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Maasai Women and the Old Testament

Towards an Emancipatory Reading


Hoyce Jacob Lyimo-Mbowe

The research presented in this book is a critical study of some effects of popular biblical interpretations in the context of an East African ethnic group, the Maasai. The book focuses on parallels between concepts of female inferiority in biblical texts and in Maasai traditional culture. It investigates some parallels and analyses their problems as they are conceptualized in popular Maasai biblical interpretation and how these affect the social transformation of the contemporary Maasai women.

Therefore, this book aims at sensitizing readers of the Bible about popular interpretation of biblical texts that consciously, and more often unconsciously, function as a legitimizing force, which authorizes or reinforces socio-cultural structures that oppress women. However, it demonstrates the potential of reading biblical texts from emancipatory perspectives, both in popular and academic critical contexts. Also, this book demonstrates how some popular Maasai biblical interpretations contributes in the academic works for the emancipation of women. Moreover, this work develops its own contextual hermeneutics approach of woman liberation known as enkitok. The new approach borrows some aspects from social fields and it has been employed in this work on some selected biblical texts.

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Chapter One Introduction



Are the popular interpretations of the Bible in Africa improving or downplaying women’s status on the continent? This question is derived from the fact that, despite the effort of governments, some Non-Governmental Organisations1, and some churches to fight discrimination against women in Africa, many women around the continent have yet to experience a tangible emancipation in its fullness. The interpretations of the Bible seem to play some role in this fact. The challenges that some women face in Africa indicate that women still have a long way to go to achieve emancipation in its fullness.

One of the central aspects of the biblical message is the emancipation of the oppressed and the empowerment of the marginalised. However, there are some general allegations that the Bible does not give women the same prestige as men. Certainly, this is the case in some controversial passages in the Bible, which need special attention in their analysis. Yet, a close reading of some other texts from the same Bible divulges the high and positive view of women embedded in the genesis of a human being. It is the hypothesis of this study that an interpretation of biblical texts may facilitate the elimination of the discrimination against women.

Women’s experiences of being oppressed and marginalised have captured many researchers’ attention in doing biblical hermeneutics today in Africa.2 The primary purpose of the African interpreters of the Bible is to transform society rather than to solve exegetical questions in...

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