This article is about the juxtaposition of the notion of perichoresis in the work and theology of
the Cappadocian Fathers and the notion of Ubuntu in the African Traditional Religion (ATR).
Perichoresis was a result of an attempt to understand and to resolve the relationships within the
Trinity. The issue at hand was how to make sense between the one and the many at the same
time. The Cappadocian Fathers understood the oneness of God as unity in plurality, not a
singularity. One Ousia and three hypostases were based on the understanding of the relationships
within the trinity. The question of three yet one God (the church in Jerusalem continued worship
of God the Father and Jesus Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit), the apostles according to the
information we have never question nor try to resolve the position and status of Jesus within the
oneness. It appears as though they celebrated the tension rather than resolving it. They heard
from Jesus, who said to them ‘you believe in God believe also in me’ and ‘if you had known me,
you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him …
whoever has seen me has seen the Father’. They also heard him when he said ‘I am in the Father
and the Father is in me’. The article is going to investigate and analyse the two notions,
Perichoresis and Ubuntu, within the African Christian context. Yet there is a tension between
Jesus and the ancestors. Can this tension be resolved? The notion of Ubuntu is based upon the
understanding that a person becomes fully a person in the presence of other persons. It is a
notion that deals with the relationships from an individual to the community and from physical
to spiritual perspectives. The article shall also attempt to analyse any categories of thinking that
are within the ATR that may better explain the relationship within the Trinity.
This research is part of the
research project, ‘Theology
of Nature’, directed by Prof.
Dr Johan Buitendag,
Department Dogmatics and
Christian Ethics, Faculty of
Theology, University of
Pretoria and Dean of the
Faculy of Theology.
This article is a reworked version of aspects from the PhD thesis of Jele S. Manganyi, titled ‘Church and society: The value of
perichoresis in understanding ubuntu with special reference to John Zizioulas’, in the Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics,
Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria with Prof Johan Buitendag as supervisor. (http://hdl.handle.net/2263/23900)