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Prediction and Power: Prophets and Prophecy in the Old Testament and Zimbabwean Christianity

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AbstractThe prominence of prophets such as TB Joshua of Nigeria and Immanuel Makandiwa of Zimbabwe has triggered debates on the nature of prophets and prophecy. Through a socio-historical and reception historical analysis, this article contends that there are two major characteristics of prophets, that is, the ability to make accurate predictions and the ability to confound nature and normalcy by manifesting unrivalled power through healing and other activities. These characteristics are observable in the activities of Zimbabwean prophets both pioneers such as Masowe, Marange, Mutendi and contemporary ones like Makandiwa. It is also noted that the narratives of Old Testament prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha, are used by contemporary prophets to confirm that their own ‘signs and deeds’ are in line with those of the great prophets of God. The extraordinary abilities of these prophets are seen as proof of their being divinely chosen, hence the multitude of followers who are in need of their ‘signs and wonders’.

1. FN11 Lovemore Togarasei, ‘Churches for the Rich? Pentecostalism and Elitism’, in: L. Togarasei and E. Chitando (eds.), Faith in the City: The Role and Place of Religion in Harare, Uppsala: Universitetstryckeriet 2010, 33-34.
2. FN22 Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, ‘A Critical Analysis of the Survival and Relevance of Post-Colonial African Initiated (Apostolic) Churches, in: L. Togarasei and E. Chitando (eds.), Faith in the City: The Role and Place of Religion in Harare, Uppsala: Universitetstryckeriet 2010, 48.
3. FN33 Allan Anderson, African Reformation: African Initiated Christianity in the 20th Century, Asmara: Africa World Press, Inc. 2001, 33.
4. FN44 Loveness Mabhunu, ‘Revolting against the Biblical and Traditional Stereotypes of Women? Women Prophets in African Initiated Churches’, in: L. Togarasei and E. Chitando (eds.), Faith in the City: The Role and Place of Religion in Harare, Uppsala: Universitetstryckeriet, 2010, 65.
5. FN55 David Maxwell, ‘The Durawall of Faith: Pentecostal Spirituality in Neo-Liberal Zimbabwe’, Journal of Religion in Africa 35/1 (2005), 5. See also Allan Anderson, ‘New African Initiated Pentecostalism and Charismatics in South Africa’, Journal of Religion in Africa 35/1 (2005), 68.
6. FN66 Cf. Timothy Beal, ‘Reception History and Beyond: Towards a Cultural History of Scriptures’, Biblical Interpretation 19 (2011), 359.
7. FN77 John Mbiti, Bible and Theology in African Christianity, Nairobi: Oxford University Press 1986, 26.
8. FN88 See M.F.C. Bourdillon, The Shona Peoples: An Ethnography of the Contemporary Shona, with special reference to their Religion, Gweru: Mambo Press 1987. See also, Michael Gelfand, The Genuine Shona: Survival Values of an African Culture, Gweru: Mambo Press 1973.
9. FN99 Cf. Masiiwa R. Gunda, ‘Christianity, Traditional Religion and Healing in Zimbabwe: Exploring the Dimensions and Dynamics of Healing among the Shona’, Swedish Missiological Themes, 95/3 (2007), 232.
10. FN1010 Cf. Chengetai J.M. Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe 1890-1939, Gweru: Mambo Press 1996.
11. FN1111 Cf. Gunda, ‘Christianity, Traditional Religion and Healing in Zimbabwe’, 230.
12. FN1212 Gunda, ‘Christianity, Traditional Religion and Healing in Zimbabwe’, 239.
13. FN1313 The idea of calling the pre-colonial history of Zimbabwe as classical was suggested to me by Dr. Vimbai Chivaura, a Pan-African University of Zimbabwe lecturer in the Department of English. While it is in its formative stages, this is an interesting way of referring to that era of unadulterated Shona identity, when adoptions and adaptations were based on mutual sharing and willing movement to enrich that which they had. Even after colonialism, many people have always yearned for a return to this era.
14. FN1414 Christian G. Bäeta, Prophetism in Ghana, London: SCM 1962, 6.
15. FN1515 Crispen C.G. Mazobere, ‘Christian Theology of Mission’, in: Canaan S. Banana (ed.), A Century of Methodism in Zimbabwe 1891-1991, Harare: The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe 1991, 171. See also Canaan S. Banana, ‘The Case for a New Bible’, in: I. Mukonyora et al. (eds.), “Rewriting” the Bible: The Real Issues, Gweru: Mambo Press 1993, 29.
16. FN1616 Discussion with Munetsi Ruzivo, a Christian historian lecturing at the University of Zimbabwe in the context of the multiple followers of Johane Masowe.
17. FN1717 Bäeta, 6. See also Bengt G.M. Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1961.
18. FN1818 Cf. Clive M. Dillon-Malone SJ, The Korsten Basketmakers: A Study of the Masowe Apostles, an Indigenous African Religious Movement, Manchester: Manchester University Press 1978. See also David Bishau, Reign with him for Thousand Years (Rev 20: 6): A Socio-Hermeneutical Exposition of Biblical and Contemporary Millenarian Movements in Zimbabwe as Radical Responses to Deprivation, Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press 2010, 432.
19. FN1919 M.F.C. Bourdillon, The Shona Peoples: Gweru, Mambo Press 1987, 298.
20. FN2020 Canaan S. Banana, Politics of Repression and Resistance: Face to Face with Combat Theology, Gweru: Mambo Press 1996, 147, 151.
21. FN2121 Anderson, African Reformation, 35.
22. FN2222 Anderson, African Reformation, 36.
23. FN2323 Maxwell, 5.
24. FN2424 J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, ‘Christ is the Answer: What is the Question? A Ghana Airways Prayer Vigil and its Implications for Religion, Evil and Public Space’, Journal of Religion in Africa 35/1 (2005), 95.
25. FN2525 Mabhunu, 73.
26. FN2626 Gunda, ‘Christianity, Traditional Religion and Healing in Zimbabwe’, 243.
27. FN2727 Benjamin C. Ray, African Religions: Symbol, Ritual and Community, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall 2000, 76.
28. FN2828 Paul Gifford, Christianity, Politics and Public Life in Kenya, London: Hurst & Company 2009, 93.
29. FN2929 Immanuel Makandiwa, ‘Prophet Makandiwa — Possessing The Promises — The Promise Killers’, sermon in Shona, website You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j94SLpRwR5Q&feature=related, accessed 28 November 2011.
30. FN3030 Maxwell, 15.
31. FN3131 Asamoah-Gyadu, 99-100.
32. FN3232 Immanuel Makandiwa, ‘Prophet Makandiwa — Possessing The Promises — Breaking The Covenants’, sermon in Shona, website You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wcJbifmgew&feature=related, accessed 29 November 2011.
33. FN3333 Tavonga Vutabwashe, ‘Rev Vutabwashe video The name Jesus Part 3’, sermon ‘The Name Jesus’, 1 July 2009, website You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guhP8aCeamk&NR=1, accessed 29 November 2011.
34. FN3434 Vutabwashe, ‘The Name Jesus’.
35. FN3535 Mabhunu, 70.
36. FN3636 Anderson, African Reformation, 17-8.
37. FN3737 Cf. Mabhunu, 70.
38. FN3838 The designations pre-classical, pre-canonical or non-writing are used to refer to Israelite prophets whose exploits and activities are only narrated in the books that narrate other major Israelite narratives. For example, Abraham, Moses, Balaam, Miriam, Aaron are labeled prophets in the early Israelite history in the Pentateuch. Samuel, Ahijah of Shiloh, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha are also labeled prophets and their activities re-told only as they interacted with the kings of their time. The prophets are not the subjects of the narratives; they are part of the narrative though. These are differentiated from prophets such as Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah and others who have whole books ascribed to an individual prophet. Even though it is clear such prophets may not have solely written the said books, at least they and their activities are the main subjects of the books that bear their names.
39. FN3939 Immanuel Makandiwa, ‘The Mark of Blessing’, sermon in Shona, website You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4Y7P8NAPEw&feature=related, accessed 28 November 2011.
40. FN4040 John J. Schmitt, ‘Preexilic Hebrew Prophecy’, in: D.N. Freedman et al. (eds.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 5, New York: Doubleday 1992, 482.
41. FN4141 Makandiwa, “2011 Prophecies and Declarations”, available online http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WugrxTMZXWA, accessed on 28 November 2011.
42. FN4242 I.M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession, London: Routledge 2003, 15.
43. FN4343 Asamoah-Gyadu, 95.
44. FN4444 Asamoah-Gyadu, 99-100.
45. FN4545 Joerg Rieger, Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times, Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2007, 209.
46. FN4646 Schmitt, 483.
47. FN4747 Lewis, 15.
48. FN4848 Schmitt, 483.
49. FN4949 Gunda, ‘A Critical Analysis of the Survival’, 41.
50. FN5050 Maxwell, 20.
51. FN5151 Gunda, ‘Christianity, Traditional Religion and Healing in Zimbabwe’, 233-234.
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/content/journals/10.1163/1572543x-12341237
2012-01-01
2016-02-11

Affiliations: 1: New Testament Sciences, University of Bamberg Germany, Email: mrgunda2002@yahoo.co.uk, URL: http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink

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