The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

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

CORPORATE PERSONALITY IN BOTSWANA
AND ANCIENT ISRAEL: A RELIGIO-CULTURAL
COMPARISON
Bernice Letlhare

Many theologically inclined scholars of Old Testament have recognised the continuity between the Old Testament and many indigenous societies (Dickson 1979: 141–149). This study is an attempt to rediscover the religio-cultural continuity of corporate personality between the Old Testament and indigenous communities in Botswana. The approach is thereby comparative in nature. I shall endeavour to look at this concept in ancient Israel as defined in the Old Testament and in the traditional Tswana society.

To define the concept, corporate personality simply means the collective sense of a people. Furthermore, corporate personality is the embodiment of the community in the individual (Goba 1972: 44). The individual, it may be rightly said, represents the community to which she/he belongs. What the individual does affects the whole community and what the community does affects the individual. In such a society, life is corporate in all respects, whether political, religious, cultural or economic. These facets are intertwined and expressed wholly. Binding factors are the same thought patterns, an observance and practice of the same norms, customs and traditions as well as shared experiences. This is not to be confused with collectivism, which is a sociological term that “takes the community more than the individual as the principle source of value and attributes major importance to the social relations between members of the group” (Jansz 1991: 2).

In ancient Israel, when looking at kinship, it is evident that the family was the basic residential and productive unit. It was also the basic unit in economic matters, for example in the ownership of property, cultivation of land and care of domestic animals. The family was a dominant factor in the social structure of ancient Israel. The father figure was important because the family was identified through him. In fact it was called the beth 'ab, that is, the “house of the father.” The house was called by his name though it belonged

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