Sunday, 29 November 2009

Top ten biblical deaths

John Lyons asks for suggestions towards a 'top 10' of biblical deaths.

Here's my list (NB I have omitted the death of Jesus on the grounds of cliché).
  1. Death by hailstone: Joshua 10:11 As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.
  2. Death on a campsite: Judges 4:21 Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground -- he was lying fast asleep from weariness -- and he died.
  3. Death by sexism: Judges 9:53-54 But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armor and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.'" So the young man thrust him through, and he died.
  4. Death by man: Judges 20:5-6 The lords of Gibeah rose up against me, and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she died. Then I took my concubine and cut her into pieces, and sent her throughout the whole extent of Israel's territory; for they have committed a vile outrage in Israel.
  5. Death by lack of perspective: 1 Samuel 4:17-18 The messenger replied, "Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great slaughter among the troops; your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured." When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli1 fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died.
  6. Death by loyalty: 1 Samuel 31:5 When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.
  7. Death by stomach upset: 2 Chronicles 21:18-19 After all this the LORD struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony.
  8. Death by idolatry: Acts 12:23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
  9. Death by environmental devastations: Revelation 16:3 The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.
  10. Death of Death: Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;

Monday, 23 November 2009

The News Quiz on Thought For The Day

As an occasional contributor to Radio 2's Pause for Thought, my ears pricked up when Radio 4's The News Quiz offered comment on the recent debate about whether Atheists should contribute to Thought For The Day.

Highlights include:
  • I hate Dawkins, he's a fundamentalist atheist. He's a Jehovah's-I-Never-Saw-Nothin'
And the wonderful cliched TFTD/PFT opening line of:
  • I was mowing the lawn, and I thought, this is just like Jesus!

Anyway, you can listen to the clip here:

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Some Good Advice from Bishop Alan

revmusings points to this great post from Bishop Alan:

30 years ordained this year, and someone asked me what I thought I’d learnt. That conversation gave birth to a few stray thoughts on the back of an envelope. It would be rather grand to call them laws of Vicaring, but here goes (in no particular order of importance):
  1. If someone says Jesus has healed their wooden leg, rejoice, but be sure to kick them in the shins first, just to make sure.

  2. If you get away with it and it works, fine. If it doesn’t and they catch you, just cough up cheerfully and enjoy all the times you got away with it

  3. Do the job you’re doing now with all your heart, not the one you used to do in your last parish, or hope to do in your next. Time flies when you’re having fun...

  4. Don't ask until you’ve worked out the question. Only ask people questions they are likely to answer in the way you want. Also, Don't ask when the baby is due until the new lady in Church has actually told you she is pregnant. Never ask a Lawyer “Can we do this?” The question is always “How can we do this?”

  5. Pick up the bloody phone! (This applies to outgoing as well as incoming calls)

  6. You do not have their P45's in your back pocket, so always explain, always apologise

  7. Make the other lot line up with their own rulebook, and have a go at doing so yourself before you propose change

  8. Be extremely loyal to your predecessors. They are your most powerful secret weapon, along with people who pray quietly at home.

  9. Schedule your free time as zealously as you would a funeral. Your family are the closest members of the body of Christ. Strive not to be toxic to them, and remember they didn't ask to have you for a parent.

  10. Beware Grand Designs, especially your own. Dolus latet in generalibus — the Devil's in the detail, along with the delight...

  11. You can't argue with whining, but you can with anger. Damaged, angry people have their own reward. Bless ’em all.

  12. Rigid faith is often brittle. In the Kingdom the first often come last and the last first. You are not God's minders, or managers, but guides who should strive to be reliable and trustworthy (I Corinthians 4)

  13. You inherited far more than you realise. Before you go buy a new tool, check the old toolbox you seldom use and nine times out of ten you've already got one. Revolution by tradition!

  14. All constructive change works from the inside out — “You can sleep in the Garage, but it don't make you an automobile” (Billy Graham?)

  15. This job is about the how and why of people’s lives, including your own. You accomlish far more long term than you think, and far less in the here and now: “I think I've far exceeded what I ever thought I could possibly do. I'm almost shocked that I'm still around after all these years . . . and always grateful that I get another turn to do something.” (Billy Crystal)
So... what extra rules for ministry would you add to Bishop Alan's list?

I'll add 'Laurie's First and Second Laws of Church Dynamics', named in honour of an elder at my former church:
  • Church members aren't stupid, you know.
  • The response you get from the deacons will mirror the response you get from the church meeting.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Mass We Pray

At last! A truly Christian game for the Wii...

The blurb says:
"The wireless CROSS controller detects movement in three dimensions. Every twist of the hand and nuance of a blessing is re-created on-screen. Then add the KNEELER accessory and get off the couch and into the action."

See the video advert here

If only I had a Wii...

Thanks to the Bellinghams for spotting this.

Some more reviews of my book

A couple of reviews of my Revelation book have come my way in recent weeks; so here they are for posterity:

The Epworth Review, July 2009
Revelation is a passionate book, which over the centuries has evoked a passionate, and sometimes dangerously unbalanced, enthusiasm in its readers. Simon Woodman is a self-confessed enthusiast about Revelation, but his enthusiasm is informed by a meticulous scholarship and a clear wish to allow his readers to draw their own conclusions. Woodman is a skilled teacher (he is a tutor at a Baptist theological college), and he is an excellent guide to what remains for many readers of the Bible unexplored territory.
The Book of Revelation has been written with second- and third-year university students in mind, and has a wealth of footnotes as well as diagrams and tables, but its lively and accessible style, and its concern with today’s context, makes it an engaging read also for the non-specialist reader.
After three relatively short introductory chapters, the book’s central section is entitled ‘Meeting the Characters’, in which the dramatic character of Revelation and the interplay between heaven and earth as the scene of action, is well presented. A final section, ‘Engaging the Imagery’, takes the reader through the whole of Revelation; its thematic headings (‘Heaven’s perspective on . . . the church, prayer, history’ and so on ) do not do justice to Revelation’s very complex structure, but the text contains a wealth of useful commentary material.
Woodman is aware that not everyone shares his enthusiasm for Revelation, and though his usual method is to present the evidence and leave his readers to assess it for themselves, he does seek to defend Revelation against those who have found its lurid descriptions of judgement offensive. His argument that these passages represent a cry for deliverance rather than for vengeance is largely convincing, although some readers will not be wholly convinced that Woodman has dealt adequately with the difficult idea of ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ or Revelation’s apparent delight in retribution when oppressors are ‘given . . . blood to drink. It is their due!’
Overall, however, this book is to be warmly commended. It is well written. It is a mine of information for preachers and for students. And it consistently encourages us to decide how we respond to Revelation’s vision.
Christina Le Moignan.

Regent's Reviews, October 2009
The Apocalypse of John is not the kind of text that gives the impression of being in need of protection. The work’s rhetorical mode is quite clearly one of confident assertion in relation to ‘what must take place’ (4.1). Letter and vision, prophecy and apocalypse, image and metaphor all combine in this work by ‘pounding its audience with image after image, special effect after special effect. And in so doing, it seeks to transform the way they look at the world in which they live.’
But Revelation does need some interpretative protection, and Simon Woodman, who understands this text so well, whether as an ancient apocalypse, formative influence on subsequent church history or ongoing resource for theological reflection, is an excellent guide to its use and misuse. In short, in this volume he provides an excellent, accessible guide to anyone who wishes to engage in detailed study of this complex text.
The book is divided into three sections. The first part offers an orientation to Revelation as a whole. Woodman skilfully and with enviable brevity steers the reader through the basic terrain of scholarship: what kind of text is Revelation? What are the most appropriate ways if interpreting it? How do we make sense of its main structural features? For those who need it, there is a clear account of the possible relationship of Revelation to human history. The following chapter, turns into an excellent summary of the whole work in which Woodman helps us to discern the role of the narrator in the text.
Section 2 is perhaps the most creative part of the work. Woodman suggests that greater attention to the main characters in the heavenly drama portrayed in Revelation will help us discern its central themes. In this he largely succeeds, and anyone looking for a structure around which they might develop four sermons on Revelation, could do a lot worse than work with the material in these chapters. The chapter on the ‘Forces of Evil’ should be required reading by anyone who claims to understand the identity of the beast!
Section 3 picks up themes from Revelation that Woodman believes are relevant to issues of contemporary discipleship. The counter-imperial identity of the Church, perspectives on economic and environmental questions, and the challenge of martyrdom are all explored sensitively and with one eye on the present challenges facing the church. If I have a criticism, it is that Woodman does not directly address the issue of violence in Revelation, although there are comments that implicitly suggest potential ways of treating that thorny issue hermeneutically.
In that as in other areas that are discussed in his lively, helpful treatment, Revelation does need some protection. Too often it has been used to prop up notions of divine action, prophetic activity, historical description and Christian mission that take no account of its contextual location in the fraught world of the earliest Christian movement, and in the fascinating genre of literature that we call apocalyptic. Through a mixture of careful scholarship and engagement with contemporary culture Woodman manages to offer the reader an invaluable guide, and to offset in the text much of the interpretative protection that it needs.
Sean Winter, Uniting Church Theological, College, Melbourne

Regent's Reviews, October 2009
We are fortunate indeed that Baptist scholars are in the forefront of recent writing on the Book of Revelation. Alongside Simon Woodman’s fine SCM ‘Core Text’ volume, we now have Stephen Finamore’s book based on his doctoral thesis on Girard and the Apocalypse. . .
Rob Ellis, Regent's Park College

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The future of academic diversity

Letter sent to: Paul Bowler ( and Patricia Broadfoot (

Dear Sir,
This letter is triggered by the news that Lloyd Pietersen, Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator in New Testament Studies in the Department of Humanities, has been made redundant.
The University of Gloucestershire has a strong tradition of research in the field of Biblical Studies and Theology, and a strategic reduction of this facility in the interests of short term financial gain is in my opinion a retrograde step which will only serve to harm the national and international standing of your University in the long term.
The decision to dismiss Dr Pietersen sends a signal far beyond the immediate discipline of Theology, as it indicates that the University of Gloucestershire is now an institution which is prepared to lose world-class scholars regardless of their contribution in terms of research, teaching and supervision. This instability will inevitably cause those who might consider studying with yourselves to reconsider that decision and go elsewhere. It may appear that a minority department such as Theology and Biblical Studies is an obvious 'soft target' for cost saving, but the reduction of academic diversity which this entails is a decision which will be detrimental to the University as a whole.
With this in mind, I would strongly urge you to reconsider your decision, and to follow the recent example of Sheffield University and instead recommit yourselves to once again positioning the University of Gloucestershire as a class-leading centre for study and research in Theology and Biblical Studies.
Yours faithfully,

The Sean Winter Memorial Malt

Caption Competition (a glass of Winter Ardbeg to the winner!)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Literal or Metaphorical?

Click for full-size picture

HT John Lyons

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I know I've posted this before, but I am ridiculously pleased with it...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Check out South Wales Baptists

Nick Bradshaw (Team Leader, South Wales Baptist Association) is blogging regularly over at South Wales Baptists.
Worth a visit.