A new dialogue between biblical scholarship and Religious Education

One of the trends that we have been monitoring at Newman and which has been reflected in a number of the posts on this site has been the use of (or allusions to) the Bible within the public spheres; political and social media (for example see, Migrants, Refugees & the search for a Biblical PerspectiveNo room for the 3 ‘kings’: Refugees, the nativity and the social mediaWeaponising Romans 13). Far from being dismissed, as critics would suggest, as an irrelevant, out-dated text that is only read by an ever reducing number of religious zealots, the Bible’s influence (though not necessarily its content) is very present on the contemporary stage. This means that a critical and informed understanding of the Bible (its texts, history, use) remains an essential part of education. It is therefore of great concern that the recent changes to GCSE Religious Education (RE) syllabi (in England and Wales), although placing a greater emphasis on the study of sacred texts, does not reflect recent developments within biblical studies and, at times, could reinforce negative stereotypical views. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that, at present, only one RE A-Level syllabus includes any in-depth component on the Bible. Consequently, Prof. Susan Docherty‘s article in the current edition of the British Journal of Religious Education is a very welcome and much needed call for a new dialogue to commence between biblical scholarship and the provision of RE in UK schools Continue reading

Weaponising Romans 13

One of the oldest methods of using biblical texts is ‘proof-texting’. This is when a specific text is used to legitimate or ‘prove’ a particular argument or position. The early Church fathers were fond of it and it can be frequently found in the writings of the Bible. It is therefore not surprising that most of the references to biblical texts today take this form. Particularly important texts are even referred to as ‘clobber texts’ (originally associated in relation to the homosexual debate) as they are known to deliver the knockout blow in a debate, thereby rendering the opposing side speechless. Follow any theological argument, whether that be abortion, sexual orientation, or female ministry (and countless others) and you will quickly begin to recognise each side’s favourite ‘clobber texts’.

As someone who makes a living from studying and lecturing on the Bible, I have to admit to finding proof-texting often rather irritating and unsatisfactory – whether that is Matthew’s use of them (although I do recognise they also have other functions), Justin Martyr’s or from a participant in the latest Facebook/Twitter argument. I do, however, accept that this practice has a long heritage and, like it or not, has a place within the community of faith. It is the trend towards clobber-texting that I find very concerning. Whereas proof-texting seeks to advance a scripture that neatly encapsulates a particular viewpoint (albeit in an often simplified shorthand form), clobber texts are often grabbed texts that are used to support an existing ideological view (in other words to argue that that viewpoint is ‘biblical’) and they are employed to shut down the debate. Anyone encountering an argument between two Christian positions will be familiar with this tactic.

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Awards for Newman University’s Theology Department

Please forgive the rather indulgent nature of this post, but it is always lovely to be appreciated and thanked for the work that you do. This is particularly rewarding when those who are showing appreciation are those you closely work with; students and staff. Therefore we, as a department, were delighted when we were notified that we had been nominated for 5 awards at this year’s Newman SU Excellence Awards 2018.

It was a real honour and privilege to receive 3 awards and a ‘highly commended’ on the night, as well as the recognition of the standard of our work in the Newman Theology and Philosophy department. Continue reading

Summer Greek at Newman 2018

First Steps into the World of New Testament Greek

18th – 22nd June 2018

Newman University

Would you like to hear and read the New Testament in the language in which it was originally written? Have you ever thought of learning New Testament Greek but were afraid that you were just not clever enough? Would you like to spend five days this summer having fun with a group of like-minded people as they begin to discover an old language that shaped the world?

First Steps into the World of New Testament Greek is a fun and informal 5 day course that introduces you to Koine Greek (the type of Greek used by the writers of the New Testament). It assumes absolutely no prior knowledge of the language and will begin with the alphabet. We will work as close as possible to New Testament texts (including working from some manuscripts) and by the end of the course you will be able to read simple sentences from the New Testament.  Continue reading

Martin O’Kane on Solomon in Islamic and Orientalist tradition

It is great to see an article by one of our Visiting Professors, Martin O’Kane, in the inaugural edition of a beautifully produced open-access journal the Bible in the Arts (BiA) (Die Bibel in der Kunst – BiKuMartin specialises in the Bible and Art, and a number of readers will have enjoyed his lectures and guided tours, particularly around the Barbour Institute.

The journal is going to be particularly useful to anyone interested in reception history and the use of the Bible within the visual arts, as well as music and literature. It will also include reviews and reports on current research.

Martin’s article, Painting of King Solomon in Islamic and Orientalist Tradition, explores the person King Solomon, a very popular and influential figure within biblical and post-biblical tradition, as it appears in Islamic and Orientalist art. After examining Solomon in the Qur’an and later Islamic tradition, Martin explores the depiction of Solomon in Islamic miniature painting (illustrated) and noting that the prevalence of illustrations like these

…help to dispel the myth of the lack of enthusiasm for figurative art in Islam, especially in relation to how prophets can be portrayed.

Martin O’ Kane (2017: 17)

Martin then explores Solomon within the Orientalist tradition, with its focus on the increasingly lavish and exotic.

The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’ Edward Poynter (1890). Art Gallery of New South Wales

For those who’s appetites have been whetted in regards to Solomon, Bible in the Arts also includes another article by Antonia Krainer (in German), this time focusing upon the recent (post 1960) interest in the Queen of Sheba and what it can tell us about the way these old stories/figures can connect with our imaginative and creative worlds: King Vidor „Solomon and Sheba“ (1959) – Hintergründe und Wirkungsgeschichte

Graduation of class of 2017

Graduation is always a very special moment in the academic year and this year was no exception. It is wonderful to celebrate with a group of people that over the past three years you have come to love and respect. Each one has their own story; the personal mountains, stressful nights of worry, the struggles to understand ideas and concepts that, at first, seem so incomprehensible and alien, all those times of self-doubt, and times of sheer tiredness. Yesterday, each one had their own reason to be proud of what they achieved and it was a joy to celebrate it with them.

Gaining any degree is an achievement. However, what, for me, is such a privilege in working with theology and philosophy students is that for many of them this is far more than an academic journey. That is not to say that there is not a immense amount to learn and information to process. At Newman, we cover key theologians from antiquity to the present, learn AND apply philosophical and theological methodologies and systems of thought, address the main issues facing life in the contemporary world, as well as trying to understand the worlds of the past. The subjects sweep from global issues to individual personal reflection. All of this can be very demanding not just intellectually, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually (I use that term in the widest sense). Over the last three years we have dug deep into their personal core values, got them to question the compasses they have trusted to guide their lives, looked deeply into the darkness of human nature and behaviour. We have all walked outside our comfort zones (lecturers included), learnt new things and challenged each other. We could only do that together; listening to each other, sharing, encouraging each other to find our voices, understanding and, above all, making each other brave. The class of 2017 excelled at doing all these. Continue reading

Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting #4 – free access

Great news – Issue 4 of the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS 4-2017), from Eisenbrauns, is now out. This is an extremely valuable (if not essential) resource for anyone with an interest in the forming church and New Testament studies.

JJMJS’s editor in chief, Anders Runesson, introduces this edition with these words:

“To whom is Paul’s letter to the Romans addressed, how do we know, and what difference does it make for our understanding of Paul’s position on the salvation of ‘all Israel’ (Rom 11:26)? In the 4th issue of JJMJS, John W. Marshall approaches these and related issues starting not with ‘heavyweight’ themes like faith, works, law, and gospel, but rather with smaller words of great significance for language-making, such as ‘all,’ ‘we,’ ‘thus,’ and ‘you,’ as well as Paul’s characteristic expression μὴ γένοιτο! (‘Certainly not!’) These are words, he claims, that “determine the course of Paul’s eschatological, mystical flow of big concepts.” Continue reading

The freedperson in Roman Corinth and the ekklesia – Student dissertation (part 6)

In this final excerpt from Newman Graduand, Isabella Wray’s, dissertation on Paul’s use of the term apeleutheros, ‘freedperson’, in 1 Corinthians 7 she explores the wider context and implications of Paul’s advice. In the earlier excerpts (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), the socio-political function of manumission and the place of the freedperson within Roman society were examined. In part 5 Isabella began to unpack why Paul might have used this term and the significance it held for him and the recipients of this letter. This section fleshes this out further asking whether Paul’s instruction subverts the Roman social structures and what its implication might be for the church in Corinth.

Isabella Wray

Once again we would like to thank Isabella for her generosity in letting us post these excerpts here. Isabella will be graduating in a couple of weeks time and this is therefore one of  her final weeks as a graduand! She is currently enrolled in postgraduate studies at the University of Birmingham, taking a MA degree in Religion, Politics and Society. We wish her continued success in all her work and look forward to more fruits of her research!

Finally, we hope that you have enjoyed these posts and that you have learnt a little more about Paul, Corinth and the church that he founded there. Continue reading

Liberating the liberated – Student dissertation (part 5)

Having explored the socio-political status of former slaves (the apeleutheroi or ‘freedpersons’) and the function of manumission within the Roman world (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), Isabella Wray begins to address Paul’s use of apeleutheros within the context of the Corinthian community. One of the things that intrigued Isabella is that, although Paul frequently refers to slavery, liberation and being free, he only uses the term apeleutheros once (1 Corinthians 7: 22) – fans of University Challenge will know that a singular instance of a word in a text or corpus is sometimes referred to as a ‘hapax legomenon’.

Isabella Wray

Isabella is a graduand of Newman University  (graduating in October 2017) and we are very grateful for her generosity in allowing us to post excerpts from her BA dissertation. Continue reading

Biblical Studies, the Academy and the Pew: Public talk by Dr Jim West

Earlier this year, due to ill health, we sadly had to cancel a public talk by Dr Jim West on the relationship between the academic study of the Bible and the Church. We are delighted to announce that Jim has very graciously offered to come to the UK specifically to give this talk. We are both touched and extremely grateful for such a generous gesture and we would like to invite you to come to what promises to be an informative and fascinating talk on a subject that will be close to the heart of many people.

The Intersection of Academic Biblical Studies and the Life of the Church

25th September 2015

jim-west-sbl

Dr Jim West (Ming Hua Theological College)

Newman University

Time: 10.00 – 11.00 am

Room: CH116

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