This study falls within the area of the Bible in African Christianity, particularly ordinary readers’ appropriation of and interpretation of the Bible. It seeks to explore, firstly, the processes of the encounter between the Bible and the indigenous people of Tanzania, specifically the Gogo in central region. Secondly, this thesis seeks to identify some interpretative resources and emerging interpretative practices that have continued into the present of ordinary readers of the Bible.
This exploration is done by tracing the mission activities of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Tanzania, which began in 1844. The work of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) is also examined, particularly the role it has played in making the Book “open” to the indigenous, through translation.
Although there is continuity between past and present readings, this thesis demonstrates that ordinary readings are not static, they are dynamic; and over the years neo-indigenous interpretative moves have emerged which are a combination of both missionary and indigenous interpretative resources and methods. This reality is evident in the contemporary phenomenon of women and youths’ songs in central Tanzania. These songs are creative interpretations of the Bible from an ordinary readers’ perspective.
There is a challenge to trained readers of the Bible to realise that biblical interpretation is not the preserve of the “professionals”; ordinary readers in the parishes, in cities, towns and villages, do interpret the Bible as well. To be relevant to the Tanzanian context, academic interpreters have to consciously take into account the resources and strategies of ordinary readers, which are demonstrated in their vernacular languages, oral narratives, religious experience, songs, proverbs and wise sayings. This will mean deeply understanding the local languages, Cigogo and others, listening to ordinary interpretations of the Bible, listening to the music and tunes of ordinary readers, as well as reading the vernacular Bible.
Lastly, this study offers some suggestions for further research which, I hope, will bring refreshment and renewal to Tanzanian African biblical and theological scholarship.