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Written On Our Hearts: Tswana Christians and the 'Word of God' in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

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The adoption of Christianity by Tswana people in southern Africa during the nineteenth century generally involved being inspired in some way by stories and ideas presented in the Bible, but the role of Christian scripture varied according to local and personal circumstances. Although European missionaries introduced Christianity to the Tswana, they had little control over the different ways that early Tswana converts perceived, adapted and proclaimed the new teaching. This was particularly true among western and northern Tswana in the mid-nineteenth century before the extension of colonial rule into the interior, as many Tswana communities remained largely intact and were able to accommodate Christianity on their own terms. Rather than being simply a European-made tool, the 'lefoko la Modimo' (word of God) was also an expression of Tswana beliefs and aspirations, composed not on passive objects of missionary evangelism, colonial rule or scholarly inquiry 'but on tablets of human hearts'.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Seitz House, Kenyon College, 104 Wiggin St., Gambier, OH 43022, USA

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