Reflections on Reading the Bible Missiologically

Chris Wright author of the wonderful The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative gave a public lecture at Redcliffe College recently. The mission e-zine encounters is focussing on the lecture this week. You can listen to it and read responses from a number of interesting people by visiting this link. I would particularly highlight the response from my fellow blogger Brian Russel as well as the one by someone called Eddie Arthur.

Here is an excerpt from my article:

In a language with the economic capacity of English we have numerous translations of the whole Bible available. For many minority languages, it is often the case that only a selection from the Bible is printed or published. Perhaps a Gospel, or a whole New Testament, maybe with the Psalms or a selection of Old Testament stories. In truth, Jeremiah is likely to be way down the list of things that are published. Does the missional hermeneutic stress on the overarching narrative of the Bible give us any insight into how we  should go about making the Scriptures available? Should we perhaps consider concentrating resources so as to translate the whole Bible for one group rather than making selections available to a number of groups? Or could a missional hermeneutic guide us in making more principled decisions about which passages should be seen as essential? On the pages of a mission magazine this might seem a sterile question, but in a world where 200 million people do not have the Scriptures in their own language, some hard choices need to be made and we need a good hermeneutical and theological basis upon which to make them.

While on the subject of Chris Wright, he is interviewed on the Slipstream podcast; this will be well worth a listen.

This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

1 reply on “Reflections on Reading the Bible Missiologically”

In my current job I think a lot about this. I have recently encountered two stories that have dropped more spanners into the muddled works of my thinking on the issue. The first is Dan Everett’s momentarily ubiquitous account of his life among the Piraha. Informed by the latest in missiological strategy, he translated the Gospel of Mark and made it available via easily played recordings. To date, the desired response from the Piraha has yet to materialize. (See his book _Don’t Sleep, there are Snakes_) The second is from a completely Muslim group of translators who started translating Jonah as basically a training execise. They, however, were bowled over by the very first verse. The text appears to imply that God spoke directly to Jonah, and nothing in these men’s experience prepared them to think that God’s word could come directly to anyone – without the intermediacy of angels. The next big shock came in verse three, where Jonah, having received God’s word directly, deliberately disobeyed! The final shock plays out in the rest of the book as God, instead of smiting his disobedient messenger, lovingly redirects him and shows mercy to a host of sinners. The entire experience brought the translators many steps closer to the Kingdom. Who’d have guessed? Over the years I’ve encountered more criticisms of strategy and methodology than I could write down in a day, but it seems to me that most things we do are far better than doing nothing, and that ignorance of and apathy toward the unreached world does far more damage than starting with the wrong passage. God is more than able to bring life out of the chaos of our efforts, but for some reason He almost always seems to wait until we respond to His invitation to prayerful and focused engagement before He extends it to others through us. If we wanted to, we could come pretty close to providing the whole Bible for most people in not that much time. All it would take is for enough Christians to understand the need and respond to it.

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