Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

Research Article

The Bible in Africa: a novel usage in Africa's new churches

Paul Gifforda1

a1 School of Oriental and African Studies, email: pg@soas.ac.uk


To the extent there is an African academic approach, it is comparative (showing that the African world has similarities with the biblical). There are some “post-colonial” and similar readings, but this academic study is in the main done by Western-trained academics and directed at Western readers. There has been relatively little study of the way the Bible is actually used in churches, especially at the very grassroots. In mainline churches, the Bible is generally taken (as in the West) as a book of revelation which the preacher must expound and apply. In the new fast-growing Pentecostal sector the Bible is conceived quite differently, and understood as a record of covenants, promises, pledges and commitments between God and his chosen. It is not just a record of covenants and commitments to others in the past. It is not primarily a historical document at all. It is a contemporary document; it tells of God's covenant with and commitment to me, and to me now. These promises in scripture are effected in believers' lives through proclamation. The major biblical motifs in this emerging Christianity are thus those stressing victory, success, hope, achievement. The texts that are dominant are therefore prophetic texts, and narratives of those who can be made to illustrate success.