The God who Speaks (2020)

2020 is set to be a exciting year for anyone with an interest in the Bible and its use, and the Theology and Philosophy department at Newman University are really delighted to be part of it!

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‘.

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The Genius of Luke

We have been discussing recently the writings of Luke in one our modules, particularly his Acts of the Apostles. Every time I run this session I am always struck by Luke’s ingenuity and the sheer intelligence found in his work. Recognition of Luke’s talents is not new and commentators frequently note his literary ability and point to the rounded nature of his characters. His capacity to paint pictures with words means that images, stories and events stick in the mind. Parables that are exclusive to his Gospel tend to be those that are the most often remembered; the Prodigal Son, Good Samaritan, etc. However, this is only one element of Luke’s artistry as a writer.

‘St Luke the Evangelist’ by El Greco, circa 1610-1614. Oil on canvas. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._Luke,_Painting_by_El_Greco._Indianapolis_Museum_of_Art.jpg

There are a number of competing ideas that attempt to explain why Luke wrote his two volume ‘history’. Most introductions to the Luke’s writing (either his Gospel or Acts) will provide you with an overview of these. Bart Ehrman (2004) gives a brief but very clear summary of the main positions. Whatever conclusions we might draw concerning the motivation behind Luke’s writing, it is clear that the ekklesia (or what would later become called the Church) was facing a number of significant, if not existential, challenges from outside and within. These crises had the potential of threatening the survival of the emerging Christian movement.

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Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting #6 – free access

The latest edition of the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (6) is now out. Once again, it offers some extremely good and interesting article.

Over the past year, I have noticed an increased interest in the question of vegetarianism and veganism. In this edition, Simon J. Joseph (University of California) investigates vegetarianism and Christian origins: Other Voices: Remembering the marginalized vegetarian in the study of Christian origins.

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Bramble – Day 29 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Bramble -אָטָד (atad); בַּרְקֳנִֽים (barqanim) חוֹחַ (choach); סַלּוֹן (sallon); צָנִין (tsanin); βάτος (batos)

Flower of the blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), also known as the bramble or briar. Image: Suradnik50 (2015) Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blackberry_flower_(2).jpg

We are now coming to the end of our 30 Days Biblically Wild challenge that has been inspired by the Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild campaign and I thought we could look at something that just about anyone, who can get out of doors, regardless of where they live, can appreciate; the bramble (Rubus fruticosus) otherwise known as the blackberry or brier. For anyone who is wanting to get get started with, what used to be referred to as ‘nature spotting’, the bramble is an ideal place to begin. It is EVERYWHERE! You don’t have to travel long distances into the countryside to find them. Any piece of waste ground or plot of land that has been left untended will do.

There is something very inclusive about the blackberry. It can be enjoyed by all. Richard Mabey (1998:74) notes that “[b]lackberrying is the one almost universal act of foraging to survive in our industrialised island and that it has a special role in the relationship between townspeople and the countryside.”

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Fish – Day 27 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Fish – דָּגָה (dagah); דָּג (dag); ἰχθύς (ichthus); ὀψάριον (opsarion)

Brown Trout (Salmo trutta). Image: Eric Engbretson. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salmo_trutta.jpg

Another image that can capture the delights being outside on a slow summer’s day is sitting beside a flowing stream and catching the flash of light and plop of water as the surface is disturbed by flick of a fish’s tail. It is a great reminder of those completely different, almost alien, and often hidden, habitats populated by life and character that can lie just feet away from us.

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Adder, Viper – Day 25 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Adder/Viper – שְׁפִיפֹן (shephiphon), כְשׁוּב (akhshuv), צִפְעוֹנִי (tsiphoni), פֶּ֫תֶן (peten), ἔχιδνα (echidna)

Common European Adder (Vipera berus). Image: Uncredited. Source: https://phys.org/news/2019-03-adders-extinction-britain-national-adder.html

I find the word ‘adder’ extremely evocative for a specific time and place. As soon as I hear or read it, I am immediately transported into the warmth of sunshine, the gritty, dusty feel of a sandy heath-land with gorse-scrub abd a hint of pine, and, above all, the rich, fresh tang of new-growth bracken.

As we are drawing into the final week of this 30 Days Wild challenge, if you have spotted – or if you do happen to spot – an adder you can count yourself very fortunate and lucky. Triply lucky really. Firstly, adders are becoming increasingly rare. Secondly, they are extremely shy creatures who excel at keeping out of sight. Thirdly, you really need warm dry day, as the times that you are most likely to spot one in the open is when it is drowsily sunning itself. In the rather damp and cool June of 2019, these types of days have been a rarity!

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Fly – Day 23 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Fly – זְבוּב (zevuv

dogfly image
Dog or stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans). Source: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/2648/stable-fly-dog-fly-control/

This post has been adapted from an earlier post:And the fly is saying…

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.

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Sparrow – Day 16 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Sparrow – צִפּוֹר (tsippor), στρουθίον (strouthion)  

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). Image: Miguel de la Bastide. Source: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Sparrow/overview

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.

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Pig – Day 14 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Pig חֲזִיר  chazir

The Tamworth pig, one of the oldest breeds in Britain. Image taken from https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/mammals/native-british-pig-breeds-and-how-to-recognise-them

I am really grateful to one of our current second year Theology BA students, Amy Williams (nee Bowes – congratulations also on your recent marriage!), for writing this wonderful post.

As recently as 2013, research has suggested that pigs were brought from Greece to Canaan. A study of pig bones found in Israel (along the southern Levantine coast) suggests that the Philistines migrated from Greece to the lowlands of the Levant in the Iron Age (around 3000 years ago) and European pigs took over the wild boar population in Canaan (modern Israel) around 900BCE [see https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-philistines-brought-their-pigs-with-them-to-ancient-israel-1.5469130]

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Raven – Day 8 out of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

The raven – עֹרֵב (orev); κόραξ (korax)

Raven (Corvus corax). Image and source: https://www.macaulaylibrary.org/

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.

Call of the Northern Raven (Corvus corax)
Jordi Calvet, XC57509. Accessible at http://www.xeno-canto.org/57509.
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