There once was a final year student at a theological college in the West African sub-region. The student needed to take and pass one final course in the Spiritual Formation disciplines at the college’s undergraduate program. The task specified in the course description required the student to write a personal reflection paper that accounts for the life and ministry of “Holy” James Johnson’ (c. 1836–1917). The paper was to account for how Johnson’s resilience and faith not only motivated him to use his new-found freedom from slavery and access to western education he had received in Sierra Leone to engage in missionary expeditions with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in West Africa but laid the early foundations of the grassroots contributions to Christian theologizing that would later become part of the concerns addressed by the study of African Theology. Given that the local library at the college where the student was enrolled was rather ill equipped, the student contacted via WhatsApp a cousin who was studying history and political science at the main university in the capital, asking for any help there was regarding the assignment.
While doing research on Ethiopian Hermeneutics for the Biblical Hermeneutics encyclopaedia article, I came across a number of websites with valuable primary and secondary resources. Recent interest in the digital preservation of Ethiopian manuscripts has led to copies of paintings that were previously inaccessible being made publicly available for the first time.
Gerald West's account of African biblical interpretation suggests that how one reads the Bible is ultimately the result of one's 'ideo-theological orientation'. Does this mean that one's hermeneutical approach is merely a matter of personal choice? In this reflection I introduce two principles that are helpful when considering this question.