Scripture quotations taken from the Revised English Bible, copyright © Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press 1989. All rights reserved.


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love and happiness (2017/12/17)

Hello, friends! You're reading four cubits and a span. I'm Dan Abson, and this week I'm writing up my notes instead of podcasting them: a notcast, if you will.

Why? Because it's winter-time, and here in Central Scotland that means... viral and bacterial infections for all! I'm down and out with laryngitis and a chest infection, so there's no way to record your weekly dose of Bible story goodness. Still, the show goes on. Sort of.

poetry and philosophy (2017/12/10)

Advent is upon us, and it's not entirely un-topical to think about Job calling God to account and reflecting on how God acts in the world. In Nahum we've got some proper literature, and in observing some of those literary features, we ask the important question, "So what?" In the New Testament, James gives us at least half a dozen really good topics for an hour-long study (each), so I fold space-time to fit them all into ten minutes.

drama and relationship: out-takes

I chopped out two sections from this week's intro to Job, one kind of general observation, and one related section from our consideration of Chapter 4. I could see even during the recording that I was going way over time, so I just gave up on the whole section and moved on to Jonah. It was such a useful subject to explore, though, that I went back afterwards to finish it off to publish as an out-take!

drama and relationship (2017/12/03)

Three cracking texts in this week's episode: Job, Jonah, and Hebrews. From the depths of human suffering to the very heart of Christian faith, this week's show felt like quite a journey. There are no easy answers this here, but more than enough to inspire us and challenge us to raise each other up.

An Introduction to Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah

In this bonus episode, I introduce the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah at a midweek Bible study class recorded in Glasgow. We briefly look at their origin, their social and historical context, and (of course) the main features of their narrative. We also consider how each book fits into the larger story of second temple Judaism, and their relevance to the literary background of the New Testament.

identity and community (2017/11/19)

The story of the Bible is not just the story of God in the lives of individuals, but the story of how God acts on and through - and is understood by - communities of people. The emphasis on community is strong in the readings this week: its identity now, in the present, and its participation in a future apocalypse.

reflection and introspection (2017/11/12)

The Bible tells God's story by telling the story of his people, and this week we have Hosea, Ezra, and Paul doing exactly that. From the first prophetic watchman to a small tribe in the hill country of central Canaan, to the the great itinerant preacher who traversed the Mediterranean world proclaiming the good news of a risen Messiah to all peoples, we're running the full gamut of the biblical narrative in this show!

Rising Action (Acts 8)

From the most unlikely origins, Jesus will commission Paul to implement the great work narrated in the book of Acts - taking the gospel out across the Mediterranean world. But before Paul turns to Christ, even before Peter starts baptising Gentiles, comes the deacon Philip. In his preaching, the gospel smashes taboos of ethnicity, religion, and sexuality.

interpretation and reinterpretation (2017/11/05)

The Chronicler teaches us about re-interpreting the biblical text for the present day (his was over 2,000 years ago, of course), and what that means for the way in which we read Chronicles, and indeed all of scripture. In Hosea, systemic misogyny rears its ugly head and we face a stark dichotomy between soaring beauty and monstrous ethics.

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alternative histories (2017/10/29)

We're playing with history in all three readings this week, all in slightly different ways. In the New Testament, Stephen throws the entire Hebrew Bible narrative on its head in pretty much the most subversive way possible. In Daniel, we have a different challenge: an alternative to the history of interpretation. But it's the Chronicler who really sets us up for this when he goes to town on a history of King Uzziah, who is largely wiped from the narrative of 2 Kings.

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patterns and participation: out-takes

One extra OT clip and NT clip this week: from 2 Chronicles we preface the kings of the divided kingdom with Solomon; and in John 18, Jesus faces down Pilate with the counter-cultural gospel of peace

patterns and participation (2017/10/22)

In our second week with Ezekiel's temple vision, we get stuck into the details and find that Ezekiel has a radical new agenda for God's people in this vision of startling and shocking new beginnings. Near the end of John's gospel, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the days ahead and facing a trial before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The expanded account of Asa's reign in Chronicles is a story of two starkly contrasting extremes.

temple and tradition: out-takes (New Testament edition)

In a clip from the John reading this week, I looked at why the argument about Jesus birth place is significant. It really draws out the theme of misapprehension in John's gospel: the Messiah who speaks so plainly but so unexpectedly about his mission subverts expectations, and reframes the Messianic calling itself.

the Bethlehem controversy

I was a bit sad to lose this observation on the literary irony that John brings out in the argument surrounding Jesus' origins in John 7. It took a bit too long to explain the background, though, so I let it go. Hope you enjoy this snippet of second-temple Jewishness. We're returning to second temple apocalyptic literature in a special episode on Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the second week of November.

Join the discussion here on the blog, or over on Facebook, and join us next week on the podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, or on your usual podcatcher courtesy of TuneIn.

temple and tradition: out-takes (Old Testament edition)

Here are two clips that I dropped from the 1 Chronicles reading this week. In the first, the Israelite slave labourers that the Chronicler airbrushed out of the record hint at a kingdom fractured long before it finally divided under Rehoboam. In the second, we look at the Chronicler's unique record of the Levite musicians portrayed as serving in the first temple.

temple and tradition (2017/10/15)

In this episode we've got a double-helping of temple narrative: Solomon is dedicating the first temple in 2 Chronicles 5-6, and Ezekiel is envisaging the temple restored in Ezekiel 41. Meanwhile, in John's gospel, Jesus is subverting expectations and traditions in John 7, in the first of two weeks on the Fourth Gospel.

The Language of Suicide (Philippians 1)

In Philippians 1 this week, we are confronted with the first century philosophy of suicide, and the disjunction between that and the modern-day tragedy of suicide. The stigma surrounding it in our society is counter-productive to holding an awareness of the issues, and being able to support those who need somewhere to turn. Paul doesn't shy away from it and, although the view from his society is very different to ours, neither shall we.

hubris and humility (2017/10/08)

In 1 Chronicles 24-25, we have the first of two weeks concerning the first temple, but two very heavy texts in Ezekiel 34 and Philippians 1-2. Ezekiel rails against the failed Israelite leaders following the destruction of Jerusalem, and preaches the radical character of Yahweh the shepherd God. In the New Testament, Paul describes true humility and the importance of intentional love.

testament and testimony (2017/10/01)

If you struggle with reading prophecy as much as I do, then come listen to my friend Nathan Kitchen talking about Ezekiel 27. There so much to miss that makes so much more sense out of these oracles to Tyre than the cherry-picker, tunnel-vision approach. We even spend a few minutes talking about the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Chronicles 15, and the resurrection narrative in Luke 24.

hope and glory (2017/09/17)

At the end of the Kings history in 2 Kings 24-25, we're feeling the pain of loss as Judah and Jerusalem are humiliated over and over again as the nation finally falls. In Ezekiel 13, the prophet is letting rip the full fury of God against the false prophets who cheerfully cherry-pick their affirming messages, heedless of God's true intentions, to fit their own version of God into local current affairs. And in Luke 9 we're drawn fully into the work of a humble, human Messiah who reaches out and invites us to participate.

culture and counter-culture: out-takes

Here's a clip that was left out of this week's segment on Ahaz and the Great Assyrian Whitewash in 1 Kings 16. It's a diversion into Isaiah's response to the king's rejection of God's invitation to stand firm. (It's also a passage familiar to Christians for a whole other reason.) When Ahaz shies away from accepting God's offer through the prophet to prove his support for his people, God says, "OK fine Imma do it anyway."

culture and counter-culture (2017/09/10)

This week on 4QS we're reading 2 Kings 16, Ezekiel 6, and Luke 2. It's Canaanite Culture 101 with King Ahaz, and the alternative histories of his great triumph/humiliating defeat. Ezekiel is just getting warmed up in his mission to remind the exiles who God is, and at the start of Luke's gospel the story of Jesus begins in subversive style.

The New Creation (2 Corinthians 6-7)

A special follow-up episode to Monday's brief look at 2 Corinthians 1-2, this is a study class that I recorded in 2016. We're going to dig into the text, and into the culture of the first century Mediterranean world of the Corinthian church, to see how Paul shatters their social ethic in order to rebuild it, Jesus-style. Chapters 6-7 of this challenging letter form the climax of the piece, so prepare to be challenged!

grief and comfort (2017/09/03)

Welcome to the first full episode of 4QS! We're reading 2 Kings 8, Lamentations 4, and 2 Corinthians 1-2, and trying to strike that difficult balance between mourning and hope. Join me for a look at the role of the prophet in ancient Israel, how the exiled Jews in Babylon coped with the destruction of their home, and how Paul could live with joy in the midst of depression.

This episode features loss, grief, and depression as central themes.

not the first episode

Hello friends, and welcome to four cubits and a span! This is not the first episode: it's an introduction to a Goliath that you may not have met before, and the Bible you might not know about. Also, and some thoughts on reading, studying, and talking about the Bible, and the importance of stories. It's really just my way of saying "Hi!" and inviting you to join me every Monday on 4QS.