The hidden assumptions of protestant secularism

I was browsing in a local bookshop yesterday, and noticed the growing range of titles in Dorling Kindersley’s “The ––– Book” series. I took a look at two that I hadn’t seen before: The Mythology Book and The Bible Book.

A couple of features drew my attention. In The Bible Book, it’s quite clear that the Bible we’re talking about is the Protestant Bible.  There is not a single hint in the table of contents that the deuterocanonical / apocryphal books exist. In the introduction it says bluntly (and very conservatively in its dating): Continue reading “The hidden assumptions of protestant secularism”

The language of the Old Testament

I’ve been flicking through the pages of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, looking to see whether I should include it on a booklist as an introduction to textual criticism. I probably will, despite the mood indicated in its somewhat mischievous title. Ehrman is more balanced in practice than he is in rhetoric.

He is, however, occasionally careless. I was stopped in my tracks by his early reference to “Hebrew (the language of the Christian Old Testament)” (p5). Is that historically misleading?

It is true the books which Jews and Christians both own as Scripture were largely written in Hebrew, although a couple of portions were written in Aramaic. But until the time of the Reformation, no major Christian group seems to have treated that collection as the Old Testament.

For most Christians up to that point, and still for many today (a majority – depending on how you count), the phrase  “Old Testament” did not indicate the same collection of books as “Hebrew Bible”. Books like Wisdom, written in Greek, were also typically included. And the editions of the books were different. Jeremiah was shorter in Greek, Daniel was longer. Hebrew Esther famously doesn’t mention God, the Greek “second edition” corrects this theological anomaly.

From St Paul onwards, it was typically the Greek versions of Jewish books that were quoted as Scripture. It was the Greek books that made up the Christian “Old Testament”.  Even Protestants who rejected some of those books, kept the Greek (and Latin) order in which the books were gathered – the shelving classification of the scriptural library. The Protestant Old Testament was a new hybrid: Hebrew Bible books in Greek Bible order.

But it raises the question: can we really call Hebrew the language of the Christian Old Testament? Or is Bart Ehrman revealing that despite being agnostic about God, when it comes to the Bible, he is – unreflectively – a Protestant agnostic?

Lead us not up the creek without a paddle


It struck me that yesterday’s gospel goes some way to disagreeing with Pope Francis. Shortly before Christmas he was widely reported as saying that the line of the Lord’s Prayer “Lead us not into temptation” was a poor translation.

Father Marco Pozza told the pope that friends have asked him, “Can God really lead us into temptation?”
“This is not a good translation,” the pope said. …

Francis told Father Pozza, “I’m the one who falls. But it’s not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall. No, a father does not do this. A father helps us up immediately.”

There was a flurry of publicity and some immediate pushback. Continue reading “Lead us not up the creek without a paddle”

Hymns for Lent

I’ve found that Lent has comparatively few hymns for such a lengthy season. In the past I’ve posted drafts of several new ones of my own attempting, and I thought I might gather the links here in case anyone is looking for something different.

From time to time I try on a minor revision, and any comments are welcome below. (You won’t be able to leave a comment on the original posts, as I close comments after 30 days.)

The Wright – Hart smackdown on idiosyncratic Bible translation

Three months ago I commented somewhat dyspeptically on the imminent arrival of yet another Bible translation, this time by David Bentley Hart.

Now it has appeared, and almost immediately its author is embroiled in a reviewing spat with Tom Wright. Wright offered a fairly scathing review of Bentley Hart’s New Testament translation in The Christian Century. Now Bentley Hart has responded by issuing an equally scathing rebuttal, and review of Wright’s 2011 translation on a blog run by fellow Orthodox scholar Fr Kimel. Continue reading “The Wright – Hart smackdown on idiosyncratic Bible translation”

Resources for Holocaust Memorial Day

I’ve been working on our local Holocaust Memorial Day planning, which Worcestershire Interfaith Forum has organised here for the last few years. This year’s national theme is “The Power of Words”, and there are some really helpful resources available on the HMD Trust website.

Here I’m offering a couple of supplementary resources that I’ve been working on for our local commemoration. Please feel free to make use of them under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC Licence. (I owe the music in the video to a creative commons licensed recording by Daniel Veesey which he’s also placed in the public domain.)  Continue reading “Resources for Holocaust Memorial Day”

Chaplaincy: a pioneer ministry?

I’ve been reading A Christian Theology of Chaplaincy. The title is something of a misnomer, as Andrew Todd, one of the editors, effectively acknowledges in his conclusion: rather than “a definitive theology”, it’s a range of “contextual responses”. (p159)

It’s an important area of mission and ministry, and that’s underlined by the figures from a report Todd co-authored (PDF) for the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. According to that piece of research, in 2013 there were 1415 reported chaplains, of whom 516 were ordained Anglicans paid by the institutions other than the Church of England, and another similarly paid 209 part time chaplains. The Church of England itself paid an additional 47 full-time and 121 part-time. That represents a substantial proportion of the numbers of the ordained. (The 2016 official statistics (PDF) don’t offer this precise breakdown, but reveal that 15% of licensed clergy work outside parish ministries, of whom over half are in chaplaincy.) Yet there is very little written about such a key plank of ministry, than there is about its sexy younger sibling “pioneer ministry”, though both are equally about approaches arising outside the church and parish context. Continue reading “Chaplaincy: a pioneer ministry?”

A blue plaque for Jesus

Having been given the title “A blue plaque nativity” for a talk to kick off one parish’s thinking about Christmas, I decided to start the talk with such a plaque, and the question of what people would put on it. One feature, of course, which makes it such a good way in to the gospel narratives, is that a blue plaque is always about event and interpretation.

Anyway, this is what I came up with for my discussion starter.

Throwing Cranmer out at Constantinople

It seems the agreed statement of the Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission last month has barely been noticed. (The story is here, the picture above is the official photo of the statement’s signing, and the statement – PDF – is here.) Possibly this is because it only talked about revising the creed, rather than about sex. However, since it cites as accepted theological agreement previous statements which likewise sunk without trace, perhaps it too is seeking to become doctrine by stealth.

Now, that’s a tendentious way to put it, but – apart from previous statements read only by the cognoscenti – it rides on the back of little more than a Lambeth Conference motion (Lambeth Conference 1978 Resolution 35.3) which requested Continue reading “Throwing Cranmer out at Constantinople”

Biblical Studies Carnival for October 2017

Welcome to the Carnival

Coming back to host a Biblical Studies Carnival many years after I last did so (but that was on another website and besides the blog is dead), I’m struck by how much things have changed. The biggest of those changes – at least as I see it – over the intervening years is the present lack of interaction among bloggers compared to the past.

From time to time in recent years there has been an occasional flurry of posts, when the big beasts of the bibliobloggging jungle have bestirred themselves, but those are rare and tied to controversies like the Gospel of Jesus Wife, or the Jordanian Lead Codices.

No such major alleged forgery has brought bloggers together around the same topic in October, and so this carnival is a personal selection of largely disconnected posts (with one or two actual interactive conversations) that have for one reason or another caught my eye. (A note of thanks is owed to Bob MacDonald who was helpful in drawing a number of posts to my attention, many of which I have included below.)

So, on with the Carnival. I hope you find it informative, and even, possibly, just slightly entertaining. Continue reading “Biblical Studies Carnival for October 2017”