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By Matthew Engelke

The Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe seek advice from themselves as “the Christians who don’t learn the Bible.” They declare they don't desire the Bible simply because they obtain the notice of God “live and direct” from the Holy Spirit. during this insightful and delicate ancient ethnography, Matthew Engelke records how this rejection of scripture speaks to longstanding issues inside of Christianity over mediation and authority. The Bible, in fact, has been a key medium by which Christians have well-known God’s presence. however the apostolics understand scripture as an pointless, even risky, mediator. For them, the materiality of the Bible marks a distance from the divine and prohibits the belief of a dwell and direct faith.

Situating the Masowe case inside a extensive comparative framework, Engelke exhibits how their rejection of textual authority poses an issue of presence—which is to claim, how the spiritual topic defines, and claims to build, a dating with the non secular global during the semiotic potentials of language, activities, and gadgets. Written in a full of life and available variety, an issue of Presence makes very important contributions to the anthropology of Christianity, the background of religions in Africa, semiotics, and fabric tradition studies.

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They insist they are revitalizing the Christian mission. They see themselves as taking up the enthusiasm of the earliest converts and reclaiming the direct dialogue with God. Of course, Christianity did not remain an “oral faith” (Stock 1990, 3), or, as it is often characterized, a religion of the downtrodden (Merdinger 1997, 3–27). By the late fourth century, the time of Saint Augustine’s conversion, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church was firmly established, and the canonical texts of the New Testament were coming into place.

Gamble (1995, 238) tells us, Augustine’s remedy for headaches was to place the Gospel of John under one’s pillow at night. Like other ancients, he understood the divine in writing to be “a power that belonged to words, but no less to the books in which they stood” (Gamble 1995, 241). As things, the books of the Bible can be effective in themselves. This dual character of Scripture is another aspect of the problem of presence worth investigating. As part of a semiotic ideology, it is the claim that the Bible’s significance cannot be reduced to the register of either word or object.

As a semiotic ideology, semiology is indeed a metaphysical proposition. Saussure overlooked how materiality matters. An object may imply an innocence of facticity, but this is “quite illusory” because “the object is just as likely as the word, if not more so, to evoke variable responses and invite a variety of interpretations” (Miller 1987, 106; see also Thomas 1991). When the object in question is also, in some part, a linguistic sign—as it is in any text—this point becomes especially apt. Since the 1970s the work of the pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce has become increasingly important to anthropologists interested in the theory of signs.

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