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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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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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

Public talk by Symon Hill on ‘The Up-Side Down Bible’

How is the Bible understood by someone reading it for the first time? What do people outside the church make of Jesus’ teaching? Do they hear a different message to the ones preached within the church? Can their understanding offer insights that we, who are more familiar with the texts and the underpinning layers of theological teaching, might miss?

We are delighted to have Symon Hill visit us on Thursday 7th April to talk about his latest book, The Up-Side Down Bible.  This book is the fruit of Symon’s work with using the Bible amongst groups of people who have no church background or awareness of traditional church interpretation.

Symon Hill

The Up-Side Down Bible

Thursday 7th April

5.00 – 6.00


Upside down bible slanted

When Symon Hill started writing a book about the parables of Jesus, he didn’t turn to commentaries and sermons, but to people who had never heard the words of Jesus before, including atheists, trade unionists and sex workers. The result is a revelation.

Ship of Fools feature

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Advance notice of ‘Rewriting the Exodus’ and other events

The Centre has a number of upcoming events that we are very excited about. More details will be appearing over the coming weeks.

After Easter time we will have cause for a double celebration. Firstly, we will be welcoming back to the fold, Susan Docherty (Head of Theology and  Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism here at Newman University). Sue has been working at Trinity College Glasgow since January following her award of the 2016 William Barclay Distinguished Research Fellowship in Biblical Studies. We will then also have a proper chance to formally celebrate her being conferred as professor when she gives her Inaugural Professorial Lecture in May. Continue reading

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!