Original Research - Special Collection: Festschrift for Prof Stephan Joubert

Engaging with patronage and corruption in a corona-defined world

Marius J. Nel
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6555 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6555 | © 2021 Marius J. Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 February 2021 | Published: 06 September 2021

About the author(s)

Marius J. Nel, Department of Old and New Testament, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


The background of this article is the ethical challenges presented by patronage that has been highlighted by the present coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. The aim of the article is to understand the role patronage plays in Africa from the perspective of a relevant African hermeneutic. Like many studies undertaken in an African setting, it uses a comparative methodology to create a dialogue between a socio-historical textual analysis of the biblical text and the socio-economic and religio-cultural realities of African contexts. It specifically uses an analogical paradigm that compares the reception of the biblical tradition in a specific historical critical context to its reception in modern-day African contexts. The result of the comparison is that the misuse of patronage is engaged from the perspective of the response of early Christian writers to patronage in the 1st century. This initial exploration has indicated that an analogous comparative approach has the potential to provide deeper insights in understanding the relationship established by patronage in African contexts. The conclusion is that in its engagement with patronage in Africa, the church must encourage its members to ask if it establishes parasitic or exploitative relations, if it is beneficial to the whole society over an extended period of time and if a clear distinction is made between public (offices) and personal resources. Ultimately, it needs to be asked if benefaction reflects the will of God and enhances the reputation of the congregation of God.

Contribution: The contribution of the article is in clarifying the potential analogical comparisons for studying the Bible in Africa and for the formulation of a critical African ethic.


patronage; African biblical studies; corona-defined; corruption; benefaction


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