Yoruba Bible, shown here was the first printed
The first Yoruba Bible, seen here, was printed in Great Britain by Lowe & Brydon (printer) Ltd., London ©Xplore9ja

Bible is the Christian Holy book, containing together with the canonical collection of Jewish texts, the good news of the gospel of Christ and of the hope of the saints. The Bible was first translated into the Yoruba language in 1862. Until the 1887 Education ordinance of the Lagos colony, education was the exclusive concern of religious organizations, dominated by the missionaries who for the purpose of evangelizing deemed it necessary for people to acquire the ability to read most importantly, the Bible. In 1878, James Johnson opined that the Yoruba bible must influence the religion, the coming literature, the thought, the language, the phraseology and the life of the country, if it be diligently and extensively used.

As mentioned in the editorial of the Yoruba News of 31 March, 1925, a curious discovery was made in the year 1903, when a postal packet addressed to the editor, D.A. Abasa, was mis-sent to Cairo, Egypt, and subsequently redirected to Ibadan, “Yariba”. Abasa hypothesized the word Yariba was an Eastern name which appeared in the Hebrew Chronoloy in 1 Chronicles chapter 4 verse 24, also in the book of Ezra 8:16 and 10:8 as Yareb, Yarib, or Yoiarib written Jareb, Jarib, and Joiarib in the Authorized British version. There was also an Assyrian king named Yareb in Hosea 5:13 and 10:6. Abasa based his theory on the fact that the dominant people of the Nigerian Western region were known to the Arabs and Fulanis as “Yarba’, and as is evident from “Affairs of West Africa” published in 1902 by E.D. Morel, are also known as “Yerebe”.

It is quite probable that the Yorubas are the descendants of Yarib (Jarib), a priest of the house of Joshua who married a strange woman. According to Abasa, the offspring of this union might sometime have migrated to Egypt during the Jewish dispersion. And as at the time of their great ancestors the children of Israel, they would be welcomed by their maternal relations with open arms. In the Bible’s book of Genesis, the Israelites first migrated to Egypt, under the auspices of Joseph they were settled in the richest part of the country- the land of Goschen, the principal city of which was ON (later called Helipolis). It was the daughter of the Priest-king of ON who was married to Joseph and by who he had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Descendants of this pries-king remaining in the land of Goschen at the time of the dispersal of the Jews may have worked their way up, over the years to the position of the ruling king-priest of ON or ONI.

With the breaking up of Egyptian Empire by Arabs, many peaceful inhabitants escaped further into the interior of Africa, far beyond the reach of their pursuers, until they found themselves safely in the forest regions. This submission of Abasa on the origin of the Yoruba is consistent with many erudite opinions.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer