A Problem of Presence

Beyond Scripture in an African Church

Matthew Engelke


Book not available in Zimbabwe.


The Friday Masowe apostolics of Zimbabwe refer to themselves as “the Christians who don’t read the Bible.” They claim they do not need the Bible because they receive the Word of God “live and direct” from the Holy Spirit. In this insightful and sensitive historical ethnography, Matthew Engelke documents how this rejection of scripture speaks to longstanding concerns within Christianity over mediation and authority. The Bible, of course, has been a key medium through which Christians have recognized God’s presence. But the apostolics perceive scripture as an unnecessary, even dangerous, mediator.


A Problem of Presence is a model of how to make an apparently oblique socio-cultural phenomenon illuminate very wide problems, without sacrificing ethnographic complexity and texture. —James Clifford, author of The Predicament of Culture


Matthew Engelke is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. He also co-ordinates the School’s Programme for the Study of Religion and Non-Religion.