About Me

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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Joni Mitchell sings the book of Job

Here is the original version of "The Sire of Sorrow" (Job's sad song).

The orchestral version of the song on the Travelogue album (2002) is well worth a listen. It is a wonderful arrangement.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Biblical Cosmos: endorsements

Here are the endorsements for the book

“In this masterful exposition of the sacramental worldview of the Old Testament, Robin Parry explains why the ‘flat earth’ of ancient Israel continues to be of significance for Christians today. If you’re wondering how, with a modern cosmology, we can still believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, this book is a must-read. And if you figure the Old Testament is simply incompatible with the Christian Platonism of the Christian tradition, you just may be startled by the insights of this book.”
Hans Boersma, J. I Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver

“Delightful. Robin Parry takes the reader on a fascinating tour of biblical cosmology and theology. If you want to enter the minds of the biblical writers, this book will guide you with wit and sound learning.”
Gordon Wenham, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, University of Gloucestershire, and Tutor in Old Testament, Trinity College Bristol, UK

“Parry expertly guides us through the strange biblical world of a flat earth at center of the cosmos, dragon-infested cosmic waters, a dome overhead, and abode of the dead below. But more than that, Parry invites us to accept this strange biblical world as is and to inhabit it, rather than conforming it to ours. In doing so, Parry opens up fresh ways of envisioning not only the biblical world, but Jesus and our own Christian faith.”
Peter Enns, Professor of Biblical Studies, Eastern University, Pennsylvania

“One of the great challenges for reading the Bible today is how to make sense of a biblical view of the world in our modern scientific era. In this book Robin Parry deftly and thoughtfully lays out the key issues as well as suggesting various ways in which we might begin to respond to them. This book is a must read for anyone serious about reading and making sense of the Bible today.”
Paula Gooder, Theologian in Residence, Bible Society, UK

“Robin Parry gives us what is both a fascinating survey of the cosmos as seen in Holy Scripture and a helpful guide to how Christians can best understand that biblical cosmology today. Thorough, lively, and thought-provoking, I warmly recommend it.”
Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of
C. S. Lewis

“This book is simply stellar! What a fabulously helpful way to introduce the significance of the OT cosmology for today!”
Pleiades, open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus

“Roaaaaarrrr!!!!”
Leviathan, mythical chaos monster

“This book is smokin’ hot! I wish I’d read this it when I was alive!”
Saint Augustine, important bishop and theologian bloke

"I feel so honored to have been asked to paint a picture for the cover of this great little travel guide. And to have Leviathan himself agree to pose for it was literally awesome."
Vincent Van Goch, artist

The Biblical Cosmos: back cover blurb and table of contents

For those of you who want to know a little more about the book, here is the back cover blurb.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Bible
When we read Scripture we often imagine that the world inhabited by the Bible’s characters was much the same as our own. We’d be wrong. The biblical world is an ancient world with a flat earth that stands at the center of the cosmos, and with a vast ocean in the sky, chaos dragons, mystical mountains, demonic deserts, an underground zone for the dead, stars that are sentient beings, and, if you travel upwards and through the doors in the solid dome of the sky, God’s heaven—the heart of the universe.
This book takes readers on a guided tour of the biblical cosmos with the goal of opening up the Bible in its ancient world. It then goes further and seeks to show how this very ancient biblical way of seeing the world is still revelatory and can speak God’s word afresh into our own modern worlds.
Robin A. Parry (the geeza wot wrote the book) is an editor at Wipf and Stock Publishers;
Hannah Parry (the lady wot illustrated the book) is an archaeology student

Table of Contents


Introduction: Welcome to the Biblical Cosmos

Part I: A Tour of the Biblical Earth
1. Joining the Flat Earth Society: The Big Picture 
2. Here Be Dragons! The Sea 
3. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Land 
4. A Land Down Under: Sheol/Hades 

Part II: A Tour of the Biblical Heavens
5. Eyes in Their Stars: The Sky /
6. Brighter than a Thousand Suns: God’s Heaven /

Part III: The House of God: Temple and Cosmos
7. God’s in the House: The Temple and the Biblical Cosmos 
8. Christ’s in the House: Jesus and the Biblical Cosmos 

Part IV: Can We Inhabit the Biblical Cosmos?
9. How Can We Inhabit the Biblical Cosmos Today?
10. The Cosmic Temple Today
11. The Biblical Heavens Today
12. The Biblical Earth Today

Further Reading
Scripture Index

The new book is here: "The Biblical Cosmos"


So here is the illustrator (left) and the author (right) of a new book on biblical cosmography.

In the background the tree is clapping its hands in joy.

The book'll be available soon on Amazon and in sundry places. If you are in the USA, it is already available on the Wipf & Stock website.

The normal cost is $27, but there is a permanent 20% discount on the site, so the book is a mere $21.60 (about £13.50 for those of you who think in British monetary terms).

There are over sixty images in the book—maps, diagrams, and loads of cartoons.

More info to follow

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The mystery of the missing Banksy

Here is some graffiti by the famous British graffiti artist Banksy.
It appeared in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, one week before a parliamentary By-election in which the UK Independence Party was expected to do well. (It did do well, gaining its first ever MP.)

Here is what happened. After receiving some complaints from the public that the mural was "offensive and racist," the council had it destroyed.

That may have been a financial mistake—Banksy paintings are worth a fortune. Be that as it may, the mystery is this:
How could anyone find the artwork offensive for being racist when it is so OBVIOUSLY a critique of people with racist attitudes?!
What happened?

I have no idea.

Perhaps some people genuinely did not understand the point of the picture and got precisely the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps they complained. I can imagine that.

But in that case, you'd imagine that the Council would simply explain the point. Then the offended anti-racists would appreciate that the artist was actually playing on the same team as them. All would be well. Why did that not happen? I have no idea.

Perhaps the council themselves did not understand the point of the artwork.
Hmmmm .... Nope. I find that impossible to believe.

How about this one? Perhaps people with strong anti-immigration attitudes saw the artwork, understood it perfectly, and found it offensive. (Maybe they took offense at the implication that wanting stronger immigration policy is necessarily racist, or maybe they were racists and did not like being mocked.) Perhaps, they reasoned that if they explained the real reason for their taking offense the council would not take them seriously. Thus, in order to get it removed, they pretended to find it offensive on the grounds of its being racist.

I have no idea. It would be interesting to know one day.





Thursday, 9 October 2014

On praying for the damned

I was fairly recently in a church service in which the priest prayed for the soul of the deceased. The good evangelical next to me was somewhat surprised, as he could see no point in doing such a thing. Once someone has died their fate is fixed forever, he said—praying for them will make no difference.

Really?

I am currently reading Ilaria Ramelli's magnificent book The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Leiden: Brill, 2013). It is the most thorough study of universalism in the early church ever undertaken (900 pages of it!).

Anyway, one of the things that struck me in the early part of the book was the recurring theme of the righteous praying for the damned with the result that the latter were rescued from hell.

First, the Apocalypse of Peter, probably from Alexandria in Egypt about 135 AD. In this text, which some early church leaders considered divinely inspired, sinners endure a period of suffering in the afterlife but will ultimately attain bliss thanks to the intercessions of the righteous. They will undergo "a beautiful baptism in salvation."
I will grant to my . . . elect all those whom they ask me to remove from punishment. And I shall grant them a beautiful baptism in salvation in the Acherusian Lake . . . a sharing of justification with my saints . . . . (Rainer fragment)
Chapter 14 has Christ declare to Peter that "You will have no more mercy on sinners than I do, for I was crucified because of them." Because of his mercy he will give them "life, glory, and kingdom without end." (However, lest sinners use this possibility of post-damnation salvation as an excuse to sin, they should not be told about it. This theme of not broadcasting the final salvific end of all to sinners is a theme found in Origen and other early texts.)

Second, we have the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah (probably second or third century). Here the righteous contemplate the damned in their sufferings while the damned contemplate the bliss of the righteous . . . and then they "will take part in Grace. On that day the righteous will be granted that for which they have prayed." What the righteous have prayed for and what they receive is that those in eschatological punishment should "take part in Grace."

Third, Epistula Apostolorum, probably from Syria around the first half of the second century. Here the disciples are worried about the punishment of sinners in the age to come. Jesus commends them for their prayers for such sinners, and assured them that "I shall listen to the prayer of the just, which they utter for sinners."

Fourth, the widely-used  Oracula Sibyllina, Book 2 (around 150 AD), says:
And God, immortal and omnipotent, will grant another gift to these pious persons: when they ask him, he will grant them to save human beings from the fierce fire, and from the gnashing of teeth of the age to come, and will do so after pulling them out of the unquenchable flame and removing them, destining them, for the sake of his own elect, to the other life, that of the age to come, for immortals, in the Elysian Fields, where there are the long waves of the Acherusian Lake, imperishable, which has a deep bed. (2.330–38)
Fifth, the Odes of Solomon (second century AD) seems to speak of Christ breaking down the gates of hell and as rescuing all people from its clutches. Christ says,
I went on to all the prisoners, to liberate them, in order not to leave anyone enchained, or enchaining others. . . . I sowed my own fruits in their hearts, and I transformed them into myself: they received my blessing had had life. They have been gathered in me and are saved, because they have become my limbs, and I am their head" (17.8–14. Cf. ch. 42).
Sixth, in the Gospel of Nicodemus—a fourth century text that contains layers of material from much earlier—Christ has all the dead that had been bound in hell released from their prisons. He snatched all the dead from sin and Satan and death: "No dead is left with us: all those whom you [Satan] had gained with the tree of knowledge, you have now lost with the tree of the Cross."

Seventh, the Apocalypse of Paul (perhaps third century) envisages the postmortem repentance of sinners followed by a baptism in the Acherusian Lake (ch. 22). In ch. 24 those who cannot enter the New Jerusalem because of their haughtiness are finally allowed to enter, thanks to intercession.

As an aside, a whole bunch of texts speak of how God will eventually "have mercy on all" (e.g., the Life of Adam and Eve, Latin recension) or will "liberate everyone from the enslavement to Beliar" (the devil) (Testament of Zebulon 9.8)

Eighth, in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the heroine and apostle (Thecla) prayed for a dead and lost woman called Falconilla. Her prayers were answered and the damned Falconilla was transferred to the place of rest of the righteous (3.28–29).

Ninth, the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (c. 200 AD). Here the dead brother of Perpetua appears to her in a vision in a miserable condition. He had died at the age of seven and had not been baptized. His sister prays for him and he receives postmortem baptism and salvation.

That early Christians did not consider the fate of the dead to be sealed and unchangeable is further indicated also by the fact that offerings for the dead were made (as attested by Tertullian and Cyprian).

The above merely picks out a few items from a small part of Ramelli's massive study. What she demonstrates across the book as a whole is that the roots of universalism go back far earlier than is usually realized—it was not some "out of the blue" invention of Origen—and that universalism was far more widely spread across the early church than is usually realized.

My interest in this blog post is simply to suggest that many early Christians would not have shared our qualms about praying for the salvation of those in hell. Perhaps it is a practice that ought to be reintroduced.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Messiah—from Genesis to Revelation

Yet another fabulous animation from The Bible Project