The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends

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

THE VERNACULARIZATION OF SCRIPTURE AND
AFRICAN BELIEFS: THE STORY OF THE GERASENE
DEMONIAC AMONG THE EWE OF WEST AFRICA
Solomon K. Avotri

The purpose of this essay is to explore what has been happening along the frontier between the gospel and African beliefs among the Ewe of West Africa, arising from Western missionary evangelism in the region. First, we must delimit the scope of what we have described as “frontier.” The scope of our study primarily includes the activities relating to the Vernacularization of Scripture and its impact on African beliefs in Eweland. This is in an attempt to discover ways in which Vernacularization of Scripture has helped to incarnate biblical portrayals of reality into an African (Ewe) culture, and the extent to which these perceptions have impacted African perceptions of reality. For further resources we shall draw on insights of scholars from other parts of Africa.

The field of African beliefs is a vast one. My first problem is one of selection. I have selected the theme of the “demonic” and its lifedestroying powers, an issue which seems to be an area of focus in Mark's gospel and among many Africans. Therefore I will examine the confrontation between Jesus and the demonic powers in Mark's gospel in general, and in the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1–20) in particular. I will then reflect on the relevance of this analysis to a particular group of African readers, the Ewe, in the context of their life-world and culture, by reflecting on their cultural and personal attitudes toward demonic powers.

The Ewe live in southeastern Ghana, known as the Volta Region of Ghana and the southern parts of Benin (formerly Dahomey), and Togo, numbering between four and seven million (Agbodeka 1971: 6). They speak various dialects of Ewe, a language of the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo family. Although the Ewe territory in Ghana extends inland only up to the town of Hohoe, Ewe speakers can be found in all parts of Ghana as traders, fishermen, teachers, civil servants, and so on (Asimpi 1996: 25). The unity of the Ewe is based on language and common traditions of origin, the original homeland

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