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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS................................ ................................ ....................... IV ENTHRONEMENT OF THE BIBLE ................................ ................................ ..........1 SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS ................................ ................................ ...........2
At the Beginning of the Seminar ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 2 Methodological Notes for the Facilitator ................................ ................................ ............................ 2 What is a Basic Bible Seminar (BBS)? ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 2 Who can take part in a Basic Bible Seminar (BBS) ? ................................ ................................ ................. 2

THEME ONE: LET US OPEN THE BIBLE TOGETHER ................................ ..........3 THE CATHOLICS AND THE BIBLE ................................ ................................ ........3
Where is our difficulty? ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 3 Some historical facts ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 4 Using Your Bible with Ease ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 5 Where do I find this Book? ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 5 Understanding a Page of your Bible................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 6

THEME TWO: THE BIBLE - A LIBRARY OF BOOKS ................................ ............7 WHY ARE THERE 73 BOOKS IN SOME BIBLES AND ONLY 66 IN OTHERS? ...7 THEME THREE: THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD ................................ .........10
The different Stages in the Writing of the Bible ................................ ................................ ........................ 10 God is Behind the Writing of the Bible ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 11 Vatican II and the Bible as the Word of God ................................ ................................ ............................ 12 Conclusion: The Spoken Word is Powerful ................................ ................................ .............................. 13

THEME FOUR: THE WORD OF GOD IS WRITTEN IN HUMAN LANGUAGE BY PEOPLE ................................ ................................ ................................ .................15
Exercise: Newspaper and Photo Album ................................ ................................ ............................... 15 Vatican II¶s Teaching on the Bible as Written by Human Beings ................................ ............................ 16

THEME FIVE: JOURNEY TOWARDS FREEDOM - THE HEART OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..........18
How did the Old Testament come to us? ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 18

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The Journey of Faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ................................ ................................ ................. 18 When God Frees a People through Human Leaders................................ ................................ ................. 19 A People Remembers their most Important Events ................................ ................................ .................. 20 Why do we Christians still need the Old Testament? ................................ ................................ ............... 21

THEME SIX: JOURNEY TOWARDS LIFE IN FULL: THE HEART OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..........23
The Birth of the New Testament ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 23 One Gospel Story, different Points of View ................................ ................................ ............................... 24 Life is the Most Important Thing ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 25

THEME SEVEN: HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE ................................ ....................26
I. What is Bible Study? ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 26 II. Some Essential Steps for Bible Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 27 (a) Read / Discover the Text ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 27 (b) Interpret / Understand the Text ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 29 (c) Apply / Live the Text ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 30 III. Some of the Dangers of A Fundamentalist Interpretation of the Bible ................................ .............. 31 What is Fundamentalism about? ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 31 Relating meaningfully to Fundamentalists................................ ................................ ............................ 32

THEME EIGHT: HOW TO SHARE / PRAY THE BIBLE ................................ .......34
Why Bible Sharing? ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 34 The interrelation between Bible Sharing and Bible Study................................ ................................ ........ 34 Who can participate in a Bible Sharing Group? ................................ ................................ ....................... 35 Organising Bible Sharing and Bible Study Groups ................................ ................................ .................. 36 Different Bible Sharing Methods................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 36 I. The Basic Bible Seminar Method................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 37 II. The Seven Step or the Lumko Method................................ ................................ ............................ 38 III. From our Lives to the Scriptures Method ................................ ................................ ...................... 38 IV. From the Scriptures to our Lives Method................................ ................................ ....................... 38

CLOSING EUCHARIST OF THE SEMINAR ................................ ..........................40 SOME USEFUL BOOKS ................................ ................................ ........................41
A. B. SOME GOOD BIBLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 41 OTHER BOOKS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 41

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The materials contained in the present manual have as their basic inspiration, the structure and content of the BBS as originated in the Philippines. We are grateful for the help that their insight has been to many Bible Groups throughout the world and in Africa in particular. The material, however, has been reworked and, in some cases, entirely new sections not present in the Seminar from the Philippines have been added. Themes Five, Six and Seven are completely new. The other themes were present but have been reworked. Other books have also been used. Consult the list of useful books at the end of the manual. The present shape of the BBS as presented in this manual with its strengths and weaknesses fall to the author(s) who will be more than grateful to receive any suggestions. Many thanks to the Pastoral department of AMECEA and the person in charge, Fr. Wolfgang SCHONECKE, m.afr. for seeing this project through and to BICAM for encouraging it right from the beginning.

Richard K. BAAWOBR, m.afr. On the Feast of St. Jerome 30th September 1998

The aim of the ceremony is to celebrate the presence of God through his Word among us. This Word will accompany us all throughout the seminar and afterwards. If possible, the Bible that is used for the enthronement should be displayed opened in a place of honour throughout the seminar. The following is a proposal for a celebration of the Word. It can be adapted according to the composition and desire of the group.

Procession (with a dance or only with a song) y Big Bible (in local language if possible) y Easter candle or two candles (the word as light) y Flowers y Liturgical dancers (if possible) y 1 reader carrying the Scriptures y Celebrant Enthronement (lectern, incense, bowl with charcoal burning): The Bible is opened and placed in a place of honour. Greetings and Welcome by main celebrant Opening prayer Reading from the Scriptures One of the following passages can be chosen y Is 55:1-3,10-11 y Heb 4:12-13 y Ps 119 [118]:105-112
Short time of silence to ponder on the reading or to recall his / her favourite texts of the Bible.

A short reflection on the reading and inviting people to the next step.
y Response ² spontaneous prayers of intercession

Closing prayer, final blessing and final song

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At the Beginning of the Seminar
Word of welcome by somebody of the parish pastoral team or by one of the animators of the seminar. After that one of the animators begins the seminar.

Methodological Notes for the Facilitator Questions to share about in twos : y Why did I decide to take part in this seminar ? y What am I afraid of with regard to this seminar ? The animator gathers the answers together and completes with the following

What is a Basic Bible Seminar (BBS)?
The Basic Bible Seminar (BBS) is a seminar that was developed in the Philippines by the John Paul I Bible Centre in order to: y arouse the interest of people in the Bible y give them a basic knowledge of the Bible y initiate people as to how to use the Bible y help form Bible Groups y help give an ongoing formation to interest people. The Bible is at the centre of the seminar. There are many interesting things that could be discussed, but the choice has been made to keep the Bible as the centre of the Seminar. It is not the time for explaining the history of the Church or the Church·s teachings on ethical issues, politics, etc. Such teachings have their place but are better dealt with elsewhere. The Seminar does not intend to be a detailed Bible course on a specific book or theme of the Bible. This will be done at other occasions. It will rather try to give the basics about the Bible so as to help open up the minds and hearts of those interested to the richness of the Word of God. They can then continue later on, alone or with the help of others or books on specific books. It gives an introduction to the Bible and not the work of specialists and the intricacies of the debates. This is the reason why some positions will be taken at times without the debate around the issues taken into consideration. It is a Seminar and not a course. There will be some teaching to be done but the participants will be invited to learn by doing and reflecting upon their experience. The active participation of each person, therefore is necessary for the Seminar to bear the desired fruit outlined above.

Who can take part in a Basic Bible Seminar (BBS) ?
Any interested person, Christian or not can take part in this Seminar. All who hold a position of responsibility in the local Christian Community and have not been initiated to the Bible should take part in it. We cannot lead others on a way that we have never travelled ourselves. As Jesus said ´can a blind person lead another blind person?µ. (Mt 15:14). There is a hunger for the Word of God and as leaders we cannot ignore that anymore. People have the right to know the Word of God and to be nourished by it everyday. The Church is also encouraging us in that direction right now.

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Methodological Note y The animator should prepare Catholic and Protestant editions of the Bible for the exercise. y Question: Why are many Catholics not used to opening the Bible? y Allow the people to talk among themselves and then hear from a few what answers they propose.

Where is our difficulty?
If I were to ask the question where do you find the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, probably many of you would be able to tell me that it is in Luke 10:25 -36. It is one the stories that we remember and probably we have used. However, if I were to ask, where, in the Bible did God promise his people a new covenant that will be written in their hearts, perhaps fewer will be able to say where it is. It is in Jeremiah 31:31-33. The Old Testament is a section of the Bible that is not very much consulted by many of us and for this reason it is less familiar to us. Now let us ask a question that is perhaps easier. How many books are there in the Bible? The answer will depend on the type of Bible that you are using. We shall do an exercise to discover the different books of the Bible and to find out why the difference between the editions of the Bible. Many Catholics are not used to reading and studying the Bible on their own and are even afraid of opening it. They consider this as the duty of the priest, catechists and the religious. When, therefore, they come into contact with Christians of other denominations who use the Bible frequently, many Catholics feel uneasy and even avoid referring to the Bible in their discussions. For such Catholics it is enough to listen to what the priest or catechist says in the homily during the celebrations. Few will think of going back and reading and studying the passages that have been used in the liturgy in their homes. This habit has come from a certain time in the Church. The Bible was one of the dividing elements in the life of the Church because of the different ways in which people interpreted it. The leaders of the Church were afraid that free access to the Word of God would cause further division if the readers were not guided to a proper understanding of what they were reading. This has left people infants in their faith (Heb 5:11 -6:8; 1 Co 3:1-3) but we are called to grow and not remain there all our lives. Th fear and ignorance many have with regard to the Bible, however, are slowly changing as people are discovering the richness and transforming power of the Word of God. Many Christians are taking the habit of reading the Bible, studying it on their own or with others and praying it on their own or with others. This close contact with the Word is still bringing about changes in the lives of people God. During this Basic Bible Seminar we hope to remove the timidity with regard to the Bible and to help instil a love for the word of God. For this rea son, y we will open the Bible together in order to discover what is in it, y we will try to understand how to use our Bibles, y we will try to understand what is the central idea of the Old Testament and of the New Testament

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y we will be introduced to how to pray with the Bible personally or with others, y we will be introduced to how to study the Bible on our own or with others.

GROUP EXERCISE: OPENING THE BIBLE On a sheet of paper write: 1. The name of each book, the number of chapters and the number of the last verse of the last chapter (e.g. Genesis 50 verse 26) 2. How many books are there in the OT? 3. How books are there in the NT? 4. How many books are there in the whole Bible? 5. Which is the longest book in the OT and in the NT? 6. Which is the shortest book in the OT and NT?

The results questions 2 ² 6 in the above exercise will look something like this:



Longest Book Shortest Book

Old Testament New Testament

A (Protestant B (Catholic editions) editions) Psalms 39 39 + 7 = 46 150 chs. 27 Acts 28:31 Psalms 66 73 150 chs.

Obadiah 21 vv. 2 John 13 vv. 2 John 13 vv.

Some historical facts
There are many dates are important in the Catholic Church in terms of the official teaching on the interpretation of the Bible. But the 18th November 1893 was important and marked the beginning of a changing mentality. In that year Pope Leo XIII wrote a letter called Providentissimus Deus in which he invited Christians study the Bible seriously and he encourage the specialists to learn the languages in which the Bible was written, namely, Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. This, he hoped, would help people to understand better what the writers of the Bible wanted to teach. Fifty years later on 18th November 1943 Pope Pius XII wrote a letter called Divino Afflante Spiritu encouraging that Christians be taught how to read and interpret the Bible properly. For this he reminded the specialists that it is absolutely necessary to remember the different styles of writings and the customs of those who wrote the Bible in order to understand it better. A major step, however, was taken during the Vatican II Council (1962-1965) when the Bishops said that it was important for all Christians to go back to the source of the faith, to read, meditate and study the Word of God. They issued a decree entitled Dei Verbum (The Divine Revelation) whose focus was mainly on the Word of God. Since there are different types of writings in the Bible, they also said that it is important that the different types of writings be understood and taken int o consideration.

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A hundred years after the first document on the study of the Bible on 18 th November 1993, the Pontifical Biblical Commission published a document entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. In this document they present the di fferent ways in which the Bible is interpreted today, the strong points and weak points of each method. It, thus, makes us realise that the Bible is central to our lives as Christians and that we have to learn to use it properly if we are to get all the benefit from it that it offers.

Using Your Bible with Ease
The Bibles as we have them today are divided into chapters and verses in order to help us find easily the specific texts we are looking for. This, however, was not the case from the very beginning. The different books of the Bible were used for a very long time without any chapter and verse divisions. How do we know this? If we look for example at the Gospel of Luke 4:16-22 we will note that it is a reference to the book of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-2. If there were chapter and verse division at the time Luke was writing his Gospel, he would have probably said that Jesus opened the book of the prophet Isaiah at chapter 61 and read from verse 1 to 2. However, he said that Jesus opened to ´the place where it is writtenµ. Cardinal Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced the division of the Bible into chapters in 1226. Sanctes Pagnini, a Dominican priest introduced the division into verses, in 1528 for the Old Testament and 1555 for the New Testament by Robert Stephanus, a printer living in Paris. These divisions are respected and used by all today.

Where do I find this Book?
When you open your Bible, if you do not know where to find a particular book, you can always look at the table of contents that is given at the beginning of many Bibles. Most Bibles will give: y the full name of the book (Amos) y the abbreviation that is commonly used (Am) y and the page number where the book begins in the Bible (p. ...) This is a first help to find the book and will remain helpful as long as you do not know which book comes where. Do not be afraid to consult it!! In the Bible itself abbreviations are used to refer to the books, chapters and verses. At the beginning or at the end of the Bible there is usually a list of the books with their abbreviations.

METHODOLOGICAL NOTE EXERCISE IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY How would you interpret the following references? Ruth Ex 3:7 Am 5:1-3 Phm 4-6 Mt 12:33-36,46-50 1 Co 1:18-30; 3:6-9

y Ruth = the whole of the book of Ruth. y Ex 3:7 = Exodus chapter 3 verse 7. y Phm 4-6 = Letter of St Paul to Philemon verse 4 to 6 (there is only one chapter).

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y Am 5:1-3 = Prophet Amos chapter 5 from verse 1 to verse 3. y Mt 12:33-36,46-50 = Gospel of Matthew chapter 12 from verse 33 to verse 36 then from verse 46 to verse 50. y 1 Co 1:18-30; 3:6-9 = First letter of Paul to the Corinthians chapter 1 from verse 18 till verse 30 then from chapter 3 from verse 6 till verse 9.

Understanding a Page of your Bible
Most good Bibles will have at the beginning of each book an introduction . In the introduction, the specialists try to explain some of the following elements briefly: y Who wrote the book? y When and where was it written? y Why was written? For whom? y What are the major themes / teachings of the book and how are they distributed throughout the book? This type of information is helpful to give the reader an understanding of the book before reading the text or after reading it. The top of the page will often indicate the reference of the current book. For example y Joshua 6 on the left page indicates that the text of chapter 6 of Joshua can be found on this page. y Joshua 7 on the right page indicates that the text of chapter 7 of Joshua can be found on this page. This helps when you are searching for a specific reference to know if you have passed it or not yet got to it. The bottom of the page will often have some notes explaining some points of the text above. Alongside the page, in the outside and/or inside margins there are some crossreferences. These are texts that are related in some way to the text on the page and often throw light on the text. It is helpful to consult them when you are studying a text.

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Very often we hear people say: ´It is written in the Bible ....µ and they do not go on to say which part of the Bible they are speaking about. This general reference is very inexact and leads people astray because it gives the impression that the Bible is one book but this is not the case. As the exercise at the beginning showed, there are many books in the Bible, 73 in the Catholic editions and 66 in the Protestant editions. The word Bible comes from the Greek word Biblia (books) which is the plural form of Biblon (book). As is clear from the above, the Latin and other languages took over the plural form of the Greek Word Biblia and used it to refer to the collection of books that now constitute our Bible. It is for the sake of simplicity that the word Bible is now used to refer to one book but it is actually a collection of many books. A good definition of the Bible will be to say that the Bible: y is a collection of 73 books that were written over a very long period of time (1000 years in all) y is the Word of God y is written in human language y is written in order to lead us to life in the full. The Bible is the most popular book. It was the first book to be printed by John Gutenberg (1454 - 1456) because he wanted the Word of God to be available to as many people as possible. The Bible, today, is the most translated book in the world. Already in 1989 there were the following: y translations of the entire Bible into 310 languages y translations of the New Testament into 1,005 languages y translations of one book or of parts of the Bible 1,907 languages This also makes it the most widely read book in the world. The Bible has changed the lives of many people and continues to do so because it was written to be read, to be studied, prayed with and to be lived.

Methodological Note Question for personal work and discussion in Assembly What do the following texts say about the Bible? Ps 119[118]:105; Mt 7:21-27; Rm 15:4; Jn 5:39; Jm 1:23-25;

Why are there 73 Books in some Bibles and only 66 in others?
Methodological Note Exercise in Assembly Find the book of Wisdom
You might have noticed that in some of your Bibles this book is not there. This is not the only book that you will not find in your Bible if you did not find it. This is so because this book is one of the seven books that Catholics called Deuterocanonical books, i.e. Books of the Second Canon . These books are the following: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel

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´Canonµ is Greek word meaning ´cane, measuring rod, rule, etc.µ(Cf. 2 Co 10:13,15,16). A book is called canonical because it is considered as responding to some guiding principles that qualify it to be an inspired book that can serve to show the way to live one·s faith. The Protestants call these same books Apocryphal books meaning ´Hiddenµ books and they treat them as uninspired by God. However, as will be pointed out later, these books are as equally inspired as any other book in the Bible. The problem of a different number of books is only in the Old Testament. All Christians agree that there are twenty-seven (27) books in the New Testament. How did the disagreement about the number of books in the Old Testament come about? From the beginning the Old Testament was written in Hebrew for the most part and only some parts of Daniel are written in Aramaic, a language that is a later development of Hebrew and which Jesus and his disciples would have spoken. Thirty-nine (39) books of the Old Testament are written in Hebrew and Aramaic. There was no problem reading and understanding Hebrew as long as the people of Israel lived in their land. However, when in 587 B.C. they were carried away into exile in Babylon, Egypt and in other places, some of them settled there. When the exile was over in 537 B.C. some of them went back to Israel but others stayed on. Later on other groups joined them. These new Greek masters mixed with them and influenced them to the point of imposing their language also upon them. Those who were forced to leave Israel for political, socio-economic and religious reasons lived in what was now called the Jews in the Diaspora . With the passage of time they began to forget their mother tongue, Hebrew, and spoke Greek, the common language of the people of the time. When the scriptures were read in the Synagogues in Hebrew, somebody had to translate what was read into Greek so that they could understand. Around 250 B.C. on an island called Pharos, near Alexandria in Egypt, the Jewish community in Diaspora made official translations from Hebrew into Greek of the books that had originally been written in Hebrew. The legend goes that seventy-two elders were asked by Ptolemy Philadelphus to translate the Hebrew Old Testament. They worked separately but when the finished the translation after seventy-two days, they discovered that their translations resembled each other. This legend tries to make the point that this translation was guided by God and was thus the Word of God just as the Hebrew text was. This translation is called the Septuagint, a Latin word for seventy, and is abbreviated LXX. It was widely used by the Greek -Speaking Jews before the beginning of Christianity. Now we might ask: ´how is it that a translation of thirty-nine (39) books from Hebrew into Greek gave seven (7) extra books? Where do these other books come from? The Jews who had stayed behind in Israel considered that after the fourth century Before Christ God did not reveal himself anymore. This was not case in the understanding of the Jews in Diaspora. For them God was still speaking to them and they could find this in the different events of their life which they interpreted in the light of their faith. Since they used Greek at this time, when they wanted to write down these religious experiences, they did not write them in Hebrew anymore as their ancestors had done, but they did so in Greek straight away. For the Jews in Diaspora, these books that were written in Greek had the same authority as those written in Hebrew. Both were considered as record of the Word of God to his people. Later on when these books were brought back to Israel, other Jews used them also. The first Christians knew and used the translation of the Old Testament in Greek. Whenever we have quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament, they are taken not from the Hebrew text but from the Greek text. This means that they recognised that this translation was also the Word of God in just the same way as the Hebrew text was. This situation, however, began to change after the year 70 A.D. There had been a growing

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struggle for more independence from Roman domination. This finally led to a powerful intervention of Rome in which Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple burnt down and many people killed. It was an important and painful event for Judaism and to avoid a further disintegration of the people, some of the religious leaders met in Jamnia in 90 A.D. to define what is acceptable to a Jew and what is not. They had to decide also about the value of the books of the Old Testament that had been translated into Greek. Jews were divided about them because some Jews, accepted them and even used them as their basis for arguing that Jesus was the Messiah, while others who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah could not accept such a position. So among the decisions o this gathering was that only those books written in Hebrew would be considered as God·s Word and not what was translated from Hebrew into Greek or written in Greek. The Jewish canon that followed only those books written in Hebrew became the first /short canon and it contained only 39 of the Old Testament. The other books that were added to this first canon gave birth to a 46-book second / longer canon. This is how the Deuterocanonical books came about. As early as 325 the Council of Nicea decided which books could be considered inspired. The Council of Carthage in 397 fixed the number of books of the New Testament to twenty-seven (27). During the Protestant Reform by Martin Luther (1483-1517) those books written in Greek were considered not to be inspired and he removed them from the books of the Bible. In reaction to this the Council of Trent (1545-1563) felt it necessary to draw up the list of inspired books of the Old Testament and to defend them. Vatican Council I (1869-1870) took up this position again. That is why today the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Traditions have more books in their Old Testament than the Protestant Tradition. To ask why the Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox added books to the Old Testament is asking the wrong question. They did not add any books. They are books that Martin Luther chose to leave out when he decided to keep only those books written in Hebrew.

SUMMARY 1. Canon = ruler . It can be long (46 books) or short (39 books). 2. The books of the Second / Long canon which were written in Greek are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel. 3. The final list of the OT was fixed to 46 books in the Council of Trent in 15451563 because of the Protestant Reformation by Martin Luther but the books existed and were used long before that time. 4. The final list of the NT was fixed to 27 books in the Council of Carthage in 397.

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At the beginning of a reading the reader says, for example, ´a reading from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthiansµ. We listen attentively as he or she reads and at the end of the reading when he or she says ´This is the Word of the Lordµ we respond ´Thanks be to Godµ. It does not even occur to us that we should say ´Thanks be to so and so for having read this passage to us!!µ By replying ´Thanks be to Godµ we affirm that we agree that this word we have heard, although it was written by Paul to a particular community in response to a particular need and at a particular time is Word of God addressed to us as a community today. When the reading is from the Gospel, there are a lot of things we do that show that it is not a reading like any other reading. We have a procession, we use incense, we stand up, the reader kisses the passage after reading it. All these are expressions of respect to Christ who is speaking to us. We acclaim the Gospel at the beginning by saying: ´Glory be to you Lordµ, at the end wi th the words: ´Praise be to you Lord Jesus Christµ. The Gospels have a special place in the entire Bible and are loved and venerated by all Christians. God speaks to us through the Bible. There are a lot of references in the Bible that state again and again that the Bible is the Word of God. The prophets of the Old Testament often use the expression: ´Thus says the Lordµ (Ex 4:22; 5:1; 1 Kg 11:31; Is 43:14; Jer 22:6; etc.). Such expressions are usually followed by the words of the one speaking. However, they are conscious that they are speaking in God·s name. In the same way they believe that what is written down is the word of God. When the King Jehoiakim burns the scroll upon which the Prophet Jeremiah had written the message from God, it was precisely because he realised that it was a powerful word and he did not want to listen to it (Jer 36).

EXERCISE IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY Look at the following passages. Dt 18:15-18 Jer 1:4 2 Pt 1:21 2 Tim 3:16-17 What do they say about the origin / author of the Bible.

The different Stages in the Writing of the Bible
The people of Israel and the early Christians did not start writing the Bible straight away. It took a very long time, more a thousand years for the Old Testament and more that seventy-five years for the New Testament. There are three stages in the writing of the Bible. In the first stage the people had experiences of God through certain events. These events were ordinary and extraordinary events. For example, the event commonly called Exodus, when some Israelites left Egypt after having been slaves there for a long time (430 years according to Ex 12:40) was as very important to them. They saw that it was God who had freed them from slavery in order to lead them to a new type of relationship with him in a covenant (Ex 3:7-10; 19:4-6). The same event, even today, can be looked at differently depending on whether the person believes in God or not. The one who does not believe in God might see many things as happening out of mere chance while the one who believes in

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God will see the hand of God in the events. Israel saw the hand of God in their leaving Egypt (Ex 6:1; 32:11) and in other events that happened to them in their life. Because these events were important for them, they celebrated them and recalled them speaking about them in forms of stories, prayers, hymns, etc. thus keeping alive the memory of the events. This is the second stage in the composition of the different parts of the Bible. It is an oral stage. The leaving of Egypt, for example, is celebrated in a hymn already as soon as they cross the Sea of Reed (Ex 15) and it will be recalled in other liturgical celebrations like the Passover (Dt 16:1-12). Sometimes, these stories, prayers, hymns, etc. were short. Sometimes they circulated independently but at other times they were part of other stories. They helped other people to be aware of the meaning of what had happened and how to interpret them in the light of their relationship to God. A similar thing happens in many of our African villages. There are often stories, hymns, proverbs, etc. that can be traced back to specific events in the life of the people. These often circulate for a long time and are handed on orally by the elders of the community. The form in which they are told will often depend on the audience and the narrator·s skill in narrating. The same event might be told differently because the audience is different and the one telling it is interested in one particular aspect of the event. The third stage is that of writing down what happened in the first stage and what was celebrated in the second stage. At this stage they wrote down not so much the historical event itself, but the meaning of the event . They chose from the different stories, hymns, prayers, etc. what was most important and write them down. When the tradition of a people of a particular village is being written down, the author does not go into all the details but goes to what he or she thinks is important to be remembered by the future generations. These are often things that were important for the people. The organisation of the material into chapters of a book and finally into different books came much later on when the different communities chose to keep and use these writings because they found them helpful for their faith in God. This period of selection is the final stage in the composition of the different books of the Bible.

God is Behind the Writing of the Bible
The Bible is considered as the Word of God because we believe that the four stages mentioned above did not just happen by chance. It was God who guided the people t o be able to interpret the event in the way in which they did and then to celebrate them, to decide what to write and finally to choose which to keep. This process is referred to as inspiration. God guided the process with his own life, which is Spirit, by putting his Spirit in the hearts of these people so that they had the concern of bringing his message to others. This understanding is present in several passages. Two of these passages show this very clearly: y 2 Peter 1:21 ... ´no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from Godµ. y 2 Timothy 3:16 ´All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good workµ. Although both passages come from the New Testament, they show what the biblical understanding of inspiration is about. The Spirit of God moves people in various ways. The Spirit of God is a force that is beyond the control of any one. Different people are known to have been moved by the Spirit of God in the Bible. Those most commonly spoken about are the prophets. They spoke in God·s name in order to announce a message of salvation, to denounce the way in which people are living that was contrary to the way God wanted them to live and they also committed themselves, together with the people, to look for a new way of living as a people of God. Of the many prophets we can recall Elijah

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and his struggle to make Israel faithful to God as the one and only God (1 Kg 18:17-46) We can also recall Amos, the prophet who struggled against the different forms of injustice in his day (Am 2:6-8; 4:1-3). Jeremiah, for his part tried to get the people realise that it is the fact that they are the chosen people that God is bound to protect them if they are not faithful (Jr 26).

Vatican II and the Bible as the Word of God
During the Second Vatican Council the Bishops said some very important things about the christian understanding of how God inspired the Biblical writers. Most of the teachings in relation to the Bible are found in a document called, the Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum , abbreviated DV). God revealed himself in creation and when he called Abraham, Moses, the prophets, etc. he continued this revelation ( DV 3). The final revelation is now in Jesus (Heb 1:1-2) who is the Word of God (Jn 1:1-18), the one who leads us to the Father and who makes the final covenant with us (DV 4 ). In the teaching of Vatican II the books of the Old and New Testament are inspired because they are ´written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.µ (DV 11). It is because of God·s action that these books have been written. Sometimes it happens today that a boss tells his / her secretary to write a letter on a certain issue. When the secretary does so, he or she will say that the letter is the boss· and not his or hers. Human beings wrote the different books of the Bible but under God·s guidance. That is why we can say that God is the author of the Bible. Since God is holy, (Lv 11:44-45; Is 10:20; 12:6; Am 4:2; Hos 11:9), the Bible is also referred to as Sacred (or Holy) Scriptures. In the teaching of Vatican II, the Sacred Scriptures remain the way for us to enter into dialogue with God: ´For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Ac 20:32; see 1 Th 2:13)µ (DV 21). There are two partners in every conversation. When one is speaking the other listens attentively and tries to understand what is said and later on responds and tries to live it. In the conversation between God and his children a similar thing has to take place for the communication to be effective. The Word of God that is read in Scriptures has to be welcomed with all the heart if it is to bear fruit. It is not enough to know that God is speaking to us. We have to remove the various kinds of distractions an d obstacles from the heart in order to be able to listen attentively and wholeheartedly. Jesus compares the progress of the Kingdom to a seed that is sown. Because of the different soils in which it is sown, the success is different. However, in spite of this the Kingdom that he inaugurates with his Word and deed will bear fruit (Mk 4:1 -9). Later on in the Christian Community, the same parable was applied to the different types of oppositions and resistance to God·s Word that is sown in our lives (Mk 4:13-20). The

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opposition will not prevent God·s Word from bearing fruit in the lives of individuals and of communities.

What some Specialists have said about the Bible
(i) Knowledge of the Scriptures as the way to know Christ St Jerome (c. 340 - 420) is perhaps the most famous Bible Scholar that lived. He devoted his life to the Bible and translated it from Hebrew into Latin so that people could be able to read it. His translation was very popular and was referred to as the Vulgate (the common translation) and was used by the Church for a long time as THE Bible. When he was commenting the book of Isaiah he said: ´Ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christµ. This is so because the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testament, leads us to a better knowledge of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God. To ignore the Scriptures and to claim still to be a Christian is a contradiction in terms. Everything that can help us better understand the Scriptures will, in the long run, strengthen our faith in Jesus. (ii) The Holy Scriptures as a Letter For St John Chrysostom (349 - 407) the image of letter is helpful. He compares the Holy Scriptures to the letter of somebody we love. When you get such a letter you read it with a lot of interest but you pay attention not just to the words of the letter but you try to recognise the love that is behind the words. When reading the Bible also as Word of God, the reader pays attention not just to the words but also the expression of God·s great love for us that these words contain. It is an invitation to enter into a loving relationship with God. Since the only appropriate answer to love is love, such a reading and praying of the Scriptures is supposed to lead to living a life of love of God and of others (Mk 12:28 -31). St Gregory the Great (540 ² 604) also used the image of a letter to speak about the Bible. For him, the Scriptures are like a letter that God has written to us. When we receive a letter from somebody who is important to us, we take time to read it attentively and sometimes several times in order to be able to understand what the person wants to tell us. Only when we have understood such an important letter from an important person are we in a position to act upon it. In a similar way for him we have to find the time and the necessary disposition of interior silence in order to read the Word of God and to meditate upon it daily.

Conclusion: The Spoken Word is Powerful
God communicates himself to us in the Word. As in every form of communication, for example a conversation between two people, the word that is spoken functions at three different levels. First of all the word informs us about something we did not know before. This information can be about the speaker or about something else that hearer has to know about. God·s Word informs us about God, about ourselves and about the world. He did this in different ways in the past through the prophets and finally through Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). The second characteristic about a word that is spoken is that it is a declaration about the speaker or about something. Like the information. Such a declaration is a statement about the speaker, the hearer or about something else but it has an authority / power in its own right. This might be known or it might not be known. T his is where the difference with the informative aspect of speech comes in. God reveals himself to Moses as ´I am who I amµ (Ex 3:14), and Jesus will bring this revelation to the full in the several expressions of ´I amµ in the Gospel of John. ´I am the bread of lifeµ (Jn 6:35), ´I am the light of the worldµ (Jn 8:12; 9:5), ´I am the good shepherdµ (Jn 10:11), ´I am and the way, the

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truth and the lifeµ (Jn 14:6), etc. All these make declarations about who God is and are authoritative. The third characteristic of the word that is spoken and that we have also in the Word of God is that it is not an empty word. It performs something, it actualises what it says in the heart of the hearer. When somebody hears the words: ´I love youµ from his or her friend, they mean a lot and they actually arouse in the heart of the hearer good feelings for the speaker also. The words: ´I hate you,µ on the contrary would cause negative feelings of anger, disappointment, hatred, etc. in the heart of the hearer for the speaker. The prophets, especially, knew of the power of the Word of God. One likened it to the rain that comes down and that does not go back to heaven without watering the land and giving food to the farmer (Is 55:10-11). Another likened it to a fire burning inside that cannot be contained (Jr 23:29). Because God is faithful, his Word is also faithful (Ps 33[32]:4) and can be trusted as a sure guide on our path of life (Ps 119[118]:105). Like every word that is spoken, the Word of God demands a response from our part. There is the response from the head, namely to try and understand what we are reading. There is a response from the heart, namely to consent to what God says and to do it. This second response with the heart is very important and has to be the guiding principle at the end. The Basic Bible Seminar aims at working at the two types of responses. We try to respond with the head, namely to understand what we are reading, but the hope is that it will enable us to better respond with the heart when we share and pray together using the Biblical texts.

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Very often when somebody begins reading a passage from the Scriptures to others in a pubic place, such as in a meeting of in Church, we hear the introductory words like: ´A reading from the letter of St Paul to the Romansµ. This alerts us to the fact that the reading is taken from the writing of Paul and that it was meant for a specific community in a specific place. They are apparently human words. However, when the person finishes the reading we hear to our surprise: ´This is the Word of the Lordµ and we respond: ´Thanks be to Godµ. There is a statement of faith that the reader makes and to which we commit ourselves. We admit that the words we have just heard are not mere human words by Paul meant for a community of believers of the past, , as in the example above, but are the very words of God to us today. This says something about how we believe that God speaks to us. God does not speak to us in the air, in some abstract way. God needs and uses human beings to speak. The Word of God has passed through and will continue to pass through human beings. Jesus became one of us and this is a constant reminder of the concrete ways in and through which God speaks to us. Luke is one of the Biblical writers who stresses that the revelation of God happens in specific historical contexts. He does this, for example, when speaking about the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-2), the ministry of John the Baptist (Lk 3:1-2), some events of the early Christian Community (Ac 18:12), etc. God speaks in very concrete terms to us and this concreteness has to be taken into consideration if we are to understand fully what the Bible is all about. That is why it will be important to understand the human language that God uses to speak to us.

Exercise: Newspaper and Photo Album The Animator brings a newspaper and an Album which he / she shows to the participants. y The exercise with the Newspaper is to show that there are different kinds of writings in the same newspaper. Show some examples of the different types of articles and let the participants find out the rest. y With the Album he / she shows that without any explanation of the photos by somebody who knows what they are about, the outsider can only admire them but not understand when, where, why the photos were taken and who are the persons in them.
The above exercise about the newspaper has helped us to realise that there are different styles of writing. Most newspapers inform, educate and entertain the readers according to their interest and the events of the time. In the same newspaper we find the speeches of th e President of the country, a report about an accident that happened, the results of a football match, advertisements for various types of jobs, etc. All of them are in the same newspaper. Each item demands to be read in a different way. They way in which, for example, we will read the speech of the President will be different from the way we will read the report of a football match that is told by the team that won the match. In the Bible we find a similar situation. There are parts of the Bible that are stories, for example, Gen 1-11, there are other parts that try to be more historical (the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, etc.). Other parts are songs and prayers, for example, the Psalms. Other parts of the Bible are more teachings on particular subjects, for example, the bread of life in Jn 6:28-70; the resurrection in 1 Co 15; life in the Spirit in Rom 8:1-17, etc. There are writings called Gospels, others letters etc. These different styles are the particular contributions of

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the authors. Some are more gifted in writing poems, while others are gifted in reporting facts with their own interpretations. A first effort anybody reading a text has to make is to respect the type of writing that we have before us and to read it as it is. It is important to identify these different styles of writing if we are to understand our Bible properly. In technical language we speak about identifying the literary genre. Something will be said about it later on. The exercise with the album also taught us something. When we take another family·s album and begin looking at the pictures all we see are just pictures. We cannot understand who the people are if nobody of the family is present to explain to us the different occasions of the photos. For example, such and such a photo was taken at the occasion of the baptism of the third successive girl of the family while the parents had hoped that they would have a boy. Or again that another photo was taken just after the burial of a dear one in the family, etc. After somebody of the family has explained what it is all about, we understand the world behind the pictures and we are in a position to explain them to others also so that they might enter into the world of the family that owns the album. The Bible is like an album with pictures dating from over a one thousand years. It is not the property of one person. It is the book of the believing community. It was because they accepted the different writings and used them in several places over a period of time that they came to be accepted as inspired. The christian family, therefore, has constantly to help her new and old members and other interested people, to understand what the different pictures in the family album are about. It is true that those who first collected these pict ures and those for whom they were collected are dead. However, others have opened the Bible before us and can help us understand the world behind the Bible. The Vatican Council II Fathers showed us what to do in order to understand the Bible in its differe nt styles better.

Vatican II¶s Teaching on the Bible as Written by Human Beings
During the Second Vatican Council, the Bishops recognised first of all that God is the author of Bible, that it is God·s Word to us. However, they also recognised that God used human beings and that they are real authors of what they wrote. God did not force the human beings to write the way they did. Neither did he dictate to them what they should write. He respected their cultural, intellectual, economic, political, etc. ba ckgrounds with their shortcomings and strengths. In the words of the Council: ´In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wantedµ (DV 11). Consequently the different writers wrote using different styles. That is why the Council Fathers continue to say that: ´« since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their wordsµ (DV 12). While we try to understand the intention of the author, we will also have to understand the type of writing it is. The styles of writing is called « literary genres / forms »: In the words of the Council again: To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the

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situation of his own time and culture. For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one anotherµ (DV 12). Answering the questions about the customs, language, style of doing things at the time of the text etc. will help the reader to understand better the world of the text in order to better understand the text also. The way we will read the question of the marriage of Hosea, for example, will be different from the way in which we will read the story of the Good Samaritan because of the awareness of the difference of time, customs, people etc. reflected in these texts. Most good Bibles will help us in the introduction and in the footnotes with explanations on the historical, cultural, economic, political, religious, backgrounds to the text. They will also speak about the style in which it is written and why, when and for whom it was written. All this is important to know because people who lived at a time completely different from ours wrote the books. We cannot neglect this human element if we are really to appreciate the richness of the Word of God. It is because some of our brothers and sisters have neglected this important element that they have today fallen into the trap of fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. The Bible seeks to teach the truth about God, about human beings and about the world. However, the way this truth is expressed in the different literary forms shows that the first interest of the authors is not a scientific truth but rather a religious one. The Bible writers do not try to answer the question ´how did things happen?µ but rather ´why did things happen?µ. The question ´howµ is a scientific question and requires objective factual answers but the question ´whyµ is a religious one requiring consent of faith to the answer that is proposed. The truth is ultimately about our relationship with God, with each other and with the world. Since the Bible is the Word of God written in human language it is certain that there will be some views that scientifically, with time, will have to be corrected. Also the evolution in the society made some things that were formerly acceptable, like polygamy, unacceptable later on in the Israelite society. God worked with his people as they were and where they were according to their faith and social practice. This was a slow process but respect of freedom, even the freedom to err, is the way to promote full growth of an individual and of a people. God chose this way. Can our way be any different?

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Methodological Note Questions for discussion in Assembly or in small groups y Why do we still need the Old Testament if Christ is the Saviour and his story is in the New Testament? y What, according to you, is the most important theme running throughout the whole of the Old Testament? y Which are some of the passages of the Old Testament that you find important and helpful in your Christian life?

How did the Old Testament come to us?
You would recall that the Bible as we have it today was not written straight away in one go. God took a lot of time to reveal his Word to Israel and they also took a lot of time for them to understand it. We are still trying to understand it ourselves today. It was first of all through the various events that people began to reflect on the meaning of their lives and what God wants them to do. Then they shared this in various ways among themselves and finally wrote down what they thought was most important. After the writing they used these texts in different places till later on they were grouped together. Our Bibles today have two major parts that are not equal in volume. The first part consists of forty-six (46) books and is called the Old Testament. The second part, which is much smaller with only twenty-seven (27) books, is called the New Testament. In Old Testament, God·s dealing with the people of Israel before the coming of Christ is what is reported. In the New Testament on the other hand, the central person is Christ, the one through whom we know fully who God is (Col 2:19).

The Journey of Faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
In the first five books of the Bible that are commonly called the Pentateuch or The Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) we read the beginning of the story of the relationship of God with his people. Genesis means ´Beginningsµ. However, it was not the first book to be written. In its final form it was written probably during the exile (in the six century Before Christ). The way the different events are recounted is more in order to explain and strengthen their faith than to give scientific answers to the different questions different people ask about where they come from, who is their ancestor, why they are where they are and so on. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are stories inspired from the surrounding peoples also about the creation of the world and how suffering and death entered into the world. However, Israel does not just take them over as they are but tells these stories from their faith perspective that God is good and that he created everything good . Suffering and death, for them, are the results of human disobedience. When these stories took place we cannot tell but that is not what worries the authors. With Gn 12-24 we have the beginning of something that is more historical but still told from the faith perspective. These chapters narrate how God called Abraham when he was very old and childless and promises him a land, descendants (Gn 12:1-9). Abraham obeyed in faith and this was to begin the long story of journeying physically and spiritually

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with God not only for him but also for an entire people that will come after him. His faith in God gives him a certain familiarity with God to the point of his being called ´friend of Godµ (Jm 2:23). God will make a covenant with him (Gn 17) but he will also meet many trials. For example, when he finally had a son, Isaac, he was tested to see if he would be ready to sacrifice him (Gn 22). It is only when he has shown that he is ready to give back to God what belongs to him that he really becomes father of Isaac and can appreciate him as God·s gift. Abraham now lives in the land of Canaan and has a descendant that will continue after him. God is very present in these stories. In the creation stories we even hear him speaking and we see him working (Gn 2:7; 3:8). However he gradually leaves the room for the people he has created to be more responsible. Abraham has to respond in freedom to the call he feels that he hears from God to leave the known ways of relating to God and to follow a new way. His fellow nomads believed in several gods but he broke with this when he responded to God·s call. In the next section of Genesis (Gn 25:21-35:29) the responsibility of the persons grows a lot more. The main character the stories is Jacob (Israel). Jacob has to bear the consequences of his action when he cheats his twin brother and takes the birth right (Gn 27). He has to flee and to live as a refugee elsewhere and, through hard work, he eventually becomes rich and returns to reconcile with his brother. The only place in his stories in which God appears explicitly is at the beginning of his flight in a dream (Gn 28:10 -22) and when he is returning and it is in a struggle (Gn 32:5 -32). We are alerted to the fact that the relationship with God and with others will not always be easy. There is going to be a struggle but God will always bless it. It is as a wounded but blessed person, like Jacob, that we can work for reconciliation with our brothers and sisters. In the final part of the book of Genesis (Gn 37-50) the search for freedom and responsibility grows in an unexpected way. Joseph, the main character, suffers at the hands of his brothers because of jealousy but the evil they sought to inflict on him turns out to be for their good. He forgives them and welcomes them in the time when they are most in danger of dying out completely because of a great famine. There has, however been in the mean time a movement away from the land that God had promised Abraham. They now find themselves in a foreign land, in Egypt. When events will change they will look for ways of liberating themselves and God will be with them to show them the way once more as he had done.

When God Frees a People through Human Leaders
The stay in Egypt was long enough for the new settlers to enjoy the goodness and the hardship of being foreigners in another land. Like many other foreigners in many countries, they were oppressed, used as cheap labour to build cities and various forms of forced labour (Ex 1:8-14). In the midst of such oppression they cried out to God and desired really to be liberated. God·s way of liberating people is to work through dedicated human leaders and that is what he did. He called Moses and sent him to bring them out of Egypt (Ex 3:1-4:17). God introduces himself in the story of Moses· call as a God who sees the humiliation of people, who hears their cry and who wants to free them and make them experience something else in a free and prosperous country (Ex 3:7-8). The way God intervenes to liberate his people in the people is the same way in which he intervenes to liberate us from the different forms of slavery today. Leading a people from slavery to freedom is a big responsibility. Moses had tried on his own initiative to fight for the rights of the Israelites when he killed an Egyptian whom he saw maltreating an Israelite. But when he tried to intervene to help his fellow Israelites respect each other he met a response that he had not expected (Ex 2:11-15). He

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learnt that being a self-imposed liberation fighter does not lead to real freedom. It has got to be a call from God. Now that God calls Moses he probably recalls the response he had met earlier on. After much hesitation on the part of Moses, with the support of his brother Aaron, and accompanied by various signs from God, Moses accepts his call and finally leads the people to liberation. All the events that preceded the actual departure from Egypt, the leaving itself (Ex 14:5-31), the stay in the desert, the covenant and the journey into the Promised Land, are understood as the Exodus. These events are situated around 1250 B.C. The second book of the Bible devotes a lot of attention to this event and the other books of the Bible will come back to it. Just as Abraham had started a journey with God, they also now start a long journey of faith with God. This time at the heart of the journey their will be a covenant that will remain the most important event in the life of the people of Israel (Ex 19-24). Moses is an important figure in this book as the agent of God for the liberati on and for the making of the covenant. He is the mediator (Ex 20:19). In the subsequent history of Israel, Moses· unique role as mediator will be recognised and stressed. He is called a prophet and all other prophets will have to be like him (Dt 18:15-22). This prophetic role is principally in mediating this covenant between God and his people. The other prophets will have the responsibility of bringing Israel back to the terms of the covenant that they are neglecting or that they can neglect if they contin ue to behave the way they do. In the reflection of Israel, they are always aware that God chose them not because they were a powerful nation (Ex 19:5; Dt 7:6-15) or that they deserved God·s love more than others did. They were freely chosen to experience freedom in him and to love him. They realised that God had freed them from the slavery in Egypt because he loves them and he cares for them. This demands of them an answer to enter into a relationship with God also. They express this at the end of the making of the covenant by saying that they will do all what God has spoken to them through Moses (Ex 19:18; 24:3,7). The people see the laws that God has given as helpful for living this freedom and for realising their true selves.

A People Remembers their most Important Events
When an event is important for a people, it is expressed in various forms throughout the years so that the message is understood by everybody and is handed on from one generation to the other. This is what happened with the Exodus event in the lives of the people of Israel. The book of Deuteronomy, which is presented as the speech of Moses, recalls it at length. In the book of Wisdom one of the latest books in the Old Testament, written some 80 ² 50 years before Christ, recalls the entire history of Israel. In chapters 10-19 of Wisdom we have a celebration of this liberation in poetic form. The writer also draws the implications for the people of Israel. Several Psalms also celebrate the even of the liberation in the form of songs (Pss 78 [77], 105[104], 106[105] and 135[134]). The entire second part of the book of Isaiah (Is 40-55) that is situated in the time of the Babylonian exile (after 586 B.C.) recalls the event and even speaks of the return to their land as a New Exodus (Is 40:3-11). Over the years, Israel·s biggest problem will be to be faithful to fidelity to the God who has freed them. It is certain that with time the events were exaggerated as different groups recalled the events but the desire has always been to show that it was God who acted in their favour. It is through the eyes of faith that the events are told and it is through the same eyes of faith that we have to read them today. The Passover is the feast during which the exodus took place. This is recalled in the New Testament. The New Testament writers compare the Passion ² Death and

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Resurrection of Jesus to the Passover (Lk 9:31; 1 Pt 1:18-20). Jesus seals a new covenant (Lk 22:20; 1 Co 11:23) but it is in and through his personal gift of self. Matthew·s Gospel shows in different passages that Jesus is the new Moses and that he guides a new Israel of believers to a New Covenant. Jesus, for example, descends to Egypt with his family and comes out of it also (Mt 2:13-23), he is tempted like Israel but he chooses to obey God (Mt 4:1-11), he gives a new law from a mountain (Mt 5-7), etc. The Exodus and the making of the Covenant are certainly the most important events in the Old Testament. They give an orientation to the first section of the Bible and the meaning of the different events become clearer when seen in their light. However, they are only the beginning of a long journey of liberation and this will be brought to completion in the New Testament.

Why do we Christians still need the Old Testament?
Some Christians are tempted to neglect the Old Testament because Christ is the Saviour and we hear about him in the New Testament. Some also find that the image of a violent God who commands that the Israelites exterminate the people the conquer (Dt 7:16), etc. does not correspond to the God of Jesus Christ who is love and forgiving to all, the good and the bad alike (Mt 5:44-45). Very often in the Psalms also we hear of prayers for vengeance on the enemies of Israel (Ps 137[136]:7-9). These and other things make some people despise the Old Testament. Such people would only recommend that we read only the New Testament. This type of attitude is not new to the community of believers in Jesus. At the beginning of the Church, around 150 A.D., Marcion Pontus, rejected the image of God as he saw it in the Old Testament. For him there was an evil God, that of the Old Testament and a good God, that of the Newt Testament. He taught that there was an opposition between the Old and New Testaments and finally rejected the Old Testament. In the New Testament he kept only the Gospel of Luke (without chapters 1-2) and ten letters of Paul. The Pastoral Epistles and the epistle to the Hebrew were rejected so were anything he thought too Jewish in the other letters. The Church eventually condemned this sect. Today we respect the Old Testament as part and parcel of the revelation of God. Some of us might still find that some passages of the Old Testament go against the spirit of the New Testament. However, we have to remember the saying in some African cultures that ´the bird runs before it fliesµ. A time of preparation was necessary. The Old Testament is not the New Testament and it can never pretend to have the spirit of the New Testament. This is perfectly normal and acceptable. Like with human beings there is a growth in the way God reveals himself to people. The Israelites had experienced God·s care for them through the different leaders such as Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets, etc. Two thousand years Before Christ, Abraham had probably understood God as a God for his tribe alone and also perhaps a bit remote still. However, with Moses God made a Covenant with them and made them realise that he is a God who wants to enter into a relationship of love with them. Elijah will challenge his fellow citizens to really opt for God in spite of the temptation to follow the other gods of Canaan. Amos will stress that God is a God who loves justice and who cannot tolerate injustice and oppression. Hosea will show that God loves them and that this is the challenge for them to come back to him. With Isaiah in the eighth century Before Christ, the holiness of God comes to the fore. Jeremiah·s experiences makes us discover that God is really personal and cares for each in spite of the crisis. When we get to the time of the Babylonian exile the Israelites begin to understand that they have no monopoly over God. He is God of all the nations and all are invited to come to him. There is certainly a growth in the consciousness of the people in the way in which they come to understand

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God. Had we not had the Old Testament we might never had understood these different aspects of God. The mentality of Old Testament is also very close to some aspects of our African culture. Polygamy and divorce, for example, are still allowed in many African cultures, just as it was in the early part of the Old Testament (1 K 11:1-3; Dt 24:1-4). However, with the evolution of time the Israelites came to realise that both man and woman are created equal before God (Gn 1:26-28) and that polygamy and divorce do not respect the dignity of the woman (Mal 2:16). By the time we get to the New Testament there is an evolution in the mentality. Jesus is very categorical about divorce. He forbids it all together (Mk 10:1-9). From the above, we can, therefore, also learn that some of our cultural values are not absolutes. During the Africa Synod, the Bishops of Africa recognised that some values of the African culture like the religious sense, the family, respect of life, veneration of the ancestors, sense of solidarity, etc. are actually doorways for the evangelisation of Africa (The Church in Africa, [Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 1995] § 42-43). However, other elements of the culture have to be challenged and purified in order to reflect more the life that God intends for us ( The Church in Africa § 60). There are some other experiences of the Old Testament that reflect our own life experience. The story of the suffering of Job and his understanding at the end of it is helpful for many who suffer innocently and ask themselves ´has God forgotten me?µ. Different experiences of pain, joy and gratitude that we find in the Psalms are very close to our own experiences. Through praying them we can find words to express what is deep down in us also. The Old Testament is also important for us today because we realise that a lot of the things that were promised in it still have to be fulfilled. In the words of St Augustine, the Old Testament conceals the New Testament and the New reveals the Old Testament. The new life that Christ brought us is not something that is acquired once and for all. There is a daily response that is needed. Isaiah 61:1-3, for example, speaks of a prophet who is anointed to bring good news to the poor. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is presented as coming to fulfil this (Lk 4:18-21). However, we all know that in many places people are still working towards a more total liberation. The rights of the poor are often neglected and the Christians struggle everyday to build the Kingdom of God where justice will prevail for all, especially for the weak. The Old Testament also remains necessary to understand the religious background of the New Testament. When the first Christians spoke about the Scriptures, they had access to what we now call the Old Testament. These writings were very important for them and helped them to understand the newness that the coming of Christ introduced in the lives of the people of God. A proper appreciation of the Old Testament today will also help us understand the New Testament in all its fullness. Hebrews chapter eleven (11) shows the value of the personalities of the Old Testament for the faith of the Christians by explicitly referring to their examples of faith. Neglecting one Testament and basing our faith on only one or the other is like somebody who tries to walk on one leg. It will be very tiring and no progress can be made. The two Testaments complete and need each other like the two feet, or two hands, or two eyes, or two ears of the human body. However, the New Testament remains the climax of the revelation of God to his people in the person of Jesus Christ.

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Methodological Note Questions for discussion in small groups or in the general Assembly y Which are the texts of the New Testament that appeal most to you ? y What is the central message of the New Testament ?

The Birth of the New Testament
The four stages in the writing of the Bible are all the more recognisable in the New Testament. There was first the event of the life of Jesus which ended with the death, resurrection and ascension (c. 6 B.C. ² 30 A.D.). This event was preached about, celebrated in the community of believers (30 A.D. onwards) till the need arose to write down something about it (starting from 50/51 ² 105 A.D.). The presence of some fixed formulas, like hymns, confessions, etc. (1 Co 11:23-25; 15:3-5; Eph 5:14) in the New Testament shows that the event of the resurrection was celebrated long enough for these formulas to become fixed. However, compared to the Old Testament, it took a shorter time for the New Testament to be formed and the time period that it covers is also shorter. There are things that happen in our lives of which we are not completely conscious of their meaning till years later. A similar thing happened with the first Christians when they came to reflect on the meaning of the life of Jesus among them. The entire New Testament is about Jesus, his coming, his life, death and resurrection and the meaning of this event in the lives of the believers. All four Gospels are written at least some 35 years after the event of the resurrection itself as a result of reflecting on the meaning of this all important event. There is a certain backward development in the writing of the New Testament. The first writing of the New Testament is Paul·s first letter to the Thessalonians around 50 and 51 A.D. Paul had preached the risen Lord and how it was important for people to get ready for the coming of the risen Lord in glory (1 Th 4:14-18). The communities he had visited and ministered to, wrote him about different issues and he had to reply to their requests. Sometimes, as in the case of the letter to the Romans, he wrote to a community to present what he taught elsewhere in order to prepare them for his eventual arrival. Paul, in his writings, did not dwell much on the life of the earthly Christ. His centre of attention was on the resurrection and the implications of the event in the lives of the communities and individuals that believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Most of the letters of Paul were written between 51 and 65 A.D. This means that apart from the Gospel of Mark, none of the other Gospels was written before the martyrdom of Paul (64/65 A.D.). With the preaching of Paul and the apostles of Jesus, there arose interests in the various communities who wanted to know how Jesus lived, what he taught and why he died the way he did. Till now the Apostles had preached about the life death and resurrection of Jesus but nothing was written down. Collections of the teachings, healing stories, etc. probably circulated but they were not in an organised form of whole book. When they felt the need to assembly these texts about Jesus, they made selections of what they thought was most important for their respective communities to know. Some things were left out and others were adapted to the situations of the communities. The result is what we now have in the Gospels of Mark (written around 65 A.D.), Matthew and Luke (both written independently around 85 A.D.) and John (written around 95 A.D.). The same person who wrote Luke·s Gospel wrote a second volume that is called the Acts of the

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Apostles (written around 85 A.D. also). Several Gospels were written but finally the Christian Communities chose, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the inspired Gospels. The Gospels are the most important documents of the New Testament, of the entire Bible and of the Church. They bring us into contact with Jesus and show us the way to live our lives as disciples of Jesus. We will never exhaust studying and living them.

One Gospel Story, different Points of View
The Gospels are all about the ministry of Jesus and the climax of this ministry is his death, resurrection and ascension. However, they give a different emphasis to what they recount. Mark was the first Gospel to be written and Matthew and Luke follow his story line and from time to time add things they have from a common source or from their own special sources. These three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they have the same vision of the unfolding of the ministry of Jesus. In all three of them, for example, Jesus goes down to Jerusalem only once and it is for in the last week of his life that he is in Jerusalem. In the Gospel of John, which has more theological reflections, Jesus goes down to Jerusalem several times before the last week of his life on earth. The starting point of each of the four Gospel is different. When Mark wrote around 65, probably in Rome for Christians under persecution of Nero, he chose to begin the story of Jesus with John the Baptist who invites people to repent (Mk 1:1-8). Immediately after that he tells the story of how Jesus was baptised and was tempted (Mk 1:9-13). We are not told how John the Baptist was born or how Jesus came to be born. We begin with adults straightaway. Both Matthew and Luke knew of the Mark·s Gospel when they were writing. For Matthew who wrote around 85 A.D. for Jewish Christians in Syria and Israel struggling with their rejection by their fellow Jews, he found it more helpful to introduce his Gospel with the story of the ancestors of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17). Afterwards he then begins the story of Jesus by narrating the circumstances of his birth. Matthew does not tell us about the circumstances of the birth of John the Baptist. The revelation is made to Joseph, the husband of Mary (Mt 1:18-25). Compared to Mark·s beginning, we have gone to the hu man beginning of Jesus. Luke wrote around the same time as Matthew, that is around 85 A.D., for Christian Communities coming from the non-Jewish world. He chose to begin his Gospel story in a different way. After an introductory prologue where he explains how, why and for whom he is writing (Lk 1:1-4), he goes on to give the historical settings of the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:5-25) before he gives those of Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). The annunciation of the birth of Jesus, in Luke·s Gospel is made to the mother of Jesus, Mary. Joseph, who had played a very important role in the story in Matthew·s Gospel, has no major role in Luke·s Gospel. The starting point of Luke, as can be noticed, is still further than that of Matthew. John the Baptist has entered into the picture and there will, in fact, be two alternating stories between John the Baptist and Jesus in Lk 1 -2. This is unique to Luke. The Gospel of John is the last Gospel to be written around 95 A.D. It was written for Greek speaking communities who were confronted with the problems of new teachings and who lived in the time when the official break from Judaism had taken place. John begun his Gospel at a point still further away than any of the other Gospels had done till this point. In order to present Jesus, he starts with the beginning of the beginning where we see Jesus as God·s Word and as Creator of everything (Jn 1:1-18). This beginning with Jesus and intentional link with creation reminds us of the first book of the Bible (Genesis) where we read of the creation and eventually of the unfolding of God·s plan of salvation for the people he has created. There is a another new beginning with Jesus and that plan is now going to be realised to the full. Further than that the beginning we cannot go.

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For each of the Gospel writers, what is certain is that the entry of Jesus into our history is a very important thing and it changes the direction of our lives and that of the whole world.

Life is the Most Important Thing
The central event in the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus. An important chapter that shows this is chapter fifteen (15) of 1 Corinthians. According to Paul, this was one of the matters of faith that was handed on and that he handed on the communities that he evangelised (1 Co 15:1-11). The matter is so important for the faith of the believer that Paul can say that without the resurrection, everything else will be in vain and that Christians will be the most unfortunate of all people (1 Co 15:12-19). The resurrection of Christ is the ground for our faith in our own future resurrection (1 Co 15:20-34). How we shall be after the resurrection remains a mystery (1 Co 15:35-58). Various other writings of the New Testament show the importance of the resurrection and choose other types of images to speak about it. The hymn of Ph 2:6-11, for example, uses the imagery of humiliation and exaltation. Jesus humbled himself and obeyed till death but God has exalted him. For the New Testament writers, the resurrection of Christ is what opens the way for our own resurrection (Col 1:18). Something new has happened in the event of the resurrection. The new time that Jesus announced in his deeds and words as the Kingdom of God, has already broken into the lives of people (Mk 1:15; Lk 8:1; 11:20). The consequences of the resurrection for the followers of Jesus are spelt out in the passages that speak about the implications of our dying to sin and rising to new life with Christ in baptism (Rm 6). Through Baptism the follower is also invited to live in th e Spirit and to be guided by the Spirit of the risen Jesus (Rm 8:1-17; Gal 5:13-26). The cost of discipleship (Lk 9:57-62), the life together and witnessing together as a community of believers (Ac 2:42-47; 4:32-37; Jn 13:12-17;), and the continuous need for conversion (Lk 13:1-5), etc. are all part and parcel of living the resurrection with Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is not only important because it gives a solid basis to our faith and hope, and to our entire lives. As Paul would say, we have a life in the risen Lord (Col 3:1). Everybody seeks life and in many of our African traditional societies, we often find that people are ready to go to all sort of places in order to find out what is diminishing their life and what they are to do in order to stay alive as long as possible. Some Christians, in times of crisis allow themselves also to be led astray in their search for life. For the New Testament writers, there is only one answer to the search for life. It is only Jesus who can say: ´I have come so that they may have life, life in all its fullnessµ (Jn 10:10) and he can boldly invite all of us who hunger and thirst for this life ´let all who thirst come to meµ (Jn 7:37). This is the call we hear and respond to when we take time to study, pray and share the New Testament. Our freedom has meaning in Christ who gives us life.

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Introduction: Importance of Bible study Aim: To show participants how necessary it is to study the Bible study in order to come to a better understanding of the Word of God and its relevance for today. A good study will help us to avoid falling into the fundamentalist interpretation that is common in many new religious movements. Methodological Note Exercise in Groups The facilitator should allocate one of the following (controversial) texts to each group. Rv 13:18: 666 Mk 13:32: the coming of the Lord

a) Discussion in the groups (i) Each group is requested to read one of the following texts and state the different interpretations that they have given to this text. (ii) What is your interpretation of this text? To do this it might be useful to read the whole chapter in which the text appears. It might also be useful to read other texts found in other books of the Bible related to this particular text. b) Report on the discussion in plenary assembly c) The Facilitator summarises what has been reported. The idea is not to go into the detailed interpretation of these texts but rather to raise the awareness that the Bible cannot be read and interpreted so literally, we will not always understand everything it is saying if we do not take the trouble to study it. You can check in a good Bible Commentary before hand to see what the specialists say about these texts. d) Input Plan of input (i) What is Bible Study? (ii) Essential steps for Bible Study y contact with the text y basic information on the book in which this text is found y Applying the text (iii) Dangers of the fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible

I. What is Bible Study?
The way we read a newspaper and the way we read a letter from a loved one or a Geography or History book are different because the styles of writing are different and the purposes of writing and reading are also different. Many read a newspaper very quickly because they want to know what is happening in such and such a place, or they simply want to find out the advertisement for different things or to see if there is anybody they know who has died, etc. There is often no intention of remembering what has been read and, therefore, reading it once alone is often enough. A Geography or History book, however, will be read differently by a student who is preparing for an exam. It is important to pay attention to the details and to remember them for later on in the examination. There is an attentive reading with a deliberate effort to remember. Techniques might even be developed so as to remember what has been read. It is often not enough to have read the

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text once. Several times of careful reading are needed and it is better to leave some periods of mental rest in between. A letter from a friend is read differently from a letter from a parent with whom one·s relation is not good. Even the same letter will not be read in the same way and with the same sort of attention when it is read for the first time and when it is re -read sometime after the person who has written it has died. Although it is still the same letter, the intention for reading it has changed and the experiences of the reader makes the reader approach the letter with another background of experiences, either of joy or sadness. All of the above can be applied to the reading of the Bible. There are different types of writing in the Bible and a fruitful reading of these writings requires that we vary according to what we are reading. The way we read the stories of Genesis, the laws of Leviticus, the prophecies of Jeremiah and the teachings and miracles of Jesus as told in the Gospels, etc. cannot be the same. They are different types of writing. To read them in the same way will not only be ignoring this basic fact but will also lead to misunderstanding them and ending up with a certain fundamentalist interpretation of the whole Bible.

II. Some Essential Steps for Bible Study
When you did the exercise of studying a text at the beginning of this section, what were the elements that you took into consideration? How did you go about trying to understand what the text is all about? What helped you to finally decide that this is the meaning of the text and not another meaning, perhaps not the meaning that you have heard till now? In the course of this input we will look more explicitly at those steps that can help you to come to an understanding of the text as you study. Three main steps are involved in this method. In the first step, you read the text and discover as much as you can from it. Secondly, with what you have discovered from the text, you try to understand it, to interpret it, that is to understand its meaning. The word of God is for life that is why in the final step you look for ways of living this text in your life. There are some ways that are suggested by the long tradition of witnesses in the Christian faith who have lived this text, but there are always new ways for each person as he or she comes into contact with the text. This method is an Inductive Bible Study Method and it allows the reader to draw finally the general principles from the particular experiences and insights that the contact with the text gives. This method can be used alone or with a group to read and study the Biblical text.

(a) Read / Discover the Text
Reading the text is the first step in studying the Bible. This might seem obvious but it is often not done properly. What can happen at times is that we see a verse and read only that verse without looking at the other verses before and after. Sometimes, if we look up a reference and think that we know it, we may not even continue to read the whole text and we might just stop there and work from our former knowledge of the text. However, the result of any of these attitudes is that we work and understand the text from formerly discovered ideas. We do not allow the text to speak anew to us. It is true that each person approaches the text with some preconceived ideas. Some of these are helpful but others are not and they are like lids that are placed over a pot. If we really want to see what is in the pot, the lids, that is the preconceived ideas, have to be removed. Reading the text with an open mind will help remove the different lids that have become heavier and heavier over the years because of the different things that we think we know or have heard about the texts.

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Before beginning to read any text that you consider important, you try to create the atmosphere that will help you benefit most from the experience of reading the Bible. This atmosphere might be a quiet place. It is difficult to really study when there is a lot of noise around. Think of what you do when you want to read a letter from someone you love, a parent or a friend, or a letter that is very important for you. You do not read it in any place. You look for a place where your mind will be calm so that you can think about what you are reading. We might recall what was Saint Gregory the Great said: the Holy Scriptures are God·s letter to his creatures. When you get a letter you do not delay to read it and when you read it, you do so attentively till you have understood what the writer wants to say. The atmosphere of quiet is the first opening of self to the text. It creates an attentive listening and love for what is read. You can pray to ask for the peace of mind and heart in order to listen to God who is going to speak to you in the passage that you are going to study. When you begin reading the text, be attentive to how the text is organised. Every writer has a style, a way of writing in order to convey the message to the reader. In the contact with the text following questions will be essential to help the text open as much of itself to the reader as possible: y Where does it begin and where does it end? y Who are the persons, if there are any that the text mentions? Who are the principal characters in the story if it is a narrative? Who is helpful in bringing about a change and who tries to prevent it? y What type of actions are taking place and between whom? What change has taken place in the course of the text? Is it an improvement or not? y Can you recognise any parts into which you can divide the text? How many such parts are there? There is a definite plan that evolves. In which part of the text does the decisive change take place? y Which places are referred to in the text? There are many more questions that could be asked to the text but they should be helpful questions. In some texts you might be able to find answers to these questions. In others, there might be no answers within the text itself. Do not despair. You will get more light later on! The aim at this stage is that you try to discover as much as you can of the text and from the text without looking at what other people have said about the text. The text is capable of giving a lot more information about itself than we are often aware. If there are other questions that arise in the course of reading, write them down. May be there are no answers now but there might be answers later on. If you have the photo of a friend, you like to look at this photo to remind you of the person but once the person is there in front of you, you look at the person and speak to him or her. You do not look at the photo anymore, except to crosscheck one or the other thing. The person is more important than the photo. In the same way the text has more to speak to us than what people have said it means. There will be a time when it will be necessary to look at what people have said it means after they have studied the text. They asked some of the questions that you are now asking about the text also. Such a fresh reading of the text can often lead to a new discovery of elements that, although they have always been present, had not yet been properly appreciated. That is why it is important to read the text again if I want it to challenge me here and now. What we discover by ourselves we never forget as it remains with us for a long time.

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(b) Interpret / Understand the Text
When you read an expression in a language that you thought you knew well, if you do not understand it, you ask somebody. In some places, for example, instead of saying that somebody has died people will say: ´he / she has kicked the bucketµ. Somebody who is foreign to the language might think that it is nothing serious because he / she has not realised that they mean that the person has died. This might subsequently lead to a misinterpretation of whatever follows in the speech or in the text that one is reading. However, when you understand that the expression ´to kick the bucketµ is used to mean that somebody has died, then you will be in a position to understand what follows. If you are reading the Bible and you come across and expressions that you do not know, if you want to know their meaning, you ask somebody who knows the language or the milieu in which the text is written. That person can then explain things. In the second step of studying the Bible using the inductive method, a similar thing happens. You try to interpret the text that you have read and that you want to understand better. The text was written by somebody or by several people from a different period in a particular place. They spoke a language different from ours today and some of the things that everybody at that time would have understood straightaway are not intelligible to us today. After having tried to understand as much as possible from the text itself in the first step, the task of the person who wants to study the Bible is to remember that others have studied this text before us and have written about it. It is helpful to consult them, at this point, in order to gain some light and a better understanding of the text. Those who have studied the text before us, give us a key to open the world of the text and to look into it. Behind every text there is a world that has to be discovered. There is a socio-economic, religious and political background of the people behind the text that is important for a proper understanding of the text. Many new christian religious movements often ignore this element and they interpret the Bible in such a literal way that is often far from the real meaning of the texts. The help that we need in order to understand the work can be found in books, good articles or commentaries. Most good Bibles would have extensive introductions to each book and some notes and cross-references thus helping the reader to better understand and interpret the text. When reading such material, it is helpful to look for answers to the following questions: y Who is the author, when and where was it written? y For whom was it first written and why ? y What are the major themes of the book? y What are the major divisions of the book? Where does the passage you are studying come in? y What are the possible influences of other Biblical and non-Biblical texts on the present one? If there are other biblical or non-biblical texts of this kind, compare them to see the similarities and differences. Is there an improvement or not? For example something that was allowed in the Old Testament that is now forbidden in the New Testament? In addition to these questions, it is good at this stage to have a look at the questions you wrote down at the end of the first step when you read the text and see if you can now answer them. If there are still some unanswered, where could you get help for them? You can read other books or discuss eventually with some colleagues and or some who have studied the Bible. However, be of the type of books and people you cons ult. It is good to write down what specific teachings you might have discovered in the course of studying the passage. What is the teaching, for example about God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, God·s action in the world, people and their relationship to God and among themselves, etc.? What does the text teach us if we apply it to ourselves? The Word of God

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is meant to nourish our faith and to show us how to live as God·s children and as brothers and sisters in our world that is constantly changing. The Word has guid ed people and will still do so today.

(c) Apply / Live the Text
When your friend writes you a letter, it is because there is a need to communicate with you. That person wants to inform you about something that is judged to be important. In the course of reading the letter something happens in you, the letter performs something in you and you are no more the same person after you have finished reading. A change has happened in you between the beginning and the end of the reading. Because of the new understanding from the letter, you might feel that you friend is inviting you to act differently. Without realising it, what you have done is you have gone through the first two steps of your Bible study and you are now in the third step, that of applying / living what you have understood as the meaning of the letter for you. The letter is a very personal thing but there are times when what is read will have implications for a bigger group of people and this is often the case of the Word of God. The Bible is first of all the book of the Christian Community before being a book for personal life. It was born within the Christian Community and in answer to their need of nourishment. The Bible was written in response to different needs of different people in different places over different periods of time. However, because they were inspired, written under the guidance of God, they still continue to be effective and to guide our lives. In Is 55:10 -11 the power of the Word of God is compared to the rain that comes down from heaven, waters the land, gives food to the farmer before returning to God. The experience of the prophet Jeremiah was that the Word of God is like a fire burning inside that cannot be contained and like a hammer that shatters even the rock (Jer 23:29). In the New Testament there are multiple references to the power of the Word of God. There is, for example, the parable of sower (Mk 4:1-9) in which Jesus sows that what is sown bears fruit when it is in good soil. The early Church later on interprets this in more explicit ways in terms of how we listen to the Word of God (Mk 4:13-20). In the Heb 4:12-13 the power of the Word of God is recognised in very beautiful terms. It is a double-edged sword cutting through everything and uncovering even the unsaid i ntentions. These and other references and the experience of many communities and individuals, especially our ancestors in the faith, the saints, etc., show that when the Word of God is taken seriously, it can and it does transform lives. According to Mt 8:21-29, it is not enough to say ´Lord, Lordµ. Rather the hearer of the Word of God must also live by it and thus build the house on rock. This third step in the study of the Bible is so important that, whenever possible, it is to be to be included. Skipp ing this step will make the whole exercise of reading the Bible an intellectual experience that gives more knowledge but that does not leave traces in the daily life. A better understanding of the Bible should be accompanied by a more committed life in the family, in the Christian Community, in the work that we are doing, in the other places. James 1:22-25 uses the imagery of a mirror to convey the point that hearing the Word without doing it is like looking at one·s face in the mirror, walking away and then forgetting how one looked like. From a communitarian application it is important to pass to a personal application and ask the question: ´How can I live this or that attitude that I have discovered in the text today, or how can I avoid this or that attitude that is contrary to my call as a Christian?µ Not all passages of the Bible will be applicable in the same way but when a passage offers me a challenge on a particular issue in my life, I am called to live it to the best of my capacity. It is in this way that the Word of God is capable of growing in my life and

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transforming it more and more everyday. It is important that a personal welcoming of the Word of God be made at this stage. The Word welcomed personally will not fail to bear fruit in my life because God will meet me where I at in my journey with him.

III. Some of the Dangers of A Fundamentalist Interpretation of the Bible
Methodological Note Question for the Assembly Which are the New Religious Movements / Churches that you know? How do they interpret the some passages of the Bible?
Many of you have come into contact with people who claim that they know the Bible but who always use the same passages to argue their points. Very often such people will also argue that because something is written this way in the Bible, that is how it happened. For example, they will say that since Gn 1:1-2:4a says that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, things really happened that way. When, therefore, they come to Gn 2:4b-25 where there is a different account of creation, problems of interpretations arise. If the first account is true, how are we to understand the second one? Is it true? What actually happened? How did God create the world and the human beings? Taking the Bible at its face value and interpreting it so without trying to study it a bit will yield, and has yielded in the past, various fundamentalist interpretations.

What is Fundamentalism about?
The fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible acquired a legal status in the United States of America when the Bible Congress of 1895 defined in five points what they considered to be the fundamentals or most important points Christians have to remember with regard to their faith. These are: (i) that the Bible cannot be wrong because is literally inspired by God and the word for word text is the Word of God. Because of this, it is forbidden to apply human methods in order to study the Bible. It has to be believed as it is because it speaks the truth of God. (ii) that Jesus is God, (iii) that he was born of a virgin, (iv) that Jesus suffered and took away our sins on our behalf, (v) and finally that on the last day, when Jesus shall return, we shall rise bodily. These points appear to be perfectly reasonable and even correct for many Christians. However, the consequences of these fundamental points do more harm than good to a good understanding of the Bible as Word of God and as born in and for a Christian Community. If we look at the implications of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, for example, we will see the dangers of fundamentalism appearing. It is true and all Christians commonly accept that the Bible is the Word of God. However, the understanding of inspiration for the fundamentalists is very much more a dictation than an inspiration in the way in which we understand it. We do not believe that God dictated what is written in the Bible and that the writers were passive agents just writing down what God was dictating. God worked through the human beings using their talents but also their failures with the sole intention of teaching us what is necessary for our salvation. That is why it is important to study the time of the author(s), the genre in which they are writing, etc. in order to

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understand the Scriptures better. Without the collaboration of the different people, we would never have had a Bible. They fail to see that there is a growth in the revelation of God and they treat the Bible as one book with the same value from beginning to end. This is not the case. God deals gently with us. The fundamentalists way of understanding the Bible gives them room to make the Bible say things it was never meant to say. The prophets, for example, are seen as foretelling the present days and times to come. The evil of society is easily explained as the result of the devil and those under the influence of the devil. With the fall of communism, Islam is the new enemy of many christian fundamentalist groups. It is easier to blame others than to do something about what is going wrongly in the world. The book of Revelation is often misused as a series of predictions of what is to come. The fundamentalists are also against getting involved seriously in the affairs of the world, because 1 Jn 2:15 says ´do not love the world µ. They incite their followers, therefore, not to get involved in politics, commerce, etc. because it is all evil. There are, however, other texts within the Bible that shows us that it is right and even a duty for the followers of Jesus to be involved in the world and to seek to improve t he lot of everybody (Jn 3:16). This non-involving attitude comes across in their belief that we need not take the necessary precautions with regard to health and material wellbeing . For them, if we believe sufficiently in Jesus he will reward us with health and wealth because he has promised that prayers done with faith will be granted (Mk 11:23-24) a hundredfold reward for all who leave everything to follow him (Mk 10:29-30). That means that those who are poor and sick are punished by God for their sins or their lack of faith. It is very much the attitude of the early days of Israel. The Promised Land is a richly endowed land (Dt 8:7 -10) and God commands that there be no poor in Israel (Dt 15:4). Riches was considered a blessing from God and sickness and poverty as a curse. But this attitude changed when they saw righteous people suffering. The story of Job dramatises the struggle of Israel to understand this. The poor have never been despised in Israel. On the contrary, they have always been respected and God defends them (Pr 17:5; 19:17). To neglect the poor and sick of any society is an attitude that will only slow down the progress of any group or nation. Although suffering is never to be desired for the sake of it is not always necessarily bad. It can be part of the cross as we follow Jesus (Lk 9:23) and it will give life to self and to others. Since for the fundamentalists the Bible is the literal Word of God and Rm 13:1 invites Christians to respect authority, even the most corrupt and oppressive human authority has to be obeyed. Other passages, like 1 Kg 21:18-29; Am 3:9-11; 7:10-17; Ac 5:29; where we see people challenging the established oppressive system in the name of their faith are not taken into consideration. For many a fundamentalist the end of the world is very near . Many groups have calculated the end of the world, but as things have turned out, they have always been proved wrong. The end of every century creates anxiety in every society and that is understandable. Many fundamentalist grou ps are now turning to passages from the apocalyptic writings (the writings about the end-time) like Ezekiel, Daniel and the book of Revelation to prepare their adapts for an imminent end of the world. A clear passage like Mk 13:32 that says that nobody knows the end-time except the Father is ignored. The attitude Jesus recommends is not that of worry but that of being ready (Mk 13:33) through the works of charity to the poor and neglected of the society (Mt 25:31-46).

Relating meaningfully to Fundamentalists
In the first place, many fundamentalists will approach the Bible saying that because something is written in the Bible it is true because since it is dictated by God he could not have made any mistakes. The Bible is about truth as a whole in its single parts. The Biblical

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writers were not telling a lie when they used stories to say that God created the world and everything that is in it. However, the truth they were trying to convey was not a scientific truth but rather a religious one or one of faith. In science the question that we will ask is how was the world created. The theory of evolution of Darwin has been proposed in answer to the question ´how was the world and living beings created?µ However, the question the person of faith will ask is ´why was the world created?µ Both science and religion will give us an answer that is leading to the truth but differently. What the Bible tells is, therefore, true but not from the scientifically verifiable poin t of view. There are different ways of saying the same truth. It can be in the form of a song, a proverb, a story, a declaration, etc. It is important, therefore, that the one desiring to know the biblical truth also takes the trouble to identify the form in which this truth is told and only then can the conclusions be drawn from this. Rather than arguing with them, it is better to try to present the Catholic faith in a charitable, intelligent and respectful way. We are all children of God and the Bibl e is not supposed to divide us. It is rather supposed to lead us to God and to draw us to each other. If the other person clings to his or her fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, it is no use trying to argue or to attack them. There is a time for everything and this is not the time for fighting over God. Respect them and stop the argument. There is certainly a lot more that we can do to help each other. The love the fundamentalists have of the Word of God and the perseverance and regularity with which they take to reading the Bible seriously is a challenge to many a Christian of the established Church. Fundamentalist also challenge us by their insistence on ´being born againµ and loving and attaching oneself in a very personal way to Jesus. They do not shy away from proclaiming the Good News even if what they know is not exact and is incomplete. Many Christians of the mainstream Churches can learn form this. The community aspect is not very present in the interpretation of the Bible for many fundamentalists, but they nonetheless offer a challenge to many a Christian Community by their insistence on the Word of God as the basis of their faith.

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Methodological Note Question for discussion in the Assembly Which are the prayers that you know that come from the Bible? Have you ever shared the Bible with somebody? How did it go?

From the answers that we have given, we have come to the realisation that there are a lot of what have become common, everyday prayers of the Christians, actually come from the Bible. The version of the ´Our Fatherµ, for example, that we recite many times a day is from Mt 6:9-13. The first part of the ´Hail Maryµ is from Lk 1:28,42. There is a whole book, that of the Psalms, that has prayers for different occasions. The Bible is indeed a book of prayer and we want to pray it together. Many do this either on their own in quiet prayer and meditation or through sharing their prayers about a text with others. We are now going to look more at how to pray the Bible with others in the context of a Bible Sharing.

Why Bible Sharing?
Bible sharing is important because the Bible, as we have noted above, is the Christian·s book of prayer. We pray together as believing communities and our prayer s can help each other to grow in faith, hope and especially in love of God and of neighbour. Each time we read a Biblical text we can call to mind that there are three things: y there is a physical text before our eyes, y this text belongs to a people of a particular time and place different from ours today, y and yet this text speaks to us today and has to be lived today. It is because of the way the Bible speaks to us that we can share about it. The Bible allows us to discover how different people experienced God·s love in their lives and how they tried to respond to it. Their response was a response in a particular time but the same Word of God continues to challenge us and the way we would respond to it are different depending on our life-situations and where we are living. The way each person experiences God is different and is enriching. Thus when there is a sharing we can learn from each other and grow in our faith. In Bible sharing none is so poor as not to be able to offer something of how the Word of God is a challenge in their lives. Everybody is to be encouraged to share. This relationship demands a willingness to give of what I have perceived of the challenges and nourishment that the Word of God has for me and also what I have perceived as my readiness to receive what the other person has to offer. I do not know everything about how the Word of God is working in the other person·s life. I have to knock gently at the door of their heart so that they can welcome me into the sanctuary of their lives. It is with respect that I share and that I listen. Bible sharing is not the time for evaluating the correctness or the goodness of what the other person has said. It is not a time of preaching.

The interrelation between Bible Sharing and Bible Study
Bible Sharing and Bible Study are both very rewarding experiences for the family of God. The two exercises are related and yet they have their specific orientations about them. The following table represents their relation and their differences.

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Bible Sharing Bible Study y Group activity or at least y Group activity more than 2 people y personal activity
y Aim: To pray and live the Word of God y Aim: a better understanding of the Word of God so that its meaning is not distorted y Focus: the meaning of the Word of God at the time of the human writer for the community. y in the light of the meaning for the original readers what is the meaning for us today? y a facilitator is needed to animate the meeting y resource person is needed to explain some things about the context of the text

y Focus: the meaning of the Word of God here and now for me / us.

y a facilitator is needed to animate the meeting

Bible Sharing is a time for sharing our faith and the facilitator¶s role is to encourage sharing of as many as possible of the group. This would require an attention, on the one hand, to those who might be shy and, on the other, to those who might tend to monopolise the word during the sharing. In as much as it is possible, Bible sharing is not to become the occasion for some to preach to others about how they should live. Rather, each should say how the Word of God challenges them personally today. Speaking in the first person singular is to be encouraged. It is preferable, for example, to say: ´The Word of God is challenging me to µ than to say ´the word of God is challenging us to .µ. Concentrating solely on Bible sharing can be dangerous to a group because it can lead to a tendency of forming an inward looking pious group. However, Bible study without Bible sharing can also lead a group towards a certain intellectualism that is cut off from life. The members will thus be deprived of the joy of experiencing that the Word of God is for life and is life giving. It is important, therefore, to maintain a certain balance between the two even if the emphasis in one or the other group might be on sharing or on studying the Word of God. It is helpful for the commun ity to alternate its way of using the Bible from time to time.

Who can participate in a Bible Sharing Group?
Every believer who desires to share his or her faith with others is to be encouraged to participate in Bible Sharing and / or Bible Study groups . Such groups could eventually be formed based on: y Family ties (one or several together) in the neighbourhood, y Parish movements of youth or adults, y Small Christian Communities in the parish, y Groups sharing a common interest or spirituality in the parish.



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It is important, however, that the group be not too big so that everyone feels free to share what he or she really wants to share and to ask the questions that might arise in the course of a Bible study.

Organising Bible Sharing and Bible Study Groups
Bible Sharing and Bible Study Groups are better formed out of interest than out of obedience to directives from above. Because of the personal motivation in the formation of the group, it is important that from the beginning the members of the group agree on some the following things together. The frequency and duration of the meeting: The group has to decide how often they want to meet and for how long. Once a week and for one and half-hours might be good to do sharing and other things. It would be good to include periods of holidays for the group. The place of meeting: It might be good to change places from time to time according to the desire of the members of the group, especially for the Bible Sharing. It could be an enriching experience to bring the Bible home to the different families through the rotation of Bible Sharing in the different families. The animator: For Bible Sharing groups it might be good to decide at the end of each meeting who would be the animator for the next meeting. For Bible Stud y groups, however, in order to ensure a certain unity in the study it might be preferable to keep to the same animator for the period that one book or theme is studied and change as the theme or book changes. The animator does not have to be the resource person. Where it is not possible to have a resource person at every Bible Study session, it will be good to write down the questions and difficulties and one day invite somebody who can help to come and clarify some questions with the group. The facilitator in the Bible study group need not be a specialist in Bible. What is required is somebody who can animate the meeting and help the group to learn from each other and see where the whole study is leading and what are the points that still need deepening wit h the help of a specialist from elsewhere. The sitting arrangement should always be such that the members are relaxed and can see each other. This is possible when they are sitting in a circle or in a square. This would allow everybody to feel at the same level and share freely. As much as possible, the classroom setting should be avoided, and the animator should not be given special treatment that risks cutting him / her off the group!! After a time of sharing and / or studying the Bible together, the group should be encouraged to make an evaluation of what has happened in their lives with regard to living the Word of God and what could still happen. This would help the group to organise itself better. Flexibility and creativity are the two words that are important for the survival of any group and for the Bible Sharing and / or Bible Study groups they are also indispensable. Be open and attentive to your needs and to the needs of the whole group. If it works use it, if it does not change!

Different Bible Sharing Methods
Various Bible Sharing Methods have been experimented in different parts of the world with varying success. Four of them are presented briefly in this section. The important thing about them is not to stick to the letter and to want to force the Christian Community to do it exactly the way in which it is presented but rather to be open to the needs of the community and to spot what helps the community to welcome the text as Word of God that is meant to nourish their lives today. The method i s for the group not the group for the method!

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It is, therefore, important not to be rigid about any particular method but rather creative according to the needs of the community. If using elements from one method in another would help the community to welcome the text as the Word of God, the animator should feel free about it but the community should agree about this before the beginning of the sharing. The community is also encouraged to come up with its own more inculturated Bible Sharing Methods that they can also share with others. An essential part of any Bible Sharing Method is that it leads to some response in one way or the other. Even when this response is a prayer, the hope is that something will be lived out concretely later on in daily life. The Bible, after all, is the living Word of the living God for our lives. Hopefully we can confess boldly like Paul: ´I am not ashamed to preach the gospel, for it is power of God, for the salvation of everyone who believes µ Rm 1:16). It is through our lives that we first of all preach the Gospel.

I. The Basic Bible Seminar Method
The Basic Bible Seminar, as developed in the Philippines, proposes a method of Bible sharing. The entire time begins and ends with a prayer. In this method there are three rounds of reading, silence and sharing. The text is read three times followed each time by a period of silence and then a sharing of: y the word(s) that struck me (after the first time of reading); y the message God is addressing me through the word(s) (after the second time of reading); y my response to the word(s) (after the third time of reading). This response might be a prayer or a personal and / or communitarian resolution to act in a specific way. The entire programme can be presented as follows: 1st round

Read the text Silence Sharing of words , phrases, verses, that struck you READ the text Silence Sharing of the message that God has given each person READ the text Silence Sharing of spontaneous prayers

Pay attention to the text of the Sacred Scripture

2nd Round

Pay attention to the Word of God

3rd Round

Pay attention to the response to the Word of God. This is given in the form of a personal prayer.

The final part of the third round is where the difference lies. Instead of a prayer response it can sometimes the sharing can lead to a response in terms of an action. The other two rounds of reading are exactly the same, except that now if there is an action to be done the community would have to agree on WHO will do WHAT WHEN and HOW.


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II. The Seven Step or the Lumko Method
The method as proposed by the Lumko Institute in South Africa entails the following steps. 1. The group begins with a prayer in which we invite Jesus. 2. The Biblical text is read aloud. 3. There is then a prayerful re-reading aloud of the word(s) that struck each person. This is followed by a reading of the text again. 4. During a time of silence all listen to what God is saying to each person. 5. Then there is a sharing the word(s) that touched them with comments, if some desire, rather than discussions and then a choosing the ´Word of Lifeµ for the living during the coming week or month. 6. There is a time of planning for action in the Christian Community. The group decides WHO does WHAT and WHEN? A report could be given about how the ´Word of Lifeµ was lived in the past week or month with an evaluation of it before the planning of the next action. 7. The final step is a time of personal spontaneous prayer before the concluding prayer or hymn.

III. From our Lives to the Scriptures Method
This is also known as See - Judge - Act / Love method. The sharing begins and ends with a prayer. There are three main steps in this method. 1. Our Present-day situation is the starting point of the sharing. The present -day situation includes the joys and sorrows about a particular issue. The group discusses what they see and hear with regard to the situation. 2. A Biblical text is read out that will hopefully help the Christian Community to judge their life-situation in the light of the revelation of God. This is how God feels about the situation. This is how God is challenging us. 3. An action is decided by the group in the light of what they have perceived as the better way of acting as children of God. The action is a loving response to the Word of God as it is received in the second step. This method has the advantage of taking the participants where they really are at in life, but it requires a careful preparation of the choice of the biblical texts in order to avoid choosing texts to justify our positions. This would be a utilitarian approach to the Scriptures which at the end would no more be challenging enough and could even lead to making the Bible say things it was never meant to say. The animator might need some preparation and help from others, at times, for the choice of texts.

IV. From the Scriptures to our Lives Method
The sharing begins and ends with a prayer. The four essential steps in it are the following: 1. Reading of the Biblical text with all listening prayerfully in order to receive what God wants to communicate. 2. The Christian Community asks which are the possible situations that this text is addressing? It is a question of identifying the m. 3. There is then a reflection on the Word of God as it addresses these situations. The Word challenges us to change the situation or it might confirm a course of action that is currently being done as being good.

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4. The Christian Community then examines the effect that this sharing should have in their lives. WHAT action is to be done by WHOM and WHEN? This method helps us realise that the Word of God challenges different situations in our lives. However, the animator must also be aware that for some groups, the situations the same Biblical passage will challenge will be different. Even for the same group the situations will be different because the experiences of the group are different with the passage of time. The animator also has to remember that, although the Bible was written in response to different life-situations, it will not always address itself to a particular lifesituation directly. The temptation to force it to address itself to our situations today would be as wrong as that of forcing it to say things that it was not meant to say.

Methodological Note Choose one of the one of the Methods and do a Bible sharing Possible text for the first two methods: Rm 8:5-17: Life through the Spirit 1 Co 13 : Hymn on love After the sharing do an evaluation. What pleased you ? What did not please you ?
Listen carefully and complete by way of reminder of what was said above.

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Gathering Hymn Welcome and Introduction by Parish Priest or Pastoral Agent Penitential Rite (reminder of the possibility of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation in after the liturgy of the Word). Opening Prayer Liturgy of the Word : y Each one reads the text that particularly challenged him / her during this seminar and that will be helpful to live a new life. y The Bible is then opened and exposed in front of the altar y Gospel (Mt 7 :21-27) + Homily y Possibility of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation Liturgy of the Eucharist y offering of gifts to meet the cost of the seminar y offering of desire to continue reading, studying and sharing the Bible y processional dance to bring the gifts Prayer over the gifts and resolutions Preface + Eucharistic prayer After Communion y giving of certificate of attendance to those who attended ALL the sessions y sending forth by the Parish Priest or one of the Pastoral Team. y Thanksgiving hymn and dance Concluding Prayer Final (processional) song and dance Festive meal together

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A. SOME GOOD BIBLES The New Jerusalem Bible: Standard Edition (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1985) Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition (Quezon City: Claretians Publications, 1997) The New Testament: The African Bible Standard: Edition (Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 1995)

´Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelationµ, in Vatican Council II . John Paul I Biblical Center, Basic Bible Seminar (Ilocos: Immaculate School of Theology, 31989) Barton, John, Making the Christian Bible (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1997) Dodd, Christine, Making Scriptures Wor k: A Practical Guide to using Scriptures in the local Church (London: Geoffrey - Chapman, 1989) Charpentier, Etienne, How to Read the Old Testament (London: SCM Press, 1982) Charpentier, Etienne, How to Read the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1982) Edmonds, Peter, Celebrating a Bible Week : Five Session on Catholics and the Bible (Nairobi : Paulines Publications, 1995) John Paul II, The Church in Africa: Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 1995) Lane, William, Reading and praying the Bible: A Handbook for small christian community leaders and private use (Zambia, Published the author, 1995) Megivern, James J. (editor), Official Catholic Teachings: Bible Interpretation (North Carolina, McGrath Publishing Company, 1978) Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Rome: Vatican Press, 1993)

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