Musa W. Dube
Most people travel. People travel to their work places, shopping areas, to see friends and relatives. Many travel within their own countries or internationally, for fun, business or security. The ancient history of the Roman Empire shows that massive travelling of different people under different roles was a feature of Intertestamental times (Meeks 1983: 16–23). The contemporary history of the past four to five hundred years indicate that there have been massive movements of people across boundaries and continents (Said 1992: 8–12, 330–336). People have travelled voluntarily or involuntarily as fortune seekers, slaves, religious agents, refugees, outcasts, students etc. Those who travel and those who do not travel have interacted under different power relations. Some travellers and guests are powerful wherever they travel, while other travellers are continually disadvantaged. Travel is, has always been, and will continue to be a central feature of this world.
How then, is travelling connected to texts, or in this case, the Bible? In pursuing the relationship of biblical texts and travelling one can ask the following questions: What kind of travellers are reflected in the texts? What kinds of maps of travelling does the Bible propose? And in reading, which maps do we adopt and which journeys do we undertake? In short, as a reader, which traveller are you? In what follows, I will first highlight the traveller posited in John 1:1–18. Second, I will expound on my own maps and stories of travel as maps and testaments that are operative in my life and in the lives of many citizens of Botswana and Southern Africa. Third, I will show how my stories of travel inform my reading of John 1:1–18. My aim is to show that narratives present readers with plots of powerful and plots of powerless travellers. Narratives present themselves as maps that invite their readers to travel with them, to take certain journeys and to become particular travellers (and hosts/hostesses). I shall therefore use the word story-maps to refer to this function of texts. With this introduction, I turn to John 1:1–18.