Monday, December 20, 2010

BBC 1 The Nativity Story

A true sign of a Bible nerd is the person who drags another RE teacher out of class to remind her that the BBC Nativity Story starts tonight at 7pm (sqee!) I've played the bones out of the DVD of the Nativity Story so this shall be something new to entertain the troops with.

(c) BBC

The blurb from the BBC website:

Andrew Buchan (Garrow's Law, Cranford), Peter Capaldi (In The Loop, The Thick of It) and rising star Tatiana Maslany (Cra$h & Burn, A Grown Up Movie Star) have been cast in a magical re-telling of the classic Nativity story.
Written by Tony Jordan (Life On Mars, Hustle, EastEnders) for BBC One this Christmas and produced by Red Planet Pictures in association with Kudos through BBC Wales.
Over four half-hour episodes the drama will tell the traditional tale known to millions from a very human perspective. With Mary and Joseph's enduring love story at the centre this familiar story is given a contemporary twist, as the drama follows Joseph and Mary from their initial courtship – Joseph desperate to win the heart of Mary – to his emotional turmoil at her unexpected pregnancy.

Tony Jordan said: "The challenge for me was to retell a story that has been told countless times before, a story that everyone knows intimately, yet to do so in a way that will still surprise and move you, to see parts of the story you'd never seen before. I really think that we've achieved that and I'm incredibly proud to have been asked by the BBC to be involved in such a wonderful project."

This gripping and vibrant adaptation will show the Nativity from a fresh viewpoint, highlighting how seemingly ordinary people reacted to the extraordinary and miraculous events that befell them.

Rich in colour and humour the remarkable events that led up to Jesus's birth will unfold across the four nights. From the epic journey of the wise men to the poignant tale of Thomas – a poor shepherd – whose waning faith in God is revived as he kneels beside the crib of the new born king. Jordan's Nativity is a spectacular Christmas treat for the whole family.

Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning added: "We are proud to bring audiences this beautiful story retold for Christmas 2010 by a master story-teller. We hope our version of the Nativity will give audiences all the wonder, magic and inspiration of the original whilst also telling a less familiar tale, that of ordinary people going about their lives with no sense of the enormous importance their story would hold for centuries to come."

An impressive cast joins Andrew Buchan as Joseph; Tatiana Maslany as Mary and Peter Capaldi as Balthasar. Including: Jack Shepherd (Wycliffe) as Melchior; Obi Abili (The Take) as Gaspar; Art Malik (Agatha Christie: Poirot, Holby City) as Nicolaus; Vincent Regan (Clash Of The Titans) as Herod; John Lynch (Mo, Bleak House) as Gabriel; Claudie Blakely (Lark Rise To Candleford) as Anna; Frances Barbour (Agatha Christie: Poirot, The Street) as Elizabeth; Neil Dudgeon (Life Of Riley) as Joachim; Al Weaver (Five Daughters) as Thomas the Shepherd; Ruth Negga (Five Daughters) as Leah and Gawn Grainger (Lords And Luddites) as Levi.
The trailer:

Have a look on Mark Goodacre's blog for the build up and his (bound to be) insightful reviews. (Label= BBC Nativity)

(c) BBC

The Express newspaper has a report that:

THE BBC has angered Christians with a TV drama in which the Virgin Mary is branded a prostitute and sex cheat.
In The Nativity, written by EastEnders scriptwriter Tony Jordan, 15-year-old Mary is attacked by people who do not believe her claim that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
Her husband Joseph accuses her of “whoring” and even suggests that her pregnancy might have been the result of rape.

The Church of England has described the four-part drama, which goes out before the 9pm watershed from tomorrow, as “a gritty interpretation”.

The Magi (c) BBC-Not a tinfoil hat in sight!
Much more interesting and a better read is the brilliant blog by Matt Page which has a review and lots more info and pics. Well worth a look-his label tag is BBC's "The Nativity"

I'm also hoping Mary isn't in full makeup after the birth scene-my one serious gripe with Kiera Castle- Hughes!

Kiera Castle-Hughes in The Nativity Story

BBC's Nativity Story (c) BBC

Also have a look out for the two Irish actors in the drama-John Lynch will play Gabriel and Ruth Negga will play Leah.

The Digital Nativity Story

As if proof were needed that me and and my obsession with making bible stories "real" by using googlemaps is indeed a useful excercise!!

What would it be like if Joseph and Mary, with the Three Kings used iPhones, Gmail, Google Earth, Facebook, Wikipedia, FourSquare, Amazon, Twitter and YouTube?

Excentric, a digital agency in Portugal, has put together a visual presentation of the Christmas story using social media, web and mobile technologies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New SBL Annual Meeting Policies-Picking on Students?

Interesting debates happening on the blogosphere on the new rule changes from the SBL. Rumbling's over on Chris Brady's blog show you the reaction to the new policies:

New Policies for 2011
At its October meeting, the SBL Council motioned and approved the following policies affecting the SBL Annual Meeting. These policies were announced at the Annual Business Meeting on November 21 and take effect immediately. Please keep them in mind as you organize sessions.
1. A person is limited to participate in no more than two regular program sessions as a presenter, panelist, or respondent. Please note that this policy pertains to program unit, special, and Affiliate sessions. It does not pertain to committee appearances or presiding.

2. All students without a doctoral degree are required to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they will read. The paper will be submitted at the time of proposal. Student proposers will submit the paper they intend to read, not a full-length paper for distribution in written format. In other words, papers should be limited to 2,000 – 2,500 words.

3. The number of sessions students can participate in will be limited to one. This policy pertains to all forms of participation: presider, panelist, presenter, respondent, etc.

These three policies were passed unanimously.
Over on Facebook reaction to the letter sent by John F. Kutsko Executive Director of the SBL is very interesting and worth having a look at (including my rant!)

Dear Student Member:

The particular opportunities and challenges facing student members deserve focused attention. The Society of Biblical Literature is committed to this focused attention, and we will redouble efforts to develop programs and policies that provide students more opportunities and enable their interests to be represented in SBL governance. It is with this effort in mind that we are providing explanations of two policies recently adopted by Council regarding student participation in the Society’s Annual Meeting.

All students without a doctoral degree are required to submit to the Program Unit Chair the full text of the paper they will read. The paper will be submitted at the time of proposal. Student proposers will submit the paper they intend to read, not a full-length article intended for written distribution.

The number of sessions students can participate in will be limited to one. This policy pertains to participation as panelist, presenter, and respondent.

Policies limiting an individual’s participation on the program have been in effect for much of the Annual Meeting’s recent history, and they are common among peer ACLS organizations. For a variety of reasons, in an increasingly pressurized academic market,SBL is reinstating these policies. Moreover, limitations apply not just to student members but to participants in general, and Council’s recent policy statement included actions concerning all members as well as Affiliate organizations.
Every member of Council was once in your position – a student member eager to contribute to the field and to engage with senior scholars. That remains a primary purpose of the Annual Meeting, and we encourage you to attend, submit a paper, and engage with colleagues. In addition, Council recognizes that the future of the field is in your hands, and that new ideas, fresh perspectives, and brilliant research are age-blind. Our student members push the profession forward and sustain it, not only through intellectual innovation but also exactitude, care, and hard work. We all know that there is much at stake for student members and that, as a result, you consistently produce work of a high caliber. These policies were made in part to mitigate those high stakes and to ensure that student presentations fit into a larger goal of fostering a diverse, moderated, and fair career path into academic life.

First: at every Annual Meeting we now schedule over 1,700 participants in ten timeslots. For the same reason that Council limits full members to two participations, students have the opportunity to participate once as panelist, presenter, or respondent at the Annual Meeting. We are opening up the field to more student participants, and so more new voices. This allows for a more diverse SBL and Annual Meeting and provides more opportunity for student member participation.

Second: a traditional “guild” offers a pathway into its profession through a series of stages. For student members of SBL, that pathway is to submit and deliver a paper at a Regional Meeting, collect feedback from peers, and then to seek participation in the Annual Meeting after a process of mentoring, discussion, and informal peer review. The Annual Meeting does not replace Regional Meetings; indeed, the latter are an integral and rich testing ground for new ideas.
Third: because the stakes are so high for students and with the goal of modeling best practices for the field, Council agreed that a full-length paper submission is to the advantage of students and serves as preparation for that much-maligned academic master or mistress – the deadline. Limiting student members to one participation will facilitate their focus on one quality presentation in the midst of demanding thesis or dissertation work. It is also felt that the policies will increase the “currency” of student presentations at the Annual Meeting, making the notation of such presentation on a CV more valuable.

These policies will ensure more diverse representation of student work at the Annual Meeting, cultivate career path helps already in place for SBL student members, and model best practices that can serve as an example for all our members. Of course, all members should pursue the highest quality presentation, and student members present superb papers year to year, just as do independent scholars and tenured faculty. The intent behind these decisions, as I hope I have made clear, is to give students greater opportunity to achieve and display their important contributions to the field.
Students’ success at the meetings and in their careers, indeed, is Council’s main concern. As a Society, we will continue to develop and revise policies together, with the broadest interests in mind and in order to foster the future of biblical scholarship.

John F. Kutsko
Executive Director
Society of Biblical Literature

Elsewhere in blogland: Pat McCullough himself,  Near Emmaus and doubtless more to follow.

My post:
What struck me is that when I'm an international member (I'm Irish) and I don't attend "regional meetings"-I try to get to as many of the annual and international meetings as I can-I don't understand how the SBL can say " traditional “guild” offers a pathway into its profession through a series of stages. For student members of SBL, that pathway is to submit and deliver a paper at a Regional Meeting, collect feedback from peers, and then to seek participation in the Annual Meeting after a process of mentoring, discussion, and informal peer review." what about those who can't? Do they class the international meeting as "regional"? What path do they see the SBL giving international students (Who pay the same membership fee as anyone else)?

I don't mind the rule change so much as the quite deliberate picking on students. I've seen manys the bad paper at an SBL conference and the vast majority were from "elder statespeople". Getting a PhD parchment and leaving college does not a good presenter make....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

EABS Call for Papers (Annual Meeting 2011)

The Call for Papers for the 2011 Meeting of EABS has just been announced:

EABS 2011 Poster

The meeting will be held from 8-11 August 2011 in Thessaloniki, Greece. There have been assurances that there is air conditioning so we don't have an SBL/EABS In Estonia re-run.

All research groups are listed in the EABS site for more info on submitting an abstract.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just War Theory for Teenagers #2 Film Studies

In a previous post I introduced my lesson plans for my fifth year class on Just War theory and I thought it was about time I gave you a progress report. It took a little more time than I envisaged getting through the Principles of Just War that I listed in the previous post with the class-they just don't have a very high reading ability or attention span for anything that they don't understand so I reverted to the more simple Rules of War that are located on page six of the booklet. I printed out the text and we (eventually) read through them all. I had also collected a mish-mash of newspaper articles from the previous week to show them examples of the various rules in action (either being followed or disobeyed). If you have a data projector in class (lucky, lucky you) it's a good idea to use Google news and you can project them for all to read. If any of you have access to this weekend's Sunday Times Magazine, this has fantastic photographs of situations of conflict.

We also spent some time discussing civil war. Dundalk where I teach is a border town and my students would in general have more of an idea of civil unrest than the average Irish student. We talked about what "peace" meant and how it was a fragile term-how can you have a peace process and still have conflict? What does conflict mean to them? How has the "situation" (oh I've been well-trained in my PC terms and I can say that in a lovely Nordie accent too) in the North affected them? I did get a lot of "bovvered?" answers but at least I got them thinking about the fact that they might be oblivious and apathetic to the longest running civil conflict in the world right on their door steps.

I then looked at different approaches to war-more on Just War here and focused on the example of pacifism. One student was very emphatic that "all war is stupid and never works" and reckoned he was a pacifist. After some careful probing about his attitude towards Hitler, Saddam Hussein and various other clichés designed to get the blood of a teenager who likes Call of Duty boiling. And as it so happens, with an attitude like "kill the feckers" he might not be a pacifist! We worked on material from their textbooks (oh who writes these things, and have they never come across my fifth years!) and reached the dizzying heights of writing answers to questions in a copybook-this is achievement indeed for 5P and I made sure to boast in the staffroom.

As a reward for all the hard work we looked at two films to get a comparison and to look at the way the idea of war has changed through the years. We firstly looked at “Everyman’s War” (1999) which is the true story of Don Smith's heroic experience at the Battle of the Bulge while with the 94th Infantry.

As the seasoned infantry and tank units of the German 11th Panzer "Ghost" division move silently into position on the snow covered hills around Nennig Germany ,a battle weary GI and his unit stand ready to defend the small town, a key position in the Allied advance to win the war. Outgunned and outnumbered, S/ Sgt Don Smith struggles to find hope and courage against overwhelming odds in one of the decisive confrontations in the "Battle of the Bulge" during WWII. His squad of GI's of the 94th Infantry Division lay dug in on the ridge-line outside of town. No one in high command believed that German forces would attack in the sub zero temperatures and near blizzard conditions. As the pre-dawn attack comes, with communications down Sgt. Smith is left with no choice but to make his way through enemy fire, unarmed and wounded, into town and warn of the coming attack. Based on actual accounts.
They "kinda" like this and had a few questions-mostly about why people bothered fighting wars and why would people see being a soldier as a job or career? I gave out a handout with questions to fill in as we went along which I'll post soon once I get my feedback on them.

Because I'm snowed in..

School has been shut for two days and is due to reopen on Monday. So I'm a little more stir-crazy than normal and need some funnies to see me through!

Primary School Resources for Advent

With the snow today it looks as if I'll be using my advent candles to keep warm! Myself and my sister are preparing for our Children's Liturgy of the Word on Satuday night and she found this brilliant resource on the Kandle website (the website of the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese) and I have to agree it is fantastic. Last year we made advent weath using salt dough but there are loads of good ideas here, as well as the usual colouring-in pages and puzzles. There's plenty of resources in Irish too and there's something there for all levels. I'm not sure who compiles this resource, but thanks to Maeve Mahon the DA for primary schools for putting it up.

Book Review: Fire Bible Student Edition

At the IBA recently, there was a bit of a mad scramble to pick up books to review for PIBA (Proceedings of the IBA) and I got to choose between a large (it made Raymond E. Brown's work look like a pamphlet) hardback on something obscure on a Gospel or a pink suede Bible. Can you guess what I chose to write my 1000 words on? I now have a shiny new Bible to add to my collection-which I spoke about recently to my sixth year class. Well at least now I know how to make their jaws hang can you not be cool with a bible collection? Though if by collection you mean a few hundred packed in boxes and piled in various different shelves and corners then I am your curator :)

The Fire Bible: Student Edition (FBSE) is a study bible, designed specifically for university students. The FBSE is based on the original notes in the Full Life Study Bible which was revised as the Life in the Spirit Study Bible and is published in this English edition by Hendrickson and Life Publishers. It is marketed as being the “first true Pentecostal Bible for students” which “ignites a generation in the Word of God”.

While most Christian denominations have several editions and translations of the Bible that are deemed to be “official” or that are recommended for use in Liturgy or private study, there are very few Pentecostal Bibles in existence. The Full Life Study Bible was started in the early 1980s as an individual missionary project by the late missionary Don Stamps (1938-1991). While serving in Brazil, he recognized a great need among pastors and lay workers for a study Bible written from a Pentecostal perspective. The Full Life Study Bible was written for those who would study the text in depth and made the assumption that the reader had some previous biblical knowledge. This edition is now out of print as the Life in Spirit Study Bible was published by Zondervan. This edition had very few changes from the original version. The FBSE reviewed here was published in April 2010 by Hendrickson and Life Publishers and is based on the New International Version of the Bible. The notes and format of the Full Life Study Bible have been edited with students in mind. If the two editions are compared, the FBSE is at pains to explain theological terms clearly and fully. No assumption is made of any prior knowledge of the Bible or Pentecostal theology. The language level is deliberately aimed at high school students and those in college or university. However, it is very different to Bibles that are normally written for teenagers and young adults, such as the Teen Study Bible (Zondervan, 1999) which is written in language that is directly aimed at “hip and cool” teenagers.

The style of the FBSE stays away from a more devotional format and instead tracks what the editors see as twenty major theological themes throughout the biblical text. Each book of the Bible is given a thorough introduction. For example, with the book of Psalms, there is an outline of the book with notes on the divisions, including authorship, the predominant Divine Name, frequent topics in the text and the resemblance to the Pentateuch. The background to the text is given in some detail, including a good introduction to the technicalities of the Hebrew poetry within the text. The purpose of the psalms is discussed, though here the commentary does some disservice to a Jewish understanding of the Psalms, describing them as “Holy Spirit-inspired prayers and praises”. The introduction surveys the 150 psalms with a focus on the different genres of psalms and notes the special features of the poetry, in the style of “need to know facts”. Each introduction to a book from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament has a section on “New Testament Fulfillment”, in this case focusing on the prophetic psalms and how the psalms are used in the New Testament. There is also a section on dividing up the psalms to read them in conjunction with the rest of the Old Testament in one year, with 44 days given to the psalms. Ample space is allocated for note and personal reflections on the text. The biblical text (NIV) is given at the top of the page with roughly half the page given over to notes and commentary on the text. Various terms in the text are explained in notes and there is commentary on each verse.
The FBSE is marked as a key resource for Campus Missionaries, who are Christian students who accept responsibility to preach the Pentecostal message of “forgiveness and new life through faith in Jesus” and at various stages in the commentary on biblical texts, a link is given to where the text is useful in one of the five commitments of Campus mission (Serve, Give, Pray, Live and Love).

There are over eighty “key issue” articles such as “Creation”, “Divine Healing”, “Assurance to Salvation” and “Food Sacrificed to Idols”. There are 45 easy-to-read charts, illustrations and maps and clearly laid out indexes (both subject and themes). There is a concordance for finding biblical verse more easily by looking up key words. The detailed glossary (p 2265) provides practical definitions to terms used in the bible itself and in the study notes. In keeping with the focus on making the text accessible to a younger audience, twelve key themes are marked out throughout the text using symbols (e.g. a dove for “Baptized in/Filled with the Holy spirit”, and a bolt of lightning for “victory over Satan and demons”. One of the most useful and indeed fun lists is a chart of weights and measures that are used in the Bible (p 1953), converted into modern American and metric equivalents.

The FBSE is also well made, with good quality paper and a solid binding that will withstand the rigours of daily study and use. The font is small (7 font) though the style, layout and heavy black font means that it is not as difficult to read as some versions The cover is sturdy and well designed for the target audience, though all may not find the pink and grey suede soft cover (flexisoft) of my review copy to their taste, a variety of colours are available.

New Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland

I just received news that the Church of Ireland is setting up a group that focuses on study of the Bible both in their own Church and within other communities. It's always great to see new developments in Bible in Ireland and I wish them every success in the venture.

The offical blurb:
As an Anglican church, the Church of Ireland is committed to theological discourse using scripture, tradition, and reason. However, scripture offers special challenges for the modern context, and many of the current tensions within our Communion can be traced to differences over the interpretation and application of scripture. The current Anglican Consultative Council’s project “The Bible in the Life of the Church” highlights the need for the Anglican churches to reflect seriously on the role which scripture plays in parish and theological life. Scriptural reading should be done both in reference to its original settings as well as the needs of believing communities. Reason insists we engage with the scientific and historical study of the Bible; tradition demands we do so as a faithful community. All too often such work is relegated merely to formal degree programmes, where it can fail to enrich parish worship and community. A forum which facilitates the feeding of continuing biblical education into the life of the church is therefore to be welcomed.

To these ends, we invite suggestions for and participation in the formation of a Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland. This organization will welcome the active participation of both clergy and laity, including biblical scholars, Religious Education teachers, and other interested believers. Said organization would aim to enrich and deepen the use of the Bible in the Church of Ireland by encouraging rigorous and faith-based biblical study. Through the encouragement of diocesan biblical education, periodic events, study material suggestions, and church-wide study themes, the efforts of this group will facilitate the Church of Ireland’s development of a communal approach to scripture. To offer suggestions, get involved, or to join a mailing list, please contact us. Expressions of interest for an interim committee are encouraged. The first AGM is planned for early in 2011.

Although focused on reading and studying the Bible as an Anglican community, we recognize that we share the scriptures with other Christian traditions and with Jewish traditions. It is hoped that our work on collectively reading scripture in a rigorous and reflective way will open new avenues for ecumenical dialogue both within the Anglican Communion and with other communities.

The inaugural effort is to encourage collective reflection on the theme of Creation during Lent 2011, in tandem with The Bible in the Life of the Church’s Task 1. Alternatively we might proceed to the recently announced theme of Social Justice if material is available from the ACC in time. Suggested passages, questions, reflections, and methods of feedback will be provided for the use of parishes and diocese. The results of this work will then be presented to the general synod in conjunction with a proposal for continuation. For more information on this initiative or to offer suggestions, please contact us, or visit the temporary website.
It is hoped that this Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland will better encourage biblical scholars within Ireland to engage with their parishes’ needs and will help build the Church of Ireland as a biblically grounded community.