THE CONCEPT OF GOD AMONG THE IGBO PEOPLE

 

 

THE CONCEPT OF GOD AMONG THE IGBO PEOPLE

INTRODUCTION

In the epistemological description of the nature of God, humans make use of theories or thoughts in order to represent certain phenomena and entities in experiences. This phenomena could be societal interactions and especially bewildering or metaphysical events like the creation, death, life et al in the form of myths. The problematic arises with the question, “can God be conceptualized?” If yes, then it defeats His Ultimate Transcendence. But if no, then, it implies that our knowledge of him may be partial, subjective and cumulatively objective. Therefore, in this work, I shall present the Igbos conception about God. Then I shall show similitudes of the concepts of Supremacy of God between the Igbo tradition and Western Tradition. Finally, I shall conclude with the relationships of the Igbo philosophical thoughts of God with other cultures or philosophies and how man should relate with God.

ETYMOLOGICAL DEFINITIONS OF GOD ACCORDING TO THE IGBO TRADITION

The Igbos are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria and situates in the South-eastern part of Nigeria. In Igbo traditional thoughts and religion, the Supreme Being or God is described in various ways; but in three delineated concepts: Chukwu, Chineke and Osebuluwa or Olisebuluwa. The concept Chukwu is the contract of two words Chi (Spirit) and Ukwu (Great or Big). Chineke roots from Chi and na (that or who) and eke (create). While Osebuluwa or Olisebuluwa is the combination of the words Olisa (Supreme) and bulu (carry or sustain). Summarily Chukwu connotes that God is the Great Spirit to whom all lower deities pays allegiance to. Chineke depicts God as the Creator of the Universe and of the human person (Mmadu). While Osebuluwa describes God as the sustainer of the universe. These names portray various functions of the Supreme Being and his place in human existence in the perspective of the Igbos.

This conclusion however instigates a question of origin to whether the idea or concept of God is a Western or Judeo-Christian concept or it already existed among the Igbos.[1]

THE INCONTROVERTIBLE QUESTION ON THE CONCEPT OF SUPREMACY

Is the concept of God a Western importation or did it already exist prior to the arrival of the first missionaries? The concept of God and even his existence is vividly explicit in the life and culture of an Igbo man.  The Igbos believes that Chukwu is the apex and summit of all that is. He created other lesser gods to serve as intermediaries between Himself and other creatures. This is why the early missionaries believed that lesser gods such as Amadi oha (god of lightning), Ala (the earth deity) were the supposed Supreme Being. The Igbos offer sacrifices to this lesser gods so that they may intercede for them but they never offer sacrifices to Chukwu because they believe that He is the “ultimate recipient of all sacrifices”.[2] However, they show this belief by being conscious of the facts of Chukwu’s existence in their daily experiences. This is exemplified in their exclamations: Chineeekeeee! Currently Jesus! is also used interchangeably. Chineke necessarily means Jesus because of his indispensable role in creation. Theophanies such as Chibueze (God is King), Uchechukwu (the thoughts of God), Mmaduchukwu (man of God). Also with proverbs, titles, libations et al.

Are these concepts just exclusive to the Igbos or does it exists in other philosophies or cultures?

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS WITH OTHER CULTURES OR PHILOSOPHIES

The transcendence and immanence of the God factor is implied according to the Igbo concept of a person. A person among the Igbos is designated as mmadu[3]: mmuo (spirit) and adu (body). This is similar to the platonic description of matter and form. A person is capable of thinking, reflecting and deciding. However, there seems to be a thirst of some sort that drives man towards a quest for something transcendent. The universality of this insatiability is the basis for the immanence of God and similarities of the concept of God in all cultures and philosophies especially classical philosophers like Augustine and Aquinas.[4]

Another similarity is the attributes we give God in various cultures and philosophies. In our experiences of certain phenomena of life we tend to formulate names to signify something wonderful. First we have name that depict God’s Supremacy Chukwubuike (to God belongs all Power), Obaloluwa ( God is King).Second, names that depicts God’s providence: Chukwuemeka (God is gracious), Chukwunonso et al. all of these attributes bear some similarity with some Western Judeo-Christian attributes of God such as Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent et al.[5]

CONCLUSION

This work has given the major explanations of the Igbo belief about God. It is also highlighted in the introduction that these concepts of God are opinions and views but may not really represent the true nature of God. How can finite creatures grasp the essence of the Supreme Being? In spite of this limitation all men and religions possess some trait of belief via reasoning in that which nothing greater can be conceived.

Be it as it may, the crux of the Igbo relationship with the Divine is defined by his relationship with his fellow Mmadu. Mmadu should relate first with themselves in order to bring out the beauty of life, then to God by being conscious of his invisible presence all around and in all things.

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ezeugwu, C. E. The Supreme God in Igbo thought: an Appraisal. African. Research Gate.            October, 2019.

Hick, John. Philosophy of Religion. Fourth Edition. USA: Prentice Hall, Inc, 1990.

Isiguzo, A. I., Ukagba, G. and Otakpor, N. The Igbo Concept of a Person. Africa:             Revista                        Trimestrale Di Studi e Documentazione Dell’Istituto Italino per l’Africa e l’Oriente 59,                no. 2 (2004): 231-243. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40761740

Mbaegbu C.C. Traditional Rational Arguments for the Existence of God (Chukwu) in Igbo                         Traditional Philosophy. The African Journals Online, vol. 1, no. 3 (2013).

Owen H.P. God, Arguments for the existence of. Donald M. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of         Philosophy, Vol. 1, 2nd edition. USA: Thomas Gale, 2006.

[1] Cf. Mbaegbu C.C., “Traditional Rational Arguments for the Existence of God (Chukwu) in Igbo Traditional Philosophy”, the African Journals Online, vol. 1, no. 3 (2013). 27-32, 40-41.

[2] Evaristus Chukwudi Ezeugwu, “The Supreme God in Igbo Thought: An Appraisal,” Research Gates, (2019) 29-31.

[3]Cf. Isiguzo, Andrew I., George Ukagba, and Nkeonye Otakpor, “The Igbo Concept of a Person”, Africa: Revista Trimestrale Di Studi e Documentazione Dell’Istituto Italino per l’Africa e l’Oriente 59, no. 2 (2004): 231-243. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40761740.

[4] Cf. Owen H.P., “God, Arguments for the existence of”, Donald M. Borchert (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1, 2006, 2nd edition. USA: Thomas Gale, 107-108.

[5] Cf. John H. Hick, Philosophy of Religion, fourth edition (USA: Prentice Hall, Inc, 1990), 7-8.

 

PETER UCHE ONYEKACHI pcuche08@gmail.com

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