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Scholar Awed by African Tribal Creed

As a capstone to his lifelong interest in the central texts of the Christian faith, Jaroslav Pelikan edited (with Valerie Hotchkiss) what could only be called a second magnum opus: Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, a four-volume critical edition with a one-volume historical and theological guide called simply Credo.

Judaism has its shema and Islam its shahadah, but Christians, responding to Jesus' question "Who do you say that I am?" have produced literally thousands of statements of faith across the centuries.

Pelikan's collection includes several hundred of these, among them the Masai Creed. This creed Africanizes Christianity by declaring that Jesus "was always on safari doing good." It also declares that after Jesus had been "tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died, he lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended unto the skies. He is the Lord."

This creed was brought to Pelikan's attention by one of his students, a woman who had been a member of a religious order working in a hospital in East Nigeria. Pelikan commented on his reaction to this text: "And so she brought it to me, and I just got shivers. Just the thought, you know, the hyenas did not touch him, and the act of defiance—God lives even in spite of the hyenas."

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