AFRICA NORTH OF THE LIMPOPO RIVER
Historically and geographically speaking, the African experience of reading the Old Testament stretches from that of Jewish and Christian communities in the northern part of the continent two millennia ago to that of today's post-apartheid communities in the southern part of the continent. It also stretches from that of Coptic and Ethiopian communities throughout the two millennia, and up until today's rapid growth of new reading communities all over the continent. The scholarly approaches to the reception of the Old Testament in Africa therefore include a wide spectrum of fields, stretching not only from historical critical to literary readings, but also from historical studies of how the Old Testament is read in Jewish, patristic, Coptic and Ethiopian sources, to different kinds of contemporary readings, including inculturation, liberation, post-colonial, and post-apartheid readings.
Within this wide spectrum of fields, the present essay will delimit itself geographically to focus on Old Testament scholarship in sub-Saharan Africa north of the Limpopo river. That is, it will attempt to present how the Old Testament is interpreted by scholars attached to universities, theological seminaries and churches in that major part of the continent which is situated between the Maghrebian north, including Ethiopia, and the post-apartheid south (see Holter 1996: 13–14); still, for the sake of brevity, “Africa” will be used as an abbreviation for this geographically delimited region.
The presentation of Old Testament scholarship in Africa will be organized according to chronological and topical issues. From a chronological point of view Old Testament scholarship in Africa will be followed from the past, that is, the 1960s and 70s, here characterized as its background, through the present, that is the 1980s and 90s, here characterized as its breakthrough, and, indeed with some reservations, into the future, that is into the 21st century. And then, within each of these three chronological divisions, the presentation will circle around two sets of topics, the institutional context of Old Testament scholarship in Africa and its thematic orientation.