Northwestern College, John Vonder Bruegge

Orange City, Iowa

To produce new, collaborative translations of Jesus’ parables that both remain true to the Greek text and strive for a listenability in their oral presentation, and to gather those translations into a publication that equips worshiping communities to deliver the texts orally in worship.

Researcher(s): John Vonder Bruegge and Jeff Barker 
Academic Discipline:  Biblical Studies and Theatre

Project Summary 

The purpose of this project is to celebrate Jesus as storyteller by exploring the intersection of biblical translation and oral delivery.  Our goal is to publish a book of original translations of Jesus’ parables, with accompanying introductions and notes, that will serve as a resource for storytellers in a variety of worship settings. 

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year?  

How do Christians worship through performance of the words of Scripture? Given that the gospel writers often include explanations of Jesus' parables, in what way do Jesus' stories stand by themselves as theological and pedagogical tools for Christians? In their original setting, the stories had to be self-sufficient. The explanations came later in the tradition of the church. What constitutes a parable in the ministry of Jesus? Is it a narrative with two layers of meaning? Or does it require a plot with conflict? What is the purpose of Jesus' parables? To explain? Or to confound? 

In what ways has or will your project strengthen the worship life of congregations? 

Our goal is to bring the words of Jesus back into the oral and aural worship of the church so that today's Christians can have a parallel experience to those who constituted Jesus' original audiences. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)? 

Honestly, our greatest challenge has been ourselves. Jeff travels rather extensively now, and my work scheduled is tight. We have not made as much progress over the course of this year as we hoped, but we did continue the project. 

What advice would you like to share with other Teacher-Scholars? 

Scheduling is key. During summer 2021, we met regularly, and we made significant progress. We anticipated that we would be able to keep a similar schedule during the academic year, but this was unrealistic. Furthermore, it was difficult to predict how long different aspects of the project would take. As a result, our progress slowed considerably. We look forward to picking up the pace again this summer. 

What products will emerge from your project? 

We envision a book with new translations of Jesus' parables that can be placed into the hands of pastors and parishioners alike. The book may have devotional value, but its primary purpose is to facilitate the telling of Jesus' stories in the context of worship communities.