Monday, 11 April 2011

Productivity central!

Hello World!

I hope I find you all well. I am feeling very productive at the moment, and I shall tell you about what has been going on in my life and studies recently.

The Mark Drama
Last week we had our 'Mark Drama'. Over the last few months were have been charged with the task of learning the events found in Mark's Gospel. The person who invented the system, Andrew Page, split the Gospel into 6 sections. We had to memories them as the drama was a representation of the whole of the Gospel. I shall reproduce section 5 for you from memory.

Section 5:

  • Jesus enters Jerusalem.
  • Jesus curses a fig tree.
  • Jesus clears the temple.
  • Jesus teaches a lesson about prayer from the cursed fig tree
  • The Pharisees question Jesus on his authority,
  • The Parable of the tenants,
  • Questions about paying taxes to Ceaser.
  • Marriage at the Resurrection.
  • The Greatest Commandment.
  • A question about the Messiah,
  • Beware the teachers of the Law,
  • The widow's offering.
  • Jesus talks about the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end times.
Imagine that another 5 times. I can remember pretty much all off it still at the moment, but I am sure over the weeks I will start to forget which is a great shame. Fortunately as I remember acting it out I can remember the order of events.

I played the part of the disciple Peter. This involved a lot of 'rowing', 'high kneeling' and 'improvising' lines to fill in the gaps in dialogue. It was a great experience. I have never experienced the gospel in such a way as this. Seeing the flow of the Gospel and the huge contrast between the great welcome reception of Jesus in to Jerusalem and the crowd mocking and shouting at Jesus only a few days later. It is incredible.

God in Film

A part from the drama side of my life, I have had an essay to write for my 'God in Film' module which I handed in last Thursday. It was an interesting essay to write, all about how successfully religious themes are handled in films (using two or three films as examples). I wrote about the Gospels as the basis for good films stories as one of my themes. It is an interesting discussion. Many scholars think that they make terrible movies as so much has to be added that you lose the original essence and purpose of the Gospel. There are examples of films which have stuck to just the text but these have proved to be pretty unsuccessful in a financial way, yet successful in their fidelity to the text. Other films which have been highly successfully in the box office, such as The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson are unsuccessful in the realms of scriptural accuracy.

Greek Texts

Over the Greek Texts module we have been translating Philippians which is a 4 chapter long letter found in the middle of the New Testament. If you get a chance this is a great letter and well worth studying. In our lectures we come and discuss what we have translated in the week. Our translation workload has ranged between 10 verses to a chapter depending on our progress through the module. It has been fascinating translating the words which Paul wrote; and examining the language used and the meaning of the passages has been mind-blowing at times.

My assignment for this module is still incomplete as it is not due for a while and my dissertation is more of a threat at the moment. The assignment is to write an exegetical paper on a small passage from Philippians. The word exegetical is quite a large one, but it is fairly simple to explain. Exegesis is finding the original meaning of something. I must find the original meaning the passage given to me. I can see this being great, the hardest part will be come at the passage with out my own beliefs influencing my discoveries. Since I have been translating the passages I have not had to change my beliefs so far and in fact I feel that my own doctrines have been reinforced by what I have studied.

I can see this being a great assignment to do.


At the moment I am taking a break from my work to write this blog. I am studying for my third (and final) chapter of my dissertation. This is very encouraging. I completed the draft of my second chapter on Saturday. I am currently sat on 6000 words with only 4000 words to go. The plan is to have 3000 for chapter 3, which leaves 1000 for the introduction and conclusion.

My third chapter is looking at the hymns of William Williams, Pantecelyn (1717-1791), and my goodness! some of them are amazing! I have been looking at Charles Wesley's hymns for a long time and many of them are great, but Williams has such a freshness about his hymns.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said in a conference, 'The hymns of William Williams are packed with theology and experience... You get greatness, and bigness, and largeness in Isaac Watts; you get the experimental side wonderfully in Charles Wesley. But in William Williams you get both at the same time, and that is why I put him in a category entirely on his own. He taught the people theology in his hymns...'1

I am very passionate about some of his hymns. They capture and refresh things that I have either taken for granted or not understood properly. I shall display an example of his poetic hymns here:

'Unseen, yet loved, my God, my friend,

I sing the wonders of your grace,

that in this stubborn heart of stone

has won a quiet-resting place.

Sweetly from the earth's beguiling charms

you drew my restless soul away;

in one bright moment heaped on me

ten thousand blessings more than they.'2

I really love these verses. Such lovely words of such amazing truth. Williams' hymns are so personal and heartfelt that it easy for all people to empathise with them. You can put your names in the verse.

'in Steve's stubborn heart of stone,

has won a quiet-resting place'

And here is just one more:

'Invisible One, I love you,

wonderful is the power of your grace,

pulling my soul so sweetly

away from its choicest pleasures;

you did more in one brief minute

than the whole world ever did,

winning for yourself a quiet seat

in this heart of stone.3

Praise the Lord that He, does indeed ever so regularly, pull my soul away from my 'choicest pleasures'. My choicest pleasures lead to destruction and shame, but as this hymn displays my God did more in one minute than the whole world ever did, has won a seat in my heart of stone.

I am sure that this third chapter will be a beautiful one to write. I value all your prayers concerning my studying and my extra-University activities and I hope to see you all soon.

Much love!

Stephen Neal


1. D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans, Their Origins and Successors, (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1987)

2. Faith Cook, Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, (Evangelical Press, Darlington, 2005) page 133

3. Cook, Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, page 133