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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 Four Dialogical Hermeneutics: Critical Analysis of the Interpretation of the Old Testament with the Maasai Informants


Dialogical Hermeneutics: Critical Analysis of the Interpretation of the Old Testament with the Maasai Informants

This chapter will create a dialogue between my Maasai informants and scholars in the field of Old Testament studies. The main aim is to disclose emancipatory perspectives and meanings in the texts via first-hand Maasai experiences and scholarly literatures. Therefore, I will integrate the Maasai understandings of Genesis 1:27, 1 Samuel 1, Exodus 21:10, and Deuteronomy 21:15–17 into academic interpretations of the same texts, with the intention of exposing the emancipatory potential of the texts. The themes in the dialogue are derived from the Maasai interpretations.

Before I start the dialogical hermeneutics of the four mentioned biblical texts, I would like to point out two things: First, what I do in this chapter will make use of the interpretive approach enkitok, which I developed in chapter two. This approach borrows insights from other well-known approaches.1 This dialogue to be developed here in chapter four is inspired by Madipoane Masenya. In her article “Her Appropriation of Job’s Lament? Her-Lament of Job 3, From an African Story-Telling Perspective” she brings Old Testament scholars and African readers into a dialogue. Based on the lament in the book of Job, a dialogue is created in which an African woman known as Mmanape is one of the dialogue partners. The concepts that are discussed in Masenya’s article arise from the story of Mmanape and are compared to Job 3.2 Therefore, the biblical...

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