Buried secrets—or hidden assumptions?

Last night was the second episode of the BBC’s The Bible’s Buried Secrets. Go here for my comments on the first programme. This one covered different areas, but for me was more disappointing.

Once again, Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou (whom I will call FS for short) set up from the outset a sharp dichotomy between religious and ‘objective’ views.

Although FS presents her conclusions as

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What did the ‘Bible’s Buried Secrets’ Unearth?

Last Wednesday saw the first of three programmes, ‘The Bible’s Buried Secrets’, in which Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou of Exeter University looked at what archaeology tells us about the Old Testament. This first episode explored whether there was evidence for King David’s ’empire.’

What did we learn?

1. Subjective Bible versus Objective History?
From the opening, Stavrakopoulou and other commentators

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Great commentary on Ephesians

There is a very good, detailed survey of commentaries, published Biblical Studies Bulletin (which is sent to subscribers to the Grove Biblical series) and available online here. We did a full survey of commentaries on Ephesians some time ago in 1999, and updated it in 2004. Since then Ben Witherington has contributed a volume (on his way to writing commentaries on all the books of the New Testament) and I would strongly recommend anyone adding it to their ‘must buy’ list. It combines comment on Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians as three ‘captivity’ epistles directed at an Asian audience.

Witherington is well known for his use of ‘socio-rhetorical’ criticism, and whilst not all are persuaded of its value, I think it is a very significant approach, particularly for those interested in the application of scholarship in a ministry context. Since this approach focuses on the original impact of the forms of language we have before us, it bridges the divide between ‘historical’ and ‘literary’ approaches to text, and potentially offers a disciplined way of engaging with the formational power of the text.

Men and women in Ephesians 5

I am in the process of writing a Grove Biblical booklet with the title ‘Women and authority: key biblical texts’ which aims to explore all the key texts in 28 pages! Due out later this month. I am aiming to cover Gen 1, Gen 2 and 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 111 Cor  14, Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2.

Here is the (short) section on Ephesians 5.18–6.9.

Ephesians 5–6.9 sets out the contrast that arises from our being ‘imitators of God’ (5.1), with the characteristics of the ‘works of darkness’ (5.11) listed in the first half,

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Gender in Genesis part (ii)

I am in the process of writing a Grove Biblical booklet with the title ‘Women and authority: key biblical texts’ which aims to explore all the key texts in 28 pages! Due out later this month. I am aiming to cover Gen 1, 2 and 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 111 Cor  14, Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2.

My colleague David Firth has kindly offered to contribute the section on Genesis 2.4–25:

It is apparent that we have a parallel creation passage here. Although there are

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Can women be pioneering church planters?

I am in the process of writing a Grove Biblical booklet with the title ‘Women and authority: key biblical texts’ which aims to explore all the key texts in 28 pages! Due out later this month. I am aiming to cover Gen 1, 2, 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 111 Cor  14, Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2.

Here is the section on Acts 18.

This passage relates Paul’s first visit to Corinth and the establishment of a congregation there, followed by his first visit to Ephesus. His partners in ministry are named as Priscilla and Aquila, believing Jews with Latin names who have come from Rome following the Emperor Claudius’ edict expelling the Jews. There are some uncertainties around the dating of this edict, and whether Acts matches other contemporary accounts. But the most likely dating for the edict is 49 AD, so Paul’s visit should be dated to around 50, since Priscilla and Aquila had arrived in Corinth ‘recently’.[1] The passage is rather compressed, giving a briefer account of Paul’s 18-

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Genesis and Gender part (i)

I am in the process of writing a Grove Biblical booklet with the title ‘Women and authority: key biblical texts’ which aims to explore all the key texts in 28 pages! Due out later this month. I am aiming to cover Gen 1, 2, 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 11, 1 Cor  14, Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2.

Here is the section on Genesis 1. Thanks to colleague David Firth for input; any comments welcomed.

The opening chapters of Genesis are key to this discussion (and to many others), since they set out key issues in relationships between men and women as well as between humanity and God. These chapters are frequently cited in discussions about gender roles, not least because they are frequently cited in the New Testament in the debates there about marriage, ministry and gender relations by both Paul and Jesus.

In reading these texts, there are two important things to bear in mind:

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Does John 1.1 mean ‘The Word was a god’?

This is a question I quite often get asked in relation to conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses and the New World Translation (NWT). The NWT translates the end of John 1.1 as ‘the Word as a god’ in order to avoid the identification of Jesus with the God of the Old Testament, and avoid seeing Jesus as God incarnate, part of the Trinity, as does orthodox Christian belief.

As we will see, this is an incorrect translation of the Greek text. It is quite straightforward, though sounds a little technical to explain. Here goes.

The Greek of John 1.1 is as follows, transliterated into English letters:

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Was the text of the NT ‘unstable’ and ‘evolving’?

The BBC started their new series ‘The Beauty of Books’ looking at two epoch-making books, the Winchester Bible (from around 1100) and Codex Sinaiticus, from around 350. Sinaiticus is hugely significant, since it is the earliest complete Bible, and was the fruit of the stability for the Christian faith in the Roman Empire resulting from the Constantinian settlement. (Janet Soskice’s Sisters of Sinai about its discovery is supposed to be a ripping read.) You can view the manuscript for yourself in amazing detail at its website.

The programme highlighted what an extraordinary technical achievement its

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Seeing the Big Picture

Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart comment that there are two key skills in reading the Bible: the ability to see the big picture; and the ability to see the distinctive detail of each passage, in particular to recognise its genre.

Here is my list of resources to help with the ‘big picture’ side of things. Do add yours in comments!

  • Scripture Union has developed the  E100 project which offers 100 Bible passages, 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New, to give you an overview of the Bible. It come with a range of supporting resources.
  • It might sound odd for adults, but we have found Children’s Bibles great for giving readable, accessible overviews of the whole Bible. The Lion Storyteller Bible is a good one for older children and adults.
  • Lesslie Newbigin gave an overview of the Bible in a series of talks at Holy Trinity Brompton several years ago, and these have been written up in the

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