Toward a Dialogic Hermeneutics

Reading Gen. 4:1-16 with Akan Eyes

in Horizons in Biblical Theology
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Since the rise of African Biblical Hermeneutics, several different approaches have been developed in order to contextualize the Word within the African continent. However, excessive emphasis on context and culture runs the risk of generating a pseudo-biblical theology, not concretely founded on the Scriptures. Using Gen 4:1-16 as a study case, the article explores a dialogic approach to interpretation, respectful of both the biblical text and the receiving culture. Text and culture are placed “face to face” so that from their dialogue a call to action may arise addressed to the community of believers living in Ghana. After proposing an exegetical analysis of the text, the call to action in the text is brought into dialogue with a specific culture of Ghana (the Akan). With the help of traditional proverbs, the article analyses the assumptions with which the Akan culture encounters the text and the challenges that the text poses to the culture.

Toward a Dialogic Hermeneutics

Reading Gen. 4:1-16 with Akan Eyes

in Horizons in Biblical Theology




See E. Anum“The Usage of the Bible in African Missionary History: The Legacy of the New Testament Usage that Lingers on in Africa,” Ghana Bulletin of Theology 1 (2006) 69-82; K. Bediako “Biblical Exegesis in the African Context: The Factor and Impact of the Translated Scriptures” Journal of African Christian Thought 6 (2003) 15-30.


Ossom-Batsa“African Interpretation” 99.


A. Kabasele Mukenge“Gn 4,1-16 dans le context African,” in Lectures et relectures de la Bible (eds. J.-M. Auwers and A. Wénin; BEThL 146; Lueven: Peeters Publishers1999) 421-441; A. Kabasele Mukenge “Lire la Bible dans le context Africain. Approche et Perspectives” in Congress Volume Leiden 2004 (ed. A. Lemaire; VT.S 109; Leiden–Boston: Brill) 401-418.


Mukenge“Gn 41-16 dans le context African” 437-438.


Mukenge“Gn 41-16 dans le context African” 438.


Mukenge“Lire la Bible” 410.


McEntire“Cain and Abel in Africa” 252.


OduyoyeThe Sons of God73.


I.J. MosalaBiblical Hermeneutics and Black Theology in South Africa (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans1989).


BoesakBlack and Reformed151.


BoesakBlack and Reformed157.


BoesakBlack and Reformed155-156.


MosalaBiblical Hermeneutics35.


MosalaBiblical Hermeneutics35-36.


MosalaBiblical Hermeneutics197-197.


See NiccacciSintassi20 43.


L. Alonso SchökelDov’è tuo fratello? Pagine di fraternità nel libro della Genesi (Brescia: Paideia Editrice1987) 33.


See K.M. Craing Jr.Asking for Rhetoric. The Hebrew Bible in Protean Interrogative (Boston-Leiden: Brill2005) 27-48; A.J. Hauser “Linguistic and Thematic Links between Genesis 4.1-16 and Genesis 2-3” jets 23 (1980) 297-305.


Cfr. J. SkinnerA Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (Edinburgh: T&T Clark1930) 105: “Why was the one sacrifice accepted and not the other? The distinction must lie either (a) in the disposition of the brothers . . . or (b) in the material of the sacrifice.”


See WestermannGenesis296-297. Westermann’s position is reiterated by W.L. Humphreys The Character of God in the Book of Genesis (Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2001) 55-56 who sees the silence in the Hebrew text as a sign of difficulty to justify God’s arbitrary behavior. Wénin “Caïn” 42 believes that yhwh’s apparent injustice has the narrative purpose of establishing sympathy in the reader that allows him to identify with Cain.


Alonso SchökelDov’è tuo fratello?39; García Martínez “Caín” 28-29.


WeinrichTempus53. The author acutely observes “. . . by principle a not-narrative discourse is ‘dangerous’ because it calls for a stance. On the contrary a narration is perceived as non-challenging because the story requires only to be listened to” (Weinrich Tempus 54-55). See Gatti . . . perché il «piccolo» diventi «fratello» 42-45.


CraingAsking for Rhetoric36. Opinions diverge regarding the meaning of the syntagm: G.R. Castellino “Genesis IV: 7” vt 10 (1960) 442-445 for example interprets it in the sense of re-establishing an interior balance while Bovati affirms that in the legal field it means “to practice favoritism to favor” and in the contest of the bilateral fight “grant the favor grant the grace”. P. Bovati Ristabilire la giustizia. Procedure vocabolario orientamenti (Rome: Biblical Institute 1986) 174-175.179.


See WenhamGenesis105; Wénin “Caïn” 44-45. Cfr. Gen. 34:7; 1 Sam. 18:8; Neh. 4:1; Num. 16:15.


A. NeherL’exil de la parole: du silence biblique au silence d’Auschwitz (Paris: Seuil1970) 107.


BovatiRistabilire la giustizia64-67. Craig Asking for Rhetoric 42-43 compares yhwh’s question with a preceding where-question (Gen. 3:9) asked to Adam. Both have the narrative purpose of inviting the culprit to acknowledge his responsibility.


K.M. Swenson“Care and Keeping East of Eden: Gen 4:1-16 in Light of Gen 2-3,” Interpretation 60 no. 4 (2006) 373-384.


BovatiRistabilire la giustizia47-48; Wenham Genesis 107.


E. Van Wolde“The Link among dām, ‘ādām, and ‘adāmāh in Genesis 2-4,” in Sangue e antropologia nella liturgia (ed. F. Vattioni; Rome: Pia Unione Preziosissimo Sangue 1984) 219-227; see Craig Asking for Rhetoric 47.


See GyekyeAfrican Cultural Value14-19.


MbitiAfrican Religions101.


MbitiAfrican Religions106.


See MbitiAfrican Religions118-129.


See MbitiAfrican Religions106.


J. GuittonIl Cristo dilacerato: Crisi e Concili nella Chiesa (Classici Cristiani Nuova Serie, Rome: Cantagalli2002) 54.


Swenson“Care and Keeping” 384.


S. HandThe Lévinas Reader (Cambridge: Blackwell1989) 247.


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