‘Talking About Tanna’ is dedicated to sharing information about the Richards family’s mission work on Tanna Island Vanuatu, the current religious climate on Tanna, and the evangelistic work of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu on Tanna.
Tanna man using a MegaVoice, a solar-powered audio device loaded with a vernacular New Testament – one way in which someone might ‘receive’ or take in the Bible.
Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box, Chapter 3
If you want to get the main idea and avoid the detail, jump to ‘The Written Elephant in the Oral Room’ (Click ‘read more’ and then scroll down ).
I should say right from the outset that if there is one chapter in this book that I am inclined to disagree with, it is this one. It’s a great book and no doubt beneficial for learning to better communicate with oral people, but perhaps the case gets overstated here. The chapter is worth reading, and in fact, I think when we think through the way in which Jesus’ disciples interacted with both written and oral texts, we notice some very important (and encouraging) things about engaging oral people with the scriptures.
So, the college term is moving on and I’m continuing to struggle through teaching Interpreting the Bible. For the time being I’m running with the title ‘Spaeglas’ for what was once COMA. Spaeglas is the Bislama word for telescope or binoculars, and so is a metaphor for looking carefully at the text. The four points being:
Luk Insaed (Look Inside)
Luk Afsaed (Look Outside)
Luk long Stamba (Look for the Central Message)
Luk long Laef (Look to Life)
Here are the steps for Luk Insaed that I’m teaching at the moment for you to have a look at and maybe contribute to. It’s not a lesson plan – this would be taught over about three lessons with homework in between – it’s more the bare bones; things to work through in order to thoroughly observe a passage. It’s pretty rough and raw at the moment with little editing.
Compared to COMA – Observe, I have tried to make the steps more concrete and to use strategies that will work well for oral people, including some things I’ve picked up in the comments from previous posts – thank you so much.
Below the outline, I will add a couple of questions and areas that I can see need improvement and a little lesson illustration that you could help with (even if you don’t have Bislama). Below that, in the comments, you can fire away with your own input (please!). Continue reading →
When we use COMA in its original setting (western evangelical), we do “C” context before “O” observation, which makes sense because that is the logical conceptual order. We need to think about where a passage is in the bigger picture before we hone in and analyse it. We also can’t help coming to a text with some sense of the context. If it is an article in a newspaper we might notice which paper it is in and in which section.
However, in reality there is a kind of cyclic relationship between context and content when it comes to a Bible passage. Just as context helps us to understand the contents, so too what is in the passage helps us to think about what of all the possible context is relevant and enlightening.
This tension is solved with good readers by reading through the passage before thinking about the context and then coming back in ‘observe’ to take a better look at the passage. However, I wonder with people who are not such good readers, whether they need to spend more time observing the passage before they have enough clues to think about what of the bigger picture is relevant and helpful. They would then combine the insights of what they gained by looking into the passage with the insight gained from thinking about the big picture, to come up with the meaning.
So the question is: In a contextualized version of COMA for Vanuatu, which should come first, context or observation?
I’m wrestling with how to teach Biblical Interpretation at certificate level and have been trialing teaching students the COMA method with some (but limited) success. I think the method is really good and sound and I’m going to persevere with it, but try to further contextualize it in order to better support Ni-Vanuatu students and ministers. I’ll do this in Bislama. Want to help? I’d love your input. Continue reading →
Tannese Noah and the ark story retold through song and dance at Jon celebrations (John Frum), Feb 2016
Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box
To live on Tanna is to live in the land of stories. Perhaps this is a familiar experience for other westerners living within oral societies. All people love stories; it seems we’re wired for them. But here, they carry out functions that are foreign to us. For example, stories can function somewhat like a title-deed for land ownership. Stories are also fundamental to all Tanna’s religious movements, conveying and reinforcing their ideals and values. When someone came to our closest village promoting a new movement, he came telling a story.
Box’s fundamental question in this chapter is: ‘Do oral societies have a system of communication that is adequate for receiving and passing on the Christian message?’ Box’s answer is, unsurprisingly an emphatic yes. I will summarize Box’s chapter and then add my own thoughts as to how we might answer Box’s question in relation to any particular oral culture with particular reference to oral communication on Tanna. Continue reading →