Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Bodies, spirits, and the living landscape : interpreting the Bible in Owamboland, Namibia
Author: John, Helen Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 1373
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This study explores the relationship between Christianity and autochthonous (indigenous, pre-Christian) worldviews and practices amongst the Aandonga of Owamboland, Northern Namibia. Using participant contributions from a series of Contextual Bible Study (CBS) sessions (with groups of men, women, and children), and supplemented by ethnographic contextualisation, it challenges the oft-contended notion that Christian worldviews and practices have erased the significance of African Traditional Religion for Ndonga (or wider Owambo) communities. The enduring significance of autochthonous worldviews and practices is explored using responses to six biblical texts, each of which relates to at least one of three themes: bodies, spirits, and landscapes. The study examines feasting bodies (The Parable of the Wedding Banquet), bleeding bodies (The Haemorrhaging Woman), and possessed bodies (Legion). It considers possession spirits (Legion), natural spirits (the so-called ‘Nature Miracles’), and ancestor spirits (Resurrection appearances). Perspectives on landscapes are highlighted particularly in relation to aspects of the natural environment (the ‘Nature Miracles’) and the locations explored by an itinerant demoniac (Legion). Responses to the texts engender, inter alia, discussions of contemporary perspectives on diviner-healers (oonganga), witchcraft (uulodhi), the homestead (egumbo), burial grounds (omayendo, oompampa), spirits (iiluli, oompwidhuli), ancestors (aathithi), material agency (for example, apotropaic amulets), and the ‘traditional’ wedding (ohango). Having analysed the ways in which autochthonous worldviews informed participants’ interpretations of the particular texts considered (Matthew 22:1-14 & Luke 14:7-11; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:26-39; Mark 4:35-41 & 6:45-52; Luke 24), each set of interpretations is brought into conversation with professional biblical scholarship. The study therefore highlights the ways in which these grassroots, ‘contextual’ interpretations might nuance New Testament interpretations returned by the Academy, particularly by highlighting the highly contextual nature of the latter.
Supervisor: Lawrence, Louise J. ; Horrell, David G. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Contextual Bible Study ; Ethnography ; African Traditional Religion ; Christianity ; Biblical Studies ; Owambo ; Ovambo ; Owamboland ; Ovamboland ; Ondonga ; Namibia ; Legion ; Gospels ; Wedding Banquet ; Haemorrhaging Woman ; Calming the Storm ; Walking on the Sea ; Resurrection ; Landscape ; Spirits ; Personhood ; Mark 5:1-20 ; Luke 8:26-39 ; Matthew 22:1-14 ; Luke 14:7-11 ; Mark 5:21-43 ; Mark 4:35-41 ; Mark 6:45-52 ; Luke 24 ; Anthropology and Biblical Studies ; Biblical Interpretation in Africa ; Grassroots Biblical Interpretation ; Bible in Africa ; Living Landscape ; Oshiluli ; Aathithi ; Ohango ; Space and Place ; John 9:1-12 ; Embodiment ; Bible ; Southern Africa ; witchcraft ; Nature Miracles ; Ancestor Christology ; Traditional Healers