For most of us, the biblical canon with its 66 “books” has always been a given, inherited from the past, our parents and churches. We have not concerned ourselves very much with it, even though we may have heard that the Catholic version of the Bible has more “books” in it than the Protestant version.
Tim Martens carefully unwraps a pair of tattered-looking old books. One is an ancient German Bible, its text printed in fine Gothic script, the other an old Gesangbuch or songbook.
The name Arab Christians use for the Bible translates literally as “The Holy Book,” and they often shorten it to “The Book.” Article 4 of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective states: “The Bible is the essential book of the church.” What does it mean if we see the Bible as the book above
Reading the Bible can be challenging; it is a complex collection of books written thousands of years ago in different cultures. The Bible Unwrapped has easy-to-read explanations for inexperienced readers to get a handle on how to make sense of it all.
The Bible is full of stories about people, real people with bodies and minds, and with an array of experiences, relationships and emotions. How odd, then, that we so often turn to the Bible as little more than an instruction manual for communal and personal life.
Members of the first-place Bible Quizzing for Grown-ups team, the Canadian Mennonite Scribes, are pictured, from left to right: Jim Loepp Thiessen, pastor of Floradale Mennonite Church; Ginny Hostetler, CM’s executive editor; Barb Draper, CM’s editorial assistant; and Tobi Thiessen, CM’s publisher. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
As people gathered for the Bible Quizzing for Grown-ups event on Sept. 30 at the Huether Hotel in Waterloo, the room buzzed with conversation, but when the quizmasters began reading questions from the Gospel of Luke, the room went quiet. The mood was light-hearted, but definitely competitive as eight teams listened intently and searched their memories for the right answers.
Every month, several women from Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg go to jail. But unlike the women they meet with behind bars, they get to walk out of the barbed wire fences and go safely to their homes at the end of the night.
Visitors examine the historic Bender Bible, which was returned to Canada 90 years after it left Ontario. Conrad Grebel University College held a ‘homecoming’ event on May 12, 2018, which included the story of how the Bible originally arrived in Upper Canada in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
Descendants of Jacob and Magdalena Bender examine the historic Bender Bible, held by Laureen Harder-Gissing, archivist of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
A unique feature of the 274-year-old Bender family Bible are the hand-written inscriptions with family names and birthdates. In 1831, the Bible travelled from southern Germany with Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, arriving in Upper Canada in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
Archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and historian Fred Lichti examine the the historical Bender Bible, which was recently returned to Canada. It was first brought to Upper Canada in 1832 by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender but spent 90 years in an archive in the U.S. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
Archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing points out details of the Bender Bible to Virginia Hostetler. The historic Bible was brought to Upper Canada in 1832 by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, Hostetler’s ancestors from six generations back. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
Descendants of Ivan and Beatrice Bender pose with the Bender Bible, a family heirloom, and the passport of their ancestor Jacob Bender, who brought the Bible to Canada in 1832, along with his wife Magdalena and their children. Pictured from left to right, back row: Grace Bender and Daniel Bender; middle row: Geoline Bender, Richard Bender, Mary Ann Bender, Laurel Bender-Lloyd and Sarah Clemmer; and front row: children Oliva Clemmer, Mason Clemmer and Benjamin Bender. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
A historic Froschauer Bible, printed in 1744, found its way to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, thanks to the efforts of archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and local historians Fred Lichti and Catherine Schlegel (not pictured). It is informally known as the Bender Bible because it was brought to Upper Canada by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)
On May 12, some 125 people gathered at Conrad Grebel University College for an unusual homecoming celebration—for a Bible. This large, centuries-old book is a part of Ontario Amish Mennonite history.
Scripture and community were the focus when Mennonite Church B.C. members gathered at Level Ground Mennonite Church in Abbotsford on April 14, 2018, for Reading the Bible Together.
Resource person Tim Geddert, a professor of New Testament at Fresno Pacific University’s Biblical Seminary in California, called the Bible a “rich storehouse of treasure awaiting learners.”
Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe and Erin Froese ‘yarn-bombed’ a tree on CMU’s campus as part of a project exploring ecofeminism. (Photo courtesy of Erin Froese)
Laura Carr-Pries created a worship resource in the CMU course, Feminist Perspectives on Bible and Theology. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
Alyssa Sherlock created a photo project exploring themes of perfectionism, self-image and faith. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
Most upper-level university classes end with a final essay, not a photography project, prayerful meditations or a “yarn-bombed” tree. Sheila Klassen-Wiebe, however, took the road less travelled for Feminist Perspectives on Bible and Theology.
Around 10 women and female-identifying people meet weekly at Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo, Ont., for Feminist Bible Study, an initiative supported by Pastors in Exile. (Photo by Jessica Reesor Rempel)
‘In the framework of my churches that I was at growing up, women weren’t portrayed as powerful people God worked through,’ says Caitie Walker, left, pictured with fellow Feminist Bible Study participant Emily Leyland. (Photo by Jessica Reesor Rempel)
Kim Rempel, a Feminist Bible Study participant, takes part in a March 22 discussion about the ‘Gospel according to Mary Magdalene.’ (Photo by Jessica Reesor Rempel)
Around 10 women and female-identifying people sit in a circle at Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo, every week, drinking tea and discussing biblical texts through a feminist lens.
This image of a Passover meal appears next to Exodus 12 in a Bible published in Zurich in 1531. The idea of owning a family Bible, especially in one’s own language, was very new at the time for families of modest means. This particular Bible travelled from Switzerland to Pennsylvania to Ontario with the Reesor family of Markham.
James DeGurse, centre, a Roman Catholic, finds value in reading the Bible communally. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
Braden Siemens’s take on Scripture is informed by attending both Pentecostal and Anglican churches. (Photo by Aaron Epp)
Claire Hanson, Braden Siemens, James DeGurse, Marnie Klassen and Kenny Wollmann share their views of Scripture at CMU on Feb. 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy of CMU)
Scripture is a massive, ancient, messy archive of God’s relationship with humanity that many claim to interpret correctly.
But with such diverse understandings of the Bible, how can Christians approach it with humility while granting God’s words authority over their lives? How can young people take Scripture seriously in an increasingly secularized world?
Bryan Moyer Suderman believes that paying attention to Jesus as interpreter of Scripture can transform how we, too, engage Scripture and each other.
Ed Zacharias started with Exodus, translating word by word into Low German (Plautdietsch). For a decade he worked at it, sometimes with institutional backing, sometimes as a volunteer hunkered in his home office, relying on help from interested Wycliffe personnel and a loose network of Low German promoters.
Community Mennonite Church face off against East Zorra Mennonite Church at the 2014 Bible quizzing event. (Photo courtesy of Jeramie Raimbault)
For about 30 years, youth from several Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregations in Ontario have looked forward to their annual Bible quizzing event. It’s centred around friendly competition, memorization of minute biblical details and application of biblical principles to everyday life.
Managing editor Ross W. Muir was introduced to biblical storytelling when John Epp, a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers Canada and Toronto United Mennonite Church, visited First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., last spring. Following that encounter, the two chatted in person and online over the summer and into the fall.
Fewer Christians are reading their Bibles today. Not exactly a news flash. The real question is, why are so many of us no longer reading our Bibles? I think there are three primary reasons:
There are numerous schemas that map out differing views of Scripture. One of the most straightforward suggests everyone believes the Bible is either:
- fully divine, or
I grew up in a church where 2 Timothy 3:16 was almost as important as John 3:16. It declares, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” This verse was quoted regularly to defend the divine authority of every word in our Bible.
When I was eighteen I participated in a “street evangelism” campaign at the Boston University campus as part of a Bible course I was enrolled in. A few of the BU grad students decided to have a little fun and interrogate us with some questions of their own. We were steamrolled by their merciless intellectual superiority. My ignorance was not bliss on this particular occasion.
I grew up in a church where everything was painted “Sola Scriptura.” I’m not referring to some chic Greco-Roman inspired hue from Benjamin Moore, but a Latin phrase meaning “Scripture Alone” which coloured the way we saw everything under the sun. “Sola Scriptura” was the primary pillar and doctrinal gatekeeper of Protestant faith.
I once heard a story about the influential biblical scholar Brevard Childs. A student asked him how to become a better interpreter of the Bible. Childs's response, as it was told to me, was become a more profound person. Now perhaps some arrogance could be read into that statement but I think there is an important insight to consider here. Around the time I heard this quote I was attending a doctoral level seminar in biblical theology. Part of the course included presenting various forms and methods of interpretation (biblical criticisms). As we wrestled with these approaches
The heart of the Christian life is aligning ourselves with God’s love. We squander love and then turn to the Spirit to fill us with it again. Even harder than that, especially as we try to make sense of our church’s current struggles, is what to do when we come to the sinking feeling that our problem might be that we understand God’s love in different and contrary ways.