Monday, March 29, 2010

"Bible Dudes" Website

Bible dudes is a fun website that is actually very informative (Something I hope that my own blog manages to achieve!) It describes itself as
a totally awesome, entertaining, and informative website devoted to teaching the most influential book ever written — as well as the completely amazing discipline of biblical studies.
You can tut all you want but the site is actually written by two US university lecturers who should know better, Michael M. Homan from Xavier (check out his blog) and Jeffrey C. Geoghegan from Boston College Few will admit to having heard of these two before but they are the co-authors who wrote The Bible for Dummies-don't pretend you haven't at least had a peak!

More Bible websites should describe themselves as "totally awesome" in my opinion! The site has five main sections, Bible, Biblical Studies, Tanak, Apocrypha and New Testament. The biblical studies section is particularly good-with a good overview of the main critical approaches to the biblical text, such as source, redaction and form criticism, as well as archeological finds that relate to the Bible. The graphics for these are all cartoons rather than colour photographs for example the Siloam inscription below:

The site also offers a translation of the various inscriptions that it depicts.

The site doesn't offer a whole deal of new or academic information on the subjects it treats, but it does make you laugh and gives an excellent overview of the topics it features. For example, Mr T (the cartoon on the right is from the site too) teaches us about the Book of Genesis ("I pity the fool who doesn't know about Genesis!"). The Apocryphal literature fares a little better and the New Testament was under construction as this review was written. Keep an eye on their blog for more up-to-date information on the heady and exciting world of biblical studies! And make sure to try the quiz and get into the Hall of Fame-you get a rather "awesome" badge to display too!

My BibleDudes Quiz Score: 10 our of 10

With special thanks to the Bible Dudes for generously allowing me to use the images above! And no, they didn't give me the quiz answers beforehand!

Easter Art

I sent out my "Happy Easter" card to all my Millltown students on Friday (They're all on holidays this week the lucky things). While composing the message I was struck by the lack of graphics that you can use for Easter Greetings-it's all either bunnies, or lambs or the "Sacred Heart" (and frankly frightening) depictions of Jesus:

I love art that makes me think so when I found the artwork of the famed Chinese artist He Qi I knew I was on to a winner. This is my favourite and is called "He is Risen"-I use it when I teach about the women and the Resurrection in the Gospel of Luke. I love the colours and the symbolism in the painting.

This picture below is typical of the kind of technique employed by He Si-have a look at the website for more examples from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and do sent me on recommendations if you have any.

Some websites of resources for children that you could use for some downtime over the holidays or at your Children's Liturgy or Family Mass:

Colouring pages, lots of links on Apples 4 the teacher, lots of different resources-some suited more to a classroom environment Resources for Christian Teachers, where would you be at Easter with "Tomb Cookies"? Don't forget to include something on Passover if you have the time and check out the excellently named "Fridge Art" website for some more Catholic ideas.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Film in the Classroom-The Passion of the Christ and the BBC's The Passion

In my work with inservices for both second level teachers and chaplains in second level schools, one of the main things I work with is how to rethink the way you use film (and indeed any audio-visual resources you employ in the classroom). One of my clearest memories of secondary school religion class was watching seemingly endless Channel 4 documentaries on abortion in Russia. My brother attributes his love of film to watching films in every religion class in his senior cycle, and they weren't all Shawshank Redemption either! This of course led me to rethink things over the years and I'll post more on the technicalities in future weeks. In keeping with the upcoming Holy Week, I'm starting with a film that is fast becoming a staple in Religion class, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ
This film is not suitable for all students and to be honest I've never watched it myself as I'm not good with violence (or blood!). The film has an 18 cert in the UK but the Irish film classification board gave it a 15PG. The violence portrayed is harrowing and disturbing and the use of Aramaic dialogue makes it heavy going. Teachers may like to use selected scenes or chapters to illustrate some biblical passages. Various pieces of feedback over the years that I've received from teachers who use it regularly is that girls tend to like it less than male students (staying true to our stereotypes then) and most students find it very hard work-not in terms of understanding it, but coming to terms with the violence and the actual killing of Jesus. On the whole, it is a film that promotes debate and discussion and this is to be welcomed!

An interesting exercise is to try and “follow” the film using the biblical text to see the liberties the director, Mel Gibson has taken with the text. Students are usually fascinated with Gibson himself, was he really against the Jews? What kind of Roman Catholicism is he representative of? Another interesting slant is to see the prominence of women in the film, particularly Mary and tie it in with how Luke depicts the women in his Gospel as the first to spread the “good news”.

Some websites that may help:

The official site has lots of information about the cast as well as the making of the film and the background to it. You can also purchase a church resource DVD on the site (as yet only available in US format), various film merchandise, as well as free downloadable screensavers and wallpaper.

Mark Goodacre's excellent blog had a post on an interview at he SBL in 2004 with Benedict Fitzgerald, co-screenwriter, and William J. Fulco, S.J., the film's theological consultant, who was responsible for the translations to Aramaic and Latin. David Shepherd from Belfast gets favourable mention as well he should!

For some more resources you might find helpful have a look at some discussion on the anti-Semitism in the film and an interesting article on the general reaction to the film.

For copies of the DVD, I found the cheapest to be on ebay but you can try Amazon or support your local record/DVD shop!

BBC's The Passion

The BBC screened a series entitled The Passion in 2008 and has a fabulous website to provide additional information about the drama. This includes an episode guide, a photo gallery, a timeline of Jesus' last days and an interesting look at what evidence there is for the drama's portrayal of the crucifixion as well as various articles on all aspects of the Passion. The site also has an audio version of the Passion story according to the Gospel of Mark. As yet there is no indication that the BBC are showing the series next week but I wouldn't be surprised if it appears at some stage on BBC4. The DVD is also available on the BBC shop though it is temporarily out of stock. It's cheaper and in stock on Amazon.

Some of the cast of the film:
Joseph Mawle (Jesus), James Nesbitt (Pontius Pilate-see above), Paul Nicholls (Judas), Ben Daniels (Caiaphas), Penelope Wilton (Mary), Denis Lawson (Annas) and David Oyelowo (Joseph of Arimathea)

The Bible Society has a rather expensive resource pack but you'll be able to find some idea for free on the Internet! Have a look at the excellent bog by Matt Page for his comments. Mark Goodacre over on NT Gateway was an historical consultant for the film (oh what a great job!). Both blogs are a good starting point for looking at themes you can use.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Website Reviews-Miscellaneous

I've had a bit of a back-log for sometime on websites that I've reviewed for Intercom but not yet published as they don't seem to come under any particular heading so hopefully these will give you something new to look at! Do let me know if you have any other suggestions.
As always, much thanks to Intercom for letting me reprint the reviews here!

The website of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin was updated in Autumn 2009 and the result is a slick and accessible site. The changes have meant that an already successful site with a wealth of resources now is very easy to navigate with the help of clear menu bars and a permanent footer. The site intends to be outward looking and open to church news and faith stories from around the world. To this end, the site uses a daily email, links to Facebook and Twitter pages, Flickr (a website that hosts photographs), an RSS feed and a webcam at Portlaoise Church to keep users up-to-date and to expand the outreach capabilities of the site and the work of the diocese. News is also included from the Vatican and around the world. One of the stronger elements of the site is the excellent graphics that are used both to illustrate international stories of interest and also local reports.
The site’s vision and reasoning for the development of the site should provide encouragement for those who are about to develop their own parish sites. Taking inspiration from Matthew’s Gospel that states, “a city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden.” With this, the Church is always called to publicly witness to the faith, to go beyond the familiar. The Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin believe that we cannot hide from this challenge and can take comport from the fact that we are not alone in this task and can be enlightened by the online commitment of our fellow believers from near and far.

The Proclaim website is run by the Irish Redemptorists who announce the Word of God in many languages. This website is well maintained and bright and colourful, using plenty of apt images to illustrate the three main sections that information is divided into. Word Acclaimed contains links the texts from the current day’s Liturgy of the Word alongside links to the Liturgy of the Hours from Universalis, podcasts from the New American Bible and Papal messages on The Word Proclaimed section is particularly innovative contains a video (hosted by YouTube) of the homily of the previous Sunday from the Redemptorist community in Clonard; the Liturgy can also be viewed live from Clonard and Limerick. The third section, the Word Inspired contains valuable information and resources for both clergy and laity on the biblical prophets, the Gospel of Mark and The Eucharist in the Gospel of Luke.

Websites on Mission:

The website for the Ceifin Centre for Values-led Change is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in finding out more about mission from the Internet. The website is very easy to navigate and remains uncluttered despite having ample information regarding upcoming events of the organization on the home page. It also allows users to purchase publications and reports of the group and access the proceedings of its various conferences and provides a “media update”. The Links page is particularly useful, providing access to both government and voluntary agencies’ websites.
Times have moved on when the main way on contributing to “foreign” missionary work of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart was through dropping some coins into the “missionaries of the Sacred Heart” boxes that are still to be found in many shops throughout the country. Now there is also the opportunity to contribute to the work of the group through the suggestions on their “Support Us” page. The site is very informative, particularly in relation to their News sections and the information on missions both in Ireland and in more exotic climes. Those involved in education will find the sections on the groups work with those suffering from HIV and AIDS particularly useful with the use of visual aids of videos and graphics.

The IMU (Irish Missionary Union) website offers a variety of resources and information for those interested in the impact of Irish missionaries both at home and abroad including the link to the “Justice Desk” providing links and press releases on issues effecting missionary work throughout the world. The Mission Alive website is a sub-site of the Irish Missionary Union and a colourful and informative resource, especially for educational resources for Mission Month. There is an entire page devoted to various activities that individuals and groups such as prayer groups and schools could undertake to increase their participation in Mission Month. One small but helpful application of the website that others would do well to follow is the facility for displaying pages in a printable format, saving on paper and allowing for clearer printouts. The site also gives details of “Missionaries with Messages” competition for second level students as well as links to videos on the YouTube website and various audioclips.

Some of the better Parish websites I've come across:

Many Irish parishes are turning to the Internet to share information on their work and for those who are not familiar with the parish to find out more information.
The website of Longford parish in the Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnois is a well designed site with clear and accessible menus that make any information on Mass times, parish resources or groups easy to locate. The site is also well worth a visit for pictures of St Mel’s cathedral in Longford, both before the tragic fire on Christmas Day and during the emergency itself. The site offers full details of how you can donate to the rebuilding of this beautiful place of worship as well as details of how the community are coping with loss.

The website of the Ballygall parish, Dublin 11 is a good example of a parish that is keen to explore all avenues of engaging people in the parish, in this case by using the “cyber door” to get a taste of the life in their parish. Going from the aims of the site on its homepage, it succeeds in being both informative and friendly as it is about the people of the parish who journey in faith together and who try to live by gospel values. The parish is obviously proud of its role as a 21st century parish and has embraced the technology that is now becoming popular whereby Mass and other liturgical celebrations can be broadcast live to the house bound and to residents of nursing homes, as well as to those who for reasons of distance cannot attend a particular Church ceremony, such as a funeral liturgy. This service is called “MyBallygallTV” and thoroughly embraces the idea of spreading the message of the gospel to all.

The parish of Our Lady and St. John in Carrigaline in the Diocese of Cork and Ross is an excellent example of how a website can be set up, in this case by the parish’s communication sub-committee to provide a simple yet efficient information site. While the site does not indulge in multimedia links and feeds, the information on the site is kept up-to-date and relevant for both parishioners and for those who wish to find out more information on the parish and the services it offers. The layout of the site is fresh and uncluttered and includes plenty of graphics to break up the text, including a link to the parish’s Flickr (photo sharing website) page.

Monday, March 15, 2010

St Patrick's Day Resources

With the big day coming up on Wednesday I thought a few links to some resources for St Patrick's Day wouldn't go amiss. And not a green pint among them.

For general resources, if you can avert your eyes from the video of corned beef and cabbage (a video? Does anyone actually eat corned beef?) the History channel's website is a good place to look for videos on celebrations around the world.

Some interesting articles on the life of St Patrick are "Will the Real St Patrick Please Stand Up?", detailed information on his life and teaching, information on the Bell of St Patrick. The ever helpful BBC website has a dedicated page with good graphics. The Confession of St Patrick is available in English online and the UCC website has both the Confessions and letters online on its excellent CELT site.

For Children:
The "Give up yer old sins" retelling of the story of St Patrick by children is the Rutland primary school with accompanying animation is great fun to listen to. There is a wealth of cut-out shamrocks and the like on the web, some of the best resource sites I've found are The Teacher's Guide with lesson plans and a short play, Irish language resources (we need more!) and some songs and music. It's hard to avoid the leprechaun element of these things but this site embraces the idea with the least amount of tackiness.

Prayers and Hymns:
There are lots of prayers associated with our Patron saint, the most well known of which is St Patrick's Breastplate. Beliefnet incorporates this into a beautiful guided meditation. My guilty pleasure is belting out (loudness over tunefulness) the hymn "Hail Glorious St Patrick" at Mass on St Patrick's Day-these three seem to do it better though:

Other Celebrations:
The official website of the St Patrick's Day Festival covering events all over Ireland provides information and timetables for everything from the céilí at St Stephen's Green on Tuesday night to the BIG EVENT of the parade on Wednesday morning. I'll be watching the parade on TV admittedly (with a nice cuppa) saving my energy and body heat for my patriotic display in Croke Park where I'll be watching the AIB GAA Hurling and Football All Ireland Senior Club Championships with a special interest in the seeing the Ballyhale Shamrocks triumph.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bible Maps

One of the difficulties I encountered while teaching the Cert in Religious Education in Mary Immaculate College (apart from the obvious problem of keeping your voice and your sanity teaching the same lecture 8 times in two days) was how to quickly and accurately "make real" some of the places, buildings and geographical locations that we came across in some of the biblical texts we were examining. Luckily I had a good grounding in visual presentation from my lecturers in Maynooth and was already had quite a collection of maps that I could use. I found that showing students a map of Israel, with perhaps a close up section of an area of interest means that firstly they realise that the "odd" term mentioned in the text is actually the name of a mountain, a desert, a town etc but also because of the fact it exists on a map, it is something that they see as "real" rather than an abstract notion in a piece of difficult text. My collection grew and grew with each lecture course to the point my students in Milltown bring in their own maps to show me good example that they've found or that might illustrate a difficulty they had with the text (for example with the Prophets, remembering the Northern/Southern divide and what prophet came from where). All my students bring their maps to each class and use them as we work through the text. I've also started trying to illustrate as much of the biblical text as I can with pictures-particularly this year in my Wisdom Literature classes where I need to show the idea of agriculture that is being referred to in the Psalms. I've given some examples below-let me know what you think and please let me know if you've any more you'd like to share! I'll work on the photos on a separate post....

BibleMap makes me realise how much of a map nerd I am. I get such a thrill out of using this site. The concept is quite simple-you look up a section of text you are looking at (the sections are per chapter and the two searchable options are ESV and KJV though we won't hold that against them for long). The site then uses Google maps to show where each location mentioned in the text is. What's particularly great about this is that you can utilise the Google satellite function to see the actual terrain of the land, and how settlements and towns have grown up around the historical locations. All we need now is for the power of Google to harness time and show us in detail how the location would have looked in biblical times! The site also has a developing page which shows "events", meaning you can track the journeys of biblical characters. At the moment this only features Paul. Fingers crossed from some Exodus related info soon!

If you can't find it here you won't be able to find it anywhere! This is a great website as a a "one stop shop" for biblical maps.

Visual Bible has to be praised for making all their resources free for non-commercial use, all you have to do it sign up for membership-quick, easy and spam free. Lots of pictures and maps all of high quality are available for download-excellent, well organized source. Thanks to Brendan for finding this one!

My favourite website has a huge amount of biblical maps (132 at last count) which are all downloadable in jpeg format and print and photocopy incredibly well. They work on PowerPoints and are very clear and colourful. Some I use in class are the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah(1) and (2), and Israel & Judah in the days of Jeroboam II and Uzziah

Some miscellaneous ones I've collected over the years that I have no idea where I found them!

This works really well with the class debate on the "actual" route of the Exodus

Book of Numbers

So where is Mount Sinai then?

12 Tribes of Israel

For more modern maps have a look at the tourist website for downloadable (and very cute) Pdf files.

For buying maps and an atlas (or ten) look at BibleBooks and Maps which publishes in association with Carta Jerusalem.

And you'll need one of these, otherwise you'll be leaping up and down in front of your data projector!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Internet Resources for Introduction to Prophetic Literature Course

I'm starting my six week lecture course, Introduction to Prophetic Literature course in Maynooth next week and as an experiment have decided to try and assemble some Internet resources for my students. I usually spend some of my first lecture warning my students about the perils of putting "Prophet" into a search engine and what odd stuff you might find so this year I have decided to be proactive and try and steer students to some more helpful sites.

Use Oremus for an online NRSV edition of texts

Bible Study notes and Biblical commentaries by Dr Tim Bulkeley-has notes on Jonah and Amos. Bulkeley is well known for his work on Amos-the postmodern Bible.

The iTanakh site has a large list of resources for all of the Hebrew Bible-some useful articles in PDf format and very easy to navigate.

The Christian Resource Institute - Israelite Prophets Date Chart

The Book of Jonah Good general overview of the Book of Jonah though annoying advertisements.
A very detailed site has collected all the resources on Jonah (some weird and wonderful) together. I've put up the link for the more light hearted elements featured.

Online study guide to the Book of Amos-very detailed, a more straightforward guide.

Places in the Bible-Brilliant resource for "making real" some of the stranger place names in the Bible
 though you do have to pay for it. Another free alternative. Try this nerdy website that links to Google maps-I'll post more Bible Map resources in due course.