The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

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

COMPARATIVE READINGS OF THE BIBLE
IN AFRICA: SOME CONCERNS
Eric Anum

The comparative approach was developed against the background of the way the gospel was propagated in Africa by Western missionaries. Missionaries were greatly inhibited in their perception of both African religion and African humanity, by their prejudices, and also by the evolutionary view of the human race and of the religions then current. This explains why conversion to Christianity had to involve,

the abandonment and renunciation not only of the traditional African ways of worship, sacrifices to the Supreme Being, communion with the ancestral spirits and other holy rites—but also the abandonment and renunciation of African cultural customs and practices including songs and dances. All of them together were referred to as “things of the devil.” Almost the whole of the traditional African culture was seen as being under the kingdom of the Prince of Darkness, and the African peoples were summoned by the missionaries to come out of it completely, root, stock and branch (Kibicho 1978: 378).

This was a challenge to modern African biblical scholars. Were they to take into serious consideration the traditional African beliefs and practices, which had been abandoned or overlooked in interpreting the Bible for use in Africa by the Western missionaries?

One of the approaches used by contemporary African biblical scholars to achieve this goal is the comparative model. This approach postulates three levels of continuity or relationship between the Old Testament and African life and thought. These are religio-cultural, theological and interpretative or hermeneutical (Dickson 1979: 99). Religio-cultural continuity suggests that various elements in the African religio-cultural ethos recall ancient Israelite beliefs and practices. Theological continuity suggests a continuity between the Old Testament and African life and thought as God is regarded as God of the whole earth and therefore at work in Israel as well as the other nations. Lastly, there is hermeneutical continuity, which suggests that in appropriating the Old Testament, Africans approach the text with

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