MAJOR THEMES AND WIDER IMPLICATIONS
Norman K. Gottwald
The essays in this volume abundantly demonstrate the editor's observation that African American biblical studies have increasingly branched out to embrace a wide range of critical methodologies while keeping a decided focus on how the Bible functions in black experience and culture. Rather than respond to the essays one by one, I will focus on certain themes that recur in several of the contributions and on some implications of these themes for my own context.
The prominence of the Bible in black preaching is accentuated by Kirk-Duggan and Liburd. The former shows that, while the exodus motif has resounded frequently in black sermons, it has been employed with strikingly different emphases. The latter argues that the analogical freedom with which New Testament writers [re-actualize] Old Testament texts is appropriately paralleled by a similar practice in black preaching. The unease that both these writers express about much Bible-based black preaching will be commented on below. Page's highly intriguing study of Prince Hall's masonic [charges] illuminates a form of quasi-preaching in a para-church context, causing one to wonder about other venues that may have attracted a [spillover] of black preaching. Bailey's extensive inquiry into the [sorrow songs] in relation to biblical laments greatly enriches our understanding of the complex cultural matrix in which they developed, as well as raising the issue of how much these folk songs may have been censored in the process of transmission. Of further note, she indicates that the Christian content of the songs is mixed with African religion and that a fair number of the songs lack any religious idiom.