by Rev. Canon Francis OMONDI
The Diocese of Maseno North will collate Rev. Professor Aloo Osotsi Mojola Canon this weekend.
Rev. Prof. Aloo O. Mojola
Prof. Mojola is an outsider as a Theologian or a Cleric. Yet his peculiar life comprises of stretch in academia, a baffling array of authorship, and an imperious ministry as a Bible translator in tons of languages.
Reason that the, Diocese of Maseno North would make canon of a priest, yea, an attached clergy of All Saints Cathedral Diocese remains open for speculation. Why bishops collate canons- lay or clergy, in the ACK has been haunted with whispers of cronyism at worst transactional. Originally, a canon was a cleric living with others in a clergy house or, later, in one of the houses within the precinct of or close to a cathedral and conducting his life according to the orders or rules of the church. We do not make this kind today. All our canons are secular and have been since the Reformation. Besides they are mainly clergy and such will Aloo be.
Today’s system of canons is retained almost exclusively in connection with cathedral churches. A canon is a member of the Cathedral chapter of (for the most part) priests, headed by a dean, which is responsible for administering a cathedral. Majority of the ACK cathedrals seldom engage their canons this way. This should sound a warning to the Prof. For someone who lives and works in the Nairobi area and calling Rev. Mojola may be find the intrigues of this role stifling.
Perhaps the Prof. May be inclined to the other role of canons: are responsible for Bishops as advisors. Here is why bishops nominate canons and working through the diocesan synod get them appointed to advice the see. Mojola’s encyclopedic mind should endear his as a dependable advisor, a role I am sure he will cherish.
Prof. Mojola should have been made a canon for better reasons than these and earlier than now. Aloo’s imposing service to the Church in the ministry of Bible Translation should have made us collate him ‘Canon Biblical’ (different from to canon Theologian, or canon Missioner). The blindness to vocation other than pastoral and pulpit ministry exposes the poverty of the ACK. The centrality of bible translation in the Catholic enabled the recognition of ‘Biblical apostolate’ as Holy Orders. The ‘biblical apostolate’ is the specific vocation to bring others into contact with and to knowledge of the Bible recognised in the Roman Catholic Church.
Rev. Mojola became a clergy deep into his ministry as a translator. He was ordained deacon in Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Dodoma, Tanzania, Diocese of Central Tanganyika of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, on 16th March 1997. On 5th December 2004, he was made a Priest at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi in the All Saints Cathedral Diocese.
A renowned Intellectual who began his career at the Nairobi University as a lecturer in May of 1979, Aloo taught Philosophy, Epistemology, Logic and Philosophy of Religion until May 1983 when he left. He was responding to a Call that thrust him into one of the most outlandish Christian services that defined his life to date. Bible Translation.
The task of putting God’s Holy Scriptures into the hands of Christians both clergy and laity in a language they would read and understand became his one consuming passion. Pope John Paul II describing this kind of work calls it “both exciting and challenging. It demands hard work and perseverance. It requires study and prayer. At all times, it is personally engaging, for “the word of God is living and active.’ ”
In seeking to ensure “easy access to Sacred Scripture…for all the Christian faithful”, Prof. Mojola made his professional contribution to Scripture translation, as Translation Consultant for United Bible Societies. He was responsible for coaching, advising and training Bible Translators in Africa he has been imperious. Chances are that the bible you are holding has indents of his fingerprints.
He participated in the translation of over 61 Bibles and New Testaments in different African languages, where working closely with Bible Translators to ensure Quality and Fidelity of the Scripture they translated: 24 bibles in Tanzania, 17 in Kenya, 8 in Uganda, 9 in D.R. Congo, 2 in Rwanda, one in Burundi, Seychelles and Mauritius.
I don’t know of any one person with such credential in scripture translation in the world. Aloo exhibited the accuracy of a plumb line; sharpness of a razor and incredible flexibility to have produced these bibles and rally communities to hold them aloft saying God has spoken our language.
Besides translations endeavors, Prof. Mojola has contributed in making known the meaning and teaching of Scripture to the end that God’s people would be enlightened in minds, strengthen in wills, and hearts set on fire with the love of God.
This he has done as a lecturer in Universities across Africa: Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (now Africa International University), where he taught Philosophy of Religion course, Nairobi International School of Theology, Nairobi here he taught course on Leadership ethics to MA students.
He has worked in formation of clergy and Christian workers across the world as Visiting Professor, Great Lakes University of Kisumu where he taught courses in critical thinking and philosophy to MA and PhD students, as well as introductory Biblical Hebrew to theology students, St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, where he taught course on ‘Philosophy for understanding Theology’ and course on ‘History of Biblical Israel’ to MTh students.
He has been external examiner for Biblical interpretation, Bible Translation studies and Theology at MA and PhD levels in Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Uganda Christian University, Mukono Uganda, Africa International, University, Karen Nairobi, Kenya, University of Kwazulu, Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Kenyatta University, Department of Linguistics and St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, Department of Theology.
Education in the Scripture has become an essential part of his calling. The wide range of theological and methodological uncertainties in communication scriptural content requires some level of expert guidance. To rightly divide the Word and make it available is serious undertaking. His total dedication to education is further seen in his 82 publications by which he has stimulated thoughts and shaped ideas across the world.
To think of a few he:
Coordinated and managed the quality control/assurance of the translation into Kiswahili of the English Africa Bible Commentary, Tokunboh Adeyemo, General Editor. Published as Ufafanuzi wa Biblia katika Mazingira na Utamaduni wa Afrika.
Prof. Mojola with Prof. Habtu and publishers of Ufafanuzi wa Bibilia…
He wrote in
-“The Chagga scapegoat purification ritual and another re-reading of the goat of ‘‘Azazel’’ (עֲזָאזֵל) in Leviticus 16 – preliminary observations”, forthcoming as a chapter in Seeing New Facets of the Diamond – Christianity as a Universal Faith: Essays in Honour of Kwame Bediako;, “The name of God in modern non-western
Bible translations” in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (EHLL), general editor, Geoffrey Khan;
– “Helps for Readers – Bible Study Notes, Concordances and other aids for Readers of the Bible in African languages with specific reference to the case of the Swahili Bible in East Africa” in Of Translations, Revisions, Scripts and Software, ed. Lenart de Regt,
– The global context and its consequences for Old Testament translation” presented at the Seminar on Global Biblical Hermeneutics, International Organization for Study of the Old Testament, held at Ljubljana, Slovenia, 15-20 July 2007 (published by as chapter in book Global Hermeneutics – Reflections and Consequences, edited by Knut Holter and Louis Jonker, and
-“Bible Translation in Africa” in Daniel Patte, ed. Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity. Cambridge UK.
Having retired from being Global Translation Adviser – United Bible Societies, in June 2015. Prof. Mojola is now a Professor, St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya, but continues also as Honorary Professor, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Accra Ghana, and Research Associate, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa,
If for any reason honour should be conferred on him, it should be on the account of his life’s work, the availing scriptures to the church. He is our Biblical Apostolate, an honor the whole church: Catholics Orthodox Protestants and Independents would have gladly bestowed on him.
One can understand Prof. Mojola’s value to a church in dire straights and in need of good advise. Yet judging from history, making him a canon is the easy part, but whether the advice he gives will be valued will remain another matter altogether.
Rev. Canon Francis OMONDI
All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi
Anglican Church of Kenya