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Maasai Women and the Old Testament

Towards an Emancipatory Reading

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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 Three Reading Four Old Testament Texts with Maasai Informants

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Reading Four Old Testament Texts with Maasai Informants

This chapter presents a discussion of the outcome of my reading of four biblical texts with some Maasai informants in the Arusha region, Tanzania. We read together the following four biblical texts:

• Genesis 1:27, the creation of male and female.

• 1 Samuel 1, polygyny matters: Elkanah and his two wives; Hannah and Peninnah.

• Deuteronomy 21:15–17, the rights of the children of the unloved wife in a polygynous family.

• Exodus 21:10, the rights of women in polygynous relationships.

During my reading with ordinary readers of the Bible in the Arusha region, I organised a dialogue on gender matters, particularly the status of women among the Maasai. I interviewed both female and male, Christians and non-Christians. I conducted two types of interviews. The first being individual interviews in which I read and discussed a biblical text with one informant for about thirty to forty-five minutes. The second type of interview was a group interview in which I read a biblical text with multiple informants and interviewed them. The number of participants in my group interviews was from three to fifteen. The amount of time spent in discussing the four biblical texts depended much on the time I had allocated on ←95 | 96→each text. However, sometimes the discussion was prolonged due to the contribution of the informants. Therefore, most of the group interviews lasted an hour and thirty...

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