“We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11, NIV)
This is what Jews from across the diaspora exclaimed when they heard the apostles speaking in their own languages, filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is also what we hope that students across the world say as they hear the wonders of God in their own languages, through members of IFES movements and through the Bible.
Language is reflected and expressed through practices, customs, places, and culture. How do we hear the wonders of God in our own tongues? This issue of Word & World explores reading the Bible in context. Authors from six countries on five continents deal with one kind of context: national and cultural.
The theme for this issue coincides with the upcoming release of the Africa Study Bible, which pairs the New Living Translation with comments by authors from around Africa. With the partnership of IFES, the Africa Study Bible is due out in early 2017 as a book and an app from Oasis International. Two of the project’s leaders, John Jusu and Matthew Elliott, talk with Word & World in an interview about coordinating more than 350 authors to help us all hear God’s word in fresh ways, learning from how the Scriptures are received in Africa.
The remaining contributions explore how to read the Bible in other cultural contexts. Samuel Escobar relates what it was like to read the Bible in the early days of his ministry with IFES in Latin America as the ideologies of Marxism and right-wing totalitarianism prevailed. Charlie Hadjiev also deals with political context, demonstrating the difference that this makes when someone looks to the Bible to help them understand how to relate to authority.
Myrto Theocharous emphasizes the oppression that privileged contexts of interpretation have exercised over underprivileged contexts, calling for equality and reconciliation between different communities of Bible readers. K K Yeo deals with the task of biblical interpretation as a Malaysian-Chinese reader, a sacred task enabled by the Holy Spirit.
Included in this issue are materials for group discussion and a list of further readings.
May the Holy Spirit enable us, and many more, to hear the wonders of God declared in our own tongues.
Robert W Heimburger, Editor
Join the Conversation about reading the Bible in context:
Word & World is designed to start theological conversations about the world that students live in. As you read, you can highlight text and leave comments on what you’re reading. Each issue comes with a set of discussion questions to be used in groups.