Towards a Reform of the Christian Understanding of Shona Traditional Marriages in Light of Ancient Israelite Marriages

Canisius Mwandayi


As we celebrate 500 years of the great reformist, Martin Luther, among the most memorable and cherished ideas about him were his calls for a return to the Bible as well as reforms in the understanding of marriage. Departing from the traditional sacramental theology of marriage, Luther convincingly argued that since matrimony existed from the beginning of the world, and still continues even among unbelievers, there are no reasons why it should be called a sacrament of the church alone. Tapping from his reformist ideas, this paper argues for the place of Shona traditional marriages in light of celebrated traditional biblical marriages. The argument here comes against the past and current onslaught against African traditional marriages. Evaluated against the European white wedding, African traditional marriages have been rated as living in sin unless a marriage had been blessed in church. Had it been just a colonial ill-thought it could have been tolerable, but what is quite disturbing is that most pastors today continue to ridicule those who are traditionally married but not yet married in church. Engaging a pragmatic approach to the biblical text, this paper argues that if God blessed such marriages as Isaac to Rachel, Jacob to Leah and Rachel, Boaz to Ruth and others—which were contracted traditionally—there is no way His hand could be seen as short when it comes to African marriages. Since biblical marriages which were contracted traditionally were not sinful in nature, one can use such examples as a leverage to appreciate and defend Shona traditional marriages.


Martin Luther; Shona; traditional marriages; white wedding; biblical marriages; Babylonian marriage customs

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