Wednesday, July 4, 2007

discovering the Bible for ourselves

Glenn at IBS continues to blog about the Books of the Bible, a new format for the TNIV. Some (but probably not most who choose to buy this new format) will criticize IBS for taking out verse and chapter numbers. But Glenn argues that we need to discover the literary units and features of the Bible for ourselves:
What we do instead is explore literary signals. There are lots of things to look for: shifts in literary type, changes in topic, progression in plot, and, very importantly, key repeated phrases at literary seams. Because most of us have not been encouraged to read whole books of the Bible, nor to read them as literature, we are not used to paying attention to these things.
Reading whole books of the Bible to find out what the big picture is! Now that sounds like something my friend Mike Sangrey has been saying for years. And Mike and Glenn are both right. We need to move beyond proof-texting usage of Bible verses. We need to move beyond using just a few verses, or even a single verse, to "support" some claim. We need to seriously study the biblical text. There is a lot to discover in it.

I'm looking forward to getting my copy of the Books of the Bible.


Jay Davis said...

No verse numbers, no chapter markings, and a redistribution of Bible Books. Details of all this can be found at the link or at ibsdirect.

Although this is interesting for some of us it is not very practical for sales. It becomes just a personal reading Bible not a study Bible. I quess the other option would be a "Book Club" style of group. We read during the week and return to talk over our thoughts of what we read. It may also be a good introduction to the Bible for those unfamiliar with the treasured Book - the Word. But with all that aside - If I wanted one, (which I do) I would want something substantial not softcover.

I commend IBS and TNIV for the idea but the practicalities for Bible Study are not there. Wait - that may be just the point! The Bible is meant to be read and digested as God's story...
His-tory! Peterson with The Message desired the same as it was first published without verse markings but later we see the verse numbers back in the newer published Message Bibles.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jay that it probably won't do well in sales. However, I hope he (and I) are wrong.

A big problem in the church is proof-texting. We lift a verse out of its context and give a life of its own that it was never designed to have.

On my blog, I regularly provide a link to Greg Koukl's article Never Read a Bible Verse. Eliminating verse numbers and chapter numbers is something that the church could use to see each book of the Bible as a unit and rather than as a bunch of individual quotes that aren't necessarily attached to one another in thought.

While I probably won't buy one, I hope it does well. I'd also like to see other versions follow up on this.

When I first started reading the Bible, I used the KJV and the NKJV. I bought an NASB eventually. Usually these Bibles aren't in paragraph form. Each verse is listed separately. When I bought the NIV, it caused me to look more at paragraphs. This (along with the modern day language) caused my understanding to grow by leaps and bounds.

I see this new idea as a further development along that same line.

Ah . . . maybe I'll buy one for support. Or maybe I'll buy several for my friends that won't touch a TNIV. That way they don't have to spend their money.

Glennsp said...

It wont matter what is done, those who major on taking verses out of context will carry on doing so except they wont have to give an exact reference just a page number.
Sadly people always have taken Gods word out of context to bolster there preferred position and removing verse numbers will not change that practice.

Mike Sangrey said...

I'd like to respectfully disagree with the idea that Bible Books is not a Study Bible by asking a question.

What's the definition of study?

Don't get me wrong. Detailed analysis of the text is important, concordance, lexicon, and cross references in hand. But, how many of you studied textbooks of your chosen fields by analyzing the sentence structures and word usage of the authors? You worked at a higher level, didn't you? And you did so in order to understand the text!! This is the way God made your cognitive abilities to work.

What if we, the hoi polloi of the pew, start the dialog that asks questions like, "What are the major divisions, and the paragraphs that support those divisions, of Phillipians?" (I actually disagree with Bible Books here.) And, "How does that support work, semantically and linguistically?" Or, "How does the Gospel of John flow and swirl around those 7 signs?" And then there's Revelation, an intensively macro-structured book.

Encouraging a definition of study that motivates the construction of precis (summary statements) of each paragraph and motivates the grasp of how the paragraphs flow will go a very long way toward more accurate understanding.

This will impact translation, too. This is true since an author chooses his or her words and sentences based on what he or she means by the paragraph. It's the understanding of what a specific paragraph means that should guide the Bible translator's detailed choices of the available words.

And that will change people's lives. And through those lives, God and Christ Jesus will be glorified.

Jay Davis said...

By Bible Study I meant a typical Bible Study "group" - It would be hard to say "turn to John page 456 and the middle of the second paragraph". I know the intentions are good for "Books of the Bible" but being practical for wide range use? - hardly. It would be great to see people study the Bible as it was meant to be read and studied. I also added the qualification that it could work as a "book group".

Mike Sangrey said...

But why would you say, "the middle of the second paragraph"? I'm sorry if that comes across as confrontational--it's not meant to be. I'm trying to say as gently as I can that the emporer of our common Bible study method is naked.

Wouldn't it be better to say, "turn to John page 456," and ask, "how would you summarize the second paragraph?" And then, following the group's discussion about the accuracy of that summary (a discussion that produces a better summary) ask the question, "How does that summary relate to our topic of study?"

In other words, what if we supported our theology and our practice using paragraphs instead of clauses (or worse, sewn together clauses)?

The very fact that verse and chapter numbers are not available forces the study to stay within the confines of the text. You can't jump around. It helps get us away from the common methodology of sewing together separate pieces of text and constructing our own quilt of meaning. It seems to me we produce a text after our own image by weaving together separate texts.

What protects us from error if we don't let the text be the text? I'm referring here to the basic nature of a text--it's coherence. This is where text and textile are related.

Also, please let me stress I'm in no way questioning anyone's motives. I am, however, poking a rather pointed finger at a basic methodological assumption that is very, very common.

Jay Davis said...

"The very fact that verse and chapter numbers are not available forces the study to stay within the confines of the text. You can't jump around. It helps get us away from the common methodology of sewing together separate pieces of text and constructing our own quilt of meaning."

I think we agree - it's that fact that it would be going against the tide even though it is correct. My point was to turn the tide seems nearly impossible. A time machine would be better. I would love to study the Bible as you mention and would prefer it. I would even try it as a leader...but I think we live in a basically Biblically illiterate church society that would find it hard to change momentum to a study like "Books of the Bible" style. Selling softcovers may be making the same point. What about hardcover, leather?

Again, I agree that what you say is best and a great way to study but do I think it will happen so that 3 years latter we will carry the TNIV Books of the Bible in leather to church - I could only dream.

So no confrontation brother. I just don't see it happening in large scale. But I wish it would.