AN IGBO ESPERANTO: A HISTORY OF THE UNION IBO BIBLE 1900-1950

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Author: Ben Fulford
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Abstract

The Union Ibo Bible was more or less the Bible for the Igbo people of southern Nigeria from 1909 to 1970. The creation of Thomas Dennis of the Church Missionary Society and his co-workers, it has been, since its first conception in 1905, a source of ongoing controversy: the development and unification of the Igbo language was at stake. This article re-examines the history of this Bible, its conception, translation and early reception, and argues that the source of its shortcomings lies deeper than the method of translation or the contemporary Igbo desire to learn English. The Union Bible is the product of the missionary conception, fleshed out by a comparison with the Yoruba, of a single Igbo people speaking a single language. The failure of that translation is the result of the premise consequent to this conception of the Igbo, namely that the Igbo language was ready to be 'united'.

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