IMPLICATIONS FOR ACADEMIC READINGS
Report on the Field Research Carried out on Oral Interpretation of the
Bible in Port Harcourt Metropolis, Nigeria under the Auspices of
the Bible in Africa Project, 1991–94
Justin S. Ukpong
The purpose of this essay is to briefly introduce the Bible in Africa Project that was started in 1991, and to analyse highlights of the result of the fieldwork that was carried out under the auspices of the project on oral popular interpretation of the bible in Port Harcourt Metropolis, Nigeria. A similar field study was also carried out in Glasgow, Scotland under the project with the aim of comparing ways ordinary people read the bible in Europe and in Africa (see Riches 1996). This essay however deals with only the fieldwork carried out in Port Harcourt.
Today there is increasing awareness amongst theologians and exegetes that all theological and biblical interpretations are culturally, historically and socially conditioned (Schreiter 1985: 3–4, Geffré 1972: 27), and that current exegetical methodologies have been developed from specifically Western perspectives and do not reflect the perspectives of other cultures, neither do they take into account the life concerns of ordinary Christians. In recent times, African biblical scholars have also expressed concern about the relevance of the classical mode of biblical interpretation for the socio-cultural context of Africa, and have pointed to the need for developing a framework of academic biblical interpretation that would be responsive to the social, cultural and religious contexts of Africa and that would involve the perspectives and concerns of the ordinary African reader (Pobee 1985–86: 22–29, Wambutda 1980: 34, West 1992: 3–13).
It is against the above background that the Bible in Africa Project, carried out in the years 1991–94 at the initiative of John Riches of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and Justin Ukpong of the Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Nigeria is to be understood. It had been in planning since the middle of 1988, with The Evangelisches