Monday, September 09, 2013

What is The Story?

This week my local church (Eastside Christian Church) kicked off a thirty-one week series on reading through the Bible as a congregation. It is a church wide program encompassing all age levels and incorporating home groups for mid-week discussions. As a participating churchgoer, I find it interesting that we’re not following a traditional calendar year (we didn’t start in January) and it’s not fifty-two weeks (a year) long like a typical plan.

But what is most interesting, and perhaps most controversial, is the version of the Bible we are using. It is abridged with “selections from the New International Version,” The Story, NIV: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People which is laid out chronologically according to a linear historical event timeline (rather than based on when scholars think the books were written). Unlike a traditional Bible, it has thirty-one chapters and is arranged like a novel. If we read two pages a day, we will be on track to finish by Easter.

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As a librarian, I have some questions. What is The Story? How do you cite it? When is it appropriate to use (if ever) in research?

Our Reference and Instruction Librarian, Terri Bogan, created a research guide to help students evaluate resources but it doesn’t generally apply to the Bible.

Our Darling librarians have also created research guides to help students properly cite resources
  • Style Guides (an introduction to what they are and which one to choose)
and three on the most commonly used style manuals at Hope within the context of the HIU Darling Library.
Within each of these style guides, there is a tab dedicated to citing the Bible. Why? Because the Bible is different from other books. There are specific rules to follow when citing biblical references in research papers.

A few weeks ago my daughter was amused that she saw a verse quoted from the Bible where the writer simply gave Jesus the credit.

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” – Jesus.

Although, it may be attributed to Jesus (and it would have been printed in red letters in the first Bible I owned), it is not how one cites a biblical quotation. Bible verses are cited by their “address” (terminology taken from another trip into my childhood).

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4)

The biblical author or speaker may be referenced in the text of the paper but the Apostle Paul is not usually credited in the official citation like authors of other books.

So what about The Story? Our pastor, Gene Appel, gave a short bibliographic instruction session during his sermon (a first for me!) on how the book is laid out and organized.

He pointed out that there are thirty-one chapters with a table of contents that looks more like a novel. It has “selections from” the NIV in regular font and some summary texts in italics that are not biblical quotes but are intended to help transition from one story to the next avoiding duplication of events covered in more than one place and omitting the “begots” and other details that don’t move the plot along.

After reading the chapter for the week, we are encouraged to bring our copy to church with us. That way he could refer to The Story by page number and, unlike when everyone has a different printing of the Bible, we will be able to turn right to the passage without having to know the order of the books in the biblical canon.

In The Story, the Bible is presented more like other monographs. So, I decided to apply the evaluation criteria recommended in our Research Guide to determine its usefulness for scholarly research.

The first thing I noted was that the dust jacket (sleeve) has the name and address of our church printed on it, a picture of our pastor with a message from him to the congregation, and a picture of the church along with our core values. This clearly tells me that there is a specific purpose for this printing.

If I came across a copy of The Story without the dust jacket I would miss out on the local purpose of the printing. But the inclusion of discussion questions at the end of the book would suggest to me that it was printed for group study purposes. Depending on they types of questions, the intended audience may be evident. Is it juvenile literature? (There are versions of The Story for every reading level.) Is it an evangelistic tool directed at un-churched populations? Is it meant for use by seminary students?

Other common elements of a book such as the title page, verso (back of the title page,) table of contents, preface, and bibliography are sources to which evaluative criteria can be applied to help me come to some conclusions about its appropriate use.

Should I quote it in my exegetical paper? (Probably not.)

Can I incorporate it in my presentation on mega-church programing? (Maybe so.)

How do I cite to the source?

Is it the Bible? (No.) Is it a book about the Bible? (Yes.)

Who owns the rights? (See the verso of the title page for the small print!)

Any other questions? (Hopefully.)

NOTE: This is not intended to be an authoritative lesson on citing sources or a commentary on the Bible.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.

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