veilles Afriquaines marks the beginning of a century-long interaction between the centre and the periphery of production of Christian knowledge.


Bedouelle, Guy. Le Quincuplex Psalterium de Lefèvre d'Etaples. Un guide de lecture. Genève: Droz, 1979.

Bible (La), qui est toute la Saincte Escriture du Vieil et du Nouveau Testament: Autrement l'Ancienne et la Nouvelle Alliance. Le tout reveu et conferé sur les textes Hebrieux et Grecs par les Pasteurs et Professeurs de l'Eglise de Geneve. Geneve: [Jeremie des Planches], 1588.

Boucher, Maurice. French Speakers at the Cape: the European Background, Pretoria: University of South Africa, 1981.

Boxer, C.R. The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600–1800, London, 1965.

Calvin, Jean. In librum Psalmorum commentarius. Geneva: Robert Estienne, 1557. In Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia, Eds G. Baum, E. Cunitz & E. Reuss, vol. 30. Brunsvigae: C.A. Schwetschke et filium, 1886.


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The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends
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