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Domesticating a Religious ImportThe Jesuits and the Inculturation of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, 1879-1980$
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Nicholas M. Creary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780823233342

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823233342.001.0001

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“Thou Shalt Not Take My Name in Vain”: The Mwari Controversy, 1911–1961

“Thou Shalt Not Take My Name in Vain”: The Mwari Controversy, 1911–1961

(p.204) 6 “Thou Shalt Not Take My Name in Vain”: The Mwari Controversy, 1911–1961
Domesticating a Religious Import

Nicholas M. Creary

Fordham University Press

Fr. Ignatius Chidavaenzi and his colleagues on an interdenominational team preparing a more recent and more accurate translation of the Bible into ChiShona presented a theological explanation for the meaning of the name Mwari. Claiming that of all the ChiShona names for God, the biblical scholars proposed two possible meanings based on linguistic evidence. The first proposal held that Mwari was a contraction (and incorrect spelling) of Muwari, which is derived from the ChiShona verb kuwara, “to spread”. The second proposal held that Mwari was a contraction of Muari, which derived from the third person singular of the irregular verb “to be” in ChiShona. The diametrically opposed views of Muari and Mwari—that of two German Jesuits in the 1920s and that of a MuShona biblical scholar writing in the latter years of the twentieth century—show the changes in Catholic understanding of the ChiShona name for the Christian God.

Keywords:   Bible, ChiShona, Mwari, Muwari, kuwara, Muari, MuShona

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