Cezula, “Reading the Bible in an African Context”

Cezula, Ntozakhe. 2015. Reading the Bible in the African context: Assessing Africa’s love affair with prosperity Gospel. Stellenbosch Theological Journal 1(2): 131–153.

Abstract: The aim of this article is to examine Bible reading in the African context and the willingness and enthusiasm to embrace prosperity gospel in Africa. To achieve this objective, a discussion on the developments in biblical interpretation in Africa will first be presented. This will be done by examining three historical periods: colonial, independence and democratisation periods. This will be followed by an outline of migrations that have taken place from traditional religions to different versions of Christianity in different times in Africa. These migrations will be examined in connection with Bible translation. The relationship between prosperity gospel and African people in Africa will be discussed by considering the tools prosperity gospel uses to appeal to African people, namely the religio-cultural and socio-economic factors. The article will then provide its assessment of contextual reading in the prosperity gospel and a conclusion will follow.

Arrington “Hymns of the Everlasting Hills”

Arrington, Aminta.  2014. Hymns of the everlasting hills: The written word in an oral culture in southwest China.  PhD Dissertation, Biola University.

Abstract:The Lisu of southwest China were evangelized 100 years ago by missionaries from the China Inland Mission, and adopted Christianity in a people movement that permeated nearly their entire society. But despite the missionaries’ creation of a Lisu written language, translation of the Bible into Lisu, and elevation of Scripture as the focal point of Christian devotion, Lisu culture remained heavily oriented toward oral thought patterns. While the Lisu viewed their Bible as the authoritative Word of God, they read it only in ritualistic contexts, and not for personal Bible study or in devotional settings.

This led to the question: how can Christianity, with its long literate tradition and its focus on the written Scriptures, be sustained among a people who have the Bible, but do not read it? A people whose thought patterns and behaviors are primarily oral? How are the more abstract theological concepts—such as grace, sanctification, and forgiveness—of such a religion as Christianity that highly values the written word, translated into the oral context of the Lisu?

For the Lisu, such biblical abstractions are mediated through song. The hymnbook was the bridge between the written Word as sacred object, and the lived, spoken, and sung words of the people. If the Lisu Bible was an icon, sacred and revered, the hymnbook, the second item in this two-book set, was the religious handbook. Singing the written words of the hymns brought the two realms—oral and literate—together.

The various functions the hymns provide for Lisu Christians overlap and intersect at various levels of meaning and experience, which can be encapsulated into one central understanding: The Lisu hymns serve as a theological mediator for Lisu Christians, bridging the gap between the text-intensive religion that is Christianity, and the oral world of Lisu culture.

Bacigalupo, “The potency of indigenous “bibles” and biographies”

Bacigalupo, Ana, 2014. The potency of indigenous ‘bibles’ and biographies: Mapuche shamanic literacy and historical consciousness. American Ethnologist. 41(4):648–663.

Abstract: Mapuche oral shamanic biographies and performances—some of which take the form of “bibles” and involve shamanic literacies—play a central role in the production of indigenous history in southern Chile. In this article, I explain how and why a mixed-race Mapuche shaman charged me with writing about her life and practice in the form of such a “bible.” This book would become a ritual object and a means of storing her shamanic power by textualizing it, thereby allowing her to speak to a future audience. The realities and powers her “bible” stored could be extracted, transformed, circulated, and actualized for a variety of ends, even to bring about shamanic rebirth. Ultimately, I argue, through their use and interpretation of this kind of “bible,” Mapuche shamans expand academic notions of indigenous history and literacy.