Once more we turn our gaze upwards to, what Richard Jefferies (1885) described as ‘nature on the roof’* as we look at the ubiquitous sparrow.
The cheeky sparrow
Although the rook will forever be my ‘favourite’ among birds, I have to confess to an utter delight when it comes to sparrows. Their sheer energy and collective vibrancy as you walk past a suburban bush and it erupts with a whirling chaos of chirps and cheeps! If find their wonderful chattering antics around the bird feeders as they squabble and bicker, like a bunch of adolescent monkeys, or dust-bathing at the kerbside of a local road, totally engrossing and entertaining.
On Day 2 we saw that, within the biblical world, frogs shared a rather ambivalent relationship with humans. Today, we see that this ambivalence continues among our feathered friends, and none more so than with the raven.
Possibly the most redolent sound of summer is that of the soft, lazy hum of bees among sun-warmed lavender. Out of all flying insects, it could be argued that bees are the most well loved – or at least well tolerated. I’ve known people renowned for distractedly swatting away flies, wasps and all kinds of insects, sit for (what seems like) hours patiently coaxing a grounded bee to with sugar water or honey.
The recent concerns over declining population has also helped to promote a re-assessment of the bee and our attitudes to it. Tracey Thorn’s recent tweet exemplifies this beautifully.
The sound of the dove on a late summer’s afternoon, when velvet shadows begin to stretch over a freshly cut lawn, is one of those magical, lazy, sounds of summer. There is something special, something strangely soporific and hauntingly melancholic, about the dove’s call. As we shall see, it is something that also touched the heart and imagination of the ancient Hebrew writers of our biblical literature too.
About this time of year (June), millions of tiny froglets, that have just developed from tadpoles, will be making their first forays onto land. Frogs typify our often ambivalent relationship with nature. For many, they are the epitome of ‘otherness’ (the non-human). Continue reading →
How, where and when did the Apostle Paul die?
The short answer is, we are not really sure. Although the Paul remains a very significant figure, we actually don’t know a great deal about his life. Texts books (with a greater or lesser sense of certainty) will inform us that Paul was born in the town of Tarsus (now in modern Turkey) sometime around 5 C.E.. However, this is purely conjecture. Paul doesn’t ever mention his birthplace or make any reference to Tarsus! On the other hand, Luke, who features Paul heavily in his Acts of the Apostle mentions Tarsus three times (9:11, 21:39 and 22:3) and records Paul as stating to his opponents in 22:3 that he is “a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia”. Luke is the main source for biographical details of Paul. It is he, not Paul, who tells us of Paul’s status as a Roman citizen (and he may have good reason for emphasising this, but that must be the topic for a different post). However, unfortunately, he is silent on the matter of Paul’s death.
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 →
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 Jerusalem, DePaul 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 →
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.