Were sermons in the Middle Ages devoted to Old Testament or New Testament subjects?

Were sermons in the Middle Ages devoted to Old Testament or New Testament subjects?

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Were they more often devoted to New Testament subjects or to Old Testament subjects?

There are trivially googleable results, which if consulted, could allow this question to become a question worth answering: http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/collections/early_manuscripts/preaching/

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that preaching sermons really developed until the Renaissance with Girolamo Savonarola and the Protestant Reformation. Up to that point, I believe that Catholic services consisted exclusively of performing the Seven Sacraments. In Mass, I believe that, generally, only prayers would be said.

When did the one-way monologue sermon first become a normal feature of church assemblies?

Of course Jesus preached a lot of monologue sermons, but I have noticed that Jesus did not usually preach sermons like nearly every church does today. He never seems to have, or at least rarely preached a sermon, or even a mini sermon, or parable without opportunity for discussion and questions afterwards. Possibly the ‘sermon on the mount’ is an exception as it is almost the length of a short sermon by todays standards without anyone else responding.

Today most protestant churches have a one-way sermon where one person preaches a sermon then after the sermon the Lord's Supper, worship, announcements or some other activity follows without ever opening the floor for questions or limited challenges or discussion by the hearers. This simply can't be found in the gospels or in Acts.

It. seems clear to me that a more interactive method of preaching was adopted by Jesus which might be more similar to what we would today call teaching, interactive lecturing or a dialogue sermon.

I have read in the past that the synagogue at the time of Christ had a time of interactive discussion after a speaker finished. In the New Testament we find arguably a provision made for 'non clergy' members to take turns in standing up and speaking (1 Cor 14:29). Furthermore as early churches were house churches I can't imagine any speaker could then imagine that they could get away with an impersonal oratory followed by absolutely no discussion, debate or questions afterward. In Acts the gospel went out with much interaction. I also heard that martin Luther was famous for very gently and generously answering any question after a sermon.

So when did the monologue sermon become the norm?

Cultural differences seem to have a part in the answer. Street preaching was not abhorred by anyone back then and disciple teacher relationships were also more popular. Even when Jesus visited the temple as a child an they marveled at his wisdom indicates a provision in the strictest of ceremonies for accessible human interaction that seems less possible in our current culture. My question actually calls for serious historical and objective analysis.

What Does the Christian Apocrypha Teach Us About Jesus? The Torch Podcast

Here to discuss the “The Apochryphal Jesus”is Professor David Brakke, Ph.D.

The following transcript has been slightly edited for readability.

What are the Apocrypha?

The Great Courses: David, for people who are new to this subject, What are the Apocrypha and what can they tell us about Jesus?

David Brakke: The Apocrypha are basically a set of early Christian literature that deal with the same characters and people that you meet in the New Testament. They’re gospels, letters or adventures of apostles, but what they all have in common is that they are not in the New Testament.

When the New Testament was formed, most decisively in the 300’s, none of these works were included. What they give us access to are ideas about Jesus and his apostles that Christians of the first two to five centuries had about Jesus. Ideas that became very influential in Christianity but are not actually found in the New Testament.

The Great Courses: They sound essentially like outtakes from the New Testament. Why were they left out? Were they considered heretical or blasphemous?

David Brakke: Some of the writing that we study in the Apocrypha were considered in antiquity to be heretical or marginally orthodox in some ways, it had ideas that mainstream Christians did not think represented Christian truth.

Most of them were not included in the New Testament because the Christians who put together the New Testament did not think they were necessarily written in the earlier period by apostles or people that knew the apostles.

The Great Courses: If I am someone of devout Christian belief, am I likely to find this subject matter offensive?

I don’t think that there’s much in this literature that would offend Christians. None of it is Official Christian Literature.

The Great Courses: You had mentioned that there’s a bit of controversy around the Apocrypha. Is this what is driving that controversy?

David Brakke: What mostly drives the scholarly controversy about the Apocrypha is how actually to define the Apocrypha, what it means when we use the term, and what should and should not be included in it, because Christian literature just continues until the present moment.

If we just think about literature, music, art, and now even films that depict Jesus and the apostles that aren’t in the New Testament, it continues right up to the present moment.

Part of the issue when you talk about the New Testament Apocrypha is when does it stop? What should you include and not include? Part of it is a simple scholarly controversy about what you include.

In individual works of Apocrypha, there’s often controversy, for example, whether they do in fact give us access to information about Jesus or the apostles that is not in the New Testament, that’s actually potentially accurate.

A good example of that is the Gospel of Thomas, which discusses many things of Jesus that don’t appear in the New Testament. The question arises among scholars: Do these things in the Gospel of Thomas go back to Jesus? Historians fight about this. They don’t all agree.

There are controversies about individual texts and then there’s just the whole issue of what constitutes the Apocrypha.

The Great Courses: How have the Apocrypha shaped modern beliefs and understandings of Christianity?

David Brakke: Some of the ideas and things we know about early Christianity end up coming actually from the Apocrypha and not the New Testament. Some of these most prevalent ideas are things like Peter being crucified upside down. Not every Christian is aware of this idea but many Christians are and they think this is what happened to Peter, but the New Testament doesn’t tell us anything about this. This actually occurs in an Apocryphal text called the Acts of Peter.

Many of the kind of traditional things we think about Jesus’s family, Mary and Joseph, for example that Joseph is much older than Mary or that Jesus’s brothers and sisters are actually Joseph’s children from a previous marriage and so on, all these ideas are not in the New Testament but found in Apocrypha. A lot of the things that we think are true about Jesus and his apostles actually come from Apocryphal literature.

The Great Courses: Christian attitudes towards sexuality and marriage were evidently still being formed in the first couple of centuries after Jesus’s death. What can we learn about them from the Apocrypha?

David Brakke: In the Apocrypha, there are plenty of stories about people getting married or not getting married.

Many of the what we call Apocryphal acts of the apostles, which are stories of the adventures of the apostles after Jesus sent them off to preach the word, feature women converting to Christianity and then deciding to leave their husbands, or not have sex with them, or never get married in the first place.

Some Apocryphal gospels, especially most prominently a lost one called the Gospel of the Egyptians, has Jesus discuss the issues of whether it’s right for Christians to get married and to reproduce. Christian Apocrypha look at how Christians debated issues, they aren't theological treaties. Click To Tweet Apocryphal texts give us access to Christian debates about these issues with some Christians arguing that Christianity means getting married, and having a family, and that’s what you should do.

Other Christians arguing that, “No.Christianity is about separating from this world and concentrating on spiritual and heavenly matters and not doing things like getting married and having a family and doing all that kind of stuff.”

The Christian Apocrypha is a fun way to look at how Christians debated these issues, because of course they’re not theological treatises where people are making arguments, instead they’re stories that play out these ideas in ways that are entertaining.

The Role of Women in Early Christianity

The Great Courses: What can the Apocrypha can tell us about the role of women in early Christianity. When you were mentioning stories, I was thinking about the Gospel of Paul and Thecla.

David Brakke: You know, the Apocryphal literature are a place where Christians are often able to think about characters and people that aren’t especially prominent in the New Testament or don’t appear there, and many of these characters are women.

In the Acts of Paul, there is portion called the Acts of Paul and Thecla in which Paul has an especially devoted disciple named Thecla who gives up the idea of getting married. She breaks her engagement to follow Paul, and eventually Paul sends her forth to be a teacher and preacher of the word of God.

What we see in a text like this is a time when some Christians believed that women could preach and teach. Once again, the text doesn’t make an argument for this. It’s not a theological disquisition on what women should do. Instead it tells a story about a prominent woman doing this kind of stuff.

The role of women is another area where Apocryphal literature gives us a way of entering into the world of early Christianity that some other forms of literature don’t let us see.

The Gospel of Thomas

The Great Courses: One especially intriguing Apocryphal work, the Gospel of Thomas, you say, represents the “path not taken” by Christianity. What do you mean by that?

David Brakke: What first distinguishes it from the gospels we are used to from the New Testament is that it tells no stories about Jesus. Jesus doesn’t really do anything. Instead, all he does is teach. It’s just a collection of the sayings of Jesus.

If you read the Gospel of Thomas, you would know nothing about Jesus’s birth, about his ministry, and above all, from the Gospel of Thomas you don’t learn anything about how Jesus died, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate and supposedly died for people’s sins.

This is what makes the Gospel of Thomas a kind of different path to salvation within Christianity. That is unlike the gospels of the New Testament and most of Christian tradition, the Gospel of Thomas does not teach that Jesus saves people by dying for them on the cross. Instead, Jesus saves people by revealing to them truth, knowledge about God and themselves through his sayings.

You’re saved by hearing and reading the sayings of Jesus and trying to understand them. You’re not saved by having faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection. This is a very different understanding of what salvation means and what Christ came to do.

By not including the Gospel of Thomas in the New Testament and including the other gospels instead, the leaders of Christianity definitely made a choice to go in that direction rather than the kind of more mystical path that the Gospel of Thomas represents.

The Story of Pontius Pilate

The Great Courses: You mentioned Pontius Pilate. Some of the Apocrypha portray him, even though he was the Roman governor who sends Jesus to death, as a saint. Why would Christians write such a thing, even when the ideas of Christianity were still taking shape?

David Brakke: This is a really interesting thing about Pilate. You would think that he would be seen as kind of the great villain of the Jesus story since he’s the one who ordered Jesus to be killed, but in fact the great villain of the Jesus story ends up being Judas who betrays Jesus, the disciple of Jesus who goes bad.

Secondarily, Jewish leaders of the time become kind of seen by Christians as the bad people. According to Christians, the Jews should have recognized that this was their Messiah and not turned him over to Pilate.

What happens is that Christians increasingly see Pilate, at first in a kind of ambivalent way. They see that he was wrong to put Jesus to death, but they kind of say, “Well, he had no choice. The Jews and Judas kind of put him in this situation.”

As time goes on and we end up in the second, third, and fourth centuries of Christianity, more and more Christians began to think that Pilate must have at some point realized his error. Or that he represents the idea that nonbelievers, non Jews, Romans, Gentiles like Pilate would eventually become Christians.

More and more, they begin to present Pilate in a very positive way and certain Apocryphal texts, especially from the 300’s and 400’s, present him as eventually recognizing that Jesus was the Son of God, regretting what he did, repenting and being forgiven by God, acting in a kind of saintly way, and being recognized by God as someone who saw his error and repented.

Now, part of this surely is the fact that in the 300’s and 400’s Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christians more and more felt the need to present Roman imperial officials like Pilate in a more positive light. Pilate beings to kind of represent the Roman Empire, which may have opposed Christianity at first but eventually turned Christian and embraced it.

The Gospel of Judas

The Great Courses: You’ve talked about how Pontius Pilate was made out to be the bad guy, but really the bad guy is Judas. The Gospel of Judas was recently discovered. Why did it take so long to get that Gospel of Judas discovered, and what was the process by which that came to light?

David Brakke: Well, we always knew there was a Gospel of Judas because around the year 180, a Christian bishop named Arenavirus mentions it and says that Gnostics wrote it, but we didn’t have it.

Clearly what happened at some point is that Christian scribes just stopped copying it. No one wanted to read it. It wasn’t included in the New Testament. It was gnostic, so people weren’t that interested, so at some point it got lost.

Also at some point in antiquity, probably in the third century, it was translated from the original Greek into Coptic, which is the language of Egypt, the kind of ancient Egyptian language, and a manuscript that contained this translation in Coptic was buried or left in a tomb or cave in Egypt in a place where of course it never rains, so manuscripts can just kind of sit there if they’re not found by somebody for centuries.

We believe this one Coptic translation, this one copy of the Gospel of Judas, was probably discovered in the late 70’s or 80’s. What happened was is that the people who got hold of it really wanted to get a lot of money for it.

They were trying to negotiate with various people to get what they considered to be what it was really worth, which was millions of dollars, but the institutions that would be interested or want to possess such a manuscript don’t have that much money.

It was not until after the year 2000, that the Maecenas Foundation, put up the money to actually get the codex that contains Judas and work to make it available to other scholars. It took a long time for them to do that.

We didn’t get to see it until 2006 in part because of so much damage the manuscript had suffered during this long period of negotiation of trying to find people willing to buy it.

In one particularly horrifying incident, one antiquities dealer actually put the manuscript in a freezer thinking that that would preserve it better. Because this manuscript is papyrus, it’s actually like plant material, so all it did was freeze the water in the papyrus. Then when it was pulled out and had thawed, it became all soggy. It was really a terrible thing that happened to this manuscript.

The Great Courses: That’s an amazing story. Are there any Apocrypha out there that we’re still looking for?

David Brakke: Well, definitely yes. We know the names from ancient and medieval people of literally dozens of lost texts, right? There are plenty of things that we know existed at some point, various gospels and acts and letters and so forth, that we just don’t have.

Is it possible that some of these, are also translated into Coptic or something and in some cave or tomb somewhere in Egypt waiting to be discovered? It’s certainly possible. We just won’t know until they’re discovered.

The things that we study in this text obviously we have found, otherwise we couldn’t study them, and they range in their preservation from having hundreds of manuscripts. Something like the Proto-Gospel of James, which is a recounting of the birth and childhood of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that survived in many, many manuscripts because it was popular throughout Christian history even though it was not in the New Testament. But other Apocryphal works survive in only one or two manuscripts or they survive only fragmentarily and we have to kind of try to figure out and put them together.

It working on this course, I really gained a great admiration and appreciation for so many scholars who have worked so hard to recover this literature when the manuscripts that survive are often fragmentary and dispersed in libraries. It’s really amazing that we can even read some of the things we look at in this class.

The Great Courses: Many of the Apocrypha are forgeries, and yet forgeries were apparently quite common in early Christian literature. Why is that? Can you explain that situation?

David Brakke: Yeah. I mean, one of the really surprising things when you think about it and learn about early Christian literature is how many forgeries early Christians produced. Lots of Christians chose to write in the name of an apostle or some other prominent figure rather than in their own name. It was very prevalent in early Christianity.

The number of forged works, many are Apocryphal but some are in in the New Testament, is very large. Why did Christians do this? Well, surely the most basic reason is that if you were going to write a work that you wanted other people to read and you wanted them to take its ideas seriously, you probably figured, “Well, they’ll take my work a lot more seriously if I write in the name of Saint Paul than if I just write in my own name.” One reason for all this forgery simply is to give more authority to the text that you write so that people will actually read it.

We also get to a very important kind of characteristic of Christianity, which is that Christians in these first few centuries had a very high regard and respect for their earliest figures, for the original apostles. If you really wanted to claim that your ideas are valid in your debates with other Christians about various ideas and things, then it was really important to say that what you were teaching is what the original apostles taught. Forging something in the name of an original apostle was one way to do that.

The Apocalypse to Peter

The Great Courses: Lovers of Dante might be intrigued to learn that the Apocrypha contained tours of hell that actually predate Dante’s Inferno. Can you describe those a little?

David Brakke: Two very early Christian texts, the Revelation to Peter and the Revelation or Apocalypse to Paul, and there are different texts with these names, but two of these both include kind of visions of what’s going on in hell, and why people are suffering there, and what kind of punishments they’re enduring and so forth.

The Apocalypse to Peter or Revelation to Peter was probably written in the second century, and there that author describes all sorts of, especially Pagans, non Christians suffering in hell and having punishments that fit their crime. You know, if for example they were sexually immoral and so forth, they might hang by their hair or something. They suffer in some way that fits the crime that they have committed.

The text that really influenced Dante is what’s called the Apocalypse of Paul, or the in Latin the Visio Pauli, “Paul’s vision,” which we think was written in the late 300’s. It became very popular among Christian because it is a vision of hell in which most of the people suffering in hell and being punished are not pagans or Jews or other nonbelievers in Christian, but Christians themselves, Christians who have done bad things, especially members of the clergy who do not do their jobs right and heretics.

Again, it describes each of the kind of punishments they’re enduring in some kind of detail. It kind of serves in a way to tell Christians that it doesn’t matter how good you are or how important you are in the church. You need to do your job right and be good or you’re going to be punished.

This text, this Apocalypse of Paul from the late 300’s, became extremely popular. It was probably originally written in Greek, but it was translated into Latin and appears in many, many manuscripts and indeed it was available to Dante and served as a kind of nucleus for his version of hell in The Inferno.

Dante of course came up with many, many, many more sins than are in the Apocalypse of Paul, but the basic idea that individual sinners suffer punishments in hell that befit their crime is both an idea that makes sense and one that becomes very influential and indeed in the basis for Dante’s Inferno.

The Apocrypha Continue

The Great Courses: When did the period of writing Apocrypha works stop, or did it ever?

David Brakke: It never did, and this is one of the issues. We could have just continued this course even up to the present. Most of the Apocrypha that we study in this course were written before the New Testament was formed, so these are texts from the 100’s and 200’s.

There wasn’t yet an official New Testament, so people were continuing to produce Christian literature about Jesus and the apostles. They didn’t really recognize they were writing literature that was not in the New Testament that was extra to the New Testament because there wasn’t a New Testament.

The New Testament was formed, but that didn’t stop Christians from continuing to create new literature about the characters in the New Testament. At that point, they started to know that they were in fact building on the New Testament: augmenting, supplementing it.

What you have in the Middle Ages for example are things like mystery plays where events both in the Old and the New Testament are acted out, but they are always augmented with material that’s not in the Bible, because you know the Bible doesn’t tell us a lot of things that interest us and it doesn’t go into great detail on various characters.

Writing this kind of literature just continued, and even into the present people continue to write novels about Jesus and the apostles. They write plays. They make movies, none of which are simply reproducing what’s in the New Testament but all of which are kind of imaginatively expanding upon its stories.

What this course really introduces you to is the amazing fertility of the Christian imagination.

The Beginning of Jesus&rsquo Public Ministry

Luke 3:23 says, &ldquoJesus was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry.&rdquo This is only approximate he may have been two or three years older or younger (cf. Test XII Pat, Levi 2:2 12:5). If we add 30 to the suggested date of birth we get A. D. 24. This cannot be right because Jesus&rsquo ministry began after John the Baptist appeared. But Luke 3:1-3 dates John&rsquos public appearance precisely in &ldquothe 15th year of the reign of Emperor Tiberias Caesar&rdquo while Pilate was governor over Judea. Pilate was governor from A. D. 26 to A. D. 36 and the 15th year of Tiberias is most likely A. D. 27. Therefore Jesus did not enter his public ministry prior to A. D. 27. And if we assume that there was not a long time between the beginning of John&rsquos ministry and the beginning of Jesus&rsquo ministry then Jesus probably began in 27 or 28. He would have been then approximately 33 years old at the outset of His ministry.

History is Not Chronological

Critics of traditional American education have correctly observed that it focuses on the same 200 years of American history every year in K-8, and covers all the rest of the 6000 years of human history in one year of high school. Clearly this is a plan that has produced generation after generation of historically illiterate adults.

Classical education, however, has brought back history with a vengeance! In fact, classical educators have been at the forefront of reforming the history curriculum, emphasizing these principles:

• History should be taught chronologically and emphasize all of human history rather than just American history.
• History should be taught using real books and biographies.

A typical classical history curriculum might look something like this:

Grade 1: Old Testament and Egypt
Grade 2: Greece and Rome
Grade 3: Middle Ages
Grade 4: Renaissance and Reformation
Grade 5: American and the Modern World

Parents and teachers can see the order in this plan and are inspired to think that their children and students might develop an understanding of the flow of history that they themselves probably never achieved.

And they often come to us and ask why our curriculum, as shown below, is not in strict chronological order:

Grade 1-2: Stories from the Bible and American history
Grade 3: Old Testament and Greek myths
Grade 4: Old Testament and Famous Men of Rome
Grade 5: New Testament and Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Grade 6: Ancient history review and Famous Men of Greece

To the question “Why don’t you teach history chronologically?” we always answer, “We do!” Every text and study guide we publish, whether on Rome, Greece, or the Middle Ages, teaches the history of that era chronologically. And if you are teaching a survey course of world history in one year, which is often done in high school and college, then we certainly would recommend that you teach all the eras of history in chronological order.

But if you are teaching different eras of history in different years, then there are other considerations that can take precedence over chronology. To answer the question of why we teach some eras of history out of order from year to year, I will start with our curriculum suggestions for grades 1-2 in this article, and finish with grades 3-6 in a subsequent article.

To design the Highlands Latin School/Memoria Press history scope and sequence, we have added the following two principles to the ones already listed:

Principle #1: Students in the early grades are not developmentally ready to learn history chronologically. Indeed, the study of history at this age consists of reading or listening to interesting stories from the past about important people and events, and building up mental pictures of past ages when people were pioneers or knights or Roman soldiers, or when people built railroads, pyramids, or castles.

The knowledge acquired from listening to stories from world history is valuable. But time is a very abstract concept, and the chronological relationship between the different eras of history is very weak in young students and not at all the important thing.

But you still may ask, “Even if the chronology of history is too advanced for the early grades, why not teach history in the right order anyway? Is there any compelling reason to teach another order?” And the answer is, “Yes there is.”

Principle #2: We must fit history to the child, not fit the child to history. In other words, the Order of Knowledge is not always the same as the Order of Learning. The Order of Knowledge is based on some abstract principles, such as chronology, logic, complexity, etc. The Order of Learning goes from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex. The Order of Learning must unfold the subject and reveal its underlying order in a way that the students can grasp and understand it. Another way of saying this is that content and skills must be age appropriate.

So what factors take precedence over chronology in the primary grades? Going from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the known to the unknown. We think the best choices for grades 1-2 are the two historical eras that are familiar to parents, teachers, and students – stories from the Bible and from American history. Most students come to school with a background in Bible stories from an early age, and American history is all around them.

In addition, these stories provide many more cross-curricular connections with literature, such as the Little House books, and also with reading, spelling, music, and art. The priorities in primary school are reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic. Because these skills are so important, there is little time left for secondary subjects, such as history and science. The time that is available should be devoted to content that integrates or connects with what young students are learning in other subjects.

Just because educators of the past made the mistake of teaching fluff and twaddle in K-4 and nothing but American history in K-8, this does not mean that we should over correct by teaching about Egypt, Rome, and Greece to little ones, when stories from our own American past are so much more age appropriate.

Just because world history was ignored for so long does not mean we should skip over our American past in a rush to get to the ancients. If students do not read these wonderful stories from American history in grades 1-2, when will they? When will our children make butter like Laura, or have a hoedown at Grandpa’s, or make a corncob doll? When will they read about Washington crossing the Delaware or chopping down the cherry tree? First and second graders should be allowed to be children. There is plenty of time to read about Caesar and Cicero later.

Although we do not include ancient world history in our formal school curriculum for grades 1-2, we do encourage parents who desire enrichment reading for their children, to read some of the fine storybooks of world history, such as those written by Susan Wise Bauer, and picture books published by Usborne and Dorling Kindersley.

But if you are intimidated or do not feel you have the time in your school or homeschool to study ancient history in grades 1-3, do not be concerned that you are failing to teach history chronologically. There are many stories from America’s past to fill up your available history time, and Benjamin Franklin and Kit Carson are much more age appropriate than Caesar and Cicero for this age anyway.

At Highlands Latin and Memoria Press, we recommend that students copy and memorize beautiful passages of Scripture with the Memoria Press copybooks and listen to Bible stories from your favorite Bible story book. For history we recommend Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston, and the many beautifully illustrated storybooks from American history. In addition, work with globes and maps and learn basic world geography: continents, oceans, major countries, etc. This is quite enough for the primary-age child to learn. This is a reasonable and doable curriculum for parents, teachers, and students.

Understanding the chronology of world history is an important goal. At Highlands Latin, we have developed a curriculum and timeline that we believe achieve this goal by laying a good foundation beginning in the third grade. In a subsequent article, I will explain how our scope and sequence for grades 3-6 uses age appropriate materials to help students develop an understanding of history—chronologically!

Originally Published in The Classical Teacher Summer 2008 edition.

Why and when did Christians start constructing special buildings for worship?

The New Testament speaks of a large church in Jerusalem meeting together in a public space (e.g., the outer court of the temple in Acts 2:46) and in smaller groups in houses (e.g., the house of Mary, mother of Mark, in Acts 12:12). This practice must have been carried on in many cities of the Roman empire. For the most part, the church was dependent on members or supporters (patrons) who owned larger houses, providing a place for meeting. In Rome, there are indications that early Christians met in other public spaces such as warehouses or apartment buildings. Even when there were several meeting sites in a city, the Christians had the sense of being one church. They maintained unity through organization (from the second century on, beginning at different times in different places, one bishop in a city became the center of unity for orthodox Christians there) and symbolic gestures (in Rome, the eucharistic bread was sent from the bishop's church to other assemblies).

Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, corporate ownership of property by the church could be legally ambiguous. It seems that the first property owned by the Roman church were the catacombs. These were not places of meeting, however, but burial sites.

Unless claims for recent discoveries of early Christian meeting places are confirmed, the earliest building certainly devoted to Christian use is at Dura Europos on the Euphrates River in eastern Roman Syria. It was a house that came into Christian possession and was remodeled in the 240s. Two rooms were combined to form the assembly room, and another room became a baptistery&mdashthe only room decorated with pictures. Dura was destroyed by the Sassanian Persians in 256, .

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Most students are eager to get into the action of Revelation as soon as possible. Therefore they tend to skip over chapters two and three in the Book of Revelation without realizing their importance. But the churches give us an almost inexhaustible storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. The seven churches are representative of the church as a whole the number seven symbolizing completion or perfection.

The primary role of these letters concerns what was actually happening in each of the seven local churches that existed during the time of John’s writing. Secondly, their representative character reflect the conditions of the congregation, as well as the individuals within each assembly, found throughout its history. The third emphasis explains their prophetical nature. Many scholars see in the churches seven periods or ages existing from Pentecost until the Rapture.

Ephesus, meaning "desirable," was the backslidden church. The key phrase in this letter is thou art fallen. Although they were commended for their zeal and devotion, their many good works, and the testing of the spirits of those who claimed to to apostles, there was still something lacking in their spiritual perfection. It’s easy for us to forget what’s truly important in the Christian life, until like the Ephesian assembly, we’ve fallen from our first love.

As victors we are promised access to the tree of life symbolizing the eternal and abundant reality found in Jesus Christ. Ephesus represents the apostolic church of the first century.

Smyrna, suggesting "bitter," is associated with the word myrrh and pictures the persecuted church of the second and third centuries under the pagan empire of Rome. According to church history, as many as five million Christians may have been martyred for their faith during this period. Rather than place a pinch incense on the altar and claim allegiance to Rome, they were willing to face losing their earthly possessions as well as their lives.

If we are faithful unto death, we are assured a crown of life. We can be confident as overcomers that the second death will not have any power over us.

Pergamos, denoting "elevated," or "thoroughly married," prefigures the worldly church that began with Constantine and extended to the seventh century. Many view Satan’s seat or throne (Rev. 2:13) as a reference to Pergamos being the center of Caesar worship. Yet there were many in this assembly who remained faithful to the Lord and hadn’t denied the faith.

The doctrine of Balaam has to do with the danger of compromise. Some in this church were tolerating sin in their very midst! Whenever the believer is involved with the world, he is in danger of spiritual adultery.

As triumphant believers, we are promised a threefold encouragement: (1) we will be given to eat of the hidden manna (2) we will be furnished a white stone and, (3) we will be granted a new name written in that stone.

Thyatira, signifying "continual sacrifice," foreshadows the Papal Church of the Middle Ages. In the letter to Pergamos we note the rise of the papacy, while in the Thyatiran assembly we recognize the height of popedom.

There was a serious condition in this congregation involving a woman called Jezebel who was teaching her disciples to commit fornication and to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. She was a modern counterpart of the Jezebel of the Old Testament who was teaching the servants of God to compromise.

There was also a remnant in this assembly who had not yielded to the immorality and idolatry described as the depths of Satan.

Our promise as conquerors relates to the millennial kingdom, where we will reign and rule with Christ. The "morning star" is none other than Jesus Himself. I might add that according to one well-known Christian author, sexual sin is one of the greatest problems in the church today, involving both leaders as well as laypersons!

Sardis, symbolizing "to escape," depicts the church that existed after the Reformation. Although the movement started as a great work of the Spirit through men such as Luther, Wycliffe, and others, it soon turned into a cold, formalistic, and lifeless movement

The Lord saw them as having a name they were trying to live yet they were, in fact, spiritually dead. Sometimes it’s easier for us to lean on our past glories and reputations of yesteryear! Twice the city of Sardis had fallen due to carelessness and their failure to watch! As a chiild of God a state of vigilance is necessary in every area of life.

In every assembly there is what we preachers call the "faithful few." If you’re part of this group the Lord has given you a threefold pledge: (1) you will be clothed in white raiment (2) your name will not be blotted out of the book of life and, (3) the Lord will confess your name before the Father and His angels.

Reading the Bible in the Middle Ages

For earlier medieval Christians, the Bible was the book of guidance above all others, and the route to religious knowledge, used for all kinds of practical purposes, from divination to models of government in kingdom or household. This book's focus is on how medieval people accessed Scripture by reading, but also by hearing and memorizing sound-bites from the liturgy, chants and hymns, or sermons explicating Scripture in various vernaculars. Time, place and social class determined access to these varied forms of Scripture. Throughout the earlier medieval period, the Psalms attracted most readers and searchers for meanings.

This book's contributors probe readers' motivations, intellectual resources and religious concerns. They ask for whom the readers wrote, where they expected their readers to be located and in what institutional, social and political environments they belonged why writers chose to write about, or draw on, certain parts of the Bible rather than others, and what real-life contexts or conjunctures inspired them why the Old Testament so often loomed so large, and how its law-books, its histories, its prophetic books and its poetry were made intelligible to readers, hearers and memorizers. This book's contributors, in raising so many questions, do justice to both uniqueness and diversity.

Were sermons in the Middle Ages devoted to Old Testament or New Testament subjects? - History

A Christian Apologetics Ministry Dedicated to Demonstrating the Historical Reliability of the Bible through Archaeological and Biblical Research.

Research Topics

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This article was first published in the Fall 2002 issue of Bible and Spade.

The names Tyre and Sidon were famous in the ancient Near East. They are also important cities in the Old and New Testaments. Both are now located in Lebanon, with Tyre 20 mi south of Sidon and only 12 mi north of the Israel-Lebanon border. Today each is just a shadow of their former selves.

The port of ancient Sidon is believed to have been located in this area. The Sea Castle in the harbor today was originally built as a Crusader fort to protect the harbor. It is believed the Castle sits over the site of the Phoenician temple to Melkart.
-Michael Luddeni
Sidon, called Saida today (Arabic for 'fishing'), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (Gn 10:15) and probably settled by his descendants. The northern border of ancient Canaan extended to Sidon (Gn 10:19). Later, Jacob spoke of it as the boundary of Zebulun (Gn 49:13) and Joshua included it as part of the land promised to Israel (Jos 13:6). Sidon was included in the inheritance of Asher, on its northern boundary (Jos 19:28), but it was not taken by that tribe in conquest (Jgs 1:31, 3:3). Settled from the beginning as a port city, Sidon was built on a promontory with a nearby offshore island that sheltered the harbor from storms. Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (called Sour in Arabic today) was constructed on a rock island a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean (Ward 1997:247). In fact, the city took its name from this rock island. Tyre comes from the Semetic sr (Hebrew Sor, Arabic Sur, Babylonian Surru, Egyptian Dr,) meaning rock.

Located at the foot of some of the Lebanese mountain's southwestern ridges and near the gorge of the ancient Leontes River (the modern Litani), the rich and well-watered plain became the fortified island's primary source or food, water, wood and other living essentials. Apparently the island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later. It was originally called Ushu in cuneiform texts (Ward 1997:247) and later Palaetyrus ('old Tyre') in Greek texts (Jidejian 1996:19).

The Canaanites

Historical and archaeological evidence indicate both cities were settled by the early second millennium BC and were important seaports long before the Israelites settled in Canaan. Yet, while Sidon was mentioned many times during the Canaanite and early Israelite periods in the Bible, Tyre first appeared as part of Asher's western boundary (Jos 19:29). Specifically called a 'fortified city' in this passage, it was noted as a significant landmark. Tyre does not appear again in the Bible until Hiram, king of Tyre, sends cedar, carpenters, and masons to build David's house (2 Sm 5:11).

While both cities are mentioned in a number of second millennium BC extra-Biblical documents, the most interesting accounts come from the Amarna Letters. Actual letters from the kings of both cities were found among the Amarna Letters (ca. 1350 BC). Zimrida, king of Sidon wrote one (EA [El Amarna] 144, ) or maybe two (EA 145) of the Amarna Letters. Abi-Milki, king of Tyre, sent ten letters to the Egyptian Pharaoh (EA 146-155).

Although the dates of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are still in dispute, only Sidon and Sidonians are mentioned (17 times: Iliad 6.290-91 23.743-44 Odyssey 4.83, 84, 618 13.272, 285 14.288, 291 15.118, 415, 417, 419, 425, 473). Yet the failure to mention either Tyre or Tyrians may not be significant. At least some of Homer's usage appears to relate the term Sidonian with Phoenicians in general (see also 1 Kgs 5:6 Jidejian 1996:60). It would seem that during the second millennium BC, Sidon was the pre-eminent of the two port cities. It also appears, during the first millennium BC, that Tyre eclipsed Sidon.

This murex shell was fished out of the Mediterranean Sea by a local fisherman and given to ABR director Dr. Bryant Wood when he visited Tyre. Still found in the Mediterranean today, the ancients collected thousands of these mollusks to produce just one ounce of purple dye. It was such a costly process that purple clothing was considered a symbol of wealth and royalty. - Michael Luddeni

The Phoenicians

While Tyre and Sidon were considered Canaanite during the second millennium BC, scholars call the Lebanese coast after the time of the Israelite Conquest of Canaan, Phoenecia. 'Phoenicia' was the name given to the region by the Greeks, from their word for purple. The ancient world's purple dye industry developed from extracting a fluid from a Mediterranean mollusk, the murex. Not only did the people of the Phoenician coast develop this industry, they specialized in shipping this very valuable commodity all over the Mediterranean world.

Beginning with David, the Tyrian connection became prominent. Hiram, king of Tyre, offered cedar trees, carpenters and masons to build David's palace (2 Sm 5:11). To what extent cedars were used in David's house is unclear, but David did consider his abode to be a palace of cedar (2 Sm 7:2), and God seemed to agree (2 Sm 7:7). Later David utilized the help of Sidonians and Tyrians to provide cedar trees for the Temple (1 Chr 22:4).

Hiram also offered to bring cedars down from the mountains and float them down the Mediterranean coast to Joppa for Solomon's royal construction projects (1 Kgs 5:8-11 2 Chr 2:16), which included both his palace and the Temple. Interestingly, while Hiram continued to be the dominant Lebanese contact, Solomon spoke of the woodworking skills of the Sidonians (possibly just a generic term for Phoenicians?) and builders from Gebal, known by the Greeks as Byblos (1 Kgs 5:18).

Ethbaal was the father of Jezebel and king of Sidon (1 Kgs 16:31). Many scholars follow Josephus (Against Apion 1.121-24 Antiquities 8), who was quoting Menander, and identify Ethbaal with Ithbaal (Hebrew 'Man of Baal'), priest of Astarte who killed the king of Tyre and seized the throne (Jidejian 1996:73, 306). In fact, during many periods, the king of one city seemed to be considered king of the other city by outsiders.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Tyre for 13 years (585-572 BC), but the precise historical facts of its outcome are still unclear. He evidently did not conquer the city, but it may have surrendered conditionally to him. Both Jeremiah (27:3-11) and Ezekiel (26:7-14) spoke of this event. Apparently both Tyre and Sidon surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, based on a fragmentary Babylonian administrative document which mentions the kings of Tyre and Sidon as receiving rations from the royal Babylonian household (Pritchard 1969a: 308).

In the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, the Jews returning from captivity also sent to the men of Sidon and Tyre for cedars to build the Second Temple. Again cedars were floated from Lebanon along the Mediterranean coast to Joppa, where they could be brought overland to Jerusalem (Ezr 3:7).

The golden age of Sidon was still to come. Beyond its prominence in the second millennium BC, Sidon's greatest days did not come until after the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The port city reached its peak of power through its worldwide trade in the murex dye and glass industries. At the same time, it continued to be among the eastern Mediterranean's leaders in shipbuilding and shipping.

Alexander the Great

While Tyre seemed to withstand Nebuchadnezzar, it was not prepared for Alexander 250 years later. Although every Phoenician city to the north, including Sidon, welcomed Alexander, Tyre would only agree to surrender nominally to him. They would not allow him entrance to the city, which was exactly what Alexander intended to do. Not be denied, after only a seven-month siege of the island city, he did what no one else had ever considered possible. Utilizing stones, timber, dirt and debris from the mainland, Alexander constructed a causeway out into the Mediterranean. At last he reached the island, breached the city wall and slew or put into slavery the defiant Tyrians. An amazing feat, Tyre was changed forever.

The city of Tyre was originally an island which Alexander the Great later joined to the mainland by a causeway. In time the causeway was enlarged by rubble and sand deposits washed up by waves. This 1873 map shows Tyre as it was in 322 BC, and later as a peninsula stretching out into the Mediterranean Sea. Evidence of Tyre's ancient harbors can still be seen on the peninsula's north and south sides.

Ezekiel referred to this event long before it happened. While also mentioning that God would send Nebuchadnezzar against the city (Ez 26:7), he spoke of the LORD's promise to destroy Tyre, scrape her dust from her, make her smooth like the top of a rock and a good place for spreading out nets to dry (Ez 26:4, 14). Ezekiel also pointed out that Tyre's world-wide trade would cease with this event (Ez 27 and 28). Illustrating Ezekiel's description of Tyre's destruction, Jidejian (1996:13-14) noted that over the past three centuries, Tyre has served as a 'quarry' for the whole coast. Her stones may be found as far away as Beirut (40 mi north) and Akko (25 mi south in Israel).

Ezekiel also prophesied of God's judgment against Sidon (Ez 28:20-24). God promised pestilence, blood in her streets and death by sword (Ez 28:23). Sidon incurred the wrath of the Persian King Artaxerxes who beat the city into submission. This may have been the event Ezekiel described.

The New Testament Period

By virtue of its submission to Alexander, Sidon under the Greeks enjoyed relative freedom and an advanced cultural life. In the early days of the Roman Empire, Sidon even had enough autonomy to have its own senate and mint its own coins. Unfortunately for archaeologists, the area of ancient Sidon remains occupied today and only minimal archaeological evidence for New Testament Sidon is available.

Meanwhile, Tyre also recovered from Alexander's devastation. In 126 BC, now a peninsula extending into the Mediterranean, Tyre became a Roman province and later the capital of Rome's Syria-Phoenician province.

The site of the ancient mainland city became a large and ornate Roman necropolis. Here also was built a typical Roman hippodrome, the best preserved in the world today. An east-west colonnaded street, a huge triple-bay triumphal arch and a water aqueduct also extended from this area toward the sea.

On the island of Tyre, near the site of the ancient Egyptian (southern) port today sits impressive ruins from the Roman and Byzantine periods. These include a western extension of the colonnaded street from the mainland site, the agora (market place), an unusual arena, and a huge bathhouse.

Thus, New Testament Tyre and Sidon were prosperous Roman port cities. Yet there was great spiritual hunger in the region. Early in Jesus' ministry, people from Sidon and Tyre heard about the things He did. They came to see Him (Mk 3:8) and be healed by Him (Lu 6:17).

Later in His ministry, Jesus visited the region of Sidon and Tyre. There He healed the Canaanite (Syrophoenician) woman's daughter (Mt 15:21-28 Mk 7:24-31). This was the same area where God sent Elijah when the widow fed him (1 Kgs 17:9). Elijah's visit was to the port city of Zaraphath (Serepta to the Greeks and modern Sarafand), almost mid-way between Sidon and Tyre. Both these Old and New Testament visits to the region may be a reminder that the Promised Land extended as far north as Sidon. While full of non- Israelites, it was still part of Israel's inheritance.

Jesus pronounced judgment on Chorazin and Bethsaida suggesting that if the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had experienced what Chorazin and Bethsaida did, they would have long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes (Mt 11:21-24).

The inhabitants of Sidon and Tyre offended Herod Agrippa I and came to visit him at Jerusalem. While both were significant Roman cities on the eastern Mediterranean, their leaders felt the need to keep in Herod's favor. This visit was the occasion of Herod's death at God's hand (Acts 12:20-23).

When Paul returned to Palestine from his third missionary journey, he sailed into Tyre. He met with a group of disciples there and spent seven days in the city (Acts 21:3-7). He probably walked the colonnaded street, passing the hippodrome.

After his arrest in Jerusalem and imprisonment in Caesarea, Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome. From Caesarea his ship stopped at Sidon and Paul was allowed to meet with a group of disciples in that city (Acts 27:3).

Sidon and Tyre Today

The hippodrome at Tyre is the best preserved in the world. Once seating 20,000 spectators, the course is 480m (525 yds) long. Primarily constructed for chariot races, as in the movie Ben Hur, the ends of this racing oval were marked by turning stones called metae which still sit in place. The tight high-speed turns at the metae created the most exciting and dangerous part of the race, often leading to dramatic collisions and spills. Modern Tyrians use the hippodrome today as a jogging course.
-Michael Ludden i

Sidon was the scene of heavy fighting during Lebanon's civil war and it's situation only deteriorated during the subsequent 22-year Israeli occupation. Even today, there is only one hotel and few restaurants for tourists. With numerous hammams (Turkish baths), souqs (markets) and mosques, it feels like an old world city. There is little industry and the port services only a minimal number of local fishing vessels.

Unfortunately, because the ancient port area has continued to be inhabited over the millennia, there is little archaeological evidence or Bronze and Iron Age Sidon. Ruins of the Castle of St. Louis on a hill south of the port are believed to sit over the ancient acropolis. Just south of the castle is Murex Hill, once ancient Sidon's garbage dump. The mound was formed by tens of thousands of crushed murex shells from the city's famed purple dye industry.

Today Tyre is a depressed city that suffered greatly during Lebanon's civil war and Israel's subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon. The modern isthmus that joins the island to the mainland holds streets of houses and shops. There is a picturesque fishing harbor on the north side of the isthmus, adjoining a lively souq. The administrative center for a number of nearby villages and towns, Tyre has a number of unplanned squatter settlements. As important as any industry to modern Tyre are the Greek and Roman archaeological remains which cover the ancient mainland city of Palaetyrus, the accumulated isthmus and the island city.

Our visit to Lebanon gave me a new appreciation of many Biblical passages. I never really considered the rich historical connections Tyre and Sidon had with Scripture. Outside of modern Israel, it is easy to forget that God specifically mentioned these cities as part of the Promised Land. Even in the New Testament, Jesus and Paul took the time to minister to the people of these cities. Not Israelite by population and pagan by religious practice, God continued to bring to them a witness of His love and power.


Jidejian, N. 1996 Tyre Through the Ages. Beirut: Librairie Orientale.

Josephus. 1992 The Works of Josephus. Trans. W. Whiston, from Latin. Peabody MA: Hendrickson.

Pritchard, J. B., ed. 1969a Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, third edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Pritchard, J. B. 1969b The Ancient Near East in Pictures, second edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Ward, W. A. 1997 Tyre. Pp. 247-50 in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Ancient Near East 5, ed. E. M. Myers. New York: Oxford University Press.

​This resource is suitable for second level up to the senior phase and will be particularly useful to those studying the Scots Language Award.

​How to use this learning and assessment resource to improve practice

Scots is one of the three indigenous languages of Scotland and forms an integral part of our heritage and cultural life. It plays a vital role in children’s and young people’s learning about Scotland.
- Have your studies of Scotland featured Scots language?

The ‘3-18 Literacy and English Review’ recognises that Scots can make a strong contribution to the development of children’s and young people’s literacy skills.
- Have you explored how learning Scots can often improve your learners’ development of their wider literacy skills?

Including Scots as part of Curriculum for Excellence can help motivate some learners and their families by showing them that the language they use at home is valued:
- Have you explored how using Scots in learning settings can often improve learners’ engagement and attainment?

Both the SQA Scots Language Award and Scottish Studies Award have seen increased uptake since being launched:
- Has your school considered offering either Award to learners?


Can't view this video? You can also view this clip on Glow (log-in required).


The audios in the zip file above are made up of readings in Scots from various eras in Scotland's history.

These recordings were done in partnership between Education Scotland and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland RCS. The performers reading are current and former students at the RCS. They were coached by Jean Sangster, Head of Voice and the Centre for Voice in Performance at RCS. The readings were recorded in the RCS Recording Studio by Recording Studio Engineer Bob Whitney.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is ranked number three in the world for performing art education.

What is the Scots language?

1. The Scots Language Today, read by Simon Hall

The beginnings of the Scots Language - Scots during the Middle Ages

2. From the Statutes of the Scottish Parliament, read by Adam Stevenson, BA Acting

3. John Barbour – The Brus, read by Katie Barnett, BA Musical Theatre

4. William Dunbar – My Heid Did Yak, read by Euan McCormack, BA Musical Theatre

5. Robert Henryson – The Preaching of the Swallow, read by Emma Hindle, BA Acting

Scots during Renaissance and Reformation times

6. John Knox – The History of the Reformation, read by Michael Abubakar, BA Acting

7. James VI – Reulis and Cautelis, read by Nicholas Ralph, BA Acting

8. James VI – Counterblast Against Tobacco, read by Nicholas Ralph, BA Acting

Scots in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

9. William Drummond – Sleepe, Silence Child, read by Megan McGuire, BA Musical Theatre

10. Robert Ayton – To View Thy Beauty Well, read by Michael Abubakar, BA Acting

11. Robert Fergusson – Auld Reikie, read by Ainsley Jordan, BA Acting

12. Robert Burns – Address to the Deil, read by Duncan Brown, BA Musical Theatre

Scots in the Romantic Age and Victorian times

13. Sir Walter Scott – Old Mortality, read by Ainsley Jordan, BA Acting

14. James Hogg – Confessions of a Justified Sinner, read by Christopher Marshall, BA Musical Theatre

15. Janet Hamilton – Oor location, read by Emma Hindle, BA Acting

16. The Scotchman Journal, read by Katie Barnett, BA Musical Theatre

Scots in the twentieth century

17. Charles Murray – A Sough O’ War, read by Euan McCormack, BA Musical Theatre

18. Hugh MacDairmid – A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, read by Duncan Brown, BA Musical Theatre

19. Sydney Goodsir Smith – The Grace of God and The Meth Drinker, read by Adam Stevenson, BA Acting

20. Hamish Henderson – The Freedom Come All Ye, sung by Megan McGuire, BA Musical Theatre

21. WL Lorimer – The New Testament in Scots, read by Christopher Marshall, BA Musical Theatre

Watch the video: Old Testament God vs. New Testament God