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It’s the Bible

But not as we know it

In a hotel room I stayed in recently, people had placed a very attractive Bible. Usually, if there is a Bible in a hotel or motel room, it is regularly placed by the Gideons organisation, and normally it is both unattractive in presentation and in translation [sorry, Gideons].

This Bible appears, on first glance, more like a quality coffee-table magazine. You cannot help but flick through it. The translation, the New Living Translation (NLT), is also distinctive. What started as an attempt to revise The Living Bible developed into a totally new translation from the original languages. I know several scholarly people who appreciate its fresh approach.

But wait – there’s more. And this, for many Christians, will be the most surprising: this is a New Testament, but the order of the New Testament books is surprising. The first book is Romans, followed by Galatians, Colossians, 1 John, Mark [these 5 books are under the heading “What God has done; how and why?”]. Then 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians… under “How to live it out”; followed by “The Church and Authority”; with Part 4 being “God’s love and our future hope” with the Gospel of John and Revelation concluding the book.

I was so taken by the attractiveness of this Bible (I will be purchasing a copy) that I asked the hotel who had placed it there. They said Hillsong Church. I have also found out that Hillsong Church produced this Bible.

Some other reflections:

  • [No criticism of Hillsong’s venture here – I hope it’s clear I am enamoured by this, but] I am not convinced that reading a Bible (generally/normally) leads to conversion (etc). I tend to think that encountering Christians and Christian communities is (generally/normally) the way to encourage people to explore Christian life [though if any Bible placed in a hotel room might help someone’s exploration, this version, more than others, would be where I would begin pointing to].
  • I wonder what people think about starting with Romans and Galatians…?
  • And then the deeper theological point: is there something authoritative about the order of the books in the Bible? Can we just rearrange the order? Or is there something about beginning with the Gospels (and the order Matthew, Mark…)? And if you think there is nothing authoritative about the order – are we at liberty to rearrange the First Testament (or is there something about beginning with Genesis, Exodus,…)? And, to press this further, if the order is not authoritative for you, can we mix First and New Testament books (And, just as one example, order a bound Bible: Romans, Isaiah, James, Psalms, Leviticus, 3 John,…)?

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12 thoughts on “It’s the Bible <p> But not as we know it”

  1. I wouldn’t say the order of books is authoritative necessarily- the first testament is in a different order in the Tanakh, divided into Torah, Prophets and Writings. I would say it’s confusing to change it though because the NT is already in a logical order when you look at it. It starts with the Gospels because the life, death, resurrection of Jesus is its central message. The narrative record of Jesus’ disciples in Acts follows on and then the letters of its central character Paul and so on until Revelation which is a fitting conclusion. I don’t know how someone ignorant of key elements of the Christian story could pick this bible up, start reading Romans and understand. Romans 1 in particular can be a pretty abrasive and obnoxious place to begin the journey with its heavy handed condemnation of sin.

    1. Thanks, Andrew. I agree with your surprise to begin with Romans. I want to add to your point, however, that there’s more than “logical order”: there is also reading the latter through the lens of the former. Furthermore, that there’s variation in the First Testament order does not mean the order is irrelevant – everyone starts with Genesis… Blessings.

      1. I think that I’ve seen at least one NT where the books where ordered in the assumed order in which they were written and began to circulate among the churches.

    2. Hillsong Church is a conservative ministry of the Assemblies of God in Australia, with sister congregations now in a number of major cities of the world. The bottom line, it is an extremely homophobic ministry. Romans 1 seems apropos as a place for them to start a New Testament of their own design.

      1. Hillsong has a television channel here in Texas David. I seem to remember some controversy where a gay couple were asked to leave ministry there and the resulting press statement was along the lines of ‘everyone is welcome here ( so long as you follow our interpretation of stuff )’

        1. There are a number of ministries which are Trojan horses, Tracy. They are welcoming to LGBTQ folks as long as all they wish to do is worship and quietly volunteer service in a ministry, such as a soup kitchen. But they won’t be allowed to serve in highly visible ministries or in leadership or pastoral capacities. And the ultimate goal is to slowly convict them of their sin as an LGBTQ person and lead them into righteous heterosexuality.

  2. Interestingly, the relatively recent Tyndale House, Cambridge, The Greek New Testament, has an order which reflects “Manuscripts typically preserve books of the New Testament in four groups: the Four Gospels; Acts an the Catholic Epistles; the Pauline Epistles traditionally including Hebrews; and the Apocalypse. Though few manuscripts contain all of these, the order with Acts and the Catholic Epistles preceding the Pauline corpus predominates and is therefore reflected in this edition.”

  3. If I were to think of any Bible to be left about in public to introduce Jesus Christ ( or any Bible changed in some distinct way ) I would recommend The ‘Jefferson Bible’ The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, inspired by the Unitarian teachings of Joseph Priestly. Jefferson said ‘Certain teachings in the Bible are as diamonds in a dung-heap!’ and I have always felt that the words of Jesus should be the priority for a Christian, the religion should radiate from those words and not get hung up on some of the er ‘side-issues’.

    Romans 1 being chosen for hotel rooms, would that be a message in itself about possible sin which takes place there? Hillsong website statement of beliefs says ‘We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.’

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