Oxford City Council, You’re a Bunch of Idiots

Get this:

Through centuries and across countries, it has remained a staple of traditional Easter celebrations. 

But that rich history, it seems, has been rather lost on one council bureaucrat – who forced a church to cancel its Passion play because he apparently thought it was a sex show.

The performance, telling the story of the crucifixion of Christ, had been planned for Good Friday by St Stephen’s House Theological College and Saints Mary and John Church in Oxford.

That was until an official at the local Labour council refused to rubber-stamp the event, forcing the church to scrap it at short notice. 

Oxford City Council banned the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ…wrongly believing the play was a sex show and could cause ‘grave offence’

Actors had planned to walk through the streets of Oxford on Friday to re-enact the lead up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has they had done previously in 2012.

The worker in question apparently did not know that a Passion play was a religious affair – and thought it was an obscene production.

Last night ministers, MPs and religious groups criticised the ‘unbelievable’ actions of Oxford City Council, saying it showed Christians were becoming increasingly marginalised in society.

A Passion play is a dramatic performance of the Passion of Christ, depicting the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus. The name comes from the Latin verb ‘pati’, meaning ‘to suffer’.

The Oxford performance was previously held in 2012, without a licence, when an audience of some 200 watched Mischa Richards, playing Jesus, haul a wooden cross from Cowley Road Methodist church to Saints Mary and John. 

This year, the organisers decided to stage a repeat, but were told they must apply for a council licence – and were astonished when they were turned down.

A church source told MailOnline: ‘A council official didn’t read the paperwork properly and didn’t realise it was a religious play, so told us we needed an events licence when we didn’t.

‘If they’d told us 24 hours earlier, we would have had time to apply for and get one, but we ran out of time. It’s frustrating because we didn’t need one in any case – they just hadn’t read what the play was about.’

SS Mary and John vicar, Adam Romanis, said: ‘It’s very upsetting because so many people were looking forward to it.

‘Someone said to me: “You can’t hold a crucifixion these days without a licence”.’

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Chozen: A Passover Parody

For those of you who aren’t sick to death of the music from Frozen—and its various covers and parodies—here’s one for Passover:

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Late for Church? Here’s a Handy Guide for What to Do

Courtesy of Ben Myers.

In 1948 the World Council of Churches proposed to establish a Commission on Late Arrivals. However, plans were abandoned when it became apparent that the representative churches were unable to agree on a definition of the word “late”. A prominent Greek Orthodox delegate argued that “lateness” designates arrival more than twenty minutes after the specified starting time; while several Presbyterian theologians insisted that “lateness” technically refers to any arrival less than three minutes prior to starting time. These thorny and intractable questions of definition perhaps belong more to the philosophy of time than to liturgical studies, and as a result I make no attempt to resolve them here. The following ecumenical manual has been prepared simply as a general guide to the differing Liturgical Rules for late arrivals in various church traditions. It is hoped that this manual will lay the foundation for further study in this field, and that it will prove useful as a practical aid for those emergencies of punctuality that can strike even the most conscientious of churchgoers.

(I’m mostly sure that paragraph was a joke.)

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About That Noah Movie

Jonathan Storment, guest-blogging at Jesus Creed, raises an important question about the Noah movie that is opening this weekend:

It turns out that Evangelicals have a bad habit of reviewing stuff that we haven’t seen or read. Some people are critiquing it because it doesn’t stay true to the 3 chapters that Noah is in the Bible, but I have a different concern.

I am not so concerned that they will get the story wrong, I am wondering what will happen if they get it right?

He explains,

Part of me wonders if we really remember what the Noah story is.  It is an incredibly dark and disturbing story of a God who takes evil seriously. What we see in Genesis 6–9 is the unrestrained justice of God.

In the beginning of Genesis, God creates the world by holding back the waters of chaos, but in chapter 6, it is as if God just stops holding it back.  He undoes Creation.

He purges the world from sin, starts over with one family and asks them to give the world a better future. The only problem with the flood is that it didn’t work.

Two chapters later, Noah’s family starts the same cycles of sin. Noah passes out drunk and naked, and wakes up cursing his family.

It’s like the ark washed up on the Jersey Shore.

I wonder if Hollywood is prepared to deal honestly with a story like that. (I guess we’ll find out Friday.) But I also wonder if American Evangelicalism is prepared to deal with a story like that.

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Notes on Jeremiah

Due to Mercer’s exciting NCAA tournament run (in which our team showed themselves to be the epitome of class in both victory and defeat), last week’s discussion of Jeremiah was (1) somewhat truncated and (2) rather poorly attended. So I’ve decided to post my lecture notes (admittedly rough; I like to wing it) so everyone can get their bearings as we move forward into a discussion of the exile.

I. Jeremiah’s complicated literary history.

A. Some sections are repeated elsewhere (Jer 7:1-15 = Jer 26:1-9; Jer 39 = Jer 52)

B. There is great variation among ancient texts. The Septuagint (LXX) is 1/8 shorter than the Masoretic Text (MT) and has the later chapters in an entirely different order.

C. What can account for these variations?

  • A reflection of the chaos of the time?
  • A reflection of an open-ended understanding of the book? (i.e., editors felt free to revise, expand)

D. Three major times of material, traditionally divided into 3 different sources.

  • Source A: Poetic oracles, perhaps from Jeremiah himself?
  • Source B: Biographical narratives—written by Baruch?
  • Source C: Deuteronomic editing and expansion.

II. The Contents of Jeremiah

A. Chapters 1–25 are the nucleus of the book, mainly consisting of poetic oracles. Is this the “first scroll” Jeremiah dictated to Baruch (36:4)? Jer 25:13 hints that this part may have originally stood alone.

1. The Call of Jeremiah. Jer 1:4-19 is an overture to the whole book. Jeremiah has a perception of having been called all his life.

  • Looking backwards – a trail of Yahweh’s leading, a working together of things – haven’t come this way accidentally! Jeremiah senses this as a liability.
  • Appointed a prophet “to the nations” – the only prophet so designated – doesn’t seem to be a missionary – perhaps so named because the fate of nations was tied up with Israel and Judah.
  • Perhaps he was so named because he ministered during a time of great upheaval in international affairs? YHWH using Nebuchadnezzar, etc, bring message of what God is doing.

2. The Temple Sermon (ch. 7). Jeremiah rebukes Israel for their misdirected confidence that they are safe because they have the temple in which to worship. Their worship means nothing if they don’t get their act together—only after they change their ways will God meet them in the temple. (But don’t bet on this happening, see 7:16.)

3. The Potter’s House (ch. 18). God gives Jeremiah an object lesson about what Judah looks like from the divine perspective. They are as intransigent as a flawed lump of clay that resists what the potter is trying to do to it. Therefore, like the clay, they must be “worked over” so that the Potter can make of them a fitting vessel. (And this reworking is not going to be pleasant!)

4. The “Confessions” of Jeremiah. Five soliloquies that give insight into the prophet’s psyche: 11:18–12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18. Individual lament form.

  • Deep unhappiness with his mission.
  • Prayers for God to punish those who oppose him.
  • Enduring commitment to the divine will.

5. Prophetic “gestures.” Like several other prophets, Jeremiah seems to have been a fan of “performance art.” He occasionally sought to make his point not through words alone but symbolic acts such as:

  • Breaking the jug (19:11)
  • Wearing a yoke (27:12)
  • Buying a plot of land (32:15)

**What follows is an almost random assortment of oracles, laments, prose narrative, and speeches.

B. Chapters 26–29: Encounters between Jeremiah and the establishment, mainly other prophets. Chapter 29 is Jeremiah’s famous letter to the exiles, encouraging them to get on with life—they’re in it for the long haul, so they might as well get used to it.

C. Chapters 30–33: “The book of Consolation”—hope and comfort for the future. Many affinities with Deutero-Isaiah.

  1. 1. A new future for Israel. This is a pivotal passage—reversal of fortunes.
  2. 2. The “new covenant” (31:31-34)

D. Chapters 34–45: More prose narratives, mostly from the reign of Zedekiah and  after the Fall of Jerusalem.

E. Chapters 46–51: Oracles against the Nations—some are quite formulaic, stereotyped.

  1. 1. The same language is used in Obadiah, Isa 15–16
  2. 2. Parts are repeated elsewhere: Edom (Jer 49:19-21) = Babylon (50:44-46)

F. Chapter 52 is an appendix taking from the Deuteronomic History (2 Kgs 24:18–25:30)—the Fall of Jerusalem and its aftermath.

III. The Message of Jeremiah is complex. Changing with the changing political landscape.

A. Encourage the reform of King Josiah.

B. Doom!

  1. 1. The “temple sermon” (ch. 7), esp. 7:16, “Do not pray for this people.” Time has run out!
  2. 2. False assurances of a speedy return (ch. 27:16-17). Rather, serve the king of Babylon (cf. ch. 29—seek the peace of the city where you find yourselves)

C. Hope: YHWH will not entire abandon his people (esp. chs. 30–33).

 

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Best Book Excerpt Ever

Peter Enns’s new book (coming out in August) looks like a winner, not least because of this riveting excerpt:

The book is just over 65,000 words long, and I am proud of each and every one of them. All that remains for me now is to arrange them in the right order and make sentences out of them (at which time I will give an exerpt or two).

Until then, here are some of the words that will appear in the book, some more than once.

  • the
  • a
  • Jesus
  • dipwad
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • New Jersey
  • Kansas
  • Bible
  • Megatron
  • Yankees
  • Balrog
  • God
  • went
  • lawyer
  • iPhone 17
  • tube socks
  • Klingon
  • Red Sox
  • Herman Munster
  • White Russian
  • moron
  • Screen Actors Guild
  • have
  • dagnabbit 
  • Justin Bieber
  • of
  • cagefighting

That’s the first paragraph.

I can’t wait!

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February 2014 Biblical Studies Carnival

I’m back from my church’s family retreat just in time to alert readers to the most recent Biblical Studies Carnival, hosted this month at Mosissimus Mose.

You might also want to check out the seventh installment of Abram K-J’s Septuagint Studies Soirée.

And finally, Brian Small has once again provided a rundown of interesting recent posts on the most fascinating book in the New Testament.

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A Sign of the Times?

I wonder if they went around posting notices like this in the days of Noah…mesopotamia_closed

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The Sixth Septuagint Studies Soirée

Abram K-J has posted the next SSS at his fine blog. Go see!

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Biblical Studies Carnival – January 2014

The first Biblical Studies Carnival of the new year is now posted at NT Exegesis. Enjoy!

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