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Reading the Bible Outside the Church: A Case StudyFord, David G. (University of Chester, 2015-10)Biblical studies and theology have been impacted by the “turn to the reader” in literary theory, and scholars are now more aware of the significance of the reader in the activity of Bible reading (Davies, 2013). However, most of the research exploring Bible readers has concentrated on active members of faith communities (Village, 2007; Rogers, 2009; Strhan, 2013) and University staff (Clines, 1995; Hull, 2001; Pyper, 2006). In Britain, those outside of the church and the academy are missing from this research, that is, the majority of the population. This thesis considers how people who are not regular Bible readers might read five biblical texts. In particular I focus on men, as the cohort of British society least likely to read the Bible (Field, 2014). Ten months of fieldwork was undertaken at a Chemical Industrial Plant in North West England, where 20 men read through five biblical texts. Using annotation, questionnaires and interviews I examined how the texts were read. The data which emerged shows that the men’s relationships with the five biblical texts shaped their readings of those texts. By “relationship” I am principally referring to the associations evoked in a reader as they come to a text. I argue for this relational reading practice in three ways. First, using Louise Rosenblatt’s transactional theory of reading (1995 ; 1994 ; 2005) I suggest that these readers and texts are not unconnected entities but exist within the same dynamic system. A reader brings all that they are to a text, and the aspects of each reader considered most salient to the anticipated reading assume an influential role in the reading transaction. Second, under the headings: “experience,” “identity,” “attitude’” and “belief,” I provide examples from my case study to illustrate this practice. These explore the various ways in which the men shaped their readings, indeed typically dominated them, as reading the texts reaffirmed their relationship with them. Third, however I also note a few occasions when the texts stimulated the reader into an atypical reading. This challenged the readers’ prior relationship with the texts and further demonstrates the relational nature of these readings, one involving both parties.