JULIE JOHNSON'S ESSAYS 

As part of her training to become a Reader, Julie is required to complete six modules through distance learning on a course run by St John’s Nottingham.  For each of the six modules, Julie is having to write 3 essays, making a total of 18. The subjects cover both the Old and New Testaments. Below is a list of the essays and links to the completed work.


How would you defend the Old Testament against criticism of its apparent support of the slave trade, violence and other issues?

The Old Testament is a fascinating library of books which describe the relationship between God and human beings, more specifically the relationship between God and the ancient Hebrews.  It contains books of narrative history, law, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, stories and to many it is the word of God.   Yet even in the earliest days of the Christian church its meaning and relevance has been hotly debated, sparking off endless controversy and debate.   There is a view that the Bible shows a “progressive revelation of God’s will and character”.  This allows some of the more difficult parts of the Old Testament to be understood as having been appropriate to a primitive age. 

Click here for full essay

What are we taught about the nature of humanity in Genesis 1-11?

In the first eleven chapters of Genesis the writers attempt to explain, in the cultural language of ancient Israel with metaphors and symbols, the story of the creation of the world by God.  It contains a series of stories which explore the human condition and the nature of humanity.

In the first creation story, God created humans on the sixth day, in His own image or likeness (1:27).  This phrase sets human beings apart from animals.  It establishes them as being in a special relationship with God.  The likeness is so basic to human nature that even humanity’s subsequent downfall did not destroy it.  People are still reasoning, morally responsible and creative in a way that animals are not. We can imagine, dream, plan and shape our future. But being made “in God’s image” also means that humans are incomplete without God and are intended to be in close relationship with Him. 

Click here for full essay.

Is an “ideological battle” a fair way to describe the conflict between Yahweh and Baal during the Conquest?

According to the Oxford Dictionary “ideology” is a system of beliefs characteristic of a social group. Thus, the idea of an ideological battle presupposes a struggle between conflicting beliefs, in this case the unique monotheistic worship of Yahweh, a transcendent God with ethical demands on the one hand and the polytheistic worship of Ba’al and a pantheon of gods which involved nature worship, a fertility cult and even child sacrifice.

Click here for full essay.

What are the strengths and limitations of archaeology in helping us to understand the biblical story?

Archaeology is basically the recovery and study of the material remains including writing, of ancient cultures.  Recently enormous advances have been made which can show the context of different aspects of the history of the Old Testament.  However, physical archaeology cannot prove that God spoke to Moses, for example.  This is more in the realm of theology.  However, it is possible to show if Biblical accounts are historically consistent with the period and so help in our understanding.

Some of the limitations include the fact that certain sites are impossible to excavate.  Jerusalem is an example of a city where, because it is occupied, excavation is limited. Other sites are impossible because of political problems, e.g. Damascus and Carchemish.  Sites in the Egyptian Delta pose waterlogging problems.  Ancient sites are often extensive and so stratigraphic methods are used and sometimes artefacts essential to the understanding of the site are missed. 

Click here for full essay.

What portrait of the disciples emerges from Mark?  What message(s) is Mark conveying through his portrait about what it means to follow Jesus? 

St Mark wrote his gospel sometime during or soon after the Roman Jewish was 66-74 C.E. which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. One of the aims of the Gospel was to reassure and instruct his readers in their faith. His main vehicle of instruction is the disciples. Mark presents the disciples in a harsher manner than the other three gospels but this is to serve a powerful purpose: to teach his readers about true discipleship.

Click here for full essay

Imagine yourself to be a First Century Jewish Revolutionary.  How would you respond to Jesus’ answer about paying taxes (Luke 20:20-25) and why?

Jesus, when you were in the Temple, the Pharisees tried a very clever trick by asking this question and by addressing you as Rabbi.  By your enigmatic answer did you really mean for your followers to provide financial support, willingly or unwillingly, to Tiberius Caesar, a man who has claimed to be god and whose commanders, like Pilate, have oppressed the Jews to such an extent? Don’t you remember what happened to Judas of Gamala and Zaddock the Pharisee, who were martyred for their opposition to paying taxes to Rome?

Click here for full essay

Why does the resurrection matter so much to Paul? Reading based on Gorman chapter 8 and all the key Pauline texts relating to the resurrection.

Paul, originally a Pharisee, would have had some kind of belief in resurrection before he set out for Damascus. In the First century CE, most Jews, except for the Sadducees, had some unfocused imprecise idea of what it meant.  Resurrection was mentioned in Daniel (12:2) in 2 Maccabees (7:11) and also by Philo and Josephus.  Rabbis discussed what, exactly it could mean and there were many opinions.  There are two points here. 

Click here for fullessay

What processes lay behind the emergence of the first creeds?  Why do you think the first Christians put such a high premium on right belief?  How would you assess the importance of orthodoxy for the church today?

The first embryonic creedal passages are found in the New Testament, some twofold as in John 17:3 “eternal life is this: to know you are the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” and some threefold as in 2 Corinthians 1:21 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” and also where there is a strong link between baptism and a threefold statement of belief in “…… make disciples of all the nations; baptise then in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 28:19. The motives for these short formularies are varied: a witness to non-believers, a spontaneous and creative exclamation of belief, even as a test of orthodoxy and many other motives which later led to the production of creeds and declarations as Christians first struggled to find words for their experience of God.

Click here for full essay

What Christological issues did the Council of Chalcedon meet to address and what are the strengths and weaknesses of the “Chalcedonian Definition”?

The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian Church, held in the year 451. The main purpose of the Council was to resolve doctrinal disputes which had arisen concerning the nature of Christ, although a number of other doctrinal and disciplinary issues were also debated and resolved.

In the early years of the Christian church, the principal area of theological dispute was the nature of God the Father and his relationship to Christ the Son, which manifested itself mainly in the heresies of Docetism, Gnosticism and Arianism. Later the dispute moved to the nature of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity as a whole. However, in the early 5th Century the main area of dispute had become the nature of Christ the Son.

There were two main schools of thought..........

Click here for full essay

Write your own Creed, seeking to make a comprehensive modern statement of faith (approximately 250 words) and  Write about 750 words, giving reasons for what you have written in your Creed

Creed

I believe in one God, the infinite, eternal being, who is complete love. I believe in God, the Creator, source of all matter and all beings. I believe that God is the uncaused cause, separate from His creation yet involved in it; transcendent, beyond us, yet immanent, with us. Through God, all things are possible. God was, and is, and is to come.................

Reasons

God is infinite because He is beyond any limits of definition and is the unifying force behind everything. At the same time, He is a personal God, a goodness behind everything and involved in His creation. This can be seen in His involvement in the escape of the Jews from Egypt and how He led them through the wilderness.

God is “I am” the Hebrew way of explaining God’s mystery. He is one God not many as in the polytheism of the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. God is not the god of the Hindus, Krishna, which is seen everywhere but where there is no sense of divine forgiveness. Neither is He a distant god, who after creation, has played no part in the world..........

Click here for the full essay

Letter offering advice to a godchild considering whether to be confirmed

Thank you very much for the letter in which you share your thoughts about being confirmed and asking me for advice. There is no right age for a person to be confirmed but at sixteen you are on the threshold of adulthood; your mind is expanding as well as your relationships, which are becoming more complex. Your attitude towards God is hopefully developing and your whole faith will be becoming more mature.  At the same time, you will feel vulnerable and self-conscious. Is being confirmed right for you at this point in your life? Sometimes young people feel a pressure to be confirmed because this is what others in your church or school are doing? There are sociological as well as spiritual reasons why you feel as you do.  Can you pray about this or at least ask others to pray for you? Often pray can be difficult, especially praying for oneself which is why asking others can help.

Click here to read the full letter

Compare and Contrast the Concepts of Ruach and Pneuma, and Illustrate from your Own Experience

The concepts behind both Ruach and Pneuma are similar and are used to denote the Spirit of God. Ruach is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament, whereas Pneuma is a Greek word used in the Septuagint and New Testament. Both are difficult words to interpret and can only really be deduced from the usage. They are both invisible forces but seem to be used with three main meanings of “wind”, “breath” and “spirit”. According to John Witcombe, the word Ruach appears 377 times in the Old Testament and the word Pneuma appears 264 times in the New Testament, the idea of the Spirit of God is an important concept but scripture does not offer us a well worked out theology of the Spirit. However, it is clear that the Spirit is the energy behind the experience of the invisible force, rather than the force itself.

Click here to read the full essay.