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A Maasai Encounter with the Bible

Nomadic Lifestyle as a Hermeneutic Question


Zephania Shila Nkesela

This book is a critical analysis of how Maasai informants read some selected Old Testament texts that are thought to have an appeal to people with semi/nomadic ways of life. The Maasai is a Nilotic ethnic group of semi/nomadic pastoralists living in the northern Tanzania, and southern Kenya, East Africa. The book focuses on the parallels between the Maasai and biblical concepts of nomadic lifestyle. On the one hand, the semi/nomadic heritage of the Maasai faces severe cultural and political difficulties when encountering East African modern ways of life. On the other, the ancient Israel actually experienced the opposite, seeing a strengthening of semi/nomadic ways of life. Therefore, the book demonstrates the potentials of the supposed parallels between the two by allowing the experiences of the ancient Israel to contribute to strengthen the semi/nomadic ways of life, a key aspect of traditional Maasai values into the contemporary East African context.

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Chapter Five Maasai Experiences and Old Testament Studies in Africa


Maasai Experiences andOld Testament Studiesin Africa

Chapter Five will reflect on the outcome of the dialogue between the Maasai and the Bible in previous chapters in relation to Old Testament studies in Africa. This reflection will fall in three parts. The first part will discuss the development and characteristics of Old Testament studies in Africa. I find it important to locate my study within Old Testament studies in Africa. The second part will discuss contemporary challenges of Old Testament studies in Africa. My research has encountered several challenges that I would like to highlight. This work attempts to contribute towards solving some of these challenges. The other remaining challenges need further research. The third part discusses how my Maasai project can contribute to Old Testament studies in Africa.

One of the biblical scholars who has worked to define the term is Andrew Mbuvi. Though Mbuvi is discussing African biblical studies in general, I find it important ←169 | 170→to relate his work specifically to Old Testament studies in Africa. In his recent article titled “African Biblical Studies: An Introduction to an Emerging Discipline,” Mbuvi characterizes African biblical studies as that which takes both the African and the biblical realities as equal collaborates in dialogue, resulting in a distinctive juxtaposition of questions, approaches, and interpretations.1 This leads him to define African biblical studies as an amalgamation of multiple interpretive methods, approaches, and foci that reflect a creative engagement of the African cosmological reality and the Bible.2

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