Thursday, 13 December 2007

Month 10 - 2 Samuel

Session 10 of Through the Bible in Five an a Half Years is reconvening on the 17th December, just in time for Christmas. 5 Meadow Lane starting at 7:30. I don't want to give too much away but it will feature a clip of Richard Gere in his underpants getting even more undignified that this. (la la la la la la hey...).

Monday, 29 October 2007

Month 9 - 1 Samuel

November's Session will look at 1 Samuel. The date is Monday 19th November, and, as usual, it'll start at 19:30 at 5 Meadow Lane.

I've not really started looking into this yet, so I've not got many resources to discuss. There are, however, plenty of films which deal with bits of Samuel, including the hilarious Richard Gere one, and Peter O'Toole's brief cameo in the recent One Night With the King.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Month 8 - Ruth

As I said after September's session, October's Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years is taking place on Monday 22nd as it's Mel's Birthday the following week. Hope that doesn't catch too many of you by surprise. AS always it's a 7:30 start at 5 Meadow Lane.

In terms of resources, hopefully everyone will find the time to read the book in question this month as it's only 4 short chapters. Of the stuff I've read so far the final paragraph of the brief introduction in the NIV study Bible stands out.

There are a couple of filmy bits too, but I want to use them in this month's session so I won't say too much here!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Extra Resources for Judges

Just a couple of extra resources that I've come across since my earlier post. Firstly, I came across a book review for the snappily titled "Compositional Strategy of the Book of Judges: An Inductive, Rhetorical Study". It's a bit complex, but gives you an idea of the differing positions of one aspect of studying Judges - its composition and structure.

A slightly easier read is my, highly tenous, compare and contrast piece on Judges and Pulp Fiction. I had a ball writing it at least.

Finally, characters are also involved in the not-at-all-theologically-stretching-but-a-damn-good-laugh-anyway Bible Fight games. SUrely with Samson you're on to a winner?

Friday, 7 September 2007

Month 7 - Judges

September's session will be looking at the book of Judges and will take place on Monday 24th September at 5 Meadow Lane. As usual we'll be starting at 7:30.

I did a study on Judges years a go (when I was a student) so I'm quite intrigued to see how I find it this time around. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the book inspite of the problematic violence.

In terms of resources, I've got hold of a copy of Clinton McCann's commentary, and I can recommend the Tyndale one as well (Cundall and Morris). I also have another one, which is more a collection of essays but the title alludes me.

Film resources for Judges are a little odd. There have been a ton of films on Samson and Delilah including the most famous one by Cecil B. DeMille from 1949 (as per the picture). There have also been a number of hilariously poor ones like the one that star Liz Hurley as Delilah. But no film has ever got the whole of Judges, and in fact, other than Samson, only Gideon's story has been made into a film (and only an obscure one at that). Surely in this post Xena age it's time for a Deborah / Jael film? One film that is certainly not a direct film interpretation of Judges, but does have a lot in common with it is Pulp Fiction but more on that when I've had a chance to revisit it.

Not had time to peruse the online resources, but if I turn up anything significant I'll be sure to post it.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Month 6 - Joshua

Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years continues tonight with the book of Joshua. I have to confess it's probably my least favourite book of the Bible, but as a result I'm certainly looking forward to this session as I think I have some important things to discuss and I'm interested in everyone else's perspectives.

In terms of resources I've focussed on printed matter mainly for this session looking at two very different perspectives - Richard Hess's commentary and Gerd Ludemann's "The Unholy in Holy Scripture: The Dark Side of the Bible", as well as the usual resources.

Anyway the session kicks off at 7:30pm at 5 Meadow Lane tonight (20th August)

Friday, 6 July 2007

Month 5 - Deuteronomy

Session 5 of Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years is on the 23rd July looking at Deuteronomy.

As ever there are a few resources I'd like to point out in addition to the material in the recommended reading in the sidebar.

In terms of published works, Philip Yancey writes a great chapter on this book in "The Bible Jesus Read". It's a great and insightful read, (although it has scant regard for the Documentary Hypothesis) and I only really realised in looking for accompanying film clips that it's Yancey's narration, rather than a particular film, which has formed the dominant mental image in my mind.

Speaking of the Documentary Hypothesis, Wikipedia not only has an article on Deuteronomy itself, but also on the possible writer behind it - the Deuteronomist.

The Deuteronomy session is on Monday 23rd July, at 5 Meadow Lane, starting at 7:30pm. It'd be great to see you there.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Resources for Numbers

I promised at the end of May to post some resources for Numbers, but I've been surprised to find that there are so few (other than the book itself).

One excellent commentary on the book is by Mary Douglas who I mentioned in the session on Leviticus. I decided to splash out for the book on this one and have really enjoyed it. Numbers is far more interesting than you might think at first glance!

Otherwise though there's a bit of a dearth of information aside from the recommended reading (see sidebar). So why not go easy and play one of these Bible Fight games instead?

The Numbers session of "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years" is taking place on Monday (25th June) at 7:30 at 5 Meadow Lane.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Month 4 - Numbers

Session 4 of "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years" - Numbers - is taking place on Monday 25th June at 7:30 at 5 Meadow Lane.

I'll add some resources some time in the next few weeks.

Thoughts on Levitcus

I really enjoyed last night's session on Leviticus. In some ways it's a shame that my reading has to race onto Numbers rather than look more at some of the issues we discussed last night more deeply.

I mentioned Dame Mary Douglas last night whose work on Leviticus was apparently quite groundbreaking. There are a few obituaries at The Guardian and The Times. You can also read summaries of her work by David Biale or this unnamed author.

Better still, some of her work is available on Google Books, so you can read bits for yourself of her main works "Leviticus as Literature", and "Purity and Danger".

Edit: Finally, anyone wanting to read or find Steve Chalke's thoughts about atonement should read the article he wrote for Christianity and Renewal Magazine. He says far more here than he does in the "Lost Message of Jesus" book

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Month 3 - Leviticus

Session 3 of "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years" - Leviticus - is taking place on Monday 28th May at 7:30. The venue (as always) is 5 Meadow Lane.

Resources for Leviticus are a lot harder to come by than for Genesis and Exodus. There are obviously the usual recommended reading (see right), and of course the best place to start is the book of Leviticus.

In terms of print resources, a few years ago I found work by Rene Girard and Gil Baille useful. They are anthropologists with particular interest in sacrifice. As for dedicated commentaries, Martin Goldsmith's Leviticus to Numbers turned out to be a disappointment, The Daily Study Bible one might be worth a look.

Online resources are a little easier to come by. Wikipedia's article is a good starting point, although as ever you need to take what you read there with a pinch of salt. Leviticus has been in the news more recently because of the discovery of an old fragment of text from the book. You can read more about it at the Codex blog, although much of the discussion revolves around the subsequent alleged mistreatment of one of the professors involved. Tyler also surveys commentaries on Levitcus for anyone interested in buying one.

Sadly also, films are none too plentiful. The best place to look is films about Judaism rather than Biblical epics, such as The Ten Commandments. I hope to use a clip from Ushpizin on Monday, one of the best films I've seen in recent years looking at faith. I imagine there are a number of others that would also relate to Leviticus such as Trembling Before G-d.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Month 2 - Exodus

This month's Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years is looking at Exodus. The session is actually going to run twice with the first presentation Monday 30th April being repeated on Wednesday 2nd May. Both will take place at at 5 Meadow Lane and start at 7:30pm.

In addition to the book of Exodus itself and the general recommended reading (see side panel), here are a few resources you might like to check out:

There are numerous commentaries on Exodus, but one book that really challenged my thinking was Jonathan Kirsch's Moses: A Life. Tyler Williams' Codex site lots of useful information about commentaries on Exodus.

Last month I mentioned the Bible Dudes website, and it's relevant once again. Bible Dudes is a fantastic site, funny and light-hearted, whilst giving a solid introduction to certain aspects of the bible. The Biblical Studies pages will be particularly relevant for "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years". Picture Bill and Ted doing Biblical Studies rather than basic history, and then imagine someone parodying that but making the information reliable and informative and you're about there. Easily the most interesting and readable introduction ever crafted.

In terms of film resources, there are a number on the subject that are worth getting hold of. The classic is Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 classic The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. At least half of it is pure fiction, but, strangely, it still informs how most of us think about these stories even if we haven't seen it. There's an amusing film at YouTube which turns footage from this film into a spoof trailer for a high school drama - Ten Things I Hate About Commandments.

The story has also been revisited three times in the last decade or so. The Bible collection kicked it all off in 1996 in Moses starring Ben Kingsley. Two years later Dreamworks released the animated The Prince of Egypt, and then last year a US TV mini-series was released also called The Ten Commandments. For an alternative approach, each of Kieslowski's ten Dekalog films deals with a different one of the commandments. There are two articles about Moses in film at the Journal of Religion and Film.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Recommended Reading - Print.

I've finally put some recommended books in the sidebar, so I thought I'd add a few notes on them.

Books for the Whole Course

How to Read the Bible Book by Book - Fee and Stuart
Takes a chapter on each book, giving a brief overview, tips on interpretation and a guide to each section. As such it's more of a reference work than anything else, but a very useful way to get familiar with the different books in the bible.

The Language and Imagery of the Bible - Caird
Probably the most difficult book on the list, but one of the best I've read, and very influential on me personally. As the title suggests it looks at how the bible uses language, rather than trying to tell you what it is saying.

How to Read the Bible For All it's Worth - Fee and Stuart
The popular and original book by Fee and Stuart looking at how to interpret the different writing styles we find in scripture. Some find it a bit of a slog, but it's well written and very persuasive.

Books for the Old Testament

Genesis to Jesus
- Burke
The easiest to read book on the list, but brilliant at giving an overview of the story of the Old Testament and fitting it all together. If what happens between Moses and David, and then David and Jesus is a blur this is the book for you.

A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament - Anderson
There are numerous introductions to the Old Testament, but I've always found this a useful single volume covering the kind of material you would find in the introduction to an individual commentary.

Introducing the Old Testament - John Drane
Another good introduction to the Old Testament. Drane's book is one of the most popular, no doubt due to it's objective style. Cutting back on some of his lecturing to pioneer evangelism to spiritual seekers.

I'll cover online resources at a later date.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Month 2 - Exodus - Dates

Due to popular demand we're going to experiment with running the same session twice for a while. The first time through will continue to be on Mondays, the second will start on Wednesdays.

So we’ll be looking at Exodus on Monday 30th April and Wednesday 2nd May. It would be great to see you at one of the sessions. I’ll update this site shortly with some more information, as well as posting some reflections / notes from Monday's session.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

I've missed all the sessions so far is it too late to join in?
No, each session is designed to stand alone, so you can come to as many, or as few as works for you. Notes are available for the previous sessions if you want to read about sessions you've missed, but there's no need to "catch up" if you've missed earlier sessions.

Why five and a half years?
Well there are 66 books in the bible (at least according to protestants), and we're going to do a book a month in order. 66 months equals 5½ years.

Do you really expect people to commit to five years?
No. I'm anticipating that people will dip in and out depending on what they are interested in, what else they have on, how much they have enjoyed the sessions they have been to so far, and also whether or not they are in a busy period. The advantage of going through book by book is that we can also re-launch when we get to the start of the New Testament. But it's also about putting something on for those who are in for the long haul.

Can anyone come?
Theoretically yes, although it'll probably be most helpful for those who have been Christians for quite a while. Conversely, it may not be the most helpful thing in the world for those who have only become Christians fairly recently.

Do we have to have read the whole book before we come?
No, but this is probably the best way to get the most out of a session. I do recognise, though, that people have busy lives and that some of the books are very long. In any case even taking a cursory glance through the book in question, to get a feel for its flow and remind you of its content would be helpful.

Are you really going to spend as long on Nahum as on Genesis?
Bizarrely yes. The thing is that although everyone says all the books of the Bible are important, most people's practice demonstrates that they don't really believe it. But I'm struck by the fact that someone, somewhere thought the more ignored books were important, and I'm keen to find out why, and what that says about our faith today. Besides when was the last time you heard anyone discuss Obadiah?

Will all the sessions follow the same format?
Yes and no. Whilst my interests and patterns will inevitably mean that many things are approached the same way, the variation in the books themselves will lead to differences in how each session is presented. For example, with the smaller books we'll be able to go into more detail than we would for the longer books. In so doing, a method will be demonstrated that people can take away and apply to any of the longer books they wish to study in more depth. In addition, there are some books where one of the Old Testament's main themes is particularly dominant. On reaching these we'll look at that theme in detail including looking at other relevant texts.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Month 1 - Genesis

The first session of Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years takes place on the 26th March at 5 Meadow Lane, Loughborough. We'll start at 7:30pm.

In addition to the book of Genesis and the general recommended reading (see side panel), here are a few resources you might like to check out:

John L Gibson's 2 bible commentaries in the Daily Study Bible series are a great introduction to looking at Genesis. There's a brief introduction followed by a few verses and some commentary on each day. I own both volumes, and Open Heaven owns volume one.

In terms of online resources, Tyler Williams' Codex site has all kinds of useful information. In addition to his Genesis commentary survey, he has also started a series on his blog on Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia and how that links to the biblical accounts of creation. Lastly there is a brilliant 10 verse Genesis Limerick where each line. All these posts are bunched together under the heading "Genesis".

Two other web sites worth checking, although perhaps afterwards rather than before are the Bible Dudes site, and the Just So Stories. The "Just So Stories" are the nearest modern day parallel to one of the types of literature we find behind Genesis. Bible Dudes is a fantastic site, funny and light-hearted, whilst giving a solid introduction to certain aspects of the bible. The Biblical Studies pages will be particularly relevant for "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years". Picture Bill and Ted doing Biblical Studies rather than basic history, and then picture someone parodying that but making the information sound and informative and you're about there. Easily the most interesting and readable introduction ever crafted.

Finally, I wrote an article for Open Heaven a couple of years ago looking at films based on the stories from Genesis, which I deftly named Genesis Films.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007


Hi and welcome to the "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years" blog.

The catchily titled "Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years" is a monthly get together looking at a different book of the bible each month. It's best to think of it as a series of one off events rather than a course you have to commit to. So people can just pick and choose which sessions to come to depending on which books appeal, or which nights they are free.

The idea is to take one book of the bible each month and look at the stories they contain, how and why they were written, issues of interpretation, theology, and that sort of thing. It'll be delivered in a mix of styles including discussion, group work, reading, short talks interactive exercises and of course film.

You'll get the most out of the sessions if you have read the relevant book of the bible beforehand, but it's not compulsory. Updates, resources and a few relevant links and bits and pieces will appear on this site every so often.

Each session will take place on Monday nights at 5 Meadow Lane, Loughborough, starting at 7:30pm

If you've arrived at these ages by chance, hello, and I hope you find something useful.