Friday, 24 February 2017

Atomised Bible for a Hyperconnected World

Good stuff from Pete Phillips in this BBC piece about "how smartphones and social media are changing the church."

But there's stuff I don't quite get or would want to expand on. Knowing Pete's views, I'm expecting it's the focus of the article and the explanation from its author, Chris Stokel-Walker.  The comparison of using a smartphone app to read the Bible versus reading an old-fashioned paper Bible, for instance. People having a neatly ordered Bible they can read at home, which starts at Genesis and ends at Revelation: that idea has been a reality for the educated classes for only 500 years, and for the working classes for maybe 150. In parts of London it never happened at all. The person sitting reading the whole Bible with its context only really applied to the well-educated, and the clerk.

Before all that - the Bible was something you would have heard read. And if it were in Latin you'd need the pictures on the church wall, the statues, the stained glass, to tell you what the story was. There was a problem that you couldn't really lug the stained glass home with you - so maybe you'd be telling the stories orally, alongside folklore, local history and the family news.

Before the NT canon was first formed, you'd encounter the stories of Jesus as passed on by the saints, and remembered by the elders, read out in awe and surprise. And just individual letters or - amazing thing - individual Gospels. The context wasn't the place in the Bible, but the living community and the Jewish scriptures (normally in their Greek translation) - often a collection of scrolls, not a neatly ordered anthology.

The rise of smartphone apps doesn't just mean we can read chunks of the Bible out of context - though it does, of course. It also means we can hear it read again - in a way we've not done since the Enlightenment broke us all down into nuclear families. You can use Pray as You Go and get the day's text read to you with some appropriate music and reflection. You can get websites that provide video, images, things to contemplate. You can post a link up on Facebook and get feedback from your mates.

In short, smartphones and SocMed don't flatten the Bible text out into contextless chunks - they give us the chance to expand the context To bring the text out into a worldwide culture, get challenged by other views, embrace others' ideas and the insights their culture give. As the Philosopher said, "Of the tweeting of memes there is no end." Go thou and do likewise.

1 comment :

  1. The BBC are endearingly behind the times (#oldnews) bless them!


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