As part of a new series to prepare for/coincide with UNCOVER happening at All Souls over this year, I did a talk on Sunday evening on the question of the historicity of the gospels. It’s a contentious issue, full of mantraps and perilousness, not least because of the short length of time available to address it. But I had a stab, and aimed to touch on what I sense are the key issues, in the hope that the serious inquirer or thinker will follow whichever (or all) of them is important to them. Read more
It seems that everyone’s joined in the cross-over craze. Rock stars are writing ballets and operas, chick-lit writers are getting elected to Parliament, and now a NT scholar has turned novelist. The point about Witherington’s very enjoyable new book, A Week In The Life Of Corinth, though, is it that it is entirely in keeping with his primary profession of opening modern eyes to an ancient and alien past. This explains the narrative’s regular interruption by text boxes providing historical background (covering topics such as slavery, the client/patron relationship, gladiators, the Roman legal system and a potted history of Roman as opposed to Greek Corinth). Read more
I had one day to sightsee in Turkey last week which was fabulous. I even came back a bit sunburnt (much to the chagrin of every rain-drenched colleague on my return). Quite fun to be able to say that I got a tan at Laodicea. So here are a few photographic highlights. For the full Flickr set, click here. Having been based in Antalya (ancient Attalia) had a chance to visit Perga and Aspendos (along the coast to the east), and then travelled inland to the north west to the Lycus Valley (where Hierapolis, Laodicea and Colossae are).
First a general map and few panoramas from the trip… Click on each image for a closer view. Read more
It is a privilege to spend time with friends in Antalya – right on the south Mediterranean coast of Turkey. (Incidentally, and quite interestingly, in Turkish, the Med is called ‘Akdeniz’ which means ‘the white sea’ in symmetry to ‘Karadeniz’ (The Black Sea) at the other end of the Bosphorus). And Antalya was of course the ancient port city of Attalia in the apostle Paul’s day. Read more
So… you want to write a runaway bestseller in 2012? Hoping to fill the cabin luggage of air-travellers the world over? Well, here is just thing… it’s guaranteed to hit the headlines at the same time and thus rake in the cash. An ecclesiastical conspiracy theory novel, ‘based’ on matters of ‘historical’ record and archaeological ‘certainties’. It offers the lot: corruption, scheming, sexual deviancy, hypocrisy, ancient history, power, scandals, and above all, the unveiling of secrets.
You hooked yet? I was. And it seems that the book-buying travelling public never tire of a new conspiracy thriller. So… you’ve got it made. Read more
So at last, the time has come. The time for the announcement of the prizes. The Virtual Crunchie can be printed off and enjoyed at your leisure.
There were some excellent entries. And so I felt duty-bound to aware a number of prizes in two categories: Topical and Exegetical. Runners up are honour-bound to share their crunchie with someone else. I’ll know if you eat the whole thing yourself.
Am in Greece this weekend for the launch of Langham Greece. It’s gone really well so far – lots of great discussion. Around 35 attending the conference and around 15-20 watching streaming of it online. REALLY encouraging.
But yesterday we had a free morning and so headed off to Corinth (obviously). I’d no idea that it was only an hour or so from Athens, which was great. We clambered up the Akrocorinth, and wandered around the remains of Ancient Corinth – which are extensive but in parts hard to imagine as intact buildings. You can see the snaps here. Read more
I really don’t think this book lives up to its hype, but I did work my way through roughly 3/4 of Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s epic Jerusalem, The Biography. It is a very uneven and, at times, curiously flat read. It is also (perhaps inevitably) littered with sweeping statements and an over-reliance on just a few partisan scholarly perspectives. This was especially frustrating when it came to plumbing the huge depths and breadths of biblical and archaeological scholarship. But there were clearly some gems and insights. And so thought I’d share just one or two. Read more
Just 3 nights in Istanbul hasn’t given a huge amount of time to see sights but I’ve had a few hours in between meetings. Managed to get to the old Chora Monastery (the most important remaining Byzantine church in the city, after the Hagia Sophia) and the vast Basilica Cisterns. Read more
Having come up with a couple of other similar lists for Lars Dahle’s online culture project (20 Questions for Novels & 12 Questions for Albums), here is the latest, on one of my personal passions: history writing. Popular history books are big business. Which means that lots of people must be reading them… Which means they are definitely worth approaching with considerably more care and attention than many give them…
Was in Istanbul last week doing some Langham training each evening. Which meant that I never got back to my B&B until quite late. Which also meant that I was able to pass some of the great sights after dark and when there were very few people around. Wonderful. Here are a few snaps.
- Top: Ataturk monument (Taksim Square); Blue Mosque exterior
- Bottom: Sultan Mausoleum (Hagia Sofia); Blue Mosque exterior
Most of the time i was in meetings – but I did have one free morning. So I was able to visit a couple of museums, the incomparable Istanbul Archaeological Museum and an Islamic Art Exhibition. Saw all kinds of things famous to those with an ancient historical bent. From the top:
- Statue of Shalmaneser III (Assyrian King, 858-824 BC); Bust of Augustus Caesar
- The Fountain of Life (in the Tiled Kiosk -Archaeological museum); Qu’ran calligraphy from AD1432 (Islamic Art exhibition)
It was just a few years ago. 1966 in fact. An Albanian (Vangjel Toçi) living in Durrës (the country’s largest port and site of the ancient Roman city of Dyrrachium), noticed that a fig tree in his garden had suddenly sunk a few feet into the ground. All very weird. Read more
Some good friends have been involved in this great project, a 30 minute documentary called The Jesus Accounts. Filmed in Istanbul and in the UK, it is designed to help those who are sceptical about the NT documents (especially those from a muslim background). It draws on the expertise of a number of excellent NT scholars. It helpfully explains the background to the spread of the first manuscripts, giving details of the creation of papyrus and vellum parchment. Real highlights include the John Rylands fragment in Manchester, and footage of St Catherine’s monastery at Sinai in Egypt, where the Codex Sinaiticus originated.
The production values are excellent and the content stimulating. It is thoroughly recommended. Here is a 90 second trailer to whet appetites.
It’s coming out soon, so click here to register interest in getting hold of it.
- Tim Keller has 5 Big Issues facing the western church. Challenging but utterly realistic stuff.
- But here is the flip side: Demand for the Bible outstrips supply in China! (HT David McGregor)
- If you can penetrate the prolix verbiage (i like both those words, despite the tautology), then the Archibishop of Canterbury has some very sensible things to say about the reasons for opposing elements of the recent Equalities Bill in Parliament.
- Iain Campbell over at Reformation 21 offers ’26’ golden rules for writing well. fun.
- This is important but hasn’t hit headlines: some good friends in Morocco work in the same area as this military raid on a bible study. They’re fine but it has definitely shaken things up.
- Ushahidi – the power of the net at work in Kenya and beyond…
- Twitter tweeters beware… Never keep a running update of where you are because burglars take note as well…
- One of my favourite screenwriters is Andrew Niccol (e.g. Truman Show, Gattaca, Simone) – i’ve given talks on his stuff in various places. But one film that is needlessly underrated is The Lord of War (perhaps because of the silly title and because protagonist is played (reasonably well) by Nicolas Cage). But here is a fascinating article about a real life arms dealer, of whom Cage’s character could almost be a cardboard cutout: Monzer al-Kassar, recently imprisoned.
- Don’t know who did this Morgan Freeman gag on the right – but it’s great (cf. Voice of God).
- You’ve heard of the Swiss Army knife – but bet you didn’t know about the Imperial Roman army knife…
- In case you’ve ever been tempted by a casino, check this out. You have been warned.
- How to be prepared for the misfortune of losing your camera…
- And here’s one that really happened: the amazing story of a submerged camera being restored to its owners…
- Ever wanted to know where the ‘black box’ is on a plane – well, now you know…
- I can’t imagine the patience involved in creating this stop-motion animation of the history of Charlotte, NC – was blown away.
- This UNICEF ad is chillingly clever (HT Ads of the World):
Donald Wiseman died last week – and with his passing, a giant of archaeological and biblical scholarship has gone. But what a legacy! I only met him a handful of times when I was a very green curate in Sheffield (one of his daughters was a member of the congregation). I’ll never forget the first occasion…
I think I’d been recklessly pontificating in a sermon with blind authority on one of the paragraphs of Romans 1, explaining how Paul had been shaped by an Old Testament worldview and in particular the early chapters of Genesis, and how this could be seen in Romans. On the whole, it’s easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes when you do it with confidence (and such confidence comes easily to ministers in their twenties) – but I could only make such claims as a result of second, fourth and tenth hand research and learning. What did I know about such things… really? We all stand on the shoulders of giants – but few acknowledge it…
Then after the service, I was introduced to Professor Wiseman – OT scholar, archaeologist, and faithful gospel teacher. Most will have encountered him through his work as OT editor for the wonderfully accessible, useful but still scholarly Tyndale Commentaries or the various editions of IVP’s New Bible Dictionary. My mind raced at light speed through my talk – and then realised that I’d actually said some things based on his own writing (which is perhaps inevitable when one speaks on the OT). But as it was from quotes of quotes etc, I’d obviously not attributed it. However, he was graciousness personified, of course, and couldn’t have been friendlier or more encouraging.
Now, I realise that you can’t attribute all the time in talks because very often that will obscure the message – but my problem was that it had not even crossed my mind that I should where possible. I learned valuable lessons that morning – despite the fact that I still forget them.
Always attribute where you can and never claim as your own what others have discovered; never claim to know more than you do (whether by subtle hint or blatant assertion)!!
In case you’ve not come across this, here is a fuller obit and appreciation, all of which is quoted from a recent mailing from Tyndale House. For example, I’d certainly no idea about his wartime exploits. A remarkable man.
It is with a real sense of loss that I bring to you news of the homecalling on Tuesday of Professor Donald Wiseman (1918-2010) OBE DLit FBA FKC FSA, who played a vital role in the early development of the Tyndale House and Tyndale Fellowship and made a massive contribution to our work, to biblical scholarship, and to the study of the ancient Near East. There will be a private funeral, but we anticipate that a public memorial service will be arranged later in the year. Below you will find a tribute by Professor Alan Millard, followed by some highlights I found in his autobiography. Professor Wiseman was predeceased by his dear wife Mary and is survived by three daughters Gillian, Mary and Jane. He will be much missed.
In Christ’s service,
Warden, Tyndale House
Professor Donald Wiseman (1918-2010)
The passing of Donald Wiseman on 2nd February, 2010, marks the end of an era in the story of Tyndale House and the Tyndale Fellowship. After a year reading history at King’s College, London, W. J. Martin persuaded him that study of the biblical world and its languages would be more valuable to the church and biblical studies, so he turned to Hebrew and Assyriology. Martin had been the major stimulus in the creation of Tyndale House and Donald Wiseman saw its strategic potential. He gave much time and thought to the affairs of the House, serving as Chairman of the Biblical Research Committee, which had the initial responsibility and of the Tyndale House Council, which inherited it, from 1957 to 1986. As Chairman of that and other committees, he guided discussion with wisdom, patience and humour, ensuring sensible decisions were made. When there were doubts in UCCF (then IVF) circles about continuing financial support, he insisted that the House was providing a service which no other evangelical institution offered and had potential for much more. When problems of space for the Library arose, it was Donald who suggested the annexe which was built as The Hexagon in 1984.
He saw the priority for Tyndale House lay in biblical research, supplying positive information and arguments to oppose widely taught liberal views about Scripture. His vision was well expressed by John Stott in 1992, ‘We shall never capture the church for the truth of the gospel unless and until we can re-establish biblical scholarship, hold (and not lose) the best theological minds in every generation, and overthrow the enemies of the gospel by confronting them at their own level of scholarship’ (Quoted by Tom Noble, Tyndale House and Fellowship, 239).
Like Martin, Donald Wiseman was a great enthusiast and encourager of others, in Britain and abroad. He chaired the Tyndale Old Testament Study Group from 1951 to 1981, taking time and trouble to find young scholars whom he could introduce to the Group so that they would know there were others who could support them in their often lonely research. The Bible is a product of the ancient Near East, so he recognized that it should be read and assessed in the light of knowledge about that world. With that in mind, aware of the value of the archaeological contexts of ancient artefacts, he set up the Tyndale Biblical Archaeology Study Group in 1958, which, although not functioning regularly in recent years, brought together linguists and archaeologists to evaluate and apply new and old discoveries to biblical studies. On his initiative papers were brought together as Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel (1965) and Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives (1980) and he stimulated other publications by fellows of Tyndale House (e.g. David Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2, 1989). A volume of essays by members of the Old Testament Study Group was dedicated to him in gratitude for his many years of devotion (R. S. Hess, G. J. Wenham. P. Satterthwaite, eds., He Swore an Oath (1994).
His experience and knowledge marked Donald as a major contributor to, and Editor of, the New Bible Dictionary (1962, 1982, 1996) and The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1980). For many years he was Editor for Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries and gave his skills to a variety of other Christian publications.
Donald was always ready to help a cause he thought would be fruitful in the service of his Saviour, preaching and teaching and holding informal groups for Bible Study. The number who faced the claims of the Gospel through meeting him cannot be told, neither can the number whose lives and careers he has influenced or guided.
As one of the latter, I give thanks for his life, his service and his fellowship.
Select gleanings from the privately published book Donald J. Wiseman, Life Above and Below: Memoirs (2003). Donald Wiseman led an extremely active and full life and it is not possible to summarize all of this. However, I thought that I would at least pick out a few of many highlights from his autobiography relating to his service in the Second World War:
- PA to Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, who was in charge of the Fighter Group responsible for the defence of S.E. Britain during the battle of Britain, and often finding himself on the phone to Winston Churchill
- trusted to handle large amounts of information from the Ultra Secret source known as Enigma
- chosen to carry maps and plans for first fighters to fly in to Algiers in Operation Torch
- plane crash in Sicily in which he temporarily lost the use of both legs
- recovery to play significant role enforcing German surrender in N. Italy
Here is the text of his citation for the USA Bronze Star Medal:
Donald J. Wiseman, O.B.E., Wing Commander, Royal Air Force, Headquarters Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force, for meritorious achievement in connection with military operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations from 1 March 1943 to 22 June 1944. As Chief Intelligence Officer, Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force, Wing Commander Wiseman displaying a rare analytical and organizational genius was responsible for the creation and development of an Intelligence Force headquarters in the Mediterranean Theater. Upon the Intelligence material gathered through his selfless and earnest work, this Headquarters was able to plan and launch the air operations which brought victory to the Allied Armies in Italy. His brilliancy in collecting and evaluating the necessary operational Intelligence data, his ability to work smoothly with an integrated American and British staff, and his unstinting fulfillment of duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the Allied Nations.