Unlocking the Bible's teaching

US Bible teacher Jeff Cavins will be helping unlock the Bible at a Down and Connor event in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on November 21
US Bible teacher Jeff Cavins will be helping unlock the Bible at a Down and Connor event in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on November 21

IT is one of Christianity's great paradoxes: the Bible might be the faith's foundation text, its words infusing the Church's liturgy and informing its teaching, yet many professing Christians admit they neither know nor understand it very well, writes William Scholes.

Or as well as they would like to, at any rate. What, for example, does Genesis have to do with Jesus? How do familiar names such as Abraham, Isaac, David, Isaiah and Job fit together? Does the Bible - an inspired text, written by multiple authors over hundreds of years - even have a consistent narrative?

The blame for the confusion around what the Scriptures say and the consequent lack of confidence in them can be shared between clergy and congregation; and yet it is clear that there is a hunger among churchgoers to know the Bible better.

A conversation on this theme between Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor and some pilgrims in Lourdes in 2012 sowed the seeds of a landmark event about to bloom in the diocese.

Struck by a reading from Isaiah, one of the group admitted that she knew "very little" about the prophet; the rest of the group agreed, and as Down and Connor worked through its listening exercises, it became apparent that there was a widespread desire to get to know the Scriptures better.

With the Living Church initiative and Diocesan Pastoral Plan taking shape, a Bible in a Day event was held and followed-up by an eight-week Quick Journey Through the Bible course, completed by around 1,200 people.

Both drew on the work of Jeff Cavins, an American Bible teacher, and he will be in Belfast next week to deliver first-hand a day-long session called The Bible: Our Everlasting Story.

Fr Alan McGuckian from the Living Church office said Jeff Cavins's teaching was a "real eye-opener".

"He starts out from the insight that many people set out to read the Bible regularly but quickly get frustrated because they just don't get it," he said.

"The problem is that we, literally, lose the plot. It no longer feels like a great story we are really interested in.

"With his Great Adventure Bible Timeline, Jeff Cavins has designed a way of helping make sense of the Bible by showing us what the story."

Fr McGuckian said the timeline showed that the Bible is "the wonderful story of God's love affair with humanity, stretching from the Creation through many twists and turns to the coming of Jesus".

Getting an idea of the Bible's storyline helps to open up its riches and make it less intimidating, he said.

"I am sure people will leave the Waterfront Hall with an appetite for further exploration and pointers for how that can be facilitated in their own community," said Fr McGuckian.

:: The Bible: Our Everlasting Story - A Day with Jeff Cavins takes place at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast on Saturday November 21. More information at