The Durham Chronicles– the Highland Fling

By now, everyone in the world knows that Will and Kate hung out at St. Andrews for a good while before they became king and queen in waiting, just proving that anything is possible if you go to St. Andrews….. which I did last Sunday, and stayed a couple of days with my friends Tom and Maggie Wright, and Scott and Deborah Hafemann. It would be hard to find nicer hosts, and the students were pretty great to, whom I met at my lecture, and in a luncheon meeting. St. Andrews definitely has one of the best NT faculties in the U.K….. to say the least.

But perhaps you know St. Andrews for it’s other main reason for fame (other of course that the Scottish Reformation being birthed there, and John Knox being jailed there etc…….), to wit, it is the birthplace of golf. During this excursion I played an excellent relatively new course, King’s Barns, right on the North Sea, as most of these St. Andrews courses are. It was a sunny day, but only 40 degrees tops, and with a 40 mile an hour wind coming off the sea, which played havoc with any shots up into the wind. But still, despite some lost balls, I still managed some good shots, and a good time was had my moi (I played by myself and was the first one on and off the course in 3 hours).

How you say, did I get there? By the trains of course, something America is woefully deficient in. I took a train to Edinburgh from Durham which took all of 2 hours, and then another one up to St. Andrews which is about another hour, and presto, I was in St. Andrews, and got lots of reading and sight-seeing done while riding along. It was and is awesome. BTW the trains were on time. It is true that the train service now is not as frequent as it was 35 years ago when I lived in Durham, but it is still going well, and on time. America’s love affair with those gas guzzling vehicles known as cars killed the passenger train in America. Absolutely made them extinct, except for a few major routes. It’s a crying shame. I remember being in the first grade in 1958 and riding the very last passenger train from High Point to Greensboro with my class. After that, no more passengers in High Point :( Another thing I notice was that the food and drink service on the trains has certainly improved as well, as has the food and drink service at the stations. They even have real and decent coffee in the stations.

There are lots of fun foods to try in Scotland, such as Scottish brother, or haggis, or shortbread, or various of their special beverages. I especially like a lot of their carbonated fruit juices which are delicious. And then there are the strong cheeses…….which will clean out your sinus and clog up your nether regions all in one fell swoop. The truth is, Durham and St. Andrews are really too different worlds, and they have two very different religious traditions as well. Anglicanism is a pale and weakly thing in Scotland compared to other forms of Protestantism such as Scottish Presbyterianism. Then too, you run into a significant bit of Catholicism there as well…. in fact Mary Queen of Scot’s planted a tree in the quad at St. Mary’s College which is the theological college amongst the others at St. Andrews. Religious life is alive and well in both places…. despite the usual reports from the U.K. about the lack of church going.

Interesting stat of the week—-77% of Americans in a very recent poll attribute the decline of American culture and its ethical fibre to the lack of Bible reading. Of that 77% only 57% say they read it regularly. What’s wrong with this picture???

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  • Dan


    I am the guy that wrote to you the other day about losing Jesus in the midst of reading all the 3rd Quest for the Historical Jesus Research.

    I went to an Evangelical College and I have even graduated from Eden Seminary. The Evangelical College that I graduated from taught Biblical Literature pretty much similar to your approach. The Seminary that I graduated from taught pretty much Borg’s appraoch.

    I have read Borg’s works “Understanding the Bible Again for the First Time.” “Jesus”
    Crossan’s work “Jesus: A Revolutionary Bigraphy”

    NT Wright “The Challenge of Jesus” and “Who is Jesus?”

    Your works “What Have they Done With Jesus?”
    “The Paul Quest,” and “The Jesus Quest” All three were excelent books and well worth the investment and the reading time.

    When I compare your views with that of Borg’s I see a huge difference!
    However, here are some of my own thoughts.
    1. When I read your works and NT Wrights, your research is much more detailed and apologetic, and in some respect much more difficult to understand (in particular NT Wright) in comparison to Borg.
    2. I could take the canonical gospels alone and apply Borg’s idea of pre-easter Jesus and post easter-Jesus, and his approach still makes much more sense to me, regardless of how much value he places on so called Q, The Gospel of Thomas, etc

    Any comments? Suggestions?

    Borg in his writing even comments about the culture wars in America as you have refered to here in this article and after reading his work I agree with him on several of those issues, in particular “the war on terror” and traditional Christian teaching. Borg : “The answer of the Christian right is clear: it supports American imperial policy. The demographic group provinding the highest percentage of support for going to war in Iraq was white evangelicals. They continue to be its largest group of supporters–in spite of the fact that Christian moral teaching, Catholic and Protestant, forbids starting war and has done so for over 2600 years. Before then Christians were pacifists. Since then, Christian teachinghas permited going to war as a last resort of self defense, but not premptive war, a right that our government now claims. Jesus p. 298

    One of our culteral decays is in national debt and what we need to do about it (last election was a prime example). I have been saying for years that these wars have been costing the US taxpayer $$$$$$$ and it will in debt the folowing generations.

    Dan, still trying to find Jesus

  • Ben Witherington

    Hi Dan: I don’t much disagree with Borg’s analysis of the politics of war. What I certainly disagree with is Borg’s attempt to contrast the pre and post Easter Jesus too radically, and to fudge on the resurrection in various ways. I think you would profit from reading some of Larry Hurtado’s main stuff on Christology…. his big book on Jesus as Lord, and religious experience of Jesus is worth a good read. Borg is basically wrong about Jesus’ eschatology. For my money his best book was his book on Jesus leading a holiness movement, the first book, which came out of his Oxford dissertation. The Gospel of Thomas really adds nothing to what we know about the historical Jesus except maybe one or two authentic sayings not in the Synoptics. It’s not a big deal honestly. Keep looking for Jesus. He for sure is looking for you! BW3

  • Dan

    Just checked out Larry’s book. Sounds interesting, but it is 750 pages long! I do not have the time to read all of that at this time. Right, now, Dr. Borg helps me understand the New Testament and Bible better than others at this point. He is an exceptionally gifted teacher.


  • Ben Witherington

    Dan there are several smaller versions of that Hurtado book like Whatever Happened to Jesus……

    Borg is a gifted communicator, but boy is he wrong about the NT in so many ways. BW3

  • James Petticrew

    Glad you had a good time up here, St Andrews of course doesn’t count as the Highlands :-) and have worked for them the Scottish Episcopal Church can be a bit sniffy about being called the “Anglican” church for historic reasons,