Tag Archives: Thai food

what is ‘manuscript study’ (and why in the world would I care?)

Page 1 of Mark manuscript

I first came upon the concept of ‘manuscript study’ in Bangkok, Thailand. I realize, a form of studying the Bible is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Bangkok. Nor the second. Nor the third. And yes I did partake of much that Bangkok has to offer–amazing Thai massage, beautiful Buddha statues in temples, and of course green curry, tom yum, and pad Thai with incredible flavor and dirt cheap. No, I did not partake in the ‘other’ side of Bangkok, but I did go on a tour of the red light district with an organization called Night Light that seeks to rescue women from sexual slavery and exploitation. But more on that later.

Back to manuscript study. I was blown away by it from my first encounter. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but each of the three times I’ve participated in this week-long event, it has been incredibly rich. I’ve tried to describe it a few times, including an article I wrote for Princeton Seminary called ‘Wonder Bread.‘ I wrote about it again after my experience with it four years later.

The basic gist is to take a book of the Bible (the gospel according to Mark is what is often used), take out the chapters, the verse numbers, the paragraphs and print it out, as in from the computer. Mark is about 42 pages. Well, the shorter ending of Mark. But that’s another story too. Each page has a page number (in case you drop the pile, it makes for much easier ordering than playing “I wonder what comes next” with the text) and each page is also given line numbers, every 5 lines, so that you can refer to a particular location such as “On page 1, line 10, what does it mean that they were confessing their sins?”

The format is part of it–take the study away from those paper thin pages in that leather-bound book and it can help to make it more accessible, or at least easier to write all over it without feeling guilty for ‘messing it up.’ With no chapters and verses there are no arbitrary stopping or starting points, and the story itself is allowed to dictate where one section ends and another begins.

But more than the format is the style in which the manuscript is studied. I’ve grown up in the church, so I’ve been a part of many Bible Studies, some better than others. What often seems to happen is that the text can be used as a springboard for something else. So, instead of studying Mark, we actually bring in Ephesians or Acts or Revelation, none of which are bad, necessarily, but they are not Mark. In the method of manuscript study (mss) one is forced to stay with the text at hand.

The two main questions, in this format, are ‘What do you see?’ and ‘Where do you see it?’ This, again, helps the study to stay focused within the text in question, and to try to curb the tendency amongst some to leave the text behind and pontificate on a topic of choice.

It can feel limiting at first. It can be frustrating. It can feel slow.

In our Mark 1 group (the first half of Mark–it is a two part series, with each half taking up one week)  we spent the entire first day on page 1. An entire day, 9AM to 5PM, on roughly 300 words. Among the other westerners in the group (people come from around the world) you could see the obvious body language of “Okay, I’m done with page 1, can we move on now?!” as they shuffled their papers and fidgeted in their chairs, questioning the decision to devote a week to this madness. But by the end of day 2? They didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. Seriously. It’s that engaging, that engrossing. I know, it sounds a bit crazy. But I’ve flown half way around the world three times to be a part of this process.  (well, the food and the Thai massage are enticing as well…)

So, since I can’t make it to Thailand this year I’ve decided that I’m going to attempt a blog version of a Mark study. Will it work? Don’t know, I’ve never tried it before. Seems like it’s worth a shot.

Day 3: a few Bangkok impressions

taxi devotion1.     Sweating is a given.   Don’t even try to fight it. 

2.     You can buy just about anything off the streets. Curry, raw fish, fresh vegetables, ‘street food’ to go, underwear, clothes, and, unfortunately, people.

3.     Bangkok is a feast for the senses. Walking down the street you are almost assualted by the feeling of the heat, smells of burning incense and food cooking, sight of brightly colored orchids and flowers for the shrines, and the sounds, almost deafening in certain areas, of cicadas in the trees and gridlocked traffic of tuk tuks, motorcycles, taxis and cars jamming the streets.

4.     Smiling at people can get an amazing response. This morning I went for an early walk along the streets near the hotel. As I passed by, clearly a ‘farong’ (foreigner) both in my complexion and my dress, I noticed something. If I just walked by, people tended to ignore me. But, if I smiled at them, almost immediately I got a huge smile back. I may not speak much Thai, but a lot can be communicated in that simple gesture.

5.      I love Thai food. Yesterday’s “7 Baat per minute (Thai currency, about 35 Baat to $1) luncheon buffet was a delightful feast. At first I thought it meant that if you could fill your plate from the buffet in under a minute, you’d only pay 7 Baat (about 20 cents).  Then I realized, the timer was set (on an actual time clock, like when you clock in for work) when you got up to get your food, and was stopped when you were done eating.  The five of us ended up paying about 200 Baat each to stuff ourselves full of curry, rice, sashimi, tuna rolls, and dessert, or, about $6.

6.     Globalization is alive and well. Just yesterday we passed numerous 7-11s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken, A&W root beer. Piracy of movies, cds, software, and all sorts of electronic devices is also alive and well, with an entire five-story mall selling such goods.

7.     Often developing countries can be more ‘green’ than we are in the US. I’m guessing this is out of necessity, rather than ‘environmentalism.’ For instance, in the hotel room, the lights and the AC will not turn on without the room key in a special slot. That means, when you leave, you can’t help but turn them all off. For us, it is almost unnoticable when we participate in what I call, “The Ease of Waste.