Category Archives: Illuminating Faith

Illuminating Faith – Introduction to the New Testament

Introduction

This is a ‘value-added’ study series based on an excellent online resource on the New Testament from Professor Dale Martin at Yale University, and complements a similar Yale course on the Old Testament also adapted for IF.

This undergraduate course outlines many important considerations scholars bring to reading the New Testament, as well as covering providing an introduction to the content of the New Testament. The course should be particularly useful for introducing lay people to modern historical critical methods developed over the last two centuries for interpreting these texts.

The whole series and its associated resources can be found in its original form on the Yale site. The ‘Sessions’ tab on that page brings up the full list of lectures, and clicking on each brings up the video, an audio-only version, transcription text, and any other resources (occasional handouts, etc.) relating to that session.

This IF version uses the Yale videos and a version of the Yale transcript reformatted into an easily printable PDF with paragraph numbering for easy reference in conversation groups. The main supplementary material is gathered together on one web page for each part, and a few other resources are also provided to build on the Yale material.

For an introduction to the series and presenting it in your local context, download our introductory document:

The studies can be done in one continuous series. It is, however, quite long, and so a break-up of the material into four parts is suggested below (the break-up is not part of the original series)

Preparing for the discussions

Prior to each session, watch the lecture via the links below, or read the transcript. There is also an audio-only version of the lectures available on the course homepage under the ‘sessions’ tab — click on the session you want and the audio can be downloaded at the bottom of the session page.

The collection of lecture transcripts can be downloaded individually from the session details below, or as a zipped file here:

There is often a section of biblical text which it would be helpful to read in conjunction with Martin’s lectures. This is indicated in the session details below, along with other reading or video resources which might complement the material.

The Yale material is reproduced here according to the associated terms of use.

Other resources

Bible
  • Prof Martin suggests the New Revised Standard Bible (NRSV) as the version of the Bible for the course. There is no need to purchase this version; the text of the NRSV is available online at, for example, the Oremus Bible Broswer, should you need it.
  • The edition of the NRSV Martin refers to in the first lecture is the latest (5th) edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocryhpa, which is probably most accessible to Australians via Angus and Robertson (Ebay) – about $AU61 (April 2021). This has extensive interpretative footnotes to the biblical text and a number of essays on themes of NT interpretation. It is a similar price on Book Depository, and bit cheaper there for the paperback version. (Take care not to purchase the much cheaper Apocrypha-only version!). The Kindle version of the full Bible is about $22.
Commentary
  • Prof Martin has turned his lectures into a book, available here in paperback and Kindle versions. The text, however, does not extend greatly beyond the online lectures/transcripts. 
  • If you would like more reading to complement what we hear in the lectures, perhaps better (at least, with a different voice) might be Pheme Perkin’s Reading the New Testament (Kindle, paperback, $15-35 plus postage); probably cheaper at Book Depository.
  • For the intrepid, Tom Wright’s New Testament in its World is a massive book covering similar ground in much greater than a single lecture series could. This is available on Amazon (international stock) here but the best source for Australians might be Koorong (about $70 posted). Take care not to order the much cheaper ‘Workbook’ companion volume by mistake!

The Study Materials

[Part 1 – Introduction to the Study of the NT]

  • Session 1 – Introduction: Why Study the New Testament? Video 1; lecture transcript
  • Session 2 – From Stories to Canon Video 2; lecture transcript
    • Some might be interested in some extensive YouTube/video material from Robert Jenson on the theme of the canon and its relationship to the creeds: Illuminating Faith – Scripture, Canon, Creed
    • Prof Martin makes passing reference to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in this lecture. The Septuagint (meaning ‘70’ and abbreviated with the Roman numerals LXX), is important for the interpretation of the New Testament because it is the text (rather than the Hebrew) which NT authors cite. A quick (2.5 min) video overview can be found in the Museum of the Bible introduction; Andrew Perrin’s longer (15min) intro is here. A brief text overview of the LXX can be found in this Encyclopedia Britannica article; the Wikipedia page is more extensive. And you can read the LXX (in English!) here.
  • Session 3  – The Greco-Roman World Video 3; lecture transcript
  • Session 4  – Judaism in the First Century Video 4; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Book of Daniel (Old Testament)
    • See this supplementary page for more short introductory videos on Jewish history from the beginning of Hellenisation through to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. (There are quite a few videos here — an optional extra!)
  • Session 5  – The New Testament as History Video 5 ; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Acts 9-15; Galatians 1-2

[Part 2 – Jesus and the Gospels]

  • Session 7  – The Gospel of Matthew Video 7; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Gospel according to Matthew
    • The Bible Project’s summary of Matthew’s Gospel: Part 1 and Part 2
    • Gospel Parallels: A useful resource for the study of the four Gospels is a gospel parallel. This sets corresponding passages from the various canonical Gospels next to each other for comparison of the passages in each. A gospel parallel is probably best presented as a printed hardcopy document. An online version that does some of the work can be found here. This particular resource lists the parallel passages by chapter and verse in the columns. The actual text(s) for these references are found by clicking/tapping on the numbered link in the leftmost column, which jumps to the parallel texts at the Bible Gateway site. These passages can be read not next to each other (which printed book versions enable) but above/below each other, which is less satisfactory than a book version but saves trying to hold 3 or 4 bookmarks in place in your home Bible and then flipping back and forth between them! You will also see that it is possible to change the Bible version for the passages via the drop-down menu at the top of the passage; changing one changes them all for that parallel selection.

[Part 3 – Paul and Friends]

[Part 4 – Apocalypse and Interpretation]

Session 26 – The “Afterlife” of the New Testament and Postmodern Interpretation Video 26; lecture transcript

Illuminating Faith – Jewish history in the intertestamental period

This page is supplementary to the Illuminating Faith Introduction to the New Testament studies.

The following YouTube videos by Sam Aronow are a great introduction to Jewish history from the beginning of the Hellenistic period to the beginnings of Christianity. The videos are each quite short but contain lots of detail. Other videos by Aronow cover earlier and later periods in Jewish history.

The Interdynastic Period (Early Second Temple)

The Hasmonean Period (Mid-Second Temple)

The Herodian Period (Late Second Temple)

Illuminating Faith – Scripture, Canon, Creed

The series of lectures linked below were presented by Robert Jenson 2009; similar material is covered in his book, Canon and Creed (2010).

These lectures have particular importance for Protestants in view of the emphasis Protestantism places on the biblical text, whether in biblicist or extreme liberal interpretative modes. Jenson honours the biblical text but shows how it is the product of a pre-existing complex of theological commitments. Theology, then, does not only arise from the Bible; it also precedes the Bible. This is important for making judgements about the nature and authority of biblical material.

The following links do not constitute an IF study as such – at some stage in the future we may produce a study document to assist the hearing and discussion of the material. Nevertheless, individuals or groups will discover much to ponder in this extending material on its own!

Illuminating Faith – Lenten Study: Meeting God in Mark

This is not an original Illuminating Faith study but a recommended resource for a Lenten series from Rowan Williams: Meeting God in Mark.

This book has only short but nevertheless illuminating chapters. Williams also offers a structured reading of the whole of Mark’s gospel over the season of Lent.

This book could be used for studies at any time or in any Lent, although they would be particularly useful to lectionary-linked churches during the ‘Year A’ cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary, within which Mark’s gospel features as the set gospel for most Sundays in those years (2021, 2024, 2027, etc.)

Consider the timing of your study series. If using the studies for Lent, there are 6 weeks across which the studies could be conducted (including the week of Ash Wednesday and excluding Holy Week). Williams’ suggested plan for reading Mark’s gospel begins on Ash Wednesday. If the studies were not commenced in that week, participants should be encouraged to begin reading the gospel before the studies commence.

Order hardcopies of the books early enough for delivery! Paperback copies are available from about $AU14 and instantly available electronic copies (including Amazon Kindle) from about $AU6 (2020 prices).

A very brief summary of the three chapters is given below. In addition to whatever questions might arise in your study groups, Williams proposes several questions for reflection on each chapter.

Chapter 1.

  • Williams’ first chapter addresses questions of the What, Who, Where, When and Why of Mark’s gospel.
  • Of particular importance in this chapter is Williams’ invitation to discover more in Mark than simply a collection of stories to believe or not believe. This is the invitation of Mark’s Gospel itself: to allow ourselves to be addressed by the central figure in the story and to enter into the changed state of affairs which his story is said to bring about.

Chapter 2

  • Williams’ second chapter addresses the themes of secrecy, openness and understanding – all important tools in Mark’s telling of the gospel. He writes also about the significance the miracles and teachings of Jesus have (and, perhaps, don’t have) in Mark’s account.
  • Of particular importance in this chapter is Williams’ conclusion that the very substance of the gospel might itself require that we cannot be too precise or clear about what is seen and heard without reducing Jesus to something which less than his whole self and significance. What is at stake here cannot be reduced to simple observations and conclusions.

Chapter 3

  • The final chapter of the book looks at Mark’s account of the death of Jesus, with particular attention given to the unsettling nature of that story and the requirement that we return to it again and again in order to be reminded of its challenge to the easy assumptions we tend to take on about ourselves, others and God.

Illuminating Liturgy – The Passion according to St Mark – A Service Order

For a number of years the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist has heard the passion narrative of the gospel for that lectionary year on Passion (Palm) Sunday as a preparation for Holy Week. A version of that order — for Mark’s Gospel in Year B – is shared here in the hope that it might be useful to others .

The text of the passion narrative is punctuated with prayers, psalms and hymns, with a few suggestions for dramatic actions which might help to reduce the ‘wordiness’ of such a long reading in church. The order also includes the Eucharist. More explanation of the service and how to prepare it are given in the downloadable document. Used ‘as is’ – including Holy Communion – the service would run for 60-65 minutes, depending on your music choices.

Please feel free to download this resource (in MS Word .docx format) and adapt it as appropriate to your local context. We’d love to hear whether it has been useful to you!

These services are occasionally updated/corrected, so check that you have the latest file version (the date is in the file name)

Illuminating Faith – Lenten Studies on Isaiah’s Servant Songs

These studies focus on Isaiah’s ‘Servant cycle’ readings, within Isaiah 42-53.

The interpretation of the Servant cycle has been much contested through history and still is today. The studies do not do in-depth analysis of the set texts or to present a sure conclusion as to their meaning but are rather in the form of Christian ‘meditations’ or reflections on one aspect of the particular passage. These meditations were originally sermons, and were preached at the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, Lent and Easter 2019. As such, this crisis is reflected in some of the studies.

These texts have been very important in the church as lenses through which to view Jesus but appear in the Revised Common Lectionary used by many churches in the Holy Week readings, meaning they do not get a lot of direct attention in Sunday preaching. These studies may help to address that deficit a little.

The topics of the five studies are:

  • On seeing what is there
  • The flickering Servant of God
  • Love’s new creation
  • Sin-Sick
  • The God of COVID-19

The studies are intended for use as a read-and-discuss study series but can, of course, be used by individuals. The questions for reflection at the end of each study are guides only; the discussion can follow the interests of the group; and a psalm and confessional prayer response is suggested at the end of each study.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – Advent Studies on Year B RCL (Isaiah)

These studies are intended for use as Advent studies in the ‘Year B’ cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). They focus on the first reading in the selection for each week, which is taken from Isaiah on Advent 1-3 and, for Advent 4, one of the RCL options around the birth of Jesus from Luke’s gospel is selected. While they are prepared as Advent studies, they can of course be used at any time: our need to hear of God’s approach is not confined to December!

The topics of the studies are:

  • Hope and Prayer
  • God is Coming. And it is the End of You
  • The God who brings Death and Life
  • Mary: The Freedom of the Servant

The content of the studies is in the form of a meditation intended for use as in a read-and-discuss group study setting. Questions for reflection are included to start conversation and the psalm for each Sunday in Advent features as a focus for prayer.

llluminating Faith studies are occasionally edited for corrections and other minor adjustments. The version date is incorporated into the file name of the download – check that you’ve got the most recent version!

Illuminating Faith – Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures

Introduction

This is a ‘value-added’ study series based on an excellent online resource from Professor Christine Hayes at Yale University: an engaging undergraduate lecture series providing a broad introduction to the Old Testament as a whole. As well as covering (albeit necessarily briefly) the content of the Old Testament, this course is particularly useful for introducing lay people to modern historical critical methods developed over the last two centuries for interpreting these texts .

The whole series and its associated resources can be found in its original form on the Yale site. The ‘Sessions’ tab on that page brings up the full list of lectures, and clicking on each brings up the video, an audio-only version, transcription text, and any other resources (occasional handouts, etc.) relating to that session.

This IF version uses the Yale videos and a version of the Yale transcript reformatted into an easily printable PDF with paragraph numbering for easy reference in conversation groups. The main supplementary material is gathered together below under each session. The full lecture series is quite long — 24 sessions! — and so is broken up in this IF version into several parts for use either consecutively or in shorter series with breaks in between.

For an introduction to the series and presenting it in your local context, download our introductory document:

Preparing for the discussions

Prior to each session, watch the lecture via the links below, or read the transcript. There is also an audio-only version of the lectures available on the course homepage under the ‘sessions’ tab — click on the session you want and the audio can be downloaded at the bottom of the session page.

A book companion to the series as a whole, which at least group leaders and perhaps group members might consider buying, is The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. It is not exactly cheap – being around $AU65 new [July 2020]. As well as providing a non-Christian text of the Hebrew Bible, it has a great deal of comment in the margins of each page as well as introductory essays to each of the Old Testament books and scholarly articles on history, interpretation, and so forth. It is a book which will likely serve purchasers well for a long time. A look at the ‘Look Inside’ feature for the book on Amazon might be worthwhile, if you’re considering getting a copy. See here for a range of online sources for this book.

Also included among the additional resources below are links to The Bible Project’s introductions to each of the biblical books Professor Hayes considers. These come from rather a different theological and interpretative perspective than of Hayes but are a quick and useful overview of the biblical books.

The collection of lecture transcripts can be downloaded individually from the session details below, or as a zipped file here:

The Yale material is reproduced here according to the associated terms of use.

The study outlines and resources

[Part 1 – Introduction to the Study of the OT]

  • Part 1 Session 1 – Video 1lecture transcript
  • Part 1 Session 2 – Video 2lecture transcript
    • Bible: Gen 1-4
    • JSB: Introduction to Genesis (JSB pp. 8-11);
    • AND a very brief overview of the book of Genesis — the main book treated in this first selection from the lectures — can be found here (part one) and here (part two). This is presented from a theological perspective quite different from that of Hayes in her lectures, but the overview of the content of Genesis is useful.
  • Part 1 Session 3 – Video 3lecture transcript
    • As for Session 2 above
  • Part 1 Session 4 – Video 4lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 5-11
    • JSB: Introduction to the Torah, pp1-7
  • Part 1 Session 5 – Video 5 ; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 5-11
    • JSB: Introduction to the Torah, pp1-7
  • Part 1 Session 6 – Video 6lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 12 – Exodus 4
    • JSB: Introduction to Exodus (JSB pp. 102-107); “Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible” (JSB pp. 2048-2052); “Inner-Biblical Interpretation” (JSB pp. 1829-1835)
  • Part 1 Session 7 – Video 7lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 12 – Exodus 4
    • JSB: Introduction to Exodus (JSB pp. 102-107); “Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible” (JSB pp. 2048-2052); “Inner-Biblical Interpretation” (JSB pp. 1829-1835)

[Part 2 – Introduction to the Study of the OT]

  • Part 2 Session 1 – Video 8lecture transcript
  • Part 2 Session 2 – Video 9lecture transcript
    • JBS
      • ‘Concepts of Purity in the Bible’ (JSB pp. 2041-2047)
  • Part 2 Session 3 – Video 10lecture transcript
    • Bible
      • Legal texts: Leviticus 18-20, 24:10-23, 25, Numbers 35, Deuteronomy 15, 17, 19, 22, 25
        Narrative texts: Deuteronomy 1-14, 27-34
      • Bible Project on Deuteronomy
    • JSB
      • Introduction to Deuteronomy (JSB pp. 356-363; 2nd ed: 339-345)
      • ‘The Modern Study of the Bible’ (JSB pp. 2084-96; 2nd ed: 2166-2176)
  • Part 2 Session 4 – Video 11lecture transcript
    • [Note, the Yale course specifies the following related materials, which are the same as for the 10th lecture]
    • Bible
      • Legal texts: Leviticus 18-20, 24:10-23, 25, Numbers 35, Deuteronomy 15, 17, 19, 22, 25
      • Narrative texts: Deuteronomy 1-14, 27-34
    • JSB
      • Introduction to Deuteronomy (JSB pp. 356-363; 2nd ed: 339-345))
      • ‘The Modern Study of the Bible’ (JSB pp. 2084-96; 2nd ed: 2166-2176)
  • Part 2 Session 5 – Video 12 ; lecture transcript
    • Bible
    • JSB
      • Introduction to Joshua (JSB pp. 462-464; 2nd ed: pp.439-441)
      • Introduction to Judges (JSB pp. 508-510) Introduction to the Prophets (JSB pp. 451-461; 2nd ed: 495-497)
      • ‘Early Nonrabbinic Interpretation’ (JSB pp. 1835-1844; 2nd ed: 1841-1849)
      • ‘Midrash and Midrashic Interpretation’ (JSB pp. 1863-1876; 2nd ed: 1879-1890 [‘Midrash and Jewish Interpretation]’)
  • Part 2 Session 6 – Video 13lecture transcript
    • Bible
    • JSB
      • Introduction to Samuel (JSB pp. 558-61) 
      • Introduction to Kings (JSB pp. 668-71) 
      • ‘Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible’ (JSB pp. 2052-2055; 2nd ed: this essay appears in the 2nd ed across four sections, pp.2107-2143 [not clear which of these covers pp.2052-2055 in 1st edition])
  • Part 2 Session 7 – Video 14lecture transcript
    • Bible
      • 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel
      • 1 Kings 3, 11-12, 16:29-19:21, 21-22; 2 Kings 8:25-10:36, 17-25
    • JSB
      • Introduction to Samuel (JSB pp. 558-61),
      • Introduction to Kings (JSB pp. 668-71),
      • ‘Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible’ (JSB pp. 2052-2055; 2nd ed, as for video/lecture 13)

[Part 3 – Introduction to the Study of the OT]

[Part 4 – Introduction to the Study of the OT]

Illuminating Liturgy – A Tenebrae Service around St John’s Passion

Tenebrae services, or Services of Shadows, come in many variations. This present service is structured around the account of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus given in St John’s Gospel, divided into seven sections. This text is the set Gospel reading for Good Friday which, on account of its length, is often not heard in its entirety in Good Friday services. Using this text for a Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday or another evening in Holy Week makes possible a hearing of the whole of the narrative as preparation for whatever shorter part of the set Gospel might be used on Good Friday.

The service simply allows John’s passion narrative to unfold, punctuated by periods of silent reflection, a sung refrain and the extinguishing of a candle after each section. An opening and closing prayer are the principle points of interpretation of the narrative, which is otherwise heard without comment.

The service concludes with a final prayer and musical reflection before the people depart in silence, when ready.

This service is shared in the hope that it might be of use to others. Please feel free to download the service document (in MS Word .docx format) and adapt it as appropriate to your local context. We’d love to hear whether it has been useful to you!

Illuminating Liturgy – The Passion according to St Matthew – A Service Order

For a number of years the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist has heard the passion narrative of the gospel for that lectionary year on Passion (Palm) Sunday as a preparation for Holy Week. A version of that order — for Matthew’s Gospel in Year A – is shared here in the hope that it might be useful to others .

The text of the passion narrative is punctuated with prayers, psalms and hymns, with a few suggestions for dramatic actions which might help to reduce the ‘wordiness’ of such a long reading in church. The order also includes the Eucharist. More explanation of the service and how to prepare it are given in the downloadable document. Used ‘as is’ – including Holy Communion – the service would run for 70-75 minutes, depending on your music choices.

Please feel free to download this resource (in MS Word .docx format) and adapt it as appropriate to your local context. We’d love to hear whether it has been useful to you!

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