Commanding the Whirlwinds, Calming the Storm: Interactions with Nature ‘in Culture’ and ‘in Christianity’ (Mark 4:35–41 and 6:45–52)

In: Biblical Interpretation and African Traditional Religion


CCBIG interpretation of the Calming of the Storm and Jesus Walking on Water are used in this chapter to challenge the high degree of contextuality apparent in Western scholarship on those texts. Firstly, the extent to which traditional, historical-criticism is reliant on its post-Enlightenment, demythologised, apparently 'rationalist' roots is brought into relief when selected interpretations of the Calming of the Storm are brought into dialogue with the grassroots voices from Iihongo. A tendency to reduce the narrative to a symbolic level becomes apparent when faced with Iihongo understandings of the wind and waves as spirit forces, which may be engaged in ordinary consciousness, in everyday settings. Social-scientific interpretations (particularly those of the Context Group) encourage biblical scholars to expand their horizons and to take into account other cultural realities. However, when juxtaposed with the interpretations returned by the CCBIGs, the 'othering' of spirit forces - that they must exist in alternate realities - becomes apparent. The 'othering' of spirit engagements - that they must take place in alternate states of consciousness (for example, by a shamanic figure) - follows in a similar vein (Malina 2001; Malina Rohrbaugh 2003; Pilch 1993, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2011). CCBIGs are shown here to offer a way in which biblical scholars might more comprehensively consider other cultural realities, including the genuine, lived experience of spirits as ordinary realities, free from the shackles of the 'rationalist' agenda that inflects much Western contemporary historical-critical biblical scholarship.

Reflecting on the metanarrative, this chapter shows that the pre-Christian spirit complex extends beyond the landscape into contemporary understandings of natural phenomena, here through the identification of storms and whirlwinds with spirit forces. The participants related formulaic verbal addresses used to divert whirlwinds and exorcise possessed landscapes, engaging the power of ‘local culture’ rather than Christianity to effect the desired result.