In Rainbows is a such a good album! There's not a duff track on it and Jonny Greenwood seems to have rediscovered the joy of playing of guitar because he gets sounds and emotions out of it that we've not heard from radiohead for ages. Thom Yorke's voice is amazing too. But the biggest surprise is that the album is full of melody, gorgeous tunes erupt on every track - not something usually associated with the band.
I also got the five disc special box set of Bladerunner for Christmas, which includes Ridley Scott's 2007 final cut of the film which I watched the other evening. It's still a ground-breaking movie, a fabulous story, compellingly told and if anything richer than the Philip K Dick book on which it's based (which I also really like). Perhaps it's because Bladerunner is so stripped down while at the same time expanding the conflict at the end between Deckard and Roy Batty, but the key theme of what it is to be human comes across much more powerfully and poignantly in the movie than in the book.
Just before Christmas my stock of reading was added to by a collection of Edwin judge's seminal essays on the social history of early Christianity. Called Social Distinctives of the Christians of the First century, it's been edited by David Scholer and published by Hendrickson.
Judge is one of the key scholars in this area. His 1960 booklet The Social Pattern of the Christian Groups in the First century in many ways kick-started the social scientific study of the New testament, the investigation of where the early followers of Jesus fitted into their world that has led to seminal works by Gerd Theissen, Wayne Meeks, John Elliott, John Gager, Philip Esler, Bruce Malina, Bruce Winter, and a host of others. The book is the first of three collections of his writings coming out in the next year.
I also got Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament (edited by Kent E Brower and Andy Johnson and published by Eerdmans) because it has an essay by Peter Oakes on Romans that he'd sent me a copy of while in draft form for my opinion. It's an excellent piece - worth the price of the volume on its own.
But there are twenty other essays by scholars of equal merit and creativity, exploring the themes of holiness and community in the all the New Testament books. Other stand-out essays are those by Bruce Winter on 1 Corinthians, Michael Gorman on cruciformity in Paul, Richard Baukham on John and Troy Martin on Galatians.
I've now got to wrestle with where the early Christians met and what their gatherings were like for a Sunday evening series we're starting this week called clustering around the table. Using 1 Corinthians 11-14 as our launch pad, we'll be looking at how the domestic environment of the earliest Christian communities helped to shape the faith and how we might learn new ways of gathering in our world from a close examination of how it was done in first century Corinth. We'll see.