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.
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‘.
Theme: Why do readers from different cultures produce divergent readings of the Bible? In view of the global character of Christianity, this has become a prominent question. When Christians read scripture, traditions supply concepts that shape what counts as normal, good, and true. But what is the effect of Christian commitments on rationality? How have readers decided on a correct interpretation?
This day conference organised by the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology and Leeds Trinity University is an opportunity for a dialogue with Dr Joshua Broggi, University of Oxford. His book Diversity in the Structure of Christian Reasoning (Brill 2015) deals with just these issues, using illustrations from central Africa and southern India. Broggi offers a fresh strategy for relating tradition and reason that reconfigures the hermeneutical picture developed by Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Booking: Please register your attendance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Cost: £10.00. Includes refreshments and sandwich lunch. Payable on the day. Refreshments served from 10.30am and available after 3.30pm.
Call for papers: Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient World
The University of Birmingham and Newman University have jointly issued a call for papers and advance notice for their forthcoming ‘Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient Mediterranean World’.
Their call reads:
We invite paper proposals for an inter-disciplinary conference on the theme “Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient Mediterranean World”, to take place in Birmingham, UK at the University of Birmingham and Newman University, 21-23 June 2016. Continue reading →
There’s nothing quite like the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS). There is an energy, courage and that slight whiff of danger about them – quite frankly, what’s there not to like? If anyone is going to be the first to touch the toppling ark it’s going to be one of them! The great news is that this year their annual Bible, Critical Theory and Reception seminars are coming to Birmingham on the 9th & 10th September.
I would strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to attend. It is totally free – although James Crossley or John Lyons would appreciate letting them know if you are hoping to come.
Part of its remit is to take biblical studies out of the institute and so, as in previous years, the 2015 BCTR seminar will be held at the Prince of Wales pub, Mosely – expertly selected by our own Tom Hunt. Continue reading →
Despite progress in both historical studies and interfaith relations, Jews and Christians continue to misunderstand each other, and to misunderstand the relationship of the New Testament to its Jewish context. By looking at major parts of the New Testament – the Christmas story, the sermon on the mount, the passion narrative, the letters of Paul, and the epistle to the Hebrews – we can see how and why the followers of Jesus of Nazareth dialogued with, debated, and sometimes defamed their fellow Jews. We also find, in doing the historical work, that Jews and Christians have much to celebrate both in terms of what they hold in common and in areas where they came to differ.
In this year’s series of Cadbury Lectures Professor Levine provides a historically informed and theologically sensitive reading of those New Testament passages that some claim to be anti-Jewish, rooted in a recognition that both Judaism and Christianity formed their identities in dialogue and debate with each other. The series explores and celebrates where Judaism and Christianity agree, as well as where they disagree.