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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Scholar puts passages into everyday English

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Bishop Tom  N.T.  Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham,
England, stands in front of the 1280-1300 painting, The
Incredulity of Thomas, in Westminster Abbey, London.
Bishop Tom N.T. Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham, England, stands in front of the 1280-1300 painting, The Incredulity of Thomas, in Westminster Abbey, London.
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You don t need to spend your life in church or earn a doctorate in theology to understand the Gospel, said Bishop Tom N.T. Wright, who has just written a series of introductory commentaries on the New Testament.

A New Testament scholar and the Anglican bishop of Durham, England, Bishop Wright said he wanted to help people feel comfortable with the Bible by translating it into day-to-day, street-level English with commentaries in everyday language.

The fi rst two books in the series, Mark for Everyone and

John for Everyone, were recently published by Westminster

John Knox Press.

Bishop Wright said in a recent interview that the writings

of Jesus apostles were never were intended just for the religious elite, yet many people who are not familiar with the Bible don t know how to get started reading it.

I think a lot of people fi nd bits of the Bible intimidating, and the Bible as a whole can be intimidating, he said. They think that reading the books of the Bible as a whole, in a sustained way, is either

beyond them or they re not quite sure what they re reading.

The series is really a way of encouraging people to ask new questions to jog them out of the regular questions.

For someone who knows little or nothing about the Bible, Bishop Wright recommends opening either the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of John, which provide thorough and clear accounts of Jesus life and message.

If someone came to me and asked where they should start, I would want to ask them some questions on where they are in their life, Bishop Wright said. But one of the gospels is the natural place to start.

The book series consists of sections of the New Testament

translated by Bishop Wright using everyday language, followed

by his commentaries that explain or expand on the verses through the use of anecdotes, meditations, and observations.

The chapters read somewhat like a Sunday sermon, with a reading from the Gospel and followed by an enlightening, entertaining homily.

For people on the edge, people who are just starting to explore the Bible, this series represents a way of saying: Here s an easy way in. It won t take you a huge effort. It will just be a gentle path

into new material, Bishop Wright said.

He said Americans in general are more familiar with the Bible than are Britons, many of whom consider it to be closed book that is boring or diffi cult.

In my country, there s a signifi cant number of people who have grown up with two or three generations of being completely unchurched, Bishop Wright said.

The word Jesus is nothing more than a swear word. They

know little about the story. They know Jesus was executed.

Some might know a few details.

But the general impression is that the Bible was written for

insiders and for people who already believe in Jesus.

Bishop Wright, the fourthhighest ranking bishop in England,

was canon theologian at Westminster Abbey and taught

New Testament studies for 20 years at Cambridge, McGill, and

Oxford universities.

He has been a visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School,

Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Gregorian University in

Rome.

Speaking of the Anglican crisis over the ordination last year of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, Bishop Wright said one aspect that is often overlooked is that the American church went ahead with the consecration despite the objection of the world s

Anglican leadership.

The rest of the world perceives America as saying that

this is what we want to do and if you don t like it, tough. The

Anglican Communion has held itself responsible to one another

right through its history, and one of the real problems is not the

issue of homosexuality itself, but how the rest of the world looks at

America.

He said the Bible is clear in its condemnation of homosexuality.

The sexual preferences we have are a shifting, fl exible, fl uid

thing which comes and goes, which we are commanded to

retain control of. We are not at the mercy of them. They should

be controlled by us, Bishop Wright said.

Arguments that Jesus never addressed homosexuality,

therefore he did not object to it, are baseless, according to the

bishop.

Jesus never discusses child abuse. He never addresses drug

addiction. But Jesus routinely uses language about behavior,

which in his day would certainly have been taken automatically

to include homosexual behavior, Bishop Wright said.

When he uses words like indecency and immorality, relevant

Greek words, those words had a range of meaning in his

day and educated Jews would have said, Of course everybody

knows that includes homosexuality.

Information on Bishop Tom N.T. Wright s series of New Testament commentaries is available online at www.wjkbooks.com.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154



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