STUDY IN COMPETING HERMENEUTICS1
During the final years of Apartheid in the 1980's, a significant dispute arose among South African biblical interpreters over how to read the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4. This debate has been documented, in at least two places.2 The interpretations of the primary figures, Alan Boesak and Itumeleng J. Mosala will be summarized below. This text has also received attention from African interpreters in other parts of the continent. The most significant of these is Modupe Oduyoye of Nigeria. His interpretation is also summarized below. Within the context of a Protestant seminary in Ethiopia I have presented these three interpretations along with an explanation of the methodologies which produced them and have recorded the responses of Ethiopian students. Following the explanations of the interpretations, I will summarize the reactions of these students. Finally, I will attempt to evaluate the implications of the debate over Genesis 4 for the larger issue of African hermeneutics.
Boesak did not provide a thorough methodological background to his reading of the Cain and Abel story. His interpretation is published in a transcript of a sermon. He has made some assertions in various places about his method of reading the Bible. First, he has emphasized the importance of reading the Bible within a community of struggle (Boesak 1977: 16).3 Second, his goal has been to bring together the world of the text with the world of the reader. He specifically emphasized that “This story does not tell us in the____________________