Friday, 26 December 2008

David Andrew Thomas - Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context

Review for JSNT forthcoming 2009

Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context

David Andrew Thomas

Peter Lang: New York, 2008, 978-1-4331-0252-3, xii + 201 hb

The Jewish background to the book of Revelation is well-attested, but David Thomas asserts that John also has the Greco-Roman world firmly in mind, creatively fusing elements from both traditions to construct images of great force for his Jewish and Gentile readers alike. Although usually interpreted in the light of the Divine Warrior myth from the Old Testament (Isa. 63), Thomas compellingly suggests that John’s description of the Rider on the White Horse from Rev. 19.11-21 also bears many of the hallmarks of a Roman triumphal procession. Highlighting the significance of the Nero redivivus myth, in which the dead emperor returns to Rome as the ‘great king’ (19.16) at the head of a Parthian invasion force, Thomas demonstrates how the Christological Rider on the White Horse offers a polemical counter-vision to this Neronian claim to immortal triumph.

The vision of the Rider on the White Horse is a key image within the book of Revelation, and David Thomas proves to be a sure guide to the Greco-Roman background of this crucial passage. Out of his exploration emerges a strong re-reading of the text, with John’s depiction of the Rider as Christus Triumphator offering a powerful counter-claim to the imperial divine pretensions of successive emperors. John’s characterisation of Christ as the triumphant Anti-Nero is seen to relativise the satanic aspirations of the imperial cult, whilst simultaneously anticipating the eschatological triumphal return of the one who was slain and yet still lives.

D. Densil Morgan - Wales and the Word

Review for the Baptist Quarterly forthcoming 2009.

D. Densil Morgan. 2008. Wales and the Word: Historical perspectives on religion and Welsh identity. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 978-0-7083-2121-8, x + 262 hb.

As an Englishman called to minister in Wales, I came to this masterful ‘insider’ study as an ‘friendly outsider’ seeking points of entry to the culture of my calling. In a collection of essays, some here in print for the first time, D. Densil Morgan traces the story of Welsh Dissent from the establishment of the first Baptist church in Ilston on the Gower peninsula in 1649, to the twenty-first century context of contemporary Welsh Baptist witness. On this journey of three-and-a-half centuries, Wales has seen change on the grand scale: from a predominantly rural and pastoral setting to growth, prosperity and industrialisation; from decline and social hardship to political independence and economic resurgence. These social changes have had their effects on the life of the church, and Morgan introduces his readers to some fascinating characters who have played their part in the ongoing story of change and adaptation within the Baptist churches of Wales.

Morgan shows how both the seventeenth century evangelist John Myles and the dramatic revivalist preacher Christmas Evans (1766-1838) left their enduring legacies in terms of both church growth and spiritual vitality, while Owen Thomas and Llewelyn Ioan Evans provided a depth of engagement with theological developments beyond Wales. Further essays chart the development of evangelicalism, the relationship between Baptist identity and Welsh national consciousness, the influence of Karl Barth, the spirituality of D. Gwenallt Jones, the legacy of Celtic Christianity, and an overview of recent historians of Welsh Protestant Nonconformity. The collection concludes with a reflection on ‘The essence of Welshness’ which brings the story up-to-date. Morgan remains realistic about the challenges facing contemporary Welsh Baptists, noting recent numerical decline and lamenting a ‘dearth of theological creativity in the churches’. However, through his account of those who have sought to equip and envision Welsh Baptists of previous generations, Morgan points to the everlasting gospel as a source of hope for those called to Welsh Baptist life in the twenty-first century.

Dennis Bustin - Paradox and Perseverance

Review for the Baptist Quarterly - Forthcoming 2009.

Bustin, Dennis C. Paradox and Perseverance: Hanserd Knollys, Particular Baptist Pioneer in Seventeenth-Century England. Vol. 23, Studies in Baptist History and Thought. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006.

Hanserd Knollys was one of the great Baptist characters of the seventeenth century. From his confrontational and popular preaching during the turbulent civil war years, to his wise and enlightened leadership exercised in London through protectorate, restoration and glorious revolution, his influence runs like a thread through the formative years of the Particular Baptist movement. Steadfast under persecution, creative in exegesis, and pastoral in intent, Knollys comes to life once again through the pages of Dennis Bustin’s excellent and scholarly work.

Bustin vividly revisits Knollys’ theological and geographical journey: from Lincolnshire clergyman, to New England refugee, to London Particular Baptist pastor, demonstrating how the various influences upon him led to his adoption of a Puritan position. The consequences of this journey are then explored, as Knollys’ struggles to demonstrate the theological legitimacy of his position. He is seen to take a middle path, affirming congregational government and believer’s baptism, but distancing himself from the radical sects which often overlapped with Baptist life. With the restoration came a renewal of persecution, and Bustin demonstrates how Knollys sought to understand the turbulent events of these decades against the apocalyptic schemes of the Book of Revelation. However, with the accession of William and Mary, Knollys’ eschatological speculation gave way to his concern for church order and doctrine, and Bustin shows how in his later years Knollys was able to gift the Particular Baptists stability of both institution and doctrine.

Bustin’s work is a lively and readable account, which contributes not only to our understanding of this fascinating historical character, but also to our appreciation of the paradoxical times in which he lived. Knollys is shown to be one who came through the seventeenth century with perseverance, one who endured faithfully to the end, overcoming times of tribulation and persecution. Rev. 21.7.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Guild of Biblical Minimalists

Happy Christmas one and all.
News: I'm honoured to have been appointed Welsh Liaison officer for the Guild of Biblical Minimalists.

Friday, 19 December 2008

A Christmas Confession

I didn't know what 'Noel' meant...

So I checked the OED, and, apparently...

Anglo-Norman and Middle French noel (French noël).

Attested as a surname (and male forename) in England from the 12th cent. (probably originally used for children born or baptized on Christmas day).

1. The feast of Christmas; Christmastide; = Nowell n. 1. rare.
Not in standard use in English, though sometimes used in Anglicized greetings based on French models (see quot. 1953) and as an alternative spelling for Nowell (see quot. 2000).

1435 in H. Nicolas Proc. & Ordin. Privy Council (1835) IV. 295 To be paied by him for {th}e wages..fro {th}e feste of Seint Michel last unto Noel {th}anne next folowyng by a quarter. 1953 K. TYNAN Let. 19 Dec. (1994) iii. 199 Thank you again, and a joyous noël. 2000 Christmas TAB: First Noel in (Usenet newsgroup) 12 Dec., The First Noel. Note: In the chorus, finger the A* chords with fingers 2,3 & 4. It'll make those melody notes on the first string so much easier!

2. A Christmas carol.

1786 T. BUSBY Compl. Dict. Music, Noels, certain canticles, or songs of joy, formerly sung at Christmas in the country churches in France. 1880 Grove's Dict. Music II. 462 The French Noëls will, of course, bear no comparison with those written in Italy in point of excellence. 1903 Speaker 3 Jan. 324/2 The singing of noels must be heard to be really appreciated. 1946 Trollopian 2 6 He was ahead of his age in liking the genuinely popular in music: such folk songs as Noels, ‘Aileen Aroon’, chanties of sailors and dredgers, songs of harvest home. 1980 Early Music Apr. 259/1 The Noël, a peculiarly French genre consisting of a series of variations on popular Christmas tunes of the day, was developed in the first half of the 18th century by Daquin and others. 2000 Columbia Encycl. (ed. 6) 8529 Carols of French origin are called noels.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Primal Fear - Seven Seals

For those who love a bit of Germanic Power Metal, here's Primal Fear and their Revelation-themed song 'Seven Seals'.
HT Martyn, who is a bit of a 'dark horse'... (better that than a pale one!)

The time has come, the end is near
A fire storm
The curse is done, my search is over
The altar of souls

Don’t wanna be the one to live in fear
Seven angels getting near
Don’t wanna be the one, get out of here
With moonlight’s calling

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
And seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
The seven seals will break

From peace tough death, holy and true
The noise of thunder
The skies of Hell unfell to Earth
Another wonder

Don’t wanna be the one to live in fear
Seven angels getting near
Don’t wanna be the one, get out of here
With moonlight’s calling

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
As no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

Women in ministry

A huge thank you to all those who are helping me compile this resource for the BUGB Task Group on Women in Leadership. Further suggestions are greatly welcome...

Women in Ministry resources

Highlighted articles / books are those which I am aware of, but do not yet have copies of. If anyone is able to send me photocopies of the relevant chapters / articles I would be very grateful!

British Baptist Papers


Briggs, John H. Y. 1986. She-preachers, widows and other women: The Feminine dimension in Baptist life since 1600. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Briggs, John H. Y. 1994. English Baptists of the Nineteenth Century: Baptist Union of Great Britain. pp.278ff.

Gouldbourne, Ruth. 1997. Reinventing the Wheel: Women and Ministry in English Baptist Life, The Whitley Lecture. Oxford: Whitley Publications.

Jarman, Margaret. 1986. Attitudes to Women in Baptist Churches in the Mid 1980s. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Morris, Nicola. 2002. Sisters of the People: The Order of Baptist Deaconesses 1890-1975. In Centre for Comparitave Studies in Religion and Gender. Bristol: University of Bristol.

Randall, Ian. 2005. The English Baptists of the Twentieth Century: The Baptist Historical Society.

Smith, Karen E. 1991. Beyond Public and Private Spheres: Another look at women in Baptist history and historiography. Baptist Quarterly 34: 2.

Smith, Karen E. 1992. The Role of Women in Early Baptist Missions. Review and Expositor 89: 1.

Smith, Karen E. 2005. British Women and the Baptist World Alliance: Honoured Partners and Fellow Workers. Baptist Quarterly 41: 1.

Smith, Karen E. 2005. Forgotten Sisters: The Contributions of Some Notable but Un-noted British Baptist Women. In Recycling the Past or Researching History: Studies in Baptist Historiography and Myths, edited by P. E. Thompson and A. R. Cross. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press.

Wilson, Linda. 2000. Constrained by Zeal: Female Spirituality Amongst Nonconformists, 1825-75, Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Carlisle: Paternoster Press.


Baptist Union of Great Britain. 1980. Free Indeed: Discussion Material on the Role of Women and Men in the Church: Mission Department.

Beasley-Murray, G.R. 1983. Man and Woman in the Church: Ministry Department, Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Dex, Shirley. 1986. The Church’s Response to Feminism. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Few, Jenny. 2000. Hats and WI(w)GS: Personal Reflections of the Baptist Union Women's Working Group. In Theology in Context. Oxford: Whitley Publications.

Fiddes, Paul S. 1986. 'Women’s head is man': A doctrinal reflection upon a Pauline text. Baptist Quarterly 31: 8.

Ibbotson, Stephen. 2008. Following the trajectory – eschatological hermeneutic and gender.

Lehman, Edward. 1986. Reactions to Women in Ministry: A Survey of English Baptist Church Members. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Matthews, Ruth. 1986. God, Women and Men: Language and Imagery. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

McCarthy, Carol. 1986. Ordained and Female. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

O'Brien, Vivienne. 2008. Men and Women in Ministry.

Took, Pat. 2008. 'In His Image'. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 300.

Troughton, Tricia. 2006. Women, Baptists & Ordination. Didcot: Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Winter, Sean. 2007. God's Inclusive Story. Talk Magazine.

Woodman, Simon. 2006. A Biblical Basis for Affirming Women in Ministry - Part 1. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 296: 4:8-13.

Woodman, Simon. 2007. A Biblical Basis for Affirming Women in Ministry - Part 2. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 297: 1:10-15.

Practical / Pastoral

Eakins, Adam. 2008. 'That Joke Isn't Funny Any More'.

Ibbotson, Stephen. 2006. Emerging or Submerging. Talk Magazine.

Kilpin, Juliet. 2008. Tough questions for all our churches.

Lees, Kate. 2007. Reflecting on the journey so far. Talk Magazine.

Mainstream North. 2007. The Blackley Declaration.

Men, Women and God.

Rand, Stephen. 2007. "Can anyone here play the piano better than my wife?" Talk Magazine.

White, Rob. 2007. Mr. and Mrs. Talk Magazine.


Baker, Jenny. Women and Men in Ministry.

Baker, Jenny. 2003. Women in Ministry: Re-examining the Biblical Pattern. YouthWorker Journal May/June.

Bell, John. 2006. God and Man and Woman. Double Image: The Bulletin of Men Women and God 11.1.

Campbell, Douglas A. 1996. The Call to Serve: Essays on Ministry in Honour of Bishop Penny Jamieson: Continuum.

Campbell, Douglas A. 2003. Gospel and Gender: A Trinitarian Engagement with Being Male and Female in Christ: T&T Clark.

Fletcher, Anthony. 1995. Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500-1800. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Gurney, Ann, Mary Tanner, Rosemary Nixon, Esther de Waal, and Myrtle Langley. 1983. Women in Training: a report of a working party set up by women staff members of theological colleges & courses. In accm occasional paper.

Jones, Ian, Janet Wootton, and Kirsty Thorpe. 2008. Women and Ordination in the Christian Churches: International Perspectives: T&T Clark.

Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation: Abingdon Press.

Ward, Rosie. 2008. Growing Women Leaders: nurturing women's leadership in the Church: Bible Reading Fellowship / CPAS.

Watson, Francis. 2000. The Authority of the Voice: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor 11.2-16. New Testament Studies 46:520-536.

Watson, Francis. 2008. Agape, Eros, Gender: Towards a Pauline Sexual Ethic. New ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wootton, Janet. 2007. This Is Our Story: Free Church Women's Ministry Epworth.

Wright, N. T. 2004. Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis. In Men, Women and the Church. St John’s College, Durham.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

An unnamed woman

Today I am off to a meeting of the Baptist Union Task Group on Women In Ministry. So, a thought about an unnamed woman…

John 4:15-19 (NRSV)
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.

My received reading:
The woman at the well is a sinner, and Jesus exposes her sin, offering her the living water of a new and less sinful way of life. By this reading, she is a serial user of men, she is profligate, objectified, adulterous, and her encounter with Jesus’ mysterious knowledge of her circumstances is what paves the way for her to change her sinful ways.

But what if:
She is not a sinner at all. What if she is a victim? Passed from man to man like piece of property, and currently owned by one who will not even give her the legal security of marriage. What if Jesus’ statement of her circumstances is not offered in judgment, but compassion? Her task is to fetch water for her partner and his family, a task symbolic of her broader enslavement. What if Jesus’ gift of living water is the gift of equality? She draws water for him, he gives water to her. His gift elicits change, yes, but not in the way it is often understood. The gift of equality means that she no longer needs to ‘keep coming here to draw water’, because she is no longer property. She is herself.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Latest review of my book

Andy Goodliff has reviewed my book on his blog.

Here's what he says:

SCM are to be congratulated on this series of Core Texts (see also Mike Higton on Christian Doctrine, Karen Smith on Christian Spirituality and Brian Brock and John Swinton's forthcoming addition on Disability Theology), which are readable and on a certain level introductory, but not without merit as important contributions to scholarship themselves.

Revelation brings out highly contested to outright ridiculous readings and so Simon Woodman is to be thanked for providing an introduction to the book of Revelation that is measured and helpful. Woodman appears to have read, if not every, almost every, book on Revelation and provides the reader with an interesting array of different voices that have interpreted the text both recently and historically.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is an introduction the book, different ways it may be read, some of the key issues of debate and an overview of Revelation chapter by chapter. Part two is called 'Meeting the Characters' and this is an excellent introduction to all the different and many characters. Characters are grouped together - so Jesus, God and the Spirit; the people of God (i.e. the saints, the elders, the multitude, etc); the inhabitants of heaven and earth; and the forces of evil. There is a brief character study on each, drawing in Old Testament background, as well how the character is depicted or developed within the book. (Buy the book just for part two alone). Part three consists of three chapters that engage with the imagery and how the message of the book may have been heard by its first readers (and listeners) and those of us reading and hearing it today. This final section works in many ways as a piece of pastoral theology, showing how Revelation itself is ultimately a letter of pastoral care.

In recent years, the likes of Richard Bauckham and other scholars, have helped rescue Revelation from the fanatical and fanciful readings that either mean people read too much into the book or don't read it all. Simon Woodman's book is a welcome contribution to that endeavour. The Book of Revelation helps explain the often confusing nature of Revelation and gives us new avenues for its speaking to us today. So as the blurb on the back says, this SCM Core Text seeks to bridge the gap between academic and popular and is written with theology students, ministers and anyone who is interested in grappling with Revelation in mind. As I may have said before, the mark of a good piece of theology is its readability and this is very readable, accessible and interesting. I can't recommend it any more highly. I look forward to future books from Simon Woodman (especially because he's a baptist).

Hopeful Imagination

Today I'm posting over at Hopeful Imagination.
If you've not been following this seasonal blog, now is the chance to climb on board...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Baptist Hermeneutics Colloquium

Final preparations are under way for the forthcoming colloquium on Baptist hermeneutics, which Helen Dare and I are organising for mid-January. There are some exciting abstracts coming in, which are being posted on the colloquium website here.

My own abstract is:
The Dissenting Voice: Journeying together towards a Baptist hermeneutic
On the subject of scriptural interpretation, the Baptist Union of Great Britain Declaration of Principle states ‘that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret…’ However, when the (Baptist) Dissenting community read scripture, the question inevitably arises of what to do with the dissenting voice? Or, to put it another way, how are interpretative differences to be handled? The community-based model of interpretative authority developed by Stanley Fish finds many resonances with the Baptist approach to scriptural interpretation, and this paper explores ways in which Fish’s approach can inform the development of a Baptist hermeneutic. Central to this task is the mechanism by which ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ readings are evaluated, and the role which communication plays in the emergence of an authoritative voice.
However, Fish’s approach poses a fundamental theological question regarding the authority of scripture: If the responsibility for interpretation rests solely with the reader and the reading community, in what sense is the ‘word of God’ to be considered authoritative? In answer, Karl Barth’s understanding of ‘the witness of the Holy Spirit’ in the community of readers is explored. By this account, the practice of community interpretation becomes, not an interpretative free-for-all, but an exercise in holy listening, with the possibility emerging of the voice of dissension being heard as the voice of the Spirit, speaking to the community from beyond its boundary. In this way the Baptist Dissenting voice is one which is inevitably and gloriously defined by interpretative diversity, as the Word of God speaks afresh to each new situation.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Love came down at Christmas

I've long been a fan of Christina Rossetti's religious poetry. Goblin Market is a brilliant allegory, which captivated me as a child long before I realised the significance of its imagery (!)
In the Bleak Midwinter has been my favourite Christmas carol for many years.
This morning, in church, we were introduced to a modern version of her other Christmas classic, Love Came Down at Christmas, by Jars of Clay. Here it is for your enjoyment...
And whoever said it had to be a donkey???

Saturday, 13 December 2008

John the Revelator - Depeche Mode

Thanks to John Lyons for a fantastic heads-up on the Depeche Mode version of the classic song John the Revelator:

John the Revelator
Put him in an elevator
Take him up to the highest high
Take him up to the top where the mountains stop
Let him tell his book of lies

John the Revelator
He's a smooth operator
It's time we cut him down to size
Take him by the hand
And put him on the stand
Let us hear his alibis

By claiming God - As his holy right
He's stealing a God from the Israelites
Stealing a God from a Muslim, too
There is only one God through and through
Seven lies, multiplied by seven, multiplied by seven again
Seven angels with seven trumpets
Send them home on the morning train
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
All he ever gives us is pain
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
He should bow his head in shame

By and by
By and by
By and by
By and by

Seven lies, multiplied by seven, multiplied by seven again
Seven angels with seven trumpets
Send them home on the morning train
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
All he ever gives us is pain
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
He should bow his head in shame

By and by
By and by
John the Revelator
By and by
John the Revelator
By and by
John the Revelator

Or alternatively, for a fascinating re-working of the same song, in which John the Revelator is put firmly back into the anti-imperial political arena, take a look at the following.
If Carly Simon identifies New York with New Jerusalem, here the alternative identification of Washington with Babylon could not be more clear. Is it possible that the book of Revelation ultimately emerges intact from Depeche Mode's lake of fire?

Come, the New Jerusalem

Carly Simon's eschatological cry in 'Let the River Run'...

I love the symbolism of the New York skyline. It's the American Dream, baby!

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You've never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

From the soundtrack to the film 'Working Girl'

For more on Revelation in Contemporary Culture see here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A Question

Does the Kingdom of Heaven operate a 'three strikes and you're out' rule?

Monday, 8 December 2008

The funny things people write in exams and essays

The following are all genuine material from exams and essays which I have marked over the last few years.
  • Paul tells the Genitals in Galatians that if they adopt circumcision they should just go the whole way and castrate themselves.
  • Walter Buggerman [should be ‘Walter Brueggemann’]
  • Rudolph Buttman [should be ‘Rudolph Bultmann’]
  • The Psalms are a section of the Old Testament which are often called “scared songs”
  • The Abyssinian Empire attacked northern Israel in the 8th Century BCE
  • Acts 15 describes how Paul and Peter debated at the Apoplectic council of Jerusalem.
  • The doctrine of the vaginal conception explains how God came into the world and became man.
  • As Paul says in collations 1:18…
  • The influence of Jewish Christina can be detected here.
  • Marconi was an early church theologian.
  • At the Passover meal, John has Jesus wash the disciples’ food.
  • In his article “On Dispensing with Q”, Austin Farrar agues that scholars should dispense with Q.
  • Philippi was originally in Greenland, however it became Romanised after the land was won during battle.
  • When discussing the Old Testament, perhaps it is best to first define what constitutes the Old Testament. It is the first five books of the Bible.
  • The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synaptic gospels because they all think in the same way.
  • Irene, writing in 200AD…
  • Mark is very keen to show that the old convenient was now over
  • Jesus told cryptic parables in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. [cf. Mt. 3.12]
  • The parable of the sower crops up in all three synoptic gospels.
  • The psalms are a collection of songs which can be classified according to the work of Hermann Garfunkel
  • John’s gospel has seven masonic signs.
  • Indeed, almost all know of perhaps the most famous ‘false’ Jewish prophet: Jesus Christ.
  • The Psalms were composed after the Babylion Exile.

The funny things people say in prayer meetings

Pre-service prayer meetings, whilst in theory good and Godly occasions, are frequently a source of minor amusement for me. Yesterday gave me three great examples:

"We thank you God that you contracted to a span" was used twice by two different people. It's not a phrase I've ever come across before, and when I checked with my brethren-upbringing wife, she'd never heard it either. I've googled it and apparently it's a line from a hymn by Charles Wesley, but certainly not one I've ever sung! "Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made Man."

"We pray for those who are sick of our fellowship and dying, that you would undertake most wondrously for them" is something of a classic, but I kid you not, it was said exactly as I report it here.

"We pray for all true churches across our land, and we beseech you that the full number of those whom you have fore-ordained to attend will come". Which begs the question, what's the point of the prayer?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What have the Romans ever done for us?

In their superb book on Revelation, 'Unveiling Empire', Howard-Brook and Gwyther comment: 'If it is difficult to penetrate the cultural, economic, and political forces that shape our media and go on under our very noses, how much more difficult is it to discover the social forces that shaped the media of ancient societies? This has been a major problem in the historical investigation of ancient cultures, particularly that of ancient Rome. There has been a tendency for ancient Roman historians to accept at face value the claims made in the various imperial media. This has resulted in the writing of "history" that has stressed the benefits of Roman rule. These historians have typically praised Roman law, its prosperity, its establishment of peace across a large sector of the known world, and its roads and communications. Not surprisingly, it is these aspects of Rome that were lauded by those who were friends of the emperors. In describing Rome as beneficent, these historians have merely recycled the words of thsoe who acted as public relations personnel for the empire!' (pp.87-8).
Or, as Python put it in the Life of Brian...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


I'm sure I'm not the only one to see the humour in the acronym of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons, who have today issued a warning that the 'NHS is having to pick up the tab for cosmetic surgery performed abroad that has gone wrong'.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

'Revelation' by C.J. Sansom

The latest novel by C.J. Sansom, 'Revelation', is an excellent read and worth adding to your Christmas list. It also features in my ongoing quest to document the book of Revelation in contemporary culture.
I first encountered the hero of this book, Matthew Shardlake, in the wonderful 'Sovereign', and here he returns to confront a serial killer obsessed with playing out the prophecies of the book of Revelation.