Sick and dying, the pagan African king knew that he could save himself only by the sacrifice of another human being. Following the king’s orders, servants kidnapped a young Christian boy, Deola, with a view to killing him. Eventually, though, the faithful Deola was able to show the king that his health problems all stemmed from a pagan curse. Even better, Deola was revealed to be the king’s long-lost grandson, and the whole family was reconciled and brought to Christ.
That particular story, Apótí Erí (“Ark of the Covenant”), was written not in the seventh century but within the past decade, and it survives not in an ancient manuscript but in a straight-to-video production. It is a splendid example of one of the largest and most influential forms of Christian media in the emerging churches, namely the evangelical or charismatic video production that stands at the forefront of evangelism in Africa.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.