The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

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

THE ROLE OF THE BIBLE IN THE RISE OF AFRICAN
INSTITUTED CHURCHES: THE CASE OF THE
AKURINU CHURCHES IN KENYA
Nahashon W. Ndung'u

The Christian Church has witnessed the greatest diversity in expression of her faith on the African soil, through the thousands of African Instituted Churches.1 In an attempt to explain the causes for the rise of these churches, scholars from different disciplines have come up with various theories incorporating social, political, economic and cultural factors. The impact of the Bible in this scenario has quite often been underrated. Yet there seems to be a strong relationship between the time the Bible or portions of the Bible were translated in the African languages and the emergence of the first African Instituted Churches.

Among those scholars who have identified the significance of Bible translation as an important factor in understanding the phenomenon of African Church independence is D.B. Barret. He observes that,

It is impossible to over estimate the importance of the Bible in African society. The portions of it that are first translated are in most cases the first printed literature in vernacular languages…. Through these scriptures, God, Africans perceived, was addressing them in the vernacular in which was enshrined the soul of their people… The vernacular scriptures therefore provided an independent standard of reference that African Christians were quick to seize on (Barret 1968: 129).

In the same vein, John Mbiti has observed that the translation of the Bible into various African languages shed a new light on and offered opportunities for new interpretations of the Bible for African converts. He compares this new experience of Africans to that of the disciples after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost thus, “As in Acts 2: the local Christians now for the first

____________________
1
This chapter is a revised version of a paper delivered at a seminar of the Eastern Africa Ecumenical Symposium of Theologians, Sagana, Kenya 17–20 March 1994.

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