The “stolen Bible” and the “stolen land”?:Some tentative reflections on the decolonising of biblical studies
Author(s)Forster, Dion A.
Methodist Church of Southern Africa
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AbstractDesmond Tutu is credited with saying, “When the missionaries first came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.” This story highlights a tension between mission-initiated Christianity, and its use of the Bible, and the decolonial turn that is taking place in Southern African Methodism. In some postcolonial settings it is assumed that to regain the land (justice) we will need to give back the missionary Bible. That may not be the case. One of the pioneers of Black, African, and decolonial Biblical Hermeneutics in Southern Africa is the Methodist theologian, Itumeleng Mosala. He advocates for the embracing of contextual experience, minoritized hermeneutics, and the incorporation of voices from the margins in our reading and understanding of biblical texts. His strategy aims to free African Bible readers from the cultural dependency, exploitation, and oppression that they encounter in much contemporary Biblical scholarship. This is a decolonial enterprise that decentres Western universalism and centres Black African experience. His approach is not only concerned with hermeneutics, but also with ethical concerns that relate to faith and justice. In deeply religious contexts, like Southern Africa, there are significant ethical implications related to the ways in which persons and communities study the Bible and interpret sacred texts. How we read the Bible, with whom we read the Bible, why we read the Bible, and our interpretations of texts from the Bible, shape both the religious and political lives of believers. As African theologians we need to recognise that our interpretations (as well as those of the persons that we study) are ethically laden. This paper will present a tentative decolonial Southern African Methodist perspective on the studying of the Bible. It hopes to contribute towards resolving the tension we face between having “the Bible” and not having “the land”. It will consider how we might engage the Bible from our experience, with our hopes, as African Christians, for the sake of justice and the flourishing of humans and creation.
urn:ISBN:978 1 991234 23 0