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A gift beyond price

   
 


Tom Yoder Neufeld received a doctorate in New Testament from the Harvard University Divinity School. He has written a number of books and commentaries about the New Testament, including Ephesians in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series (Herald Press, 2002), Recovering Jesus: The Witness of the New Testament (Brazos Press, 2007, )and most recently, Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament (Baker Academic 2011).

   

July 13, 2012
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. — The Bible was such an integral part of Tom Yoder Neufeld’s life that he can’t recall a time without it. His earliest memory of scripture brings to mind salty air and open seas. He taught himself to read German using the New Testament while travelling across the ocean with his parents on their first European mission assignment.

“I had just turned 7,” he says.  “I knew enough German to sound out the words.”

Yoder Neufeld was a keynote speaker for Mennonite Church Canada’s Assembly 2012, a Bible study conference, Dusting off the Bible for the 21st Century in Vancouver, B.C. July 12-15.

The Professor of Religious Studies (New Testament) for Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo has come a long way since that first ocean voyage of discovery, but he still recalls his next big breakthrough. He was given a New English Bible translation of the entire New Testament.

“Because it was then a fresh translation and in paragraph format, rather than the more traditional columns, I suddenly found myself reading past the obligatory 10 verses for devotion, or even past the chapter divisions. This was a new experience—from oracles to narratives.”

Little did he know that he would spend his professional life reading “whole swaths” of the Bible at once, while digging deeper into its meaning. “I have never lost the mix of curiosity, serious wrestling, and outright pleasure at studying the Bible, always listening, hopefully, to the voice of God midst the multiplicity of human voices the Bible records.”

His chosen profession has not allowed his own Bible to gather dust, but he is aware that for some, including many Mennonites, the Bible has fallen into disuse. “There are numerous factors, I'm sure. It may even be that folks like me need to take some responsibility for that in giving the impression that if you really want to understand the Bible, you need experts to help you.” Yet, he says, the Bible is “the record of our long and ongoing conversation with God.” The Bible is intended for everyone.

“I hope we leave Vancouver with renewed trust and faith,” he says, “less in the Bible than in the God who speaks to us in and through it, less in the words of the Bible than in the Word made flesh. But how would we know about that God, about that Word, were it not for the word(s) we call ‘Bible’? I hope we leave Vancouver deeply grateful to God for this gift beyond price.” 

See more about Assembly 2012