The reception of Genesis 1-3 in Nguni culture

Gwala, Mzonzima (2011-08-10)

Thesis (DLitt)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation looks at the reception of Gen. 1-3, one of the most controversial parts in the Hebrew Bible. How was it interpreted by the Nguni speaking communities (e.g. Xhosa, Zulu, siSwazi and siNdebele) taking into consideration their background, culture and religious belief system? The reception approach is followed in the research because of its emphasis on the role of the reader in understanding texts. Sources that are utilized are Nguni Bible translations, selected preached sermons (which the researcher attended himself), Nguni stories and folk tales and reviews undertaken among selected Nguni groups. A close-reading of the texts under discussion is undertaken in order to determine the basic content and issues of interpretation involved. The central concepts of cosmogony as contained in Gen. 1-2 are studied, as well as the story of the Garden of Eden and the concept of the “fall” in Gen. 3. The map of the Nguni language group is described and the culture and belief system of the Nguni speaking communities. Central concepts to this belief system are the worship of ancestors, marriage, circumcision, and among the Swazis the incwala (annual national feast) Legends and folk tales were used as sources for the Nguni belief system. It was determined that the Nguni speaking people worshipped one God in their traditional way, but always through their ancestors as a sign of respect. The role of the missionaries is analyzed by describing the history of the various missionary societies and their influence on the Nguni peoples. A very short discussion is devoted to preached sermons by Nguni pastors in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.Bible translations have always played a very important role among Nguni speakers (both Christians and non-believers). The need for translations using understandable contemporary terms is emphasized. This is the challenge to the Bible societies and Bible translators. Qualitative reviews were undertaken under selected Nguni speaking groups (Xhosa, Zulu, siSwati and siNdebele). Some of the results obtained from these reviews (full transcripts are included) are: (1) that there is a common understanding of the origin of the universe between the Hebrew Bible and the Nguni religious culture. (2) Serpent (Gen. 3): among the Zulus this concept is understood in terms of sexuality, but it can also be linked with the ancestors. (3) Both communities (Hebrew Bible and the Nguni) were tainted with the concept and ideology of patriarchalism. The crucial question in the research was: “what happens when a cosmogonic myth is transferred from one community to another?” In the case of Gen. 1-3 an ancient Hebrew text was transmitted to African cultures via missionaries and Bible translations. Nguni people react differently. Whereas some accept Gen. 1-3 (cosmogonies and the “fall”) as a detailed explanation of how creation and the “fall” came about, others reject it.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif kyk na die resepsie van Gen. 1-3, een van die mees kontroversiële dele in die Hebreeuse Bybel. Hoe word dit geïnterpreteer deur die Ngunisprekende gemeenskappe (Xhosas, Zoeloes, Swazi’s en Ndebele-groepe), met inagneming van hulle agtergrond, kultuur en stelsel van godsdienstige oortuigings? Die resepsiebenadering word in hierdie navorsing gevolg weens die klem op die rol van die leser in hoe tekste verstaan word. Die bronne wat aangewend is, is Ngunibybelvertalings, geselekteerde preke (wat die navorser self bygewoon het), Ngunistories en -volksverhale, en onderhoude wat met geselekteerde Ngunigroepe gevoer is. 'n In-dieptestudie van die betrokke tekste is onderneem ten einde die basiese inhoud en interpretasiekwessies te bepaal. Die sentrale konsep van kosmogonie, soos vervat in Gen. 1- 2, is bestudeer, asook die storie oor die Tuin van Eden en die konsep van die “sondeval” in Gen. 3. Die kaart van die Ngunitaalgroep word beskryf, asook die kultuur en geloofstelsel van die Ngunisprekende gemeenskappe. Sleutelkonsepte in hierdie geloofstelsel is die aanbidding van voorvaders, die huwelik, besnydenis, en onder die Swazi’s, die incwala (jaarlikse nasionale fees). Legendes en volksverhale is gebruik as bronne vir die Ngunigeloofstelsel. Daar is vasgestel dat die Ngunisprekende mense altyd een God aanbid het op hulle tradisionele manier, maar altyd deur voorvaders as 'n teken van respek. Die rol van die sendelinge word ontleed deur die geskiedenis van die verskeie sendinggenootskappe te beskryf, asook hulle invloed op die Ngunimense. 'n Baie kort bespreking word gewy aan preke gelewer deur Ngunipastore in die Sewendedaagse Adventistekerk.Bybelvertalings het nog altyd 'n baie belangrike rol gespeel onder Ngunisprekers (beide Christene en nie-gelowiges). Die behoefte vir vertalings wat verstaanbare, kontemporêre terme gebruik, word beklemtoon. Dít is die uitdaging wat aan die bybelgenootskappe en bybelvertalers gestel word. Kwalitatiewe onderhoude is afgelê onder geselekteerde Ngunisprekende groepe (Xhosas, Zoeloes, Swazi’s en Ndebele-groepe). Resultate wat verkry is van hierdie evaluerings (waarvan volledige transkripsies voorsien word) sluit in: (1) dat daar 'n gemeenskaplike begrip is van die oorsprong van die heelal by die Hebreeuse Bybel en die Ngunigeloofskultuur; (2) dat die konsep van die slang (Gen. 3) onder die Zoeloes in terme van seksualiteit verstaan word, maar dat dit ook met die voorvaders in verband gebring kan word; en (3) dat beide gemeenskappe (Hebreeuse Bybel en die Nguni) tekens dra van die konsep en ideologie van patriargisme. Die kernvraag in die navorsing was: “Wat gebeur wanneer ’n kosmogoniese mite oorgedra word van een gemeenskap na 'n ander?”. In die geval van Gen. 1-3 is 'n ou Hebreeuse teks oorgedra na Afrikakulture via sendelinge en bybelvertalings. Ngunimense reageer verskillend. Waar sommige Gen. 1-3 aanvaar (kosmogonieë en die “sondeval”) as 'n gedetailleerde verduideliking van hoe die skepping en die “sondeval” plaasgevind het, word dit deur ander verwerp.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/16056
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