Thomas and Origen email discussion

Mike Grondin, the owner of the Gospel of Thomas email list, has organised for Stephen Carlson to lead a discussion on the paper he is presenting at the New Orleans SBL annual meeting on Origen’s use of the Gospel of Thomas.  His abstract ends:

In short, this survey shows that, despite Origen’s recognition that the Gospel of Thomas did not rank with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and despite the presence of some content he must have found objectionable, Origen nonetheless thought that the Gospel of Thomas contained historically useful and homiletically edifying material.

Stephen has volunteered to post excerpts from his paper during the month of May and I’m certainly looking forward to the discussion. It’s a Yahoogroups list and you’ll find it here.  It seems that you can read the posts without joining, but in order to be part of the discussion you’ll need to join.  You’ll be asked to provide information about why you want to be a member, so mention the discussion (and say you read about it on this blog, if you like).  If your email address doesn’t make it obvious who you are, giving your name would also be good. The default setting is that posts are moderated to make sure that spammers (of either the commercial or religious kind) don’t post, so don’t be surprised if your first post or two is held for moderator approval.

Looking forward to a good read

I am very pleased that today’s mail contained my copy of Mike Bird and James Crossley’s new book How Did Christianity Begin? The timing is good because I had run out of things to read in my regular exercise bike rides in the gym and was finding that The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants was failing to hold my interest for a second reading and my paperpback edition of the complete Chronicles of Narnia is just a bit big to balance on the bike. It is my current aim to write at least a short review once I’ve finished it, although sometimes time gets away on me. 🙂

Update: It occurred to me after I posted this that it might be possible to understand it as the suggestion that James and Mike’s new book is of about the same standard as Sisterhood.  In fact, I was just trying to demonstrate the depths to which I had sunk.  Ideal exercise bike reading for me is not so technical that I need to access reference books or concentrate intensely, but nevertheless stimulating and challenging.  I read 15 pages this afternoon and How Did Christianity Begin? is proving to be excellent bike reading!  I would also recommend Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet and the introductory sections of Bill Loader’s The New Testament with Imagination, although the actual commentary on the passages requires juggling book and biblical text and is beyond my on-bike capability.

Bushfires in Australia

I don’t know what gets into the international news, but a very large area of Australia is currently on fire or burned out as a result of the worst bushfires in several decades.  Because Australia is dry and we like our trees and our native eucalypts (gum trees) burn well, we get bushfires every summer.  However, this means we’re good at dealing with them, so most years property is lost, but not lives.  When people die, it’s usually only a very few.

This year is different.  Just a few minutes ago, the confirmed death toll in Victoria was 128, with a warning that it could go as high as 230.  The latest report in the Australian newspaper says

The weekend’s blazes are likely to have destroyed almost 1000 houses. They wiped two whole towns – Marysville and Narbethong – off the map and left the town of Kinglake decimated.

There are more fires burning on the Central Coast of New South Wales, although I don’t think people are dying there, and then in Queensland there are floods!!  Bear in mind when looking at these figures that the population of Australia is only 21 million.

There are stories of firefighters who have lost their own homes while out trying to save the homes of others.  Recovery workers are going through the wreckage of burned out houses and dragging out the bodies of whole families who died.  Most of the fire fighters are volunteers. They are all well trained but quite a few will be dealing with the reality of death from bushfire for the first time.

There is a higher death toll than in either of the other big fires in our history, but our population is also significantly higher, so I’m not sure if this really is the worst since European settlement.  It’s one of the three worst, though.

Armidale, where I live, is a long way from these fires and the surrounding area is not drought affected, so any fire that might start would be far easier to control. However, one of the areas affected is Churchill, where I lived in my last chaplaincy placement at Monash Gippsland campus.  From what we are hearing, the house we lived in then has almost certainly been burned and quite likely the homes of friends who still live there. The Fire Service is almost positive that this fire was deliberately lit.

If you are the kind of person who prays, please keep the people who have lost homes and loved ones and the emergency service personnel working in the area in your prayers.

Update 23 February

Yesterday was declared a national day of mourning and there was a memorial service in Melbourne, with live feeds all over the country.  The official death toll is over 200, with the homes of over 7,000 people destroyed.  There are still fires threatening other places near Melbourne and people were told that if they hadn’t got out by early this morning, it was too late to try to leave and they had to stay and try to defend their homes.  Just horrible.

Advance requests Biblical Studies Carnival XXXVIII

For some reason that I no longer remember, I agreed to host the Biblical Studies Carnival that highlights blog posts for the month of  January.  If you have a nomination, please let me know.  I will especially need help with Hebrew Bible and biblical archaelogy related posts.

Send the following information to the following email address: jredman2 AT If you’re not sure whether a post qualifies, send it anyway and I will decide whether to include it.

  • The title and permalink URL of the blog post you wish to nominate and the author’s name or pseudonym.
  • A short (two or three sentence) summary of the blog post.
  • The title and URL of the blog on which it appears (please note if it is a group blog).
  • Include “Biblical Studies Carnival” in the subject line of your email
  • Your own name and email address.

You can also do this and find out more information through the Biblical Studies Carnival website.  I am just attempting to be organised now in order to save my sanity at the end of the month.

Jim’s desktop challenge

Unlike, Jim West, the originator of this “challenge” I don’t change my desktop image all that often. My desktop image is a photo of the statue of William Marsh Rice (aka “Willy’s statue”), the donor who made Rice University, Houston, Texas possible.  Behind it, you can see the Fondren Library, where I spent a significant proportion of the five weeks I spent at Rice in April/May 2007.  Fondren is a great library for someone doing research into Early Christianity and April DeConick was a wonderful host for my visit.  The picture therefore brings back happy memories and encourages me to get back to work on my doctorate. 🙂


Six unspectacular things about me

Iyov has nominated me for the six unspectacular things about me meme.

I am always very diffident about naming other people for memes, so I will do what I generally do – list the things and say that if anyone reading this wants to participate, consider yourself tagged.   I will even edit this post to link to you if you wish – just let me know.

So, six things:

  1. I am the mother of two children who are both old enough to vote (ie they have both turned 18)! I find this difficult to believe.
  2. I am very bad at relaxation techniques that require me to visualise unreality (eg  “Picture yourself on a beach…” gets my mind insisting that, no, I am lying on the floor in the gym…)
  3. I luuuuurve dark chocolate
  4. I have been married to Bruce for 25 years and four days – but perhaps having been married 25 years is fairly spectacular??
  5. I like Facebook applications that allow me to contribute to people in developing countries/the environment and ones that grow things – one of my favourites is therefore H2Opia – I also like sending Karma, Lil Greenpatch and the Hatchery.  And yes, I will be your Facebook friend for Karma, H2Opia and Greenpatch.
  6. Ich kann ein wenig Deutsch und ich spreche es mit meine Tochter, manchmal beim Frühstück.  Bruce hat das nicht so gern.

Meme Terms and Conditions

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Mention the rules on your blog.
  3. List six unspectacular things about you.
  4. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.

Remembering David M Scholer

I probably did women in ministry backwards to most women.  The Presbyterian church where I grew up had one of the first two women ordained in the denomination in Australia as its assistant to the minister (while she was training) and assistant minister (when she was first ordained and her husband was finishing his training), and many women guest preachers, so it never really occurred to me that there was any problem with ordaining women.  When I felt a call to ordained ministry, the fact that I was female wasn’t something that came into my calculations.

By the time I started my training, all the denominations which joined to form the Uniting Church had been ordaining women for well over a decade, so the theological college I trained at didn’t bother much with justifications.  Apparently some of the male candidates were less convinced than the hierarchy, but for some reason they didn’t subject me to the same tirades as they did other women.  I don’t know if they were cowed by my perceived theological acumen or scared that I’d complain to the Principal.  For whatever reason, though, I really had not much idea about any biblical justification for ordaining women.

In 1989, though, I was in my second year as a minister in the Wimmera district of Victoria (Australia) when I got a notice saying that some American Baptist called David Scholer was offering a two week intensive on Women and Leadership in the New Testament and it sounded like a good excuse to get back to Melbourne and do some more biblical study.  We were offered the opportunity to stay in the house of the parents of one of my parishioners while they were overseas and if I audited the course rather than doing it for credit, I could just afford to go.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks and found David’s insights into early Christianity fascinating, as was studying the biblical material that underpinned the validity of my call in a systematic way.  It was also really eye-opening to hear the stories of the discrimination that other women had experienced in answering their call to ministry. For all of us, it was wonderful that a male minister felt that the issue was important enough to spend time on at what was probably considerable risk to his academic reputation.

Several years later, when I was a university chaplain in Gippsland, Victoria, the feminist theology discussion group that I belonged to watched and discussed the video series that David made with his wife Jeanette on the same issue.  Again, it was validating to all of us, since we all had leadership roles in the church, although I was the only one ordained.  Another member went on to be one of the first women ordained in the Anglican church in that diocese, having worked as a lay chaplain in schools for a number of years.

It was thus with much sadness that I read of David’s death, and especially of his six year battle with cancer.  I think of Jeanette, whom I never met but felt I got to know somewhat through the videos and also his daughters and their families as they mourn the loss of a very special man.  God be with them all.

More Reflections on SBL

Things I didn’t like

1.  SBL Auckland is the first conference I’ve been to where meals are not included in the registration. I found the whole business of working out what I was going to eat where rather tedious and I didn’t really end up getting anything much better than I do at catered conferences.  It also cut down on the networking opportunities because you more or less had to find someone to have a meal with rather than just sitting down at the same table with people and getting to know them.  See my comment about the potential to be very lonely if you didn’t know anyone before you came.  It was also a bit difficult to know how much to budget for meals.

I am sure that I understand why the US meetings don’t cater – the numbers are, I gather, horrific – but I wonder if catering might not be an option for the smaller international conferences.  We certainly manage to do it for international university chaplains conferences which are a similar size to Auckland.  Although Auckland might be unusually small.  The one I went to in Vancouver gave us vouchers for meals that could be presented at the university’s eateries and if we wanted to spend more than the agreed amount at each meal, we had to pay the difference.

2.  Leaving the questions to the end of a program unit.  If five or six people present in a session, it’s very difficult to remember what you wanted to ask the first and second presenters, so they tend not to get questions.  Perhaps this isn’t so bad for established researchers, but for grad students, getting some feedback from the audience is really very helpful.  I was very glad that Harold Ellens decided to do questions at the end of each speaker in the unit I presented in.

3.  Changing the order of speakers without notice (see a previous post)

Things I liked

1.  The huge range of topics available.

2.  The opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for ages and meet new people

3.  The high level of organisation and the helpfulness of the SBL and Uni of Auckland staff

4.  Beginning with the welcome from the Maori people

On the whole, a great experience.  Pity I am not rich and my school is not rich, so I can’t manage to get to many of them. 😦

Totally Off Topic – for (modern) church historian-types

My daughter is sitting for her NSW Higher School Certificate in a few months and is reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South for one of her English courses. She’s trying to understand the church background to this book set in the UK in the 1800s. She asks:

Do you or any of your Biblioblogger type friends happen to know where I can find data from the 1851 religious census in England? I’ve found lots of stuff about what they did, and breakdowns of the country by regions, but I can’t actually find statistics that tell me useful things, like what percentage of the country were which denomination, despite the fact that the Victorian Web informs me that 14% of the English people were Anglican. I tried following the links that were cited as online resources, and got told where I could buy cheap concert tickets…
I can’t help her. Can anyone else??? I’m sure she’d be happy to share info on cheap concert tickets in return. 🙂