An increased awareness of the climate and ecological emergencies that we are facing has necessitated a re-examination and evaluation of our attitudes to towards the Earth and how we locate ourselves among the diverse non-human communities with whom we share the planet. This is not a new debate. Throughout Christian, Jewish and Islamic history there have been individuals and communities that have questioned our understanding and attitudes to the created world. It is a very deep and rich tradition and many are finding these voices helpful. However, what is different today is the urgency and sheer enormity of the task, as well as a greater understanding of our impact on the climate and ecology.
In the run up to the World climate conference, COP26, there has been a renewed interest in what the Bible might say to us about about the climate, the ecological challenges we face. One biblical figure that repeatedly springs to peoples’ minds when discussing ecological disaster is Noah. Whilst this is understandable, it is all too easy to draw rather simplistic parallels between Noah (and his saving animals from extinction) and our efforts to address climate and environmental breakdowns. However, the text is notoriously problematic. This should not be surprising as it functions within the biblical history of Israel as a narrative pivot point between the world of Adam and Eve and the one that was more recognisable to the writers of the accounts. Nevertheless, it raises some very serious questions about the environment attitudes to it that don’t altogether sit easily with an environmentally conscious reading or theology.
In this article, Sue explores the importance of letter writing in both Christian and Jewish traditions and identifies precedents for the New Testament letter writers within the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
The main focus of her exploration is theLetter of Jeremiah (sometimes titled ‘Letter of Jeremy’) which can be found at the end of Baruch (chapter 6) in the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha.
The Letter of Jeremiah offers a particularly close parallel to the New Testament epistles… It has been somewhat neglected within the churches and by scholars, yet it speaks to issues which continue to exercise believers today. It also illustrates the creativity with which ancient Jewish interpreters re-used and adapted their sacred scriptures.
You can read Sue’s article in full by clicking the links below.
Regular visitors to this site will know that the staff at Newman have been supporting the initiative run by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) and the Bible Society, The God Who Speaks for the Year of the Word 2020 campaign. One element of this has been the creation of resources for schools and parents to plant their own ‘biblical gardens‘. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that some of the planned events were curtailed or had to be cancelled. It has therefore been decided to extend the yearlong campaign into this year (2021), which has meant we are able to continue our support.
Recently, Prof Susan Docherty, has add some written contributions on the relationship of Jewish and Christian biblical interpretation. The first article examines the figure of Abraham in biblical and post-biblical Jewish tradition. ‘Before Abraham was… Abraham in early Jewish tradition‘ provides new perspective on the early life of Abraham, and asks the questions, where did he come from and how was his faith formed as one of the greatest Old Testament Patriarchs?
Sue develops on her work with the motif of the Exodus within Jewish tradition by showing how later biblical and intertestamental authors sought to understand and fill in the gaps left within the original writings. She concludes by reflecting on what this tells us about early Jewish interpretations and attitudes to these texts.
Sue’s article can be read in full by clicking the link below.
The designation by the Roman Catholic Church for the year 2020 to be the ‘Year of the Word‘ has created the opportunity for a number of exciting initiatives that explore different aspects of the Bible, its use and meaning. There is special focus this year on on the plants and the Bible.
This is part of a wider project that involves communities and schools developing their ownPsalm 23 gardens. Alongside this, the Bible Society are producing a wide range of (practical and spiritual) resources.
Additionally, for the annual 3 day Flower Festival to be held at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on 12th to 14th June the theme will be ‘The God who Speaks’.
How you can get involved
In support of this, we are producing a set of resources for children and adults to encourage you to grow your own ‘Bible garden’. These might be of particular use for teachers, (grand)parents and guardians. All the plants which we will be featuring are mentioned in the Bible and have been specifically chosen because they are simple to grow and require low maintenance. Seeds can also be purchased cheaply and easily, which makes it an ideal activity for primary and junior schools as well as at home.
I am delighted that Alexandra Leighton, a second year Theology undergraduate from the University of Birmingham who has been working with us as part of her placement, has provided a number of resources for this project. The resources will be paired, with one set being directed to adults and the other to children (see below). They can be accessed through the ‘Plant a Bible Garden‘ tab on the menu bar.
Is there still a place for the Bible in the modern world? It might be the sacred text of Christianity and as such central to the Christian faith and community. It might also be frequently counted as one of the most influential pieces of writing within Western history and (in regards to the King James Version) to English language. However, does this collection of ancient writings really have a place in the world of the 21st century? Why is it still read? In what ways is it still being used? Does it still have the capacity to influence our ideas and values?
The EBR is the definitive and authoritative source for biblical scholarship and contains over 30,000 articles written by over 4,000 authors from over 50 countries. Approximately 1,500 new articles are added each year by leading experts from over 20 fields. The database is fully searchable.
The editorial board is presided over by renowned international scholars: Constance Furey, Steven L. McKenzie, Thomas Römer, Jens Schröter, Barry Dov Walfish, and Eric J. Ziolkowski. The print edition of the encyclopedia was the winner of the 2010 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award.
A number of Bible Societies have joined together to support the year 2020 as the ‘Global Year of the Bible’. Consequently, a wide range of events and activities have been planned to highlight the place of the Bible within contemporary life, to foster a wider awareness of it, and to encourage its use. The year 2020 has added significance for the Roman Catholic tradition as it marks the 10th anniversary of Verbum Domini– Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on ‘The Word of the Lord’ – and the 1,600 anniversary of St Jerome’s death. To this end the Catholic Church with the Bible Society are launching a series of events, resources and initiatives for the ‘The God who Speaks – Year of the Word, 2020‘.
We have been discussing recently the writings of Luke in one our modules, particularly his Acts of the Apostles. Every time I run this session I am always struck by Luke’s ingenuity and the sheer intelligence found in his work. Recognition of Luke’s talents is not new and commentators frequently note his literary ability and point to the rounded nature of his characters. His capacity to paint pictures with words means that images, stories and events stick in the mind. Parables that are exclusive to his Gospel tend to be those that are the most often remembered; the Prodigal Son, Good Samaritan, etc. However, this is only one element of Luke’s artistry as a writer.
There are a number of competing ideas that attempt to explain why Luke wrote his two volume ‘history’. Most introductions to the Luke’s writing (either his Gospel or Acts) will provide you with an overview of these. Bart Ehrman (2004) gives a brief but very clear summary of the main positions. Whatever conclusions we might draw concerning the motivation behind Luke’s writing, it is clear that the ekklesia (or what would later become called the Church) was facing a number of significant, if not existential, challenges from outside and within. These crises had the potential of threatening the survival of the emerging Christian movement.
Over the past year, I have noticed an increased interest in the question of vegetarianism and veganism. In this edition, Simon J. Joseph (University of California) investigates vegetarianism and Christian origins: Other Voices: Remembering the marginalized vegetarian in the study of Christian origins.