The Concept, Theory And Methodology Of Contextualisation.

3.1 What is contextualisation?

Contextualisation is a theory and a practice of faith within a living community. There must be a life situation and people who are conscious that they are experiencing that life, in order that a contextual praxis can be consciously done. If people are not aware of how life goes on around them, they became the unfortunate victims of the situation. The events of life including church or faith life overtake them and they are reduced to tokens in a chessboard. When they are aware and they are involved in the situation in which they live, they are better prepared to do contextualisation. Then they become catalysts of event around them. They make them, they control them, and they direct them. If not, it becomes the duty of contextualisation to conscientise the people. Conscientisation refers to making people aware of their situation with the aim of igniting them with empowerment and transformation to take charge of their own lives.

The root from which the word contextualisation comes is shedding light on what it means. The word context, from which ‘contextualisation’ is derived comes from the Latin root ‘contextus’, which means, weaving together. The light which is shed shines clearly when one realises that contextualisation has to do with the whole of a given context woven together. In single context are many people, experiences, regulations, institutions, sub-cultures, ideas, and things. All the uncountable components of a context have roles they play in shaping people, society, trends, history, culture, and ideas. Contextualisation looks at all that and brings out reasons and meanings for problems and answers. This is applicable to faith life and any other discipline of life.

Imagine how much the Bible can be revealed if we have the skill of contextualisation which opens up the situation we are studying and how much the Bible can speak to us more directly if we can have the skill of social analysis which opens up a social context for us to see what is happening inside there. Contextualisation therefore is a
skill of getting into a socio-cultural situation, analyse it and begin to see and understand what is happening inside there.

Contextualisation is interaction with the situation. Imagine a piece of woven material; a cloth exemplifying a context. The piece of cloth itself is made of many threads. When tailors for instance see it, they may start imagining all patterns of garments they can make with the material. A puppy may see a cloth to play with. The point, which is made here, is that, when you touch the cloth you become engaged to in one way or the other. Therefore, the meaning we get there is that, contextualisation is engagement and interaction with the situation. Your personal and community perceptions, your interests and what you want to do with the context will determine your manner of engagement with it. Call it the puppy and cloth approach or the tailor and cloth approach.

Seeing that humans are naturally born into given contexts, none of us is a-contextual (out of context/ context free). Some people choose not to be involved in issues that affect their lives for various reasons. Some people are very much involved. Those that are involved are contextualising. Those who are not are a contextualising and yet they form part of the whole context unfortunately. Contextualisation allows no neutrality[1]. A person may choose to be callous, but is part of a context and callousness is not neutrality. It is a position a person is taking.

Besides that, a contextual situation in a narrow sense can be one’s personal life. That one persons’ life is composed of its physical, intellectual, emotional, social and political experiences. Everyday, a person has to make decisions based on one’s personal disposition, always within time, space and distance. When those personal decisions are made within the very matrix of self, and if the decisions are made consciously, that person will realise that choices are being made contextually.

Making choices denotes that some analysis was done and in that process though it may be so swift, a personal contextualisation or personal engagement with one’s
personal situation has been made. That is why finally, no one can escape the process of contextualisation. But, you have to be aware of the process so that you are empowered to direct it and to control it. Otherwise you are not contextualising.

For Christians and other believers, this process of contextualisation does not leave out your spiritual, or Biblical, or theological life. Actually, the method of contextualisation proper does not encourage individual reflections. When we come to deal with the method proper, you will realise that contextualisation is better done as a group effort. Your spiritual life has to do with the religious experiences; it includes your devotional life, how you relate to the material world, how you relate to people in general and how you express yourself both in public and in private.

According to Gehman:

Contextualisation is the capacity to respond Meaningfully to the gospel within the framework of Ones own situation (quoted in ICT brochure 1987).

In this definition, the interaction is between the gospel, the situation and the respondent who is the person in the situation. The encounter with the gospel happens in the context of the respondent. The gospel comes in as an outside context which intrudes into the living situation of the respondent.

The prerogative is upon the respondent to react and respond meaningfully. The measure of how meaningful was the response depends on the criterion of the observer. In all cases where the criterion is set the respondent must be part of it. If not, the criterion will always tend to be condescending and arbitrary. The method of contextualisation encourages that all participants in all situations of contextualising be fully involved.

According to the Institute for Contextual Theology (ICT) brochure (1987):

Contextual Theory is the critical awareness of the Context out of which theology develops.

The term ‘critical awareness’ suggests conscientisation which also means’ exposure to the dynamics of your situation in such way that you shall be moved to do something like interacting intelligently, meaningfully, and consciously with your situation. A conscientised person will be aware that indeed theology develops out of ones context and that it is actually a result of conscious reflection.

Along with critical reflection is social analysis. The work of social analysis is to provide a broader picture by revealing minute and composite dynamics, which are hidden from a casual observation. Social analysis helps with the dismantling and disassembling of the minute components at play in your social context. The aim thereof is to show more clearly how society functions and as a result have a better picture of how theology develops out of that context.

Moreover, contextualisation is a way of answering questions about faith that arise out of the same context. Faith and religion are contextual. Religion is that phenomenon of life that is essentially concerned with questions about the future and the ultimate.

One of the most important tasks of theology is to clarify the meaning of statements made concerning faith. Since faith arises out of a situation, theology therefore takes serious cognisance of the situation and as a result cannot escape being situational. Situational theology in contextual theology.

3.2. A model of contextualisation

First and foremost, contextualisation takes life experiences into prime consideration. Contextualisation starts from what people have experienced and what they are experiencing. The immediate context takes the foreground and is always a source of reference right through the process of group discussion.

People gather to share their life experiences and their analysis of both the question and the situation under scrutiny. In this way, people are encouraged to take themselves seriously and to consider their own experiences very important.

This initial stage of introduction into contextualisation is very satisfying and is empowering people by affirming them in terms of taking their stories as an important source of a critical process such as this, which will give birth to transformative actions. Nothing is more satisfying than to discover that someone is listening to you with a purpose. Somehow you feel important. You feel like a person who is counted among others. You feel my story is taken serious.

As we said earlier in this book; contextualisation is a group effort. Contextualisation is a community exercise. This communal effort is meant to avoid and to overcome individualism. When people come together and all are encouraged and empowered to discover the power of their opinions and all opinions are taken seriously, the results of that exercise stands a chance of defeating individualism and coming up with a comprehensive opinion.

The problem with individualism is that it encourages unconnected opinions about the situation. The individuals’ opinion is always plagued by blind spots. Collective work reduces blind spots to the minimum. Individualism is prone to abuse by powerful opinion makers, experienced people and those who for some other reason are advanced than the rest.

Contextualisation as a method is committed to the liberation of people. It endeavours to liberate the subjected opinions and perceptions of those who not of their own making or own will have been silenced. Group interaction must be conducted in such a way that the participants have maximum participation. Initially, all the participants must tell their story. The rest of the group must listen attentively.

Further, contextualisation uses questions; asking of questions as an effective way of analysing and unearthing information Contextualisation is a critical theological enterprise. Criticality has to do with leaving no idea without being tested by questions. As many areas of the idea must be scrutinised through asking of questions. Criticality has to do with the opening up of the subject as a way of analysis i.e. breaking down the subject into pieces which compose it.

In that ways as the subject is subjected to more explanation and more clarifications, the more its nature and presuppositions are exposed, and the clearer the subject
becomes. People are taught and encouraged to ask a lot of questions when they contextualise.

Asking questions is helpful not only for gathering information, but for liberative purposes. In most cases people at grassroots are so silenced and it is as if they have no questions. They need something to empower them and to enable them to speak out and not to bottle up. It is also liberative to begin to ask your own questions and to begin to be free to challenge opinions you do not necessarily agree with.

Asking questions is libratory in the sense of giving one the freedom to expose one’s ignorance. The answers given in the group discussion become information that dispels ignorance. The discussion group is always there to help and suggest possible answers, and to keep on asking more and more questions.

Through asking questions, people are enabled to start grappling with the issues that concern them most. The issues may be concerning their faith and other matters of life. Especially when it comes to their faith, most believers find it appropriate to ask questions relating to other people other people either than themselves. Believers find it easier to study about the doubts of John the Baptist concerning the activities of Jesus while he himself is in jail. But, the very believers find it uncomfortable to ask their own doubts about Jesus or God when they themselves are bamboozled by the problems of the world.

Far from it, I do not instigate that people must now begin to doubt God. Contrary to the method of contextualisation; problems must not be imposed onto the context. The questions must be genuinely those that arise out of the context itself as real and pertinent issues and the discussion group is there to agree on what the real and pertinent issue are.

The point I am talking about is that people must be free to ask, to probe, and to disclose their own questions and doubts concerning everything in their context (faith, education, economics, etc.).

Human resources more especially, are very important to the method of contextualisation. Here, once more, contextualisation discourages an attitude of “knowing it all”. In humility, contextualisation accepts the fact that humans are frail, humans have limitations, humans need each other in life to rally together to enjoy life and to tackle the problems of life together. As such, if there are people who have the expertise we do not have, we consult them to come along us, come work with us as equal partners in the work of contextualisation.

The method of contextualisation teaches people that we are all experts in our own right; every person has something to teach and contribute to the group like no other. That makes all of us unique and important especially when our uniqueness is deliberately acknowledged.

In contextualisation, external human expertise is solicited when the discussion group has adequately exhausted the resources among themselves. Experts by virtue of training and qualification are not just called in when there is dire need to do so. These experts are called into a situation where they must find that people have done their part as far as it was possible. This encouraging to the people invited. They do not have to start sharing about things which the group bearing its capacity and available resources inside the group itself could have done.

Experts find it challenging and fulfilling to work with thinking and determined people. People who have prepared their questions, knowing what they need from the expert, being able to state their problem, confident of what they themselves have discovered on their own, and interacting with the freedom to expose their ignorance of the subject, and freely making their contribution without being the subject, and freely making their contribution without being intimidated. Empowered people are not intimidated, even by experts.

Beyond that, contextualisation encourages people to live as they believe. The method of contextualisation is incomplete as long as the discussion has not produced a practical programme. This is seen when contextualistaion emphasises that the right doctrine (orthodoxy) must be coupled with the right living (orthopaxis). This means, it
is not enough to believe the right doctrines which you do not put into practice. In contextualistaion believing is doing. Faith is proven by works (James 2:14-16).

Contextualisation advocates that Christian doctrines for example, such as belief in equality of all humans before God be practised in real life where people need opportunities, equal access to material resources, equal access to education opportunities, equal access to political power, and equal treatment in public and in private life.

Traditionally, the trend among believers was that they have nothing to do with the things of this world as if none of these things affect their spiritual lives. Somehow, the believers were abdicating their social responsibility in the care of economists and politicians who have done their work trying to redress the problems of the world.

Regrettably, should people of God have been involved the corruptions and the misgovernment we have seen in this world done in the name of God especially in some parts of the world, would have seen this world, would have been averted or relatively minimised, probably.

The opposite could have been the case as well seeing that faith, religion, church, is a corruptible institution like any other institution. These institutions, political, societal, religious; are all made and administered by fallible humans.

So, it does not help to say, I am not involved. Traditionally, lack of involvement on our sides as churches and believers was exacerbated by lack of tools of social analysis, lack of hearing the call to mission to the world by the very God and ignorance about the world and how society works that keeps us out of sight. In our ignorance we were disempowered.

3.3. What is social analysis?

Social analysis is the heart of contextualisation. Social analysis is like the essence of a human being. Social analysis is the soul[2] of contextualisation. The life contextualisation is social analysis. Social analysis is the blood and the breath contextualisation. The analogies mentioned here mean that the heart of contextualisation is social analysis. Contextualisation gets its inspiration from social analysis. To contextualise is to analyse for the purpose of transformative and developmental activities.

Social analysis is a method of opening up a social situation for one to see how society operates. It is a tool used to gain insight of the situation one is scrutinising. This scrutinisation is done mainly by a way of asking questions.

Thought provoking questions are popular when one is doing social analysis. Thought provoking questions ask why and how. These are questions that look for reasons and, methods and procedures of operations. One is best able to discern what is happening in a context when procedures and reasons are disclosed and unfolded. The unfolding situation is a process of revealing what is going on inside. Social analysis is about that process of careful unfolding of the situation.

When unfolding has been done, the weakness and strengths of social situation are deciphered. The analysts, bearing the issue they are investigating, are enabled to work intelligently and come up with the best possible results concerning the matter under investigation.

The issue under investigation can be anything; a question about something in the Bible; a challenge to policy; a discussion on any cultural tradition; concern for the state of education. What needs to be remembered is that, no one respecting the method of contextualisation must come and dictate and impose what felt needs or a burning issue which needs discussion must be. The context must set the agenda. The group must agree.

For example, at one stage in the history of South Africa, almost the whole national context was so politicised so much that it was virtually impossible except for the extremely naive that the contextual questions were introduced by the new democratic order, the context changed as well. The questions shifted from the political to the economic. For some people what bothered most was what they observed as the decline of the moral fabric. For some, the most pressing problem was how to educate people about the AIDS/HIV pandemic which was a problem then as it is during the writing of this book.

At some areas like in the region of KwaZulu-Natal and more specifically for the sake of clarification; in the lower South Coast areas of Port Shepstone, continued violence was one single hard pressing contextual problem. There is a person would expect concerns about violence to be discussed and analysed more than the other issues of life in the South Coast.

Social analysis can be defined as the effort to obtain a more complete picture of a social situation by exploring its historical and structural relationships. Social analysis serves as a tool that permits us to grasp the reality with which we are dealing (Henriot and Hollard in De Gruchy 1986: 88)

This implies that:

Social analysis examines causes, probes consequences, delineates linkages, and identifies actors. It helps make sense of experiences by putting them into a broader picture and drawing the connections between them (ibid).

Such analysis takes history seriously. History reveals the foundations on which present and prevailing problems are based. In history, are original reasons, motivations, aims, fears, and hopes which reveal the basis of the present concerns and much more than that; history tells how things developed, in what manner and why. Such information is indispensable for the analysis and understanding of the present situation.

Besides that, there is a future orientation in the very nature and reason for contextualisation. The exercise of contextualisation and social analysis in its nature as
liberative exercise wants to change the present situation and progress to a better future situation. It is therefore imperative for all contextualists and analysts to reconstruct the situation they have been analysing and propose the way to the future based on their findings and projections.

So, as a rule, there must always be a synthesis to each and every situation which has been analysed. Doing justice to the method of contextualisation means coming up with practical applications or projects of development as a result contextualisation and social analysis exercise.

The question of structural relations plays an important role in social analysis and contextualisation. Structural relations refer to connections between institutions such as government, church, schools, family structures, welfare, including entertainment, culture, interpersonal relations, and all formal and informal structured sectors of a social context. Looking at the society comprehensively to see how structures relate and affect each other is one of the eye opening exercises social analysts and contextualisation is all about.

Much more interesting and revealing is when you look at this social-contextual picture with the historical and prevailing dynamics in perspective. See if you can project what the future would possibly look like. See it in terms of the short term and long term projections; speculating what can possibly happen when other relations and direction of currents and trends may change; and, with that in picture speculate how the future will look like if you can make such and such deliberate interference.

When you do that, your analysis will be enriched with various possibilities of future arrangements, which is what we expect a contextualist and analyst to be able to do. If such projections are mastered, liberative and developmental programmes in education if you like, can be suggested with more meaning and possibility of success.

One more factor you need not miss is the opinion makers and influential actors in a social context. You find most of these from our national, regional and local political, business, academic, ecclesial and cultural leaders. Study what they say; to whom they say and why they say it; and how it affects who and why. These opinion makers
reveal factors of what is going on in society. Watch them as indicators as you analyse them.

Methodologies of social analysis as practical procedures of doing contextualisation.

Henriot and Hollard (1987) suggest that a method they term a ‘Pastoral circle’ which is, an unending continuous process in which there is; Insertion; Analysis; Theological reflection; and Pastoral planning of action.

Insertion is a step in which a contextualist becomes a member or becomes at one with the community one is analysing. Analysts are called upon to be incarnated into the community. To incarnate is to put on the whole context of the community. As is, this is a long process. Yet, in order to know it whenever it is practically possible it must be encouraged; i.e.; a long period of insertion. If not, looking at time constrains and financial limitations this can be bridged by doing contextualisation as a team of researchers and analysts as a necessary substitute to staying for a long time with the community. Once more, teachers are strategic. They are already inserted in the schools, churches and communities we seek to help.

Though, as a standing recommendation, to gain greater insight into the life context of the community the researchers must spend a reasonably long time with the community. Yet, to research as a group will be helpful and will be in line with the method of contextualisation; so that the potential blind spots and misunderstandings can be minimised and reduced through group observation and group analysis.

Just imagine going out as local church group to do research in a certain local situation or to a certain local group even within in your immediate community, with the aim of discovering the attitudes of people towards Jesus of faith or the Bible.

Compare the results of your enquiry with what you read from the Bible to be an attitude of a certain group of people of a certain community (in the Bible) towards Jesus e.g. the Pharisees. Consider the situations you are comparing.

Will this way of Bible study not bring new interests on issues of Bible and faith in the local congregation? Will this be not an innovation and incentive for believers to participate actively in church programmes? I am confident that people will have a new interest in this contextualised way of doing Bible study. In addition to just studying the Bible, participants get trained in doing research through this viable anthropological method of participant observation i.e. you and your group are observers, but you also participate in the life of the community you are observing.

Insertion therefore has to do with the putting on of the local context. Biblically speaking, it is like God in Christ in assuming the human flesh, becoming like humans, suffering like humans, putting on carnality (that is what is meant by the incarnation of Christ); being one with humans in feelings, passions, temptations, trials, and dying the real death; the death of the cross (Phil. 2: 1-11).

How much is life like a perpetual cross for the majority of people on earth? How much are leaders not like Jesus Christ? How much therefore is incompatibility between our cross (life) and our humanness (human experience of consciousness and ‘being’)? There is no match between humans as the crucified ones and life as a cross on which they are continually being crucified. There is too much pain on this cross. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us just like She empowered Jesus Christ.

Contextual analysis therefore must be done inside the community. Where possible, if not always, the community must have full participation in the whole process of contextualisation. Analysis must be done as objectively as it is humanly possible. Both the community and the contextual analysis must describe the facts of their findings before they can make any value judgements. It is only at the level of projects and programmes proposal where people may start making value judgements as an exercise of looking for methods and praxes that will ensure improved conditions.

It is worth mentioning this at this point that here is an immature place to start making such judgements. Yet, many contextual analysts start making judgements on the basis of a few facts. That is not helpful. It denies you the depth of thoroughgoing analysis you need. You may begin to describe the facts; look for more information; see the
areas you are not completely and sufficiently satisfied with; unearth as much facts as possible. Should there be some more crucial facts, which will make a difference and drastic changes in your possible conclusions go much deeper and spend a bit more time to inquire?

When you analyse, dissect society into its minute component parts. Separate each social entity from the individual child to mega commercial enterprises; think and imagine how each entity affects the whole; ask questions; ask question; ask questions (sic); find the reasons why society functions as it does. Do this exercise in community. Convene the research report-back meeting; report; collect facts; discuss areas which need more research; collect facts; collate facts; discuss areas which need more research; discuss the most revealing an thought provoking questions you need to ask; formulate questions properly. Do all this in collaborations with the members of the community.

In your report back meetings, at some point you will have attracted some members of the community. Co-opt them; incorporate them; brief them about the whole intention of the exercise unless the experiment you are conducting debars you to go up to this extent in collaboration with ‘objects’ for your research. But, in most of the contextualisation exercises you will find that the members of the community are invaluable.

Reflect theologically about what you are observing together with your research team/ discussion group/ Bible study group/ contextualisation group/ whatever name you call yourselves.

Find parallels in the Bible; Church; School; State; Companies; Individuals; Communities or whatever alternative you choose for assessment and comparison depending on the theme; topic; statement; issues; problem or whatever you are contextualising about.

Theological reflection has to do with the looking at issues from the perspective of religious thinking and religious values. Thinking theologically is was of clarifying religious convictions so that they make sense to you and to those who will access
what you have thought. Your Biblical knowledge however small it might be must be fully used in your quest to understand issues you are contextualising theologically or Biblically. Your faith, religious experiences and those of others are invaluable sources of thinking theologically. Implore them as much as possible. Mix them with your contextual analytical findings or your research findings.

When you reflect theologically, ask yourselves questions such as: what does the Bible say about this subject we have looked at? What were the prevailing circumstances in the Bible times? How was this issue resolved in the Bible? Why was it resolved in that way and not otherwise?

You may also ask yourselves: Why was this a problem for the church in the Bible? How did the early church go about the problem? How did the Catholic Church resolve this issue? How did the Protestant Church approach this subject? What is the position of the Evangelical and the Charismatic Church in this matter? Ask why the resolution was one way and not the options, which were there? These are just example questions. You will have more questions than you can handle as soon as you start with your practical contextualisation.

You may ask existential and experiential questions such as: What does the Holy Spirit say to us about this which we have seen in our contextualisation efforts and what we read about in the Bible or what we discover the church has said? How does God speak to us as a result of this exercise? Can we learn anything form other Christians who have gone thorough this challenge? What is the best way of responding as Christians?

In your theological reflection you must compare situations with situations, people with people, resolutions with resolutions, the spiritual with the spiritual, context with context, and do it both analytically (section by section or part by part) and synthetically. Be systematic.

Reflecting synthetically is consonant with the method of contextualisation. It is when you begin to look at the context as a whole; seeing things not as parts but as holistic; looking at the situation as a unit; looking at it monistically, as an uncompartmentalised whole where things are coherently related and where each dimension of the whole affects the whole context or entity.

You compare as you think and question theologically; you correlate; differentiate; evaluate, draw principles; extract models; discover methods; learn lessons.

In correlation you observe similarities and draw conclusions about what you see as related issues, or similar issues and check if the circumstances around correlating issues are comparable. In your differentiation you look for the differences; look for the reconcilable differences; identify some irreconcilable differences. In your evaluation make values judgements, say why you think what is good or bad; say why you recommend this or that; say why you think what was wrong or right, who was wrong or right.

You evaluation must always be substantiated with convincing reasons. Your analytical contextualisation data collection will have equipped you to make such value judgements. You will not be making them out of the darkness and ignorance. The method of contextualisation is designed to eliminate irrational and unfounded facts, false conclusions and uninformed judgements. You must wait long enough until you have gathered sufficient information before you make this stage of conclusion of your contextualisation exercise.

At this stage you shall have arrived at a point where your contextualisation group can extract principles, models and methods for further enquiry. Principles are standard statements, which stand to be a set of guidelines, which will stand for a reasonably long time before they can be proved unworkable and outdated. Such principles can be drawn out of an exercise which itself has taken a reasonably long time being worked on in the form of a contextualisation programme.

It therefore follows that contextualisation demands that its proponents, especially its practitioners either be the people who come out of the communities themselves as a recommendation or people who have organised and planned to stay for a reasonably long time situation.

As people ask questions, analyse, contextualise and make interim judgements, supervise their work; patterns emerge in the form of answers to certain kinds of
questions; conclusions on certain set of facts; observations on certain similar situations which patterns reveal models, shapes of ideas, pictures of events out of which the group can draw clear models of what is emerging during the process of contextualisation.

For example, say the group discovers that when you mention God in the contexts of the poor communities there is a certain recurrent reaction that occurs and that every time God is put into conversation in these communities the same reaction occurs. The group may draw either a principle statement or a model informed by that reaction.

Like all other methods, contextualisation methods are tools of helping people go about a project in a systematic way and in a way that can be most revealing and unearthing that otherwise. No method is able to do all which is necessary and possible in doing research or analysis alone. Contextualisation as a method of social enquiry accepts that point that it can do so much and that it is only an addition to other methods which have their place in research and who have proven that they contribute in helping humans to understand how society works without pretence that it (contextualisation method) has it all nor knows it all.

In the process of contextualisation, tools (methods) are refined and are made better than they were first employed. Methods of contextualisation are not rigid. They are actually meant to be adjustable to suit the situations in which they are used. At times tools wear out and brakes get old and rusted and finally become disused. These are situations where the theoretical methods such as the theory of contextualisation may not work as expected. The very theory of contextualisation promotes the freedom to adjust, review change, adapt, and contextualise as the concept suggests. This is what will make the method and theory of contextualisation durable.

To contextualise means that the situation must set the agenda; the method must serve the process; meaning the method must be used to help us do the work of contextualisation, and what must be most important is not the theory and the method, ultimately, though one cannot dispense of a theory just like that, otherwise you will have no philosophical basis for you enquiry or from which you refer to keep your argument in line and consistent, but that context must speak to us and we must listen.

The method and the theory are not an end to themselves. Yet, the practice and the projects are not are not an end to themselves as well. But, both the theory and the practice, the method and the project must continually feed into each other and are inseparable.

Contextualisation is about listening to the context as it speaks to you. It is not about bringing pre-packaged messages that are alleged to be absolute and unchangeable as if these messages do not come out of particular contexts too. Contextualisation wants to be open to the acknowledgement that even God speaks in a context; revelation comes out of a context; truth claims come out of contexts; yet the context is not absolute too; it stands under scrutiny and challenge in conversation with other contexts that impact on it. Local contexts stand to be measured and judged, critiqued and corrected by global contexts.

So, in every contextualisation event, people must learn new lessons and must be open to be taught by the people they are contextualising with and those they are contextualising about. Conventionally, people are used to learning from teachers, professors, preachers, priests, politicians and some outstanding people. These are people who teach us almost as officially licensed teachers and others by virtue of their high social standing, and others because of their knowledge as experts on certain subjects.

It is at this point of learning where the method of contextualisation makes a remarkable contribution in terms of empowering the voiceless people both in church and society to be heard. Contextualisaton acknowledges lessons that are taught by the unofficial [3] teachers. There is an invaluable treasure of knowledge which is suppressed among our communities and churches. The so called ordinary church people have stores of Bible experiences, spiritual knowledge, textual interpretation which the official have either learned to despise or have forgotten about deliberately because, at one stage of their lives, long before they themselves were influenced to the contrary by other officially appointed teachers, had this grassroots knowledge.

Contextualisation is about unearthing grassroots information; giving the local people space in the arena of influence by ‘word’ (language/ power of speech). How empowering it is to discover the power of your own ‘word’. For example in most Bible study sessions, the Bible study teachers and leaders are the ones who dominate the privilege to interpret the text and they do most of the talking. Their ‘word’ is the one that heard all the time. Contextualisation wants increase the level of participation of ordinary people, distribute the privilege to interpret text, make the ‘word’ of ordinary people heard and conscientise the official teachers about the necessity of listening to and taking the interpretations of the ordinary people more seriously than before.

As a methodological requirement of contextualisation, the contextualising group is, obliged to implement their discoveries. Contextualisation aims at application of knowledge and not to have knowledge for the sake of itself. The same applies to Bible knowledge of doctrines; they are meant for application in real life. Otherwise what is the point of knowing the Bible and believing the right doctrines?

Contextualisation wants to have both the right doctrines as well as the appropriate application and living out of those doctrines in real life contexts. Therefore, what the contextualising group discovers must be put to practice in real life. The purpose of contextualisation is to help people improve their conditions: be they conditions of Bible engagement; living conditions; the need to reflect on their financial needs and how to tackle those according to the principles or the teachings of the Bible etc.

Contextualisation method teaches people to transform their findings into projects, programmes and practical activities. Contextualisation encourages practice and action. At the heart of contextualisation is the need to practice what you preach; to live according to your beliefs. e.g. You may not teach equality of all humans before God and the law and practice slavery and bias application of the law. It is also required by the method of contextualisation to keep on thinking and reflecting on all what you do.

4.4 Tasks for local and regional branches

  1. Every school has its spiritual and administrative problems. The effective solution to any problem requires research. A research reveals the nature and the reasons of the problem. Communities/ schools/ fellowships are better equipped to solve their problems if they understand what the nature and the reasons for the problems are.

Form a contextualising group that will offer its services to the spiritual and administrative structures of the school. Take the problems as subjects/ topics for contextualisation/ research. Give the results of your observations to the structures as suggestions and recommendations for possible solutions.

  1. Send a copy of the exercise (statement of the problem, procedure of contextualisation/ research and the report) to the provincial office of contextualisation. Do this exercise at least once a year.




  1. 4:18 – 20.

This chapter is a demonstration of what has been explained as what is required of a contextualisation group. Further explanation is given as follows. Thereafter a demonstration on how you can go about contextualising Luke 4: 18 – 20, in the light of engagement in the transformative and development exercises be it in school,

church and community at large.

Contextualisation as a method of conscientisation encourages deliberate awareness of what is going on around us. Politisation as consciousness of what is going on concentrating on concerning rules, regulations, laws, policies which regulates and determine our life is an important component of contextualisation. Research as method of getting the facts exposed as empirical and as objective as possible is also important for contextualisation.

Social analysis as opening up your community to see what it contains and how it functions is a revealing tool of social relationships. Revelation in the sense of the realisation of the Word of God that speaks through local ordinary people in their contexts is a truth that has to acknowledged. Contextualisation in its nature is a demanding exercise. It becomes exacerbated when applied to faith and religion where the object of an inquiry is extremely inaccessible.

Contextualisation demands an awareness, a realisation and a consideration that are numerous factors at play which determine ‘meaning’; concept formation; the formation of a world view and which determine how people will act and react in different situations. Some of the most common factors are the delivery of the literally meaning people get from written texts of a particular time and of as historical nature. The geographical setting in which the events are happening the political scenario at the time when things happened; the religious hopes and presuppositions at the time when the events happened; the cultural practises of the time; and the economic situation of the time, must be considered.

But, this must not make the whole process impossible. If the problem you are contextualising about is clear enough, you will realise what is essential for the in- depth social analysis thereof. So, you may not need all other side consideration to come to a viable and desirable conclusion.

Besides that, one has to consider the presupposition of the time. Ask yourself what people assume to be the ‘truth’. How people came to know what is true according to the judgement and assessments of the time. In addition to that, find out what was implicit and what was explicit at the time. Find out what people needed to explain in their conversations and what they did not have to explain. Find out what was culturally acceptable and what was not. Find out what was spiritually commendable and what was not. Find out what was politically correct and what was not. Find out who were licence teachers and interpreters and who were not and why. Find out about everything you possibly can and what you need for your inquiry. You may not need everything as mentioned earlier.

Doing this exercise equips you with the most desired conditions of the understanding. One is better able to have an elaborate frame of reference, which will help you to contextualise as thorough as possible. You will also be able to reconstruct the situation of the community you are investigating if you consider the whole frame of reference and conditions for understanding should the community be historically geo- politically apart from you. The more the community or the problem is apart from you, the more consideration you must take on. The more you are an outsider to the problem and the situation the more considerations you need.

We are going to deal with four themes that are explicitly spoken about in the text of Luke. 4: 18 – 20. Those themes are: 1. Good news to the poor. 2. Liberty to the captives. 3. Recovery of sight to the blind, and 4. Release of the oppressed.

4.1. Good news to the poor.

We need to be aware that our basic text (Luke. 4: 18 – 20) was read by Jesus in the Synagogue in the context of Roman Palestine. The original premise of this text is
located within the Levitical theocratic[4] and ethnarchic[5] rule. Then the Jubilee system was established (Lev. 25: 10 – 27: 24f). Then, the text was quoted by the Prophet Isaiah during the monarchical rule of Israel in the context of the Priestly- Patriarchal leadership (Isaiah. 61: 1ff). In this text, the Prophet appraises the ideal of Jubilee as a promise for socio-economic not excluding the spiritual and political success of Israel’s future after exile. Isaiah applies this text 10 centuries after its original introduction to the people of Israel. During all that time, there is nowhere in the scripture where it is shown that this system was successfully implemented. Yet the Prophet felt that that is the way to go in terms of economic and spiritual transformation. It is in the Babylonian exile where the seeds of eschatological[6] hope were sawn (Is. 61: 1ff).

As mentioned earlier, Jesus quotes this text during the Roman rule over Israel. In all the three context in which the text has been used, i.e.; (1) Leviticus’; (2) Isaiah’s; (3) Jesus’ time; the poor of Israel who always constituted the majority of God’s people and who always suffered hardships under various kinds of leadership and socio­economic arrangements are of focus and a bone of contention in all these contexts.

The Jubilee system was meant to return their human dignity and to protect them from perpetual subjection to poverty and misery. The relocation of land and freedom from slavery were the two major areas of demand the Jubilee system was advocating. The success of the possible transformation and development of the people of Israel was based on the issue of reacquisition of land and freedom for all to start a new fiscal period of seven Sabbaths.

Jesus speaks to in a context where the majority of the people is both materially and spiritually unbearable. One way of effecting a radical reversal and change of such a situation was to implement a transformative programme which would address the whole situation simultaneously. The transformation programme which Jesus proposed and reiterated is in short summarised in Luk. 4: 18 – 20; our demonstration text. This
is what Isaiah proposed in his time as a future solution for both the spiritual and the political problems of Israel.

But the crux of the mater is how can transformation programmes be implemented in the situations of the poor and the marginalized communities in such a way that people will be empowered to rise above their situations of misery, poverty and ignorance.

4.1.1. The socio-economic factors as a phenomenon.

Overpopulation: Israel was for a considerably long time a self-sufficient people.

These people who were along self-sufficient as subsistence farmers migrated to the emerging Hellenistic cities causing situations of overpopulation and squalor. These people formed a pool of labour market. They had to survive the hardships of a growing urbanisation through selling their unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour. The nature of a growing urbanisation is that it does not afford to pay lucratively. The new urban workers remain at a worker level with no scope of rising to highly skilled employment opportunities. Yet demand for labour always stands.

This was increase and made possible through the ‘encloser system’ which created a huge labour pool without adequate land and employment in these growing Hellenistic cities. In addition to the ‘encloser system’ was the ‘putting out system’. This system was put in place to turn them into skilled and semi-skilled labourer in the growing cities.

In addition to that were the taxations which were introduced which contributed to the impoverishment of rural areas, discouraging rural crafts and creating a need to seek employment in the cities. So, as a result, most people proffered to migrate to cities. The cities population density increased in leaps and bounds.

Concentration of possessions: The new socio-economic system of roman colonialism in Palestine propagated concentration of possession and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the ‘absentee landlords’, the traders, the aristocracy, and the collaborating ‘temple cult’ which consisted of the priesthood.

Property and wealth was accumulated through confiscation and disposition of the land. The first 10% of a rural[7] person’s income produce was collected for the Roman capital and was used for the administration of the Roman colonial Empire. The second 10% went to the Herodian dynasty who ruled the Palestinian colony on behalf of the Romans. The third tithe (10%) went to the Temple Aristocracy which was used for the Temple administration and for running the local civilian life. Other taxes for hire belonged and facilities in the property of the ‘absentee landlord’ and for privileges of being on the land which now belonged to the new owners and no longer the Lord Yawer (Jehovah) were paid to the landlord.

All the institutions which had the political and the spiritual right to collect taxes had control of the Army. Should any person not cooperate in payments, the Roman soldiers who were known for their bravery and ruthlessness were sent to collect the monies or to confiscate the little belongings of those who failed to comply.

In addition to that, there were numerous taxes collected for trading, grazing and harvesting. Therefore, reading the Bible with this situation in mind, texts such as those of settling the accounts in the narratives of Jesus and the ‘gospel’ writers began to shed a new light. People were captives to taxation, Roman Army surveillance, tithes; so much that this was affecting their spiritual and socio-religious institutions as well. People were finding it more and more difficult to finance their religious life. Some of the text you can refer to are: Matthew 5:25, 26; 17:24 – 27; 18: 23ff, 23:23.

Social mobility: social mobility whether horizontal, vertical or diagonal as an upward, downward and sideways movement of people in society as it happened in Palestine and as it could have been in any disturbed social arrangement, shattered traditional values of Israel’s holistic spirituality, disturbed Israel’s communality, created social dissonance. Created social banditry, fomented the urge of socio economic revolution, created separatist movements such as the Pharisees and others, and consequently there was social stratification though at that time the social class system was not known, nut is was very clear who were ruling and who were ruled.

It was also very clear who were inclined to cooperate with the new order. They would be the urbanised people who hoped to get a share in the new order. The rural people who were renowned for their resistance to the new order would form revolutionary movements such as the Zealots and other bandit movements. The quest and the essence of revolution is the prime indicator of the need for transformation, equalisation and development.

When such situations erupt in ones lifetime and context and you happen to be amongst the losers, the dispossessed, the marginalized and the oppressed, you develop the longing for the reversal of the prevailing unjust order. The disadvantaged people begin to look for drastic changes, for revolution, renewal and revival. For Israel the whole need for change was influenced by their history with Jehovah who had given them as they claim, the land of Palestine, giving them the Prophets, Judges (Liberators/Saviours/Deliverers), the Kings and Priests to see the welfare, safety and prosperity of Israel. Now in the face of Roman rule the hope of Israel was shattered. Thus the need for a Messiah was revived more than ever before.

Jesus and his movement came forward amongst other such movements in Palestine as direct contextual response to the prevailing situation. Jesus and his movement acme to give hope to the hopeless. Such envisaged hope was expected to be so effective and so holistic that it will release and liberate Israel from all areas in which they have been oppressed – spiritual and material.

This movement more specifically amongst others had a clear commitment to the plight of the poor and the impoverished. This commitment came to be known as ‘good news’ to the poor. Actually this is what Jesus announced he came to do in Lk. 4: 18 – 20. the renewal theme for Jesus and those who will follow him was: ‘The Reign of God’ which came as good news for the poor. This is what Jesus promised to deliver with all of his followers. This Rein of God had to do with all the renewal of the present order and the revival of Israel to put it at its rightful place. Where they knew only Jehovah as their ruler and no one else.

Here are some texts that will be revealed anew as you read them with this context in mind (Mt. 4 18 – 21; Mark. 1: 14 – 19; Lk. 5: 1 – 11).

Exposition of good news to the poor.

As mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, Jesus read from the book of Isaiah 61: 1 – 2a. A full disclosure of the text Jesus read from Isaiah now recorded in Lk. 4: 18 – 20 is written in Isaiah 61 – 62:12. There you read good news to the poor in its sociological setting, its spiritual promises and its political promises.

Jesus call for a radical reversal form oppression to liberation, form spiritual dearth to spiritual revival, from backsliding to complete trust in God. As we the prophet Isaiah Jesus espoused a jubilee whether it ever be worked out or not; the lord Jesus and Isaiah espoused it as a possible solution to the problems of Israel. A full description of the year of the Lord which is the year of reversal, renewal, revival, revolution (change) and equalisation is recorded on the book of Leviticus. 25: 1 – 27:34.

Needless to say that for Jesus to call for such a restructuring and a reconstruction of His society in undoubting words shows the radicality of His movement, their commitment to transformation and development. Jesus was serious about his intentions to establish the reign of God on earth “as it is in Heaven” (Mt. 6:9 – 15; Lk. 11: 1 – 4).

Identification of the poor to whom good news is preached.

The poor in the context of Jesus are those who are as a result of the situation we have elaborately described have lost their spiritual, cultural and political identity. The temple, the Dynasty, and the Priesthood, which were the three institutions of Israel which gave it the political, cultural, social and religious identity and meaning were completely compromised to the new Hellenistic order.

Unfortunately, the compromise to the status quo was not helpful to the majority of the suffering masses. All these institutions of the Kingship, the Priesthood and the traditional prophetic movement had lost the redemptive salvific vision of Jehovah and
were as a result in lamentable states. Something had to be done about the situation and the Jesus movement came in as a possible solution to the problems of the day and consequently came in as substitution if not a radical renewal and transformation of these institutions.

Israel was like a people who did not know their God. They were like sheep without a shepherd. Such people like Israel then, who did not know their God and have no spiritual resources to sustain themselves in time of trial and temptation, are susceptible and prone to defeat by both their spiritual and political opponents. These were the poor of the times of Jesus.

The poor are those who due to the confiscation and dispossession of their land and property have lost their means of production and as it were in Jesus’ Palestine, through the retainer system, and through the buying out system, their traditional replacement[8] system was fundamentally undermined and as a result there came conditions of need, poverty, lack of grain, inability to finance their religious and spiritual ceremonies which had played an important and indispensable role in keeping their hope and faith in God over the years.

It was this hope that kept them believing that the situation will be almighty someday. The inability to pay ever increasing rentals; a thing which they never knew nor contemplated could ever happened to them traditionally, the inability to pay all tithes and taxes, which took 30%- 40% of their hard earned income or crops kept them ever getting deeper into debts year in year out.

As a result people accruing unbearable financial and spiritual, debts became spiritually and socio-ethically wearied, demoralised and hopeless. How much more poorer can the poorest of the poor be? What can redeem if the Messiah and God cannot intervene and redeem? What can save if God cannot save? The hope of the poor is in a God who saves comprehensively. To this saving God the poor kept on looking.

The poor are those who when lured by the prosperity and prospects of Hellenistic city states could not resist the temptation; only to find that they formed a large pool of labour, conditions of competition in which they were not competitors proper compared to the property owners and the well to do. The poor created inadvertently, conditions of unemployment. The poor began to learn ways of making money unjustly and unequally when they had the opportunity to do so. They learned to pull and push others down on their attempt to go up. They learned how to evade payment of debts and yet would not tolerate anyone to owe them.

Inevitably, conditions of moral emptiness were formed. There was a dire need for moral and spiritual revival. Financial needs and spiritual needs went together. For these people, salvation could be nothing else than a radical socio-economic and spiritual restructuring of society. This eminent need for spiritual reawakening implicated the Temple and exposed the irrelevancy of the Temple’s spiritual programme, which was so sold out to the prevailing unjust order that something drastic must happen to restructure it. Jesus came to the Temple and prophesied against it. In that way Jesus championed the plight of the poor and oppressed.

In the time of Jesus, among the poor were the beggars, the blind, the disabled, the aged, women, children and workers.

Way forward:

As a way forward, Jesus formed a renewal movement that was meant to implement his transformative and comprehensive mission programme which he announced in Lk. 4: 18-20.

One of the qualifications of participation in Jesus’ renewal

(Revive/revolutionary/reconstruction) movement was to have no vested interest for personal material gain during the struggle for transformation and after the struggle as a direct result of the engagement in the programme.

One was expected to sacrifice one’s social ties and social comfort; to sacrifice financial securities, personal protection, but total commitment to the implementation of the Reign of God (Mk. 10: 28-30).

Among those who were called were the labourers and the heavy-laden (Mt. 11:28), the fisherman (sic) (Lk. 5:1ff), the socio-economic lunatic (Mk. 5:14-20) and the controversial collectors.

Generally, this was a calling to soil rootlessness; a calling to become a wandering charismatic; sometimes called Prophets, Righteous Apostles, Disciples of the Lord, Teachers, almost like cynic philosophers[9].

4.1.2. The socio-ecological factor as a phenomenon

It must be brought into perspective the division and the alienation between the Hellenistic cities and the hinterland. Taking Jerusalem and its socio-ecological relations especially relations with the hinterland; in matters of religion, economics and politics. Jerusalem was religiously conservative, spiritually disintegrating, morally embarrassing, and politically compromised to the status quo. There was no hope that there could be any political resistance and spiritual revival emanating from Jerusalem at that time.

The hinterland was critical, uncompromised, radical, angry and rebellious. Almost in all cases the troubles of the Roman government with the Israelites came from people of the hinterland. Somehow these people had nothing to loose but all to gain in their resistance against the status quo. The hinterland produced resistance movements like the Jesus movement; it produced bandit movements and rebels, which made life and rule very difficult for the Roman colonialists. The hinterland made Palestine ungovernable. It is more revealing that Jesus was associated with people who came from the hinterland.

As for the Temple as the heart of religious, economic, social and political activity was wearied, overburdened and demoralised.

Almost all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were Indirectly dependent on the Temple. Cattle dealers,

Money changers, tanners, shoemakers etc; all lived of It (Theissen 1974: 52).

In any case, Jerusalem was not economically viable. Its religio-political ambiguity, its controversial position vis-a-vis the colonial Rome and its religious conservatism were not commercially expedient. Thus the Temple proceeds and products were of low quality. Lots of the inhabitants of the city and its immediate surroundings scrambled over the very low quality products that were produced form Jerusalem.

The main commercial route that would have its economy went through Gaza to Transjordan. This route passed far away from Jerusalem deliberately. Historically, Jerusalem and Israel as a people had created enemies for themselves when they conquered people of this region. The kings of Judah that ruled from Jerusalem had made battle with the people of the region over the years.

The Philistines in particular and other Canaanites became hostile to Jerusalem and its peoples. This strained relationship affected trading and commerce with Jerusalem much to the detriment of Jerusalem. The Philistines and the Canaanites embarked on a socio-ecological and socio-political isolation of Jerusalem and its Temple.

But still, the Temple isolated as it is and with limited resources was the largest employer in the region of Judah. Most of the captives who were actually prisoners of context were subjected to hard labour in the Temple economy. These labourers worked in the Temple lands, in the lands of the Temple Aristocracy, in the lands of Monarchs of Israel at one stage, and among the homes of the Jews.

With the advent of Roman rule, a new type of prisoner emerged. These were people who became prisoners as a result of the economic exploitation in the Hellenistic cities emerged other prisoners who were those who became common criminals directly and
indirectly as a social development germinated by a labour unfriendly economy. This information begins to shed light on the words of Lk. 4: 18-20 where we read Jesus saying, “I have come to set the captives free”. One realises that Jesus was ministering in a situation where there were real prisoners and not spiritual prisoners as is always taught in our churches.

During the rebuilding of the Temple of Herod, which took 40years to complete, Herod had employed 11000 labourers. At the completion of the project 18000 people were still employed at the Temple alone. In addiction, the Temple employed 1000 poor priests who were rotating between the Temple and the hinterland where they had small plot holdings managed by peasants. The Temple was the region of Judah in particular; actually a mall with a lot of free markets selling animals, clothing and food. Jesus described it as a den of robbers (Mt. 21: 12-13).

Jerusalem as it is described produced robbers. Out of need and want people had to survive in this context. Young people traversed the Transjordan commercial highway to rob the traders and merchants of their goods and food. These goods ended in the markets of Jerusalem. Some of the commodities inescapably ended up in the worship and service of God in the Temple.

One begins to understand; the Essenes, a religious separatist ascetic and pietistic renewal group which settled in the desert waiting for God’s eminent intervention in the situation. They rejected the sacrificial worship of the Temple together with priests and Aristocrats. They simple said that the whole process was profane. Theissen says:

“The Zealots murdered large numbers of Temple Aristocrats” (1974: 54); so was the depth of hatred, discredit and disregard for these Temple leadership among the revolutionaries and revival movements in Israel. Jesus prophesied about the Temple and its status quo that it will soon be destroyed (Mt.24: 1-2; 26: 61-63; Mk.13: 1-2; 14: 56-59; Lk. 21: 5-6).

Jesus’ prophecy was rather radical. The prophecy did not suggest a renewal of the Temple per se but a total destruction of the whole institution as it stood and what it stood for at that time in history. You remember that the Jesus movement was a
countryside group. There it operated successfully and had a large support from the local communities. The ‘sympathisers’ as they were called were people in the countryside who supported the Jesus movement. These were people to whom economic pressure was the greatest (Lk. 18: 1-3).

As a response to the burdens the workers, country side people, and sympathisers had to bare (Mt. 11: 28; 23: 1-39), they used absenteeism and blatant rebellion against ‘absentee landlords’[10] of whom some were Temple Aristocrats and priests (Mk. 12: 1ff; Lk. 13: 6ff; 19: 11-27).

Way forward: As a way forward, Jesus announced an apocalyptic vision which will culminate with the inauguration of the eternal Reign of God which is perfectly egalitarian, universal, inclusive, pure and just (Rev. 22: 1ff).

4.1.3. The socio-political factor as a phenomenon

The ideal theocratic rule is the best expressed in the words of Psalm 47. The Jesus movement idealised it and vehemently worked for it. The Jesus movement is better described as radical theocratic movement. It was a very controversial movement as too. It was inconstant in its dealing with people, issues and situations. At one point this movement was conciliatory at another it was provocative and yet at another it was moderate and radical in other situations.

This Jesus movement can be described as a prophetic movement (Mk. 16: 15ff), a resistance movement, and a renewal movement (Mt. 19: 28). As a prophetic movement it was expected to challenge the ruling status quo head-on. As a resistance movement it was expected not to hesitate in taking up arms against the oppressors of the time. As a renewal movement it was expected to bring spiritual revival and a new social order for all in Israel.

Expectations: The Jesus movement raised expectations of the end of Roman rule, the end of the Temple Aristocracy, and the end of the traditional theocracy which was in fact a representative [11] theocracy in which the Priests who turned to be corrupt, governed in the name of God, collected tithes in the name of God, and must now be removed in the same name of God and no longer be replaced until the full Reign of God is put in place according to the impression that Jesus gave. Jesus was now going to be the High Priest forever and will appoint all believers to be priests unto God together with him (Rev. 1: 6). His disciples were promised to occupy 12 seats of the government and will judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Mat. 19: 28; Lk. 22: 30).

Jesus’ teachings raised expectations of imminent eschatology which must came through a cataclysmic [12] intervention of God using charismatic and mythical figures depicted by Jesus movement whose word of prophecy must not be despised whatsoever (Mt. 12: 31, 32). These were expectations raised for the imminent establishment of the Reign of God (Mt. 8: 28; Mk. 9: 1; 14: 25; Lk. 14: 15; 22: 29f).

The political crises Jesus was addressing: A complex of political crises were plaguing Roman Palestine. These crises had accumulated over the years. One could mention chronologically form the establishment of theocratic Israel which collapsed to give way to a period of monarchical rule which landed to Assyrian and Babylonian captivity. The Persians then the Greeks ruled over Israel which was struggling since, then to establish a strong and a respectable autonomy under a legitimate priesthood.

The Roman rule increased and deepened these crises more than they were before. The Roman introduces a system of both indirect rule from the Roman capital itself and direct rule on the ground by foreign representatives of the Roman government with the help of collaborating individuals, institutions and groups within Israel itself. The Roman exacerbated the problem by introducing both a centralised form of government which was controlled from Rome and a decentralised form of a local government which was ruled on the ground at regional level which caused a proliferation of taxations in the form of local, regional, national, religious and
commercial taxations. It was the poorest and hard working communities of the hinterland which felt the pain and the weight of this system more than the others in this type of social arrangement.

Moreover, there was a crisis of ethnarchy; another crisis was that of a constant state of constitutional instability which was a result of rulers who did not say long to stabilise the situation in Israel so that with every new person coming into power and leadership there would be constant change to the way Israel must be ruled. Each person who came in to rule was interested in making money through taxation as soon as possible before their turn was over.

Israel was the most resistant and the most unruly and troublesome among all the provinces under Roman Rule. The Israelites were always unwilling to be ruled by foreigners, and because of their disposition, Rome would not give them the latitude to rule themselves because there was always a potential for revolution and resistance or even defiance and cessation from the Roman rule by Israel.

The crisis was further increased by the tripolar rule of the Herodian dynasty, the Hasmonian dynasty which was supposed to be the legitimate successor to the Davidic dynasty, and the Priestly Aristocracy which was by now completely sold out to the present status quo which they hoped to get the best of the worst deal. Whilst there were crises, the messes suffered the consequences spiritually, politically and otherwise. Jesus mentions some of these problems which faced His movement in Lk. 4: 18-28.

Way forward: Jesus did not give a political prescription as a solution to the problem. Sadly, he was arrested, tried, not found guilty, not given justice ironically in a system that became reputable for its justice ironically in a system that became reputable for its justice, executed as a religio-political insurrectionist, a bandit, a robber, an unturnable hardened criminal, and a dreaded revolutionary. He left His disciples with a parable (Lk. 19: 11 -28), especially the words of mission remain a challenge to those who want engage in transformative and developmental actions in their situations.

4.2. Liberty to the captives.

Among the captives were those who were foreigners and strangers to Israel who came in either as a victims of the circumstances, who were allocated duties in the palaces, working in the fields owned by Priests, Kings and well to do people or those who were imprisoned because of their radical action against the status quo. Some worked as farm labourers, and some as domestic servants. Like all other poor people, these labourers looked for the redemption of God.

Other poor captives and prisoners who needed release, freedom and redemption were those who were created by the industrialisation and the urbanisation which came with the Hellenistic city states. Among these are those who may be called common criminals of the modern time. In Jesus’ time these were the bandits, robbers, revolutionaries, radicals, rascals. These people were locked up by the army in its endeavour to keep he ‘pax romana’ (peace of Rome/ law and order), to protect the property of the retainers, landlords, traders, Kings and Priests.

Some of these poor people and captives were locked up and punished for socio- pathological, socio-psychological and socio-dissonant behaviour which was a result of the social conditions and not their own deliberate making. The response of the poor prisoners was actually an expression of the general social disintegration and social revolt of which they were helpless victims (Mk. 5: 1-20).

Another category of captives of captives covers the realm of those possessed and oppressed by evil spirits, the sick, the lepers and all those who constituted the rubble of society. For this group, in a very specific way, Jesus calls the disciples, ordains them, equips them with the power of the disciples of the Holy Spirit and anoints them to heal the sick and to cast out devils (Mk. 3: 14- 15). The Jesus’ healing ministry was part of the redemption programme which will culminate in the introduction of the reign of God.

Typical to oppressive social and spiritual structures, evil spirits flourish, people get mentally disturbed, some became completely despondent and so desperate in life that they abandon friends and families. When Jesus came in the scene, he healed the sick,
brought the insane to their senses, healed the broken- hearted and set the captives free (Lk. 4: 18- 20).

4.3. Release to the poor and oppressed

In the context where there are the oppressed and the oppressors, a bipolar analysis is revealing. A bipolar analysis referred to here has to with looking at a situation to the division of issues always into two. For example, the first bipolar consideration is that of the Hellenistic cities vis-a-vis the rural hinterland. The second bipolar consideration is that of the Priest and the people who came to them ask for their spiritual services in terms of bringing sacrifices to do religious work. Another bipolar consideration is that which is between the military and the debtors. Another divide is that between the landlords and the peasants who worked on the land.

Reading the ‘gospels’ with a bipolar eye reveal the reasons for the strain s and the tensions between the creditor and the debtors. One begins to appreciate how Jesus had to make difficult choices between estranged parties and how this vividly revealed in some of the parables.

One continues to appreciate the resistance which was mounted by the oppressed group as against the oppressor group (Mt. 23: 13- 39; 24: 1ff; Lk. 6: 20- 26).

Way forward.

In Luk. 4: 18- 20 and in the overall vision of Jesus two important institutions are idealised by the movement and rural communities. The two are the Jubilee and the Reign of God. Jesus calls for the reappraisal of the Jubilee and He promises the introduction of the Reign of God. The former was never ever fully implemented and the latter is a dream yet to be fulfilled.

What the followers of Jesus today (Christians) can best do under the circumstances is to take the struggle for spiritual renewal and political restructuring for the benefit of the poor and the oppressed forward and to do so unrelentlesslly knowing and believing that the Lord is always with them (Mt. 28: 19- 20).

4.4. Tasks for local and regional branches.

  1. Choose any text of the Bible for reading as a group.
  2. Read the text and ask yourselves the following questions: What does the text say? What does the text mean?
  3. Describe the context in which the words of the text were said and describe the context in which your group is reading the text.
  1. Ask yourself the following questions: What did the text mean to the first hearers? What does the text mean to us today? Do this in consideration of the context you have described.



Education is not a neutral phenomenon. It is based on socio-economic, cultural and political interests. Reconstruction, development and transformation of education has material and spiritual bases.i.e. It has the socio-economic, cultural and political undertones. Transformative and developmental programmes need finances to be
implemented. The scarcity of finances put the economic base at the centre of the effectiveness of transformative actions in education and society at large.

Our context in South Africa has shifted from political struggle to economic struggle. The issues of economic emancipation are holding all proposals for transformation and development at stake. The issues that were raised by the NTCF conference and workshops as reported in chapter 1 and 2 of this booklet cannot take effective root unless they are backed by sound financial base.

The Bible does not leave us without answers. The book of Luke gives insight to the approaches we can take to initiate these programmes. The method of Jesus’ engagement in the socio-economic and political issues of his time help us draw some models of dealing with our own problems. We need to contextualise the book of Luke together and extract these methods and approaches.

The book of Luke addresses a wide rage of issues but all based on economic empowerment. Issues of the empowerment of women (e.g. Lk. 1- 2 et. al), issues of transformation of social structures (Lk. 3), issues of restructuring and equalisation of social relations (Lk. 7; 36-49).

The socio-economic analysis and exegesis of the book of Luke from a contextual perspective with the transformation and development of education in mind (which can be made possible through economic empowerment) needs this special attention.

As a strategy for transformation, Jesus takes the grassroots approach. Jesus works his programme out by engaging with the weak and the powerless in society. Jesus goes out to reconstruct the communities of the weak and the powerless. He works with women, children and social outcasts. He gives them hope and constructs with them the reign of God.

Jesus speaks with the leadership of his time. He raises issues he knows are pertinent to the grassroots communities. He enters places where ordinary people are normally not allowed. He goes in there to make case for them. The authorities of his time did not like him. He was probing and asking a lot of questions. He was committed to both the
spiritual transformation and development of all people. He uses the language the people understood. He was contextual in outlook, in word and in deed. This is what he does in the book of Luke.

5.1. The socio – economic analysis of the book of Luke.

Lk. 1: 48 – 53: The power of God on behalf of God is used on behalf of the powerless to bring social justice by “showing strength with God’s arm – putting down the mighty from their seats” demolishing the power structures upon which socio­economic exploitation is based and upon which the oppression is embedded.

This text vindicates women. Women were one of the most oppressed social groups in the times of Jesus as they still are in modern societies. In this text the women who realised that God has come on their side in the form of the honour of giving birth to Jesus who stands for the new humanity, the new order of human relations, the new order of social relations. God is beginning a new thing and Jesus and women are central in this. The new creation which comes through Jesus, and its promise of the new social, economic and gender considerations of the reconstruction in order to have justice for all humans and therefore salvation for all is born out of the womb of a woman.

One may argue to say in any case there was no way a human, Jesus, could be born on earth except through a woman. On the other hand, yes, it is so and it only vindicates the position that women are human. Only humans can give birth to humans. If not so, how could men be human. In other words the dehumanisation of women like it was in Jesus’ time is the inevitable dehumanisation of men as well.

But on the other hand, no, not so; when God starts new things, God does not depend on humans. For example, the creation of Adam or the beginning of humanity according to the bible did not depend on humans but solely on God and God alone. This could have been the case in the birth of Jesus whom the Bible acknowledges as the new Adam or the new beginning if you the new creation.

So the birth of Jesus by a woman as prophesied and as fulfilled was a deliberate honour and vindication of woman. God chose to use a woman in a socio-religious context where people were convinced that God does not use women especially inn relation activities and religious leadership. In the birth of Jesus, God was witnessing to humanity that woman are indispensable in the economy of God. This init self was too much to contemplate in the Hellenistic Jewish religious world of Jesus.

Surely, women of Biblical times were not among the powerful, the mighty and the strong. This does not mean that there were no women of repute in the Bible. Surely there were, but the general-trend was that men dominated and had preponderance in all important social institutions. Women of the Bible were those among the poor, the oppressed, those of low degree; people who needed a chance of the social setting. Jesus came through them, for them, to save them, to stand by them, to be their Messiah.

Lk. 1: 68 – 72: the power of the God saves God’s people from their enemies and from those who hate them. Apparently these were the political enemies of the people of Israel. The Messianic expectation went beyond John the Baptist to the person of Christ. At that time Israel was looking for political liberation from the Romans both internally and externally. The internal liberation had to do with freedom being ruled by foreigners who came from their immediate surroundings who were representatives of the Roman government. The external liberation had to do with very fact that they are ruled from Rome and not from Jerusalem. The coming o f Jesus as Messiah was linked with the pressing need for political liberation.

One has to be aware that the political liberation of Israel was tied to her spiritual liberation. The same is the case with her for economic liberation. People of Israel had become spiritually dead seeing that they could not sustain their faith financially. This must have been a frustrating experience in a religion that depends so much on financing in terms of buying sheep, goats, doves, flour, oil and bringing harvested produce as part of their religious activity like worshiping and asking for forgiveness of sins time and again.

All potential liberators of Israel treated the theme of political liberation. Up to that time all attempts at liberation had failed. There were times were Israel enjoyed freedom for but a short time. The tradition of revolution or change through which Jesus came fell squarely in the eminent quest for political liberation. So, there was no mistake in visualising Jesus as a political Messiah and as priestly Messiah. Jesus, as the text says; was expected to save Israel from her enemies who then were political enemies. As it is at present, in modern times, the geo-political situation of Israel is volatile.

Luke.3: 7-14: John the Baptist preaches with power demanding radical spiritual, social, and social economic changes. This message was directed to the military who were the watchdogs of the treasures and the pleasures of the rich Aristocracy, the Romans, the Absentee Landlords, and the Herodian Dynasty and all those who collaborated with the socio-political system of the time like these very soldiers John the Baptist is addressing.

The message was also addressed to tax collectors. These were people who were employed by the establishment and some of them came among the Jews. More often than not, these office clerks if you like had the opportunity of making money for themselves through bribery and swelling up the taxes illegally. For them the message from John the Baptist was: “Don’t collect any more than you are required”. This implies that they collected more than it was required.

The message was to tell all other people who came to listen to John the Baptist was that they must share their food and clothing with others. This injunction was concomitant with the communal life which Israel lived before its society was monetarised as it was when John addressed it. Typical of the prophetic tradition was this call of the reverting to the traditional society where Jehovah was King and all other people were equal. They treated each other as brother and sisters. This prophetic trend of John the Baptist is further supported by his call for repentance which was undoubtedly one of the major themes of the prophets alongside themes such as justice, mercy and righteousness.

All in all, John the Baptist announces judgement upon the whole socio-political and economic situation of the time. The text we are looking at the addresses all the religious (repent), the economic (share), the political (taxes), and the military (soldiers) aspect of that society, challenging it to make radical changes; if not, they are facing the judgement of God.

Luke. 4: 16 – 19: See Chapter 4.

Luke. 6: 30 – 38: The language Jesus is using in this portion of scripture is typical of the economic nature of the book of Luke. Jesus uses words like credit, reward, payment, lending and giving. The teaching of Jesus on the issues of loving your enemy, loving your neighbour, loving those who love you, landing to those whose you love are expressed in economic turmoil and struggle. These people it seems can better understand the principle Jesus is teaching through the words that dominate the context in which they are immersed and through a context that concerns them most.

In this text, prosperity is taught that it comes not through capitalising on the ignorance of one another. It is taught that prosperity comes from not through making profits but underpaying the worker. Rather, prosperity comes through sharing with one another. This may not sound economically unreasonable to those who are convinced otherwise. The conclusion of the matter is that those who are convinced otherwise are prone to undermine what Jesus taught in this text. On the other hand, what Jesus is teaching is contrary to the methods of prosperity advanced by those who want to prosper at the expense of others.

If not, one may argue that what Jesus taught then does not apply to he demand of economic life today. This argument may as well mean that the whole of the bible does not apply today. Most Christians may not support the position that the Bible is redundant and obsolete as far as the economics of the modern age are concerned. In most cases the Christians will want to agree that the teachings of the Bible hold even today.

Luke. 7: 36 – 49: Jesus forgives the sins of a woman alleged to have lived a sinful life and turns to illustrate this forgiveness with a story of a creditor and a debtor. In terms
of this story the explanation of sin is illustrated in terms of the money and power, and in concrete financial terms. Consistent with the context and the language of the book of Luke, forgiveness of debts and lack of forgiveness to others is expressed in financial terms.

Simon the Pharisee in whose house Jesus was must have understood more clearly about sin an forgiveness put in financial terms. The Pharisees have always been around the Temple and must have seen how money has become more important than people. It is likely that some of the Pharisees might have been involved in doing business around the Temple. This illustration of a woman whose sins are forgiven expressed in financial terms was relevant in the lives of the Pharisees who might have known some these moneylenders as well. Somehow, the Pharisees did not do much about the unfairness that went on between the moneylenders and the debtors. What could have been more revealing to Simon Pharisee, than an illustration, which puts issues in monetary terms? See how much Jesus gives praise to the women. Religio- culturally, it was unthinkable for such vindication to go towards women. The whole religious and social environment in the house of Simon would have rejected a woman of this calibre who came to kiss and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears. Note that she is a woman; here gender is not religio- culturally acceptable, even to Jehovah in social context.

Moreover she is a filthy woman; an adulteress. She makes the situation worse to come, in the house of a Pharisee especially when meals were to be offered. At this point the Pharisees have washed themselves ritually to prepare themselves for the meals and she is not washed to make matters worst. She comes in with long hair depicting her socio-ethnic behaviour and her standing in society, and uses the very hair, a symbol of her adulterous behaviour to wipe the feet of one who is alleged to be the saviour and the liberator of Israel, and this liberator does not react according to expectations of the holy Pharisees at table but instead accepts this woman’s offering. How can he be the holy prophet of God? How can he be the promised Messiah?

To illustrate this point further, lets look at how Jesus dealt with one woman during time in the house of Simon the Pharisee. The point we are making here is that the message of Jesus is that of social transformation and spiritual transformation. Jesus
chooses to explain these issues in financial or money terms so that he can be able to speak to the heart of the context directly.

5.2. Table manners for social and spiritual transformation.

I propose that we look at this input under the theme: Table manners for social and spiritual transformation ( Mt 15: 1 – 20 Mk 7: 1- 21 Lk. 7: 36-49)

Delimitation: For the sake of focus, this input is not dealing with official religious festivities and meals, it is not dealing with the elaborate and expensive banquets and meals of ancient Mediterranean communities. It is not dealing with the common everyday meal, how it was overburdened by the traditions of the Fathers or Elders, how the spiritual and social division of the ancient Mediterranean society plagued it, and how Jesus responded to that situation. This input confines itself to the events in the house of Simon, illustrating how Jesus called for socio religious change using the notion of open commensality or open table if you like.

Customs at mealtime: In ancient times, the washing of hands before eating was appropriate. Concave basins which had holes beneath or had an open button to allow dirty water to flow out of sight as water was poured out on the hands of the one who is washing were used (II King 3: 11) At the time, it was unthinkable for people to wash their hands in their own dirt. That is why this shape of washing dishes.

Common people of the Bible (Old Testament) days ate on the floor at a low table with legs folder or legs thrown back as in the act of kneeling (II Kings. 4: 38). A typical table was a ” Shool-khawn” made of leather and would be spread on the floor.

Usually there would be plates to each person. Dishes put on the table contained food out of which all people around the Shool-khawn would eat with their clean hands (Mt. 26: 23; Mk 14 : 20 ; Jn 13: 1ff) This table would depict an egalitarian community ; a community where all people have equal dignity and respect.

It was customary to say grace before and after meals (Jn; 6: Mt. 15: 36; Dt 8: 10) Compelling guest to attend was in keeping with oriental customs. This was an
indication of hospitality and desire to have a meal with others. (Gen. 18:2 – 7;Lk 7: 36; 14:23; Acts 16: 15) People of the East derived job in entertaining visitors with meals so much that it was unspiritual, anti- social and unethical to have meals alone (Job. 31: 17) When Job suffered at one stage he wandered whether it was as a result of having had a meal alone. People of the East then would expect God to punish those who do not go to an extent of compelling others to come to their meals.

Traditions of the Fathers: Over a long time, ancient cultures were intruded, corroded, influenced, changed and restructured as a result of a long history of cross cultural and intercultural interaction and exchanges. At one point, measures were taken to preserve spiritual cultures that promoted holiness and cleanliness. It became inevitable to introduce traditions, which were not necessarily required by Yahweh the God of the Hebrews.

These requirements are the ones, which became the traditions of the Fathers. These traditions were not meant for ill at all. They were meant for good; meant for preserving that which was valuable for the people at that time in point. As time went on, these traditions obscured the ‘true’ intentions and meanings they stood for; intentions such as social equality, communality, and mutual support (Mt. 15: 1-2f; Mk. 7: 1 -6)

Socio-spiritual transformation: Jesus propagated a message of open commensality which means; an open and an all-inclusive table. Jesus introduced a reordering of the table to include those who were excluded from it through the alleged traditions of the Fathers, which went along with the required ceremonial cleanliness, which the majority of the poor and the marginalized during the time of Jesus could not afford. In other words Jesus was saying no one must be excluded from the table just as it was not short of; Jesus aspired for the good old past when Yahweh was still King and when people were still equal even as it was depicted through the arrangement of the table at mealtime.

Crossan says:

… miracle and table constitute such a conjunction and that it is the heart of Jesus program. That intersection of (healing)/miracle and meal, miracle and table is pointed directly and deliberately at the intersection of patronage and client age, honour and shame, the very of heart of ancient Mediterranean society (1991:304)

In other words one has to look at the actions and the words of words of Jesus at Simon’s table with Mediterranean society in min. Put differently, the actions of at Simon’s table were meant to be a testimony and a demonstration that no one must be excluded from the company of people especially when it comes to meal time. Whether a person is a woman or not is inconsequential. Whether one has followed all the rules and the laws of cleanliness is inconsequential. The table must always affirm that all humans are equal before the eyes of God.

With Jesus at the table, many barriers and gaps were closed. The strong and the weak, men and women, Jew and Gentile, wealthy and poor, clean and profane, tax – collector and Zealot, patron and clientele, all must share the same table, all are equalised around the table. Around the table all are levelled, all are equal, all had to fellowship, all had to share their plight, their concerns, their status and their destiny as humans. Everyone had to be entangled around the table like it was in the olden days.

Commensality was rather a strategy for building or rebuilding peasant community on radically different principles from those of honour and shame, patronage and clientele. It was based on an egalitarian sharing of spiritual and material power at the most grass roots level (Crossan 1991: 344)

In the words of our texts (Mt. 15: 1 – 20; Mk. 7: 1 – 21; LK. 7: 36 -49), Jesus raises the standards of the commandments of God to equal and supersede those of the traditions of the Fathers or the Elders. Secondly, He recommends the cleanliness and the holiness of the heart unequally to ceremonialism at the table.

He continues to appraise worship of the spirit that emanates from faith in God rather than ceremonial worship, which does not transform human sinfulness. Most important, he is protesting against the traditions of the Fathers, breaks them and opens up equal opportunities for all to attain to holiness.

Conclusion: Lk. 7: 36 – 49 is a classical illustration of how Jesus reinterpreted the socio-spiritual presumptions around the meal by ultimately extending forgiveness to a woman who entered through an open door made possible by Jesus.

Socio – economic analysis continued

Luke. 9: 51 – 56: Jesus rebukes James and John for wanting to misuse power. Jesus would rather use it to save them. It would have been expedient for Jesus to have acted against Samaritans. They had already indicated that they would not have Jesus have his way to Jerusalem. The reason for this attitude adopted by the Samaritans was historical and was traditionally and politically correct. Jesus would have acted accordingly to affirm that traditional cultural and racial attitudes between these people but he chose not in order to change these hostilities and to show the alternative way of peace and reconciliation.

Luke. 10: 29 – 37: The Good Samaritan kept the spirit of the law and power of love. Those who kept the letter of the law, namely the Priest and the Levite had no compassion to a person dying on the roadside. But one who had no ‘law’ to guide him but was only guided by the spirit of love responded to this who needed one who had the right attitude not only to God but also a right attitude to money, power, prestige, prosperity, privilege and neighbour to come down at a point of human need, spend his money for a stranger for that matter and still be prepared to spend more on this person.

The Good Samaritan shared with a destitute neighbour. He was commended for his right attitude towards money and neighbour. He showed mercy.

Luke. 11: 42: The Pharisees kept the law and were tithing on things not required by the Torah like tithing on the grain of grass but neglected the weightier matters of the law like doing justice and showing mercy and were therefore discredited and condemned. All this shows people’s attitude towards money. Jesus uses this money issue to measure how much people are spiritual. In this case the Pharisees were found wanting.

Luke. 12: 13 – 21: in this parable a selfish rich man is depicted as a fool. So are people who lay treasure (power) for themselves and are not rich towards God and neighbour. In this parable this rich person could not share the inheritance (goods, power) with his very brother. Seemingly the brother had rightful share to the inheritance but this selfish one does not give the other his rights to the inheritance. Selfishness and greed have no sharing and mercy even among brothers.

Luke. 14: 12 – 12: Expect your reward at the resurrection of the dead. Don’t invite your rich neighbour to dinner; rather invite the poor, the maimed the lame, the blind, the homeless, and you will be blessed. if you identify with the powerless.

Luke. 15: 11 – 32: the father shared generously, the prodigal son complained greedily. This parable illustrates attitudes towards money, riches, power and wealth.

Luke. 16: 13 – 15: No one can serve two masters; money and God. God is one power, which requires total surrender total obedience. Money is power, and can do anything. Its nature has a tendency of demanding and commanding total control. Money and god are both demanding total control. Once you have both of them you suffer the problem of split personality and alienation of self. Until you resolve whom to give total obedience you remain divided in your loyalties.

Luke. 16: 19 – 31: The rich man ends up in hell. The price of misusing power and denying others access to it is so fatal that one ends up being doomed forever in the sight of God.

Luke. 17: 7 – 10: The right attitude towards work is not making profit or making money as such. Money comes as a reward and not as a source of power or as another god.

Luke. 18: 18 – 30: How hard it is to enter the reign of God with riches. At one point, one has to choose between wealth and God. Some find it difficult to make such a choice. They find themselves unable to enter the reign of God because they cannot make up their mind when it comes to choosing between God and money.

Luke. 19: 1 – 9: A rich man demonstrates repentance by showing a commitment to reverse exploitation. Not many rich people are able to make such a decision when it comes to make it against relinquishing their riches. Yet, it is possible to choose the reign of God against wealth.

Luke. 19: 45 – 47: Jesus undermines business at the temple to the dislike of the religious-political leaders. Jesus did not align himself with exploitation of the poor at the Temple. He showed a clear dislike for the system of commercialising the forgiveness of sins. From that point onwards he was determined as ever to give up his own life for the liberation and redemption of the poor and the oppressed and for those who will align themselves with his programme of liberation.

Luke. 20: 9 – 18: The husband -man craves for the inheritance (power) and is condemned. These workers had lost a vision of the reign of God. Finally, they planned to kill the son of the absentee Landlord for a wrong purpose. They wanted to gain the inheritance (power) and that in the eyes of Jesus was not good enough. One interpretation is that this son of the vineyard owner was Jesus himself. Jesus used this parable because it spoke directly to the context in which he was ministering.

Luke. 20: 19 – 26: Jesus is tempted on the question of taxes (money/power) paid to Caesar have the taxes (money). Actually this was a trap for Jesus. “They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent”. Jesus could not be a victim of what he preached against. Jesus was genuine. He had no vested interest on the power of money nor he had hidden agendas on this matter.

Luke. 21: 1 – 4: Jesus praised the offering of a poor widow. Two mites. He said the poor widow gave everything she had to the Lord. She was a free person; she had no other money; she could now trust wholeheartedly on the providence of God and entertained no worry about tomorrow.

Luke. 22: 24 – 30: Chose to be a servant than to be a ruler who lords it over his people. Better serve on the table than eat on the table only to be filled for condemnation both of your belly and your soul.

So what? The socio-political and economic analysis of the gospel according to Luke illustrates that Jesus was addressing the question of power, prosperity, property, prestige, and privilege. This economic approach of Jesus sets a premise for addressing our commercialised and exploitative contexts in financial and economic terms without feeling that the language we adopted is unbiblical. Right through the book of Luke as we have seen, Jesus uses a commercial language and illustrations to speak directly to his situation where people were opposed by profit greedy systems. This sets the evangelists of our time free to address the questions of poverty and homelessness especially when the poor and the homeless are going to be the object of our preaching. The plight of the poor must be the central concern of a contextual evangelist.

In South Africa, the material and the spiritual condition of the poor and the homeless is a result of the industrialisation, commercialisation and capitalization of our society. The monitarisation of our formally egalitarian society resulted in the impoverisation of the workers the majority of whom are black. These are people who constitute the poor and the homeless in our situation.

This leads us to an observation that wherever there is an unequal distribution of power, property, prestige and privilege, there will be poverty and homelessness on the side and on the other, affluence, riches and surplus e.g. In 1985 there were 300000 surplus houses for white people and about 600000 shortage of houses for black people. Moreover, roughly 7 million black people are residing in squalid informal settlements, and the number is increasing daily. The major cause of these disparities especially in South Africa is socio-economic oppression which legacy it will take a
little more than a decade to correct and only when a government can have a political courage to introduce a socialist economic system in the midst of the possible opposition by western economic powers.

Consequently the social stratification is the result of unequal access to education, wealth, and skills. This is further exacerbated by unequal treatment of population groups, class, gender, class, gender, and religion inequality.

Therefore, a relevant contextualisation of the gospel among the poor and the homeless must take cognisance of the racial, the economic, the social and the political inequalities especially in south Africa. The newly formed democracy has not removed these inequalities. These evils will plague our newly born democracy for a longer unless we deal with them deliberately and effectively.

The relevant contextualisation spoken about her must be deliberately introduced as calculated socio-economic challenges which must be consciously challenge the established functioning of the present capitalist inclined socio-economic system. The contextual challenge must introduce new sources of economic power which is in favour of the poor and the marginalized. It must also strengthen the traditional struggles of the workers and the unemployed and learn from these experiences of the past. The new challenge must pressurise the government and the financial institutions to promote creation of work of the grassroots people, for the grassroots people, and by the grassroots people.

Consequently this will call for the relaxation of qualifications for loans. Subsequently, it will simultaneously call for the relaxation of the repayment of loans. The new challenge must influence the way interest rates are determined and are collected. As many grassroots people as possible must be encouraged to take up the opportunity to own the power and access to prosperity and property; to own jobs and to create jobs; and as soon that these people must be helped to sustain these small initiatives. In a reasonably short time there can be some amazing challenges in South Africa especially.

Those proposed new sources of power can be created by organising the poor as a resistance block like unionisation, politicisation and the formation of financial support
groups. A relevant contextualised evangelism for the poor and marginalized must opt for economic emancipation as the hearer of their message. This will be good news to the poor. This is what Jesus was doing in the book of Luke, which is the gospel which understands that money is power.

Otherwise, what is good news to the sinners? Is it not to know that their sins are forgiven? And to the blind; that their sight is restored? And to the poor; that their spiral of poverty is broken? And to the margilised; that there is equal opportunity for all? And to the homeless; that there is land available on which they can build their houses?

Indeed, this led us to the radical reidentification of Christianity and the great commission. Formally, Christianity was identified with:

Laissez fair capitalism, individual initiative, fear of government control of the market, the power of the power of consumer in social and economic change, the upward mobility of class structures, democracy as the most suitable (biblical form of government, organisation as the key to maximum development, the inevitability of progress, the middle class as a source of class and the progress in society (Sider 1981: 64).

But, contextual theologies have made their point clear that according to their reading of the Bible, Christianity was a grassroots movement. The gospel was addressing social problems in the same strength as with all other concerns especially those that were affecting the poor and the marginalized directly. Jesus did not mince his words when it came to giving support and being in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed of his time. He set an example for us to be concerned about the plight of the poor and oppressed of our situations.

When the capitalist market forces are unleashed and are left unchallenged and unchanged, the people run a risk of perpetuating oppression. Capitalist market forces have no human face nor are they able to take up the social responsibility of caring for the poor. Actually they are the ones who perpetuate poverty in the world. Wherever they have been introduced, they have created gaps between the haves and the have not.

A consumerist Christianity with its concomitant individualism and materialism has left us with 7 million homeless people, 5 million employed people, 19 million people without earning wages in a capitalist wage in a capitalist wage earning economy, only 20 families with a personal income of R 14 billion a year, only 5 companies controlling 70% of the stock exchange namely Rembrandt, Sanlam, Barlow Rand, S. A Mutual and Anglo-American, 86% of the top occupations in medicine, architecture, management and administration filled by white people and 86% of the population 35 million without land.

What is even more serious is that with the advent of a consumerist Christianity are experienced as experienced in South Africa, the people of South Africa were left without tradition, culture and religion. All these institutions were under great attack by the Christian gospel and were ultimately so undermined that the indigenous people of South Africa began to despise their past, history, culture, tradition, religion and communal identity.

The African religio-communal society was grossly tempered with. African family life was undermined. Contextualisation must consider that we are going to work among people who have experienced a segregationist Christianity. The preaching of this must take into account that the people of South Africa have not yet seen the gospel, as Jesus himself would demonstrate it.

5.3. Evangelism and development

According to Reynolds:

The concept of development used must treat as an integral process a widening of opportunities for individuals, social groups and territorially organised communities at local and intermediates levels and the mobilisation of human capabilities and resources for common social, economic and political benefit (in Wilson et .al 1989: 285)

Put in Sider’s words, he says:

We recognise that the Bible teaches the mission of the church Includes the proclamation of the gospel and the development a and the development and social change (1981)

Here we are speaking about development, which brings transformation of the communities of the communities of the poor and homeless to become communities of self-sufficient which strengthen their grip on the economic system which promotes equability and equal opportunities for all in a way that the image humanity is not reduced to a sum of its biological components and its contribution to economic affluence but, an image of humanity which bears the image of God which is constituted by divine properties of justice, mercy, love and community.

The is a transformation that merits the word development in that it seeks the unfolding and preservation of structures that unleash and achieve equal opportunities for all citizens of the world under humane and equitable conditions and equitable conditions (King Moshoeshoe II quoted in Wilson et. al 1999: I).

Hand -out and temporally relief work is desirable but we realise that they do not give lasting solution. The welfare mentality among the Christian social and relief agencies must be radically transformed to become empowerment and enabling activities.

Relevant contextualisation for transformation in the times of transition must encourage the mobilisation and organisation of the poor and homeless which initiate activities like housing projects, jobs creation, co operation production, preventive health care, animal loan projects, business management training and organising the unemployment to discuss alternatives.

The major cause of poverty, homelessness, and conditions of destitution is and has been socio-political and economic oppression lack access to education, exploitation, and large-scale industrialisation at the expense at the expense of labour. This is the situation, which faces the preaching of the gospel today. These issues are affecting the social and the spiritual condition of the congregations. The implementation of the method of contextualisation will bring the differences in this situation in favour of the marginalized populations of our society.

Relevant contextualisation must deal with implication of the gospel relating to money, power, privilege, prestige, property and prosperity just as much as Jesus was concerned and dealt with these issue in his time. Concerned Christians must concern themselves with equitable distribution of material goods and privileges especially for those people who were left out in the past. As shown in the Book of Luke, one can have clue going about with these issues according to how one reads and interprets them.

The “word and the ” works” must not be separated. The word must be able to produce the works and the works the works must be a demonstration of the word. Evangelism and development must be consciously held together more than ever before. By development we must mean what has been proposed in this section, which means the enablement of the poor to break the spiral of poverty in a world dominated and controlled by capitalists.

It will not be an easy struggle. It has never been an easy struggle for liberation in this world has been that the oppressors will always choose war and violence. Otherwise, the oppressors are not easily convinced by logical discussions and negotiations. They only come to negotiate when blood has been shed and they make sure that the blame is not put on them. What happened to Jesus? He was violently murdered by nailing on a tree.

Therefore, contextualisation must call for a transformation of the welfare mentality to a development mentality. The preachers of the gospel must learn to put on their work clothes and become community builders and bricklayers, or at least they must be able
to mix cement and building sand as well as reading and preaching from their Bibles when they do ministry among the poor and marginalized.


The first series of workshops on contextualisation gave us an insight and training in contextualisation. We were able to take scriptural section and read it politically, economically, socially, culturally, and in terms of gender. We were trained in the interpretation of scripture using a chart, which laid before us the various dimensions of our interest. We could also assess if the potion of scripture selected is relevant to our questions. This has been an empowering exercise in that we began to raise our own questions and looked into the scriptures for possible answers.

In the second series of workshops, which were run parallel in the same conference, we dealt with the problems in education contextually. We raised our own concerns about education. We were conscientised to look at educational matters from the national level to the local level. In many instances people look at local problems and fail to see these problems in relation to national and regional repercussions. These charts help us see our context holistically. We were enabled to look at our context comprehensively.

It was very interesting to grapple with the concept of contextualisation and its methodology. It is very practical concept. It works marvellously with research topics. It is easily to follow and to transfer to other people. The core of the concept is that you must start with the analysis of the situation in contextualisation takes place. Then you can proceed to apply your discoveries to whatever you want to critique or contribute to. Many problems remain unresolved because of lack of the – depth study of the constitution of the problem and its inner workings. Should the nature of the problem be understood it becomes much more easier to see the solutions.

The book of Luke is rich with context. The sociological reading of Jesus and his understanding of his context has been exciting. Going through the book of Luke and trying to extract model and methods of engagement with context has been an journey
full of treasure and adventure. But, what is even more important is that we have learned how to walk a contextual journey. We can take another route should it become the most pressing issue of context, e.g. the culture route. We can begin to make a cultural reading of the book of Luke for example and it can be very enriching and educative. There is no end in the contextual reading of the scriptures.


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Henriot, P. and Hollard, J. 1983. Social Analysis: linking faith and justice. Maryknol: Orbis.

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Magethi Pule B. and Thula, M. Nkosi. 1991. God and Apartheid: A challenge to South African Adventism (African Adventist theory thought series number two 1991). Institute for Contextual Theology: Braamfontein.

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Relevant Fellowship of Concerned Christians. 1987. The Apostolic Faith Mission Church: A Challenge to action by the RCFF. Institute for contextual theology: Braamfontein.

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[1] See, The Apostolic Faith Mission Church: A Challenge to Action by the RFCC document (1987). Anthony Balcomb, Third Way Theology (1993: 86-97). Evangelical Witness in South Africa: Evangelicals Critique their own Theology and Practice document (1986). Pule B. Maagethi and Thula M. Nkosi, God or Apartheid: A Challenge to South African Adventism (1991: 8)

[2] Reference to the soul is holistic. The soul is equal to the whole human experience and not only one part of it. The theology of contextualisation believes that human is an indivisible person.

[3] Unofficial teachers are ordinary people; the very group of locals who have come to contextualise. In the contextualisation process they learn from each other; meaning that they are teaching each other.

[4]   Theocratic = rule or govern by God.

[5]  Ethnarchic = rule or government by your own ethnic community.

[6]  Eschatology is the doctrine about the things to come or about the future or life after death.

[7] The urban population was tax with these tithes too. At the time of Jesus most of Palestine was rural. It was the rural communities from whom Jesus came which felt the sting if the tithing system.

[8] In the replacement system the seeds needed for the next round of ploughing and sowing were kept for that purpose. There would be no time where there is insufficient seed to continue the system. But, because of over taxation and oppression, people could no longer sustain the system. The system needed enough land and human power to keep up with the needs of consumption and retention/replacement.

[9] Cynic philosophers were people who went from place to place teaching. They were generally poor. They depended on the gifts of people in cities for survival. At times Jesus was mistaken as one of them.

[10] The absentee landlords were the new owners of the land. Most of the time they were not present in their plots. They were absent. Their property was used by the peasants who were people who owned the land at first but were now bought out. The absentee landlords came seasonally to collect rentals and tithes.

[11] It was the Priests who represented God in that theocracy. The Priests as civic rulers governed on behalf of God. God did not rule Israel directly.

[12] God or Jesus will come through the skies to save the situation on earth in a dramatic manner. That is what cataclysmic intervention means.