Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Keeping things in perspective

I'm right in the middle of revising for my final exams at university. As I'm sure you either remember or can imagine, its really easy to fall into the trap of getting worried and stressed about exams and completely lose perspective on it all.

Stuck near my desk I've got a small fridge magnet. At first glance it looks pretty insignificant and small. On it is a small triangle of brown papyrus with some unintelligible (to me at least!) writing in a strange language on it. On closer inspection you'd realise its a fridge magnet with a copy of the P52 John Rylands printed on it.



The papyrus shows John 18:31-33 which reads

ΕΙΠΕΝ ΟΥΝ ΑΥΤΟΙΣ Ο ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ ΛΑΒΕΤΕ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΥΜΕΙΣ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΝΟΜΟΝ ΥΜΩΝ ΚΡΙΝΑΤΕ ΑΥΤΟΝ ΕΙΠΟΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΟΙ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΟΙ ΗΜΙΝ ΟΥΚ ΕΞΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΠΟΚΤΕΙΝΑΙ OYΔΕΝΑ ΙΝΑ Ο ΛΟΓΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ ΠΛΗΡΩΘΗ ΟΝ ΕΙΠΕΝ ΣΕΜΑΙΝΩΝ ΠΟΙΩ ΘΑΝΑΤΩ ΗΜΕΛΛΕΝ ΑΠΟΘΝΕΣΚΕΙΝ ΕΙΣΗΛΘΕΝ ΟΥΝ ΠΑΛΙΝ ΕΙΣ ΤΟ ΠΡΑΙΤΩΡΙΟΝ Ο ΠΙΛΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΦΩΝΗΣΕΝ ΤΟΝ ΙΗΣΟΥΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΠΕΝ ΑΥΤΩ ΣΥ ΕΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩN
(the characters in bold are the ones that can be seen on the papyrus)
Or in English (if your ancient Greek is not so hot!)
'Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" '
The exciting thing is that the P52 papyrus is the earliest part of the New Testament that has been found to date. Apparently it was written between 125 and 160 AD, and I like to think it was written by someone that might have known someone who would have seen Jesus in the flesh.

I keep it on my desk where I can see it when I'm revising hard because it's a really good way of keeping things in perspective. The gospels were around before my revision and they will far outlast my degree. I'm doing my degree to improve my chances of getting a good career, but the gospels were written so that their readers might believe Jesus is Christ and have life in his name (John 20:31).

What's more, in the grand scheme of things exams and degrees really don't matter - when were in the new creation in millions of years time, will we still care about the degree we got? But the gospel is different. In millions of years time I'm sure we'll still be talking about when and where and how the Holy Spirit started opening our eyes, and when we put our trust in Christ and how he died on the cross for us...

Not to say that I'm not working hard though (revision is one of many ways to glorifying God) I'm just keeping things in perspective.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Manchester Dead Theologians #1

The Manchester Dead Theologians Society met up for the first time yesterday. We meet semi regularly (every 5-6 weeks in uni term time) to discuss one of the great books written by the Puritans and Reformers in order to expand our understanding of Scripture and love for and devotion to our Lord and Saviour.

We had been reading (or at least the others had - more below!) Jonathan Edwards' History of the Work of Redemption and we had some good conversations! It sounded amazing and I'm pretty gutted I didn't decide to read it at the same time as the others!

I decided against reading the book because of a heavy work load (finals are fast approaching) and the fact that I've already got a whole bunch of Christian books to read... But as I said, I now wish I had read it, so I've just ordered the next book we'll discuss, Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will.

I think I might start doing as C.S. Lewis' suggested: "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones."

Subscribe to the Manchester Dead Theologians blog to hear more of our thoughts and discussions on these books!