The Bible in Today's World

January 9th 2020

Newman University

13.30 – 19.30

Is there still a place for the Bible in the modern world? It might be the sacred text of Christianity and as such central to the Christian faith and community. It might also be frequently counted as one of the most influential pieces of writing within Western history and (in regards to the King James Version) to English language. However, does this collection of ancient writings really have a place in the world of the 21st century? Why is it still read? In what ways is it still being used? Does it still have the capacity to influence our ideas and values?

Exploring these questions concerning the place and function of the Bible in today’s world is the focus of the ‘God who Speaks: The Bible in Today’s World‘ event at Newman University on January 9th. The event forms the launch of the Birmingham ‘The God who Speaks’ programme for the Catholic ‘Year of the Word (2020)‘ that celebrates the 10th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord) and the 1,600 of the death of St Jerome.

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Great free offer for 'The God who Speaks' (2020)

We are also delighted to announce that De Gruyter, the publishers of Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (EBR), which to date runs to 17 volumes, has very generously offered 30 days free access to the online EBR database to all those who have booked a place on our ‘The God who Speaks‘ event for the Year of the Word (2020).

The EBR is the definitive and authoritative source for biblical scholarship and contains over 30,000 articles written by over 4,000 authors from over 50 countries. Approximately 1,500 new articles are added each year by leading experts from over 20 fields. The database is fully searchable.

The editorial board is presided over by renowned international scholars: Constance Furey, Steven L. McKenzie, Thomas Römer, Jens Schröter, Barry Dov Walfish, and Eric J. Ziolkowski. The print edition of the encyclopedia was the winner of the 2010 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title award.

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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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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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Hadhrat Ibrahim – Susan Docherty on Voice of Islam

Professor Susan Docherty

Susan Docherty (Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism and head of subject for Theology at Newman University) took part in a discussion of how Hadhrat Ibrahim (Abraham) is understood within Islam, Christianity and Judaism on the Breakfast Show on the Voice of Islam radio station today (10/07/2009).

Professor Docherty said,

I was delighted to have this opportunity to engage with the listeners about the ongoing relevance of the figure of Abraham/Ibrahim for Muslims, Jews and Christians, who all honour him for his righteousness and faith in one God.

This topic was very much in the forefront of my mind because I have recently contributed to a new edited book on the interpretation of Abraham in early Jewish and early Christian Literature. It also connects with the wider work of Newman University, as we are involved in various inter-religious partnerships and projects researching faith schools. Within our undergraduate degree programme in Theology and Philosophy here at Newman we also offer modules like ‘The Abrahamic Inheritance: Dialogue and Difference between Christianity, Islam and Judaism’ and ‘Politics and Religion in Britain’, which encourage students to explore the connections between the major world faiths and their place in modern society.

To view more about Professor Sue Docherty view her staff profile page. To view more about the Theology courses at Newman University view the course search.

Susan Docherty on the Voice of Islam
Sue’s contribution begins at the 31:43 mark

A new dialogue between biblical scholarship and Religious Education

One of the trends that we have been monitoring at Newman and which has been reflected in a number of the posts on this site has been the use of (or allusions to) the Bible within the public spheres; political and social media (for example see, Migrants, Refugees & the search for a Biblical PerspectiveNo room for the 3 ‘kings’: Refugees, the nativity and the social mediaWeaponising Romans 13). Far from being dismissed, as critics would suggest, as an irrelevant, out-dated text that is only read by an ever reducing number of religious zealots, the Bible’s influence (though not necessarily its content) is very present on the contemporary stage. This means that a critical and informed understanding of the Bible (its texts, history, use) remains an essential part of education. It is therefore of great concern that the recent changes to GCSE Religious Education (RE) syllabi (in England and Wales), although placing a greater emphasis on the study of sacred texts, does not reflect recent developments within biblical studies and, at times, could reinforce negative stereotypical views. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that, at present, only one RE A-Level syllabus includes any in-depth component on the Bible. Consequently, Prof. Susan Docherty‘s article in the current edition of the British Journal of Religious Education is a very welcome and much needed call for a new dialogue to commence between biblical scholarship and the provision of RE in UK schools Continue reading

Weaponising Romans 13

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.

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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

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