Interpreting the Passover in the Exodus tradition amongst the TIV as a narrative concerning origin and migration

Weor, Jonathan Tyosar (2012-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study has focused on interpreting the Passover in the Exodus tradition as a narrative of origin and migration among the Tiv of Nigeria. The main aim of the study is to go beyond a theology of liberation from slavery and colonialism which has been the crux of the interpretation of Exodus to a theology of identity that commemorates the beginning of the migration from Egypt through the ritual festival of the Passover. The study has argued that one’s identity could be used as an indigenous interpretive resource to interpret the Passover in the Exodus tradition among the Tiv of Nigeria who are mostly from an oral context. By employing a literary and socio-rhetorical approach (cf. Robbins 1996a:1), the research has analyzed the inner-texture, inter-texture, socio-cultural and ideological/theological intertexture of the Passover text of Exodus 12:1-28. It is argued that the Passover tradition had to survive the onslaught of royal and priestly ideology evident in its changing character from being a family oriented feast (Ex. 12:1-28) to a centralized feast held in the temple in Jerusalem. Despite the onslaught, the Passover prevailed as a family feast in the end and theology triumphed over ideology – in a manner of speaking. The different stages of development and celebration of the Passover in biblical times from family/non-priestly to priestly and centralized feast in the temple is also regarded as a clue to its survival of the onslaught of royal and priestly ideology. The socio-rhetorical approach is deemed appropriate for the interpretation of the Passover in the Exodus tradition to an orality-based audience such as the Tiv of Nigeria especially in terms of the oral-scribal intertexture. The approach is relevant to the oral community because it integrates the text with history and the readers to enable readers of any given text to interact with it using their context full of different life experiences to come up with new and informed interpretations that are meaningful and appropriate to them. Thus, the study has argued that oral discourse should work hand-in-hand with the written as far as the interpretation of the Exodus and Passover (Ex. 12:1-28) among oral cultures such as the Tiv are concerned. Readers and interpreters of the Passover tradition are enjoined to keep their eyes open to detect oral elements in the literary text and carry out interpretations of portions of the written text that cannot be explained through literary devices by taking into account orality. The study has also registered the need to pay more attention to a theological approach that appreciates readers from an oral culture and their interpretation of and interaction with the written text when placed side by side with the reader’s oral text that is full of stories of origin and migration, identity, life experiences. Furthermore, the multidimensional approach by Robbins (1996a & 1996b) has been employed to analyze the texture of Exodus 12:1-28 and its parallel texts in the Pentateuch, Prophets (Former and Latter) and the Writings. Eleven pericopes on the Passover were identified that stretch from the Pentateuch to the Latter Prophets and they cut across the three biblical legal codes namely the Covenant Code (Ex. 23:14-19), the Holiness Code (Lev. 23:5-8) and the Deuteronomic Code (Deut. 16:1-8). The pericopes also span non-priestly texts (Ex. 12:1-28) and priestly texts (Ex. 34:18-26; Num. 9:1-14; 28:16-25). In another sense, the Passover texts could be said to cover the Deuteronomistic text (Jos. 5:10-12; 2 Kg. 23:21-23), Chronist text (2 Chron. 35:1-18) and the Latter Prophets (Ezek. 45:21-24). By analyzing the Passover text of Exodus 12:1-28 against the backdrop of parallel texts in the Old Testament, the study has also identified eight variables in the texts on the Passover namely different terminologies, place, date, sacrifice, preparation, officials and different links between the Passover and unleavened bread as well as different links between the Passover and the Exodus tradition. The eight variables demonstrate that the Passover has a dynamic and ongoing character; as such, it should be interpreted as a ritual festival that commemorates the beginning of the migration of a chosen people out of slavery in Egypt. However, it should also be seen as a festival commemorating the identity of celebrants with different ideologies, cultures, religious ideas, and life circumstances over time and in different contexts. The different modes of celebrating or interpreting the Passover in different periods and contexts to different audiences with different needs have shown that the narratives of origin and migration of the Tiv could be used as an indigenous interpretive resource for the interpretation of the Passover in the Exodus tradition among people from an oral culture. In addition, the Passover should be interpreted as an ongoing ritual commemoration of the beginning of the migration from Egypt to mark the identity of celebrants in different contexts and cultures. In this way, as the Tiv people celebrate their New Yam festival at the family level or the annual Tiv Day at a centralized place to commemorate their origin as a people that migrated from Congo via Swem in the Cameroon plains to their present home in Benue-Nigeria, fresh memories would be evoked of the Passover festival commemorating the liberation from Egypt to create hope of future survival in present celebrants.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif fokus op die interpretasie van die Paasfees binne die Eksodustradisie as ‘n verhaal aangaande oorsprong en migrasie onder die Tiv van Nigerië. Die hoofdoel van die studie is om verder te gaan as die gebruiklike kontekstualisering van Eksodus as bevrydingsteologie van slawerny en kolonialisme en om ‘n teologiese interpretasie te ontwikkel wat identiteit in ag neem met die herdenking van die begin van die migrasie vanuit Egipte tydens die rituele viering van die Paasfees. In die proefskrif word geargumenteer dat identiteit gebruik kan word as ‘n inheemse bron vir die interpretasie van die Paasfees onder die Tiv wat ‘n sterk mondelinge kultuur het. Daar is gebruik gemaak van Vernon Robbins (1996a) se sosio-retoriese metodologie en sodoende is aandag verleen aan die “inner” en “inter-texture”, sowel as die sosio-kulturele en ideologies-teologiese intertekste van die Paasfees in Eksodus 12: 1-28. Dit word aangetoon hoe die Paasfeestradisie die ideologiese aanslae van koninklike en priesterlike ideologieë moes weerstaan toe koning Josia dit van ‘n familiefees verander het na ‘n gesentraliseerde fees by die tempel in Jerusalem. Ten spyte van hierdie aanslag het die Paasfees tog as familiefees oorleef en kan dit as ‘n voorbeeld gebruik word van hoe teologie ideologie te bowe kan kom. In die Ou Testament kan verskillende fases van ontwikkeling en viering van die Paasfees vanaf ‘n familiefees na ‘n priesterlik gedomineerde sentrale fees by die tempel in Jerusalem onderskei word en dit verleen ‘n aanduiding van hoe die priestelike en koninklike ideologiese aanslag oorwin is. Binne die sosio-retoriese benadering is die sogenaamde “oral-scribal intertexture” van besondere toepassing vir die interpretasie van die Paasfees in die Eksodustradisie binne ‘n mondelinge kultuur soos die van die Tiv in Nigerië. Die eksegetiese benadering is juis van toepassing binne ‘n mondelinge kultuur omdat die teks teen die agtergrond van mondelinge oorlewering verstaan word en die Tiv-lesers in staat stel om dit binne hulle eie konteks met hulle eie lewenservaring in verband te bring. Robbins (1996a & 1996b) se multidimensionele benadering is benut om die teks van Eksodus 12: 1 – 28 te analiseer, sowel as die parallele tekste in die Pentateug, Profete (Vroeëre en Latere) en die Geskrifte. Sodoende is elf intertekste geïdentifiseer wat met die Paasfees verband hou: voorbeelde is gevind in al drie belangrikste regsversamelings in die Ou Testament, naamlik die Verbondsboek (Eks 23:14-19), die Heiligheidswette (Lev 23:5-8) en die Deuteronomiese kodeks (Deut 16: 1-8). Daarmee saam is beide nie-priesterlike tekste (Eks 12: 1-28) sowel as priesterlike tektste (Eks 34:18-26; Num 9:1-14; 28:16-25) in ag geneem, asook Deuteronomistiese gedeeltes (Jos 5:10-12; 2 Kon 23: 21-23), ‘n Kronistiese teks (2 Kron 35: 1-18) en die latere profete (Eseg 45:21 24). Die ondersoek na die bestaande navorsing oor die Paasfees het agt veranderlikes geïdentifiseer wat ook binne die eie teksinterpretasie benut is: uiteenlopende terminologie, plek, datum, offerhande, voorbereiding, amptenare, verskillende bande tussen die Paasfees en die Fees van die Ongesuurde Brode en verskillende verbande tussen die Paasfees en die Eksodustradisie. Hierdie agt veranderlikes demonstreer hoe die Paasfees dinamies voortbestaan het en ook hoe dit verstaan kan word as ‘n feesritueel wat die aanvang van die migrasie uit die Egiptiese slawerny herdenk. Die navorsing het aangetoon hoe die verskillende maniere van paasviering verband hou met verskillende intepretasies van die Paasfees binne opeenvolgende periodes, kontekste, gehore en behoeftes. Daarom word die gevolgtrekking gemaak dat die verhale van oorsprong en migrasie van die Tiv benut kan word as ‘n inheemse bron vir die intepretasie van die Paasfees in die Eksodustradisie. Die proefskrif bevind ook dat dit belangrik is om daarop te let dat die klem val op die voortgaande rituele herdenking van die begin van die verhaal oor migrasie uit Egipte wat van besondere belang vir die identiteit van die feesgangers is – te midde van verskillende kontekste, kulture en ideologieë. Op ‘n soortgelyke manier vier die Tiv hulle “New Yam Festival” as ‘n familiefees en hulle nasionale Tiv Dag by ‘n gesentraliseerde plek as herdenking van hulle oorsprong as ‘n groep wat migreer het vanaf die Kongo via die Swemberg in die Kameroen na hulle huidige blyplek in Benue, Nigerië. Hiermee word die Paasfees ruimer as bevrydingsteologie herinterpreteer en skep dit nuwe hoop op die toekoms vir die deelnemers aan die feesviering.

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