Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review

Just got an email to say my latest review for the Review of Biblical Literature has been published online. It's of Sacred Tropes: Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur'an As Literature and Culture, edited by Roberta Sabbath and costing a mere $241 on Amazon at the moment.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Wardobe Addition

This rather goovy item of clothing can easily be shipped in time for my birthday (hint, hint)

The Faddan More Psalter

I'm still playing catch up from by blog-break and meant to post this ages ago:

From the Irish Independent 5th September 2010
The Faddan More Psalter, a remarkable 1,200-year-old manuscript found in a north Tipperary bog four years ago, has provided astonishing evidence of links between the early Christian Church in Ireland and the Middle Eastern Coptic Church.

As a painstaking conservation process came to its conclusion, tiny fragments of papyrus were discovered in the lining of the Egyptian-style leather binding of the manuscript, which was unearthed by Eddie Fogarty in a mechanical digger in the townland of Faddan More, not far from Birr, in July 2006.

The discovery of Egyptian papyrus represents the first tangible connection between early Irish Christianity and the Middle-Eastern Coptic Church and has confounded some of the accepted theories about the history of early Christianity in Ireland.

Four years ago the find was heralded by Dr Pat Wallace, director of Ireland's National Museum, as "the most important day in the history of the museum since 1868 when the Ardagh Chalice came in".

The four-year conservation process has strengthened that view.

"It was a miraculous thing that the manuscript survived at all. It was found by Mr Fogarty who was cutting turf.

"It was also remarkable that Mr Fogarty and the family he was working for, the Leonards of Riverstown, were familiar with the work of the National Museum and knew exactly what to do to protect a manuscript found in wet bog.

"They immediately covered it with wet turf and this was absolutely vital in preserving the manuscript. If they hadn't done that it would have been obliterated in a few hours in the sunshine," Dr Wallace told the Sunday Independent.

The fragmented illuminated vellum manuscript encased in an unusual leather binding is a book of psalms dating back to the late Eighth Century but its origins remain a mystery.

One suggestion is that the Psalter was dumped in the bog along with a crumpled leather bag and an animal pelt to hide the book, both of which were well preserved.

The manuscript sat upright in the bog for over 1,000 years suggesting it may have been thrust into the soaking wet ground as the holder fled.
There was an ancient monastery in Birr but no links to that site were discovered during the conservation process, which was filmed over the last four years by Crossing the Line Films. The film will be shown on Tuesday on RTE One at 10.15pm.

The documentary follows leading Irish book conservator John Gillis as he set about preserving and conserving this unique find.
The Eighth Century manuscript will go on public display for the first time at the National Museum next year and will form the centrepiece of a permanent exhibition.

Dr Wallace said the psalter was so rare and important it now ranks among the top 10 of the thousands of objects in the national collection.

He said the work by senior conservator, John Gillis, 49, who is on secondment from Trinity College was of international importance.
"His achievement has been quite remarkable."

See the National Museum info on the Psalter with progress report

Some Films for use in class-Bruce Almighty & Evan Almighty

Horrific puns aside, these two comedy films are useful in a debate on the images of God (one suspects that God himself would be pleased with the choice of Morgan Freeman playing him in both films).

Interestingly, Freeman's God is far more the God we see revealed in Jesus than the God of the original flood story. When Evan questions his motives he replies "let's just say that whatever I do I do it because I love you". It seems to contrast with his prediction of a flood, but ultimately he's shown to be true to his word.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the God of the ‘Almighty’ franchise is that he's a God who prefers to work through his people. While he may laugh at their plans, and use their prayers as an opportunity for growth, he longs to make the world a better place primarily by relying on "one act of random kindness at a time". Bruce Almighty also deals with the themes of injustice in this world, our response to God, and the goodness of God’s authority over our lives.

Have a look at some theological investigations of the film. Lessons about prayer. The Bible Society get in on the act.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reading the Qur'an

Picture I took in the Museum of Berlin-books are stuck to the floor and videos are shown of Nazis burning books they disagreed with. I didn't even like walking over them on the floor...
Even though I’m loathe to give Rev Terry Jones (this link is to is "church' site and has been difficult to access recenty due to heavy traffic) any more publicity, my crossness has driven me to blogging about his demand that we (as apparently right minded Christians ought to) burn copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of the September 11th bombings, as some sort of message to Islamic extremists.

The Irish Times has reported today

US president Barack Obama today warned that a Florida pastor's plan to burn copies of the Koran is being used as an al-Qaeda recruitment tool and he urged the minister to reconsider the decision.

"This is a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda," Mr Obama said in an interview with ABC's Good Morning America program.

"You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities," he said.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair also issued a plea to the evangelist not to go ahead with his plan to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th.

Mr Blair added his voice to those of the White House, the Vatican, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and film star Angelina Jolie, who all urged pastor Terry Jones to call off his protest.

But the pastor, who leads a tiny Florida church, insisted he would stage “International Burn-a-Koran Day” on Saturday, despite receiving more than 100 death threats.

Sky News reported that Anjem Choudary, former leader of the banned Islamist organisation Islam4UK, is calling on radical Muslim groups around the world to burn American flags outside US embassies in retaliation.

The pastor’s supporters have been mailing copies of the Islamic holy book, which Muslims believe should be treated with the utmost respect, to put on the bonfire at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The church has less than 50 members.

“Instead of us backing down, maybe it’s time to stand up," the pastor said. "Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour.”

In a statement, Mr Blair, who founded a Faith Foundation after leaving office to promote understanding between the world’s religions, said he "deplore" the act of burning the Koran.

“It is disrespectful, wrong and will be widely condemned by people of all faiths and none. In no way does this represent the view of any sensible person in the West or any other part of the world," he said. “Those who wish to cause religious conflict are small in number but often manage to dominate the headlines.

“You do not have to be a Muslim to share a sense of deep concern at such a disrespectful way to treat the Holy Book of Islam.

“Rather than burn the Koran, I would encourage people to read it.”
Now loathe as I am to agree with much of what Tony Blair has to say on matters of keeping people getting along with each other, he does have a point here. So on Saturday I shall make a point of reading as much as I can of the Qur’an. And hopefully lots of people will do the same. Sacred texts are sacred for a reason and special to a particular group of people. I love reading and studying the Qur’an as I’ve always been fascinated with Arabic (I learned basic Classical Arabic to read the original text). I also love the text itself as it uses a beautiful and poetic language which you can even see and hear in and English translation. I also love how when reading it, lots of the images and language remind me of biblical passages I’ve read-we’re not that much different! I’ve also found that by studying the theology in the Qur’an, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of my own, Christian theology and how we understand “our” God.

A Muslim mate of mine listens to his Qur’an on his IPhone on the way to work. I have an app on my phone that recites the different suras (chapters) so there’s no excuse! Have a look at the Yusuf Ali translation on Google Books and for more info have a look at Qur’an Explorer. The National Geographic has an excellent article on the Qur’an as a book of peace.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A good day to highlight that I've just tidied up my Blogroll (Recommended Blogs) to the right of the page, mainly taking out some dead links. It's worth noting that the Times Online brilliant blog on Faith is now subscription only so I've decided not to include it here. Today Mark Goodacre's blog is seven years old (Happy Birthday) and I wanted to mention that as James F. McGrath pointed out recently, Sheffield Biblical Studies Dept has set up a new blog, introduced by James Crossley which will be great great source of info. James' own blog has been quiet since January but there's lots of good stuff on it and we can't all be online all the time so I've decided to leave it be!

As usual tell me if I'm missing out on any blogs and that should be all the tidying up for a while!