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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versão On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versão impressa ISSN 1017-0499


MOTHOAGAE, Itumeleng Daniel. The gendered God in the Setswana Bible and the captivity of Modimo: Moffat and the translating of the Bible into Setswana. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.2, pp.149-168. ISSN 2412-4265.

The historiography of Christianity among the Batswana is incomplete without the missionary, Robert Moffat. This is because he is regarded as one of the pioneers of missionary activity in South Africa, particularly among the Batswana. He was the first missionary to translate the Bible into Setswana, first the New Testament in 1840, and finally, translating both the Oid and New Testaments in 1857. Batswana intellectuals referred to the Bible as the English-Tswana Bible. It is in this translated Bible that 1 would argue that the Christian gendered God replaces the gender-neutral Modimo wa Batswana. Furthermore, the 1857 Bible forms the basis for later translation of the Bible into other versions, such as the 1908 Setswana Bible by AJ Wookey. The translation process, I would argue, was an attempt by the translators to shackle Tswana Modimo and to demonise Badimo. The attitude, worldview and presuppositions of Moffat cannot be separated from the written translated text, the results of which were the subsequent versions from Wookey and Cole. Such an attitude is illustrated in the following manner: These missionaries went to the country of the Bechuanas, in South Africa. It was a hot and thirsty country, and the people were dark-looking, and wild, and filthy, and savage.1 It is the intention of this article to argue that the early stages of Christianity among the Batswana were based on the assumption that they had no idea of God (Modimo). The missionary activity was a total replacement of what they understood Modimo to be. Modimo was perceived to be an un-saving, lacking the characteristics of a Christian (gendered) God. The article will focus on the writings of Robert Moffat and Mahoko a Bechuana2. I will further argue that in his attempt of translating the Bibie into Setswana Moffat can be elucidated by considering literal translation theory.3 According to the translation theory the translators) should meet three important requirements; namely, the source language, the target language, and the subject matter. The decoloniality theory postulates the dismantlingof relations of power and conceptions of nowledge that foment the reproduction of racial, gender, and geo-political hierarchies. Both these theories will be used as the theoretical framework. Conclusions and challenges will be suggested.

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