Nathan A. Esala
Natahn Esala is an Adjunct Professor of Religion at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio. Esala is a Lutheran pastor and the part time Translation Coordinator for Lutheran Bible Translators, USA. He lived in Ghana for 10 years involved in Bible translation. He holds a PhD in Religion with a focus in Biblical Studies and liberation hermeneutics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2020). Esala is the author of Translation as Invasion in Post-colonial Northern Ghana, forthcoming SBL. Esala is the author of several articles.
Nathan Esala, “(Re-)translating gender: invasions, irruptions, and eruptions”
In 1981, during the fifth meeting of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) Marianne Katoppo spotlighted women’s marginalization in language about God, sparking what Mercy Oduyoye called “an irruption within the irruption” of Third World theology.
Forty years later in African Bible translation projects, the discussion of gender diverse ‘God language’ has reversed course. According to United Bible Societies senior translation consultant Aloo Mojola, the power dynamics among stakeholders in African Bible translation projects frequently result in ‘collective’ translation decisions that cover over gender diverse trajectories in African languages, cultures, and theologies, amping up patriarchal language in African Bibles, creating the appearance of patriarchal hegemony in the past and present.
How do circles of concerned women and men address religio-cultural ‘invasions’ of patriarchal language in entangled African theology and Bible translation? It is time to push Oduyoye’s observation further, to address the underlayers of African communities, the margins within the margins. Contextual Bible Study structures a process where socially engaged theologians and translators collaborate with marginalized groups and subgroups, facilitating processes of translating/interpretating so that small groups of women and men re-translate and re-interpret selected biblical texts from their own perspectives for the purpose of articulating their visions of liberation in their communities. From below their re-translations have the potential to ‘erupt’ along fault lines through layers of patriarchal (and hetero-patriarchal) rock that appear as hardened stone in some African Bibles, contesting the appearance of patriarchal (and hetero-patriarchal) hegemony in African Bibles, theologies, churches, and communities.