Understanding Scripture

A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars
Published by: Zondervan, 2006

The Africa Bible Commentary is the first one-volume Bible commentary produced in Africa by African theologians to meet the needs of African pastors, students, and lay leaders. Interpreting and applying the Bible in the light of African culture and realities, it furnishes powerful and relevant insights into the biblical text that transcend Africa in their significance.

Also available in French, entitled Commentaire Biblique Contemporain.  [more...]

Authors: Krijn van der Jagt, Ray Pritz
Published by: United Bible Societies

The Bible Lands as Classroom series (eight 45 minute DVDs) is an excellent teaching tool for Bible translators, pastors, and people in general who would like to know more about biblical geography, history, and culture. The series was filmed in Israel and the Middle East, including many ancient sites. The DVDs include:

  • Part One: Geography, Climate, Agriculture
  • Part Two: From Abraham to Joshua
  • Part Three: From Joshua to Hezekiah
  • Part Four: From Hezekiah to Herod
  • Part Five: New Testament: The Gospels
  • Part Six: Spread of the Early Church in the Roman Empire
  • Part Seven: The Religions of the Ancient Near East
  • Part Eight: Bible Text and Canon
  • Presenter’s Manual: Background readings and exercises
  [more...]
An interactive journey through the Old Testament
Author: Jennifer Wright

In this detailed 17-page workshop guide from the Ndop region of North West Cameroon, Jennifer Wright describes how participants were taken on an interactive journey through the Old Testament:

What?
The Bible Overview Workshop is a two day workshop for leaders of church groups, such as listening group leaders and Sunday School teachers, with the aim of giving a basic knowledge of the overall Bible story and particularly aspects of the Old Testament which are important for understanding the New Testament.

Why?
We had trained people to be listening group leaders and children’s leaders, and they were generally doing well, however we realised that due to limited knowledge of the Old Testament, some were finding it challenging to lead their group because they were not prepared for the kind of questions that could come up unexpectedly when listening to or reading the New Testament – for example about the priests, the sacrificial system, the Passover feast, etc. Although they knew a lot of Bible stories, many did not have a very clear idea of what order they come in and how it all fits together.

How?
Geography: We had a simple map of the Ancient Near East on the wall and the whole room was set up to match the map. The participants moved around the room as they engaged with the material so they gained an understanding of the layout of the places we were talking about and the movements of the people of Israel, from Abraham’s first journey to Canaan to the return from Exile.

Timeline: Each participant received a blank timeline at the beginning of the course, and there was a large version of it on the wall. As we went through the material, we completed the timeline on the wall and the participants completed their own timelines to match it so they could take it home with them.

Telling Bible Stories together: We selected a set of stories to give a coherent summary of the Old Testament. Some stories which were well known to the participants were covered very briefly by letting them summarise them or in some cases act them out. Other stories were narrated or read from the Bible.

Questions: For several key passages, we asked questions based on the text in order to encourage discussion and bring out key points, especially when they would be referred to later. We also gave space for participants to ask questions.

Discussion topics – e.g. we finished the first day by making a large model Tabernacle (out of people, benches, a sheet, cardboard boxes, etc.) and then having a discussion of sacrifices, comparing the Old Testament sacrificial system to the local village’s sacrificial system.

Download a full description of the workshop as a PDF document.  [more...]

Historical and hermeneutical study of ordinary "readers" transactions with the Bible.
Author: Mote Paulo Magomba
Published by: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg - MTh thesis (2004)

Abstract:
This study falls within the area of the Bible in African Christianity, particularly ordinary readers' appropriation of and interpretation of the Bible. It seeks to explore, firstly, the processes of the encounter between the Bible and the indigenous people of Tanzania, specifically the Gogo in central region. Secondly, this thesis seeks to identify some interpretative resources and emerging interpretative practices that have continued into the present of ordinary readers of the Bible.

This exploration is done by tracing the mission activities of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Tanzania, which began in 1844. The work of the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) is also examined, particularly the role it has played in making the Book "open" to the indigenous, through translation.

Although there is continuity between past and present readings, this thesis demonstrates that ordinary readings are not static, they are dynamic; and over the years neo-indigenous interpretative moves have emerged which are a combination of both missionary and indigenous interpretative resources and methods. This reality is evident in the contemporary phenomenon of women and youths' songs in central Tanzania. These songs are creative interpretations of the Bible from an ordinary readers' perspective.  [more...]

Illustrated information books exploring the life and history of Bible times.
Authors: Tim Dowley, Robert Backhouse, Mary Evans, Stephen Motyer, Robert Bewley
Published by: Lion Hudson Plc

Lion Hudson has republished their set of 12 illustrated Bible information books. The series includes: People of the Bible, Life in Bible Times, Bible Facts and Figures, The Life of Jesus, The World of the Bible, Bible Atlas, The Jerusalem Temple, The Tabernacle, Old Testament Introduction, New Testament Introduction.

These books are really popular with translation teams. They would also be good in Bible schools and for those working with children and youth.

Special Offer: For those working with Bible agencies, get the complete set of 12 books for only £12 (British pounds), if you can arrange to collect them from the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK headquarters. Send your order to cyberspaceplaceatmailrapide [dot] com with information on how you will pay and how you will get the books.  [more...]

What facilitates and hinders Scripture engagement in the Minyanka churches of Mali?
Author: Richard Margetts

MA dissertation: All Nations, UK (2013)

Abstract:

The coming of the New Testament in 2006 heralded a new era of Scripture engagement for the Minyanka people of Mali. This paper evaluates the factors that have facilitated and hindered the process of interacting with God’s Word. It includes an examination of the role of Bible understanding, literacy and methods of oral communication as well as the relationship between the Bible agency and the local churches.

The research takes an exploratory approach in which a review of existing literature and initial interviews helped to formulate a research questionnaire which was carried out in Minyanka churches. The results of the survey became the subject of discussion in follow-up interviews with Malian Bible translators, pastors and expatriate colleagues in order to interpret the data. This was combined with documentary research into Scripture engagement in the history of the Minyanka church and in reports of recent activities.

The testimonies of change and transformation demonstrate that the translated Scriptures are making a difference. Scripture engagement is taking place as people read their New Testaments, listen to the audio Scriptures and tune into Minyanka radio programmes.

But this paper also shows that there is no room for complacency. There is an urgent call for basic Bible teaching and ongoing literacy classes. Pastors have an especially important role to play and need to be given encouragement, time, resources and training to more effectively facilitate Scripture engagement. Their choice of communication methods and their availability to answer questions from the Bible has a considerable influence on the way people interact with the Scriptures.

Spiritual transformation is a desired outcome of Scripture engagement, but it is not necessarily immediate and certainly not automatic. As Bible agencies have learnt in the West, it is possible to have access to Scripture and some of the best resources and programmes, but fail to be changed by God’s Word. In this sense, Minyanka Christians are no different from Christians anywhere else in the world, facing the challenge of making Scripture engagement a priority amid the many distractions in life.

Download as a PDF document below:  [more...]

Author: Fergus Macdonald

Is the Bible too complicated for ordinary people to use as a handbook for living?

Not if you’re prepared to follow some basic guidelines which the Bible itself provides, as, for example, in the Letter to the Hebrews. The writer suggests six ways of engaging with the Scriptures.  [more...]