Original Research

The ramifications of missionary proselytisation on Tiv culture: Lessons for contemporary critical biblical contextualisation

Cephas T.A. Tushima
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a2061 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.2061 | © 2020 Cephas T.A. Tushima | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 October 2019 | Published: 22 September 2020

About the author(s)

Cephas T.A. Tushima, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa; and, Department of Biblical Studies, Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS), Jos, Nigeria


Christianity, from its inception, has always demonstrated a conscious effort to communicate the gospel in ways that engender transformation. Yet the undying presence of African indigenous religious practices amongst evangelised African communities continues to be a worrisome enigma. The goal of this article is to examine the contextualisation practices, successes and failures of early western missionaries, using literary critical analysis of contemporary literature and cultural phenomenological analysis, and to propose approaches to a biblical inculturation of Christianity in contemporary indigenous societies. We focus on the over 100 years of Christianity in northern Nigeria, with particular emphasis on the Tiv of central Nigeria. The author’s research has shown that the relatively long presence of Christian mission work in Nigeria (especially amongst the Tiv) has not significantly altered the world view of the professed adherents of Christian faith, as it remains largely traditional rather than biblical. Consequently, we proposed the adoption of ethno-hermeneutic and community theologising to make for critical contextualisation of Christianity amongst indigenous people. The proposed critical contextualisation, is essential for rooting Christianity in native populations without uprooting them from their cultures, and for ensuring neither the gospel truth claims nor the Christian world view is surrendered to native cultures in the process of indigenising the gospel.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article highlights the importance of a holistic interdisciplinary approach to evangelisation, requiring the interplay of anthropology, missiology, hermeneutics, and dogmatic and exegetical theology.


contextualisation; inculturation; indigenisation; Tiv; Dutch Reformed Church Mission; Roman Catholic Mission; Goemai; ethno-hermeneutics


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