The Intercultural Hermeneutics of the Bible in Aotearoa-New Zealand

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 1165

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
School of Theology, Laidlaw College, Auckland 0650, New Zealand
Interests: biblical studies; bible translation; missions history; Māoritanga

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite you to contribute article on “Intercultural Hermeneutics of the Bible in Aotearoa-New Zealand”. The encounters between foreigners who brought the Bible and the Indigenous peoples of Aotearo-New Zealand, now known as Māori, and the subsequent effects of these encounters is a complex and contested area of thought and research.

This Special Issue aims to explore the intercultural encounters that began with those who brought the Bible and its message, and the Indigenous people of Aotearoa who not only received the Bible but themselves carried it to other Māori. The specific focus of this Special Issue is on the intercultural hermeneutics of these encounters. How was the message of the Bible communicated from one culture understood and appropriated by a vastly different culture? And how do those intercultural hermeneutics continue to work themselves out in the present? This subject aligns with the aims and scope of the Religions journal to provide “studies of religious thought and practice to promote critical, hermeneutical, historical, and constructive conversations.”

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Te reo Māori [Māori language] translation of the Bible, examining past and/or contemporary issues.
  • Intertextual patterns of divergence and correspondence between the contextualized European Christianity of the missionaries and Te Ao Māori [Māori world/worldview].
  • Distinctive Māori approaches to Te Paipera Tapu [the Bible] past and/or contemporary.
  • The role of the Bible and Christianity in Te Tiriti Waitangi [the Treaty of Wiatangi] in understanding Māori and Pākeha.

Any article may include several of these research areas and/or others. We request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 200–300 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send it to the Guest Editor ([email protected]) or the Assistant Editor of Religions ([email protected]). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editors to ensure proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer review.

Deadline for abstract submission: 8 April 2024

Deadline for full manuscript submission: 30 June 2024

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. John Hans de Jong
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Aotearoa-New Zealand
  • Māori
  • Christianity
  • Bible
  • colonialism
  • missonaries
  • ātua

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Research

22 pages, 359 KiB  
Article
Nephilim in Aotearoa New Zealand: Reading Māori Narratives of Tāwhaki with Gen 6:1–4’s Ancient Divine Heroes
by Deane Galbraith
Religions 2024, 15(5), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050568 - 30 Apr 2024
Viewed by 850
Abstract
The 2023 Bible Society New Zealand’s translation of sample biblical passages into the Māori language, He Tīmatanga, caused controversy by incorporating names of Māori gods. Those who objected typically assumed inconsistency with the Bible’s purported monotheism. But ‘monotheism’, in the sense that [...] Read more.
The 2023 Bible Society New Zealand’s translation of sample biblical passages into the Māori language, He Tīmatanga, caused controversy by incorporating names of Māori gods. Those who objected typically assumed inconsistency with the Bible’s purported monotheism. But ‘monotheism’, in the sense that only one god exists, is not present in the Bible. Moreover, missionary adherence to monotheism in the mid-nineteenth century widely assumed a ‘degeneration model’ that also promoted European religious, moral, and cultural superiority. This article adopts a hermeneutical strategy to counter monotheistic misreadings of the Bible, and their racist effects, by reading Māori stories of the ancient divine hero Tāwhaki alongside the ancient divine heroes who feature in Gen 6:1–4’s account of the Nephilim. First, the comparison provides resources for the translation of Gen 6:1–4 into the Māori language and worldview. Second, the Tāwhaki narratives stimulate a reappraisal of longstanding problems in the interpretation of Gen 6:1–4, especially the meaning of the phrase “the sons of the gods”. Supported by analysis also of the Sumerian King List, this article argues that all three major interpretations of “the sons of the gods” are fundamentally consistent: they are gods, elite human rulers, and also Sethites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Intercultural Hermeneutics of the Bible in Aotearoa-New Zealand)

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Nephilim in Aotearoa New Zealand: Reading Māori narratives of Tāwhaki with Gen 6:1–4’s ancient divine heroes

Abstract: The 2023 Bible Society New Zealand translation of sample biblical passages into the Māori language, He Tīmatanga, caused controversy by incorporating names of Māori gods. Those who objected typically assumed inconsistency with the Bible’s purported monotheism. But ‘monotheism,’ in the sense that only one god exists, is not present in the Bible. Moreover, missionary adherence to monotheism in the mid-nineteenth century widely assumed a ‘degeneration model’ that promoted European religious, moral and cultural superiority. This article adopts a hermeneutical strategy to counter monotheistic misreadings of the Bible, and their racist effects, by reading Māori stories of the ancient divine hero Tāwhaki alongside the ancient divine heroes who feature in Gen 6:1–4’s account of the Nephilim. First, the comparison provides resources for translation of Gen 6:1–4 into the Māori language and worldview. Second, the Tāwhaki narratives stimulate a reappraisal of longstanding problems in the interpretation of Gen 6:1–4, especially the meaning of the phrase “the sons of the gods.” Supported by analysis also of the Sumerian King List, the article argues all three major interpretations of “the sons of the gods” are fundamentally consistent: they are gods, elite human rulers, and also Sethites.

Title: Responses to New Māori Scripture Translations in He Tīmatanga

Abstract: Since 2008 Bible Society New Zealand has been supporting a venture to re-translate the Bible into te reo Māori (the Māori language). The publication of ten portions of Scripture in He Tīmatanga in 2023 represented a third attempt to engage Māori Christians in the process and receive feedback on translation samples. This article presents the key issues broached by an online survey and the feedback we received on these issues. Overall, the idea of a new Māori Bible translation seemed to be received positively; readers found the new translation samples easier to read and understand than they do the current Paipera Tapu. Some aspects of the translations proved controversial, particularly the use of names of traditional Māori gods (atua) in the Genesis creation account. Each question in the online survey is presented, along with the feedback received. Feedback received through other means is incorporated with the survey responses, where possible. The article concludes with a reflection on the process so far, and the author’s recommendations about next steps for the translation project.

Title: The Māori and Ancient Near Eastern Pantheons in the Context of Genesis 1 in the Māori Language

Abstract: The recent test translation of Te Paipera Tapu (the Bible in the Māori language) has aroused considerable debate for its use in Genesis 1 of the names of atua Māori (Māori divine beings). These names of atua have been used instead of names of features of the natural world, which stands in contrast to the use of other kupu Māori (Māori words) in the earlier translation and its revisions. In this paper, I outline relevant members of the Māori pantheon and of some ancient Near Eastern pantheons, which are not identical. I then discuss the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 in its ancient literary context, making proposals about the use of the names of atua Māori in translations.

Title: A Historical-Contextual Analysis of the Use of “Tapu”, “Utu” and “Muru” in the Māori New Testament and Book of Common Prayer

Abstract: In 1840, a Māori tohunga (priest or customary expert) remarked to William Williams – a missionary translator of the New Testament – that the Lord’s Prayer had now been included in his karakia (ritual prayers). Such a remark indicates the challenges of interpreting across cultural divides in such a way that the target language fixes the meaning of the source text. Existing cultural practices are then a wider context in which the text must find a ‘home’, or new religious practices must be created. Building on Lamin Sanneh’s insights on the effects of biblical translations in missional contexts, this essay examines how the translation process in Niu Tireni (or Aotearoa New Zealand) in the 1830s, contextualized or indigenized Christian concepts of the sacred/holy (tapu), the price (utu) paid by Christ for the sin of the world, and God’s forgiveness (muru) due to that sacrifice/ utu – that is, Christian scripture was changed, or acquired new cultural referents, through translation. On the Māori side of the translation process, the result of reapplying fundamental Māori concepts to Christian narratives and theological categories was to re-map the Māori mental universe – so that it, also, was not the same as it was before the translation came into being. Through translating the scriptures into the indigenous tongue (ka whakamāoritia), they had become a Māori (native/indigenous) possession. In so doing, however, the original cultural framework had flexed towards – if not become drastically reformed by – a biblical understanding of sacred and redemptive time and the actions of a monotheistic creator acting within human history but neither identical with that history nor with creation itself – which, in Māori cosmology, was animated by atua or spirits. Nevertheless, as with the Māori tribal expert (tohunga) in 1840, we are also presented with a picture of intersecting but not always corresponding meanings as the result of cross-cultural translation – with creative misunderstandings or a ‘middle ground’ of multiple meanings being one of the inevitable results.

Title: Why 'Te Atua' is an Unsatisfactory Māori Translation for the God of the Bible

Abstract: The usage of the term 'Te Atua' for the God of the Bible within Māori contexts has been largely accepted and unchallenged, yet its appropriateness is questionable due to its colonial origins and misalignment with Māori epistemologies. This paper explores the disqualification of 'Te Atua' as a Māori term for God through historical analysis and Māori scholarly perspectives. A Kaupapa Māori research rubric is applied, which aligns to four statements: The concept: 1. is related to being Māori; 2. is connected to Māori philosophy and principles; 3. takes for granted the validity and legitimacy of Māori, the importance of Māori language and culture; and 4. is concerned with the struggle for autonomy over our own [Māori] cultural well-being. This paper argues that the term 'Te Atua' fails to meet these criteria. Additionally, the association of the atua word with lower-tiered 'gods' in Māori cosmology contradicts its application to the Christian God. In accordance with Māori epistemologies we can discern alternative terms for the blanket term ‘God’ that resonate with whakaaro Māori [Māori worldview]. Alternatively, although arduous, original biblical names for God could be translated into reo Māori [Māori language] to better reflect a Māori worldview while maintaining the hermeneutical integrity of the biblical texts and mātauranga Māori [Māori epistemology] simultaneously. This paper advocates for the re-indigenizing of the reo Māori bible to make it relevant to an increasingly non-Christian Māori audience and calls for a reimagining of Christianity that is authentically Māori.

Title: Whanaungatanga and the Bible: A Māori Exploration of Kinship Narratives in the Bible

Abstract: The overarching principle which drives all of life in the Māori world is relationality, referred to in Māori language as whanaungatanga. This is the word from which ‘whanau’ (family) is derived, and is the principle in which all Māori beliefs, society, and life in the wider sense is grounded. Whanaungatanga is deeply ingrained in the Māori world, and shapes the values, beliefs, and social structures that are the foundation of Māori society. For Māori, personhood is constructed through connections between the individual and others, including living relations, and ancestors who have passed on. At its simplest, whanaungatanga means relationship, kinship, or connection. It pertains to the way that experiences are shared, and work is done together to provide all members of the community with a sense of belonging, and to affirm Māori belief and practice as right, and normal. The Māori world draws on whanaungatanga in order to create social cohesion, reciprocal support, and meaningful relationships within Māori communities, strengthening collective identity, and consequently, the individual. It is this relational ideology that forms the basis of Māori life. This provides a unique indigenous framework for exploring the rich implications that whanaungatanga has for biblical interpretation, and for how we understand community theologically. By examining a deeper understanding and appreciation for whanaungatanga, and the interconnected dimensions of relationship and kinship in Māori culture, this paper seeks to shed light on the theological significance of whanaungatanga and its relationship to kinship narratives in the bible. Whanaungatanga can make an important contribution to biblical theology, and can inform and enrich discussions on community within theological frameworks.

Title: Authenticity and Divine Accommodation in a 19th Century Māori Context

Abstract: How did early 19th Century Māori ancestors consider the authenticity of the Gospel narrative based on their own traditional worldview context? British culture and colonial-isms were conveyed in the teaching and expression of the Gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand by the early missionaries. Yet, in spite of this, core themes and metaphoric images generated from within the Old Testament and the Gospel narratives themselves encouraged Māori to draw upon their own oral mythic perceptions of the world with its own messages, metaphors and supernatural realities to authenticate the relevance of the Gospel in their own world. Part of this exploration seeks to understand the place of divine accommodation – where God intervenes into human culture, time and space to make himself known – in the collision of the Gospel and Māori cosmologies. A study of the Gospel narrative and Māori tribal cosmologies and beliefs held by 19th century Rangatira (chiefs), reveals an overlapping of realities where divine accommodation can be imagined and authentication of the validity of the Gospel is revealed.

Title: Rangi or Rangi-nui? Shén (神) or Shàngdì (上帝)? Examining the translation issues from new Māori Bible translations in He Tīmatanga in conversation with the 1919 Mandarin Chinese Union Version (和合本)

Abstract: In March 2023, the Bible Society of New Zealand (BSNZ) invited feedback on 10 new translations of biblical passages into te reo Māori (the Māori language). While the majority of feedback centred around the controversial inclusion of names of atua Māori (Māori gods) in Genesis 1–11, the publishers had also sought feedback on a range of other questions. During the mid-to-late nineteenth century, Bible translators in China were also engaged in similarly spirited debates regarding the “Term Question” and other linguistic and theological issues ahead of producing the 1919 Chinese Union Version of the Bible. Accordingly, this paper seeks to present some of the arguments and decisions made by Chinese Bible translations concerning the six main areas BSNZ sought feedback about in its 2023 survey: 1) whether individual dialects ought to be presented; 2) the appropriate way to render the divine name יהוה‎ (YHWH); 3) the use of indigenous deities in Genesis 1–11 or elsewhere in the Bible; 4) whether a formal or dynamic equivalent translation philosophy was preferable; 5) the use of footnotes; and 6) other feedback and desires from readers regarding a new translation. It is hoped this past appraisal of Chinese Bible translation debates will better inform the choices made for future translations of the Māori Bible and other literacy and engagement projects.

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