All posts by Tim Hardy

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
All in the Family – Abraham to Joseph

The first of the dynastic epics I mentioned on Friday begins in Genesis, chapter 12. God speaks to a man named Abram, and tells him to leave his home and family behind him and to set off into the unknown – “to the land I will show you”. And Abram does it, having his name changed along the way…

The next 38 chapters tell the story of the first three generations of Abram’s family – his children, Isaac & Ishmael, his grand children, Jacob and Esau, and Jacob’s many children. Along the way, we encounter (in no particular order) tales of romance, hospitality, betrayal, murder, revenge, scheming & swindling, incest, jealousy, sibling rivalry, politics, prophecy and prostitution.

Looking at that list, I find myself surprised at just how much is packed in, the extreme highs and lows the protagonists reach. But, despite their best efforts at screwing everything up, God can be found working in the background to bring about the “blessing of all the families of the earth”. As one of the characters says at the climax of his portion of the story, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…”

Genesis ends with the death of this hero and sets up the next book in the series, which begins, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

It’s a very human story, but the overall narrative is one of God’s faithfulness to Abram and his family through the many ups and downs. In the RRC stock it can be found in the many translations of the Bible, in very broad brush-strokes in the “Great Family” Godly Play set, and in a variety of DVD versions.

What’s your favourite story from this bit of Genesis? And is there anything that you’ve found yourself surprised by?

Original Facebook post

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
Apocalypse When?

A (very) brief guide to genre in the Bible

It’s fairly safe to say that these days “Apocalypse” is generally understood to mean “the end of the world in a ‘four horsemen’ kind of way” when all it used to mean was “that which is revealed” and was a specifically Jewish form of writing involving obscure symbols and catastrophic imagery – a form of writing that appears in several books of the Bible, notably Daniel, Mark’s Gospel and, perhaps most famously, The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of St John. These can be interpreted in a variety of ways – from a coded commentary on the political situation of the time to foretellings of the end of the world and, although their outlandish imagery may be superficially attractive to first time readers, their impenetrability is likely to be more off-putting in the longer term.

It’s just as well that the remaining books of the Bible contain material that’s a little more accessible – in a variety of genres.

Formally, these are: Epistle, Gospel, Historical & Narrative, Law, Poetry, Prophecy, and Wisdom.

Epistle is just an old word meaning “letter” and in the Bible are written to churches and individuals as a means of encouragement and instruction; the Gospels contain the story of Jesus’ life, covering events from four distinct perspectives; the Historical and Narrative books tell the story God’s relationship with humanity through the ages; the books of Law, Poetry and Wisdom contain rules for living, poetry, and proverbs & teaching, respectively; Prophecy doesn’t just refer to foretelling the future, although that may well be an element of it, but is usually the revealing of what’s on God’s mind in relation to the (usually) political & social events of the time.
Less formally, there’s probably a little bit of something for everybody – love poetry(*), rags to riches stories(*1), sprawling dynastic and family epics(*2), violent superhero-style tales(*3), science-fictiony oddness(*4), broad comedy(*5), and discussion of the meaning of life (*6) – and that’s just in the Old Testament.

Is there anything else you think I should have mentioned?

(*)Song of Songs
(*1)Joseph (in Genesis), David (in 1&2 Samuel), Ruth (in Ruth), for example
(*2)the last three quarters of Genesis & from 1 Samuel through to the end of 2 Kings
(*3)Judges (see http://www.timbo-baggins.co.uk/?p=1421)
(*4)The beginning of Ezekiel
(*5)Jonah
(*6)Ecclesiastes & Job

Original Facebook post

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
Creation and Fall

(Genesis 1-3)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

In the beginning, God created everything, and it was good, then people came along and screwed it up by eating an apple after being tempted by the devil in the Garden of Eden and were then banished…

There are a couple of things about the version I’ve just described – it combines two separate stories, found one after the other in the first three chapters of Genesis, and one or two details that simply aren’t to be found in the Bible.

The second and third chapters of Genesis contain a story that differs in some major details from that found in the first chapter. Why do you think they were both included? What do they tell us side by side that an amalgamation of the two wouldn’t?

We aren’t told what the fruit that Adam and Eve ate was, other than it being the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. It’s likely that we’ve come to think of it as an apple because of the recognisability of apples as fruit and their use in much of the early biblical art. Does calling the fottokogae an apple change the tone of the story to something that *feels* more like a simple folk tale (with prohibitions and punishments) than something revealing deeper truths about ourselves and the way the world is?

And the tempter in the garden? Just a talking snake; the devil doesn’t show up in person until much later on.
_____________________

For further consideration:
The Creation is a key concept in a Christian understanding of the world and God’s relationship with it – how does your understanding of this story affect your understanding of God?

Original Facebook post

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
Different Translations


Most of us don’t speak Ancient Hebrew or Koine Greek and so need a little help when reading the Bible. This is where translations, of which there are many, come in…

Did you know that, prior to the turn of the Sixteenth Century, the Bible was read almost exclusively in Latin and any translations were mostly of the Latin text (itself a translation)? William Tyndale is credited with the first translation into English of the Bible from the original languages, and its mass-dissemination through the new medium of print. It’s one of the things that got him executed!

Today, Bible translation into English is a much less perilous pursuit and there are many, many translations to choose from. These can broadly be split into three types: Word for Word (Literal), Thought for Thought (Dynamic Equivalence), and Paraphrase – all of which have different aims and objectives.

Word for Word translations, such as the English Standard Version and the King James Version, attempt to follow the original language as literally as possible so that readers know what the original texts actually say, sometimes at the expense of readability.

Thought for Thought translations, such as the New International Version and the Contemporary English Version, are less literal, looking to balance accuracy with readability – looking at the meaning of phrases and sentences as a whole, which can lead to the original meaning of the words themselves being lost.

Paraphrases, such as The Message and The Living Bible, go even further, sometimes straying quite considerably from the original text but are very easy to read.

The RRC has examples of each type in stock, and several (such as the New Revised Standard Version) that fall between two types, in addition to children’s Bibles, comic book versions and audio recordings. Why not come along and have a look for yourself?

Original Facebook post

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
What Is the Bible?

Christians believe that the Bible reveals the story of God’s relationship with humanity throughout the ages – from the beginning of all things to a foretelling of the end of the world as we know it and the new world that will follow. It is a collection of books and letters, containing various genres of literature, and was originally written in Hebrew and Greek between about 1200 BCE (BC) and 100 CE (AD), although there is disagreement as to the exact dating.

There’s even more disagreement about what the Bible actually is – from its authorship – who wrote what, inerrancy – its reliability in a historical sense, and even its contents – different traditions’ Bibles contain slightly different sets of books, and that’s before we get to the thorny issue of interpretation.
We’ll be looking at some of these controversies in the coming weeks and hopefully having a little bit of fun along the way. In the meantime, the “Buck Denver Asks: What’s in the Bible?” series of DVDs (available at both sites, and narrated by a very personable puppet) will give you a summary walk through, from Genesis to Revelation…

Original FaceBook post

New series of posts coming up

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be running a campaign for work – a series of Facebook posts on a subject we hope our members will find of interest. I’m planning to transfer the posts over to the blog in case there’s any readers who are similarly interested. So, without further ado, THE INTRODUCTORY POST

We’re Thinking About: The Bible
gutenberg bible
Introduction
For Christians, the Bible is key to their understanding of faith and provides the basis for many essential concepts such as creation, incarnation, and the fall.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the book itself – what it is, who it’s for, its impact on society, the uses and abuses of scripture and a couple of different ways of looking at it.
We’ll be taking the time to explore the text (well, translations of it) and from time-to-time compare it with a few popular misconceptions…
Along the way (generally on a Tuesday) we’ll be having a look at some of its most famous stories and showing off some of the fantastic resources we have to help you develop your own understanding and help with your work regarding the scriptures.
Please feel free to join the discussion – either on this page, or over on our discussion forums.

Image Credits
Gutenberg_Bible,_Lenox_Copy,_New_York_Public_Library,_2009._Pic_01.jpg
By NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) – originally posted to Flickr as Gutenberg Bible, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9914015

You Are What You Eat? Part I – Tales of Violence

In one of my favourite books, one of the protagonists grabs an animal bone that happens to be lying around and, with a throw-away quip, kills a thousand bad guys with it. This guy ends his life praying to his god for the strength to enact a horrific and bloody revenge on his enemies; his prayer is answered.

In a recent film, the main protagonist, grabs whatever is to hand, and with many a throw-away quip, kills his way through myriad bad guys – all in the name of revenge (and in search of a cure-based maguffin).

I’m not sure that there’s much difference between Deadpool & Samson.

In fact, the book of Judges is chock-full of the old ultra-violence and most of the characters therein seem to be the superheroes of the day – very much in a gritty/dark kind of fashion. Death and butchery is visited-upon all and sundry but very little of the human consequence is felt and the cycle repeats in the very next issue chapter. Maybe it’s all in service of the moral but it reads like pure escapist entertainment.

It takes until the book of Samuel and the machinations of a certain David before the violence starts to hurt – in a very Pulp Fiction kind of way.

Progress Has Happened

The interviews last week seemed to go all right. In hindsight, there are bits I could have done better but overall I reckon they were as good as I could hope for.

The three interviews were all different in setting – one in an interview room at work, one in somebody’s study, and the last in a cosy living room – and the subject matter varied as the topics for each session were different but there was some, necessary overlap and the atmosphere throughout was one of friendly enquiry.

I have no idea what the panel are going to write in their reports and I’m now waiting to hear from the DDO when he contacts me to arrange a further meeting to discuss the reports.

We shall see…