I attended the first academic lecture “What is the Bible?” under the Associate of King’s College London Course 2011-2012 for General Studies Michaelmas Semester lectures “The Bible, Literature, Artefact, Scripture” on the 3rd of October 2011. The lecture was given by Revd. Professor Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London. What is it all about? – The Associate of King’s College is a course discussing questions of theology, philosophy and ethics open to all students and staff of King’s College as the College bases on religious foundation. The major faith societies at King’s College are Catholic Society, Christian Union, Hindu Society, Islamic Society, Jewish Society, Sikh Society, and one place they can pray and reflect is the Chapel on the Strand campus. For the first time, the Associate was given in 1835.
Why did I attend? – First, I am very thankful that the College has such place as Chapel for quiet moments and reflection. Second, I agree with the reverend in the Bible having more impact on European and American human thought, taken the influence of the Bible on the Koran also on Muslim thought generally, than any other book.
The lecture made me thought of what is actually meant under the word “Bible” (historically the Bible contains many different original and translated biblia reflecting different societies) also the number of which differs – Hebrew scripture contains 24 books in three sections, Protestant Bible contains 66 books in two sections: Old Testament (in 39 books (reordered 24)) and New Testament (in 27 books). Orthodoxes have 12 extra deutero-canonical books that makes up to 80 books. Who chose the books? Who canonized them?
How should we read the Bible – in a row or differently? Should we interpret the text and how because the Bible represents civilization’s storytelling, storytelling is communication and we interpret communication, although differently. How do we know what the text actually says? Why is the text called sacred?
I promise here also to proceed with my writing as the course proceeds.
10 October 2011 – the second AKC Lecture “Old Testament Literature” was read by Canon Dr. Paula Gooder, Visiting Lecturer of the King’s College London who told that the Old Testament is not a book but is an anthology covering wide range of different subjects made up of three main collections: Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim and thereafter explained what do the collections contain. She inter alia referred to the documentary hypothesis arguing that Israel’s history embraces the following stages: YEDP – Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic Writer, Priestly Writer. She also talked about the Reigh of David, split of the Kingdoms (the Kingdom of Israel split after Salomon into two parts – Israel, and Judah – and has never joined again), rise of the Assyrian Empire and how the Northern Kingdom was destroyed, rise of the Babylonian empire and exile of Judah. She claimed that the majority of history books stopped telling the historical narrative, and referred to two other collections of literature: (1) Wisdom literature (incl. Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) and Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sirach)), and (2) Jewish Apocalyptic literature. In the end, she referred to popular literature due to Jewish revolution.
WESTMINISTER ABBEY LECTURES
Knowing nothing about whether there exists any connection between the King’s College and Westtminister Abbey, I purely for religious reasons share here also my experience of a lecture I visited on the 12th of October 2011 at Westminister Abbey – “The Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011” by Lord Melvyn Bragg (Labour Party, Appointed Chancellor of the University of Leeds (1999), Honorary Fellowship of the British Academy (2010), for “public understanding of the arts, literature and sciences”, Honorary Fellowship of Royal Society (2010)). If I am terribly wrong with talking of the Westminister Abbey’s lectures here, please do comment and inform me! For me the lecture was important because of the place and content – this lecture was one of the free lectures honour of the 40th Anniversary of the King James Bible, and addressed the impact of St. James Bible (that consists of 66 books) on democracy, cultural, social and political background of Great Britain during approximately 400 years.
What I most remember of the lecture is that the Bible has always been as book of power for the State. Lord Bragg named St. James Bible the best selling book of the World which book has for 400 years impacted democracy, also culture, society, political background of Great Britain. He asked about the relation between imagination and the Bible – the Bible as book of power for the elite, excluding from information other people as not good enough? Different books have been put together in the Bible – on the one hand also by the worse as uncontrollable – by oral inheritance. To take the simple words and give them meaning – Who has the power for that? Who should have such power? Knowing that the Bible has been used by the wicked, and that anti-Christians use the Bible all the time. What about agnostics? Failed Priests? The question lies in ideologies. Is the Bible a thing in itself or is the Bible the way people use it? Is the Bible religion or is it power? The text of the Bible contains metaphors, images. Is the Bible a Measure but what if (with their own human mind) people measure and apply countermeasures? The human inheritance in the Bible is hundreds of thousands of years old. Does the Bible give permission to think or to believe? Is abolishment of slavery possible through the Bible? Does the Bible give feeling of fulfillment? Is the Bible – as enormous body of knowledge – intellectual ground or religious ground? Does the Bible reflect what people were looking for in the Universe – the Order? What about impact of the Bible on democracy, relatedly on culture, religion, social discourse, and political discourse, and cannot the Bible be used as a tool for manipulation here? The next Westminister Abbey Lecture will take place today and tries to answer the question not Whether but Why the Bible is the foundation of British politics?
17 October 2011 – the third AKC Lecture “New Testament Literature (Gospels, Acts and Letters)” was read by Edward Adams from Department of Theology and Religious Studies of the King’s College. He mainly talked about the four Gospels (as good news): Matthew (fulfilment), Mark (secrecy and suffering), Luke (humanitarism – Jesus healing), and John (emphasis on Jesus’ divine side). The Key question for the Lecturer – What kind of texts the Gospels are? Answering this question, Adams considered important how one interprets the text as rules of interpretation differ. He brought out main similarities in the Synoptics – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Jesus Christ as the beginning of Good news preceded by Johannes, the Baptist), but also double similarities in Matthew and Luke, and thereafter the difference of the Synoptics from the John’s Gospel. Tradition knows also other Gospels, such as Gospel of Thomas not forming part of the canonical Gospels. In addition to the four Gospels, the New Testament contains other books such as Acts of the Apostles and 21 Letters (provoked by situations, consequently regarded as responsive, not pro-active).