The Bible was written to inform humankind that we were created in God’s image to have relationship with him, that the relationship was broken by sin, and that God intervened to make it possible for the relationship to be restored. The major storyline thus speaks of creation, blessing, sin, restoration, and new creation. Throughout this grand tapestry, crimson threads underscore God’s warnings of judgment and wrath for individuals, nations, and the universe and highlight the need for repentance. The people of God, despite their frequent failures, stand out as those charged to tell the world about the God who makes atonement for sin and invites them to share in his promised blessing as part of his chosen people. The Bible is thus a book about mission, given to a people entrusted with a mission, by a God who designs the mission and ensures its success. That God’s word is essential for mission and the church motivates this issue of Mission Round Table.
Contextualization in the Old Testament – Jerry Hwang
… Long before Shoki Coe coined the term contextualization (1972) and the concept gained traction in missiology, OT scholars had been addressing what were essentially missiological questions by situating Israelite faith within a newly discovered world of texts and artifacts from the ancient Near East. In 1902, the public lectures of the German critical scholar Friedrich Delitzsch on “Babel und Bibel” (translated and published in English the following year as Babel and Bible) ignited an international furor for their claim that the OT had plagiarized the intellectual and literary forms of ancient Babylon. Following a century of upheaval, mainstream OT scholarship has arrived at a more balanced understanding of the OT as a contextual and contextualizing document that employs both similarities and differences with its cultural environment for the sake of communicating a distinctive message. The time is thus ripe for OT studies to add biblical examples of contextualization to those already identified in the NT. In what follows, I briefly explore three kinds of cultural appropriation in the OT with particular relevance for mission in Asia: (1) The functions, titles, and depictions for Israel’s deity in a world of polytheism; (2) The divine-human relationship in a world of karmic justice; and (3) The cultural values of honor and shame in a world of patronage.
A Royal Priesthood and Holy Nation – Philip Satterthwaite
Recent studies have emphasised that mission is a theme that runs through and unites the whole Bible. This theme comes into particular prominence in the NT, as the gospel of Jesus Christ goes out to all nations (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8); but, if we understand the issue rightly, we can see that it also underlies a lot of the OT. In this paper I illustrate this point by considering the theme of God’s people as a “royal priesthood and holy nation”, a theme set out with particular clarity in Exodus 19, developed in later OT texts, and taken up in the NT, most notably in 1 Peter. This paper thus demonstrates the importance of taking account of “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27), that is, both OT and NT, when forming a biblical perspective on issues relating to Christian discipleship.
Hudson Taylor and the Bible – Chris Wigram
Xu Yongze, a contemporary church leader, highlights the enduring influence of James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM).
“This is why we are so thankful for the impact that Hudson Taylor made on our country. His example was one of single-minded passion to see God’s kingdom come. Like a mighty soldier he marched into pioneer areas where the name of Jesus Christ had never been uttered before.”
Taylor inspired many people to work in China. He was not only responsible for widening the impact of the gospel in China, but he also had a crucial role in challenging the moribund spirituality of Victorian Christianity and showing how the life of faith essentially issued in a passion for mission, especially mission to China.
How did he do this? There are a variety of answers to this question, but as this article shows, one of the main ways was the place of the Bible in Taylor’s life and ministry.
Reflections on the Use of “Jehovah jireh” or Why This Expression should be Removed from Our Vocabulary – Michael Malessa
The expression “Jehovah jireh”—often accompanied by the translation “The Lord provides”—is important not only in evangelical Christianity in general but specifically within CIM/OMF. Alongside “Ebenezer” from 1 Samuel 7:12 and “Jehovah nissi” from Exodus 17:15, the two Hebrew words “Jehovah jireh” from Genesis 22:14 have been popular within CIM/OMF since the early days of the Fellowship and are still used today to express trust in God providing for daily needs.
However, the sentence “Jehovah jireh” with its popular interpretation “The Lord provides” is problematic for three reasons.
First, the name of God in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible), which was written יהוה or YHWH in transcription, was never pronounced “Jehovah” in the Jewish community. … Second, in Genesis 22:14 Yahweh yireh—as the Hebrew is to be pronounced—is the name of a place, not of God himself. Nevertheless, Yahweh yireh or its incorrect form “Jehovah jireh” are often used as if it were a name of God. Third, the interpretation of Yahweh yireh in Genesis 22:14 should be “Yahweh sees” (or “The Lord sees” when the ancient tradition of replacing the name of God with “Lord” is followed) rather than “The Lord provides.” The argumentation for this interpretation of Yahweh yireh is the focus of this article.
Death, Dialogue, and Dynamics of Communication – William Stephens
In a remote country town in Mongolia, Mongolian Pastor Batsukh and I entered the ger (yurt) of a Christian couple, Dorj and Tsetsegee, whose son Byamba, a college student in the provincial capital, had come back home to this rural county for a visit. Dorj and Tsetsegee had gone out, leaving their son. When they returned home, they found Byamba hanging there dead by suicide.
Later, my wife Kwai Lin and I traveled and visited them, ministering as best we could given the tragedy. Mostly we were silent with them and we cried with them. We also prayed for them. We learned that Byamba killed himself because a young woman named Enkhtuya in the provincial capital had just broken up with him. My aim in this paper is to relate a conversation a Mongolian pastor and I had with the couple when we visited them on a later journey in order to highlight some aspects of their culture and show how biblical teaching can be used in a conversation to enhance the discipleship process.
Mother Tongue Translation versus Lingua Franca: Some thoughts on a Missiological Mainstay – Wilson McMahon
Bible translation has been an integral part of Protestant mission worldwide since the beginning of the nineteenth century and has become, for the most part, an accepted maxim of good missionary practice. However, my own experience as an OMF church planter among the Manobo people in the southern Philippines’ island of Mindanao, coupled with my own more recent research, has led me to challenge the “translation principle” as an unassailable mainstay within mission strategy.
In explaining my position I shall begin with a brief résumé of the importance of Bible translation to Christian mission in the past 200 years, paying particular attention to the “professionalization” of Bible translation in the latter half of the twentieth century, the values which have driven it forward, and the principles which have shaped its practice. I shall then present the responses to vernacular translations of the Bible by Manobo Christians from the Manobo Bible Church Association of Mindanao (MABCAM), and by Christians from other Lumad people groups on Mindanao, using data gathered in interviews and sermon recordings. I shall conclude with some thoughts on the place of Bible translation as a supposed non-negotiable element to good missionary practice.
A Response to “Mother Tongue Translation versus Lingua Franca“ – Andrew Goodman, Grace Moron and Neel Roberts
In order to help readers better interact with the preceding article, we are including a conversation between a few experienced missionaries about some of the points made. We hope that other readers will continue this conversation and also discuss other articles found in Mission Round Table with their friends or coworkers.