Breathing Life into the Word: Towards an anthropology of reading in the early church – Richard Goode

Evidence suggests that, from the outset, the practice of scriptural readings was central to early Christianity. Although research has examined what these texts were and how they were transmitted, few have asked why these texts became so important, so quickly. Why did they gain (and still retain) such a crucial place within the liturgical experience? What was so special about voicing (probably very familiar) texts within a communal setting? What was expected from hearing these words being read out? How was the relationship between the material substance of the text, the voice of the reader and the ear of the hearer understood in antiquity and the early church? Richard Goode’s session ‘Breathing Life into the Word’ from the Dead Letters and Living Words Conference at Newman University (6th June 2015) looks for answers to these questions (video and text below).

Dr. Richard Goode, Newman University
Dr. Richard Goode, Newman University

This session begins by examining the development of the vocalisation of texts and their auditory reception within the ancient Jewish tradition. Using the example of the Decalogue (10 Commandments), the complex relationship between the text as a physical object and its oral proclamation is noted – as well as questioning some assumptions about oral-literary texts. Continue reading

From Persitent Prayer to Effective Activism: Re-reading Luke 18 – David McLoughlin

David McLoughlin’s sessions are always a highlight and at this year’s NRCBR conference it was no exception. David’s re-reading of Luke’s parable of the persistent widow (sometimes referred to as ‘the corrupt/unjust judge’) in Luke 18:1-8 exemplifies David’s engaging style and his ability to look at familiar texts with fresh eyes (video and text below).

David McLoughlin
David McLoughlin

Understanding this parable can be quite a tricky task and David took us through the more traditional reading, pointing out some of the difficulties that attend it. After challenging its (rather un-Lukan) acceptance of the status quo, he then places it within its historical and literary context to explore a much more radical underlying message. A message that even challenges us (the hearers) to reconsider what we understand as the nature of prayer.

Continue reading

Reimagining the Jewish Jesus: Steve Moyise

Prof. Steve Moyise encouraged us to re-examine the Jewish Jesus in the paper ‘Reimagining the Jewish Jesus‘ which he presented at the Dead Letters & Living Words conference at Newman on 6th June 2015 (video and downloadable PowerPoint slides below).

Steve Moyise at NRCBR Conference 2015
Steve Moyise at NRCBR Conference 2015

It is difficult to overstate the impact of Geza Vermes’ Jesus the Jew (1973) and E.P. Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism (1985) on New Testament and Historical Jesus studies. Although an awareness of Jesus’ Jewish background had long been a part of our consciousness, it was their work that drove it to our attention. Jesus could no longer be seen as being distinct from his Jewish background. In order to be fully understood, his life, work and teaching needed to be studied within the context of late Second Temple period Judaism.

In a typically entertaining and accessible paper, Moyise took three elements of Jesus’ teaching that are traditionally seen as being distinctively Christian in character and a discontinuity from the Judaism of his time: Continue reading

An Anarchist Reading of Romans 13; Lloyd Pietersen

The keynote session of the 2015 Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception conference (Dead Letters and Living Words) was given by Dr Lloyd Pietersen who presented a paper on ‘An Anarchist Reading of Romans 13’ (video and notes below).

The question about what is the relationship between church and state is one that has repeatedly been raised throughout Christian history. Romans 13 is a key passage in this debate and is often quoted to endorse a pacific and accepting attitude by the church towards state authority and rule.

Is Paul, a frequent and hostile critic of the Roman Empire who spends much of the time contrasting it unfavourably with the new empire being established through Jesus Christ in the church, really saying that either the church should accept the dictates and of the state? Pietersen’s paper challenges this reading. Continue reading