Breathing Life into the Word: Towards an anthropology of reading in the early church – Richard Goode

Evidence suggests that, from the outset, the practice of scriptural readings was central to early Christianity. Although research has examined what these texts were and how they were transmitted, few have asked why these texts became so important, so quickly. Why did they gain (and still retain) such a crucial place within the liturgical experience? What was so special about voicing (probably very familiar) texts within a communal setting? What was expected from hearing these words being read out? How was the relationship between the material substance of the text, the voice of the reader and the ear of the hearer understood in antiquity and the early church? Richard Goode’s session ‘Breathing Life into the Word’ from the Dead Letters and Living Words Conference at Newman University (6th June 2015) looks for answers to these questions (video and text below).

Dr. Richard Goode, Newman University
Dr. Richard Goode, Newman University

This session begins by examining the development of the vocalisation of texts and their auditory reception within the ancient Jewish tradition. Using the example of the Decalogue (10 Commandments), the complex relationship between the text as a physical object and its oral proclamation is noted – as well as questioning some assumptions about oral-literary texts. Continue reading

Reimagining the Jewish Jesus: Steve Moyise

Prof. Steve Moyise encouraged us to re-examine the Jewish Jesus in the paper ‘Reimagining the Jewish Jesus‘ which he presented at the Dead Letters & Living Words conference at Newman on 6th June 2015 (video and downloadable PowerPoint slides below).

Steve Moyise at NRCBR Conference 2015
Steve Moyise at NRCBR Conference 2015

It is difficult to overstate the impact of Geza Vermes’ Jesus the Jew (1973) and E.P. Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism (1985) on New Testament and Historical Jesus studies. Although an awareness of Jesus’ Jewish background had long been a part of our consciousness, it was their work that drove it to our attention. Jesus could no longer be seen as being distinct from his Jewish background. In order to be fully understood, his life, work and teaching needed to be studied within the context of late Second Temple period Judaism.

In a typically entertaining and accessible paper, Moyise took three elements of Jesus’ teaching that are traditionally seen as being distinctively Christian in character and a discontinuity from the Judaism of his time: Continue reading

An Anarchist Reading of Romans 13; Lloyd Pietersen

The keynote session of the 2015 Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception conference (Dead Letters and Living Words) was given by Dr Lloyd Pietersen who presented a paper on ‘An Anarchist Reading of Romans 13’ (video and notes below).

The question about what is the relationship between church and state is one that has repeatedly been raised throughout Christian history. Romans 13 is a key passage in this debate and is often quoted to endorse a pacific and accepting attitude by the church towards state authority and rule.

Is Paul, a frequent and hostile critic of the Roman Empire who spends much of the time contrasting it unfavourably with the new empire being established through Jesus Christ in the church, really saying that either the church should accept the dictates and of the state? Pietersen’s paper challenges this reading. Continue reading

Dead Letters and Living Words 2015 NRCBR Conference

Newman university logo

Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception

Dead Letters and Living Words: Continuity and creativity in the interpretation and use of the Bible.

Newman winter

Newman University

June 6th 2015

Room: CH116

 Registration 9.00 to 9.30

 The Hebrew and Christian scriptures hold an important place within their respective faith communities as authoritative texts rooted within their ancient pasts. However, there is a tension between the continuity of traditional scriptural readings and a renegotiation of those texts when applied to new contexts. This conference will explore that relationship examining different ways that texts have been given life throughout centuries and how this might impact upon the text’s status as authority. Continue reading

Dead Letters and Living Words: NRCBR Conference 2015

Dead Letters and Living Words: Continuity and creativity in the interpretation and use of the Bible Conference.

6th June 2015

 Newman University

We are very excited to announce this year’s conference for the NRCBR at Newman University to which you are warmly welcome.

The Hebrew and Christian scriptures hold an important place within their respective communities as authoritative texts rooted within their ancient past. However, there is a tension between the continuity of traditional scriptural readings and a renegotiation of those texts when applied to new contexts. This conference will explore that relationship examining different ways that texts have been given life throughout centuries and how this might impact upon the text’s status as authority.


Workshop from NRCBR conference 2014

This year the emphasis will again be placed upon participation for all and providing the opportunity for everyone present to engage with the questions and issues presented in each of the session. Therefore we are developing a more inclusive round-table style format to the afternoon, structuring it so that we can all be part of the on-going conversation about the relationship between continuity and creativity, historical and contextual readings, and the boundaries of biblical interpretation and use.

Speakers are still being finalised, but among those who are booked to speak include:

Lloyd Pietersen taking a workshop of last year’s NRCBR conference

Dr. Lloyd Pietersen (Centre of Anabaptist Studies, Bristol Baptist College) who will give the key note address

• Professor Martin O’Kane (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David)
• David McLoughlin (Newman University)
• Dr. Richard Goode (Newman University)

More details will be uploaded as they become available.

Cost: £20
Students and unwaged free

Teas and coffees will be provided
Please bring own lunch – hot food, drinks and snacks can be purchased at the University

Registration 9.00 to 9.30

The conference will end at 17.30

To book a place, please follow the link here to the Newman University estore

For more details, please contact:

Summer 2014 Centre Re-launch

Welcome to the Centre’s website and blog!

Following our Spring seminar series Looking at Mark’s Gospel through First Century Eyes, we had a very busy summer.

Voices from the Desert Conference July 2014

On one of the hottest days of the year we held our first conference. Voices from the Desert explored the journey of the Bible from dissent to orthodoxy and then back to dissent. We were very privileged to have Dr Lloyd Pietersen with us as our key note speaker. In the morning he read a paper outlining his reading of the Bible from a Post-Christendom context. It was a fascinating and challenging session helping us to see how differing contexts can influence the way we read a text, particularly when relating to position of power and influence. Lloyd followed this with an equally fascinating workshop where we were challenged to read some of the parables of Jesus from a minority (or dissenting) perspective. You can read more about Lloyd’s work in this area in his book Reading the Bible After Christendom published by Paternoster (2011).

Lloyd Pietersen's session
Lloyd Pietersen speaking about reading the Bible after Christendom

Dr Susan Docherty and David McLoughlin also presented fascinating papers that helped provide an historical context for our later discussions. Sue’s paper on the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament gave us a fresh insight into the creative re-appropriation of texts by different groups as well as providing a more nuanced understanding of the continuity of Jewish thought and scriptural use within the New Testament writings. This was followed by an inspiring paper given by David that vividly painted the historical landscape in which the New Testament text was formed and highlighting, in particular, the political and economic environment of these times.

NRCBR Conference 2014
Voices from the Desert Confernce

We were also delighted to have with us Symon Hill from Ekklesia with us. He ran an extremely thought provoking afternoon workshop looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a political activist often showing, not just a political dimension to a story or an account, but how politics can influence our understanding and reading of a text (as well as how a text may inform a person’s politics!).

Professor Martin O’Kane led a wonderful afternoon workshop using images of the paintings from the nearby Barber Institute of Fine Arts to explore painting as biblical interpretation. In many ways Martin’s workshop brought together all the individual elements from the rest of the day and highlighting the power of certain biblical images and motifs and their ability to be reinterpreted in a fluid process of appropriation and re-appropriation.

First Steps into the World of New Testament Greek

This was the first of our summer Greek schools and ran for three (fairly intense!) days. Noting so many people’s reservations about learning ancient Greek, the accent of the course was informality and fun in order to build confidence with the alphabet and language of the New Testament. Throughout the course we worked closely with the Greek New Testament and by the end of the three days those attending were able to be able to read simple sentences and clauses from it.

Summer Greek 2014
Summer Greek course 2014

Alongside learning the language, one of the main aims of the course was to begin to understand the world in which the New Testament writings were produced and the way it was first circulated. It also raised an awareness of the whole process of what is involved in translating a text which would help to inform us about how we should approach a translated text. Therefore, alongside learning the language we also had a number of mini sessions on:

  • The scribe and manuscript in the life of the New Testament.
  • “Are we sure it originally said that?” On which Greek text are our English New Testaments based?
  • How to enhance your textual study by using open-access, online Bible study tools (a tremendous resource for Bible study and commentary writing!).
  • How would you?’ problem sessions – YOU take the hot-seat and decide the best way to translate a problematic text.
Summer Greek 2014
Getting to grips with the different cases for nouns

Those attending the course came from a wide background including current students, post-graduates, those studying or with an interest in theology as well as a number of historians. Most of the time was spent working in small groups with set material, exercises and games. Working like this helped to create a more cooperative learning environment.

As I taught the course, I am probably not the best person to comment on its success, suffice to say I enjoyed it enormously and was really impressed with the ability and progress (not to mention unflagging good humour) of all those attending!

 We plan to hold similar events next year – we will keep you posted!