Body: Biblical Spirituality for the Whole Person by Paula Gooder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is easy to read (that is a compliment, not a criticism!) and slowly unfolds a Christian understanding of our human make up – particularly but not exclusively focussed on the body. This is a book of Biblical exploration, and while there are applications throughout, the book is weighted towards interpreting the NT. There is OT background and references to the Gospel, but most attention is give to Paul. There are ‘callout boxes’ to address side issues, that the author could not avoid to sustain her argument. There are some loose ends, such as the image of God and I think her treatment of 2 Corinthians 5 is unnecessarily inconclusive. But a good book to absorb.

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The Tomb that was Empty

The Garden Tomb

We know that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy person (think of the 100 pounds of spices!). So his burial plan would not have been the everyday ‘dug’ trench or built up ‘cist’ grave but a rock-cut tomb as is familiar around Jerusalem. It was clearly a place that one entered. 

Apparently the rich in the first century BC began copying the Persian / Egyptian influenced tombs at Marisa. Here’s a photo I took there  in 2013.

Bet Guvrin-Maresha

The dead were placed in coffins in the side shafts (loculi / kokim). The bones were gathered later but left loose in the niches. One body to one niche. 

We know that people in Jerusalem used kokim shafts for their dead. Here is a picture of some a few metres away from the traditional site of Joseph / Jesus’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

So it is entirely reasonable to believe that Joseph / Jesus’s tomb included kokim. It would seem that they did not use coffins, but shrouds. 

However land was at a premium even in those days in Jerusalem and  at one shaft per body, tombs soon filled up. Some of  the Judean elite adopted the habit of collecting the bones after decomposition and placing them in ossuaries. (Saducees who had no doctrine of resurrection were less concerned about their remains, Pharisees on the other hand who did believe in resurrection wanted to keep their bones unmixed and saw their tombs as a way of re-enforcing their reputation and regard). Using ossuaries the shafts could then have multiple occupants. This had the advantage that many generations could be remembered within a restricted area. Here are many ossuaries found together on the Mount of Olives:

Corpses might be laid out in a kokh (primary burial) and then after a year the bones were collected, put in an ossuary and re-placed in a kokh (secondary burial). 

In 1980 a tomb was discovered by accident at Talpiot, S Jerusalem. This is a plan showing how the niches were linked in an entire tomb (unlike the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -where the kochim have lost their context.)


Although there is some controversy about what was found where – it is generally accepted that ossuaries were found in the niches, as marked (a, b…).

But what this complex also shows us are arcosolia. These are two arched shelves (marked X and Y in plan) for the laying out of the corpse – see photo. 

As a wealthy person it is very probable that Joseph’s tomb was large enough for there to be similar arcosolia  –  which would have been where Jesus’s body was laid (rather than the open central area as in the Nicanor Tomb).

Perhaps the linen clothes were left on the floor, and the face cloth on the shelf?   As you can see from the plan there would have been room enough for two or three people to be inside, once beyond the very small opening .


Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is quite striking in its scope and imaginative power. Over hundreds (thousands?) of years the reader follows two parallel stories: the journey of the survivors from earth seeking a new home, and the evolutionary development of a race of spiders (accidentally) seeded on a life-ready planet by an Earth scientist. The book climaxes with their inevitable meeting and conflict.

I am not sure I like this book – it is fairly grim and dark and at times has a ‘horror’ edge too it. But it certainly powerful story-telling.

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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars – now revised to 4

I had heard ‘great things’ about his book so I confess that I was initially disappointed at the apparent lack of ‘big ideas’ or anything like a plot. Indeed I found it hard to grasp to begin with, so had to read the first 50 or so pages again to separate out in my mind the four generations – John Ames the narrator, his father, his grandfather and his own son, to whom he is writing his journal.

This book has the air of a reverie – it is the musings of a pastor in his late seventies, who has always lived in Gilead and who took on the ministry of his father (when he didn’t come back from a holiday.). So it is reflective and ‘slow’, and memories are teased out as a fuller of explanation of how things are is slowly built up.

The major ‘dramatic tension’ is the arrival of his best friend’s prodigal son late in the book- and the implicit threat to the affections of Ames’s wife and child. The author allows us to follow the wrestling in his spirit as he weighs how best to be gracious to the ne’er-do-well.

It is well-written with some lovely poetic passages; another book (like Olive Kitteridge – but even less dramatic) that captures the ebb and flow of everyday life. And this time with a decidedly Christian perspective.

I have just re-read Gilead (Feb 2021) and then this review. I entirely endorse what I previously wrote (!) but was struck on this reading how much ‘spiritual reflection’ there is in this; I expect a non-Christian / lay person might be impatient with the lack of plot and paucity of dialogue. Strangely I think the book reads better as a book than as an e-book.

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Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bought on the strength of glowing reviews, I am disappointed by the reading of this book. Perhaps it is me! The exposition of Christ’s affection and love for his people is careful and comprehensive. The author has a command of English that is admirable and regularly throws in striking metaphors. He has read well a range of theologians. His main resources are the Puritan who are quoted at length; this is not bad thing.

However I think this book is aimed for a Christian from a ‘dour’ background. He spends much of the book persuading the ‘head’ that Christ is gracious, and that he reflects the Father’s kindness. ‘Where I am’ that is almost self-evident, but communicating that to the ‘heart’ is another thing. And in this regard the book needs more ‘heart-warming’ stories – some more more ‘show’ alongside the ‘tell’.

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Rich in mercy

Christ was not sent to mend wounded people or wake sleepy people or advise confused people or inspire bored people or spur on lazy people or educate ignorant people but to raise dead people.

Gently and Lowly – Dane Ortlund p175

The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis by Robert MacSwain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a light read as it comprises a series of chapters written by ‘academics for academics’. It is not inaccessible but a fair amount of background knowledge of a wide range of fields is assumed. There are a number of chapters that deal with Lewis’s professional works in English studies. I think some of the strongest chapters were when authors critically engaged with works that the public still read: on love, violence, suffering, heaven and hell.

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John 5: 24-30 The hour is coming and now is

Truly, truly I tell you that the person who hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has resurrection life, and will not come under judgement but has passed from death to life.

Truly, truly I tell you that the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

For just as the Father has life in himself, in the same way he has given to the Son the right to life in himself.

And he gave authority to him to act as judge, because he is the Son of Man.

Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out: the ones who have done good things to resurrection for life, and the ones who have done evil things to resurrection for judgement.

I am able to do nothing by myself. As I hear, I judge. And my judgement is just. because I do not seek my will but the will of the one who sent me.

O Love, O God who created me, in your love recreate me.
O Love, who redeemed me,
fill up in me whatever part of your love
has fallen into neglect within me.
O Love, O God, who first loved me,
grant that with my whole heart,
and with my whole soul,
and with my whole strength,
I may love you.

Gertrude the Great

Angels according to CS Lewis

Fra Angelico’s angels carry in their face and gesture the peace and authority of heaven.

The Annunciation: Fra Angelico

Later come the chubby infantile nudes of Raphael,

Detail from Sistine Madonna: Raphael

finally the soft, slim girlish and consolatory angels of nineteenth-century art, shapes so feminine that they avoid being voluptuous only by their total insipidity – the frigid houris of a tea-table paradise.

Detail from the Adoration of the Magi: Edward Byrne Jones.

They are a pernicious symbol. In Scripture the visitation of an angel is always alarming; it has to begin by saying ‘Fear not’. The Victorian angel looks as if it were going to say ‘There, there.’

CS Lewis – Preface to 1961 Screwtape Letters


“What looks like talent is often careful preparation.
What looks like skill is often persistent revision.”

James Clear