Original Research - Special Collection: African Hermeneutics

African contextual hermeneutics

Ebele C. Chukwuka
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2406 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2406 | © 2022 Ebele C. Chukwuka | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 October 2021 | Published: 19 April 2022

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Ebele C. Chukwuka, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Hermeneutics is the science of textual interpretation and comprises a wide range of disciplines, which helps to control subjective influences in the study of the Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures. It is imperative to consider the context of any given text, as well as the context of the receiver in the interpretive process. This consideration, from the African point of view, is what may be referred to as African contextual hermeneutics. To see the effect different contexts have on the interpretation of an encountered text, using as an example 1 Chronicles 21, it was discovered that the changes in culture, religion, tradition, text and language affected the presentation of the new text, so much so that the writer made a lot of additions and subtractions from the original story in 2 Samuel 24. The diversity of the Old Testament texts requires that each text be studied within its historical framework. This also reflects the reality of life expressed by people in the African society. However, with hermeneutics in the Old Testament, the reader should be brave enough to throw off cultural ties and focus only on what matters. It requires reading the controversy and polemic in the text and not being influenced by it. What matters in any text is the relationship between God and humans, and this is what the interpreter should translate into the African context, not the culture or the controversy. There is a need for reassessment of the ancient biblical tradition and the African worldviews, cultures and life experiences, to correct the effect of the extraneous cultural and ideological conditioning. African biblical hermeneutics can be understood as the rereading of the Old Testament from a premeditatedly African perspective. African biblical hermeneutics is the principle of interpretation of the Bible that could lead to transformation in Africa. Africa’s religious practice is mostly polytheistic. In the African religion, there are new allegories, images, figures of speech, ways of reasoning, etymologies, analogies and cosmogonies to gratify the intellect.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The African contextual ideas of mysticism, tradition and initiation advance new theological inductions, astrophysical tales and ways to hypothesise moral behaviour. Nevertheless, the ideologically motivated text of 1 Chronicles 21 can still be relevant for Africa today if the following options can be taken into consideration. Israel was a confused nation, seeking identity after the exile. An author like the Chronicler wanted to give them direction by telling them that they can find identity in their relationship with God. This can be translated into the African context as a relationship with God. This means that people who are feeling confused about their circumstances and identity today can find certainty in their relationship with God, regardless of how and where they worship.


Keywords

hermeneutics; Africa; exegesis; religion; culture; tradition; language

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