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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Paraphrasing to personalize Bible study

There are many different Bible study techniques. Which ones we choose to use will depend on what it is we are trying to accomplish with Bible study.

Greg Lamm has just blogged on a technique which has helped him appreciate one of his favorite psalms even more. Greg begins:
I remember when I used to think that paraphrasing the Bible was akin to playing Chopin on a kazoo. But I'm over that way of thinking now and often find myself drawn to the intimate joy of putting God's Word into my words. I think God's ego can handle it. Just one more indication of how much God's love can tolerate, or even instigate.
Then Greg paraphrased Psalm 1:
So here's what I've done with my beloved PSALM 1. I wrote out David's six verses from six translations and one paraphrase (New American Standard, New Century Version, Today's New International Version, English Standard Version, New Living Translation, Revised English Bible, and The Message). Then I spread them all out on a table in front of me and read them through numerous times and then started writing out my own paraphrase. And here's where the bottle stopped spinning ...
Read the rest of Greg's post to find out how his paraphrase turned out. I am impressed with its quality. But even more important, I know from my own efforts to paraphrase or turn a Bible passage into poetry, that this kind of serious interaction with the biblical text, which Greg has done, changes the text from being "out there" to "in here", personalized, where it impacts us as individuals.


At Sun Jan 14, 10:39:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

Amen, Wayne. I use this a lot. In fact, I'm part of a group blog devoted exclusively to this. We have not done Psalm 1, yet, but who knows :-)

The more the merrier.

At Sun Jan 14, 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Wayne, this is excellent. May I take a moment to really underscore your point.

The most effective result in education happens when the student owns the material. This is different than a student who can only reproduce the answers on a test. The later doesn't really own it and won't be able to take the information to the next level. They won't be able to independently interact with the real world with responses conditioned by the material they learned. The information is just facts that can be placed on a test. True learning forms the mind. And, therefore, the student increases in ability to respond to new incoming information in profitable ways.

This is a lot like a child growing up. Good parents really want to release the child. That means the child has to be able to think on their own--that is, independently. Also, for any of us who have children older than mid-teens, we know that they actually want to think independently. Kinda like the little child learning to walk. It can be a little scary; but, the alternative is to cripple the young person.

It's the same with paraphrasing a text in a Bible. Doing it well (ie. with significant accuracy) takes a fair amount of work. It's about the same amount of work as doing the actual translation. However, and this is the key point, the effect of the effort is what is so incredibly beneficial. The effort makes it "in here" as you said. It's like it incarnates the text, and the body you've wrapped it in is your own.

I've said--and I know of others who have said it, too--you really don't know what the Bible says until you've translated it into your own language.

Unfortunately, many are under the mistaken assumption that a paraphrase is, by definition, less accurate than a translation. But, as anyone who has done an accurate and communicative translation knows, an accurate rendering can look all the world like a paraphrase. And some translation methodologies constrain how communicative the translation can be. So, some methodologies produce texts that are far, far more difficult to incarnate (ie. to own)

The practice (what I would call the final exegetical step) of paraphrasing or translating a text on your own is enormously beneficial.

BTW: Codepoke, doing this as a community would be even better. :-)

At Sun Jan 14, 06:47:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

Columbus, OH.

I'm working it into my church, little by little. Until then....


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