Friday, March 27, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
I was in touch with Mark Bilyeu a few years ago when he was the lead singer of his family band 'Big Smith' who are sadly now defunct. In 2006 they issued a BRILLIANT DVD film entitled Homemade Hillbilly Jam, parts of which are available to watch free online. This is his new project
Posted by Mark Thompson at Thursday, March 19, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Available online here.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Thursday, March 12, 2015
Saturday, March 07, 2015
This expression is often used to explain to our car-centric, land-locked culture just how easy and frequent travel between Scotland and Ulster has been over the millennia - small boats can easily cross the North Channel. For example, the Montgomery Manuscripts give this description of Stranraer merchants making a day trip to Newtownards (via Portpatrick and Donaghadee) and were back in Stranraer by bedtime that same day:
As likewise in the fair summer season (twice, sometimes thrice every week) they were supplied from Scotland, as Donaghadee was oftener, because but three hours sail from Portpatrick, where they bespoke provisions and necessaries to lade in, to be brought over by their own or that town's boats whenever wind and weather served them, for there was a constant flux of passengers coming daily over. I have heard honest old men say that in June, July, and August, 1607, people came from Stanraer, four miles, and left their horses at the port, hired horses at Donaghadee, came with their wares and provisions to Newton, and sold them, dined there, staid two or three hours, and returned to their houses the same day by bed-time, their land journey but 20 miles.
Over 400 years later, have a look at the Stena Line website and you'll see it can still take pretty much 3 hours. Albeit you can get an Ulster Fry on the boat and watch a movie - these probably weren't available in the early 1600s.
Let's build a landbridge!The map below, reputedly from 1912, shows that there was an idea to replace the watery North Channel sea with a highway, and to dig a new Northern Channel which would connect the loughs of Foyle, Neagh and Carlingford. No idea of the source of this map, it was posted on Facebook last year and I scooped it. Presumably its purpose was humourous or satirical.
The advert below from a Belfast and Northern Counties Railway brochure of the 1890s shows that even Third Class and Steerage passengers (the bottom rung of the social ladder) could take a day trip from Belfast to Scotland. Depart Belfast at 9:00am, sail to Stranraer, get to Ayr before 2:30pm, leave Ayr just after 6:00pm, back on the boat at 8:15pm and arrive in Belfast before 11:00pm. And you could get your breakfast on the boat.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Saturday, March 07, 2015
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, in sparkling form, just two weeks ago.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Monday, March 02, 2015
I am reading lots about the Reformation at present. Usually distilled into simplistic Northern-Ireland-tribalisms of Catholic v Protestant, the actual issue was/is theological and not tribal. The Church had, for centuries, presented a false message of "works-salvation" (with umpteen other extra-Biblical add-ons). But when the early manuscripts were read afresh, the message of the Bible actually turned out to be the opposite - "salvation by faith alone in Christ alone". As this blog post from Canada recently put it, Christ Alone is bad for business. The Reformation was a revolution. The Gospel is available to all who will receive it, regardless of tribe, colour, gender, nationality. No "good works" can secure it or improve it. No money can procure it.
The first martyr of the Scottish Reformation was young Patrick Hamilton, burned at the stake at St Andrews in 1528 for daring to present this scandalous and liberating message. A younger monk, Alexander Alane, was sent to persuade Hamilton of his error. Alane ended up being persuaded by Hamilton! Some days later as Hamilton burned (it took 6 hours in total, in a scene reminiscent of the horrific ISIS burning of the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh recently), Alane was among the watching crowd and later became Hamilton's first biographer. Changing his surname to Alesius, he went to Luther's Germany and settled at Wittenberg. It was here that Alesius (according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) –
'...became involved in a literary feud with the Catholic polemicist Johannes Cochlaeus, which at once made him known throughout Germany and beyond. In March or April 1533 he published an open letter to James V, in which he appealed to his sovereign to annul a recent decree by the Scottish bishops prohibiting the possession and distribution of the New Testament in the vernacular (Alexandri Alesii epistola contra decretum quoddam episcoporum in Scotia). Although it is not certain to which decree he referred, there is evidence to show that William Tyndale's translations of the New Testament were secretly shipped to Scotland and that individuals were prosecuted for its possession. The publication of this elegantly written work may have been Melanchthon's idea, who at this time strove to further reform movements in other countries by appealing to their rulers. In June Cochlaeus reacted likewise with an open letter to the Scottish monarch, claiming that Alesius was translating Luther's New Testament and other works into Scots with the intention of shipping them to Scotland, and warning that free access to the scriptures in the vernacular would not only lead the people into error, but incite political and social unrest...'
Alesius is an overlooked Bible translator. He did so with a theological, evangelistic purpose not just as a linguistic exercise. I have volumes of the Scots New Testament from the 1800s and 1900s and enjoy them very much. Wye-Smith is the most accessible to me. I also have a significant collection of hymns and gospel songs in Scots and Ulster-Scots, most of which are online here. But I have still often been a bit uneasy and unsure of Ulster-Scots Bible translations in the present-day - unsure of their need or their usefulness. As a gospel initiative, no problem. As a merely linguistic or literary project, I am not so sure that scripture should be treated as an intellectual commodity.
However last week in Scotland I took part in an event where a County Antrim man preached a sermon in Ulster-Scots and read from the recent Gospel of Luke in Ulster-Scots, (which was published under the direction of Wycliffe Bible Translators) to a Scottish congregation. It was magnificent, in a natural setting, being used by a man who had grown up with the words and expressions, touching hearts with power and presenting the Gospel to those who would receive it.
Here is one of Cochlaeus' objections to Luther:
Luther’s translation was read (as the source of all wisdom, no less) by tailors and shoemakers, even women and simpletons, many of whom carried it around and learned it by heart, and eventually became bold enough to dispute with priests, monks, even masters and doctors of Holy Scripture about faith and the gospels.
Around the same time Philippe-Robert Olivetan translated the Bible from Hebrew into French. Here is his summary to his sceptical brother-in-law Jean Calvin –
“There are but two religions in the world. The one class of religions are those which men have invented, in all of which man saves himself by ceremonies and good works. The other is that one religion which is revealed in the Bible, and which teaches man to look for salvation solely from the free grace of God.”
Cochlaeus' portrait from Wikipedia is below.
Posted by Mark Thompson at Monday, March 02, 2015