Don Sybertz & Joe Healey’s Book on African Narrative Theology

Towards an African Narrative Theology

A Book by Donald Sybertz and Joseph Healey
published by Orbis Books and Paulines Publications Africa
(Two Excerpts from the book)

One type of inculturation theology is an African narrative theology of inculturation. The starting part is African culture, but specifically African oral literature and the wide range of narrative and oral forms: proverbs, sayings, riddles, stories, myths, plays and songs explained in their historical and cultural contexts. Sister Anne Nasimiyu-Wasike, L.S.O.S.F. states: “The oral literature of the African people is their unwritten Bible. This religious wisdom is found in African idioms, wise sayings, legends, myths, stories, proverbs and oral history.” The theologian Rev. John Mbiti adds: “Proverbs are a rich source of African Religion and philosophy. They contain and point to a deep spirituality, as well as theological and philosophical insights. In this case they form a bridge between traditional African religiosity and biblical teaching.” (pages 28-29)

Five examples of African proverbs and their biblical parallels show the striking similarity between African wisdom and biblical wisdom:

  1. Sukuma (Tanzania) Proverb: What goes into the stomach is not lasting.
    Mark 7:18-19: Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer.
  2. Sukuma (Tanzania) Proverb: To laugh at a person with a defective eye while you hide your own defects.
    Matthew 7:3: Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
  3. Fipa (Tanzania) Proverb: God’s rain falls even on the witch.
    Matthew 5:45: Your Father in heaven sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
  4. Kuria (Kenya/Tanzania) and Ngoreme (Tanzania) Proverb: One person is thin porridge or gruel; two or three people are a handful of stiff cooked corn meal.
    Ecclesiastes 4:9,12: Two are better than one…A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
  5. Luyia (Kenya) Proverb: A child points out to you the direction and then you find your way.
    Isaiah 11:6: A little child shall lead them. (pages 45-46)

Note: This book contains many examples of pastoral case studies and practical evangelization in parishes in Tanzania and Kenya where Maryknollers have worked over the years.