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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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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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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Turtle Dove – Day 4 of 30 Days [Biblically] Wild

Turtle Dove – תֹּר (tor); τρυγών (trugōn)

Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) at Titchwell, RSPB – Image: Les Bunyan. https://www.lesbunyanphotography.co.uk/

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.

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No room for the 3 ‘kings’: Refugees, the nativity and the social media

Last year I posted a short piece reflecting on the use of the Bible in the debate concerning the refugee crisis: Migrants, Refugees and the search for a Biblical Perspective. Tragically, fourteen months later, the crisis shows no signs of abating and political solutions remain (largely) incoherent and confused. In the light of this, I have become increasingly aware of the application of a relatively new narrative to the traditional nativity story. This has been particularly pronounced in the use of memes on social networking sites and exemplifies the plasticity of this story and the way that it can be adapted to provide powerful messages that address specific issues and needs.

CBC News (December 2015)
CBC News (December 2015)

As part of the CCRS programme I regularly take a couple of sessions where we compare and contrast the canonical birth narratives and students almost overwhelming state that they prefer Luke’s account because they find it more applicable to them and to contemporary society. When asked to explain further, they generally point to the ‘humble setting’ of Jesus’ birth, and the identification with the poor and socially disadvantaged. There appears to be little room for the ‘kings’ (or more accurately, magi) in our modern day nativities! 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

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

Was Jesus’ Birth According to Scripture? Steve Moyise @ Newman

The second of Steve Moyise ‘s  seminars at Newman University, WasWas birth of Jesus PPT1 the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture?, explored the use of the Hebrew scriptures in the Matthew and Luke’s nativity accounts and questioned how helpful historical criticism (generally the primary approach used by critical scholars) is for understanding the rationale behind their use.

Unfortunately we encountered difficulties with recording this session. However, we are grateful to Steve for providing us with a handout that includes much of the material from his talk (drawn from a chapter from his latest book – of the same title) and his PowerPoint slides (links below). Continue reading