In Praise of Beethoven’s Sixth

Shortly after my music-playing apparatus was repaired a concert was broadcast that included the immensely likeable Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony of Beethoven. It contains five sections, that it may be going to far to describe as movements. The first expresses Beethoven’s feelings on arriving in the country; these are light-hearted and serene, the notes of the music often not quite forming themselves […]

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Notes on Genesis (viii)

‘And Sarah said “God has made me laugh; all who hear will laugh with me.”‘ (Gen 21:6) The conception of Isaac by the elderly Sarah opens the series of unexpected biblical  pregnancies that will culminate with that of the Theotokos. Sarah’s initial response in hearing what lay ahead had been one of laughter, perhaps of a sardonic kind (Gen 18:12), and Hagar’s laughter that follows […]

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Good plain English

An actor playing the role of Dr Faustus in the play by Christopher Marlowe told me that he finds lines of Shakespeare easier to memorize than those of Marlowe. The latter, who belonged to a group known as the University Wits, wrote in a more academic way than his contemporary, who allegedly had ‘small Latin and less Greek’, and his words do not stick […]

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Notes on Genesis (vii)

‘Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening…’ (Gen 19:1) Sometimes the time of day at which something is said to have occurred gives you a way of understanding its significance. God encounters Adam and Eve in the afternoon (Gen 3:8), and there is a dreadful finality in the phrase ‘and it was night’ (John 13:30). The arrival of the messengers […]

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Notes on Genesis (vi)

‘So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood before him…’ (Gen 18:2) While we are told that God appeared to Abraham as he was sitting at the oak of Mamre (18:1), it turns out that the patriarch saw three men, but in addressing his visitor(s) he persistently uses the singular term ‘Lord’.  After some discussion , ‘the men’ head for […]

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Diarmaid MacCullough’s A History of Christianity

I missed reading this book when it was published in 2009, but what’s two years against the two millennia it covers? Actually MacCullough cheekily says that his book covers the first three thousand years of the history of Christianity, thereby allowing himself some coverage of the Greco-Roman and Jewish background, but his detailed treatment starts with the birth of Christ […]

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