Following Jesus and burying the dead in Ghana: A study of Matthew 8:21-22 in the Dangme translations of the bible
Jonathan ET Kuwornu-Adjaottor, Melvin Djorbuah Nartey
The translation of Matthew 8:21-22 into Dangme pose a hermeneutical challenge to Dangme Bible readers. This is so because Jesus’ command, “Nyââ ye se, nâ o ha ni gbogboe ômâ a pu mâ nitsâmâ a nô gbogboehi” [“Follow me, and let the dead people bury their own dead people”], is difficult to apply by Dangme Christians who value their culture. Using the Mother-tongue biblical hermeneutics approach, and comparing the three Dangme translations of the text with that of the Greek text the paper found out that each of the three translations render Jesus’ command, akolouthei moi [follow me] differently. Two of the translations use prefixes ba (come) and nôuu (immediately) before the command “follow me.” One of the translations does not render the pronoun moi (me). The use of ni (person) to qualify gbogboehi (dead persons) in two of the translations, and nihi (people) in one of the translations means that “the dead” who should be left to bury the dead are in reality not “dead”; they are living people among the Dangme. If they are living, then Jesus may have used tous nekrous (the dead) figuratively, and as such it should not be interpreted literally. The Dangme translations of the text give interpretations that are inconsistent with Dangme culture. The Dangme call a dead person nô (thing) and not ni (person). The paper calls for interpretations that take into consideration the culture of the Dangme, since, when the Bible is translated into a language, it must put on the garment of the culture of the people, if they are to understand and apply its message.