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John Samuel Mbiti (30 November 1931 – 6 October 2019) was a Kenyan-born Christian religious philosopher and writer. He was an ordained Anglican priest, and as of 2005 a canon.

John Mbiti
Born(1931-11-30)30 November 1931
Died6 October 2019(2019-10-06) (aged 87)
EducationUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationTheologian, Philosopher, Priest
Emeritus professor at University of Bern,
Parish minister in Burgdorf, Switzerland
Known forAfrican Theology
TitleDr., Emeritus


Born in Kenya, Mbiti studied in Uganda and the United States before taking his doctorate in 1963 at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He taught religion and theology in Makerere University, Uganda, from 1964 to 1974 and was subsequently director of the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Institute in Bogis-Bossey, Switzerland. He held visiting professorships at universities across the world and published extensively on philosophy, theology and African oral traditions.[1]

Mbiti's seminal book, African Religions and Philosophy (1969), was the first work to challenge Christian assumption that traditional African religious ideas were "demonic and anti-Christian".[2] His sympathetic treatment of traditional religions was based on massive field work. Mbiti was clear that his interpretation of these religions was from a firmly Christian perspective, and this aspect of his work was sometimes severely criticized.[3][4]

Mbiti's research interests included theology in Africa and Asia, and ecumenism. He also collaborated on a book of African proverbs, collected from across the continent.

From 2005 up until his death in 2019, Mbiti was an Emeritus professor at the University of Bern and parish minister to the town of Burgdorf, Switzerland.[5] He was married to Verena Mbiti-Siegenthaler and had four children.[6] Mbiti died in Switzerland on 6 October 2019.[7]


  • Akamba Stories. Oxford Library of African Literature. Oxford University Press (December 1966). ISBN 0-19-815120-9
  • Poems of Nature and Faith. Poets of Africa. East African Publishing House (1969).
  • African Religions and Philosophy. African Writers Series. Heinemann [1969] (1990). ISBN 0-435-89591-5
  • Concepts of God in Africa. London: SPCK (April 1970). ISBN 0-281-02347-6
  • New Testament Eschatology in an African Background. Oxford University Press (March 1971). ISBN 0-19-821659-9
  • Love and Marriage in Africa. London: Longman (1973).
  • Introduction to African Religion. African Writers Series. Heinemann [1975] (1991). ISBN 0-435-94002-3
  • The Prayers of African Religion . London: SPCK (October 1975). ISBN 0-281-02871-0
  • Bible and Theology in African Christianity. Oxford University Press (April 1987). ISBN 0-19-572593-X
  • African Proverbs. Pretoria: UNISA Press (1997).

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Heinemann Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine Author biography. Retrieved 23 March 2006.
  2. ^ Mbiti, John (1980). "The Encounter of Christian Faith and African Religion". Christian Century (August 27–September 3): 817–820. Archived from the original on 2006-03-31. Retrieved 2006-03-23. On-line version published by Religion Online.
  3. ^ Kalumba, Kibujo M (March 2005). "A New Analysis of Mbiti's 'The Concept of Time'". Philosophia Africana. 8 (1): 11–20.
  4. ^ English, Parker (March 2006). "Kalumba, Mbiti, and a Traditional African Concept of Time,". Philosophia Africana. 9 (1): 53–56.
  5. ^ "University of Bern". Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved 2006-03-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) Academic staff biography (in German). Retrieved on 23 March 2006.
  6. ^ "Mbiti, John Samuel" Archived 2017-09-09 at the Wayback Machine, Dictionary of African Christian Biography
  7. ^ pm, Michael Musyoka on 6 October 2019-1:16. "Celebrated Kenyan Scholar Dies in Switzerland". Retrieved 2019-10-06.

Further readingEdit

  • Olupona, Jacob K.; Sulayman S. Nyang (May 1998). "Religious Plurality in Africa: Essays in Honour of John S. Mbiti". Journal of Religion in Africa. BRILL. 28 (Fasc. 2): 247–250. doi:10.2307/1581722. JSTOR 1581722.
  • Kalumba, Kibujo M; English, Parker, eds. (1996). African Philosophy: A Classical Approach. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-323726-5.