Centre News (Review of 2014)

The end of the year is almost upon us. The University has been decked out in all its festive finery and now the corridors and classrooms are emptying as students head homeward for Christmas vacation…

Atrium Tree
Christmas tree in the atrium at Newman University


It has been an exciting year for the NRCBR at Newman. We started by launching a programme of PUBLIC seminars in the spring.

The title of the series was ‘Encountering the Gospel through First-century Eyes‘. Over five seminars we explored the prologue of Mark in its first-century Jewish and Graeco-Roman setting and we began to discover an extremely provocative and very challenging voice.


Two particular highlights of this years for me were the conference ‘Voices from the Desert’ and our first Summer Greek school. You can read more about these events here.

Plans are in progress for next year’s conference that will develop some of the themes explored this year.

Summer Greek 2014
Summer Greek 2014

I am especially grateful for all those who joined us for the Summer Greek course and who rather acted as guinea pigs helping us gauge how best to run an event like this. It was great, fun, exhilarating and exhausting and we ALL came away having learned more than we thought we could (and that includes the tutor!). Next year we will also be running the Summer Greek school again, but in a less intense format over 5 days instead of three and incorporating more of the ‘excursive’ sessions that went down so well (as well as a proposed visit to encounter some real manuscripts).

Details of the conference and Summer Greek will follow in due course.


Entrance Tree
Main entrance of Newman University December 2015

We finished the year with a series of three public seminars that examined the story of the Nativity in its present form and asked ‘What might Matthew and Luke response to this be?’ The final seminar explored the development of the nativity story after the Gospels in three later writings. We saw the way that the two accounts began to merge together and how (and why) new elements were added. Old themes were accentuated while new ones also emerged. We also began to see how these themes continue to be developed today, sometimes in surprising ways, in art and advertising. There are examples of some of the images on our Facebook group page.


Another of the year’s highlight for the department was the publication of Susan Docherty‘s latest book; The Jewish Pseudepigrapha: An introduction to the literature of the Second Temple period. Sue is Reader in Biblical Studies and Head of Theology here at Newman University and her book is an indispensable introduction for anyone wanting to study Second Temple Judaism and origins of the early Christian movement.

Jewish Pseudepigrapha
The Jewish Pseudepigrapha by Susan Docherty, SPCK.

The Jewish Pseudepigrapha refer to the writings attributed to notable figures in Israel’s history that circulated in the intertestamental period spanning a wide range of genres from history and apocalyptic to liturgical texts, poems, plays and novels.

Chapters include:

  • Rewritten Bible
  • Para-biblical literature or biblical expansions
  • Non-narrative literature: poems, hymns and drama
  • Testaments
  • Apocalyptic literature

You will meet new friends and old – including Joseph and Aseneth that received so much attention in the biblioblogs and social media a few months ago!


It has also been a great pleasure to welcome two new faces to the centre; Prof. Steve Moyise and Dr. Lloyd Pietersen.

Steve will be here at Newman on Thursday 12th February 2015 when he will be speaking at two sessions:

  • 15.00 – 16.00 – A short lecture and Q&A session on ‘The Use of Scripture in Paul’s Letters’
  • 16.30 – 17.30 – Research seminar “Was the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture?

Lloyd is booked to speak again at our 2015 conference.

More details about both these events (and others planned for 2015) will follow shortly.

All that remains is for all of us from the NRCBR to thank you for all your support and encouragement and, for those who celebrate it, to wish you a very happy Christmas, and for those who don’t, to wish you a wonderful break…

and finally…


3 thoughts on “Centre News (Review of 2014)

  1. It has been a really good year, hasn’t it? I have been greatly enriched at a personal level by my participation in the work of the Centre.
    I read in an e-mail this morning of a Baptist minister wanting to get to grips with the gospels because he felt that most of his colleagues were more at home with Paul. That really got me thinking about the relation between the Gospels and Paul’s letters. It seems to be becoming a truth “universally acknowledged” that they are different and that the gospels are somehow more authentic. Philip Pullman has written about this, of course, and brought the question into popular discourse. Might there be room to explore this?
    I look forward to many more conversations in 2015 and do hope that you enjoy a peaceful and happy Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really glad that it is beginning to develop and thank you so much for all your invaluable support.
    That’s an interesting idea. As you say, the idea that Paul and the Gospels are somehow different does seem to be widely held; Paul as either the corrupter of Jesus’ teaching or the real founder of the (Protestant) Christian faith. I think that it is largely outside the academy that this is the case and generally the result of the old Augustinian or Lutheran Paul. Within the academy there is far more convergence and continuation. Paul inherits (accepts) an existing theology and Christology from the apostles with which he then develops certain parts. It is true that charges of preaching different Gospels were being levelled at Paul and by Paul, but interestingly it seems primarily about law compliance rather than what Jesus taught.
    I think the question is still a very interesting one and worth properly looking at – and it is also important as it impacts directly on Muslim-Christian dialogue (where Paul is viewed as a corrupter of Jesus’ teaching). It relates once again to reception and how different texts are viewed today and what we want to get out of them.


  3. Yesterday I took my daughter down to Malvern for a lesson with her wonderful piano teacher and sat & chatted with the teacher’s husband while the lesson took place. During the conversation the subject of Philip Pullman came up. “You won’t like this,” he said, “The Scoundrel Christ”. So there you are, it’s in the popular world. What bothers me is that I very much doubt whether the debate on The Historical Jesus and The Christ of Faith that has been around for over 100 years in the academy has ever really taken place in the churches. I did not know that it featured in Muslim-Christian dialogue. That makes it even more pertinent.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s