Africa Thesis

Pages: 26 (8160 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 92  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

African Beginnings

Africa was the beginning

Africa was the beginning: Afrocentric and multicultural views

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The problematics of the Afrocentric or African orientated approach to an understanding of religious and biblical texts is a cause for concern among many theologians and historians. There is the stance and perception that the Bible and biblical scholarship has been biased by a mainly Eurocentric and 'white' view of biblical history. This view is clearly stated in the following comment; "Afrocentricity, when genuinely understood, is simply the idea that Africa and persons of African descent must be seen as proactive subjects within history rather than as passive objects of Western triumphalism."

Critics of the Eurocentric interpretation of the Bible and religious history also suggest that Afrocentric biblical interpretation is seen as a "threat" by some. This is an important point and is one that will be explored in depth on this paper.

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In other words, there is a call from many critics and theologians for a more balanced and fair understanding of the relevance of the African influence and its significance in modern Christian theology. As a number of studies assert, any in-depth analysis of Biblical text will show that one cannot diminish the importance of the African region and people in the Bible without also diminishing and distorting a truthful and comprehensive view of the Bible. As one study notes, "…Fortunately, the Bible refuses to remain captive to such distortions, Indeed we have seen the blossoming in our own time of new interpretative approaches to Scripture."

In other words, a more inclusive view of the Bible is insisted upon in order for a more truthful representation of Biblical history to occur. It should also be noted that these distortions of Biblical texts are also linked to wider political and colonial worldviews that have over the centuries tended to impact on interpretations of Biblical and other texts in favor of Eurocentric hegemony.

TOPIC: Thesis on Africa Was the Beginning Assignment

The author of the above study also goes on to stress the important point that, "These approaches, including cultural exegesis and Afrocentric biblical interpretation have at last begun to free us from centuries of parochial Eurocentric understandings."

The emphasis that the author places on the concept of "…parochial Eurocentric understandings" of Biblical text is central to the thesis of this paper.

The central thesis of the present study includes the view that there have in the past been efforts to minimize and even obstruct the Afrocentric associations and interpretations in Biblical text. This implies that a more inclusive and multicultural approach is needed in Biblical analysis and interpretation. As will be discussed, there are a number of cogent reasons for this denial of the African background and origins of Biblical events. These reasons must also be seen against the historical advent and impact of European colonialism.

The central thesis that will be explored in this study can therefore be stated as follows. Firstly, it is predicated on the view that there is a genuine need for a more multicultural approach to biblical textual analyses of the Bible. This leads to the assertion and thesis that African and Afrocentric interpretations of the Bible and Biblical events are necessary to present a more valid and comprehensive understanding of these events and texts.

Furthermore, there is a motivational imperative that also underlines the importance of this thesis. The following quotation from Earnest N. Bracey's book Prophetic insight: the higher education and pedagogy of African-Americans ( 1999) encapsulates this imperative: "For too long in the history of Western civilization, persons of African descent have been stereotyped in negative ways which have caused them to question not only their own identify but also their part in God's plan of salvation."

This is a view that is germane to the present thesis for a number of reasons. Among these reason that will be expanded on is the view that the exclusion of Afrocentric interpretations of the scriptures has had a negative impact on ethnic self-perceptions. This refers to the truthful and correct interconnections between the important massages from the Bible and the religious and social development of Black and other ethnic groups. As will become clear from the discussion below, not only is the truth of the Bible compromised by a biased reading and interpretation of Biblical texts but these biases also impact negatively on ethic self-esteem and theological validity.

This is an extremely important point that goes to the heart of the reason for a reevaluation the place of Africa and its people in the Bible; and which emphasizes the need to deconstruct stereotypical and biased interpretations of the Bible.

In essence, Black people, as well as people from other cultural and racial groups, have been excluded from participating in the experience of salvation through Biblical text because they have come to believe that they were somehow not important enough to be featured in general and dominant interpretations of Biblical text. The present study will attempt to delineate important aspects and insights that reflect the need for a revaluation of the Biblical texts from an Afrocentric and multicultural perspective.

2. Reasons for the Denial of African Biblical Interpretations

There are many reasons put forward as to why African Biblical perspectives were ignored or undermined. One study in this respect has noted that,

Today popular Christianity too easily assumes that modern ideas about race are traceable to the Bible or that there is not a significant Black presence in the Bible.... Centuries of European and Euro-American scholarship along with a "save the heathen Blacks" missionary approach to Africans have created these impressions.

In other words, the denial of an Afrocentric perspective in the Bible and in Bible interpretation is closely linked to forms of racism and racial stereotypes and biases that became an intrinsic part of the ethos of colonialism during the previous two centuries. The image of the "black heathen' referred to above and in many other studies is a stereotype that has been evident in Western culture for many centuries. It is this type of biased distortion that has led the intentional removal in many cases of African references and associations in Biblical textual interpretation.

With reference to the important issue of colonialism and the suppression of African identity, one can briefly refer to the writings of Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797). The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano provides us with some insight into the intersection between religion, scriptural interpretation and the realities of colonialism.

Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, tells about his experiences of slavery in the book entitled The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself. What is of special significance for the present discussion is the view of African historical and scriptural origins that the author puts forward in this book -- and which contrasts glaringly with the Eurocentric view of scriptural interpretation which was promulgated by colonialism.

In the book Olaudah Equiano discusses the religion of Igbo people of West Africa. Importantly, he refers to numerous similarities between the Igbo religion and the ancient Jewish faith found in Biblical texts. Similarities such as various taboos and rituals are discussed at length. This discussion is expanded in the first book to suggest a common heritage and a definite African centre to the understanding of scripture. The following quotation from the book makes this aspect abundantly clear.

Here I cannot forbear suggesting what has long struck me very forcibly, namely, the strong analogy which even by this sketch, imperfect as it is, appears to prevail in the manners and customs of my countrymen, and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of Promise, and particularly the patriarchs, while they were yet in that pastoral state which is described in Genesis -- an analogy which alone would induce me to think that the one people has sprung from the other.

In other words, the author strongly suggests a common root to Biblical reality that lies not in a predominantly white world and experience but rather has its foundations in Africa and the African religious and cultural milieu. Interestingly, Equiano refers to the Biblical interpretations and commentaries of experts such as John Gill to support his view of an African Biblical origin. "Equiano gestures toward "Dr. Gill's" Commentary on Genesis" to note how Gill "ably deduces the pedigree of the Africans from ... The descendants of Abraham."

On the other hand, many scholars note the significance and obvious relevance of an African Biblical context. Notwithstanding these studies and despite a plethora of evidence that strongly suggests the validity of a Black or African interpretations of the Bible, "…Eurocentric church officials and scholars have tended to deny or minimize the fact that black people are in any way a part of the Bible itself…"

Contemporary pundits note that this prejudicial situation is in the process of being redressed by modern scholarship and many authors and researchers are writing against these biased and stereotypical views.

The literature also acknowledges the fact that the underlying reason for this denial of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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