2021 Retrospective

At the end of 2021, I thought it might be good to reflect briefly upon the past year, which has been an extremely full, productive, and rewarding one for me, on several fronts. I’ll be spending January of 2022 in the US, largely reading, writing, teaching, and enjoying the opportunity to catch my breath before the plunge into the immense and exciting challenges I have lined up for 2022.

Daily Reflections Project

Two years ago, I began a project going through the lectionary of the 2019 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The initial intention was to offer some brief and assorted reflections upon each biblical reading for Morning and then Evening Prayer. That soon morphed into a more thorough commentary upon each chapter, as the first stage of a larger project to produce a free and easily accessible audio commentary on the whole Bible, informed by the best scholarship and resourcing Christian meditation upon and devotional reading of Scripture. Later still, a published physical version of the commentary became a further goal.

Over the last two years, every single day, I have spent about seven or more hours studying commentaries, writing extensive notes, and recording my brief reflections. In the process I have used quite literally several hundreds of commentaries, I have written over a million words of notes, and have recorded hundreds of hours of material.

At this point, I have completed reflections upon the entire lectionary, save for some of the Psalms and the readings from the Apocrypha. I have produced reflections on every chapter of the New Testament and most of the Old. Over the next few months, I intend to finish producing reflections upon the remaining chapters of the Old Testament. Almost all those chapters are in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Psalms, and Ezekiel. If you ever wanted to learn more about the deep logic of the sacrificial system, about obscure laws, about the importance of genealogical material, about those unsettling stories at the end of the book of Judges, or the meaning of Ezekiel’s visionary temple, there is a lot to look forward to! There is also so much of the richness of the Psalms to get into and enjoy.

My hope for the project is that it will become a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter audio commentary on the entire Bible, a free and easily accessible resource for people around the world and throughout the Church. To improve the accessibility of the project, most of my reflections are now available (those from the second half of 2021 still need to be uploaded), ordered by chapter and easily searchable and downloadable here. The Bible is a book of immense treasures, by which many Christians are needlessly daunted. I’ve long felt that my vocation is primarily to help fellow Christians to love, trust, and delight in the Bible more and to read it with greater confidence, skill, and attention.

The project is entirely funded by donations of supporters (Patreon/PayPal) and publicized by word of mouth. Besides keeping it as a free resource, I would like to improve its accessibility in various ways in the future and to make more people aware of it.

Besides the biblical commentary, I’ve done several other things this year. Here are a few.

Almost a hundred episodes on various other podcasts: Mere Fidelity, the Theopolis Podcast (including series on imprecatory psalms, the books of Jonah and Daniel, and a series on types of the nativity), and guest appearances on several others.

A Complete Reading of the Books of Homilies

A Series on the Tabernacle

Conversations on Interesting Topics

This year, I’ve had conversations on the subjects of free speech, gender, scapegoating, intertextual reading of Scripture, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, music and Exodus, whether empathy is a sin, the book of Esther, Jordan Peterson, doctrine and life, work and worship, eating and faith, Christian reconstructionism, and the history of Christian Ireland.

Articles

I’ve haven’t written many articles over the past year, but here are a few: Protestant politics, media ecology, sexual identity, and Trinity in creation.

I’ve taught courses for the Theopolis Institute on the biblical theology of the Law and on the Sabbath, and courses for the Davenant Institute on Exodus and Biblical Literature and on Natural Law and Scriptural Authority.

On a personal front, 2021 has been a happy one. I’ve been able to do more travelling and, now that the USA is letting visitors back in, am enjoying the New Year in New York. I’ve visited many friends, seen a number of sights, and knit several large items. There have been some wonderful family events (and exciting things to look forward to in 2022). Here are some pictures and videos of various happy memories and milestones.

My brother’s wedding

Knitted baby blanket for a new niece

The first thing I’ve ever knitted for myself

With Susannah in London

Oxford

Walking along the canal with friends

Walking along the canal with friends

Newcastle

Newcastle

Beamish Museum

Beamish Museum

Durham

Durham

Durham

Durham Cathedral

Liverpool

Liverpool

Declan

Furiosa

Cutty Sark

A knitted shawl

Buxton

The Peak District

Lumiere in Durham

Lumiere in Durham

Durham

Christmas

Christmas

Tower Bridge

Greenwich

With Susannah in the Reform Club

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in My Doings, Photos, Retrospective, What I'm Doing. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to 2021 Retrospective

  1. Susan Owings says:

    Amazing Alistar

  2. steve.hayhow@googlemail.com says:

    Great work Alastair! Keep going…

    Best regards,

    Steve Hayhow

  3. Congratulations on a fabulous year!

    Between rabbits and knitting, I see our interests are converging.

    I have been away from listening to you for a while (other things), but I am definitely interested in the deeper symbolism of the sacrificial system. This year I had a debate with another lay person who has studied it extensively and believes based on his knowledge of it, that the idea of substitutionary atonement is heresy.

  4. Allan Long says:

    Really enjoy your daily podcast and Mere Fidelity. Looking forward to 2022!
    Kind regards, Allan Long (Hannah’s dad!)

  5. Anonymous Anglican says:

    Alastair,
    1) I am grateful for what you have done and continue to do. Without typing an essay, suffice it to say that your work has been used by God to bless me and my household.
    2) I have been hoping from the outset of your lectionary readings that they would result in a published collection. This is exciting, and I think it has the potential to be a great resource for the Church. Please keep us posted on how this progresses. Are there specific ways that the listeners can contribute to this endeavor?
    The LORD be with you.

    • Thank you for the encouragement! That really is great to hear.

      Prayer for and telling others about the project are both greatly appreciated. I also won’t be receiving anything for the published book version until over 50% of it is completed, so I will be depending heavily upon the continued financial support of supporters over that period, even while producing much less immediately published output (my support levels have already dropped significantly since the completion of the two primary phases of the project). This isn’t a pressing concern at all yet, but prayer on that front would be especially appreciated.

  6. John says:

    Thank you Alastair for this amazing series over 2 years, which is greatly deepening my understanding of God’s word. It is an incredible feat of sustained work. I hope it has been as much a blessing to you as it has been to others. I look forward very much to the book version as I find after 10 minutes of listening, my mind frustratingly wanders off on some tangent, then I have to stop, rewind and listen again! But the audio resource is great to have, too.

    A question: I’ve long thought the ‘mechanical’ order in which books are covered in Bible reading plans/lectionaries is less than optimal and doesn’t encourage the reader to look at the passage in the context of the whole of scripture. I’ve often wondered if it would be possible to construct a plan that put together related OT and NT books, so, for example, Zechariah is read at the same time as the end of Matthew.

    Chris Harrison’s BibleViz (https://www.chrisharrison.net/index.php/Visualizations/BibleViz) is fascinating, but it obviously doesn’t prioritize the more significant connections, so it isn’t a lot of help. You must have quite a clear idea of the most significant connections from your work over the last couple of years. Do you think it would be a worhwhile project to put together a plan which 1) had a more intentional pairing of OT and NT readings, and 2) a more intentional sequence in the readings? Thank you once again for all your work …and greetings from Durham!

    • Good question. There are several complicating factors here. First, books seldom have a single key intertext, but move through several of them. For instance, Matthew traces the narrative of the entirety of the Old Testament, with different intertexts coming to the fore at various points.

      Second, in many texts there are multiple intertexts.

      Third, texts need to be read in light of intertexts in the OT as well as in the NT. David’s story is a key intertext of the story of Jacob.

      Fourth, texts and their intertexts are not of equivalent lengths. For example, the story of Babel is the prominent intertext for much of the book of Daniel, but the former is very short compared to the latter.

      Fifth, very seldom are whole books intertexts of others. The danger would be jumping around from place to place in the OT and fragmenting it in order for it to serve as a good intertext.

      I think the sort of thing that you describe is much easier to realize in the set readings for a Sunday, rather than in a daily reading plan, which operates under much greater constraints.

  7. mrprune says:

    I’m very interested in the Daily Reflections, but I would much prefer a text version instead of the audio, as I find that acquisition of understanding from text to be far faster and easier than from audio. Any possiibility of providing this? Thanks.

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