Understanding Scripture

What facilitates and hinders Scripture engagement in the Minyanka churches of Mali?
Author: Richard Margetts

MA dissertation: All Nations, UK (2013)

Abstract:

The coming of the New Testament in 2006 heralded a new era of Scripture engagement for the Minyanka people of Mali. This paper evaluates the factors that have facilitated and hindered the process of interacting with God’s Word. It includes an examination of the role of Bible understanding, literacy and methods of oral communication as well as the relationship between the Bible agency and the local churches.

The research takes an exploratory approach in which a review of existing literature and initial interviews helped to formulate a research questionnaire which was carried out in Minyanka churches. The results of the survey became the subject of discussion in follow-up interviews with Malian Bible translators, pastors and expatriate colleagues in order to interpret the data. This was combined with documentary research into Scripture engagement in the history of the Minyanka church and in reports of recent activities.

The testimonies of change and transformation demonstrate that the translated Scriptures are making a difference. Scripture engagement is taking place as people read their New Testaments, listen to the audio Scriptures and tune into Minyanka radio programmes.

But this paper also shows that there is no room for complacency. There is an urgent call for basic Bible teaching and ongoing literacy classes. Pastors have an especially important role to play and need to be given encouragement, time, resources and training to more effectively facilitate Scripture engagement. Their choice of communication methods and their availability to answer questions from the Bible has a considerable influence on the way people interact with the Scriptures.

Spiritual transformation is a desired outcome of Scripture engagement, but it is not necessarily immediate and certainly not automatic. As Bible agencies have learnt in the West, it is possible to have access to Scripture and some of the best resources and programmes, but fail to be changed by God’s Word. In this sense, Minyanka Christians are no different from Christians anywhere else in the world, facing the challenge of making Scripture engagement a priority amid the many distractions in life.

Download as a PDF document below:  [more...]

An interactive journey through the Old Testament
Author: Jennifer Wright

In this detailed 17-page workshop guide from the Ndop region of North West Cameroon, Jennifer Wright describes how participants were taken on an interactive journey through the Old Testament:

What?
The Bible Overview Workshop is a two day workshop for leaders of church groups, such as listening group leaders and Sunday School teachers, with the aim of giving a basic knowledge of the overall Bible story and particularly aspects of the Old Testament which are important for understanding the New Testament.

Why?
We had trained people to be listening group leaders and children’s leaders, and they were generally doing well, however we realised that due to limited knowledge of the Old Testament, some were finding it challenging to lead their group because they were not prepared for the kind of questions that could come up unexpectedly when listening to or reading the New Testament – for example about the priests, the sacrificial system, the Passover feast, etc. Although they knew a lot of Bible stories, many did not have a very clear idea of what order they come in and how it all fits together.

How?
Geography: We had a simple map of the Ancient Near East on the wall and the whole room was set up to match the map. The participants moved around the room as they engaged with the material so they gained an understanding of the layout of the places we were talking about and the movements of the people of Israel, from Abraham’s first journey to Canaan to the return from Exile.

Timeline: Each participant received a blank timeline at the beginning of the course, and there was a large version of it on the wall. As we went through the material, we completed the timeline on the wall and the participants completed their own timelines to match it so they could take it home with them.

Telling Bible Stories together: We selected a set of stories to give a coherent summary of the Old Testament. Some stories which were well known to the participants were covered very briefly by letting them summarise them or in some cases act them out. Other stories were narrated or read from the Bible.

Questions: For several key passages, we asked questions based on the text in order to encourage discussion and bring out key points, especially when they would be referred to later. We also gave space for participants to ask questions.

Discussion topics – e.g. we finished the first day by making a large model Tabernacle (out of people, benches, a sheet, cardboard boxes, etc.) and then having a discussion of sacrifices, comparing the Old Testament sacrificial system to the local village’s sacrificial system.

Download a full description of the workshop as a PDF document.  [more...]

Historical and hermeneutical study of ordinary "readers" transactions with the Bible.
Author: Mote Paulo Magomba
Published by: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg - MTh thesis (2004)

Abstract:
This study falls within the area of the Bible in African Christianity, particularly ordinary readers' appropriation of and interpretation of the Bible. It seeks to explore, firstly, the processes of the encounter between the Bible and the indigenous people of Tanzania, specifically the Gogo in central region. Secondly, this thesis seeks to identify some interpretative resources and emerging interpretative practices that have continued into the present of ordinary readers of the Bible.

This exploration is done by tracing the mission activities of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Tanzania, which began in 1844. The work of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) is also examined, particularly the role it has played in making the Book "open" to the indigenous, through translation.

Although there is continuity between past and present readings, this thesis demonstrates that ordinary readings are not static, they are dynamic; and over the years neo-indigenous interpretative moves have emerged which are a combination of both missionary and indigenous interpretative resources and methods. This reality is evident in the contemporary phenomenon of women and youths' songs in central Tanzania. These songs are creative interpretations of the Bible from an ordinary readers' perspective.  [more...]

A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
Author: Michael Williams
Published by: Zondervan (2012)

From the book description:

"Many Christians today experience Bible teaching in isolated, unconnected pieces, receiving little or no guidance into how these pieces form a coherent picture in Christ. How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens presents Christ as the central focus of each biblical book and the primary way the Bible relates to contemporary circumstances. Each book of the Bible has an identifiable theme ultimately fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.

By demonstrating how each theme relates to living the Christian life, this book promises to be an invaluable guide for reading and understanding the Bible."

You can download a sample chapter here.  [more...]

A Bible Engagement Tool designed to assist people to grasp the big picture of Scripture; the story of the King and His Kingdom, and their place in it!
Author: Clayton Fergie (Scripture Union International)

"The pattern of a fundamentally fragmented and disconnected understanding of Scripture still remains a major issue for those within Christendom, in both the majority and minority world."

Timelining Scripture is an innovative, yet simple Bible engagement tool that helps people to grasp Scripture as the single great coherent story of God’s purposes for the world. It reinforces a strong notion of the Kingdom of God and is particularly useful for helping people to find themselves, their community and their cultural context as actors within the biblical story. It is adaptable across age and cultural contexts and is highly visual, interactive and flexible.  [more...]

Author: Pauline Hoggarth
Published by: Lausanne Global Conversation

"Jesus loved metaphors and so did the Old Testament prophets. They knew their power to expand people’s limited imaginations or straighten out distorted understandings. They knew how metaphors enable people to glimpse another reality."

In this article, Pauline Hoggarth encourages us to mull over the metaphors we find in the epistle to the Ephesians: "When we think about the Bible’s powerful ability to expand our imagination, few of us have the New Testament letters in mind! We tend to forget their nature as human, pastoral documents. We receive them as theological treatises, flat text on the page, forgetting that they were listened to as ’performances’, probably recited from memory by the person bringing them, in front of their intended audience. In such performances, Paul’s metaphors were crucial for communicating key ideas that he wanted people to remember."  [more...]

Illustrated information books exploring the life and history of Bible times.
Authors: Tim Dowley, Robert Backhouse, Mary Evans, Stephen Motyer, Robert Bewley
Published by: Lion Hudson Plc

Lion Hudson has republished their set of 12 illustrated Bible information books. The series includes: People of the Bible, Life in Bible Times, Bible Facts and Figures, The Life of Jesus, The World of the Bible, Bible Atlas, The Jerusalem Temple, The Tabernacle, Old Testament Introduction, New Testament Introduction.

These books are really popular with translation teams. They would also be good in Bible schools and for those working with children and youth.

Special Offer: For those working with Bible agencies, get the complete set of 12 books for only £12 (British pounds), if you can arrange to collect them from the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK headquarters. Send your order to cyberspaceplaceatmailrapide [dot] com with information on how you will pay and how you will get the books.  [more...]

International Study Guide (ISG 41)
Authors: Jonathan Lamb, Chris Wright (editors)
Published by: SPCK Publishing

Publisher's Description:

The book is in two parts. Part One explores key Christian belief about the Bible and why it matters; encourages effective use and application of the Bible in different cultural and social contexts; teaches on right and wrong use of the Bible; models different possible ways of approaching and using the Bible with integrity; encourages readers to take the Bible as a whole and build a biblical worldview.

Part Two, Using the Bible, illustrates examples of applied Bible use in different contexts with contributions from a variety of authors.  [more...]

Author: Paul Lawrence
Published by: Lion Hudson Plc (English edition)

A comprehensive Atlas of Bible History: in 192 large format pages there are 96 maps, 143 colour photographs, 7 panoramic illustrations and 16 site plans as well as substantial text that even non-specialists will appreciate. Among the best of its kind it would suit Bible students of all kinds, translators, researchers and readers with an interest in the history of the Near East.

Special features on subjects such as the peoples and languages of the Bible run through the book, which covers geography, landscape, climate, culture and religion.

As well as the English edition, it’s also translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, and Polish.

For information on accessing the French edition at a discount or other language editions contact cyberspaceplaceatyahoo [dot] co [dot] uk  [more...]