Monday, May 31, 2010

The Bible and Food

Now I'm not the world's greatest cook but I was working on a handout I distribute to my students on the Passover and the Sedar meal for my course on the Pentateuch. I don’t get a lot of time to dwell on the Sedar meal and it’s significance but I fund students are very interested in it so I try and have something that they can work with outside of the class. Here’s a rough version of it-I change it every year depending on the focus of the group so it’s a bit general:

Passover is the 8-day celebration that commemorates the setting free and escape (exodus) of the people of Israel from Egypt. It is a period of family get-togethers and lavish meals that are called Seders. The story of the Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan and just like Easter the date changes every year.

Passover in 2011 will start on Wednesday, the 19th of April and will continue for until Thursday, the 26th of April. (Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day). is a fantastic website that is packed with info and ltos of things for children. I have actually used this book in class too-some times you need to go back to basics-and it has lovely pictures!

According to the Book of Exodus - Moses, was ordered by God to go to the Pharaoh and insist on the independence of the Israelite slaves. Moses' appeal of let my people go was ignored. Moses warned the Pharaoh that God would send brutal punishments to Egyptians if the Israelites were not freed. Again the Pharaoh ignored Moses' request of freedom. In response God unleashed a series of ten terrible plagues on the people of Egypt
  1. Blood
  2. Frogs
  3. Lice (vermin)
  4. Wild Beasts (flies)
  5. Blight (Cattle Disease)
  6. Boils
  7. Hail
  8. Locusts
  9. Darkness
  10. Killing of the First Born

I usually add in those who think the plagues are scientifically provable and those who think it's all a natural occurrence:
The holiday's name - Pesach, meaning "passing over”, or "protection" in Hebrew, is derived from the instructions given to Moses by God. In order to persuade the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, God intended to kill the first-born of both man and beast. To protect themselves, the Israelites were told to mark their dwellings on the door lintel with lamb’s blood so that God could identify and "pass over" their homes.

When the Pharaoh finally agreed to freedom, the Israelites left their homes so quickly that there wasn't even time to bake their breads. So they packed the raw dough to take with them on their journey. As they fled through the desert they would quickly bake the dough in the hot sun into hard crackers called matzohs. Today to commemorate this event, Jews eat matzoh in place of bread during Passover

Passover celebrates this event. The first two nights of the 8-day holiday are celebrated with lavish meals called Seders in which the stories and history of Passover are celebrated. With its special foods, songs, and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration. Special foods, plates, silverware are all a part of the Seder.

Traditional Passover Foods & Their Symbolism

Unleavened Bread -- In their haste to leave Egypt and escape slavery, the Israelites had no time to let dough rise for bread. Their only provision was matzoh, which is made of wheat but not allowed to ferment or rise. Matzoh is a perfect example of how the food we eat is intricately woven into history, traditions, and culture. It is the bread of both slavery and of freedom.

Roasted Lamb Bone -- The roasted lamb bone symbolizes the lamb that was sacrificed at the Holy Temple of Jerusalem on the eve of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The blood of that ancient sacrifice was used to mark the doors of the Israelites, so they might be "passed over.” Today, many families substitute a chicken or turkey neck for the lamb. Whichever meat you choose, roast it in the oven until done, and then scorch over a flame, like a gas burner or grill. Jewish vegetarians have been known to use a whole roasted beet instead of lamb.

Roasted Egg -- Eggs symbolize the perpetual cycle of life, from birth to death to re-birth. To roast eggs, first hard boil them, then, using tongs, hold over a gas burner or candle flame.

Bitter Herbs -- Fresh horseradish, without beets or vinegar, graces the Seder plate to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.

Greens -- Greens, usually fresh parsley or celery tops, represent re-birth and spring.

Salt Water -- The greens are traditionally dipped in salt water, which symbolizes the tears of the Hebrew slaves.

Charoset -- A traditional Passover dish, charoset consists of a mixture of chopped fruits, usually apples, nuts, raisins, spices, and wine. The mixture represents the mortar Hebrew slaves used to make bricks for the Pharaoh Ramses II.

Some websites that have recipes for Passover meals and foods

Buy your paper Sedar plates
Kosher Cooking
Jewish Recipes

This all got me to thinking about the Bible and Food (and lunch if I'm honest) and I found this amazing website Biblical Cooking.

Are you looking for bible inspired dishes for your restaurant or home kitchen? If so you came to the right place, welcome to the Biblical Cooking website. We invite you to browse through our user friendly website and find out how easy biblical cooking can be. 
I wasn't but I sure as hell am now....
 Try King David's Lamb Chops:

So there must be more right?
Oh yeah...

Nutritional Information from a Biblical Perspective

A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land.

Diet with God

The Hallelujah Diet

Food mentioned in the Bible


Food at the Time of the Bible. From Adam's Apple to the Last Supper. Which is surely the winner of Best Book Title EVER. I have to share the blurb:
Was the "forbidden fruit" of the garden of Eden really an apple? What is St. Peter's Fish? What was in the bowl that Jesus dipped into at the Last Supper? Within the pages of this book you will find a uniquely in-depth and easy-to-read survey of every aspect of food in the Bible, accompanied by fascinating illustrations and photographs. You will learn not only what people ate and drank in Bible days, but how they raised their food, stored it, traded in it, and prepared it. You will take a fresh look at food through the eyes of Scripture, seeing new and deeper symbolic meanings behind many a menu.
Best of all, you will find an exciting collection of biblically-inspired, easy-to-prepare recipes for a cornucopia of delicious dishes to share with friends and family.
As you enjoy learning about what our biblical ancestors ate, you will find yet another way of coming closer to Bible days and Bible ways. Through this book you will discover that Scripture, the most important inspiration in our spiritual lives, can be an inspiration in the kitchen as well!

I could go on but my tummy is rumbling :) I'll let you know when I try some recipes!

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Lost" and the Bible

Some of you may scoff and say this just about covers reactions to my lectures on Hebrew Poetry, but far be it from me to shy away from taking a reference from popular culture (something I see as positive by the way, as my colleagues on the exec of the IBA know all too well!) and you can’t get more popular these days than the Lost finale that was screened this morning at 5am GMT on Sky 1.

Now I’ve a confession before I start-I watched the first series of Lost and dipped in and out for the remaining five, but I am a woman of not much patience and I like to see logic in my TV viewing so I wasn’t able to keep up for the full 121 episodes. However there has been a steady stream of comment on the programme and the biblical allusions, quotations, motifs etc that we can read into it so I’ve put some links up for you to explore and make up your own minds…

E! online has a great blog on the finale which has a good examination of the religious element in the narrative (or parallel narratives), a rather well though out post from Neil Shyminsky on a Ben/Jacob link as well as "BigMouths" great overview.
Check out the Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay and the Facebook site. Chris says:
"All the evidence in 'Lost' is pointing to existence of a truly good higher power, and in turn, to the existence of evil"
Though the show does quote a wide range of philosophers and has made references to various religious terms, like the dharma of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, there are lots of commentators like Seay who point to the references to the Hebrew Bible.
As a proper obsessive about naming, the character names struck me. There's Jacob, who is the biblical father of the 12 tribes of Israel. And then there is a baby named Aaron, the name of Moses' brother.

Chris states that the story of Lost echoes the Book of Exodus, where the Israelites are brought out of slavery into the Promised Land. While the Jews were literally enslaved, Chris says, the characters of Lost instead bear the brunt of emotional burdens.

Each character has a burden to bear throughout the six series. From a murderer to an alcoholic to a former Iraqi solder who used torture tactics, the characters all have “baggage”. This Chris says, is something that viewers can relate with.

"Deep down, we all know we're not as perfect as we should be," Chris said. That is our personal "land of slavery."
Walt Belcher (Rocking name) of the Miami Herald has a great article which features Seay. Rick Bentley has an article on the more spiritual aspects to the series and a good list of references to the Bible that appear in the show (though some are more religous than biblical) and my first ever link to something associated with wikipedia, the Lostpedia has a mind boggling array of biblical references which include the two major biblical quotations in the series:
  • Eko recites Psalm 23 in the episode "The 23rd Psalm" and begins to recite it in "The Cost of Living" immediately before the "Monster" kills him.
  • In the Ajira Airways website, the source code includes the verse John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Resources for Biblical Translations

Apologies for the delay in posting but I've been meaning to post about this blog entry over on the brilliant Faith Central blog from the London Times entitled the Yummy Mummy Bible and as you can see it turned into a rather long post!

Bess writes: How much would you pay for a Bible? A proper one, bound in leather, with thin gilt-edged leaves and a ribbon for a marker? How much value would you place on the Holy Word of God? £20? £50? How about £165? That's how much a basic version of the Good Book (Authorised King James Version) is sold for at Smythson, the Queen's stationers, which has undergone a dramatic revamp since in 1996 Samantha Cameron became creative director.
So what do you get for £165? A Bible bound in leather (Mara Brown, Ivory or Bubblegum pink - sorry Cerise Aruba Calfskin) with pages edged with gilt or silver, and ribbon bookmarks. Want to 'personalise' your edition with your name, initials, or the date? A mere £5.95 per extra letter. Who was the cash to buy this? Perhaps the Camerons' fellow parishioners at St Mary Abbot's Kensington, which boasts, according to its website, an illustrious line of past worshippers: Isaac Newton, William Wilberforce and... yes Beatrix Potter. Good to know some aren't feeling the Credit pinch...

NB: Smythson trivia: the company provided black condolence books at the funeral of JFK.
Now horrified at the though of someone having to pay that much for a Bible (no matter how good the pink leather smells), much less an King James Version, I have to admit that I was a little bit jealous, for I, as the self-confessed Bible Nerd, saw this baby in a Barnes & Noble in Philadephia (while attending the SBL Annual meeting, to make it even nerdier).
Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, that is a pink, rubber covered edition of the ESV Bible. From Crossway. And I ♥ it. Despite the fact that I don't really like the ESV translation, or the fact the print is so small I have to use a magnifier reader, I take it to every conference and talk that I need to bring a Bible with me for reference. Except certain SBL groups as I have hard enough a time being taken seriously! (Mental note, must buy "pocket version" of the JPS to wave around next year)

I suppose the moral of the story is that it doesn't take much for a bible scholar to be "whacky" (Even by our own definitions) but it's quite hard to be cool. We try it with acronyms but we're fairly limited in those, apart from the DSS and the MSS that are associated with it :-)

I've often found with students who are not used to studying biblical texts that they often are not sure about what biblical translation that they're reading from, let alone what the acronym stands for, or that they think that there's not much difference in any of them and finally, that their crazy lecturer needs to get a life and stop obsessing about the NRSV, the version I use in all classes and for reading texts. Students are free to use whatever translation they're comfortable with in essays and exams, but we all read off the same "hymn sheet" in class.

I receivd an email a while back from HarperCollins, the publishers of the NRSV, via SBL, which provoked me into writing this entry. The email requested that I fill out a survery about the need (or otherswise) for an updated NRSV. What'll they call it if they bring about a new one? The New New Revised Standard Version, The Newer Revised Standard Version? The New Revised Standard Version 2.0? The Post-Neo Revised Standard Version? The New Revised (again) Standard Version? The possibilities are seemingly endless, though lots of fun to think of.  I would be of the opinion that although there's pros and cons to every edition and translation, the NRSV does the best job for what I need it for and it can't hurt to have another look at it and try to update it. For one thing, it will give some bible scholars a job and we do need those!

In class I use the excellent book, Which Bible? A Guide to English Translations, by David Dewey which gives a solid introduction to the art of translation and the "need" for so many translations. He then surveys steps through various translations and editions, from Old English Versions through to Bibles on the Internet. I find that students like this text as it addresses they're main concerns about finding the "right" translation, and opens them up to the idea that there are far more translations out there than they thought.

For some Internet resources try the following:

PLEASE NOTE that some of the texts below are copyrighted and you should follow the instructions for seeking permission to reproduce them.

This is in no way an exhaustive list but I've been working away at it for ages and thought I should post and add to it! Let me know if you have any more suggestions.

BibleGateway has lots of translations (with 20 English translations alone)

The best online NRSV edition is the Oremus website with its Bible Browser. Bible Study Tools has a good site that allows you to share the text you want, rather than the copy and paste method.

Holman Christian Standard (2003) Note the stringent copyright information

The Message Bible (1993-2005)

Contemporary English Version (1995) (Not searchable)

The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version (1995)

The Revised English Bible (1989) (Not online)

The Christian Community Bible (1988)

The New Century Version (1991)

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The New King James Version (1982)

The New International Version (1978)

The Good News Bible (1976)

The New American Standard Bible (1971)

The New American Bible (1970)

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) (Copyright Owned by Doubleday so not available online)

Knox's Bible (1945-1955) ("You" version)

The Living Bible (1962-1971) (Not online)

J.B. Phillips' New Testament (1958, revised 1972)

The New World Translation (1961)

The New English Bible (1970)

The Amplified Bible (1955)

The Revised Standard Version (1952)

Weymouth New Testament (1903)

The American Standard Version (1901)

Darby Bible (1890)

The Revised Version (English Revised Version) (1885)

Webster's Bible (1833)

The Douai-Rheims Bible (1752)

The King James Bible (1611)

The Bishops' Bible (1568)

The Geneva Bible (1560)

and finally check out Next Bible for a list of those pesky abbreviations!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lighthearted Relief

'Tis the season of Exam Boards and Exam Corrections which always make me cast my mind back to correcting the exam papers of a certain college (which shall remain nameless). One question I posed asked the students to answer short questions on a previously seen (if they had come to lectures) piece of text on Mark 6 and the Miracles-one of which is where Jesus walks on water. Rather than answer the questions, one student drew me a fabulous picture of Jesus on board a surfboard. It made me laugh but he (yes it was a male!) failed on that section. So in honour of students sitting exams everywhere I give you these hints for my birthday present and accompanying card:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bible and Film-Films that Retell Biblical Stories

I've been meaning to post a bit more on the wide subject of Bible and Film for a while now-it's such a large, and in my mind, underdeveloped side of teaching the Bible that it really needs some serious consideration. One thing that I’ve learned from giving second level in-services and teaching in a teacher training college for primary school teachers is that teachers are much more able to use multimedia in the classroom (times have moved on from no one being able to work the video machine in my day) but they’re not being given enough resources to use them.
In part of my workshop with the School Chaplains’ Association of Ireland in November 2009, I talked about the three ways you can use films in discussing biblical themes in the classroom. Have a look them in the selection of the PowerPoint slides I used during the workshop.

I’ll start with the easiest which is Films that Retell Biblical Stories:

Some of most ♥ loved ♥ and some you might not have thought of using-for example only one of the participants in the workshop had used Life of Brian (and he got a gold star for being brave!

Exodus (2007, 15 Cert)

Exodus transposes the events of the biblical tale to Margate of a dystopian future in which a Pharaoh dictatorial leader has declared war upon society's 'undesirables'. Drug abusers, refugees, criminals and the homeless are all considered equally worthless and entered into a restricted ghetto where they cannot leave. When Moses learns he was adopted by Pharaoh and is actually the son of an asylum seeker, he shuns his life of privilege to lead the ghetto's inhabitants in a revolt against his father.

An excellent film that was first shown on Channel 4. It shows how the biblical text is not only relevant today but in the future (the treatment of the Israelites in Egypt, compared to the treatment of asylum seekers today and in the future). The “parting of waters” scene is useful to start debate-where is God featured (if at all) in the scene? Does the water actually have redemptive, cleansing qualities rather than just being used for harm?

Buy the DVD

The Prince of Egypt (1999, U Cert)
The film was nominated for 2 Oscars in 1999 and won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song. The lyrics for the song ("When You Believe" sung by the formidable duo of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (which is sung at the end of the film in full) contains a section sung by a child in Hebrew-these are verses 1, 11 and 13 from Chapter 15 of the Book of Exodus.

And if you think the song sounds familiar, it was sung by the winner of the “X Factor” on ITV1, Leon Jackson. And no, the Hebrew wasn’t included on that release!

The film is a good overview of the Exodus event in general but also can be used as an exercise on comparing the biblical text and the film’s interpretation of it. Chapter 25 of the DVD on the parting of the Red Sea is especially useful. Firstly to get a sense of the magnitude of the event but also to see how it compares to Exodus 15 (The Song at the Sea). The Director’s commentary on the scene is useful here.

Joseph, King of Dreams (2000, G Cert)

Yes, Ben Affleck is the voice of Joseph (don’t let that put you off!). This “sequel” to The Prince of Egypt tells the story of the Joseph from the book of Exodus. There’s not a lot to debate here but for weaker groups who have difficulty in grasping the context of the biblical stories it is an excellent tool. Also helpful if you want to avoid anything about Technicolor dreamcoats. (if you cannot resist the sing-along!)

The Nativity Story
 (2007, PG Cert)

This in an excellently produced and directed film released in 2006 that retells the Nativity to the point of the flight to Egypt. In general it is a good all round film which helps students understand that the stable wasn’t Ye Olden Times Holiday Inn and a more realistic portrait of the characters. I’ve successfully used it to debate the Catholic view of Mary (The actress playing her, Keisha Castle-Hughes, is never seen without full make-up and a serene smile) and I use it with the class discussion included in my presentation on Advent. One word of warning-make sure you use this DVD in a room you can darken easily-most key scenes take place in darkness and it’s sometimes hard to make sure everyone can see what’s going on!
There are very good high-res stills from the movie for download

The Life of Brian (1979, 15 Cert)

A motion picture destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilized world. And severely annoy the other third.

But it’s funny. And that has to be a good thing! The excellent depiction of the Sermon on the Mount (DVD Chapter 3) is a good starting point for the great discussion of “Is everything in the Bible true then?” Maybe Jesus really did say “blessed are the cheesemakers”! It is an excellent example of how oral traditions have passed on the “words” of Jesus and how the biblical text may have a shifted idea of what Jesus said. Check out the clip below but be warned about rather un-biblical language.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bibledex-Videos from the University of Nottingham

Video journalist Brady Haran has a great quote about the Internet:
"For everyone out there who wants to watch a cat fall down a staircase there is someone else who is trawling the internet for a bit more depth"
Hopefully this blog caters for both ends of the spectrum! Haran is connected with an excellent website from the University of Nottingham, Bibledex that I came across via Mark Goodacre’s excellent blog. Bibledex is now a complete collection of videos on every book of the (Protestant) Bible. The site notes that

The videos are by no means comprehensive - rather they're a curious assortment of academic insights into what is probably the most famous collection of books in history

And there’s nothing more I like than a “curious assortment” of insights. I’ll definitely be using these videos in my classes-either as something I can play at the start of a topic, for example on the Book of Numbers in my course on the Pentateuch next year or as a supplementary piece for students to consult outside of the class. One piece of feedback I got from my students this year was that they started off some of the topics feeling a bit lost and I suspect this is because I cannot give enough time to introduce a topic or a book that we’re going to look at because of time constraints. In an ideal world I’d have my classes read the entire book and some background material but this is a lot to expect of the majority of my students so I’m trying to find more visual ways of doing this. Bibledex gives a great general introduction that is rooted in visual displays and solid informed information from academics who know what they’re talking about but aren’t doing their “I’m on the History Channel and need to be taken seriously so I’d better wear my tweed jacket with the patches” routine. Though some do succumb to the “I’m a learned person, look at all my books behind me”.
Have a look at the Genesis video (all videos are on the website and also on YouTube so you can embed them easily).

The only criticism I have (shared with Mark Goodacre) is that the theologians and Biblical Scholars aren’t identified by name, you have to be a certain type of Bible Nerd to know most of them (*cough*) You need to go to the Theologian Profile’s page to match up the pictures, but do take note of the Irish accents, Tom O'Loughlin and Alan Ford are featured.

The site also has an excellent section which I know my students in Milltown will love on Israel, documenting the visit there in January 2010. The video on the Sermon of the Mount is excellent-students love the “what does it look like now” element (there’s grass! And cars!) and a great account of how Jesus addressed the crowd. Well worth a look.

Have a look too at the fan site on Facebook and the BBC report on the project with excellent pictures. There's also the Bibledex's photostream on Flickr. And do let me know of any feedback you receive if you use them!

And as Jim West points out we'll just have to set to with getting the video of the Deuterocanonicals together!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Creation Myths

One day I'll get to teach an entire course on Genesis Creation Accounts and I'll still be stuck for time to fit all it! I found this great resource recently that will be great to use in comparing the Genesis creation accounts with other creation myths. The website is for supplementary use when you buy the CD ROM, but you can still access animated accounts (using Flash animation) of the Norse, Babylonian and Egyptian creation myths (among others) without having to pay. The animations and sound effects are excellent and fun to use. For example, the Babylonian creation myth has an animation (you need to use a next command to go through each slide so it’s probably more useful for individual use rather than in a classroom situation. There are segments on Babylonian culture and the Babylonian idea of the pantheon as well as exercises (which would be great for using with a younger group) and a handy word document of the presentation for use with a larger group. If you look under the Teacher’s Guide section, there are lots of hints and tips for using the programs in various classroom situations.

Other Creation Stories (for use with children) available:

Native American
Japanese (Shinto)
Egyptian (Animated)
Hindu (with video)

Some books I've found helpful for working with children (thanks to my students in Mary I for some of these!)

The Creation Story: See and Say (Board book) Christina Goodings