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Camels and tigers and bears, oh my!: Get Religion, February 15, 2014 February 17, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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The silly season is early this year. With editors and most top-tier reporters away in August on vacation (along with the subjects of their stories — need to set the proper precedence of seniority at the start of this story) the late summer is the time when the second team knocks out stories that leave readers asking: “what were they thinking?”

True — there are exceptions to this venerable custom. What would Easter or Christmas be without stories proclaiming what “the science” tells us about such events. Perhaps the massive snowstorms in the Northeast have kept the A-team in bed for some publications? Otherwise I would be hard pressed to explain the thinking behind the editorial line taken in a spat of stories reporting on a paper published by two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University.

The gist of the report in publications like the Huffington Post, IBT and the Fashion Times (yes the Fashion Times) among a score of others is that “No camels = No God.”

The absence of camel remains at an archeological site in Israel dated to the time of Abraham demonstrates the Bible is false — or as the Fashion Times headline tells us “Historical ERROR in Bible’s Old Testament, REVEALED: Radiocarbon Dating of Camel Bones Shows Inconsistency.”

I like the screaming ALL CAPS used for error and revealed — one need read no further to see where that story is headed.

The New York Daily News was a little more cautious in its story “Israeli archeologists’ discovery suggests the Bible is wrong about camels.” It reported:

New archeological evidence is throwing cold water on the biblical image of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph riding camels through the desert. A team of Israeli archaeologists has studied the oldest-known camel bones from this ancient period and the results are in — camels reportedly started plodding around the eastern Mediterranean region centuries after the Bible tells us they did.

After analyzing the facts from radioactive-carbon dating, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University claim the domesticated animal arrived on the biblical scene near the 10th century B.C. Scholars believe Abraham lived at least six centuries before that, Time reports.

Still, stories about the Jewish patriarchs contain more than 20 references to the domesticated camel, according to The New York Times. In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant traveled on his master’s camels.

I laughed out loud when I read this. Perhaps it was out of caution that its reporter might not have been able to verify the information the New York Daily News cites the New York Times for the flash news that there are camel references in Genesis.

Time does a much better job with this story. Reporter Elizabeth Dias lays out the facts and then proceeds to pour cold water on the hyperbole — taking as her target the New York Times’ account.

The New York Times, in a story about the finding today, announced, “There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place … these anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.” Behold, a mystery: the Case of the Bible’s Phantom Camels.

The discovery is actually far from new. William Foxwell Albright, the leading American archeologist and biblical scholar who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, argued in the mid-1900s that camels were an anachronism. Historian Richard Bulliet of Columbia University explored the topic in his 1975 book, The Camel and the Wheel, and concluded that “the occasional mention of camels in patriarchal narratives does not mean that the domestic camels were common in the Holy Land at that period.” Biblical History 101 teaches that the texts themselves were often written centuries after the events they depict.

Time also puts this story in context, noting Biblical scholars have long been aware of apparent anomalies. It quotes a number of liberal Biblical scholars to flesh out the conundrum of Biblical history v. a Biblical faith.

The Bible has also never been a history book or a scientific textbook, explains Choon-Leong Seow, professor of Old Testament language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Interpreting the Bible is a little like studying Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, he says. Modern viewers do not consider the Christ figure in da Vinci’s painting an accurate portrait because we know it was painted centuries after the supper happened, but that does not take away from the artist’s spiritual message about Jesus’ last night with his disciples. “For us who believe that this is Scripture, Scripture is important as it has formative power, it forms the people, and it transforms,” Seow says. “It is poetic truth rather than literary truth.”

Understanding the Case of the Phantom Camel as a fight between archeological evidence and biblical narrative misses the entire spiritual point of the text, as far as scholars are concerned. Anachronisms and apocryphal elements do not mean the story is invalid, but instead give insight into the spiritual community in a given time and place. In this case, camels were a sign of wealth and developing trade routes, so it is likely that the biblical writer used the camel as a narrative device to point out power and status. “We needn’t understand these accounts as literally true, but they are very rich in meaning and interpretive power,” [Duke University’s] Eric Meyers says.

I would have liked to have seen Time ask conservative Biblical scholars — say someone from the Dallas Theological Seminary — for their view on the camel controversy. It would have improved an otherwise great story.

Contradictions and difficulties with the historical veracity of the Pentateuch were a major news item at one time. That would have been in 1862 when the Anglican Bishop of Natal (South Africa) John William Colenso released the first of what became a seven part series of books examining the historicity of the first six books of the Old Testament.

Colenso, a one time mathematics teacher at Harrow and the author of the standard mathematics textbook for secondary schools in the mid-Nineteenth Century, demonstrated that some of the claims laid down in the Pentateuch were mathematically impossible. The battle has raged back and forth for the last 150 years, but some newspapers will always report the latest developments as breaking news that will shatter the foundations of faith.

It is a commonplace of the Jewish and Christian scholarly tradition that the Torah or Pentateuch was not written contemporaneously with the events it describes. Conservative scholars who follow the traditional teaching that Moses was the author of the Torah would not dispute the fact that he lived long after the events described in Genesis.

The author or authors of Genesis who transcribed the oral tradition of Abraham may have understood a word to have a meaning in their day that differed from its historical past.

Perhaps the word gamal was one such word. Could it have meant a beast of burden in Abraham’s time and by the time the stories were set down in writing a gamal came to be understood to mean the domesticated dromedary, the one-humped Camelus dromedarius?

As an aside, I find it amusing that some of the newspaper stories on this issue are assuming Abraham was a true historical figure, but the stories of camels in Genesis is a myth. Much of the historical critical Old Testament scholarship of the Twentieth century would believe the camels were real, but it was Abraham who was the myth.

Walter Beltz for example dismisses Abraham as mythical character akin to Aeneas.   … eine mythische Person… Die Gestalt Abrahams ist eine mythische Schopfung. (Walter Beltz, Gott und die Gotter: Biblische Mythologie, Aufbau-Verlag Berlin und Weimar, 1975, p. 109.) Or they have held that the accounts of Abraham’s life as portrayed in Genesis “is an inextricable tangle of history and myth.” (Manfred Barthel, Was Wirklich in der Bibel Steht, trans. by Mark Howson, What the Bible Really Says, Wings Books, 1992, p. 63.)

Time does the best job of all in presenting this story. But it too could have used a bit more balance. Better yet, read the original piece from Tel Aviv University and decide for yourself. You might be surprised in light of the press reports cited above to discover there is only one reference to the Old Testament in the paper when in the first paragraph the authors state the “Patriarchal narrative” had led some scholars to suggest an earlier date for the domestication of the camel in Israel than could be supported by their archeological finds. That’s it.

First published at Get Religion.

Camp Bible released in time for Christmas: The Church of England Newspaper, December 24, 2012 January 2, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, California, Church of England Newspaper, The Episcopal Church.
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A “gay-friendly” version of the Authorized Version or King James Version of the Scriptures has been released anonymously in the United States. The “Queen James Bible” re-writes passages of the Old and New Testament to omit phrases that gay activists find offensive.

However, the anonymous publication may be a spoof.  News of the new Bible was released via a PR firmPinkNews, a gay activist news site, states the editor of the QJB is the Rev. J. Pearson of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

However, the book has not been registered with the Library of Congress in Washington, the website’s ownership has been hidden from review and does not name any of the editors – and no “J Pearson” exists on the rolls of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of California.

An internet publication, Digital Journal, citing an anti-gay activist website, quoted the Rev. J. Pearson in its report on the book saying he, or she, believed: “Homosexuality was first overtly mentioned in the Bible in 1946 in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this – only interpretations have been made.”

The Queen James Bible made eight changes to the text of the KJV, which is in the public domain and may be freely adapted unlike modern translations. Among the changes were Leviticus 18:22:

KJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.

QJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination. (Page 75)

Romans 1:27

KJV: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

QJV: Men with men working that which is pagan and unseemly. For this cause God gave the idolators up unto vile affections, receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. (Page 545)

1 Timothy 1:10

KJV: For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.

QJV: For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (Page 575)

The Queen James Bible website states the new version “seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality: We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

It added the name Queen James was appropriate because James I was “a well-known bisexual. Though he did marry a woman, his many gay relationships were so well-known that amongst some of his friends and court, he was known as “Queen James.” It is in his great debt and honor that we name The Queen James Bible so.”

In addition to its lack of provenance, uncertain linkage to a phantom Episcopal clergyman in San Francisco and its anonymous website, the camp language of the advertisement suggests the Queen James Bible may be a hoax.

“The QJB is a big, fabulous Bible,” the website states adding: “You can’t choose your sexuality, but you can choose Jesus. Now you can choose a Bible, too.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Hopes for Bible Study’s return to Namibia: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2012 p 5. December 12, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Education.
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The Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) has called upon the Namibian Ministry of Education to re-introduce religious education in state schools to reinforce moral values among learners.

The New Era newspaper reports the youth wing of Namibia’s ruling government party and former liberation movement last week endorsed a resolution calling for the return of Bible classes in schools to combat the “escalating crimes of passion and other related domestic violence incidents” in society.

In 2010 the Council of Churches of Namibia prepared a Biblical Studies and Moral Education curriculum for the state.  The current religion curriculum in state schools taught religion from a historical perspective, CCN general secretary Maria Kapere told The Namibian.

The CCN’s curriculum “is to use the Bible as source for moral education.  This will help prevent the growing threat of moral decay in Namibian society and strengthen Biblical instruction in the school curriculum,” she said.

Following independence from South Africa, Bible study at state schools was ended.  However, no moral or ethical curriculum had been put in its place. “Children are obliged to go to school, but are not obliged to go to church. Without them knowing it, they are being withheld from the truth written in the Bible,” she said.

The endorsement of the ruling party’s youth wing for a return to religious instruction tied to moral and ethical development of young people, strengthens the chance for the return of the Bible to the classroom, observers from the Diocese of Namibia tell CEN.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Pope hates Christmas: Get Religion, November 22, 2012 November 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Get Religion, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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Breaking news from the Telegraph… the newspaper’s Rome reporter reports that one Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. the Bishop of Rome, Pontiff of the Catholic Church alias  Benedictus PP. XVI, claims Jesus was not born December 25, in the year 1.

As I read this story, “Jesus was born years earlier than thought, claims Pope” I could envision the clatter of the teletype in the background with three bells ringing to tell the news room a major story had come across the wires. In a story datelined from Rome, we learn:

“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in [Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives], which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies.  “The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.”

The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC. But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking.

“Many historians believe” that Jesus was not born in the year 1, or 0? How about all historians for the past few hundred years — I’m not aware of any school of church scholarship that holds to the  contrary view. The Telegraph reports that in addition to challenging the notion that Jesus was not born in the first year of the Gregorian calendar, the pope claims the traditional church creche is all wrong:

Christ’s birth date is not the only controversy raised by the Pope in his new book – he also said that contrary to the traditional Nativity scene, there were no oxen, donkeys or other animals at Jesus’s birth. He also weighs in on the debate over Christ’s birthplace, rejecting arguments by some scholars that he was born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem.

Well, there goes the Christmas pageant. But why is this news? Anyone with even the remotest knowledge of the issue would not be surprised by this revelation.

It could well be ignorance on the part of the reporter, who upon reading the third volume in the pope’s Jesus of Nazareth trilogy was dumbstruck by this information and had to rush to print to tell England the news. Or, it could be that the Telegraph, aware of the abysmal level of religious knowledge and practice in England, believed that this would be news to the millions of cultural Christians in England whose only relationship to the faith were hoary memories of youthful school and church pageants. Or, this could be just another story in the series of articles from the British press that paints Benedict XVI in unflattering colors.

The article closes out with an Oxford professor’s calming assurance the pope may be right as “most academics agreed with the Pope that the Christian calendar was wrong and that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly thought, probably between 6BC and 4BC.”

Again we have the “most academics” — I would be interested to know who are the dissenters that believe in the 25 Dec 00 date.

The signs the story was rushed in to print also comes from the selection of the expert. The Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture from Oxford is quoted on the absence of any dating in the text of the Bible as to exact time of Jesus’ birth. But the professor is allowed to move out of his area of expertise — Biblical interpretation — into Patristics or Patrology (the study of the writings of the Church Fathers and the history of the early Christian Church) and in doing so, the good professor makes a mistake.

The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact. “We don’t even know which season he was born in. The whole idea of celebrating his birth during the darkest part of the year is probably linked to pagan traditions and the winter solstice.”

This claim by the Old Testament scholar about the origin of the Christmas holiday is false. While the village atheist may delight in repeating this legend, it is nonetheless untrue. A non-academic rejoinder to this “pagan traditions” claim can be found in a 2003 article “Calculating Christmas” by Prof. William Tighe in Touchstone magazine.

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

From this piece, should you be interested in the details you can access the academic literature. But returning to the Telegraph piece, there are some fascinating things raised in the pope’s new book — and smart fellow that he is it came out just in time for Black Friday. There is an interesting historical and religious debate mentioned by the Telegraph story, the location of Jesus’ birth: Nazareth v. Bethlehem, but that is passed over in favor of the “striking” news about the calendar question. Given the excitement over the women bishops’ vote in the Church of England the reporter may have needed to “sex-up” his story to find space in the newspaper for another religion news item. Whatever the reason, the story is a disappointment. The Telegraph is supposed to be a “quality” newspaper, but this story is worthy of the tabloids.

First printed in GetReligion.

Second Century Pauline letters discovered: Anglican Ink, February 29, 2012 March 1, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Biblical Interpretation.
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The treasure trove that produced a first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark, also contained an early sermon on Hebrews and the earliest-known manuscripts of one of the letters of Paul the Apostle, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace has claimed.

In a 24 February 2012 interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Professor Wallace of the Dallas Theological Seminary said the newly discovered papyrus fragments were of scholarly magnitude of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  They also serve to confirm the veracity of the received version of the New Testament as they contain no significant differences from the modern texts.

Read it all in Anglican Ink

First Century fragment of Mark’s Gospel found: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2012 p 6. February 23, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

An American New Testament scholar reports that a fragment of the Gospel of Mark dating from the first century has been discovered and is currently being prepared for publication.

Speaking at a debate at the University of North Carolina on 1 Feb 2012, Dr. Daniel Wallace of the Dallas Theological Seminary reported that seven New Testament papyri had recently been discovered.  Six of the fragments date from the second century and “one of them probably from the first. These fragments will be published in about a year.”

The discovery serves to confirm the veracity of the current texts of the New Testament, Dr. Wallace said, and supports the view the “original New Testament text is found somewhere in the manuscripts that have been known for quite some time.”

In his summary of the debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman, Dr. Wallace stated increased the store of knowledge about the New Testament.  “These fragments now increase our holdings as follows: we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43 per cent of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts. But the most interesting thing is the first-century fragment.”

“It was dated by one of the world’s leading paleographers,” Dr. Wallace said, adding this unnamed scholar “was ‘certain’ that it was from the first century. If this is true, it would be the oldest fragment of the New Testament known to exist.”

No first century manuscripts of the New Testament are known to exist at present.  The oldest known fragment of the New Testament is a fragment from John’s Gospel known as P52.  Discovered in 1934, this document has been dated to the first half of the second century.

The newly discovered fragment of Mark’s Gospel predates the oldest known example – P45 — by 100 to 150 years, Dr. Wallace claims.

“How do these manuscripts change what we believe the original New Testament to say,” Dr. Wallace asked in a statement published on the Dallas Theological Seminary website.

“We will have to wait until they are published next year, but for now we can most likely say this: As with all the previously published New Testament papyri (127 of them, published in the last 116 years), not a single new reading has commended itself as authentic. Instead, the papyri function to confirm what New Testament scholars have already thought was the original wording or, in some cases, to confirm an alternate reading—but one that is already found in the manuscripts.”

Other scholars have taken a skeptical approach to the news of the discovery, and have pressed Dr. Wallace to name the paleographer who has made the claim to a first century origin for the Mark fragment.

Writing in his blog, Dr. Jim Davila, Professor of Early Jewish Studies at the University of St. Andrews notes that while the claims are impressive and interesting  but “paleographic analysis generally can’t pinpoint a date more precisely than about a fifty-year range at best. That means that if we start with the generally accepted date of composition for Mark of 70 CE, we would be hard-pressed to distinguish a late first century script from one from the early second century, especially if the sample is small.”

However, Dr. Davila states he maintains an “open mind about the precision of the dating until the manuscript is published and numerous Greek paleographers have been able to evaluate it.”

Bible burning vicar under investigation: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 p 6. July 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper.
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Geraint ap Iowerth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Welsh vicar’s foray into modern art has elicited responses of bad taste and heresy — and has landed him in hot water with the Bishop of Bangor.

On July 23 the Western Mail reported the Rev Geraint ap Iorwerth, vicar of St Peter ad Vincula Church in Pennal, Machynlleth, was under investigation by his bishop for burning parts of the Bible he believed were unchristian and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

The 60-year-old vicar cut out passages of the Bible that offended his moral sensibilities and displayed them on a mural in the church hall, and burned the scraps from the Bible in a symbolic gesture celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Mr ap Iorwerth told the Western Mail: “The passages I cut out referred to the wrath of God, a God who killed millions of people in a vengeful, spiteful way. This has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, a reactionary leader who preached peace. I’m not a complete pacifist, I’d use a baseball bat if anyone came for my family.

“But he was the ultimate campaigner for peace and I wanted to literally cut out parts of the Bible that seemed to preach violence – naughty children being rewarded, bad children not being just punished but killed violently,” he noted.

“Nietzsche said we should philosophise with a hammer, whereas I prefer to theologise with a pair of scissors,” Mr ap Iowerth said.

The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Rev Andrew John responded that “destroying parts of the Bible we don’t like is disrespectful and will offend many people. I have therefore written to the Rev Geraint ap Iorwerth and will be investigating the matter.”

While there were difficult sections of the Bible, “it is not given to us to pick and choose” those passages we will honour. “Sometimes the most challenging parts are those which we need to wrestle with most of all,” the Bishop said.

However, Mr ap Iorwerth said he was not persuaded by his Bishop’s words. “The charred remains [of the burnt Bible] were a memorial to the millions whose lives have been destroyed as a result of the cruelty of this kind of God and his followers,” he said.

While Mr ap Iowerth’s actions may be avant-garde for the Diocese of Bangor, they have arisen from time to time in the course of church history. In the second century, Marcion taught that Jesus was the saviour sent by God and Paul of Tarsus his chief apostle. However, Marcion rejected the Old Testament, believing the wrathful God of Israel was different from the loving God of the New Testament. The early church denounced Marcion as a heretic, and while his writings have not survived, Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem has preserved some of his arguments.

King James Bible Trust endorsed by the Church Commissioners: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 28, 2011 p 4. January 30, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church Commissioners will give “every possible support” to the King James Bible Trust in celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version of the Bible.

Responding to a question from the member for York Central, Mr. Hugh Bayley, (Lab.), what the Church Commissioners would do to make the anniversary “a truly national celebration of our language and culture,” on Jan 18 Mr. Tony Baldy said would back the work of the trust chaired by Frank Field MP as “no book has had a greater influence on the English language.”

“It is a masterpiece of literature that unites English-speaking people everywhere,” Mr. Baldry said.

“Indeed, a number of expressions are unique to the King James Bible, some of which are relevant to politics, such as, ‘How are the mighty fallen’, ‘Set your house in order’, ‘Be horribly afraid’, ‘A thorn in the flesh’, ‘Let us now praise famous men’ and ‘To everything there is a season’.”

He added that his favourite phrase was “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

The Church of England had given formal support to the anniversary, he said, noting that in her inauguration address to the General Synod, the Queen “emphasised the importance” of the Authorized Version and the “lasting impact it has had on the life of the Church and on the nation.”

New Chinese Bible released: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 22, 2010 p 8. October 23, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Evangelism, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
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Archbishop Kwong dedicating the RCUV Bible at St John's Cathedral in Hong Kong

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The first new translation of the Bible in Chinese since 1919 was launched last month at a ceremony at St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong.  On Sept 27 Archbishop Paul Kwong of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSK) dedicated the Revised Chinese Union Version (RCUV) of the Old and New Testaments.

Produced in collaboration by the United Bible Society and the Hong Kong Bible Society, the RCUV was twenty-seven years in the making and replaces the Chinese Union Version (CUV) prepared by British and American missionaries in the early years of the Twentieth Century.  Scholars from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the United States sought to overcome the tremendous changes in the Chinese language seen in the past century.

The Hong Kong Bible Society stated that “conscious of the extreme importance of such a daunting task, the scholars involved in the project have been working diligently and prayerfully, imploring the Holy Spirit for guidance.  They have been weighing carefully every word and every expression, including the punctuation, confronting constantly with the original text, and consulting other versions, all for the purpose of producing a revision that conveys more accurately the message of the Bible.”

The revision of the New Testament is based on the Greek New Testament 4th Revised Edition published by the United Bible Societies in 1993. The revision of the Old Testament is based on the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia published in 1984, the Hong Kong Bible Society said.

Beside the issue of faithfulness and accuracy, there was also a concern about naturalness and fluency.  Changes are being introduced wherever the old text presents problems such as archaisms, ambiguities, or structures not conforming to current usage.

Certain words and expressions that formerly sounded smooth and natural have since become unnatural and unintelligible.  Chris Chow, marketing manager of the Hong Kong Bible Society, told the UCA New, as the translation produced 91 years ago had lost some of its meaning for modern Chinese speakers.

Mr. Chow cited the CUV’s use of the verb “rallying” in Galilee in John 7:1.  “This is now revised as Jesus ‘visits’ Galilee, since the word ‘rally’ nowadays carries the meaning of protest and confrontation,” he said.

“We hope this new translation will allow the nation of China and Chinese readers throughout the world to read, with familiarity and ease, the Bible’s life-changing message, ” said Marco Herrera, director of international ministries of American Bible Society.

The Bible is the hope for Africa’s future, archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2010 May 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.
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Archbishop Justice Akrofi of West Africa

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Africa will not rise from poverty until its peoples take the message of the Gospel to heart, the Archbishop of West Africa said in the keynote address to the African Bible Society meeting in Accra, Ghana last week.

And for this to happen, Africa needed more Bibles, Archbishop Justice Akrofi told the delegates from 30 denominations drawn from 12 African nations at the start of the four day conference on April 15.  While the world was awash in print with over 300,000 new books published each year, only one book, the Bible, was capable of transforming the world, he said.

“The Bible has been a transformer and a unifying force bringing people of different races and colour” together into a “mutual respect”, the archbishop said.  And it was only when these conditions were fulfilled, would Africa rise from poverty.

Archbishop Akrofi, the Bishop of Accra and President of the Bible Society of Ghana urged church leaders to return to the Bible as their guide.  “Our fellowship has transcended denominations, the Bible and the Christian faith has promoted tolerance for peoples of other faiths as all humanity derives its existence from the one God,” he said.

While economic aid and development assistance from the West was welcome, by itself it would not transform Africa, he said.  The continent was blessed with “vast human and natural resources,” but tribalism and ethnic strife had retarded the continent’s growth.

However, it was an exciting time to be a Christian in Africa, as the faith was growing rapidly across the continent and because “Christians were change agents”, there was hope for Africa’s future, the archbishop said.

David Hammond, Africa Area Secretary for the Bible Society told the conference the Bible Society was seeking to distribute Bibles across the continent.  The message of the Bible, he said, would transform Africa and was the only lasting way to put a stop to Africa’s endemic corruption, wars and social evils.

Bishop — “Don’t fear Biblical criticism”: CEN 10.24.08 p 5. October 23, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Bishop of Durham has urged the Roman Catholic Church not to fear Biblical criticism, telling the Synod of Bishops that historical critical scholarship was a tool that properly used was a servant to the church’s ministry of evangelization.

Gathered by Pope Benedict XVI under the theme of “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,” 253 bishops along with ecumenical guests and Vatican staffers are meeting at the Vatican to explore the church’s place in the modern world.

In his Oct 5 opening homily Benedict called for a re-evangelisation of Europe.  “Nations that at one time were rich with vocations are now losing their identity, under the deleterious and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” he said.

There were those, he said, who have “decided that God is dead” and have declared themselves to be god, “taking themselves to be the singular artificers of their destiny, the absolute lord of the world”

Yet by becoming the “sole measure of himself” and the source of his own salvation, is man “truly more happy? Does he truly become free?” the Pope asked.

The church’s duty was to proclaim “that evil and death do not have the last word, but Christ is the victor in the end.  Always!”

To carry out this task, the church’s “primary and fundamental” mission was to proclaim the Gospel.  Citing Jerome, Benedict said “whoever does not know the Scriptures does not know the power of God nor his wisdom. Ignoring the Scriptures means ignoring Christ.”

According to reports released by the synod, the bishops offered a mixed view of the role of historical-critical scholarship in informing church teaching.  Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa suggested that a “loss of confidence among Catholics that scripture truly communicates God’s revelation” may be related to “the influence of modern Biblical scholarship on preaching.”

However, on Oct 14 Benedict urged the bishops to work upon ways of integrating Biblical scholarship with theology.  The Vatican Information Service (VIS) reported that “starting from the consideration of the work for his book Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Father dwelt upon the fundamental criteria of Biblical exegesis, upon the dangers of a secularized and positivistic approach to the Sacred Scriptures and upon the need for a closer relationship between exegesis and theology.”

In his Oct 15 intervention, the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, the Anglican observer to the synod, said the challenges of “secularism and relativism” alongside the problems raised by “postmodernity” faced by the churches had bred an “anxiety” that the “Bible might tell us unwelcome things,” and that “its message might be stifled.”

He urged a “balanced” fourfold reading of scripture founded upon the heart, (Lectio Divina, liturgical reading), mind (historical/critical study), soul (church life, tradition, teaching) and strength (mission, kingdom of God).”

“In particular, we need fresh mission-oriented engagement with our own culture,” Dr. Wright said, according to notes released by the VIS.  As Paul confronted paganism “so must we. In particular, we must engage critically with the tools and methods of historical-critical scholarship themselves,” he said.

Dr. Wright said the “climax” of the canon of Scripture “is Jesus Christ, especially his cross and resurrection. These events are not only salvific, they provide a hermeneutical principle, related to the Jewish tradition of ‘critique from within’.”

Drawing upon the speech of Cardinal Ivan Dias to the Bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, Dr. Wright said the church should take Mary as its model and embody “fiat (mind),  magnificat (strength), conservabat (heart) – but also stabat, waiting patiently in the soul, the tradition and expectation of the church, for the new, unexpected and perhaps unwelcome, but yet saving, revelation,” he said.

Dr. Wright’s comments found support from several bishops.  Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann of Würzburg said the German-speaking bishops group was aware of “a certain fear about the historical-critical method.”  Such fears could “endanger the merits and fruits of scientific exegesis.”

The spiritual understanding of Scripture must start with historical-critical exegesis as its “premise,” Bishop Hofmann said.

The Synod of Bishops continues through Oct 26.

Concern as sex debate rules ‘change’: CEN 8.08.08 p 3. August 11, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Lambeth 2008.
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The ground rules of the debate over homosexuality have been changed, organizers of the 2008 Lambeth Conference said last week, as those seeking to change the church’s teachings on the morality of homosexual behavior no longer have the burden of making their case, convincing those holding the traditional view that an evolution in doctrine is necessary.

“We are going back to first principles” Archbishop David Moxon of New Zealand—the chairman of the conference’s Bible studies programme, said. The conflicting views of the morality of homosexual behavior held by the bishops at Lambeth each contained a kernel of truth, and it was up to the church to engage now in a “hermeneutic” to come to a consensus on how the Bible can inform the debates on homosexuality.

The Bible studies at Lambeth sought to “honor and respect” the different ways the bishops used the Bible. We sought “not to preempt or to take a position” on divisive issues, but “to take the high common ground,” he said.

The “envelope” of understanding “is in the hands of God,” as the boundaries of Biblical interpretation were “an evolving process” under the authority of the “Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Moxon.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams told the bishops that the 1998 resolution on human sexuality, resolution 1.10, would “not be revisited at this Lambeth Conference” and remained the common mind and teaching on human sexuality for the communion. However, the force of the 1998 resolution that said homosexual conduct was incompatible with the teaching of Scripture, has been undercut by the new terms of debate, neutering its importance, critics have charged.

In a discussion on how Scripture was being used to inform the bishops’ deliberations, Archbishop David Moxon and conference consultant Prof. Gerald West of the University of KwaZulu-Natal said the bishops were “seeking to build a consensus” on how to use Scripture to address the issue of homosexuality.

“The meaning of the Bible is not self-evident,” Prof. West said. The modern notion of homosexuality was foreign to the culture and mindset of the ancient Near East he argued, citing the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The issue in this passage from Genesis was not homosexual conduct per se, but power couched in terms of “male rape” and dominance.

The “problem was inhospitality,” he argued.

Prof. West, who stated he did “not have a clear position on resolution 1.10, personally,” said the task of Scripture in shaping the church’s teaching on these issues was to “allow the historical and theological framework to be integrated” as part of the church’s “missionary project” to find a common Anglican hermeneutic.

The Academic Dean of Moore College in Sydney and one of the architects of Gafcon’s theological resource group, Dr. Mark Thompson told CEN the quest of a common Anglican hermeneutic “ignores the fact that the essential Anglican stance towards the nature and use of the Bible has already been provided by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and expounded in the First Book of Homilies to which those Articles refer.”

He noted that the “appeal to ‘a scholarly use of the Bible’ is far too often a device for evading the plain teaching of the Scriptures. The words mean what they say.”

The Bishop of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman told CEN the attempt to use “Hegelian dialectics” to find a synthesis between the belief that homosexuality was a sin and that homosexuality was a blessing was inappropriate.

Changing the rules at this stage of the game was discouraging he said. “The burden of proof falls on those calling for change,” he argued. “Is there a terminal point for the listening project, or am I the terminal point?” When traditionalists “die the argument is over.”

New Bible highlights social justice issues: CEN 3.07.08 p 2 March 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper.
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nt-wright.jpgThe Bible Society has released an anotated edition of the Holy Scriptures, highlighting over 2000 passages addressing questions of “social justice.”

Whilst poverty and injustice are “two of the biggest issues of our day,” the president of the Bible Society, the Rt. Rev. NT Wright of Durham said, the new Poverty and Justice Bible, shows that in “speaking out” on these questions, “God got there first.”

The impetus for the Poverty and Justice Bible arose from a comment from American pastor Rick Warren who stated that although he had studied the Scriptures, he had overlooked the passages that spoke of God’s love for the poor.

The new Bible highlights over 2000 passages address social justice issues and comes with a 32 page study guide that looks at issues of fair trade, farming and equality in education.

‘Before the Make Poverty History movement, before Sir Bob Geldof’s Live 8 and before politicians began debating these issues, the Bible spoke loudly and clearly on poverty and justice,” Bishop Wright said.

The Poverty and Justice Bible opens our eyes to that. It highlights – literally – that the Bible has something to say about issues that resonate today. This Bible connects with the very fabric of today’s world, with all its problems and messiness – and has something powerful to say,” he said.

The new anotation “helps the Church engage with the Bible more effectively by linking Scripture with issues that are rooted in today’s world. For Bible Society, this is just as important as our work to make the Bible available. It’s all part of the fight against Bible poverty,” Bible Society’s Chief Executive James Catford said.

Senate Panel Probes Top US Evangelists: CEN 11.16.07 p 6. November 18, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
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Six US television evangelists are under investigation by a US Senate committee for allegedly abusing their tax-exempt status to fund lavish personal lifestyles that include mansions, jets, Rolls Royces, and £12,000 toilet seats.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee asked the six to provide detailed information on expenses, compensation and executive amenities.

“I’m following up on complaints from the public and news coverage regarding certain practices at six ministries,” Senator Grassley said. “I don’t want to conclude that there’s a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code.”

Letters were faxed to the six ministries asking that they respond by Dec 6 to the Committee’s request for information. All six are proponents of the “Prosperity Gospel”, a belief that financial prosperity is a sign of God’s favor for the believer. This favor is either preordained, or a result of prayer and merit-making: the support of godly ministries—such as the six under investigation.

Kenneth Copeland Ministries has been asked to explain a $2 million gift to Copeland, and the transfer of ministry assets to private companies controlled by his family, while Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has been asked to provide information on Long’s salary and real estate transaction.

Creflo Dollar’s World Changers Church International, which collected £35 million last year in donations has been asked to account for the use of private planes, donations, compensation, and “love offerings” to visiting ministers, while Faith healer Benny Hinn has been asked to account for the purchase of a home, jet and vacation travel made during his ministry trips.

Senator Grassley has asked Randy and Paula White’s Without Walls International Church to account for the purchase of homes in Malibu, New York City, and Texas, as well as credit card charges for cosmetic surgery and luxury clothing. The couple has also been asked to explain the purchase of a Bentley convertible for fellow televangelist T.D. Jakes.

Joyce Meyer Ministries has been asked to respond to questions about money and jewelry contributions, as well the purchase of a £12,000 “commode with marble top” and a £15,000 conference table.

Kenneth Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), told Pat Robertson’s CBN News that “None of the six ministries are members of the ECFA, and if they were, we would have looked into those types of transactions.”

ECFA monitors the financial practices of its member ministries, ranging from giants like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Pat Robertson’s ‘700 Club’, to the Anglican Five Talents International.

Dr. Francis McNutt, president of Christian Healing Ministries, and the founder of the Charismatic renewal movement in the Catholic Church, told The Church of England Newspaper he supported the investigations. “They should be accountable” he said, as “Jesus was clear, you don’t make money” out of the ministry.

“In the eyes of the world they are making money off of this,” Dr. McNutt said. “If this isn’t true why won’t they open their books? This is what the world wants to know.”

“Bible is the issue”: CEN 10.19.07 p 6. October 18, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Bible, not sexual politics is at the heart of the divisions within the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen wrote last week.The “Windsor process has failed” and “irreversible actions have occurred” within the life of the Anglican Communion that mean it “will never be the same again,” Dr. Jensen wrote on Oct 8. “A new and more biblical vision is required to help biblically faithful Anglican churches survive and grow in the contemporary world.”

He said last month’s New Orleans statement from the American Church affirms the belief that “the practice of homosexual sex in a long term relationship is morally acceptable.”

The Episcopal Church is “prepared to wait for a short time while the rest of the Communion catches up. But they do not intend to reverse their decisions about this,” Dr. Jensen said.

“Biblical conservatives” have responded by looking to the Primates for succor and “from now on there will inevitably be boundary crossing and the days of sacrosanct diocesan boundaries are over.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams had planted his flag in the liberal camp, Dr. Jensen said, when he challenged “conservative interpretations of Romans 1 and John 14, and thus raising the issues of interpretation, human sexuality and the uniqueness of Christ as Mediator.”

Dr. Williams’ April 2007 lecture in Canada, entitled The Bible Today: Reading and Hearing “signaled the importance of hermeneutics for our future,” Dr. Jensen wrote. “We may think that this whole business is about politics and border-crossing and ultimatums and conferences, but in fact it is about theology and especially the authority and interpretation of Scripture.”

Evangelicals must “plan for the next decades, not the next few months,” he said, in responding to this Biblical challenge. “What new vision of the Anglican Communion should we embrace? Where should it be in the next twenty years? How can we ensure that the word of God rules our lives?” he asked.

Sydney’s plan for a Bible in every home: CEN 9.14.07 p 9. September 17, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen has called for every home to have a Bible.

He will back up his words by asking this month’s meeting of diocesan synod to underwrite the plan at an estimated cost of £200,000.

Writing in the Southern Cross, Dr. Jensen said he had a “dream to give all our fellow citizens in the Diocese a copy of the word of God.”

He asked the Diocese to “set aside the year of 2009”, which he noted was the 50th anniversary of the first Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney for the project which would “fulfill the aim of our Diocesan Mission that all may hear his call to repent and believe on him.”

The Bible was one of the Church’s “chief evangelistic weapons” he said. But the knowledge and ownership of the Bible “is growing less common.”

The Bibles will be distributed in book, CD and DVD form he said. “If we wish to make the Word of God well-known, we may expect to use contemporary means of communication so that all will have access.”

Fraudulent Attack: CEN 8.31.07 p 7 August 30, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The Archbishop of Armagh’s attack upon conservative Evangelicals last month as Bible worshippers who put Scripture above Christ was false and a “sanctimonious fraud”, Reform Ireland has said.

In a sermon delivered at Clonmacnoise on July 22, Archbishop Alan Harper stated that “Bibliolatry is a boulder threatening to obscure the dynamic and contemporary truth of the resurrection. It is also the mother of dogmatic fundamentalism. Love for the scriptures is tainted when scripture and not God becomes the object of worship.”

These charges were “fraudulent” the conservative pressure group said in an Aug 23 statement and were a “classic piece of PR rhetoric” without “substance” or “truth”.

The “subtext” to the Archbishop’s sermon was the Anglican Communion’s sex wars, they said.

Archbishop Harper “erroneously accuses those who would wish to hold to a historically orthodox view of human sexuality of being worshippers of the Bible, that we are ‘bibliolaters’,” they said.

Those crying “bibliolatry,” conjuring up the “straw men” of religious fundamentalism, were actually “covering their own aberrant view of Scripture. The peril that menaces the body of Christ is not exalting the Scripture over the Son, but exalting human reason over both Scripture and Son,” they argued.

Reform Ireland stated it was “disappointed” that Archbishop Harper had “chosen an act of worship as an opportunity to attack those who believe what Scripture teaches.” He may deny the Bible’s “inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency but in so doing he is worshipping human reason,” they argued.

Bishop Spong banned in Sydney: CEN 8.17.07 p4 August 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Newark.
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American Bishop John Spong has been banned in Sydney. The controversial former Bishop of Newark has been forbidden to preach or officiate in the diocese during his current book tour by Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen.

Sydney has also chided the Primate of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane for reversing the policy of his predecessor and allowing Bishop Spong to preach. During the Newark bishop’s 2001 book tour Archbishop Peter Hollingworth banned him from preaching, while Archbishop Aspinall has permitted the controversial bishop to preach at St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane this Sunday.

Bishop Spong banned in Sydney

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop: “Division is worse than heresy”: CEN 7.27.07 p 1. July 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Biblical Interpretation, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland.
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Division is a worse sin than heresy, the Archbishop of Armagh said in a sermon preached in Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly, Ireland, this week.

In a sustained attack on conservative Evangelicals, on July 22 Archbishop Alan Harper condemned “bibliolatry”, arguing it contributed to the “present madness” within the Anglican Communion.

Taking has his text, Mark 16.2, the rolling away of the stone from the entrance to Jesus tomb, Archbishop Harper said, “the Spirit of the Living God in Christ Jesus will not be incarcerated within categories of action and thought devised or advocated by the human lust for conformity. Such shackles have been consistently shattered by God who is a God of grace and love, not of law and ordinance.”

Truth was not fixed, he argued, but changed over time, he said, as the work of the Spirit was to “overthrow conventional expectations and to announce new vistas of perception and truth. The Christian should actively hope for and expect new vistas of perception, new encounters with the unfolding truth of God in Christ.”

He said the “impediment” of “Bibliolatry: the business of mistaking the Word of God for a mere text,” blocked the working of the Spirit. “The activity and therefore the unfolding revelation of God go on beyond the written text. Such activity includes the actions of those who, in Paul’s words and theology constitute “the Body of Christ”, the Spirit filled entity, changing and deepening its experience of the love of God over 20 centuries,” Archbishop Harper said.

“Bibliolatry” was a “boulder threatening to obscure the dynamic and contemporary truth of the resurrection. It is also the mother of dogmatic fundamentalism. Love for the scriptures is tainted when scripture and not God becomes the object of worship,” he argued.

A “second boulder,” he noted was “division and disunity within the Body” of Christ. The “wounds of the past” sectarian divisions were slow and hard to heal he said.

By setting boundaries to the faith, “we consciously limit the horizon of our own vision and experience,” he argued. The proposition that “one may never sacrifice truth for unity” was a “simplistic mantra” that obscured the true argument.

Arguing that truth arose from a dialectical engagement between competing viewpoints, Archbishop Harper said “disunity guarantees that access to a fuller knowledge of the truth is consciously inhibited.”

“I am coming to believe, with William Temple, that division is a greater sin even than heresy!” he concluded.

His comments come as the Archbishop of York warned conservative church leaders that if they boycott next year’s Lambeth Conference they would be effectively resigning as Anglicans.




Aboriginal Bible Translation Completed: CEN 5.18.07 May 18, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Biblical Interpretation, Mission Societies/Religious Orders.
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The first complete Bible translation into an Australian indigenous language has been published, the Church Missionary Society reports. Twenty-seven years in the making, the Kriol Bible, a complete Old and New Testament, was released on May 5 and will serve the 30,000 speakers of Kriol — a language spoken by aboriginal people in West Australia, the Northern Territory and Northwest Queensland.A joint project of the Bible Society, Lutheran Bible Translators, The Church Missionary Society, the Anglican Church of Australia, the Australian Society of Indigenous Languages and Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Kriol Bible is the first printed work of literature in Kriol, and as the Authorised Version of the Bible did for English, is expected to standardise the language spoken by a majority of Australia’s aboriginal people. Aboriginal Bible translation completed

Read the full article at The Church of England Newspaper