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Posts Tagged ‘BibleFresh’

A few days ago, someone looked at a blog I posted just over four years ago. Since that one person hopefully found it interesting, I thought I would re-blog it.

Besides the comments that I made and the comments that I quoted are still both interesting and relevant – what do you think?

 

An old copy of the King James Bible, thought to be a rare original 1611 edition has been found in a village church in Wiltshire.

There are fewer than 200 original printings of the King James version known to exist. And it is believed that the rediscovered Bible is one of the few remaining editions printed in 1611.

As a former historian, this news appeals to me; original documents are the stuff of historical research, but the Bible has never been lost to us. The King James is just one of a long line of translations into English, all of which sought to make the Bible accessible to people in a way they could understand.

This year is of course the 400th anniversary of the first edition of the King James Version being printed in London. At that time, no one could have envisaged the impact that the translation would have: since then the King James Version has become the biggest selling book in the English language – apparently it has also been the most shop lifted book in history. It has shaped the English language and had a huge effect on the English speaking world. The King James Version has become a cultural icon.

But the Bible is far more than just a piece of literature, far more than a cultural icon – we believe it is the story of God’s involvement with the earth and its people from creation to the end of the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators wants to concentrate less on Bible historic and more on Biblefresh – whether that be people in the UK re-engaging with the Bible in ways that enables God to speak to them afresh or people in Burkina Faso and elsewhere receiving the Bible in their heart languages for the first time.

Geoff Procter is a member of the parochial church council where the rare original was found; I like his comment.

Mr Procter said the most important thing about the Bible was that it was meant to be a living working book for people to live by.

“Well I think what it’s going to do is enable us to talk about the Bible,” he said.

“Because in a secular world it’s seen as an important document it will actually bring the opportunities to us to go and discuss it in more detail.

“When we took it for evaluation to the curator of a Bible museum, one of the first things he said was whatever you do you must display this so that people can read the word.

“That stuck with me – you know the fact that it’s what it says rather than what it is.”

In a blog discussing reading the Bible together online in a variety of ways, Richard Littledale reminds us of the danger of God’s Word getting lost in the 2011 media plethora about the King James Bible…

Although people are talking at length about the linguistic heritage of the Bible in the English language, there is a danger that it becomes little more than a piece of heritage – like a stately home or a love letter preserved behind glass. We cannot afford to do this – which is why we must embrace these Twenty-First Century media to encourage a wholehearted debate about a book whose pages we regard as sacred.

This is the vision of Wycliffe Bible Translators – could you be a part of this?

By 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation project begun in all the remaining languages that need one.

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PW widerworld 002A

Did you ever pray and hear no answer from God?

A man from Ivory Coast called Toualy Bai Laurent, who became a Christian in 1958, wanted to learn more and began to pray that God would send someone to translate the Bible into his Kouya language. By 1980 he was still praying with no sign that God had heard his prayers…

Francois Sare, a man from Burkina Faso became a Christian in 1989, the same year we went with Wycliffe Bible Translators to next door Ivory Coast.

“During all those years I haven’t been able to read the Bible in my own language. I’ve got my own French Bible but my first language is Bissa Barka. If the Bible was in Bissa Barka then I would be able to understand more than I can now. I think about how long it will be until we have the New Testament. I’m in a hurry to have it.”

Did you ever try to tell someone something, but they wouldn’t listen? That’s the same as the Old Testament prophets, like Amos, from Judah, whom God sent to “prophesy to my people Israel”. The prophets spent years proclaiming the Lord’s message, but nobody listened.

In the opening chapter of his book, Amos proclaimed God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbours – Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab – for what they had done to Israel. God would relent no longer: he would send fire to consume fortresses; kings and peoples would go into exile. Can you imagine Amos’ hearers enjoying this? Good for the Lord! They’re going to get what they deserve!

But in chapter two, Amos proclaimed judgment on Judah and Israel. Judah had been led astray by false gods just like their ancestors before them. They rejected the law of the Lord and did not keep his decrees. It was a chicken and egg situation: their rejection of God’s law led to worship of false gods which prevented them obeying God’s law… and so it went on.

Judah gets it quick and sharp, but the judgment on Israel lasts for almost five chapters. Israel is condemned for pressing into slavery those who cannot repay paltry debts; trampling on the heads of the poor; sexual immorality and drunkenness in the temples of false gods.

God said, “I will crush you!” You will not escape my judgment. You have been warned and you have continued to disobey. God said, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts.” Their token sacrifices failed to stop their wallowing in complacent pride and self-centred prosperity. “They do not know how to do right,” declared the Lord.

Interspersed in all this are appeals to “seek the Lord and live” – but no! Israel’s leaders, her priests and her king don’t like what they are hearing. If Amos could just be persuaded to go away.

So Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, accused Amos of conspiring against King Jeroboam. Imagine him spitting invective in the face of Amos as he says,  “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amaziah confirmed the rejection of God. The ancient sanctuary of Bethel was not God’s. It belonged to king Jeroboam and his kingdom. Amaziah accused Amos of trying to profit from his prophecy.  Amos responded that the Lord would surely send Israel into exile.

And so we arrive at chapter 8 with Amos’ vision of a basket of ripe fruit. A positive harvest image? But no – the fruit was Israel ripe for punishment. Israel had rejected the invitations to seek the Lord; Israel had evicted Amos because they didn’t want to hear what he was saying.

They continued to do what the Lord had deplored:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’ – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”

The judgment was serious: the earth darkened in broad daylight; joyful religious feasts turned to mourning; temple songs to wailing. But the bit that really hit me was verse 11!

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

The awful silence of God!

If you won’t listen to me, the Lord said, I won’t speak to you. It had been prophesied before. Amos prophesied over 300 years before Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. There were several times when there seemed to be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, but the big one came in the inter-testamental period – those 400 years or so between the Old and New Testaments.

So what broke the silence? Gabriel spoke to a flabbergasted Zechariah and to an astonished Mary. Thirty years later, John the Baptist called out in a voice from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord, the arrival of the Messiah, fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus, his cousin. The Lord chose to speak to his people again. Would they listen this time?

The modern famine of hearing the word of the Lord is double sided. One side is the majority of the world’s population who have access to the Bible but, like the people of Israel, many refuse to listen. Twenty first century people see the Bible and Christianity and even God as irrelevant, outdated, and often badly represented by Christians.

The other side is the millions who want to listen and hear, but they cannot – because the Bible is not available in their heart languages.

Toualy Bai Laurent from Ivory Coast had his prayers answered in the 1980s and, before he died a few years ago, he had his copy of the Kouya New Testament.

Francois from Burkina Faso is encouraged because a translation into Bissa Barka has begun thanks to fundraising during the 2011 Biblefresh year.

PW widerworld 001APostscript: Current estimates suggest around 209 million people speaking 1,967 languages may have a need for Bible translation to begin. See also

They still experience the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.

This piece was first published on my blog on 20 December 2012 when I flagged it up as a draft. Now the article has been printed in the current edition of Presbyterian Women’s Wider World magazine..

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famine of hearing

I’ve been asked to write a short piece on Amos as part of a series on the Minor Prophets for a local Christian magazine. Here’s my draft: I’d welcome feedback 🙂

Did you ever pray and hear no answer from God?

I knew a man from Ivory Coast who became a Christian in 1958. He wanted to learn more and began to pray that God would send someone to translate the Bible into his Kouya language. By 1980 he was still praying with no sign that God had heard his prayers…

Did you ever try to tell someone something, but they wouldn’t listen? That’s like the Old Testament prophets who spent years proclaiming the Lord’s message – but nobody listened.

Like Amos, from Judah, whom God sent to “prophesy to my people Israel”. In the first chapter or so, Amos proclaimed God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbours – Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab – for what they had done to Israel. God would relent no longer: he would send fire to consume fortresses; kings and peoples would go into exile. Can you imagine Amos’ hearers enjoying this? Good for the Lord! They’re going to get what they deserve!

But in chapter two, Amos proclaimed judgment on Judah and Israel. Judah had been led astray by false gods just like their ancestors before them. They rejected the law of the Lord and did not keep his decrees. It was a chicken and egg situation: their rejection of God’s law led to worship of false gods which prevented them obeying God’s law… and so it went on.

Judah gets it quick and sharp, but the judgment on Israel lasts for almost five chapters. Israel is condemned for pressing into slavery those who cannot repay paltry debts; trampling on the heads of the poor; sexual immorality and drunkenness in the temples of false gods.

God said, “I will crush you!” You will not escape my judgment. You have been warned and you have continued to disobey. God said, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts.” Their token sacrifices failed to stop their wallowing in complacent pride and self-centred prosperity. “They do not know how to do right,” declared the Lord.

Interspersed in all this are appeals to “seek the Lord and live” – but no! Israel’s leaders, her priests and her king don’t like what they are hearing. If Amos could just be persuaded to go away…

So Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, accused Amos of conspiring against King Jeroboam. Can you imagine him spitting invective in the face of Amos as he said?

“Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amaziah confirmed the rejection of God. The ancient sanctuary of Bethel was not God’s. It belonged to king Jeroboam and his kingdom. Amaziah accused Amos of trying to profit from his prophecy.  Amos responded that the Lord would surely send Israel into exile.

And so we arrive at chapter 8 with Amos’ vision of a basket of ripe fruit. A positive harvest image, but no – the fruit was Israel ripe for punishment. Israel had rejected the invitations to seek the Lord; Israel had evicted Amos because they didn’t want to hear what he was saying. They continued to do what the Lord had deplored:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’ – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”

The judgment was serious: the earth darkened in broad daylight; joyful religious feasts turned to mourning; temple songs to wailing. But the bit that really hit me was verse 11!

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

The awful silence of God!

If you won’t listen to me, the Lord said, I won’t speak to you. It had been prophesied before. Amos prophesied over 300 years before Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. There were several times when there seemed to be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, but the big one came in the inter-testamental period – those roughly 400 years between the New and Old Testaments.

So what broke the silence? Gabriel spoke to a flabbergasted Zechariah and to an astonished Mary. Thirty years later, John the Baptist called out in a voice from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord, the arrival of the Messiah, fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus, his cousin. The Lord chose to speak to his people again. Would they listen this time?

The modern famine of hearing the word of the Lord is double sided. One side is the majority of the world’s population who have access to the Bible but, like the people of Israel, many refuse to listen. Twenty first century people see the Bible and Christianity and even God as irrelevant, outdated, and often badly represented by Christians.

The other side is the millions who want to listen and hear, but they cannot – because the Bible is not available in their heart languages.

I know a man from Burkina Faso who became a Christian in 1989, the same year we went with Wycliffe Bible Translators to next door Ivory Coast.

“During all those years I haven’t been able to read the Bible in my own language. I’ve got my own French Bible but my first language is Bissa Barka. If the Bible was in Bissa Barka then I would be able to understand more than I can now. I think about how long it will be until we have the New Testament. I’m in a hurry to have it.”

Toualy Bai Laurent from Ivory Coast had his prayers answered in the 1980s and, before he died a few years ago, he had his copy of the Kouya New Testament.

Francois from Burkina Faso is encouraged because a translation into Bissa Barka has begun thanks to fundraising during the 2011 Biblefresh year.

Postscript: Current estimates suggest around 209 million people speaking 1,967 languages may have a need for Bible translation to begin. See also

They still experience the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.

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Earlier this week, the faith editor of The Guardian’s comment section called and asked my boss Eddie Arthur to contribute an article on Bible Translation. On Tuesday 20 December this appeared…

The Bible should be available to read in every Christian’s native language  As an adviser who helped create a New Testament translation for an Ivorian village, I saw what an impact such work can have

Eddie composed neither the title nor sub-title: but the article itself is rather good. Predictably Guardian readers have commented variously and some heated (and basically irrelevant) arguments have erupted between commentators.

Eddie builds his article around his experience with wife Sue as part of the team working with the Kouya people to translate the New Testament into their language.

The small village of Gouabafla, deep in the Ivorian rainforest, is a long way from the council house in Sunderland where I grew up. However, for six years, my wife, Sue, and I along with our two young children lived there in a house without running water or electricity as we worked as translation advisers for the small Kouya church.

The Kouya Christians had decided that they wanted the New Testament in their own language and invited SIL International to work alongside them. For 14 years, a Kouya team worked with expat advisers to develop an alphabet, produce basic reading materials and to translate the New Testament.

With my wife and two children, I lived not far away on the edge of the Kouya village of Bouhitafla and taught the children of missionaries in Vavoua International School. Many times we visited the Arthurs in Gouabafla and made friends with their Kouya neighbours and co-workers in the translation project.

Gouabafla village

These are the final three paragraphs of Eddie’s article…

I have a photograph of an old man sitting in church reading from his Kouya New Testament. As a child in colonial times, he would have been beaten for speaking his own language in school; now he can sit and read the scriptures in the language that he chooses.

There are those who would argue that the Christian message should only be expressed through literary languages – the English of the authorised version, or the Latin of the Vulgate: they are wrong.

The God who was not ashamed to be born to a peasant woman and laid in a manger is not ashamed to speak Kouya, Jamaican patois or even modern-day English.

It’s not often Wycliffe Bible Translators gets exposure in such newspapers as The Guardian. So what outcomes are we hoping for?

Please could you pray…

  • That the article would help to promote Wycliffe’s work among people who have not come across us before.
  • That it would cause people to take another look at the Bible and find value in it for their lives.
  • That God would be glorified, despite the sometimes venomous comments.

PS  Ten years after the arrival of the Kouya New Testament in Ivory Coast, ten years marred by civil war, the Kouya Christians plan to celebrate the arrival of God’s Word in their language on 21 March 2012… and we hope to be there to celebrate with them!

Read Eddie’s whole article here

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While my blog has been pretty quiet of late, my friend and colleague Eddie Arthur has been more typically prolific.

When Prime Minister David Cameron recently spoke at the KJB 400th celebrations at Oxford and commented on the teaching of the Bible for our somewhat broken society, I wanted to write something. But I couldn’t think of anything that might have been useful to the debate… a lack of inspiration or a divine prompt to shut up and avoid writing something inane!

However Eddie has written something akin to what I wished I could have written – and did it much better: The PM, The Bible and Cultural Christianity.

Yesterday, in a speech delivered to clergy in Oxford, the Prime Minister added his voice to the many who have spoken up over the last year (read it here). I tend to avoid political comment on this blog, but given that the Prime Minister has wandered into my territory, I reckon I can make a few comments on what he said.

Here are a few extracts from Eddie’s comments – but I urge you to read the whole thing for yourself.

It is good to see the Bible being discussed in the public arena. Famously, Tony Blair “didn’t do God”, so it’s good to see a politician who is prepared to speak out on these issues. Whatever the merits of the content of his speech (and they are mixed, at best) the fact that the Prime Minister has got people talking about the Bible is something we should be grateful for.

The Bible is not a book about Values. Though the Prime Minister had a number of good things to say, his speech was undermined because, for all of his classical education, he doesn’t really understand what the Bible is about. He never mentions the central narrative of the Bible: God reaching out to reconcile a fallen world and a fallen humanity to himself through the death of Christ on the Cross. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the words cross or crucifixion never get a mention.

And in a kind of bittersweet conclusion…

David Cameron has done us a great favour in bringing the Bible into the public discourse, but though he has much to say that is interesting and of some value, he ultimately misses the point, which is sad. We need to continue to pray for him and all of those in authority.

Do read it all for yourself: The PM, The Bible and Cultural Christianity

That’s enough for now, but I will comment soon on Eddie’s thoughts in an article in The Guardian’s Comment is free section…

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Roman census officials

You never know who you are going to meet on a cold Thursday night in December in Belfast.

We went to the Bethlehem Village Experience organised by Christ Church, Belfast on Thursday evening. It’s described on the church website…

The village of Bethlehem was a not a particularly pleasant place. Already under Roman occupation, the streets are thronged with more visitors than the small village can handle. The puppet ruler has flooded the streets with spies seeking out a threat to his authority. And in the midst of the chaos, rumour has it that a radical king has been born and is lying in an animal stable.

Walk the streets of Bethlehem village, meet the villagers, hear the sounds and savour the smells of those remarkable times at The Bethlehem Village Experience at Balmoral Showgrounds, King’s Hall Complex.

So posing as people coming to Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman census, we met:

  • Roman soldiers – including at least one wearing glasses – and census officials
  • some shepherds
  • someone who worked in the stables of an inn
  • a Rabbi
  • a star gazing woman who had met the Magi
  • a smarmy and somewhat anxious King Herod and his spies

… oh yes… and two pupils that I taught in Annadale Grammar School in the 1970s – Wilbert and Stephen! But they were also there to register for the census 🙂

Christ Church has three members serving with Wycliffe overseas: Jennifer Davey in Nigeria and Derek & Heather Johnston in Francophone Africa. However for three days coming up to Christmas, Christ Church members focussed their energies  on providing the Bethlehem Village Experience in a massive and cold and drafty building in the King’s Hall complex that at other times of the year hosts agricultural shows.

One of this Biblefresh year’s challenges is to experience the Bible in new ways – we certainly did that at the Bethlehem Village Experience.

According to one of the organisers, Stephen Gilmore, this morning on Facebook:

Around 1650 have visited Bethlehem on Thursday and Friday

You can view more photos of the event here

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2011, the Biblefresh year, is coming to an end very soon. I  hope that the impact will long continue as people around the UK and Ireland have committed to:

  • read the Bible together and alone;
  • be trained by the wisdom of others;
  • give God’s Word to those without it.
  • experience the Scriptures in new and creative ways.

Christmas is arguably the best known, least understood and most abused story in the Bible, but the  Wycliffe UK Blog has loads of ideas for engaging with it in true Biblefresh spirit!

For avid Tweeps, there’s Natwivity

For a 9 episode short video series take on Christmas there’s Paperless Christmas with the orange van driving angel Gabriel and the three Wise men bikers in the Adventures of Mary and Joseph, the Road Movie.

And for a more sober approach you can dip into a collection of Wycliffe stories as people around the world hear the Christmas Story again for the very first time  – find them at the bottom of this page link.

Enjoy following all these and more on the Wycliffe UK website via the Blog – Resources with a Seasonal Reason

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

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