Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Gregory A. Robbins, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alison Schofield

Third Advisor

George Tinker

Fourth Advisor

Leo G. Perdue


Samuel, Disanga, Divination, Politics of translation, Woman of Endor


This dissertation examines the language of divination in the HB, particularly in 1 Samuel 28:3-27--the oft-called "Witch of Endor" passage. My thesis is that much of the vocabulary of divination in this passage and beyond has been mistranslated in authorized English and other translations used in Africa and in scholarly writings. I argue that the woman of Endor is not a witch, which is a label that has a long negative social history and has often led to violence against those so labeled. The woman of Endor is, rather, a diviner, much like other ancient Near Eastern and modern African diviners. She resists an inner-biblical conquest theology and a monologic authoritarian view of divination to assist King Saul by various means, including invoking the spirit of a departed person, Samuel. I suggest that the violence done to the woman of Endor through such mistranslation stems from ideological forces that have been in ascendancy during such periods of translation. These ideological forces have attempted to exert an extra-biblical monologic authoritarian view of divination in the HB in order to serve their own Christian, imperial-colonial, and misogynist interests, all of which have been particularly problematic in the African missionary context. Translators steeped in such ideology, whether consciously or unconsciously, mistranslated what is fundamentally a heteroglossic, polyvalent, dialogic text that seeks to undermine any authoritarian voices in regard to divination.

To demonstrate my thesis, I carry out a Hebrew word-study shaped by the theories of Mikhail M. Bakhtin regarding the utterance, heteroglossia, and dialogism in order to understand the designative, connotative, emotive, and associative meanings of the many divinatory terms in the Hebrew Bible. I then examine 1 Samuel 28 and a number of prior translations thereof, using the ideological framework of African-feminist-postcolonial biblical interpreters and translation theories to uncover the hidden ideology or transcript of these translations. Finally, using African contextual / cultural hermeneutics and cross-cultural translation theory, I offer new English, French, and Kisanga translations of this passage that are both faithful to the original text and more appropriate to an inculturated-liberation African Christian hermeneutic, theology, and praxis.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

J.Kabamba Kiboko


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

523 p.


Biblical studies