Thursday, 8 May 2008

Reading 1 Kings

Reading the Bible, now that's a novel thing for Christians to do. At PTC chapel yesterday that's what we did. John Davies read us 1 Kings 11-16, for the first week of a series looking at the second part of 1 Kings. John read the "Davies version" which was colloquial, dramatic, expressive and very earthy. It was great to sit and listen to the story unfold, though of course the story itself is depressing in the extreme. The tragic failure of the people of God doesn't make easy listening. Two things struck me. One was how angry God was with Judah and Israel, with very good reason. The other was how awful chapter 14 is, in which Jeroboam's wife hears that their son will die and their whole family will be destroyed because although the Lord had given Jeroboam the kingdom, Jeroboam had completely ignored the Lord. It is interesting that he says that Israel  could have been faithful as well as Judah.

John told me before hand that preparing the reading took as much time as preparing a sermon. Not only had he prepared the text but he had obviously put a lot of work into getting the expression and timing right. I hope that John might comment on how he went about the preparation and any thoughts he has about  doing this kind of reading in churches.

In lots of churches which say they take the Bible seriously we read 10 verses and they listen to someone talk about the Bible for half an hour. Maybe we'd do better to read more and preach less. What do you think?


John Davies said...

First, thanks for the encouragement – it did take a while to prepare! It helps in this instance that I’m writing a commentary on 1 Kings, though the style of translation I read is not one that will end up being much reflected in the commentary. I agree. We don’t give enough attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13). Different genres call for different reading strategies – for example, I’ve read a section of Proverbs with significant pausing between sentences to allow for reflection. As to the 1 Kings narrative, the reading of such Scripture was how Israel heard its story, the interpreted account of God’s dealings with them. In reading a narrative with dialogue like this, I try to get inside the head of the original storyteller and ask, What’s his purpose? What mood is he expressing at this point? How does this bit of the story challenge the readers as to their response to God? And how can I best represent that to my listeners? If it seems the writer was using humour, or earthy language, reflect this. With dialogue, which is often where the storyteller lets you know what he really thinks about the events he is relating, as far as we know, the recorded speech is generally intended to sound like the natural idioms and rhythms of everyday speech We ought to reflect this in the way we read. A simple example: If you’re asked to read from even a fairly stilted translation like the NIV, how about, instead of reading “What you are doing is not good” (Exod 18:17), think about contracting one or both of the verb forms: “What you’re doing isn’t good” or, if you think there’s a bit more emphasis on the negative, “What you’re doing’s no good”. Listen to the way people speak. With experience, these subtle inflectional patterns can make a real difference to the listenability of a reading. We keep reminding students that all translation is interpretation, but so also is all reading.

houseofwalls said...

I reckon the next project to work on is for a literal translation of Song of Songs. I'd like to hear John read it out in regards to its genre and let us know how the author feels and thinks. If John could also change voices between the male and female, that would be totally awesome!!