Posted by: alisonwalley | 30 August 2009

The Word for Today: a review

After looking at the three adult notes from Scripture Union and the one from the Good Book Company, I’m looking in this week’s blog at a completely different kind of Bible reading notes. I picked it up from the reception desk at church where someone had left it and brought it home out of curiosity to see what it was like.

The Word for Today is produced by United Christian Broadcasters, with the strapline of ‘encouraging words every day’. Like most notes, it covers three months (although, somewhat oddly, not in the usual quarters; the one I’ve got runs from August to October). Each comment takes up just half of an A5 page, with the date and title followed by the verse for the day. You can also read it online or via email.

What else does The Word for Today contain? Mostly, adverts for programs on UCB, books they produce and such like. But they are not excessive and I suppose that’s fair enough since it’s a free publication. There’s a central pull-out section with a list of books, CDs and DVDs you might like to order.

Before I get into the actual notes, the other thing that immediately strikes me is the variety of translations used. “All Scripture references are from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted” – but they use other versions often. In fact ten other translations are listed at the front of the notes. I can’t help feeling that basically the authors use the version which best fits whatever he or she is trying to say.

And while on the subject of authorship, The Word for Today lists a married couple and one other woman who write it, but with no other information on them (unlike other notes I’ve reviewed). I presume they work for UBC. There is something on the inside front page which I at first took to be an editorial, from someone with an illegible signature (I expect if you listen to UCB you’d know who he is). But that isn’t actually an editorial about the notes, it’s really a request to be a prayer and financial partner of UCB, suggesting £5 to £10 a month as making a “significant contribution”. (I should say that The Word for Today is a free publication, unlike SU or the Good Book Company’s notes.)

Are you detecting a cynical note here? Well, let’s get to the actual notes.

I did say above that these are ‘devotional’ notes. At least, I assume that’s what they are meant as, as the strapline says. Let’s take a bit of a closer look. First, there is a title: ‘Information overload’, ‘Staying power’, ‘When your faith feels shaky’, and so on. Underneath is the day’s verse.

The verse? Yes, this is a set of notes which gives a different verse for each day, both the reference and a quote. And ‘a quote’ is right because sometimes it’s just a part of a verse. These verses come seemingly randomly from just about anywhere in the Bible (I notice a lot of New Testament and nothing from minor prophets in this edition). And then there’s a half-page of comment. I could say a lot about these but I’ll restrain myself and simply say that the comments have practically nothing to do with the context of the verse quoted, but the words of the verse serve as a launching pad for what is really a thought for the day.

Now I’m not saying that what’s said isn’t encouraging or heretical or wrong, but these are not notes which actually encourage anyone to read their Bibles. They encourage a dipping into favourite verses which are then thrown together with others and inspirational quotes from a wide range of people to make a point. They do not encourage people to think about the text of the Bible because they are taking simply one phrase or sentence (or even a few words) and then bringing out a meaning from them. In one example, there are five ‘helpful insights’ from a story in Luke’s gospel, from which only one short sentence is quoted.

I almost wonder with some of the comments what’s the point of having a Bible verse at the top? You could write quite a few of the comments on a lot of different Bible verses and it wouldn’t really matter which one. Some of them seem to be very tenuously related to the Bible verse. To be honest, some of the illustrations given seem to be a bit tenuously related to the subject too!

If you really want to get into the Bible and use these notes, then I suggest ignoring the comments and just using their ‘Bible in a year reading’. On the other hand, why not find a set of notes which will help you to understand the Bible and get a good overall grasp of how the different parts relate to each other, to God’s plan of salvation through Jesus and living the Christian life?

Did I say I didn’t recommend it?

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