biblical studies : bible : digital : food

I’ve been unusually quiet here for a while now for two reasons.

The first is dumb. Something has “broken” this installation of WordPress and half the editing features don’t work. I have to turn off JavaScript, and save the post, to change from Visual to Text mode, but neither way will “Add Media” work, I have to FTP and handcode to get pictures… all that makes blogging hard work. But I’m dumb, I haven’t made the time to either start again (like I did in 2009) so I suffer through :(

The second reason is dumber! I have been busy writing, two deadlines loomed. One of them was a chapter about the genre of the prophetic books.1 Somehow, being busy and having a looming deadline I did not do the sensible thing and post here (much) about the ideas.

That was dumber, because I am not longer in daily contact with scholars from other disciplines in a real common room. Thus I did not hear a physical New Testament colleague say ftf: “That’s a bit like the discussions around the topic of the genre of the gospels.” That piece of wisdom only hit this morning, when I saw that Euangelion Kata Markon had posted a kind notice (HT James McGrath) to my 5 minute Bible podcasts on introducing genre and prose & poetry.

As I wrote in a comment there:

I am now kicking myself. Disciplinary boundaries so often do us a disservice! I should have thought of the probability that there was discussion of the nature of the genre of the gospels. But I didn’t, and I don’t sit regularly in a scholarly common room, so no one pointed it out to me as I wrote my article on the genre of the prophetic books.. I really should have blogged it as I wrote, then someone would have pointed to your stuff and I’d have been able to weave those discussions into mine, but I submitted the article on Monday :(

  1. Basically I am arguing that, rather than any other genre description like “career biography”, “sayings collection” or even “presentation of a prophet” , it is helpful to think of them as “prophetic fictions”. []

There is often good stuff at the Perspective Criticism group blog. This post on “Ideological Point of View in the Account of the Four Lepers (2 Kings 7:3-9)” by Jesse Long Jr is particularly interesting to me.

I have finished a first draft of a chapter (for a forthcoming book) in which I seek to defend and illustrate my idea that the genre of prophetic books might best be understood as “prophetic fictions”. (Using “fiction” as I think Alter does to signal a concern for the artistry of presentation rather than as a synonym for “untrue” ;)

I think this idea works several attempts to define the genre together keeping (some of) the best features of each, I also believe it has interpretative power.

BUT I no longer have colleagues down the corridor whom I can bully into reading and criticising my work :( If you would be willing to read nearly 5,500 words and to comment on the flow of the argument or other features that might help me sharpen or improve the chapter I would be really grateful. I am not so much after specialist knowledge as help strengthening the presentation of the ideas.

Here’s a post from five years ago that I wish had generated more conversation… I wonder if it will this time ;)

Linking to Geoff’s “Creativity in Theological Education” post and then watching the brilliant presentation (in just 20 minutes) by Sugata Mitra the Indian “Hole in the Wall” man (on TED) “Can kids teach themselves?” has got me thinking (again) about how we do theological education the wrong way round.

[By the way if you have only heard about Sugata Mitra's work it is well worth spending 20 minutes to watch the man himself, whether you agree with him or not, he is a fine presenter!]

He calls his suggestions “outdoctrination” because they are the opposite of indoctrination. In indoctrination a teacher who “knows better” tells a student the answers. Most theological education is built from the ground up on an indoctrination model. Teachers (or possibly the school boards who govern the teachers – quis custodiet custodes) decide the curriculum. They then decide how it is to be taught and how success is to be measured. Students then are fitted into this mold. Evidently, despite our efforts to steer clear of “imposing” our conclusions on students, this is indoctrination. After all, though we may seek to avoid imposing answers, we did impose the questions!

Why not a system designed the other way up. Start from real issues and situations and get teachers to asist students to learn what they need/want to approach these issues. There would be severe difficulties creating “suitable” learning outcomes, and perhaps worse ones working out how to measure them – but I suspect the real measure of success would be seen when students “leave college” and really start to learn!

[I suspect Dr Mitra, a professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle, thinks his work only applies to kids, and that adults are too far calcified in the cortext, but I wonder, humans have more capacity to make do and adapt, I believe that even "mature students" can still learn if we offered them "minimally invasive theological education"!]

A group of us met last night to plot a video (probably narration with animation one of the group is a young, skilled and creative animator with friends who are similarly equipped) most of the rest of us are established pastors and teachers.

The goal is to develop something that is sharable on social media and/or websites, and hopefully therefore also attractive and motivating people to share it!

I’ll confess that our starting point was a discussion of an attempt to do something similar that was too long, not really attractive (we thought) to its target audience and theologically narrow.

We settled on the title (at least for our use) of “The Bible in 3 minutes” and envisage a countdown, to encourage people to stay tuned, and demonstrate our commitment to brevity ;) Jonathan says that 3 minutes is  about 300 words (allowing for something other than words and the desire not to gabble too ;) So here’s the challenge: Can you try to tell me the story of the Bible in 300 words?

The group will share these attempts (anonymously) on Google Docs and pick out the features/ideas we like. There is no pay, and little glory (in this life) on offer, but I’d really appreciate your efforts. I’ve already had some offers but so far every attempt has needed WAY over 300 words ;)

I’m delighted, one of the two edited books I’ve been working on is now available and I have my copy :)

Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley, eds. Spiritual Complaint: Theology and Practice of Lament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013.

“Does Jeremiah Confess, Lament, or Complain? Three Attitudes Towards Wrong.” In Spiritual Complaint: Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013.

The capstone volume that completes Bill Loader’s previous five volumes on sex and sexuality in the the world of early Christianity is announced. Among other things this book seeks to make his scholarly and full treatment in the previous five volumes more accessible to non-specialist readers. This is an important work, and if you are concerned in any way in discussions of sex and sexuality in the churches today you need it!


Making Sense of Sex: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature

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Even if it does come from a “celebrity maker”…

We bought a degustation menu at, Auckland restaurant, Mikano from Grabone, and enjoyed the meal on Sunday. 

Mikano has a brilliant setting over the helipads on Tamaki Drive with a stunning view of the harbour to Rangitoto and Waiheke. Our sense of occasion was heightened by having booked for an early sitting and so getting a window table, and even more by realising that the friendly and courtly gentleman who preceded us up the stairs and held the door for Barbara and me was the grand old man of NZ theatre (and accomplished film actor) Ian Mune. When we realised who he was we wished we’d said “Thank you for introducing our children to Shakespeare.” But although the Munes were just two tables away the moment had passed.

Degustation menus are a great way for a restaurant to showcase their work, and for customers to enjoy a fine meal at a reasonable cost. Since a number of customers eat the same sequence of dishes, though each individual requires more courses, overall less different dishes are prepared, and ingredients are also more standardised than an a la carte menu.

Mikano’s degustation menu was uncompromising. Each item was a simple unadorned classic:

  • French Onion Soup with gruyere crouton
  • Smoked Snapper with leek, potato, & parsley cream
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto with crispy pancetta
  • Beef Bourguignon Pie with thyme roasted baby carrots & horseradish
  • Lamb Shoulder Tagine with Moroccan spices, tomato, olives & cumin, parsnip puree
  • Sticky Date Pudding with toffee sauce & hokey pokey ice cream

The main menu is more traditionally restaurant fare, the first starter listed is: “Wild mushroom & proscuitto minestrone with char-grilled garlic bruschetta”.

The onion soup was superb, a balanced contrast of sweet onion with savoury meaty stock, simple but brilliant.

The smoked snapper was tasty and set off nicely by the vegetables and ‘cream’. Perhaps the smokiness of the fish disguised the tang of parsley, because the ‘cream’ was a striking deep green that visually contrasted with the deep colour of the fish.

Barbara really enjoyed the risotto (though I am not sure telling the Maitre d’ afterwards that it was as good as mine was really a compliment to a fine restaurant ;)  For me this was the least successful dish, the strong stock seemed to overpower the mushrooms, but I may have been biased by too much pepper in the first bite (for the other dishes, as you would expect, the seasoning was perfect).

The beef pie was well done, a tiny (this is a degustation menu :) pastry parcel of tender beef and gravy, the baby carrots were roasted enough to be sweet, and the horseradish finely balanced with enough ‘kick’ but not aggressive.

The lamb tagine with its powerful spices, olives and spiced parsnip was a strong tasting finish, making the sticky date pudding something of an anticlimax, though the vanilla ice cream was superb. (I’m not a fan of hard chunks of partially caramelised sugar in ice cream so I won’t comment on the choice of a Kiwi-classic in place of plain vanilla.)

Overall did the menu ‘work’? As a really enjoyable meal, yes. Every dish (except perhaps the risotto) was really well done, the combination and movement through the meal worked very well, as the tastes complemented and enhanced each other excellently. But, as a display menu from a fine restaurant, not so well, the dishes individually lacked that touch that lifts a dish from “really good” to “excellent” – the star quality of the setting (or our fellow diners ;)

Gavin (at Otagosh) has a post puffing, 95 year old, Lloyd Geering’s new book From the Big Bang to God. I have not read Geering’s writing, I’m an OT scholar and John Robinson was the theological thinker frightening the horses when I was young (at least in the UK). But Gavin’s post and especially one of the comments got me thinking about why such extreme forms of theology the ones that are a whisker away from Atheology don’t work for me.

It’s all to do with worldview. In the film “Titanic” there’s a nice scene that sums up some popular1  worldviews . Jack a hobo won his ticket (3rd class) in a poker game, but is invited to dinner in first class2 and in course of conversation tells how he won his ticket.

One rich buffer responds, in suitably plummy accent: “I think life’s a game of chance.” This, it’s all about luck, worldview is remarkably convenient for the comfortable, for there is nothing you can do about luck except enjoy it. And if life, the universe, and everything are just luck then there are no inconvenient moral rules – do as you like as long as it “works for you”.

Another RB trumps that: “Real men make their own luck!” This view of life is even better for the comfortable, it means that somehow I deserve my privilege.

In contrast to the Lucky Bastards and the Bootstrappers3 Jack’s worldview is simple and works. “I think life’s a gift.”

That’s how I experience it. What the Bible and traditional theologians, often call “grace”. I get what I don’t deserve. Now this worldview both requires, demands forcefully even, moral thinking, because gifts make relationships and relationships impose obligations.  But if life is a gift, then who is the ‘giver’? Because ‘gift’ differs from ‘luck’ only in the ‘giver’.

Thankfulness is at the heart of my faith, I try to make it a heart of my living, and it is why (despite everything else) and all the powerful Atheist arguments and all that (some) Christians can do to discredit ‘him’ I am a Theist, I believe in God – the giver of life.

So I guess for me theology starts with the ‘Spirit’ (the giver of life), and moves via the ‘Father’ the Creator to recognising Jesus as their expression in creaturely form.

  1. As we’ll see at least in the modern Western world and elsewhere among the rich and powerful. []
  2. Because he saved Kate Winslet from suicide. []
  3. I call them that because they apparently believe they have elevated themselves by tugging their own bootstraps. []