Athletes taking part in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will have access to free copies of the Bible and Scripture portions by an initiative of the Bible Society.
Available as a gift in the Olympic Village Religious Services Centre will be around 3,000 copies of commemorative English-language Scriptures. There will also be nearly 1,000 copies of Bibles and New Testaments available in a variety of other languages through partnerships with national Bible Societies around the globe.
The Bibles provided in English will be ‘The Sports Good News Bible’ and ‘The Sports Good News Gospel of Luke’. Both contain specially commissioned articles written to help sportspeople consider the relationships between sport and faith.
David Willson, CEO of More Than Gold, said: "At past Olympics and other major sports events I’ve seen athletes deeply grateful for the free gift of a Bible. Bible Society are to be highly commended for their support in making such gifts possible."
In order to meet the anticipated demand, Bible Society has launched a special appeal as part of its ‘Bible: Body & Soul’ initiative for 2012.
Matthew van Duyvenbode, Head of Advocacy at Bible Society said: "The Bible offers words of deep consolation, inspiration and challenge, themes which resonate with athletes from around the world. Having the opportunity to offer the scriptures in a format accessible for sports people is a strong statement that the Bible belongs at the heart of every aspect of life.’ Bible Society Group Chief Executive, James Catford, said: : The achievements we gain on the outside are driven by the people we are on the inside – that’s what we discover in the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus written by Luke and found within the Christian Scriptures."As well as featuring line drawings by Swiss artist Annie Vallatton the Sports Good News Bible also features an additional 40 full-colour pages which connect sport with faith through:
- stories and reflections from a wide range of Christian ministries
- Bible studies to take you deeper into the Bible
- easy-to-read Good News Bible translation
- helpful resources to point you in the right direction.
References are made to cricket, Fifa World Cup, athletics and even swimming. It mentions personalities: Kenya’s marathon queen Tegla Loroupe, the first African woman athlete to win the prestigious New York City Marathon, is not just mentioned, but quoted. It talks about setting goals, teamwork, The Ashes, Street football World Cup, the Bible and Rugby’s common values, difficulties, and draws examples from Africa to Asia to the Americas and Europe, examples that touch on the common people around the world.
The Bible has significant illustrations from around the world, but with sports at its very heart. Graphics illustrating the storyline are of cricket, swimmers, runners, footballers and so on.
It refers to the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, where Henry Olonga, the Kenyan-born Zimbabwean test player, and Andy Flower stepped on to the field for Zims against Namibia sporting black armbands, “because we are mourning the death of Zimbabwe’s democracy”. Grant Sheppard of World Sports Ministries refers to this incident as placing one’s beliefs before duty. “When we are intrigued, we step forward to find out more; when all else has failed, we try something different, yet it is when we have a real sense of purpose or calling that we act with conviction and make significant progress.
Jesus modelled such single-minded dedication, as did the apostle Paul, who, having had his life “turned around” by Jesus, discovered his true calling (Acts 9:1-19).
Graham Daniels of Christians in Sport, and Stuart Weir of Verite Sport, quote South Africa’s Olympic swimming gold medalist, Penny Heynes as saying: “Swimming has in some ways been my classroom where God teaches me so much about his ability and to have faith in him. “I love the sense of satisfaction I get when I have done a swimming workout or race, and know that I gave my whole being and heart to God in every moment of the swim. It is the best worship I can offer him.”
And what a perfect venue to launch this Sports Bible! At the Olympic games, the globe’s most prestigious and most competitive sports competition. The British Bible Society has produced a Sports Good News Bible, which they distributed at the London Olympic Games, where more than half of the 10,400 athletes are Christians.
The Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Bradford, had this to say to illustrate this correlation between sport and religion. “It is a marathon, not a sprint.” We might say that to people starting something new – a job for example. Yet, some things have to be tackled quickly but it is vital to have a long-term vision and a strategy to achieve it.
Inspired by Jesus
“There is little point in running the first mile of a 26-mile marathon so fast that you can’t run the next 25 at all.” “The Bible,” he writes, “refuses to split mind from body or spirit. In it, we see God calling people out of their comfort zones and into a team event in which the performance of every individual counts.
“Inspired by Jesus and his friends, we run harder, renewed in energy and power to cross the line,” he writes. He turns to virtue, which he refers to as unsexy. “Virtue is the outcome of years of character forming, which demands vision, discipline and commitment to a goal. As the athlete trains and sticks to a disciplined life and regimen, so does character development demand attention to spiritual discipline and habit-forming exercise. “Just as athletes set a goal many years ahead of them and then shape their life and work towards achieving that goal, so do people who don’t want to be moulded by the chaotic world around them,” he writes.
The storyline is taken a notch higher by Matthew van Duyvenbody of The Bible Society. “When did you break the rules first of the sport you love? When did you cheat, or break a trusting relationship with teammates or the coach? “Despite the exhilaration that sport can bring, we can abuse the very thing we love and completely miss the point along the way.
This, we are told, can be on a personal level, but we are reminded that it can also be systematic, with corruption and misguided priorities threatening the very life-blood of a sport. “Pretty soon into the big story of the Bible, we find the same reaction to the gift of life itself. God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed. He placed only one restriction on them; they were not to eat from the tree “that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad (Genesis 2:17). “If you look at the career of any outstanding sportsperson, it is clear that they don’t settle with a one-off defining moment,” he writes.
“There is always a greater prize at stake – another barrier to cross, another discipline to master. Even if you experience a moment where the synergy seems to flow and you outperform your expectations, there is always more to learn and new feats to conquer,” he says.
Joys of creation
“And so it is with the life of discipleship reflected in the rest of the New Testament. A relationship with God through Jesus is fundamental. But to understand the reward we have in Christ simply as the end of the game is to miss the invitation to share in the mission of God to transform the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.
He writes of Revelation as where we are offered a picture of the prize for which we are striving – a world where everyone will see Jesus for who he is and where the first joys of creation will be renewed. “In some ways, it is the equivalent of aspiring to make an outstanding contribution to the gold medal or World Cup, the perfect moment when all our inabilities will somehow be acknowledged yet overcome,” Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”
Yes, History is Herstory, writes Mary J Vickers, an International Sports Chaplain. This is where the writer draws a parallel between male and female athletes and how female athletes like Loroupe have to endure stereotypes and hardships to showcase their talent. Not just Loroupe who had to emerge from the traditional Pokot where women are only supposed to cook and fetch firewood and water. Ms Lisa Rashid, a UK football referee, who hit the headlines because of stereotypes, has her story too. She was among the first referees in the UK at age 18 in 2005.
“I do get comments from supporters, players and managers. They are shocked to see me turn up because I am a lady of colour and so young. I am also a real girly girl, who loves doing her nails, adores shopping and takes time to put on her make-up...” Dominic Erdozain of King’s College London likens Paul to an athletics metaphor. Sports a metaphor for complete, undiluted commitment to a cause. He conjures up an austere image of the sublimely focused athlete pressing on casting off burdens, forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead (Phil3:13).
The beginnings of the Good News Bible can be traced to requests made by people in Africa and the Far East for a version of the Bible that was friendly to non-native English speakers. In 1961, a home missions board also made a request for the same type of translation. Besides these requests, the GNB was born out of the translation theories of linguist Eugene Nida, the Executive Secretary of the American Bible Society's Translations Department. In the 1960s, Nida envisioned a new style of translation called Dynamic equivalence. That is, the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek would be expressed in a translation "thought for thought" rather than "word for word". The dynamic theory was inspired by a Spanish translation for Latin American native peoples. The American Bible Society, impressed with Nida's theories, decided to use them. Due to these requests and Nida's theories, Robert Bratcher (who was at that time a staffer at the American Bible Society) did a sample translation of the Gospel of Mark. This later led to a translation of the full New Testament. The result, titled Good News for Modern Man: The New Testament in Today's English Version, was released in 1966. In 1976, the Old Testament was completed and published as the Good News Bible: The Bible in Today's English Version. In 1979, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books were added to the Good News Bible and published as Good News Bible: Today's English Version with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. In 1992, the translation was revised with inclusive language.
The Bible Societies released the Contemporary English Version in 1995, also using simplified English. While this translation is sometimes perceived as a replacement for the GNB, it was not intended as such, and both translations continue to be used. While the American Bible Society promotes both translations, the British and Foreign Bible Society and HarperCollins have since 2007 refocused their publishing efforts on the GNB including the Good News Bible iPhone App
The GNB is written in a simple, everyday language, with the intention that everyone can appreciate it, and so is often considered particularly suitable for children and for those learning English. There are introductions to each book of the Bible. Unlike most other translations, the GNB contains line drawings of Biblical events with a snippet of text. The line drawings were done by Annie Vallotton. However, Vallotton is credited with doing the drawings only in certain editions of the GNB-—in others, the drawings are simply credited to "a Swiss artist".
Since the focus is strongly on ease of understanding, poetry is sometimes sacrificed for clarity. This choice can be seen in the example quotation of John 3:16, which is rendered, "For God loved the world so much that …", which is more pedestrian than the familiar "For God so loved the world". The translated phrase contains a literal, if not figurative, mistranslation: the Greek word for "so" in that passage is Οὕτως, which means "in such a way", not "so much". Because the implication of the phrase "in such a way that he would sacrifice his only son" includes the implication of "so much" and could certainly not include the opposite "loved the world so little," the translators chose the phrase "so much" for its brevity and clarity.
The GNB has been challenged as to the degree of accuracy one of the translators maintained to the Greek texts. Concern was raised after Robert Bratcher made public statements questioning the inerrancy and inspiration of scripture in March 1981, as well as deriding those who hold such views as dishonest or wilfully ignorant. Many people believe that Bratcher's viewpoints unduly influenced what was written into the GNB. His speech so outraged many churches that they withheld monetary donations to the American Bible Society, a move that nearly bankrupted the ABS. The ABS requested Bratcher's resignation later that year.
Further statements from Bratcher and subsequent investigation of the GNB cause some to believe that it weakens or undermines other key doctrines, such as the virgin birth of Christ; it failed the "Isaiah 7:14 litmus test" that had been used by conservative Christians since the publication of the Revised Standard Version in 1952 (see Revised Standard Version#Reception and controversy). Others emphasize that Bratcher was only part of a committee of translators, and that this attack is simply an attempt to support the view held by some that "literal translations, especially the King James Version, are God's word, and all dynamic translations are evil", typified by the King-James-Only Movement.
The GNB has also come under heavy criticism from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for substituting the designation "Sudan" (originally referring to Western Africa) in place of the original word Kush in Hebrew, Ethiopia in the Septuagint.