The Bible As Specimen, Talisman, And Dragoman In Africa: A Look At Some African Uses Of The Psalms And 1 Corinthians 12-14 -- By: Grant LeMarquand

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 22:2 (NA 2012)
Article: The Bible As Specimen, Talisman, And Dragoman In Africa: A Look At Some African Uses Of The Psalms And 1 Corinthians 12-14
Author: Grant LeMarquand


The Bible As Specimen, Talisman, And Dragoman In Africa:
A Look At Some African Uses Of The Psalms And 1 Corinthians 12-14

Grant LeMarquand

Trinity School For Ministry

The growth of Christian churches in Africa has given rise to diverse interpretations and uses of the Bible. This article examines three uses of the Bible in Africa: as a source of historical information (“specimen”), as a religious or magical object (“talisman”), and as a source of guidance for life (“dragoman”). It employs interpretations of the book of Psalms and of 1 Cor 12-14 to exemplify this brief taxonomy. While challenging the apparent hegemony of Western methodologies in the guild, it also raises points of concern about some African uses of Scripture.

Key Words: Africa, Psalms, 1 Corinthians, magic, miracle, charismata, religion, power, historical-critical method

In 2006, Edwin Yamauchi delivered the presidential address, entitled “Scripture as Talisman, Specimen, and Dragoman,” at the 58th meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The paper was published in JETS the next year.1 In his essay, Professor Yamauchi described “three contrasting attitudes”2 taken toward the Bible. As we shall see, I think that there may in reality be more than three attitudes toward Scripture on offer, but this typology seems a helpful heuristic device for beginning an analysis of various African uses of Scripture. Yamauchi himself makes only a passing reference to Africa in his essay, interestingly in his relatively brief discussion of Scripture as a “talisman.” Our discussion will begin with the least common way in which Scripture is read and used in Africa.

Specimen

The predominant mode of studying the Bible in the European and North American biblical guild is the “Scripture as a specimen” mode. For approximately the last 200 years, historical analysis of the biblical text has dominated

scholarly discussion. The Enlightenment roots of historical-critical scholarship have been and continue to be discussed, and I will not rehearse the modern history of exegesis here.3 A few brief points will suffice.

First, it should be said that, for all the good and helpful effects of the historical-critical method (close analysis of the historical contexts which gave rise to the text, careful attention to the text itself), there can be little doubt that, for better and for worse, historical scholarship emphasizes ...

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