Mother-Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics: A Current Trend in Biblical Studies in Ghana

Article excerpt

Abstract

Biblical Studies is the study of the Judeo-Christian Bible and related texts. It seeks to determine the meaning of the biblical books or given passages, especially as intended by the biblical writers for their addressees. Biblical Studies over the past few centuries have been categorized into three broad areas. First, there are those that locate the meaning of the text in the world behind the text; second, those that locate the meaning of the text in the world within the text; and third, those that locate the meaning of the given text in world in front of the text. The third method has opened the way for Biblical Studies to be undertaken, using the mother-tongue translations of the Bible. In the paper, the writer has argued scholarly that, the mother-tongue Bibles in Ghana have enough problems that call for academic engagement. The significance of this study is that, it has added another dimension to the already existing methodologies for Biblical Studies. Scholars and readers of this paper will be exposed to this methodology which they may want to use in the academic study of the Bible. The author recommends the mother-tongue biblical hermeneutics approach to the Departments of Religious Studies in Universities and Theological Seminaries in Africa, for, it will in no doubt add to biblical scholarship worldwide.

Keywords: mother-tongue biblical hermeneutics, biblical studies in Ghana, African biblical studies, historical-critical method of biblical studies, biblical exegesis.

INTRODUCTION

Biblical Studies is the study of the Judeo-Christian Bible and related texts. It seeks to determine the meaning of the biblical books or given passages, especially as intended by the biblical writers for their addressees. It is an academic discipline in the sense that it involves a rigorous scientific study of the Bible that leads to a systematic evolution of new knowledge criticized by academic departments or faculties in universities and colleges, and in academic journals where such researches are published.

Biblical Studies over the past few centuries have been categorized into three broad areas. First, there are those that locate the meaning of the text in the world behind the text; second, those that locate the meaning of the text in the world within the text; and third, those that locate the meaning of the given text in world in front of the text (Tate, 2008). The first group which is the oldest and most dominant focuses on issues of history - the writer's intended meaning, the historical authenticity and the historical circumstances of the text. The second category concentrates on the text in a way that suggest that authentic meaning is derived from the text and not outside the text. The third category which is the newest is oriented towards the reader(s) or reading community and the part they play in the communication process. The readers bring their own points of view and concerns to the text and so may end up with different meanings.

v The world behind the text

This category is made up of the Historical Critical Methodologies. These include: Source Criticism, Form Criticism, Redaction Criticism, Historical Criticism, and Tradition Criticism, all of which are Higher Criticism approaches to Biblical Studies.

v The world within the text

Locating what the text meant in the world within the text uses exegesis - a careful systematic study of Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning. Exegesis requires knowledge of many things - the biblical languages; the Jewish, Semitic and Greco- Roman backgrounds; how to determine the original text when early copies (produced by hand) have differing readings; the use of primary sources and tools such as good Bible dictionaries and commentaries.

The first stage in doing exegesis of a text is to consider the larger context within which a text is found. In Scripture a text provides a situation behind the text. Two areas worth considering are the historical context, and the literary context. …

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