The First Immanuel

The First Immanuel: Good news to a frightened people

As we approach the season for carols and Christmas cards you will probably come across one of the names of Jesus that is particularly associated with Christmas; Immanuel or in some translations that follow the Greek it is written as Emmanuel. However few people are quite so familiar with the first Immanuel whose birth had been announced some 700 years earlier during a very dark period in Israel’s history. For those living through these desperate times the future looked extremely bleak. They faced the very real prospect of imminent of captivity and death. These were people who needed good news; to know that their God had not deserted them. They were a frightened people in need of hope to take them through the devastation they were facing. Learning a little more about this period might provide an extra layer of texture and colour to the story that many of us celebrate at Christmas. Continue reading

Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting #5 – free access

The latest edition of the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (5) is now out with the great news that it has also secured more funding to ensure that it can continue its commitment to the production of a quality open access journal that maintains the high academic standards that it has set itself.

JJMJS is strongly committed to remain open access.  Moving forward, we, as any other open-access journals, must secure long-term economic stability without compromising academic quality. We are therefore very pleased to announce that, through a unique collaborative effort, JJMJS is now entering a multilateral partnership with Hebrew University of JerusalemDePaul University in Chicago, and the University of Oslo.

This edition is something of a feast for those interested in Paul, Pauline scholarship, and first century CE Judaism and is timed to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of E.P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism. The edition is divided into two parts. Part I considers the “impact of the work of E.P. Sanders forty years after the publication of his magisterial Paul and Palestinian Judaism“. Part II then explores Paul in contemporary research with three articles reflecting on the work of Paula Fredriksen and John Gager. The final article is Paula Fredriksen’s response to these articles. Continue reading

On Graduation

To all our graduates…

We were so proud of you yesterday and it is important that you know that. There must have been so many times over the past three years when it appeared that the opposite was the case and that you would never be good enough for us. But we always knew you were and that is why we never stopped pushing you.

Graduation 2018 image:Newman University

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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