Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


16. African Biblical Interpretation

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. When and under what circumstances did African biblical interpretation begin, and what has become the chief characteristic of African interpretation?
  2. What were the concerns of the “early period” (1930s–1970s) of recent African biblical interpretation?
  3. What two major hermeneutical approaches dominated the “middle period” (1970s–1990s) of recent African biblical interpretation?
  4. What are the two major elements of the “modern period” (1990s–) of African biblical interpretation?
  5. Describe the three essential elements of African biblical interpretation identified in the chapter.
  6. What are some of the challenges facing contemporary African interpreters of Scripture?
  7. How does the chapter’s reading of Jeremiah 5:1–5 exemplify principles of African hermeneutics?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Bungishabaku Katho makes in this chapter (p. 295):

The vitality, growth, renewal, and survival of the African church will depend on the right interpretation of the Word of God. It is no longer acceptable for Africans to continue reading the Bible from a Western perspective. African scholars must continue to produce an interpretation that is profoundly biblical and that addresses African issues.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Has the impact of Western scholarship, often originating from colonizing nations, been positive or negative in the African context?
  2. Why is it important for African biblical interpreters to develop their own approaches to interpretation?
  3. Are the hermeneutical principles of distantiation, contextualization, and appropriation valid outside of the African context? How might they be relevant to your own interpretation of Scripture?
  4. How might the concerns of African interpreters to involve the community, including “ordinary readers” (the educationally and economically poor), be relevant in your context?