Spreading the Word of God and Benga

Susana Castillo-Rodriguez

Associate professor of Spanish Susana Castillo-Rodriguez (SUNY Geneseo/Matt Burkhartt)


Author (Has Faculty Page)


Journal/Publication and Year

Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue canadienne des études africaines (2023)


As a contribution to sustaining African languages, "Spreading the word of God and Benga: the Presbyterian Church in Corisco Bay" unveils American Presbyterian missionary linguistic works in the selection and diffusion of Benga on Corisco Island during the 19th century.


Since its inception, the Presbyterian Church aimed to bring God’s word to the people in the native language of those they wished to convert, and that is the task it brought with determination to Corisco Bay in Equatorial Guinea. This article draws on historical documents of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, publications by Presbyterian reverends in the Corisco Mission from the nineteenth century, and fieldwork notes and interviews. These resources were used to first contextualize the establishment of thePresbyterian Church in Corisco Bay. Then, to explore the linguistic work of Presbyterian missionaries in the selection of Benga as the language of translation of the Bible. And, finally, to highlight the fundamental role that the American Bible Society played–thanks to their massive printing of the Holy Scriptures in Benga–in the spread and maintenance of the language, not only in Corisco but in the region more broadly.

Primary research question:

What was the agency of American Presbyterian missionaries and the American Bible Society in the maintenance and sustainability of Benga in Corisco Bay in the nineteenth century?

What the research adds to the topic:

This is the first article about Benga language. There is no research based on the American Presbyterian missionary linguistic work in West Central Africa.