Thinking Out Loud

May 10, 2016

The Bible Project: An Overview of the Book of Joshua

Last night I discovered that although we very briefly alluded to The Bible Project in one of the link lists, we haven’t really said much about it. So today, we solve the problem by giving you a sample of what it’s all about. A video is worth a thousand words, right?

The Bible Project is the work of Dr. Timothy Mackie. You can learn more about him by listening to an episode of the Deconstructionists Podcast as well as at JoinTheBibleProject.com or by going to directly to (or subscribing to) their YouTube channel.

So without further introduction here’s a look at Joshua. (We’re also posting Joel later today at Christianity 201.) If you’re like me, you’ll wish this type of resource had existed a long, long time ago. New videos are being uploaded rapidly, so stay tuned.

 

 

February 14, 2016

‘Edgy’ Bible Translations Often Overlooked

The classic New Testament edition of The Good News Bible

The classic New Testament edition of The Good News Bible; got one of these at home?

When we think of Bible translations that were considered ‘fresh’ or even ‘radical’ in the last couple of generations there are usually three that come to mind:

  • The Living Bible
  • The Message
  • The Voice

Each of these resonated with readers who were looking for a unique or fresh take on familiar words, and The Living Bible was ‘renovated’ years later to become the NLT.

However, in the last ten days or so, I have been reminded through various sources that it is too easy to overlook two translations done by the American Bible Society:

  • Good News Bible aka GNT aka Today’s English Version (TEV) aka Good News for Modern Man
  • Contemporary English Version aka CEV

(The CEV should not be confused with the CEB, the recently-released Common English Bible.)

If you’re scanning BibleGateway.com, it’s a good idea to check out how the verse or passage in question is rendered in these two versions. A warning though, sometimes we think a verse says something and then we try to find a translation that says what we want it to say. This is where having multiple translations can help us have greater clarity of meaning.

This week I’ve found both the GNT and CEV to be exactly what I needed with a particular reference. Each is its own version — the CEV wasn’t an update to the Good News as some of us believed at the time — with the CEV having the lower (easier) reading level.

And… if you have a bent for philanthropy don’t forget to support the work of The Bible Society in your country.


Our goal in sharing scripture is not to make the Bible relevant, but to communicate the relevance it already has.

 

February 5, 2016

“Treat Your Bible With Respect” vs. the Bible Journaling Trend

I’m not saying I don’t like this. Quite the opposite. I think it would cause me to be spending more time focusing on (i.e. meditating on) the words on the page. I’m just saying I think a lot of grandmothers are rolling over in their graves right now and a few retired Sunday School teachers are freaking out.

Bible Journaling 1

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 3

Bible Journaling 4

What do you think? There was another image I wanted to include here but there was a weird technical glitch each time I tried, and I couldn’t get the # of pixels to reduce using my usual tricks. For the record, available texts at the moment seem to be NIV and ESV. Many of the images I found on line were Mommy Bloggers who would fit the stereotypical Calvinist and ESV mindset. [Warning: Don’t take the bait on that last sentence… just quietly walk away.]

This is an interesting trend to be sure. It definitely is a women’s thing, though I’m sure some guys are doing it as well. The last picture above looks like the person had some graphic art training. And I’m sure there will be critics who hate anything new. [Internet trolls: This is your moment!] I just wonder what it says about our Bibles and how we interact with them. Ideas?

January 2, 2016

It’s Not Just a Story – Part Two

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it with Jack and the Beanstock?

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it as fable, along with Jack and the Beanstock?

I didn’t set out planning a second part to Friday’s post here, but Bruce Allen put so much thought into his comment, I decided we needed to share it more visibly. This is a response to part one, however, so if you haven’t read that, click this link. He lives in Nova Scotia and owns and operates Time Zone Media which does communications work for a variety of ministry organizations and businesses.

••• Guest post by Bruce Allen •••

In our English-language-world, words come and go and even reverse their meanings, such as “wicked” which meant “wonderful” for at least a few years. There is a long list of English words reversed meanings or held captive. People who blow themselves up in crimes against humanity are called martyrs by their fellow zealots and the news media picks it up and repeats the word until the general population accepts the new definition: Martyrs are cold-blooded killers rather than those murdered. Older English speaking Christians may sort out those “reversed meaning” words but what about a younger generation that stares blankly at their cell phones while texting and doing “selfies?” How should Bible translators deal with a language in flux? Is a “wicked” king now an “awesome” king rather than an evil king?

When the time arrived for Christian leaders to jettison words from earlier eras, there was a lot of brain-storming by Bible orality ministries to figure out what would replace “Bible story.” For my work with the words Bible and Bible stories, I came up with Bible chronicles.

Dictionary: Chronicle – noun, a chronological record of events; a history.

Wow! History, events, and accounts all sounded serious enough words to be Christian so I bought the Bible Chronicles web address and launched my Bible story word revolution with positive vibes.

After using Bible chronicles for several years, I discovered that fellow believers could never remember our web address: BibleChronicles.org . Whenever I felt duty-bound to tell church goers that “Bible story” didn’t cut it in today’s changing world, they fretted and worried. After tiring of explaining, I abandoned the revolution and returned to using Bible stories.

When a word like story is so embedded in a language, it is difficult to suddenly abandon it for other words, especially when the general population is unaware of the Christian world of words and their meanings. As far as teaching our own children, maybe we could begin with not telling them that Santa is real. If Santa knows that we are naughty or nice, who needs God? And what about the Easter bunny and a host of other fables? Do we set our kids up to think we never tell the truth?

Whatever we parents are, our kids become. It may not be so obvious during the teen years, but give it a decade and they become like mom and dad. If they come to understand that we parents truly love them and that we love Jesus and believe his words, we are on solid ground.

Of course we need to teach by the example of lived day to day. We also need to teach them from the Bible and about the Bible. If we see on TV that ISIS just took sledgehammers to Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh, that is a good historical lesson. Who would put a tomb there if there were no Jonah?

Christian kids need to be taught by parents that the world of Christians and Jews is rooted firmly in history – and with the war in Syria and Iraq, history is right in front of our biblical noses. Recently, tens of thousands of Christians have been driven from the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plain by the ISIS murderers. Why not find out about those ancient Christian churches and why they celebrate the Jonah fast? Why not tell the story of those Christians and then read the Biblical account to anyone who will listen – including our children? We have the best stories ever – they are in the Bible and they are true.

From Wikipedia:

Nineveh’s repentance and salvation from evil is noted in the Christian biblical canon’s Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32). To this day, oriental churches of the Middle East commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish during the Fast of Nineveh. The Christians observing this holiday fast by refraining from food and drinks. Churches encourage followers to refrain from meat, fish and dairy products.

Here is a video of ISIS smashing the tomb of Jonah. Scroll down the page to view it. 


Bruce Allen is a Christian communications consultant to ministries using solar audio Bibles to reach an estimated 3 billion people who cannot read God’s written Word. He is also a software developer who has created ToucanChat for ministries and businesses. A simple installation of Toucan Chat helps ministry workers connect with visitors on their website in real time. Bruce’s personal opinion in the “Bible story” article is his own and does not reflect the views of any particular ministry. 

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

 

 

 

December 31, 2015

It’s Not Just a Story

Is the story of Balaam and his donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Bible tells to make another point? It's possible to accept it as something that happened, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Is the story of Balaam and his talking donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Biblical writer tells to make another point? It’s possible to accept it as rooted in genuine events, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Several weeks ago I attended a Saturday morning breakfast organized as part of a national initiative, the Canadian Christian Business Federation. They are currently operating in six provinces here, and this was my second time at the local chapter.

Some of the best interactions in situations like this happen outside the boundaries of what was formally organized. It turned out that the person sitting next to me at breakfast was from Florida, where he is part of a Creation Science ministry.

We met up later in the morning at the Christian bookstore, and he was looking at Children’s products. I started talking about some of my recent conversations with parents on how as kids, we learn the ways of God through narratives. Adam and Eve. David and Goliath. Jonah and the large fish. Joshua and the Wall of Jericho. Three men in the fiery furnace.

At one point, I used the word story to describe these, and at that point he corrected me, and it’s a correction I’ve been very consciously aware of over the past few weeks. Better, he suggested to use the word account.

The problem with story is that in some peoples’ minds it is synonymous with tale or myth. Now, I realize as I write this, that there are some people — even among readers here — who do in fact see some of these as allegorical tales. Especially the creation narrative with which he works so closely. I suppose we need to save that one for another day.

I also realize that the New Testament in particular is full of parable. There wasn’t ever a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son; right? Or had this played out somewhere? Were there several prodigal sons? Or is the parable an amalgam of things that have actually happened at different times in different places?

There’s even a classic Old Testament parable, told by Nathan, that we could call The Farmer and the Lamb.

So how do little children — who are being taught things that are myths and tales in their English classes — separate fact from fiction? Can a Christian kid say categorically that there was a David, a Jonah, a Joshua? Or are they just reading these things as literature?

Much of our attention in the church at large is currently focused on establishing the authority of the New Testament gospels. We know the disciples were willing to die for what they believed; what they had heard and seen with their own eyes and ears, or the testimony of witnesses they considered to be reliable.

But what about the authority of the Old Testament historical books?  Are the children in our sphere of influence as confident in the story account of the three men in the fiery furnace, or in their minds, is it in the same class as the one about Goldilocks and the three bears?

By better controlling our use of language, and especially thinking in terms of scriptural accounts we are testifying to the verity of the people and situations described.

 

 

December 20, 2015

New Bible Edition Highlights O.T. Christological Passages in Blue

Filed under: bible, books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am
Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

With The Jesus Storybook Bible providing children with insights as to how the Old Testament narratives point toward the coming of Jesus — so popular it necessitated the recently released adult version, The Story of God’s Love For You — it was inevitable that someone would pursue this at a deeper level looking at the entirety of the O.T. text, not just selected stories.

While I don’t have a relationship with Group Publishing that I do with other publishers — they did not supply a review copy — I had a rather cursory look at this edition of the New Living Translation on the weekend, and was reminded of this again watching the preview video which pastor Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House in Greater Toronto included in the middle of a Sunday sermon two weeks ago. (Link is to full sermon, click the video below to source.)

The printing of key texts in blue letters — highlighting more than 600 passages in the Old Testament pointing to Jesus — is mentioned in the video almost as an afterthought, and I thought they could have done a better job of showing page samples, but for what it’s worth, here’s the trailer.

Learn more at this link to Group Publishing.


Published: September, 2015 1410 pages
Translation: NLT
Hardcover 978147073404 $24.99 US
Turquoise Imit. 9781470722159 $34.99 US
Slate Imit. 9781470726881 $34.99 US
Related youth ministry resources also available; though the Bible itself is not, strictly speaking, a youth-only product.

December 3, 2015

The Christmas Story: Where Did Luke Get the Lyrics to Mary’s Song?

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:42 am

MagnificatHow does a young girl — some commentaries suggest maybe 14 years old — come out with such a deep, theological response to the angel’s announcement that she will birth the Messiah all of Israel has waited for?

Mary’s burst of praise contains over a dozen references to Old Testament (I prefer “First Testament”) scriptures, which she no doubt learned as part of the religious education all Jewish children received, right?

But the next question would be, Where did Luke get the text of her song? In a church where I was the Sunday morning guest speaker, we considered four possibilities; you might hear all of these from different types of people at this time of year:

  1. Luke didn’t get it from her. It’s revisionism. The words are being ascribed to her because the poetry works into a nice narrative; four poems or psalms actually; being attributed to four different people. Makes a nice Christmas play, but it never happened; at least not like that.
  2. She didn’t use those words at the time, but later when Luke interviewed her. She recalled being filled with awe and wonder at the moment, and gives him a text years down the road that only comes with maturity and further understanding of the prophetic texts. A reflective version of actual events that happened differently.
  3. Luke did get it from her and it really was the text of her song at the time. She essentially “taught herself” the text and melody in those critical, expectant months — yes, there was a tune to this song — and having memorized it, repeated it over and over throughout her life.
  4. The song is real, the lyrics are accurate, and it’s all Mary’s work, but Luke didn’t need to interview her to get it, because many of the women of the time had been taught “Mary’s Song;” originally from Mary herself, but some from others who knew the lyrics and melody. (However, its original CCLI number was discontinued; I think it was song number 4.)

I like options three and four. Modern scholarship would try to deconstruct the text, but instead, we should look at ways we can make the text work. Luke, the doctor and historian, having access to the text of a young peasant girl’s immediate reaction to an angelic visitation is far from impossible to imagine. And his gospel begins with a pledge of accuracy. 

The problem with options one and two is that there are many people simply looking for a loophole. They are predisposed to believe that the Bible is more fiction than fact, and if you can’t trust some of it, you can’t trust any of it. If you can’t trust it, you don’t have to believe it, or follow its teachings, or recognize its version of God.

For those people, I hope this Christmas they receive the gift of faith.

October 13, 2015

My C201 Blog Post About Conviction (Not That I Was Feeling Convicted or Anything)

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:22 am

Isaiah 6:5 -Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Acts 2:37 -Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

Is it just me, or is conviction of sin a topic that you don’t hear preached as often as it once was? Apparently we’ve only looked at this topic at Christianity 201 once before. Another one, which I see we’ve covered more frequently there is assurance of salvation. Still, I find certain themes are just not heard so often in the modern church. When was the last time you saw an altar call for people wanting assurance?

But back to conviction. A few weeks ago a friend shared with me after church that he felt God was impressing something on his heart. As he talked, I was reminded of the movie The Color Purple (which I haven’t seen and I’m not necessarily recommending) and the song, “Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something.”

Can’t sleep at night and you wonder why
Maybe God is trying to tell you something
Crying all night long, something’s gone wrong
Maybe God is trying to tell you something

Have you ever felt conviction? At Acts 17:11 Bible Studies we read,

The first work of the Holy Spirit is the conviction of sin. If we are temples of the Spirit, His presence, His name in us will convict us, and others, of sin. We will feel more affinity towards those who, like us, long for more conviction, repentance, and the power of God to live a life that will stand the test of fire.

Often there is confusion between the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting us, and work of the enemy in condemning us. This is from the website of Marriage Missions International:

It is important for those of us who are born again Christians, to know that there is a huge difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation of the enemy of our faith, because it can affect how we approach life.

Please, let there be no confusion. The Holy Spirit works to convict us to push away from the ensnarement of sin (doing that which is wrong) and towards God in freedom. The condemning spirit of the enemy of our faith works to push us away from God in shame and condemnation, so we are more prone in hopelessness, to continue to do what we should NOT. (emphasis added)

In researching this topic, I found a very lengthy article at the website Outside the Camp. In a list of the various roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives, one stood out:

  • The Holy Spirit sanctifies

So the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit is just one of many things He brings. Paul writes to Titus:

3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (emphasis added)

But the initial repentance and confession at the moment of salvation is not the end. Sanctification is a process; a life-long process. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says,

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Nathan Bingham writes:

Regeneration is a momentary act, bringing a person from spiritual death to life. It is exclusively God’s work. Sanctification is an ongoing process, dependent on God’s continuing action in the believer, and consisting of the believer’s continuous struggle against sin.

Different denominations teach different things about how and when this works. In one church I attended, they spoke of “Saved, sanctified and filled with the spirit.” Was that the order in which these occur? The phrase “second blessing” or “second work of grace” is often used. But in other churches, the gift of tongues (or more generally, the filling of the Spirit) is called the second blessing. For this, we turn to that great theological source (!) that is Wikipedia:

According to some Christian traditions, a second work of grace is a transforming interaction with God which may occur in the life of a Christian. The defining characteristics of this event are that it is separate from and subsequent to salvation (the first work of grace), and that it brings about significant changes in the life of the believer.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that there were two distinct phases in the Christian experience. During the first phase, conversion, the believer received forgiveness and became a Christian. During the second phase, sanctification, the believer was purified and made holy. Wesley taught both that sanctification could be an instantaneous experience, and that it could be a gradual process.

Regardless of your theological take on the subject of sanctification, I hope and pray you have moments where you are open to the voice of God speaking to you about sin in your life. This conviction is a gift from God, though often we don’t see it as such. Maybe God is trying to tell you something.

2 Cor 7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”


Go Deeper: The opening verses are from 22 Bible Verses about Conviction of Sin.

October 8, 2015

The Message 100: A New Type of Bible Reading Engagement

We live at a time when Bible publishers have offered us a degree of choices and formats that previous generations would never have imagined. Different editions compete both in terms of brand identification and in their desire to readers engaged in the scriptures.

The Message 100The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence takes the complete text of Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible and divides it into 100 readings and although the reader is encouraged to go at their own pace, this means that one could read this Bible in 100 days, an acceleration of the usual “read the Bible in a year” type of approach.

Starting in Genesis, I decided to time myself with the first section and clocked in at 26 minutes, though I may have rushed the two genealogies. Still, at less than a half hour, and with only 99 readings left, I was impressed that day how easily this pace of reading the whole Bible might be accomplished.

Because the publisher of The Message, NavPress has merged their marketing and distribution with Tyndale (publisher of the NLT) I was a little wary that this new Message might follow the One Year Bible format which scrambles the text considerably.

Instead, The Message 100 keeps whole books of the Bible fully intact, the First and Second Testaments are completely separated, and the first 30 sections follow the traditional sequence. After that, all bets are off: The minor prophets are co-mingled with books of history, and the wisdom literature is placed at the very end with Psalms wrapping up the 79 OT sections, reminiscent of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) where Prophets come before Writings.

The New Testament begins with the synoptic gospels, then Acts, then the letters (epistles) in a more accurate chronological sequence, not the sorting-by-length with which we are familiar. The writings of John, including his gospel, concludes the 21 NT sections.

The Message 100 also contains a short introduction by Bono — himself quite familiar with the version — which makes it an instant collector’s item for U2 fans.


Connect to the full text of Bono’s intro at fellow-blogger Dave Wainscott’s review.

The Message 100 is 1,808 pages, available in both paperback and hardcover editions, with a North American release date of Tuesday, October 15th.

October 6, 2015

Thus Sayeth the Blogger

At the start of each new month, I give myself permission to look back at previous material that might be worthy of recycling. It can be from any year, but has to be from the same month. As it turns out, this one ran only a year ago, but it touched on a theme that I was going to find recurring over and over and over again: The problems inherent in Bible verse numbering. So many truths meant to be read in a context are instead seen in isolation. It’s great for locating texts, and I am in no way opposed to Bible memorization, but it can create interpretive problems for the average parishioner…

1From Paul, a blogger at Thinking Out Loud, to the church online;
2Greetings and welcome to today’s topic.

3Can you imagine if I were to write a book and give a number to every one or two sentences?
4It would break up the reading for sure,
5And people would consider it somewhat pompous.
6While it might be helpful in an historical account, it would surely break up the flow in a romance story or a parable
7And poetry would be rather awkward.

8Yet this is what happens when we read the Bible.
9Because we have such easy, pinpoint access to particular phrases, we are able to focus on those.
10And we often miss the context in which they are being said,
11Or worse, we over emphasize them to the exclusion of other truths.

12So one reader believes he “can do all things,” but can he fly an airplane?
13Another believes God has “plans to prosper” him, but what if he doesn’t see material blessing?
14Yet one more thinks that the parenting she has done assures her children “will not depart from it,” but is that an automatic guarantee or just a statement of principle?

15Churches teach that “all these things shall be added unto you,” but the context is the basic necessities of life, not everything we desire.
16Or that, “all things work together for good,” which is simply a bad translation of the verb.
17Or that, “not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able,” means that God will never give you more than you can handle.

18God is good, and God can be trusted, but if we are to take him at his word, we need to read it properly and in full context.
19Sometimes the verse numbers mitigate against that.
20So we need to be more careful, and more studious in our reading.
21And perhaps we need to be more aware and more embracing of those recent publications which present the Bible as a single story,
22And those translations which relegate the verse numbers to a place of lesser prominence.

23The grace of our Lord be with you all; Amen.

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