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Acta Theologica

On-line version ISSN 2309-9089
Print version ISSN 1015-8758

Acta theol. vol.29  suppl.12 Bloemfontein  2009

 

"By patience, labour and prayer. The voice of the Unseen God in the language of the Bechuana nation." A reflection on the history of Robert Moffat's Setswana Bible (1857)

 

 

J.J. Lubbe

Research Fellow in the Department of Church History, University of the Free State

 

 


ABSTRACT

The translation of the Bible into Setswana by Robert Moffat in 1857 was the first in an African language in sub-Sahara Africa and also the first Bible to be printed here - at the mission station at Kuruman, 150 years ago. This Bible translation had an enormous influence, reaching the Batswana people in different countries in Southern Africa and is still held in high esteem by them. The question should be asked why? What made Moffat's Setswana Bible so popular? The relevant primary sources - collected and studied as the focus of this article - suggest that it might have been the daily life and work of this missionary and his wife for nearly half a century amongst the Batswana. Robert and Mary Moffat convinced "the Bechuana nation" to accept and read the Gospel in their own language, by living "the voice of the Unseen God".

Keywords: Setswana Bible, Robert Moffat, Kuruman


Trefwoorde: Setswana Bybel, Robert Moffat, Kuruman


 

 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bible Society of Southern Africa 1989. The history of the Setswana Bible. Roggebaai: BSSA.         [ Links ]

Bradlow, F.R. 1987. Printing for Africa. The story of Robert Moffat and the Kuruman press. Kuruman: Moffat Mission Trust.         [ Links ]

Butler, A. s.a. Kuruman Moffat Sending. Historiese oorsig. Kuruman: Moffat Sending Trust.         [ Links ]

Butler, A. 1999. Kuruman: The work of the LMS in Bechuanaland. In: S. de Gruchy (ed.), Forty days in the desert. Biblical meditations from Moffat Mission on the edge of the Kalahari (Gaborone: Pula Press), pp. 38-48.         [ Links ]

Campbell, J. 1815. Travels in South Africa. Undertaken at the request of the Missionary Society. London: Black and Parry.         [ Links ]

Dachs, A.J. (Ed.) 1975. Papers of John MacKenzie. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.         [ Links ]

Davenport, T.R.H. 1991. South Africa: A modern history. London: Macmillan.         [ Links ]

De Gruchy, S. (Ed.) 1999. Forty days in the desert. Biblical meditations from Moffat Mission on the edge of the Kalahari. Gaborone: Pula Press.         [ Links ]

De Gruchy, S. 2002. Dissenting Calvinism. Reflections on the congregational witness in South Africa as part of the wider Reformed tradition. In: P. Coertzen (ed.), 350 Years Reformed (1652-2002) (Bloemfontein: CLF), pp. 67-177.         [ Links ]

Dickson, M. 1989. Beloved partner. Mary Moffat of Kuruman. A biography based on her letters. Kuruman: Moffat Mission Trust.         [ Links ]

Moffat, J.S. 1885. The lives of Robert & Mary Moffat. With portraits and maps. London: T. Fischer Unwin.         [ Links ]

Moffat, R. 1826. A Bechuana Catechism with translations of The Third Chapter of the Gospel by John, The Lord's Prayer, and other passages of Scripture, etc. Holborn: J. Deonett. A copy preserved in the Africana Library, McGregor Museum, Kimberley.         [ Links ]

Moffat, R. 1842. Missionary labours and scenes in Southern Africa. London: John Snow.         [ Links ]

Moffat, R. 1857. Bibela ea Boitsepho. London: LMS.         [ Links ]

Northcott, C. 1961. Robert Moffat: Pioneer in Africa 1817-1870. London: Butterworth Press.         [ Links ]

Sillery, A. 1976. Robert Moffat. In: W.J. de Kock (ed.), Suid-Afrikaanse Biografiese Woordeboek I (Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers), pp. 571 -575.         [ Links ]

Smit, A.P. 1966. Wateroog in die Dorsland. Ned. Geref. Kerk Kuruman 1916-1966. Kuruman: Kerkraad van die NG Kerk.         [ Links ]

West, G. 2009. The beginning of an African biblical interpretation: the Bible among the Bathlaping. Acta theologica Supplementum 2, pp. 33-47.         [ Links ]

 

 

1 Paper presented at a Theological Conference, "Is the Bible still relevant for the Southern African Society", at the Bible Society of South Africa, Bloemfontein, 26 October 2007.

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