Millions of People Are Operating with a “Closed Bible”

A Professor of the New Testament at the Department of Religion and Human Values of the University of Cape Coast, Rev. Prof. Eric Nii Bortey Hutsu Anum, has observed that millions of people are operating with a ‘closed’ Bible just similar to the initial period of the reception of the Bible during colonial times He said people consider the Bible to be very powerful for prophesies, healing, deliverance and all manner of spiritual activities. Rev. Prof. Anum made these observations when he delivered an inaugural lecture on the topic “The Dilemma of the Bible Reader: Challenges in the Appropriation of the Bible for Leadership Development in Nation Building in Africa.”

Prof. Anum said the Bible identified the relationship between God and the arms of government for leadership development in nation building by stating that, “The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our law giver, the LORD is our king, He will save us.” This, according to him, meant that the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive arms in nation building were all located in the one omnipotent God. Quoting from Isaiah 33:22, Prof. Anum pointed identified three periods which he described as “Mis-Use, Dis-Use and Re-Use” to portray how the Bible was contextualised by the masses and political leaders. Prof. Anum said during the period of the ‘Mis-Use', witnessed the inappropriate, inaccurate or unacceptable use of the Bible.

This era marked the precolonial and colonial period where the Bible was introduced to Africans. He noted that during the colonial period, there was a deliberate attempt to use the Bible to regiment people into a certain mode. He added that “So be it secular education, Christian education or translation, they were all done to achieve certain ends in favour of the colonial regimes that operated at that time”. Prof. Anum said the period of the Dis-use of the Bible marked the use of religious terminologies and ideals aimed at serving political ends with complete disregard to its religious meaning. He explained that this was partly a reaction to the imperialistic and colonial usage of the Bible. Rev. Prof. Anum made reference to nationalists like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who were regarded as messiahs after leading their respective countries to attain independence.

Dr. Nkrumah was presented as the redeemer, a Moses appointed by God to lead his country to the promised land of the ‘Political Kingdom'. He pointed out that the Biblical metaphors used to describe leaders were an affront to the failure of organised religion to participate actively in nation building. He said that under the presidency of Jerry Rawlings, there was the 'Dis-use' of the Bible but the youth saw Rawlings as their role model. Explaining the Re-use of the Bible, Prof Anum said this period in Africa was characterised by the rise in Neo-Pentecostalism and ascendancy of charismatic ideals. He explained that ‘Re-use' in this era referred to reinvention of how the Bible is to be understood and practiced in Africa.

He indicated for example that ‘cross over' ceases to be an admonition to Moses but a new year ritual or ceremony. Another phenomenon he mentioned about this era was the massive increase in faith based University Colleges and Institutions; massive reduction in intake of theological and biblical studies; astronomical growth in church membership, among others. On the political landscape, he mentioned that “Atta Mills was nicknamed ‘Asomdwee hene’ (Prince of peace) and he was laid to rest at the Asomdwee Gardens”.

His successor, John Mahama during the preparation for the 2016 elections made John 3:16 appeared as a winning formula for him to get his second term. “That fitted more in the area of dis-use of the text in a period of re-use and it resulted in a missed-use of it,” he noted. Concluding the lecture, he rhetorically asked, ‘what is the future going to be like if we continue with the types of individualistic deliverance, healing, prophetic ministry and wealth context that we have now?’