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Puppies and Kittens in the Bible #2 January 2, 2018

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Yesterday I posted about the Playful Puppies Bible today it’s the turn of the LOL Cat version. I thought it better to separate the Cats and Dogs into separate posts. I didn’t want them to fight and was also curious as to which would get read most.


Lolcat“Cat Theology” is not just something you find in the LOL Cat Bible. Again, this is a real thing (in as much as it is something that has actually been published), but unlike “The Playful Puppies Bible” it is not a real Bible. It’s meant to be a joke (I hope). It uses the idea of a bunch of self centred cats rewriting the Bible in their own language and recasting God in their own image. As it says on the cover, “In the begiin Ceiling Cat maded teh Skiez an da Erfs n stuffs.”

I doubt many of the Bible translators I know would be too happy with the quality of translation but some may be intrigued at the way in which the work involves online collaboration from a wide selection of the community. Currently the home page of www.lolcatbible.com has been accessed over 3 million times.

I’ve not read much of the translation but I do wonder how many contributors and readers have found themselves opening a more established translation for inspiration and found themselves reading and wondering for real?

There are other translations that people don’t take quite seriously but which have been written with more serious intent and greater attention to the text. I’ve just acquired a copy of The Gospels in Black Country Dialect  which opens with the words:

“The time wus gerrin’ near fer the Sairvyer ter cum on airth”

(The Black Country is a region of the UK that acquired it’s name at the height of the industrial revolution due either to a heavy coating of soot or with reference from coal mining)

I’ll write more on translations in British dialects at some point, but for now will leave you wondering how much they are written to celebrate the local dialect and how much they are written to glorify God.

Stay tuned for the third post in this short series which will look at the modern, and helpful distinction, of Cat and Dog Theology.

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Puppies and kittens in the Bible #1 January 1, 2018

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It’s still holiday time so I’ll start 2018 with a playful intro to the Playful Puppies Bible , the Lolcat Bible, Cat and Dog Theology… and why such things matter.

Amazingly the Playful Puppies Bible is a real thing. It was published by Zondervan in 2012 and is no longer in stock. You can still find it on their website where it states, “If you love dogs and puppies, you’ll love the Playful Puppies Bible!”.

PlayfulPuppiesBible

Although the cute pictures are there to draw the reader in the Playful Puppies Bible probably doesn’t draw attention to all the verses about dogs in the Bible as despite some cultures having a fondness for them today, they didn’t always get such good press. No verses specifically refer to puppies but take a moment to read Bible verses that mention dogs if you have any doubts.

Some people will see the use of puppies as a cynical marketing ploy, trying to sell more bibles to people who already have enough on their shelves.

Others will see it as a clever tactic to encourage engagement with the scriptures. There are many children who would love this Bible and the cute pictures it contains. Not only might it encourage some children to read their Bible it might also be something they would gladly show their friends.

Lolcat

I’m interested in the topic of scripture engagement, so while it makes me cringe a little a willing to give the publishers the benefit of the doubt, but I would have to say they using Cat theology to sell the Playful Puppies Bible, by cat theology I’m not referring to the LOL Cat Bible, but I’ll give it a mention.

More of that soon in part 2.

Jesus & Jedi: The Empire strikes back? December 31, 2017

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No spoilers for The Last Jedi, just some continuing musings on the earlier films which some people on the planet still haven’t seen, not even on the radio.

epV

Somehow not everyone sees the British Empire as having been a good thing, even the British!

It did bring a kind of order, education, trade, roads, and a lot of the good things that other Empires such as the Roman one brought.

And yet somehow a lot of people yearned for freedom.

It has been said that history is written by the winners – those in power get to shape the public version of the story. History often looks different from different perspectives.

lukeIn an earlier blog I showed pictures from a children’s early reading book telling the plot of the first three Star Wars films.

This book could be translated into many languages, but would it reflect how other cultures might summarise the story?

I summarised it as:

“Luke wants adventure and purpose to life. He has an enemy who wants to rule the universe and turn Luke to his side. Good prevails and Luke is reconciled with his father.”

Here’s another possible take.

Anekin, now a powerful man was once in slavery. He yearned for freedom and that opportunity came in part when a powerful outsider offered to become his teacher. That came at a price as his benefactor took him from the only life he had ever known and from his mother.

His suffering intensified and he sought and used power, allying himself to a strong ruler who he hoped one day to overthrow with the help of his own son.

His son had led a different life and chosen a different path. A rift between father and son threatened them both but eventually Anekin defeated the emperor, relinquished his own ambition for power and was reconciled with his son.

It is a different take but is it the same story?

A more important story is of someone who is more than a channel of a an impersonal force, told in a gospel by Luke (and Mathew, Mark, John, and the rest of the Bible). Different people summarise the story in different ways. Depending who tells it and to what audience different bits get emphasised and different bits get neglected. One challenge is in knowing which are valid summaries of the story and which are distorted in into something very different.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of Luke? – A New Hope December 17, 2017

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I know there are lots of people talking about the new Star Wars movie but some haven’t seen the first one yet. I first saw it in 1981, in my mind’s eye as I listened to the radio version. (See Wikipedia if you didn’t know about that).

Spoiler Alert.

Here’s a summary of the Star Wars – A new hope.

“Luke wants adventure and purpose to life. He has an enemy who wants to rule the universe and turn Luke to his side. Good prevails and Luke is reconciled with his father.”

IMG_20171011_100636A classic tale, and yet not quite enough to grip us. We don’t want the plot summary we want to enter into the story, get to know the characters and join in the adventure, even if only in our imagination.

In this way the Bible is a bit like Star Wars.

Some people want to edit the gospel down to a tract or a single sentence and yet there is a reason we have a Bible not a bullet list.

Popular theologian, NT Wright, might look a bit is a bit like Obi Wan Kenobe, or an older Luke. An older man who has studied and lived what he believes.

In a great lecture to a conference about worship he points out that even young children can hold an incredible amount of detail in their heads about fictional universes be that Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Tolkein.

(Also available at https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/public-worship-as-sign-and-means-of-new-creationhttps://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/public-worship-as-sign-and-means-of-new-creation/ )

And yet too often we oversimplify the story and give them life lessons and picture to colour in.

Wright’s call to engage more with Bible is not a new one, it could have been told in a galaxy far far away. Or it could be watched by a small group in your church.

It’s quite a long lecture so you might want to dim the lights and get the popcorn out. I’m one of the 10,000 people who have seen it and won’t give further spoilers.

To be continued….

How much of the Bible is needed? November 23, 2017

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Are there any books of the Bible you’ve never read?

Any chapters you’ve never heard preached on?

Any verses that no-one shares on facebook?

How much of the Bible do we actually need?

 

jn11-35


Many Christians like to point to 2 Timothy 3:16
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" 2Tim3:16 NIV

…and many who quote that verse don’t recognise that in most translations that isn’t even the end of the sentence.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

 

The chapters and verse markers are a late invention, a handy way of dividing the Bible up so that we can find bits of it. Does “all scripture” mean each verse has equal weight or does it mean that we are meant to look at the whole story in order to know more of God and be “equipped for every good work”.

Because we can count the number of languages with “some scripture” some organisations will tell you that speakers of 3,797 languages don’t have a single verse. (some of them may, we don’t have figures on whether single verses have been translated, just on when significant portions have been checked and published)

jn11-35

Consequently it might need less than 3,797 verses translated before everyone has ‘something’ in their language. We could pick a short one such as John 11:35 “Jesus wept”. But while those two words may speak to the compassion of Christ you need a bit more detail to know why he wept and what amazing thing he did next.

Translating a single verse into every language isn’t enough. Neither is translating a single chapter, or a single book, or even the whole New Testament.

The full Bible is available in 670 languages. Speakers of another 1521 have the New Testament and some of those have some books or selections from the Old Testament. In another 1121 languages there are published selections and stories. So, speakers of 2642 languages have access to some scripture in their own language but must wait for more.

If all scripture is God breathed then surely everyone should have access to all scripture?

As to whether that means the full Bible needs to be translated into every language that’s something I’ll address in another chapter. You don’t mind waiting do you?

(2017 statistics from wycliffe.net/statistics )

 

Cautiously approaching the Unapologetic NKJV Study Bible November 18, 2017

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“Have you ever wished that the Bible spoke directly about controversial issues we face today?”

NKJVunapologeticSomething about the question made, me nervous and not just because I subconsciously link NKJV to KJV and the King James only movement.

I acknowledge that many people who like the NKJV don’t assume that readers of other version are heretics. But I wonder what kind of notes might have accompanied the original KJV as an authorised study Bible?

I’d recently read something about the history of one particular edition of the Bible, and then read something else that disputed that version of history as ‘revisionist’ and written to back up specific claims by the religious right. As a result I was pondering again the dangers of believing everything you read on the internet. That was when I read on the internet about the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible.

It may have a lot of good content – good not just because I agree with it but because it agrees with how Christians down the centuries have interpreted scripture. But it may also contain things that I and many other Christians are less convinced are as certain as the articles might want to declare.

Don’t forget that Christians in previous centuries have probably defended a few things that you are not in favour of today (eg the divine right of kings, slavery, a flat earth, burning heretics, colonialism, not giving women the vote).

One of the things about controversial issues is that they are controversial because people have come to different conclusions. This is not just a case of Christians vs ‘the world’ or ‘proper Bible believing Christians’ vs ‘liberals’, this is a case of fellow believers who have have come to different conclusions through honest study of the Bible and diligent prayer.

Would the study Bible give more than one side to an argument or would it favour the opinions of one group of Christians over another, giving those views extra force by placing them in bold boxes right on the pages of the Bible?

I’m still not sure but you can find out for yourself if you wish. You can download a sampler from https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/nkjv-unapologetic-study-bible/ and get your own copy in one of seven editions ranging from the hardback at $34.99 to the more luxurious Bonded Leather, Black, Indexed, Red Letter Edition for $89.99. (You can also get it as a bible app or as an ebook on Amazon for $5.43 with a free preview.)

You might also use the trailer to inspire your own study or spark discussion in a home group setting. Some of the issues may be controversial but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from them or be afraid of forming our own opinions based on our understanding of scripture. However be aware that there is a branch of theology known as ‘apologetics’. This is not about feeling awkward and saying sorry for what you believe but about being able to give a clear and reasoned defence, explaining what you believe and why, and in so doing allowing others to think through the issues themselves and either agree, or give you a few more more things to think about.

 

 

Who is Translating the Bible? November 15, 2017

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212latin

Even before the New Testament had been completed, the words of Jesus were translated from Aramaic to Greek. After a while Latin took over as the leading language of education and of the church many but for most still not the language of the home.

In 2017 there is Bible translation happening in well over 2,500 languages.

There are a few big organisations involved, (and lots of smaller ones), some high profile networks (and lots of quieter ones). But at the end of the day the work is done by people (thousands of them).

A few links to websites and facebook pages of some of the organisations are at the bottom of this page.

I don’t know and couldn’t list all the people. Some also have their own websites or are mentioned openly in publicity and prayer letters. Others will go largely unrecognized by the people who benefit from their years of service.

Some translations are pioneered by the speakers of the language, either working alone or having secured outside help. Others are instigated by outsiders keen to help an ‘unreached’ people discover Christ for themselves, or strengthen an existing church by providing God’s word in a more accessible and more relational language.

Often there is opposition and hardship. Not everyone welcomes a new translation. Some are opposed to Christianity, others opposed to the idea that God might speak in a common language that doesn’t always sound as formal and respectful as befits the almighty God. Even if the community welcomes the translation there is an enemy who opposes it. Bible translation is a spiritual battle.

In nearly all cases it takes a team. Some are there at the start, some at the end, and some throughout the process.

Some are on ‘the frontline’, wrestling with the text of the scripture in Greek, Hebrew, and existing translations and commentaries, and with how to communicate the meaning in a different language and culture. Some are involved in the tasks of establishing how best to write down a previously unwritten language.

Some are involved in 1001 other tasks that ensure the translation moves forward and is published, distributed and engaged with.

There is an old, old story of workmen on what we’d now call a construction site. Some saw their individual tasks and the few coins at the end of the day, some had glimpsed the plans and the vision and went home each day knowing they were building a cathedral.

An old man serving the soup in a Wycliffe canteen was asked what he did. He poured out another bowl of soup and said, I translate Bibles.

Ultimately our role isn’t about translating Bibles it is about participating in the mission of God, so if you’ve read this far and have nothing to do with Bible translation, but participate in other areas of mission then that’s okay. You can get involved or just celebrate with us the huge progress that is being made.

If you are a full time, or part time worker in Bible translation; if you are a prayer supporter, or a donor, or an advocate; if you are simply a friend that offers a word of encouragement. – thank you for what you do.
You translate Bibles!


An incomplete list and links to some Bible translation organisations and networks


Wycliffe Global Alliance is an alliance of 100+ organisations.

Organisations in the Alliance with content in English include:
USA – Wycliffe USA, Seed Company, JAARS
UK – Wycliffe UK, Mission Assist
Canada – Wycliffe Canada
Switzerland – Wycliffe Switzerland
Ethiopia – Wycliffe Ethiopia
Ghana – GILLBT
Kenya – Bible Translation and Literacy

If you don’t (just) speak English you may prefer another site (and might not be reading this blog) but you can also use Google to translate any of those sites into other languages (understanding that Google won’t always be accurate or sound very natural).
United Bible Societies
There are national Bible Societies in most countries. The United Bible Societies website lists and links to to rather a lot. (click on the static map below to go to an interactive one on the UBS site).

Recently I explored the websites of the Bible Society of the South Pacific and the Bible Society of Chile. (Google compensated for my poor knowledge of Spanish and I was able to read about translation work for the Roma people in Chile.

BibleSocieties

And more…

find.bible attempts to list and link to scriptures in the 3,312 languages known to have scripture (plus products in quite a few dialects too). It also lists 31 member agencies of the Forum of Bible Agencies International and hundreds of other contributing agencies

This is still not the end of the list, nor the end of the work. As I said in the first section…

If you are a full time, or part time worker in Bible translation; if you are a prayer supporter, or a donor, or an advocate; if you are simply a friend that offers a word of encouragement. – thank you for what you do.
You translate Bibles!

2017 Bible Translation statistics and bits of Scripture November 10, 2017

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2017BTstats-en

The latest annual statistics for Bible translation progress are now live at http://wycliffe.net/statistics.

Congratulations to Eddie Arthur for being the first to blog about them and raise some great questions about “The Minimum Unit of Scripture“.

If you don’t have time to read all this post you can skip to the big bit in bold  at the end about someone impacted by half a verse.

We used to require a complete book of scripture, often a gospel, before we declared that there was ‘some scripture’ in a language. Well meaning people then often boldly declared that everyone else didn’t even have a single verse, or worse didn’t have a single word of scripture. I’d usually point out that most of the words existed but that no one had put them in the right order yet. Often there would also have been verses, and stories translated and accessible.

Eddie, suggests we shouldn’t be content with just translating a bits of scripture and presenting them out of context. I agree.

To take one quote from him. “Scripture isn’t a series of isolated stories that can be stripped from their context”.

He also says, “can we say that a language has Scripture if a verse has been translated?”

This leads him to the statement, “Christians (and evangelicals in particular?) tend to think of the Bible in terms of isolated passages, rather than seeing it as a connected, coherent text – and ultimately as a canon. We need to take steps and adopt language that helps us to avoid this tendency and to see the Bible as it really is.”

Again I’d agree. The few quotes I’ve given here might be enough to help you dig deeper but to truly understand what Eddie is saying you need to read his whole post. Maybe you also need to read that post in the context of the rest of his blog, and maybe the blog itself is best understood if you’ve spent some time with Eddie and know even more about his heart and his passion for mission.

  • Can we say that a language has Scripture if a verse has been translated?

No. We can say people have access to some scripture in that language. We might also want to avoid saying that they don’t have any scripture.

  • Is translation finished when the New Testament is completed? 
  • Should we wait until the full Bible is completed before we let people here the first portion? 
  • Is translation finished when the whole Bible is translated?

I’ll let you answer the first three of those questions for yourself and ask one more

  • How many people still need the Bible?

My answer is, “all of us’.

needsmatrix

  • Who needs scripture translating for them?

The statistics I help compile give numbers for how many translation projects are in progress and what level of scripture each of those have. They also give a number for how many languages are known or believed to need work to begin, but who needs more scripture translating is not a simple question, especially in contexts where scripture is already available in another language that people can understand well.

Obviously the ability to understand the words and meaning in available translations is important, but language is about connection as well as comprehension. Often, speakers of ‘non-majority languages’ can understand most of the Bible in a language they use in school or the workplace but it still speaks to them very differently in the language they use at home. Others struggle because they available text is in a very formal or old fashioned form of their language.

I no longer need the Bible translating into my language for the first time but I’m glad for some of the modern translations in recent decades.

Half a verse

Before I joined Wycliffe the friend of a new Christian I knew said, “I tried reading the Bible once. All those thee’s and thou’s – I couldn’t understand it”

I opened my modern translation ‘at random’  to somewhere near John 3:16.

He read a tiny portion from  John 1:38, “Rabbi, (this word means teacher)” , and declared, “Hey, this is great! It tells you what it means”.

I got him a copy of his own and he waved it at me in the staff canteen a few days later, and called across the room to say he was still reading it.

To understand the whole story, you need the whole story, but to half quote what someone famous once said, “every journey starts with a single step”.

 

 

 

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