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Interpreting the Old Testament in Africa

Papers from the International Symposium on Africa and the Old Testament in Nairobi, October 1999

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Edited By Mary Getui, Knut Holter and Victor Zinkuratire

This book is a collection of papers read at the International Symposium on Africa and the Old Testament in Nairobi, October 1999. Thirty biblical scholars and theologians – mainly from Eastern Africa, but some also from South Africa and Europe – came together to discuss what it means to interpret the Old Testament in Africa today. Their contributions fall in five parts: (i) a mapping of the social, historical, and academic context of Old Testament studies in Africa; (ii) exegetical studies of how Africa is portrayed by the Old Testament; (iii) examples of how the African socio-religious experience can serve as comparative material for interpretation of the Old Testament; (iv) examples of how Old Testament texts are experienced as relevant to contemporary African readers; and (v) various aspects of the efforts of translating the Old Testament in Africa today.

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Using Africa to Interpret the Old Testament 75

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Using Africa to Interpret the Old Testament This page intentionally left blank Towards a "Communal" Approach for Reading the Bible in Africa Louis Jonker Nobody would disagree with West's observation (1997: I 04) that "Biblical scholarship in Africa is not monolithic." There are of course many factors contributing to what he calls "the wonderful diversity that is African biblical scholarship". When one includes South African Old Testament scholarship in the African picture, the diversity becomes even greater. 1 In my book Exclusivity and Variety (1996: 17-35) I indicated that the normal tendency in a situation of methodological diversity is to claim exclusivity for one's own perspective or approach. These claims for exclusivity are not always ideological. Often they are just pragmatic. I (or we) stick to what works for me (or us). Such a situation of exclusivism, however, could be detrimental to our interpretations of the Bible. It could even lead to a point where we deliberately exclude other interpretational possibilities or methods. At the dawn of African biblical studies (as West 1997: 115 has called it) one should be aware of the dangers of exclusivity. One should reflect on the question: "How could African biblical studies be prevented from making exclusivist claims?" I would therefore like to propose in this contribution that we in Africa should consider a "communal" approach in our intepretation of the Bible (and the Old Testament, in particular)? Why a "communal" approach? Ukpong (1995: 8ff.) identifies certain aspects that are common to all African world-views...

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