Monday, December 09, 2019

A better translation of Luke 1:46-7 in Mary's Magnificat for December 15th Advent 3, 2019

Advent 3 of our 2019 Liturgical Calendar makes it possible to use Mary's Magnificat (Canticle 9, p.91 of the BCP) in place of the Psalm.

Luke 1:46-47 records the opening lines of Mary's Magnificat:

Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,
καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoiced in God my savior.

My point is simple: these parallel lines of Hebrew poetry translated into Greek open the Song of Praise by nevertheless using two distinct verbs and two different tenses in the verbs "magnifies" and "rejoiced." The first is in the present tense, conveying Mary's praise of God on the basis of Gabriel's information, whilst the second, in a past (aorist) tense, causes listeners to pause because it does not simply repeat the first line.

When we pause to take in a difference in the second line, what do we hear? A beam of light into the past. Mary is looking back to her experiences of God in the past on the basis of her present experience. These experiences are shared with Israelite tradition; they are not hers alone. We can imagine that she has re-membered God's saving acts, invoking for example, Miriam's poetic Song of the Sea in Exodus 15, the Shir Ha-Shirim celebrating God's saving act in delivering Israelites from the Egyptians. As God saved Israelite slaves in a mighty act of deliverance, so God now looks with favor on God's lowly servant. Hannah's song of deliverance (I Sam 2:1-10) is likely also to be in Mary's mind:

My heart exults in the Lord,
and my strength is exalted in my God.

And Mary is also using the kind of liturgical language found in Habbakuk 3:18:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.

Mary articulates a prophetic voice that sees God's mighty acts in the present and the past because she is in fact a prophet.

By keeping the present tense of both verbs in translating Luke 1:46-7, the NRSV translation has missed Mary's prophetic insight juxtaposing God's present and past actions in the opening lines of the Magnificat.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Preaching Podcasts on Sundays in November and Advent 2019

We've been busy.

Prof Althea Spencer-Miller of Drew University Theological School and Dean Joshua Davis, Dean of the Alabama Integrative Ministry School, and I have been creating a podcast series: Preaching Podcasts for Pundits and Public Proclaimers with the support and promotion of the Bishop T Stevenson School of Ministry in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

We have just finished Sundays in November and Advent 2019 and are now embarking on Christmas Day, Christmas 1 & 2, and Epiphany 2020. 

Our Podcasts for Preachers, Pundits, Parishioners, and Public Proclaimers takes Lectionary readings as a starting point to explain the Bible in simpler, less complex ways than formal seminary or divinity school education. Podcasts are now recognized as a different but powerful form of learning. Episodes provide listeners with alternative and memorable ways to take in and understand complex ideas.

We know that Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and UMC pastors, priests, and parishioners across the country want to understand, teach, and proclaim the Bible and ways Scripture is presented in the weekly Lectionary reading three-year cycle. Christian educators and parishioners don’t always have money or the time to take 12-week courses in person or online in a seminary or a local educational institution. We know they don’t  always have access to good theological education in each church, parish, synod, or diocese in part because clergy are stretched too thin. We also know that there are also church phobic people like nones or dones who nevertheless take the Bible seriously. And we now know that podcasts are a serious pedagogical alternative to in person traditional education. Podcasts can reach constituencies in and beyond denominational affiliations.

Our podcasts offer:

· Conversation amongst accessible core scholars Deirdre Good (Stephenson School for Ministry, Dio of Central PA), Althea Spenser-Miller (Drew University Theological School), and Joshua Davis (Alabama School for Ministry)
· Weekly focus on lectionary texts and current issues for sermon preparation in Episcopal, UMC, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and other denominations
· Comprehensible public cutting-edge scholarship by theologians in Church & Academy

 Why not try our podcasts

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Preparing to go on a Pilgrimage A

(Bruce Feiler) Six stages characterize every pilgrimage:

  • The Call: The opening clarion of any spiritual journey. Often in the form of a feeling or some vague yearning, that summons expresses a fundamental human desire: finding meaning in an overscheduled world somehow requires leaving behind our daily obligations. Sameness is the enemy of spirituality.
  • The Separation: Pilgrimage, by its very nature, undoes certainty. It rejects the safe and familiar. It asserts that one is freer when one frees oneself from daily obligations of family, work, and community, but also the obligations of science, reason, and technology.
  • The Journey: The backbone of a sacred journey is the pain of the journey itself. In India, pilgrims approach the holy sites barefoot. In Iraq, they flagellate themselves. In Tibet, the more difficult the trip the most merit the pilgrim acquires. In almost every place, the travelers develop blisters, hunger, and diarrhea. This personal sacrifice enhances the experience; it also elevates the sense of community one develops along the way.
  • The Contemplation: Some pilgrimages go the direct route, right to the center of the holy of holies, directly to the heart of the matter. Others take a more indirect route, circling around the outside of the sacred place, transforming the physical journey into a spiritual path of contemplation.
  • The Encounter: After all the toil and trouble, after all the sunburn and swelling, after all the anticipation and expectation comes the approach, the sighting. The encounter is the climax of the journey, the moment when the traveler attempts to slide through a thin membrane in the universe and return to the Garden of Origin, where humans lived in concert with the Creator.
  • The Completion and Return: At the culmination of the journey, the pilgrim returns home only to discover that meaning they sought lies in the familiar of one's own world.

What did I really see this day?

"It is a startling truth that how you see and what you see determines how and who you will be…. Ask yourself: What way do I behold the world? Through this question you will discover your specific pattern of seeing."

He then describes and comments on the implications of various styles of vision. Here is a short list, which he elaborates on in his book:

• To the fearful eye, all is threatening;
• To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed…HAVING has become the enemy of being;
• To the judgmental eye, everything is closed in definitive frames;
• To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged;
• To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens…indifference is necessary for power;
• To the inferior eye, everyone is greater;
• To the loving eye, everything is real.

“The loving eye sees through and beyond image and effects the deepest change. Vision is central to your presence and creativity. To recognize how you see things can bring you self-knowledge and enable you to glimpse the wonderful treasures your life secretly holds.”

John Donohue

Friday, May 31, 2019

Podcast Interview with Prof Katie Day hosted by Prof James McGrath

Prof James McGrath of Butler University was kind enough to invite Prof Katie Day and myself to join him in a recent podcast on our co-edited book, Courage Beyond Fear: Re-Formation in Theological Education (2019: Pickwick Publications: Wipf and Stock, Oregon). I enjoyed our three-way conversation immensely, particularly since we ventured into the role of religion and faith in public discourse; directions of theological education; crises, vulnerability, and community; models of leadership; governance and mission.

Courage Beyond Fear is a collection of sermons and addresses from theologians and ministers who taught and studied at seminaries that underwent wrenching change, often when corporate-style governance was vaunted over theological education, spiritual insight, and community. This book, edited by Katie Day and Deirdre Good, is the first to record stories of seminary and theological school crises from an inside perspective of students and faculty living through those changes. “Drawing on scripture, history and faith, these uncompromising voices set out questions of forgiveness, vision, and faithfulness which are essential reading for anyone dealing with institutional or personal loss,” Rebecca Lyman, Professor Emerita of History, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, wrote in her review on Amazon.

Monday, May 20, 2019

"The Jews" in John's Gospel: Resources B

Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel. Eds. Reimund Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt and Frederique Vandecasteele-Vanneuville. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. xiii +322 pp. $.00 (paper).

Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel originated from a research program at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) to study the alleged anti-Judaism of the Gospel of John. At the research seminar in Leuven on Jan 17-18, 2000, 24 leading scholars in the fields of Johannine exegesis and Jewish-Christian dialogue met and some of the contributors rewrote their essays for the present volume. The complete set of essays from the seminar has already been published. This volume is the definitive collection on a central problem in the New Testament.

In the first essay "Wrestling with Johannine Anti-Judaism: A Hermeneutical Framework for the Analysis of the Current Debate" the editors structure the debate in the volume on five questions:

A) Is the Gospel of John anti-Jewish?
B)Who are "the Jews" in John?
C) How do we have to understand the presumed conflict between the Johannine community and "the Jews"?
D) Is John supersessionist?
E) What is the possible contribution of hermeneutics to reading John?

In regard to A), no one denies that anti-Judaism has found its way into the interpretation of John but did it originate at the level of the interpreter, the level of the text, or the level of the author? Those agreeing that John depicts the relationship between Jesus and "the Jews" in a negative way (B) sometimes limit, relativize, and even deny the anti-Judaism implied in it. Important here is how to understand John's frequent negative use of the term "the Jews." Jewish authorities? First-century Jews? Only those who do not believe in Jesus? All Jews of faith convictions? As part of an inner-Jewish conflict? C) John 9:22 is now understood as referring only to a local conflict between the Johannine community and their Jewish neighbors rather than as evidence of the full separation of Judaism and Christianity into separate religions. No longer is the entire Jewish religion seen as excommunicating all of Christianity by a formal decree and thus Judaism cannot be blamed for the rupture between Judaism and Christianity. Thus, explanations excusing John's comments on Jews and Judaism as a response to Jewish exclusion and hence safeguarding the gospel's status as an authoritative text are inadequate.

In summary: - anti-Judaism in the fourth gospel reaches to the core of the Christian message and is intrinsically oppressive rather than revelatory. They are not later redactions of the words of Jesus unacceptable from a Christian point of view. Nor can one excise them to save the healthy core of the message. However the hermeneutical solution proposed (E) is that scriptures themselves are not the only place or the end of divine revelation. The author of John was a sinful human being. Yet the gospel cannot be reduced to its anti-Jewish elements. It projects an alternative world of all-inclusive love and life that transcends its anti-Judaism and this world of the text rather than the world of the author is a witness to divine revelation.

Monday, May 13, 2019

"The Jews" in John's Gospel: Resources A

Essential reading on this topic is an article by Prof Adele Reinhartz, "Reflections on my journey with John, A Retrospective from Adele Reinhartz," in Ancient Jew Review, April 11, 2018. In she argues that

"John’s well-documented anti-Judaism is not peripheral but central to the Gospel’s theology and rhetorical program.  While I do not for a moment believe that John’s author(s) would have foreseen or applauded the history of Christian anti-Judaism, there is no doubt that they intended to foster suspicion of, distancing from, and even hatred of the ioudaioi. To be sure, John’s ioudaioi are not an ethnic or religious category but a rhetorical one."

"Jesus and the first disciples were ethnically ioudaioi, but not theologically so – this label is never used for the disciples and only once for Jesus (John 4:9).  Yet the fact that there existed, and continued to exist, real people who fit that label – whether we call them Jews or Judeans or by some other name – and who, by and large, did not go along with the Gospel’s views about God, Jesus, and humankind, means that John’s Gospel could be, and was, used to build a wall between Christ-confessors and ioudaioi that had real consequences for real Jews."

Her new book on this topic will be published this July:

Cast Out of the Covenant
Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John
The Gospel of John presents its readers, listeners, and interpreters with a serious problem: how can we reconcile the Gospel’s exalted spirituality and deep knowledge of Judaism with its portrayal of the Jews as the children of the devil (John 8:44) who persecuted Christ and his followers?

One widespread solution to this problem is the so-called “expulsion hypothesis.” According to this view, the Fourth Gospel was addressed to a Jewish group of believers in Christ that had been expelled from the synagogue due to their faith. The anti-Jewish elements express their natural resentment of how they had been treated; the Jewish elements of the Gospel, on the other hand, reflect the Jewishness of this group and also soften the force of the Gospel’s anti-Jewish comments.

In Cast out of the Covenant, Adele Reinhartz presents a detailed critique of the expulsion hypothesis on literary and historical grounds. She argues that, far from softening the Gospel’s anti-Jewishness, the Gospel’s Jewish elements in fact contribute to it. Focusing on the Gospel’s persuasive language and intentions, Reinhartz shows that the Gospel’s anti-Jewishness is evident not only in the Gospel’s hostile comments about the Jews but also in its appropriation of Torah, Temple, and Covenant that were so central to first-century Jewish identity. Through its skillful use of rhetoric, the Gospel attempts to convince its audience that God’s favor had turned away from the Jews to the Gentiles; that there is a deep rift between the synagogue and those who confess Christ as Messiah; and that, in the Gospel’s view, this rift was initiated in Jesus’ own lifetime. The Fourth Gospel, Reinhartz argues, appropriates Jewishness at the same time as it repudiates Jews. In doing so, it also promotes a “parting of the ways” between those who believe that Jesus is the messiah, the Son of God, and those who do not, that is, the Jews. This rhetorical program, she suggests, may have been used to promote outreach or even an organized mission to the Gentiles, following in the footsteps of Paul and his mid-first-century contemporaries.

Lexington Books / Fortress Academic
Pages: 248 • Trim: 6 1/4 x 9 3/8
978-1-9787-0117-5 • Hardback • July 2018 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-9787-0118-2 • eBook • July 2018 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
Subjects: Religion / Biblical Studies / New Testament / General, Religion / Christian Theology / General, Religion / Christianity / History

Prof Joel Marcus has some very useful things to say about John's use of "the Jews" in the Gospel of John in his farewell lecture "Thoughts on the Parting of the Ways Between Judaism and Christianity" given this Spring 2019 at Duke University.

These thoughts are also related to a collection of essays: The Ways That Often Parted: Essays in Honor of Joel Marcus, Eds. Lori Baron, Jill Hicks-Keeton, and Matthew Theissen (SBL Press 2018) offering not "one coherent narrative," but "snapshots of how Jews and Christians (variously defined)" interacted, conflicted and collaborated in first and second century literature. The argument of these essays is that "Christianity's eventual distinction from Judaism was messy and multiform," occurring in different places at different times, in different ways and with different resources, histories, theologies and politics.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Effective Pauses in Teaching? Silence in the classroom

Pauses and silence in teaching to sustain reflective moments and thoughtful exchanges have always been part of my teaching in seminaries. Such moments seem to happen as a result of establishing respect for questions and dialogue. They won't happen if the class is not a safe space. When they happen is hard to predict.

A recent article by Steve Barclay, Education Consultant, makes the point that a pause after asking a question in the classroom before inviting students to respond seems to encourage reflection and deeper thought. A three second pause allows students to gather thoughts into speech. A five second pause after a response:

"allows the teacher to communicate that the student’s answer is important and she is taking time to consider it. Frequently during this pause a student may add to or change an answer now that he has heard it."

Research cited in the article indicates that:

  • Length of student responses increased 300%-500%
  • More inferences were supported by evidence
  • Incidences of speculative thinking increased
  • Number of questions asked and experiments proposed by students increased
  • Students to student exchanges increased
  • Failure of students to respond decreased
  • Disciplinary moves decreased as engagement increased
  • Variety of students participating voluntarily increased as did the number of unsolicited responses
  • Student confidence, as measured by fewer inflected responses, increased
  • Achievement improved on written measures of cognitive complexity
Charley Wesley's 2013 article in the CHE commends the sanctioning of silence in classrooms by pointing out its connotations:

"Silence in teaching has multiple meanings. It is both an opportunity for thought and a force that can bring the classroom to a grinding halt. It is a complex and interesting phenomenon that, properly managed, can enrich our classrooms."
This is exactly the same point made by Jane Brox in her recent book Silence: oppressive in once context (a prison) and liberating in others (a monastery).
Wesley observes that acknowledging and working through silence in classrooms at the beginning of a semester "is a strategy that helps to normalize its discomforting and sometimes stifling presence."

Friday, March 01, 2019

Spring class in Belfast Maine starting March 28th The Miriamic Procession

The Miriamic Procession

  • Thursday Afternoons Starting March 28th
  • 1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • Senior College at Belfast
  • University of ME Hutchinson Center
  • 80 Belmont Ave.
  • Belfast, ME 04915
Through examining some selected literary excerpts, this course will explore the evolution of Miriam/Mary/Maryam from ordinary woman to “chosen…above all women of creation.” The Miriamic tradition or procession is both auditory and visual. The sound starts with an unnamed sister raising a brother and moves to the glorious song of Miriam who sings the “Song of the Sea,” celebrating Israel’s deliverance from the powerful Egyptians with music and dance. Some scholars have suggested that Miriam was connected to a philosopher role, and the notion that she communicated with God is advanced through other texts from the Hebrew Bible.
The Miriamic procession continues in the New Testament from Mary, mother in the birth stories, through women disciples in Jesus’ ministry, to the women, especially Mary Magdalen at the empty tomb and at the resurrection. In the Ethiopian Christian Canon, the Weddase Mariam, consisting of seven prayers, one for each day of the week, is appended to the Psalter, and thus has almost canonical status.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, holds a singular exalted place in the Islam liturgy as well, as the only woman named in the Qu’ran, which refers to her seventy times, more often than in the New Testament, and especially identifies her as the greatest of all women.
Dr. Deirdre Good received her Doctor of Theology from the Harvard School of Divinity in 1983 and holds several other advanced degrees from seminaries and other universities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

March 7 & 14 How to Read the Bible 5-6pm online sessions through the Diocese of Maine

Thanks to the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, I am offering two online workshops on How to Read the Bible,  to interested participants on March 7 & 14th from 5-6pm.

To participate in the discussions, you must have a bible easily available to you. I will refer to it regularly and will encourage you to do so too. I will be specifically referring to The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Fifth Edition (2018). I recommend you acquire an annotated NRSV bible, not necessarily this one. I do not expect you to own these books but I want to alert you that I will be referring to David Bentley Hart’s The New Testament: A Translation (2018) and the Jewish Annotated New Testament Second Edition (2017) eds. Amy Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Please email me for details:

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Lenten Adult Formation Series at Church of Our Redeemer in Lexington Massachusetts

Lenten Adult Formation Series

Recovering a Jewish Jesus
It has never been more important for us as followers of Jesus to understand our fundamental common heritage with Judaism, where and when we parted ways, and how we can live into our faith while honoring and recognizing our Jewish kindred.
This Lent we welcome three extraordinary teachers and guests to Redeemer:
  • Rabbi Howard Jaffe from Temple Isaiah on Sunday March 17 
  • Rabbi David Lerner from Temple Emunah on Sunday March 31
  • Canon Dr. Deirdre Good is a scholar, author and lay preacher in the Diocese of Maine. 
    She will preach on March 10 and lead Adult Forum on Sundays March 10, 24 
    and April 7.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Spring Semester Stevenson School for Ministry Online Courses

Interested in taking online courses at the SSM in Spring 2019?

Register here.

Courses start in the second week of February.
We use Zoom for interactive classroom learning and discussions. Our classes are recorded for future use and consultation. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Enneads, Plotinus ed. Lloyd Gerson (CUP 2019)

"What little we know about the life of Plotinus (ca. 204–270 CE) comes from the short memoir with which his disciple and literary executor Porphyry (ca. 234–305 CE) prefaced The Enneads—the complete edition of Plotinus’s writings that Porphyry collected and arranged. Because Plotinus was reluctant to speak of his early life, and because Porphyry came to know him when he was already fairly advanced in years, the picture we have is of a man already fully formed in personality and settled in his convictions. According to Porphyry, Plotinus attached small importance to his own biography. Just as he objected to having his likeness drawn or sculpted, because he was ashamed at finding himself caught in the shadowy meshes of a material body, so he also objected to dwelling on the trivial details of his individual existence as a mortal man.

But this edition of The Enneads comes as close to establishing an authoritative Plotinian idiom in English as we could reasonably hope. " David Bentley Hart's review of a new edition by Lloyd Gerson.

Podcast Conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education

 Just thrilled that our podcast conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education are available here: https://podcast...