Modern martyrdom and the Gospel of Mark

The other morning I was teaching an introductory class on Mark’s Gospel. It makes sense to me that Mark wrote his book for a community of Christians under pressure and persecution, like the church in Rome.

His positioning of Jesus’ glory and suffering are skilfully and starkly juxtaposed in a way that must have comforted and encouraged the church as they sought to make sense of their experiences and remain faithful to their commitment to Jesus.

In this light we also considered the assertion of Todd Johnson (in his article on ‘Martyrdom’ in IVP’s 2007 Dictionary of Mission Theology, edited by John Corrie) that every day 400 believers are killed for their faith.

Unlike most lectures at Redcliffe, our Gospels class runs in concentrated form from 9am to 1pm. It was midday when I brought up Johnson’s statistic. Since we had begun our lesson fifty of our brothers and sisters in Christ had lost their lives as a direct result of their Christian confession.

We took some time to pray. Perhaps you might take a moment to do the same. Also, you may want to visit the website of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.”

Babylon, Bible, Mission and Museums

I went to the British Museum today to check out the special exhibition on Babylon: Myth and Reality. It was a strangely moving experience.

Babylon exhibition at the British Museum

There are some great pieces on display reflecting the development of the city in history and the imagination. What struck me most of all was a relief of one of the many lions that adorned the walkway leading up to the Ishtar gate.

Standing there in front of this vibrant and ferocious animal, I realised that Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian ruler behind the destruction of Jerusalem, would have seen the very same image. More poignant for me, especially in light of teaching Isaiah last term, numerous exiled Israelites must have cast their weep-weary eyes on it as well.

One of the reasons I love teaching the Bible at a mission training Bible College is that I am constantly reminded of the need to cross cultural boundaries. Experiences like today’s are important because reading the Bible is itself a cross-cultural task and experience. Anything that can connect us to the ancient and sometimes alien world of the Scriptures is to be cherished.

Do take a trip to the Museum if you can. The exhibition is still running for a couple more months. Even without the Babylon displays it is well worth a visit.

Welcome! So what’s it all about?

Hi and welcome to the bible and mission blog! A few brief comments about myself and the reasons for this blog.

I’m a UK-based lecturer in Biblical Studies at Redcliffe College, a centre for mission training in Gloucester, England, and a PhD candidate in Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire.

I want to use this blog as a forum for exploring two of my passions, the Bible and mission. How does mission feature in the whole Bible? How does the Bible shape our mission thinking and practice? These are my two main questions, but I’m sure others will crop up along the way.

In April 07 I edited an edition of Encounters, an online mission journal. It was on the theme of Mission and the Old Testament and illustrates the kinds of things I want to develop here on this blog and elsewhere.

I hope you will join me on this journey, Tim