London Crucifixion – bringing the past to life or locking it in the past?

The iconic London location of Trafalgar Square was host to another set of iconic symbols yesterday (14th April) as the Wintershall Players performed a 90 minute ‘re-enactment’ of the crucifixion of Jesus. The two performances included a hundred actors, as well as live donkeys, horses and even doves.

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 22 (2011): Actors perform The Passion of Jesus to crowds in Trafalgar Square, London. (photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Wintershall presents a number of these types of events, including the nativity (in a barn) and the Acts of the Apostles and reflects the vision of its founders, Peter and Alison Hutley to: Continue reading

‘And the fly is saying…’: On flies, the campus, and the Bible

Newman University is situated next to a reservoir and, over the last few days, the current system of very warm air over Britain has resulted in the (sort of) annual ‘infestation’ of flies on the Newman campus. I have to admit to rather enjoying the sight of them, dancing lazily in loose veils in the soft afternoon sun and their sudden appearance on a paper I am reading or scurrying across the desk. However, I am also aware that, for those living in halls, it can create feelings that are far less poetic! Nevertheless, it got me thinking about flies in the Bible and the wider Ancient Near Eastern traditions.

James Fly
Image by James Westwood

If I am in the minority among those living and working at Newman for rather relishing this phenomenon, I also have to concede that I appear to be a bit of an oddity where the ancients are concerned too! Flies appear to have been universally disliked, or at least, viewed as worthless pests and nuisances. Continue reading

End of semester news round-up

The sun is at last shining. Most of the undergraduates have dispersed leaving the library and atrium feeling strangely empty and rather lonely. However, the campus is far from quiet. Major building work is underway; buildings are cordoned off, the chapel stands gutted and open to the elements, and the sound of heavy plant machinery fills the hot summer air. All this tells us that the spring/summer semester has now drawn to a close and this affords me a brief respite in time to give you a round up of news about the centre for the year so far – and a very busy year it has been!

Atrium Starbucks
Newman Atrium Starbucks

In case you missed anything, here is the centre’s news of 2016 (to date)… Continue reading

The Lost World of Adam and Eve – book review

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015, pp. 256. £12.99. Pbk. ISBN: 978-0-8308-2461-8

A slightly shorter form of this book review first appeared in Reviews in Science and Religion 66 (Nov 2015) 37-44.

Initial caveat

Lost world of adam and eveFirst of all, it is important to recognise that this book has been written for a very specific target audience; conservative evangelicals who are troubled by claims that science contradicts Genesis 2-3. The context is firmly that of the science-creationist debate in the US. For readers outside the States, I would recommend that they read Walton’s impassioned and, at times, touching appeals towards the end (pp.207-208 and 209-210) as this will help to make sense of his rather eccentric emphases and omissions – as well as the idiosyncratic methodology and conclusions. Continue reading

Rewriting the Exodus – Susan Docherty

Rewriting the Exodus

Susan Docherty

Inaugural Professorial Lecture

Newman University, Birmingham, UK

23 May 2016

It was wonderful to celebrate with Sue her appointment as Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism here at Newman, and to recognise the quality of her scholarship and field of research. The theme of Sue’s inaugural professorial lecture was an often overlooked and little known 2nd century BCE text attributed to Ezekiel the Tragedian: The Exagoge. Written in iambic trimeter, it is a retelling in dramatic form of the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt. Sue’s presentation demonstrated how this text is a highly instructive example of the ways in which a text can be appropriated and adapted for different audiences and/or contexts. The lessons we can learn from the Exagoge can shed light on the reception and re-use of Hebrew and Christian biblical traditions throughout history.

Rewriting Exodus Panopto
Click on image to view Panopto recording of Sue’s lecture

Continue reading

Which book of the Hebrew Bible did Paul use most?

Which book of the Hebrew Bible do you think Paul used most?

I produced this wordcloud for one of the modules that we are just beginning at Newman. However, I thought it may also be of interest to other visitors to this site.

The purpose of the wordcloud is to give a visual impression of the range of texts used (either direct quotations or allusions) by Paul and their frequency of use. Letter sizing relates to the frequency of which each book has been used. Continue reading

Migrants, Refugees & the search for a Biblical Perspective

This summer has been darkened by the catastrophic events surrounding the thousands of refugees attempting to find asylum in Europe. The release of images of the tiny body of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on the shoreline has galvanised opinion and, more than that, helped to put a human face on the events.

Many Christian groups have been responding for some time to this crisis and recently their voices are coming to the fore. A lot of my friends and associates on social media have also been adding their voice and, as one might expect, biblical texts are being widely quoted. But what is the biblical perspective?

Is it possible to make a truly biblical response to the images that we see? Continue reading

Egypt in Israel: Research of Ancient Egypt News

When thinking about the world in which the Hebrew biblical texts were created we often look toward the great ‘superpowers’ that were amassed to the north of Israel; the empires of Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and then more latterly Greek and Roman. Quite often, we can overlook the enormous influence of the ‘superpower’ to the south; Egypt.

Israel was sandwiched between the power bases of two competing empires. It was precariously sited on a narrow and mountainous land bridge (with the Mediterranean sea to the west and arid deserts to the east) which were the main routes for trade and the mobilisation of the military. This meant that control of the Levant (the area in which Canaan/Israel was part) provided an important strategic and economic advantage. The histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are played out against this tense backdrop.

Ancient Egypt Magazine
Ancient Egypt Magazine

Consequently, anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the historical, social and political context of the Bible would benefit from the huge amount of archaeological and textual research of Egypt. Ancient Egypt Magazine is a particularly accessible and helpful resource. It is published bimonthly and is written by academics and postgraduate students for a general-interest market.

I was perusing the latest issue and two items in their ‘News’ section struck me as being of interest some readers of this blog. Continue reading

Susan Docherty talks about the Jewish Pseudepigrapha

What is the Jewish Pseudepigrapha and why is it important? What are these texts about and who read them? Susan Docherty (Head of Theology and  Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism here at Newman University) answers these questions in an interview on the Voice of Israel , where she discusses her new book The Jewish Pseudepigrapha: An introduction to the literature of the Second Temple Period (SPCK, 2014).

Susan Docherty image
Professor Susan Docherty Image: Newman University

Talking to Voice of Israel’s Eve Harrow, Sue explains how the significance of this often overlooked collection of Jewish texts is so important to our understanding of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

Among the areas Sue discusses with Eve are:

Continue reading

Verse of the Month: Psalm 84:11a “For the LORD God is a sun and shield”

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

   he bestows favour and honour.

(NRSV)

When I was an undergraduate, in order to get us all to think about the power of language, my philosophy lecturer (always one to deliver as much bang for your buck as possible) drew out a large rock from behind his lectern and proclaimed, “We are told in the Bible that God is a rock… cold, hard and lifeless.” In so doing, he encapsulated the problem with metaphor. They can be incredibly powerful, but they can also disastrously backfire. Metaphors must be handled very carefully. In this psalm we can see the real/perceived concerns of its users in Antiquity that continue to influence our reading of the text even today… Continue reading