Judaism: podcast lecture: Sacrifices & Birds

Red heifer sacrificeThis is the continuation of an excursus about sacrifices – perhaps appropriate that we have got here at the start of Lent! We all talk about ‘making sacrifices’ and the ‘paschal sacrifice’ but this is in context of a long history of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. What did sacrifice mean for the early Israelites when they left Egypt. What was the meaning of the bloody temple sacrifices which were so much a feature of Jewish worship until 70 CE? When Israel leaves Egypt, they sacrifice the first paschal lamb – a big insult to the worshippers of the ram god of Egypt. Jewish commentators point out that, in many other ways, Jewish sacrifices challenged the cults of the gods around them, replacing them with the worship of the One God.

It was a remarkable achievement! This small fragile nation persisted over more than 2,000 OIC A3dii Holy Wateryears to such good effect that, by the time of Christ, the world was ready for the worship of the One God, and millenia of worship of multiple gods was swept away in a few short centuries. As a Christian, it has been humbling to realise, during this study, to what degree Judaism ‘prepared the way of the Lord.’ This podcast focuses on the proto-covenant with Abraham – the Covenant of the Pieces (Genesis 15), and the significance of the sacrifice – not only of a ram, but also of a young cow, a goat, a turtle dove and a pigeon.

OIC A3dii LastJudgementIn the process, we come across Lenten ashes, holy water, and a number of icons. Did you know the cleansing water came from the Pool of Siloam, and the arcading we see in icons of the paralytic, was built in the time of Herod the Great. Did you know it is in Leviticus the the association of goat cults with the devil is first mentioned (Leviticus 17:7)? We discuss the goats of Yom Kippur and the parable of the sheep and the goats, in context of the Last Judgement icon. Well… sign up for the course for the rest!


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Judaism: Podcast Lecture: Plagues & Stars

OIC_A3di_17_DionysiouAthos_RainHail+fire This is the beginning of a short series on the theme ‘Battle of the Gods.’ The Torah (Ex.12:12/Numbers 33:4) states that the plagues are selected explicitly to defeat and humiliate the gods and symbols of Pharaonic Egypt. It’s not kidding! When you go more deeply into this and, especially, follow the Jewish commentators and Midrash, you realise how incredibly well designed the Israelite religion was. Israel’s existence would become a direct challenge the multiple religions of the Mediterranean basin. the plagues are just the opening salvo!


OIC_A3di_11_SerpentWildernessMoses opens with the ‘Battle of the Rods’ – the miraculous shepherd’s crook from Sinai challenges the shepherd’s crook held by pharaoh in his formal statues. The serpent theme from Genesis to the Cross is explored. the apocalyptic weather conditions prefigure the rain of hail and fire in St. John’s Apocalypse. The devastation of crops happens at the time of the great festival of the rebirth of Osiris. the redemption versus the death of the firstborn leads from Egypt to Jesus the firstborn Son, and the theme of lamb sacrifice in  the Liturgies of the Church is introduced.


OIC_A3di_31_Jacob_star_emmanuelThis is a section rich in iconography, completed by the star vision of Abraham, on which the pagan prophet Balaam builds, in his famous prophecy of Christmas – ‘a star shall arise out of Jacob.’ In this lecture we are starting to explore how the events of the Old Testament lay the basis for New Testament iconography. A whole new understanding, of the Bible and Christian iconography, opens up when one approaches Bible study from a visual point of view.

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Judaism: Podcast Lecture:The two Leaders, Joseph & Moses

OIC_HJ_A3c4_SemiteSlaveI nearly called this ‘In and Out’! The leader who gets Israel into Egypt is separated, by nearly four hundred years, from the leader who gets Egypt out of Egypt! Joseph is a seer in the same mould as Daniel. Like Daniel in Babylon, his career is kick started by interpreting a seemingly incomprehensible dream for the reigning king! The dream about cows is not just agricultural – it is a national prophecy which asserts the primacy of the One God over the national gods. It opens the way for the Hebrews to settle in the fertile delta lands where – instead of being wiped out in Semitic infighting in Canaan – they were able to ‘prosper and multiply’.


OIC_HJ_A3c40_moses_burning_bush_iconThe second half deals with the effect of ‘prospering and multiplying.’ the Hebrews had now become a national threat and another type of leadership was necessary. Moses, like Joseph, is a seer, but with a very different brief. Throughout the podcast, the slides put the two lives into context of the Egypt of their day, and introduce the sites and icons of the Sinai revelation. We study the  important theophany – the revelation of the Name of God, and show how the Name of God is written in the early Septuagint manuscripts and in the icon, touching on the general contractions of Holy names in icons.

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Judaism: Podcast lecture: Symbols & Prophecy – The 12 Tribes

OIC_A3b1_12tribes_Issachar1One of the most interesting things about preparing this podcast has been realising how closely the development of symbols is linked to prophecy. The visual symbol follows the prophecy! In the case of the symbols and flags of the twelve tribes of Israel, we have two prophecies – the one by Jacob on his deathbed, and the one by Moses before the tribes enter the promised land. This study is rather a ‘fun study’ – an aide memoire, exploring how the prophecies played out, in the historical characteristics of each tribe.


OIC_A3b1_12tribes_Good_ShepherdThese symbols are used in many decorative designs by Israelis today – proving that, although Jews do not draw pictures of God, there are plenty of other things they draw!In our study of the icon, the beginnings of the language of revelation are very important. Two very important icon themes unexpectedly emerged – the Good Shepherd and the Guardian Angel. Without doing this visual Bible study, I would not have realised how deep the roots of these images are. It has made me realise that I need to pay much more attention to the visual character of the Old Testament prophecies in the roots of iconography.

* At the time of writing there is a slow load issue connected with some of these podcasts, which we are working on – meanwhile,  just open the lecture and leave it ‘playing’ till the sound loads!

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Hellenic Judaism: First Lecture due this Week!

torah_scrollThis is the first new unit I have managed to put up for sometime, owing to changed circumstances. I am now at an Orthodox monastery in Greece. The content of the new lectures on Judaism is very exciting – I am learning more and more myself about the relationship between Old and New Testament as I do it, and about the process of vision. I did not realise before how deeply visual images are aligned to prophecy – something which will come out in the subsequent lectures.

abraham_wall_iconAlthough the unit is headed ‘Hellenic Judaism’ I found I had to go much further back, and ask the question: ‘Who are the Jews?”, uncovering a lot of source texts on the formation of the Middle Eastern nations in doing so. Although units follow an overall historical timeline, they explore various themes along the way in depth, linking the Old Testament event to the New Testament, and to it’s icon, where applicable.

rublev_trinityThe Apostles and Fathers of the post Apostolic Age were at the intersection of the Old Testament and the New Testament when they are excited about the ‘fulfilment of the law’ in Jesus: ‘Not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law till all is fulfilled’ (Matthew 5:18). This revelation is carried through in the sacraments and icons, and we shall explore this more deeply as we move through this section.

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