Joy of Texts
I have a great love of introducing the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament to adult learners. Below is a sample of seminars I have given for church groups, lay preachers, Lay Readers and others. I am happy to lead church weekends or day-long seminars.
Scrolls, Scribes, Scribblings and Revelation
An examination into the nature, transmission and collection of Holy Writ, considering the question: “Why is the Bible not a book?” We will look at problems inherent in translation and interpretation. The impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on biblical studies and the formation of Old Testament canon are also explored.
“I have a dream” – the story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-40)
The Joseph story comprises the longest single narrative in the Pentateuch. This well-crafted story contains love/hate, favouritism/jealousy, sibling rivalry, seduction, vengeance, disaster and finally reconciliation! We will examine the story of Joseph in its ancient Near Eastern setting. We will explore comparative literature from surrounding cultures and the place of dreams in the ancient Near East.
The God in Our Genes: Genesis, Creation & Humanity
An examination of Genesis 1-3 against the backdrop of earlier creation stories from the ancient Near East. Through this exploration we will see the uniqueness of the Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity/creation as opposed to the view commonly held at the time of their writing.
Fun with Fish!: The Jonah Story
Using the Hebrew text—translated by the presenter!—we will explore the various levels of meaning within Jonah. We will see how the writer used pun, irony, jokes and repetition to create this memorable tale. So come and find out the connection between Jonah and the Marx Brothers!
Sex, Lies, Murder & Kingship—Wrapped in Irony! (2 Samuel 11-12)
An in-depth examination of the David and Bathsheba narrative through the eyes of the anonymous ‘court historian’. Find out why "Big Brother" and tabloid news have nothing on the Bible! We will examine David’s character both as a man as well as state leader. David is described in scripture as “a man after God’s own heart,” yet in 2 Samuel 11 we meet a philanderer, rogue and murderer! If this were written by the “court historian”, how did he get away with it? We will investigate what he has chosen to write as well consider the ‘gaps’ in the text. All-in-all, this should be a real ‘eye-opener’ for those unacquainted with Hebrew narrative technique.
“Take my wife... Please!: The Patriarchs’ ‘Sister Act’”(Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18 & 26:1-16)
As with Henny Youngman’s one-liner in the title, Jewish humour did not start in a vacuum. All languages and cultures—old and new—rely on devices, techniques and idiomatic expressions in order to communicate meaning. The Bible is no exception. So what’s up with Abram & Sarai, Isaac and Rebekah? Why the ‘sister act’: “She’s not my wife, she’s my sister”? As inheritors of the Judaeo-Christian faith & tradition, it is our natural tendency to believe that the patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith are above reproach; faithful & virtuous. How are we to understand their bizarre behaviour? In this seminar we will examine rich interplay of repetition, gaps in the text, cultural stereotyping, as well as the common humanity of our biblical forebears.
"Let Us Sing unto the Lord": Psalms
What is a ‘psalm’? Like so much of our English Bible, the term 'psalm' comes to us from the Greek translations—‘psalmos’/ψαλμός (a song sung to a stringed instrument). The book itself is called tehillîm, from Hebrew tehillâ, meaning ‘praise’ or ‘song of praise’. Yet even a cursory reading of the Psalms makes clear that the collection is much wider than ‘songs of praise’—rather we find laments, confessions, pleas for help and more. It’s also the case that through our liturgy and hymnology, Psalms remains one of the most-used & best-loved books of the Bible. This seminar is for anyone interested in discovering the depth and breadth of the Psalter.
"The Fear of the Lord": Hebrew Wisdom Literature
The study of the so-called wisdom literature of the Old Testament is both fascinating and frustrating. These books are fraught with problems: the problem of authorship, the problem of date, the problem of provenance, and the problem of possible borrowing—not to mention that much of the theology contained in the wisdom books is very different from the historical and prophetic books. In certain books—such as Ecclesiastes and Job—the question is begged as to whether it is ‘wisdom’ or ‘cynicism’ that is being presented to the reader. If these problems excite your mind, then this seminar is for you.
I am a founding member of the Norwich Centre for Christian Learning, an ecumenical organisation based at the Norwich Cathedral library, and where I led many of the above seminars.
Some of the groups and churches who have invited me to lead seminars are:
- The Cambridge Methodist Circuit weekend at High Leigh Conference Centre
- The British Centre for Literary Translation
- Ipswich Theological Society
- St. John’s Methodist Church (Sudbury) weekend at Belsey Bridge Conference Centre
- East Anglia District’s Local Preachers’ Weekend, Belsey Bridge
- The URC’s Eastern & Thames North Provinces Ministers’ Spring School, Westminster College, Cambridge, where I was asked to give a series of talks on: “Faith and Cultures: Daniel as a Model for Life in a Pluralistic Society”
- East Anglia & Beds, Essex, Herts Districts’ Local Preachers’ Conference, Wesley House, Cambridge
- Elham Deanery (Kent) School of Christian Study invited to give a series on “Why Christians Should Read the Old Testament”
- The West-Midlands (URC) In-Service Training Conference, Launde Abbey, asked me to present a series of talks on “The Nature of Biblical Authority”
In addition to my passion for Hebrew Bible, I have had a long time interest in Christian ethics and lecture on the MA in Pastoral Theology (Cambridge Theological Federation).
I also offer shorts seminars and church weekends on “Christian Ethics and Everyday Life” and “Hard Choices: Christian Ethics in a Changing Bio-Medical World.” Among others, I have led weekends for: the Provincial Weekend, Southern Province of the United Reformed Church, Staplehurst URC, church weekend, Christ Church (Anglican), Sidcup, parish weekend.