Friendship and betrayal : a narrative reading of Matthew 26: 47-56 in the light of the concept of Oreodale of the Yoruba people in Nigeria.
Osungbeju, Samuel Adekunle Ola.
MetadataShow full item record
The theme of friendship and betrayal cuts across many disciplines and cultures. This research focuses on the theme of friendship which is fundamentally related to the theme of the church (Matt.16, 18) and love as contained in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5-7), and is clearly expressed in Matthew 5:23-26 and 7:12. This theme rings through in Matthew’s Gospel as a narrative or story. This then forms the background to our search for a new understanding of the theme of friendship and betrayal in the Matthean Gospel with a focus on Matt.26:47-56 in light of the socio-cultural perspective of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. Friendship cuts across different societies with its diverse cultural distinctiveness. We find in the Matthean community, a model of friendship as exemplified by Jesus with his disciples as well as with the people of his day that is informed by love, mutual trust, loyalty, commitment, forgiveness, and which revolves around discipleship and equality. Although Jesus took on the role of a servant and friend with his disciples he remained the leader of the group. But his disciples abandoned him at the very critical point of his life with Peter even publicly denying knowing him. And the worst of all, a very close confidant of his, Judas Iscariot, chose to sell him to his enemies to be killed by crucifixion. In other words, all of the disciples, as Jesus’ friends therefore appear to have betrayed him in one way or the other. But Judas’ role in the Matthean Gospel, especially in connection with the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day, stands out in quite a significant manner. However, some critical interpretations rooted in post-Enlightenment Western culture championed by William Klassen, Kim Paffenroth and Michael Cook have tried to make sense of the friendship and betrayal between Jesus and his disciples, especially by sympathetic explanations of the action of Judas, in a way which poses serious challenges to African cultural understandings of friendship. This is because Judas’ action of betrayal has left us with more questions than answers. Could Judas have been right in any way by his action of betrayal of Jesus, because as a disciple of Jesus he also shared his loyalty with the state? Could he have betrayed Jesus in order to precipitate God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf? Friendship sometimes involves a network of complexities of loyalties; and for that reason the question is whether friendship should be regarded as a private or public relationship, and which should be accorded primary loyalty in such complex circumstances. This study has argued that the Yoruba concept of friendship and betrayal offers a relevant model on which to build a counter African postcolonial interpretation of friendship and betrayal in Matthew based on the Yoruba cultural worldview. Insights from cultural studies and Postcolonial theory, especially the work of Edward Said, have been combined with new methods of re-reading and re-interpreting the Bible along the cultural line of an African Contextual theology, which is called postcolonial inculturation-converstional theoretical approach to explore a new understanding of the theme of friendship and betrayal in the Matthean Gospel from the cultural perspective of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. Consequently, in this study, Judas’ action of betrayal is brought into “conversation” with that of Iya Olofi, as one of the Ifa oracular texts in the Yoruba cultural context to explore Matthew’s portrayal of a true friendship and betrayal, especially at the point of complex or confusing loyalties. This attempt, in addition to offering a new understanding and interpretation of the chosen Matthean text through contrapuntal dialogical interactions with Yoruba cultural context and post-Enlightenment Western cultural context, has also widened our horizon on the concept of friendship and betrayal from cross-cultural perspectives. Friendship is an important aspect in the social life of the Yoruba people as in most cultures of the world. Its distinctiveness, however, is seen in its covenantal nature usually sanctioned by the earth (ile) as a witness. The Yoruba cultural concept of friendship is based on trust, commitment, loyalty and forgiveness as the essential ingredients of any relationship with its attendant repercussions for any erring one in case of a breach of trust in such a relationship. Hence, the Yoruba concept of friendship is strongly opposed to betrayal and fosters peaceful coexistence, harmony and progress in so far as the bond of friendship or trust conforms to the moral values and norms of the society and it is faithfully kept against the individualistic nature and personal freedom of the post-Enlightenment Western culture of friendship. On the other hand, post-Enlightenment Western culture has also shown the social and psychological aspects of friendship for the individual as well as the clinical pathology of suicide in the context of friendship and betrayal as against its outright condemnation in the Yoruba cultural context. We also discovered that the aspect of confidentiality in friendship according to the Yoruba cultural practice could have negative effects, because of its potential avenue for covert associations or exploitation of friendship for personal gains that may make betrayal difficult because of the blood-oath that is involved.