The best translation?

What’s the best bible translation? I recall being asked this question a couple of years ago, following a talk on Luther’s language. I’m not sure exactly how I answered. I know I probably said to read more than one version. (There is no such thing as a perfect translation.) I may have also acknowledged that for those studying academically, the NRSV tends to be the recommended port of call. I have a suspicion I also recommended a volume Athalya Brenner put together, that presents insights into contemporary biblical scholarship through the voices of biblical women. It turns the notion of translation upside down, and sometimes we need that level of freshness.

Continue reading The best translation?

Coverdale and some theology

On 14 November 2018, I travelled to Hull to speak to the local Theological Society (patron: the Archbishop of York). Having carried through quite a few speaking commitments lately, I decided in advance that for this one I would fit my topic to some other work I had in hand—namely, some pending revisions of an article about Miles Coverdale and his sources. Continue reading Coverdale and some theology

Things I read in the Bible

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the new Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library. It wasn’t a frivolous visit; I was preparing for the discussion about religion and power that you could have heard as part of this evening’s Radio 3 Free Thinking.

It is a lavish and expansive exhibition. Potentially overwhelming when you approach it, as I did, with the intent of looking at and absorbing as much detail as possible. Continue reading Things I read in the Bible

What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

Back in February, amidst striking and snow, I pondered the question “What would Luther do…?” in relation to some problematic picket lines. As things worked out, it proved possible to renegotiate the setting for the talk and I was able to meet Diarmaid MacCulloch and subsequently get his insight on some of my research. (It happened to tie in rather closely with the direction of his new Cromwell biography, so it is a pity I’d not felt bold enough to share my work sooner–but then I’m not sure it was ready.)

Continue reading What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

Embracing Early Modern Biblical Studies

Last year, I wrote about the prospects of a new network in Early Modern Biblical Studies. Two weeks today, scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will gather in Sheffield for a workshop to think about ways to take that vision forward.

In advance of that workshop, I’ve invited those with an interest in the field to fill out a survey to help determine our priorities. This is proving a really useful way to capture ideas and think about how best to direct our collective energies. Continue reading Embracing Early Modern Biblical Studies

Fair Trade & Justice

I don’t recall the first time I heard about Fair Trade. I have second-hand memories of dire instant coffee. Second-hand because I didn’t start drinking coffee till I was an undergraduate. By then the instant stuff had improved, though I’m committed to ground coffee these days.

When I worked at Church House, I became a Fair Trader. Continue reading Fair Trade & Justice

Here I stand: can I do other?

It must be six months or more since I first heard that Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch was coming to Sheffield as a Prokhorov lecturer. I immediately emailed the colleague responsible to reserve a place at the masterclass. Though I doubt he recalls it, MacCulloch was approached as a possible examiner for my PhD thesis and I remain a little bit fanatical about his work on Reformations—so marvellously complex. It is therefore with real sadness that I find myself on the outside of that event.

Masterclass day is day 2 of UCU strikes. Pensions are the official issue, but there’s a wider anger afoot. Zero-hour teaching contracts, a culture of publish or perish, constant criticism from public figures who think they have an idea how we spend our summers.

All this comes as a project I’ve been curating for (coincidentally) at least 6 months felt like it was taking off. And with permission from an organising colleague, we had advertised MacCulloch’s evening lecture under that 500 Reformations umbrella. 500 Reformations had itself revealed to me an unexpected direction of collegiate interest in Luther. I found myself added into a collaborative bid to consider the great reformer’s philosophical legacy. The first event for that collaboration is also taking place on day 2 of the strikes.

As it happens I know through private networks that I’m far from the only person who queried the intention to go ahead with the scheduled events as planned. However, for some colleagues it is apparently less obvious that this kind of collaborative enterprise–whether masterclass or explorative meeting–is part of the labour our union has asked us to withdraw, part of the work the University finds valuable, part of what I’m–we’re–paid to get involved in. (Yes, I know there’s luxury in that.) I wish I were able to reconcile my priorities with such personal convenience, or that we were able to find a workable compromise—to postpone or cancel the planned events and perhaps do something informal, off-campus in their place.

Sadly, that kind of resolution looks increasingly unlikely. So I’ve ploughed my energies into a creative protest, one that harnesses a little of Luther’s language and hopefully achieves a level of provocative kindness.

To the picket line, good people… okay, sinners.


–Inviting others to #jointheconversation.

–And a question for debate, “What would Luther do?”
–And some provocative kindness for those who wish to carry on in and enjoy the Masterclass!

Luther & Language (video)

The past few weeks have been busy with preparations for the launch of 500 Reformations. This week, I received links to videos of two of the three public talks I gave earlier in the year. I’ve just found the necessary ten minutes to watch myself back. Ignoring the note of mild stress in the voice (I have to get through all this in 10 minutes!) I was pleased to find I could watch it through without cringing. Continue reading Luther & Language (video)

EMBerS: Glowing prospects for network in Early Modern Biblical Studies

Two years ago, Richard Wistreich gave a lecture and masterclass as part of a Visiting Speaker series at the University of Sheffield. This was during my stint as Coordinator for the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies (SCEMS). At dinner after the lecture, I discovered Richard’s son-in-law is a fellow biblical scholar (and friend).* Richard quizzed me over the absence of biblical studies in the Society for Renaissance Studies (of which he is Vice Chair). Where, he wanted to know, are all the early modern biblical studies scholars? And how do we get them to RenSoc?

Continue reading EMBerS: Glowing prospects for network in Early Modern Biblical Studies