The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

By Gerald O. West; Musa W. Dube | Go to book overview

THE BISHOP AND THE BRICOLEUR: BISHOP JOHN
WILLIAM COLENSO'S COMMENTARY ON ROMANS
AND MAGEMA KAMAGWAZA FUZE'S THE BLACK
PEOPLE AND WHENCE THEY CAME1
Jonathan A. Draper

In their ground-breaking work setting out their theory of the social construction of reality, Berger and Luckmann argue that, “The historical outcome of each clash of gods was determined by those who wielded the better weapons rather than those who had the better arguments” (1966: 109). At one level, this is undeniably true of the colonial encounters between Europe and Africa. Christianity rode in on the back of imperial conquest. The missionaries used the opportunities provided by colonial administration—indeed sometimes aided and abetted the conquest—and the desire of African people for trade in European goods to their own advantage. They also provided legitimation for colonial rule. At another level, this was not the whole truth. The African people were not mere passive victims of European aggression, but purposive participants in events. Their relationship with both the missionaries and the colonialists consisted from the first of both resistance and negotiation. Because the outcome of such a confrontation of competing social universes is not known at the outset, they saw not only threats but also opportunities. The missionaries were only ever partially in control of the process of evangelization, whatever they themselves imagined. This can be seen in their constant complaints that their African converts were “not to be trusted.”

In other words, the history of the missions and of the reception of the Bible must be seen as a dialectical process, an unequal one in

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1
This first part of the paper is a modification of a paper, “Hermeneutical Drama on the Colonial Stage: Liminal space and creativity in Colenso's Commentary on Romans,Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 103, 1999, 13–32, the second part is based on an article, “Magema Fuze and the Insertion of the Subjugated Historical Subject into the Discourse of Hegemony, ” Bulletin for Contextual Theology in Africa 5, 1–2, 16–26.

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