The effect of semitic primal religion on Israelite religion : a pattern for a contextual biblical interpretation in Nigerian Christianity.
Babatunji, Foluso Olugbenga.
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This research adds to the many voices from African Biblical scholarship, contributing towards an analysis of how Africans relate to the Bible in the way they do. While social, political, and even cultural factors are important, this thesis examines the role of primal religion in African interpretation of the Bible. The perception of Western scholars of African primal religion has not always been that wholesome. But this study has brought to light how significant a role primal religion has played in African interpretation of the Bible, particularly for those to whom the Bible is a key resource in their struggle for basic existence. Primal religion in Nigeria (specifically among the Yoruba) serves as a fundamental tool in the interpretation of the Bible. The enduring effectiveness of primal religion, this thesis argues, can be found in the weekly sermons preached in Nigerian churches, churches that are growing in membership. In other words, this kind of interpretation appeals to the African person in ways that missionary and colonial forms of biblical interpretation do not. The effectiveness of the primal religion is an anthropological phenomenon; therefore it goes beyond the African context. The thesis analyses how the primal religious beliefs of the biblical Israelites too had had an effect on their religious thought, and in the thesis I argue that this is analogous to the African situation in Nigeria among the Yoruba. Therefore the research juxtaposed how the ideo-theological orientation of the writers of certain texts in the Old Testament (affected by the Semitic background, and their perception of God’s message to them and their context), and the manner the ideo-theological orientation of the Nigerian preacher/Christian (affected by his/her primal religion) and his/her perception of the Bible affects his/her interpretation. The thesis analyses the enduring effect of Near Eastern religious thought on the Old Testament, and then goes on to analyse the effect of African primal religion on how a selection of Yoruba preachers/Christians interpret the Bible. These two sets of analysis are then brought into critical dialogue, with a view to revealing a similar pattern. Apart from presenting a comparison between the role of primal religion in the Israelites’ religion and Yoruba Christianity, this research also examined briefly how the biblical interpretation peculiar to these Yoruba preachers plays a role in the nation-building. I believe the Church has a role to play in the community in which it is professing its faith. In some other African nations, there had been cases or contexts whereby the Church rose to its occasion in fighting for independence, or/and even standing against dictatorship in every form. This thesis concludes with a reflection on how the kind of interpretation preachers are giving to the Bible today in Nigeria effects positive change in the values and orientation of civil society more generally. Can this type of Christianity offer a push in the right direction in the practice of politics and governance in Nigeria?