Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation

By Randall C. Bailey | Go to book overview

A CASE STUDY IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY AFRO-
DIASPORAN BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS AND HISTORI-
OGRAPHY: THE MASONIC CHARGES OF PRINCE HALL1

Hugh Rowland Page University of Notre Dame


1. INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE

The examination of biblical interpretation from a historical perspective and the study of interpretive constructs in the writing of history have long been established disciplines within the larger academy. In recent years, the importance of Afrodiasporan contributions to biblical interpretation and the historiography of the ancient world has come to be appreciated by an ever-widening circle of humanists and social scientists (see, e.g., the studies edited by Felder 1991; Wimbush 2000b). While certain aspects of this dual hermeneutical tradition have been explored,2 many remain unexamined. Black Freemasonry is one such aspect in need of additional study. Its hermeneutical and historiographic norms are integral parts of both the Euro-American and the Afrodiasporan interpretive traditions and deserving of careful analysis.

This paper will examine the interpretive methods employed by Prince Hall (1748–1807), the founder of the first Black Masonic lodge, as evidenced in two charges delivered in 1792 and 1797 respectively. It will also assess Hall's historiographic praxis, particular attention being given

1 I wish to thank Dr. Cheryl T. Gilkes, Dr. John D. Saillant, and Dr. Randall C. Bailey,
each of whom provided valuable input at various stages in the writing of this essay. A spe-
cial word of gratitude is due as well to Ms. Emily K. Arndt, who painstakingly transcribed
the text of Hall's charges for me from microtext format.

2 Afrodiasporan biblical interpretation has been the subject of critical inquiry for some
time. For an overview of key contributions in this area, see R. Bailey 2000. To date, wide-
spread interest in the process by which Afrodiasporan peoples within and beyond the
Americas have appropriated, narrated, and constructed the history of Africa and the ancient
Near East has yet to develop.

-103-

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