Stratford, Shakespeare and the Bible (@soonguy)

ShakespeareYesterday my wife and I enjoyed a day in Stratford. Apparently a well-known poet and playwright used to live there. (Tip, go midweek in winter and avoid the crowds! We had Anne Hathaway’s cottage almost to ourselves.) Here are Stratford thoughts…

Holy Trinity Church is where the bard was baptised and buried. It must receive countless thousands of visitors a year. Near his gravestone and and monument are three interpretive panels about Shakespeare’s baptism, his wedding and knowledge of the Bible, and his funeral. Well produced, outsider-friendly and non-preachy, each engages with a Christian perspective of these issues, and poses gentle questions that anyone might ponder. A good example of how historic churches can be outsider-friendly to visitors who are merely visiting the building. Of course this is a principle which should be carried over into their entire ministry and website. Indeed, an introductory video can be a valuable visual window to the fellowship. View the excellent video produced in-house by Coton Green Church, Tamworth.

There have been perennial conspiracy theories down the years, suggesting that Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else. Were this to be true, we must ask: why would he be so respected in his lifetime that he was buried in the highest place of honour (the chancel) in Holy Trinity Church, with family and friends commissioning an effigy depicting him holding a pen? Such theories echo the various revisionist ideas about the story of Jesus and the New Testament. These rather overlook compelling arguments. For example, were it a fictional fabrication, it would surely have been written differently. And there would also be evidence of tampering with the writings, whereas the earliest fragment of John’s Gospel in Manchester’s Rylands Library, strongly points to early authentic eye-witness authorship.

Written on the Heart

In the evening, we went to the RSC Swan Theatre to watch the excellent Written on the Heart. Inspired by the four-hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible, it explores the many issues of translation and politics that led to its publication, and highlights the huge foundation laid by Tyndale, as well as the depressing infighting between traditionalists, moderates, Puritans, and more extreme reformers.

How different from our own times, where it is unknown to have bitter invective and vituperation against one or another panel of Bible translators and their work, or towards those who hold different interpretations within the circle of orthodoxy.

And also, for Christmas …

For Christmas video clips you can share online with not-yet-Christians, see Peanuts and Bethlehemian Rahpsody and other videos and resources, as well as the Natwivity social media Christmas story.

And if you are stuck for Christmas presents, you might consider a Studio Ghibli animated film: reasons why. Brits also have the opportunity to watch Film4’s TV Studio Ghibli Season starting on 10 Dec.

Photo: Lisby/Flickr | Creative Commons | Shakespeare effigy in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford

About soonguy

Tony Whittaker is coordinator for Internet Evangelism Day | Team member, SOON Ministries, Derby UK. Contact him here.