Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paper for Genesis 18-19 Seminar, International SBL, Vienna

Here is the abstract for my paper for Vienna. A return to my thesis topic for only the second time (see Psalm 137 paper for the other).
Lot at the Threshhold

William John Lyons
University of Bristol

This paper argues that Genesis 18-19 is dominated by global themes that are inextricably inter-twined with its particularist story: (i) The promised son to Sarah is contextualised by the deity within the universal context of Abraham as a blessing to all nations (Gen.12.3; cf. 18.17-19); (ii) The limitations of Abraham’s ‘god’ are raised by the patriarch, but rebutted by a divine claim of unlimited power (18.14); (iii) The judgement of a ‘nation’ by the deity serves as an example for Israel (18.17-21); And (iv) the deity’s universalising moves are echoed by Abraham’s appeal to the ‘Judge of all the earth’ .

The paper examines the porous boundary between universal and particular through the liminal figure of Lot. Though not included in the deity’s particularist directive to Abraham to go to Canaan (12.3,7), Lot is brought along by the patriatrch, presumably as his heir. Despite the patriarch’s attempts to keep him close by, however, Abraham’s nephew moves away from him—geographically and religiously—as the narrative progresses. His residence and actions in Sodom indicate his identification with that nation’s universality, and by rights he should die with its inhabitants. Yet he is saved by the deity for the remembrance of Abraham (19.29). Though his choice for the universal is now made concrete in that he becomes two ‘nations’—Moab and Ammon (19.30-38)—his status remains ambiguous. His ‘sons’ are given land by YHWH alongside Israel (Deut 2.9,19), and—through the Moabitess, Ruth—he is given a role by the deity in the particularist story of David (Ruth 4.17-22). What Abraham started by bringing Lot with him to Canaan is brought to particularist fruition—somewhat ironically, given the latter’s own preference for the universal and the repeated appeals made to it in Genesis 18—by Israel’s deity.

Read more!

MA in Reception of the Bible: Theology/Tradition/Culture, University of Bristol

The MA in The Reception of The Bible: Theology/Tradition/ Culture is a taught Masters programme covering one year (full time) or two years (part time).

In the Department of Theology and Religious Studies we have 6 full-time members of staff involved with the MA (Jonathan Campbell, Jo Carruthers, Oliver Crisp, Gavin D’Costa, John Lyons, Carolyn Muessig). In addition to the strong Department-based support, the MA will draw on staff from within the Faculty of Arts.

The MA builds upon the various strengths found in the Department. From 1992-1999 we had an MA in Contemporary Theologies and an MA in Religion and Gender. From 2001—2006 we had an MA in Christian Studies (re-named the MA in Christianity and Culture in 2004). The MA in The Reception of The Bible has enabled the Department to consolidate its energies and specialties into a unified whole which works toward the same aims and objectives while offering a variety of subject areas.

Aims and Objectives

This programme aims to develop the students’ interest in and knowledge and understanding of how the Bible has been compiled, received and transmitted throughout its history (i.e., Biblical Reception). In the core units, special emphasis will be placed on historical, theological, philosophical, critical, reception and cultural theories which highlight the relation between text and context. Trained in these skills of theoretical analysis students will then take optional units in which they can explore the use of the Bible in distinctive contexts which include: biblical origins of Christian/Western hostility to the Jews; modes of scriptural reception in Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities; medieval understanding and use of biblical authority; the interaction between Bible and literature; modern theology and the Bible; and modern philosophical theories and their application and relation to biblical studies.

More specifically this programme aims:

1) To provide students with a substantial understanding of how the Bible has been used/received in a variety of settings with emphasis on developing proficiency in critical theory.

2) To introduce students to primary material.

3) To teach how various methodologies and theories can be applied to the understanding of biblical culture.

4) To develop the student's ability to think critically and independently.

Programme Structure

The degree structure is designed to engage students in a cumulative process of developing skills and knowledge through a sequence of complementary stages. In TB1, the student develops research skills: “The History of Christianity: Texts” introduces students to primary sources which deepen one’s understanding of biblical culture, tradition and theology; “Reception: Readers, Viewers, Audience” will familiarize students with a variety of theoretical perspectives which will help them understand the processes which produce historically and culturally situated readings and readings practices and in turn how to apply this to understanding Biblical Reception. To deepen this introduction to methodology, students are also required to study “Introduction to Critical Theory” offered by the Arts Faculty in TB1 and TB2. In TB2 students explore specific subject areas through a combination of options taught by members of staff. The options enable students to extend and apply the range of skills and concepts introduced in the mandatory units. The dissertation serves as the culmination of the student's progress through the degree programme. The programme is designed to provide a solid background in Biblical Reception and theoretical analysis for students planning to go on to do research in Theology and Religious Studies and other relevant fields (e.g. English, History, Cultural Studies) as well as to be of interest for people who wish to devote a year to learning in depth about Biblical Reception.

1) Core 60 Credits (Teaching Block 1&2)
The History of Christianity : Texts (TB1) 20 Credits
Reception: Readers, Viewers, Audiences (TB1) 20 Credits
Introduction to Critical Theory 1 [AFAC 70004] (TB1) 10 Credits
Introduction to Critical Theory 2 [AFAC 70005] (TB2) 10 Credits

2) Options (Teaching Block 1&2)

Students take a combination of seminar courses in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and in the Faculty of Arts.

Normally students will take all options in TB2. NB: Not all the options listed below will be available every year. Students may also have the opportunity of taking relevant language units.

Biblical Hermeneutics and the Dogmatic Status of Scripture in Modern Theology (TB2)* 20 Credits

The Bible and the Myth of Jewish Evil (TB2)* 20 Credits

The Bible and Zion (TB2)* 20 Credits

Philosophical Issues in the Rise of Historical Biblical Criticism (TB2)* 20 Credits

The Reception of the Bible in the Middle Ages (TB2)* 20 Credits

The Reception of Scripture in the First Millennium CE (TB2)* 20 Credits

Reformation, the Bible and Renaissance Literature (TB2)* 20 Credits

Rewriting the Bible (TB2)* 20 Credits

The Bible in the Contemporary World: Hermeneutics (Trinity College) 20 Credits

Newman and the English Theological Tradition (Wesley College) 20 Credits
*Pending approval

3) Dissertation of 15,000–20,000 words (60 credit points)

Assessment and Student Progress

Assessment of the above-mentioned learning outcomes is by means of the following:

History of Christianity: Texts: 4000-word essay.
Reception: Readers, Viewers, Audiences: a 4000-word essay.
Introduction to Critical Theory 1: one 2000-word essay.
Introduction to Critical Theory 2: one 2000-word essay.

Each option in Teaching Block 2 will be assessed by means of one essay, 4000 words in length in the case of 20 credit-point units, and 2000 words in the case of 10 credit-point units.

The dissertation will be of 15-20000 words, excluding notes and bibliography; the minimum/maximum band is intended to accommodate the variation in disciplinary methodologies and source types utilized by different students. The pass/fail threshold for all units will be set at 50% (or the standard level to be established by the Faculty of Arts, if different).

The criteria for the award of credit points are as follows:

Core Options

1. Satisfactory attendance at seminars (normally 100%).
2. Submission of the assessed essay by the specified deadline.
3. In the case of the language units completion of an exam and a passing grade of 50%

Programme Director: Dr John Lyons

We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the MA programme by letter or email, or to meet you to discuss your own possible progression on to our MA.

Staff Associated with the MA

Dr Jonathan Campbell, Deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2nd edition; Blackwells, 2002;

Dr Jo Carruthers, The Strange and Difficult Book of Esther, forthcoming;

Dr Oliver Crisp, Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of Sin, Ashgate, 2005;

Professor Gavin D'Costa, The Meeting of Religions and the Trinity, Orbis, 2000;

Dr John Lyons, Canon and Praxis: The Canonical Approach and the Sodom Narrative, Sheffield Academic Press, 2002;

Dr Carolyn Muessig, The Faces of Women in the Sermons of Jacques de Vitry, Peregrina Publishing Co, Toronto, 1999.

Read more!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Presenting Johnny Cash

Last night I presented the long version of the Johnny Cash paper here at the University. One person present, Simon Taylor, has blogged on his reaction to the paper here. What he doesn't mention is my collapse into hysterics ('corpsing', Michael Palin calls it in his diaries) over this YouTube video. Every time the girl on the donkey appears I have just had it completely.

Read more!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pre-publication work

Mark Goodacre offers his own reflections on my previous comment about the issue of putting pre-publication ideas on a blog, and (a) is highly sceptical about journals not taking such material as articles, but (b) concludes by mentioning an intriguing untitled volume-in-the-making which he won't discuss on the blog. Others have also offered comments (Stephen C Carlson here and here, James Crossley here and here, Mike Bird, and J Archer), and I shall think on further about their comments, but I want here to try to be clearer about the form that my own reluctance takes. In other words, describe the phenomenon better.

So, my own reluctance surfaced again recently with the Johnny Cash piece mentioned in numerous posts over the summer. I tried intially to write this on-line, but my working methods don't really suit this and I only posted the opening section. Later, however, when the paper presented at the Reception of Revelation conference here in Bristol was complete, I did not put it on the blog (though I did send it to various people [including James Crossley] for comments or even their personal enjoyment [I know, weird, eh]).

This is a piece that already has an editor and a publisher. The editor is me (and my co-editor, Jorunn Okland of Sheffield University) and the publisher is Sheffield Phoenix Press. So I am not worried about journals here. But I have not asked either Jorunn or the Press how they would feel about me putting the short version on-line (the published version is fully referenced, corrected and twice as long).

I don't know why I haven't gone further with this, though I now realise that one element of this is that I don't actually reference my work fully until quite late on, preferring a kind of short-hand notation for convenience. But can it really just be about the need for a bit more work at that stage.

A second piece of 'evidence' here. In an article published last year, I used an on-line essay of David Clines on the Psalms and Honour. It was one of those pieces described as a work in progress and where the author asks you not to quote without permission. I did e-mail David about this, but confess that I find it a bit strange that you 'publish' some work on the net and then try to hold people accountable in this way. At the time I also found myself thinking, who would publish this now its been on-line. It seems unnecessary to expend the effort publishing something already available.

These are not intended to explain my reaction but just clarify what has caused that reaction in the first place. Like Mark, this will take some thought. But if blogging has a long term future in this discipline, I think it worth trying to get to the bottom of this.

Read more!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"The Bible in Art, Music and Literature" Seminar Series, University of Oxford

"The Bible in Art, Music and Literature" Seminar Series, University of Oxford

Hilary Term 2007

Week 2: 'To wirke sum god thing on Inglisse': Vernacular Theology at the End of the English Middle Ages
(22 Jan) Professor Vincent Gillespie
(University of Oxford)

Week 4: 'Whither our Saviour Christ is gone before': Bringing the Bible to life in Liturgy and Architecture
(5 Feb) Revd Dr Allan Doig
(Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford)

Week 6: Stress and Scripture: the use of the Bible in the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
(19 Feb) Professor Paul Fiddes
(Regent's Park College, University of Oxford)

Week 8: What kind of woman is this? A discussion of Luke 7: 36-50 in the light of Dante Rossetti's "Mary (5 Mar) Magdalene at the door of Simon the Pharisee"
('Biblical Women and their Afterlives' series, funded by the AHRC)
Revd Dr Rachel Nicholls
(University of Cambridge)

Monday, 5.00pm
The Danson Room, Trinity College

Convener: Very Revd John Drury (All Souls)

Read more!

Friday, January 05, 2007

A comment on the interview with James Crossley

In the most recent interview on Biblioblogs, that with James Crossley, of Earliest Christian History, I was intrigued to notice that he echoes something like my own reluctance to put pre-publication work on a blog.

"I think it is pretty clear to anyone who might read the blog that I am reluctant to put anything particularly new on the blog unless it is published or being published. I didn’t consciously make this decision but I just can’t bring myself to put too many pre-publication ideas."

True, he goes on to say that this was not why he started blogging anyway, but I still find in interesting that bloggers show such different attitudes to this issue.

I know that Jim Davila has put conference papers online (here and here), and that Mark Goodacre placed parts of his recent SBL paper on Galatians on his blog (starts here). Some more junior have also put unpublished conference papers on-line (e.g. Mariam Kamell, a PhD student at St Andrews, here and here). Christian Brady has even put his 'work in progress' paper, "God is not in this Classroom", originally available here, online as an MP3 file! Still others have started on-line commentaries, putting large amounts of work onto the web (e.g. Michael Pahl on 1 Thessalonians). Others have asked for papers to be put on line they have heard or can't hear at the SBL (here). So why are they so happy to do it and I (and James ) am (are) not?

Without a great deal of thought, I am beginning to wonder if this has something to do with how you approach blogging as an outlet for your work. You might, of course, not care about publishing your work in academic outlets, but I doubt that is the case with Mark and Jim (or with the others mentioned above). I am sure they are confident that their work is still publishable despite their blog offerings (after all, Mark has now published a 'substantially revised version' of his previously offered review of The Nativity Story in the--admittedly not very prestigious-- SBL forum). From his comments Mark appears to value the feedback he has received, apparently seeing it as akin to that which he might receive at a conference. Yet to me there is something public about the internet that makes me doubt anyone will want to take it for a journal. I have no evidence for this, but it seems very real to me. I'll have to think on about this.

Read more!