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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


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 the Old Testament to Interpret Africa 131


Using the Old Testament to Interpret Africa This page intentionally left blank Wisdom and Wisdom Converge: Selected Old Testament and Northern Sotho Proverbs Madipoane Masenya (ngwana' Mphahlele) I have been given the topic "Old Testament Proverbs: A key into the African culture", and this topic presupposes that there is a relationship of some sort between the Old Testament (OT) and Africa. Indeed, many studies in the past ( cf. Burden 1982; Dickson 1981; Masenya 1989; 1996) have shown that there are resemblances between the OT and Africa. However, it can be argued that it is easier to grapple with the question of the apparent similarities between the OT and Africa than to handle the question of why there are similarities between the two. I find this topic to be too broad, and I will therefore delimit it for the purposes of the present paper. Although it must be acknowledged with Mbon (1987: 9) that there are similarities in worldviews between various African tribes, for fear of making generalisations on Africa that are too broad, this paper will focus on a select group, the Northern Sotho people of South Africa. The initial topic is therefore reformulated as follows: Wisdom and wisdom converge: selected OT and Northern Sotho proverbs. In trying to unlock the reality of the African (Northern Sotho) culture through OT proverbs, we might benefit by asking ourselves the following questions: • Are there similarities between the two apparently different cultures? • Can statements from one culture when uttered by members of another...

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