Planning your journey Roman style!

Did you know that, in the Roman Period, it would take you roughly eight and half days to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus in the summer time (July) or that if you traveled from Antioch to Thessalonica during the winter it would have taken you only eleven days, which is four and a half days quicker than the same journey in summer? What if your journey from Jerusalem to Damascus entailed a lot of luggage? Travelling by oxcart would take you twenty-one and a half days and set you back nine denarii per kg  (based on transporting wheat)!

Welcome to Orbis: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World produced by Walter Scheidel and Elijah Meeks.

Screenshot from Orbis Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World showing the journey from Jerusalem to Damascus

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Lloyd Pietersen on ‘Does the Matthean Jesus really loves his enemies?’

It was a real joy to have Lloyd Pietersen with us recently to present a paper on ‘Does the Matthean Jesus really love his enemies?’ He was participating as part of the Humanities Research Group Seminar Series for the Newman Humanities Research Centre

Matt 5

(full text of paper available to download below)

Lloyd began by conceding that this was his first time presenting an academic paper on the Synoptics (or Matthew in particular) and that this was very much a work in progress. The focus was Jesus’ instruction in Matt 5:44 to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, from the Sermon on the Mount, and argued that this idea broadly conflicted with the canonical and non-canonical Jewish understanding of ‘enemy hatred’. Continue reading

‘And the fly is saying…’: On flies, the campus, and the Bible

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.

James Fly
Image by James Westwood

If I am in the minority among those living and working at Newman for rather relishing this phenomenon, I also have to concede that I appear to be a bit of an oddity where the ancients are concerned too! Flies appear to have been universally disliked, or at least, viewed as worthless pests and nuisances. Continue reading

The Lost World of Adam and Eve – book review

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015, pp. 256. £12.99. Pbk. ISBN: 978-0-8308-2461-8

A slightly shorter form of this book review first appeared in Reviews in Science and Religion 66 (Nov 2015) 37-44.

Initial caveat

Lost world of adam and eveFirst of all, it is important to recognise that this book has been written for a very specific target audience; conservative evangelicals who are troubled by claims that science contradicts Genesis 2-3. The context is firmly that of the science-creationist debate in the US. For readers outside the States, I would recommend that they read Walton’s impassioned and, at times, touching appeals towards the end (pp.207-208 and 209-210) as this will help to make sense of his rather eccentric emphases and omissions – as well as the idiosyncratic methodology and conclusions. Continue reading

Rewriting the Exodus – Susan Docherty

Rewriting the Exodus

Susan Docherty

Inaugural Professorial Lecture

Newman University, Birmingham, UK

23 May 2016

It was wonderful to celebrate with Sue her appointment as Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism here at Newman, and to recognise the quality of her scholarship and field of research. The theme of Sue’s inaugural professorial lecture was an often overlooked and little known 2nd century BCE text attributed to Ezekiel the Tragedian: The Exagoge. Written in iambic trimeter, it is a retelling in dramatic form of the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt. Sue’s presentation demonstrated how this text is a highly instructive example of the ways in which a text can be appropriated and adapted for different audiences and/or contexts. The lessons we can learn from the Exagoge can shed light on the reception and re-use of Hebrew and Christian biblical traditions throughout history.

Rewriting Exodus Panopto
Click on image to view Panopto recording of Sue’s lecture

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‘Rewriting the Exodus’ An Inaugural Lecture by Professor Susan Docherty

A warm invitation is extended to all to come and join with us to celebrate SUSAN DOCHERTY’S installation to Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism at Newman University, Birmingham

An Invitation to

The Inaugural Professorial Lecture

Presented by Professor Susan Docherty

‘Rewriting the Exodus’

Monday 23rd May 2016 – 5.30pm

Exodus Mizrahi image
‘Exodus’ – image courtesy of Judith Hassan Mizrahi

The biblical account of the Exodus has always been significant for Jews in constructing their history, identity and theology. The story of how God acted through Moses to free the Israelite slaves from their suffering in Egypt is, not surprisingly, retold in numerous Jewish writings throughout the centuries. Continue reading

Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity – Book Review

Do you want to know more about the world in which the Bible was produced… and I mean REALLY know more about it? Then this is going to be a real treat for you!

There are those treasured moments that one might almost believe that a publisher held a meeting to decide how they might produce a book to fit so perfectly with one’s interests that the only conclusion one can draw was that it was designed especially for you. It is almost as if it has been produced specifically for you. This is one of those moments… No it is more than that, because this is not just one book, but a whole multi-volume set of them!

Hendrickson is publishing a multi-part set of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity edited by Edwin Yamauchi and Marvin Wilson. Volume I (A-Da) and II (De-H) are already published and volume III (I-N) is due for US release in August (2016) and September in the UK. Continue reading

Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient World – Call for Papers

Call for papers: Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient World

The University of Birmingham and Newman University have jointly issued a call for papers and advance notice for their forthcoming ‘Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient Mediterranean World’.

 

Image from: Imagining Afterlife Conference website (click through for link)
Image from: Imagining Afterlife Conference website (click through for link)

Their call reads:

We invite paper proposals for an inter-disciplinary conference on the theme “Imagining the Afterlife in the Ancient Mediterranean World”, to take place in Birmingham, UK at the University of Birmingham and Newman University, 21-23 June 2016. Continue reading

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

Egypt in Israel: Research of Ancient Egypt News

When thinking about the world in which the Hebrew biblical texts were created we often look toward the great ‘superpowers’ that were amassed to the north of Israel; the empires of Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and then more latterly Greek and Roman. Quite often, we can overlook the enormous influence of the ‘superpower’ to the south; Egypt.

Israel was sandwiched between the power bases of two competing empires. It was precariously sited on a narrow and mountainous land bridge (with the Mediterranean sea to the west and arid deserts to the east) which were the main routes for trade and the mobilisation of the military. This meant that control of the Levant (the area in which Canaan/Israel was part) provided an important strategic and economic advantage. The histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are played out against this tense backdrop.

Ancient Egypt Magazine
Ancient Egypt Magazine

Consequently, anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the historical, social and political context of the Bible would benefit from the huge amount of archaeological and textual research of Egypt. Ancient Egypt Magazine is a particularly accessible and helpful resource. It is published bimonthly and is written by academics and postgraduate students for a general-interest market.

I was perusing the latest issue and two items in their ‘News’ section struck me as being of interest some readers of this blog. Continue reading