Following the union of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (PCSA) and Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (RPCSA) to form the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) in 1999, it was necessary to consolidate theological education of a united church. This was a wise and bold decision by UPCSA, as a first attempt to integrate the training of both black and white students, but more importantly to give institutional expression to the advancement of unity. University of Pretoria (UP) became a major training centre of the UPCSA. Collaboration in ministerial formation between UPCSA and UP, its partner institution, has been plagued by manifold challenges. The challenges which will come under the spotlight are ecumenism, relationship between the university and the UPCSA, curriculum and spirituality.
This contribution is part of a series on Methodology and Biblical Spirituality. In this, the fourth contribution, the scope is widened; more practical-analytically oriented, three thoroughly different but nevertheless all unusual kinds of interpretations of the Bible are described, characterised and contextualised. Namely:
• In order to explain what are perceived as textual anomalies, some Old Testament authors have been described by US-based medical practitioners as having suffered psychiatric dysfunctions.
• The Garden of Eden from Genesis 2 and further has been located by a recently diseased Nigerian scholar as having been in her home country, with a Nigerian race having been the predecessors of biblical Adam and Eve.
• Rastafarians, primarily Jamaica-based, regard marijuana as a holy herb and find direct support for their religious use of this plant in the Bible.
However strange such ‘mystifying’ interpretations may seem within the theological mainstreams of Judeo-Christianity, there is more to these kinds of interpretations than simple whim. Certain cultural conditions along with personal, particularly spiritual, commitments enable these interpretations, which must be taken seriously in order to come to a fuller understanding of the text–interpreter dynamic. These then can cast at least some form of reflective light on the more usual current biblical-interpretative mainstreams within Judeo-Christianity, posing in a new light the question of what constitutes legitimate interpretations, also within mainstream interpretations, as religiously inclined people try to live their lives in the light of Scripture.