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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

(Not Quite) Biblical Limericks: Good News Today



I’m telling no lies, playing no tricks -
the good news today has me transfixed: There’s a publisher who is ready and set to
publish my biblical limericks.



The acceptance email came this afternoon from Wipf and Stock. I’ll share more details as I have them. And, of course, you can still get a copy of my first book, Muted Hosannas.



Workplace Safety


This morning, around 9:00 my supervisor at work came round to tell us that there would be a mandatory plant-wide meeting in the break room. "This can't be good," said one of my workmates. There's usually a meeting like that every 90 days without an injury - that comes with a special meal as a reward and incentive- but we're currently only at 84 days without injury.

The news was indeed, not so good. Our plant manager announced to us that overnight there had been a fatality in one of the other company plants in Oklahoma. He didn't  have any real details to share with us - other than the fact that the plant where the death occurred is laid out differently than ours  and that thier issues would not be our issues specifically. But he did use the opportunity to remind us to follow the safety procedures, and the OSHA regulations, and to wear our protective items properly.
 
























We've come a long way from the beginning of the industrial revolution when workplace accidents were common and laborers were cheap; we've come a long way from incidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 (resulting in the deaths of 146 garment workers).

Maybe the plant where I work only emphasizes the need for safety so as to avoid lawsuits and expensive settlements; maybe thier motive is purely fiscal. But I don't think that's the case. There seems to be a genuine interest in making sure that we are safe.


So don't take shortcuts. Don't grumble about the encumbrance imposed by OSHA and the Department of Labor. Look twice before crossing the street, and always wear your helmet and seat-belt. Make sure everyone goes home alive at the end of the day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Biblical Limericks: An Apocryphal Guy


Tobit was an apocryphal guy,
while he slept a bird shat in his eye;
his sight and vision failed
so he cried, and he wailed,
and he prayed to God that he might die.

Tobit 2: 1 - 3: 6

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Let’s Dig Up the Body of President Lincoln


My name is Holt, Judge Allen Holt.  It’s not a title; I work - worked - at Alvin’s Speedy Lube and and Parts until recently. Until David George convinced me to join him in his plan to dig up the body of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Let’s do it,” he said to me after work. We sat in Lindsey’s Tavern, as we occasionally did after our shift at the Lube and Parts. David George was the lead mechanic. I switched back and forth between mechanic and sales; David George said I wouldn’t know a wrench from a wrestling match. He said stuff like that ‘cus he was clever, I suppose.

“I mean it. I’m serious, Holt.”

“What?”

“Why, what we’ve been talkin’ about for the last week,” he said. “Let’s dig up the body of President Lincoln. We could do it. No problem. It’ll be easy.”

“Dig up??” I sputtered. David George had some weird ideas now and then - like the time he wanted to spray-paint the Lube and Parts’ manager’s car pink.  But this was the craziest. “Why would you want to do something like that, anyway, David George.”

David George ignored my question. He usually did. “It’s easy. Lincoln’s buried less than an hour from here, in Springfield. We can do it all in a couple of hours overnight, when it’s dark. Sneak in and out, no problem.”

“Yeah, but why?” I insisted. “Why would do you want to do this?”

“Listen,” David George looked  up and down the bar, then leaned close and whispered. “It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s not widely known - President Lincoln kept secret, important papers inside his hat. The stovepipe hat, right? That’s why he wore such a tall hat.”

David George is from Enid, Oklahoma. I don’t know if that’s important; maybe they do things differently in Enid.  Maybe they know things in Enid that the rest of us don’t know.  It’s all crooked lines from there to here. There are murderers living side by side with CEOs and investment bankers, slave-owners and rapists next to venture capitalists.  At least that’s the way that it is here. Enid, Oklahoma’s gotta’ be better than this, right?

“That’s the way the world is, Judge,” said David George. “It’s the only way to succeed,” he said. “It’s the only way to make something of ourselves. Suspicion, rumor, innuendo, unchecked allegations of obscene tax evasion, recriminations - these are the watchwords of successful leaders. We’ve been workin’ at the Lube and Parts since high school; do you really want to be working there for the next twenty years? I sure dont.”

David George downed the last of his beer. “I want to be something. Not like my old man.”

“What happened to your dad?” I asked. I’d known David George for a long time and he’d never said much about his dad, or any of his family really.

“He died.”

“Oh.” I said and sipped my beer as I waited for elaboration. I waited several minutes.

“It’s not so much that he died.” David George continued. “I mean, everyone dies. It’s the way he died.” I waited in silence again for more details. Then, “He was run over by a truck as he slept in his bed.” I waited again. Then he asked me a question: “What about your old man? Is he dead?”

“No.” I said and took off my ball cap to scratch my head for a second. Dandruff.  I got pretty bad flakes.  “No. My daddy’s a missionary in an undisclosed location. It’s top-secret priority.”

“He’s a preacher?”

“I suppose you might say it that way.”

“I ain’t known many preachers modest enough to be good at it.”

I thought that might have been the end of it. I thought he’d maybe order another round of drinks and that we’d sit in LIndsey’s another couple of hours. That’s we’d go to work at the Lube and Parts just like always and that David George would forget all about grave robbing. But no.

“I’ll do it,” he said. “Alone if I have to. I’ll walk with a firm step through a thousand of his friends to find out what’s in those papers, Holt. I need something more tempestuous than this gilded lithium-salt regulated equilibrium. If I can’t shoot the president, I'll steal his corpse.”


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Return to Normal - and - A French Film


As my life starts to return to something like normal (though a new normal!) I hope to return to something like regular blog posting again. It is a creative outlet that I've missed in the last 8 weeks or so...

To that end, I share with you today a French film entitled Charles - it is about a poetic film about a baroque actor with musique by thatjeffcarter.  Enjoy.

CHARLES from Abel Llavall-Ubach on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Biblical Limericks: They're Usually Right



The fortune of the rich is their might,
a fortified city sealed up tight;
they think that it's a wall,
that it never will fall -
and, what is more, they're usually right.

Proverbs 18: 11

A (Mostly) Fitting Reading



It has not been many days since my last Sunday as an officer (pastor / administrator) with The Salvation Army and I am still adjusting to being a lay member in the pews on Sunday mornings. The past two weeks we've joined with a UMC congregation not far from our new home, and enjoyed the friendly welcome there. This congregation is also going through a transition period as they have a new pastor assigned to them by the bishop.

The new pastor spoke this morning from Genesis 24 about the "leap of faith " exhibited by all those involved in finding a bride for Isaac - trusting God that their union would bring joy and blessings.

It was a fitting reading of that text for the congregation's situation (the unnamed servant = the bishop arranging the match, the congregation = Isaac not knowing what to expect, and the new pastor = Rebekah entering into this new relationship on faith). A fitting reading even if it ignores the historical/cultural context in which arranged marriages were less about attraction and personal compatibility than profitable economic transactions, and didn't even mention the probable historical anachronism of camels in the story. Camels weren't used as beasts of burden until much later in Israel's history. (Alter 114).

And what happens if we press the reading a little further?  Who would be equated with the greedy and insincere Laban?



Alter, Robert. Genesis: Translation and Commentary. NY, NY W. W. Norton & Company. 1996. Print.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

It Is Great Fun


The simultaneous firing of a thousand black and chrome motorcycle engines will not drown out the drone of bagpipe inflation. Fire truck sirens scream and the people gathered on the square clap and shout: the parade of death is begun. The Parade Marshal, dressed as Old Man Unle Sam and seated on the back of a borrowed convertible, next to the Poultry Queen (wearing her tiara and ceremonial sash of feathers and throwing chicken feed to the crowd) waves, and the people cheer again. The armed honor guard follows close behind to ensure the audience, the whole audience, and everyone in the audience makes the necessary, and obligatory salute to the glorious flag.

We seat ourselves again as a motorcade of classic cars with aoooogah horns passes by. They are followed by a hundred different tractors (Farmall, John Deere, International Harvester) each one towing a nuclear tipped ICBM behind.

A troop of tap dancing children and star-spangled gymnasts waves at us. We wave back. The high school marching band blared out the school fight song. We sing along. Behind us a trio of unsupervised teenagers light a string of firecrackers and throws them into the street.

War veterans of the last seven wars in a fleet of jeeps and humvees with mounted machine guns drive by us now. They swing their machine guns back and forth in an arc along the crowds on either side of the street. They pull the triggers and fire. The crowd screams in delight; the guns have been fitted out with water cannons. It is great fun.

The trio of teenagers light another explosive. Larger this time. One of them loses a finger in the blast. The crowd cheers again. It is great fun.

Soldiers on tanks throw candy bars and chewing gum. Hellfire missile drones fly over dropping t-shirts and bumper stickers. Bombs burst in midair and in the rockets' red glare red glare we scramble in the gutters for free candy and merchandise. It is, everyone agrees, great fun for all.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Fighter Still Remains


I was listening to some music tonight as I cleaned, and painted, and readied to leave one house, and one job, and packed, and prepared to move into another new house, and another new life.

I listened to old blues guitarists, and gospel families, and country western classics, and folk singers. One of the songs that played during all of this was the Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Boxer." It's a great song; one that I've written about before. But it hit me again anew, especially the lines:

In a clearing stands a boxer
and a fighter by his trade
and he carries the reminders 
of ev'ry glove that laid him down
and cut him till he cried out
in his anger and his shame
'I am leaving, I am leaving,
but the fighter still remains.'

And I knew that this is a song about me; I am that scarred and battered boxer. I am leaving, yes. But  the fighter still remains.

lie la lie lie la lie lie la lie.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Truck Is Gone (A Guest Post)


My writing, in recent days, has slipped somewhat. I've been busy finishing out one job, applying and interviewing for another, cleaning one house, attempting to buy another, taking care of surly teenagers, calming an anxious wife... You know: busy.

But my friend A. shared something with me, and has given me permission to share it with you here.

***



The Truck Is Gone

Well God, the truck is gone. I suppose all the hopes and dreams associated with it were gone a long time ago. Gone before we already knew they were gone. Gone when he rejected who we are, months, maybe even years ago. The hopes and dreams died silently before we even knew that they were dead. The truck was just the last symbol of education, of honor, of marriage, of all we might have wished for our son.

I'm getting used to this new stranger. He looks like my son, sometimes I'm even fooled into believing that he can be anything like the person I had hoped he would be. On days like today when the truck drove away, it all seems so raw and close to the surface, but I keep reminding myself that the man I wanted him to be died a long time ago and I was too busy, too preoccupied with the future to notice. I wish there was some sort of memorial for the dreams of parents. Instead I have boxes of photographs and pictures I've taken off the walls. Yes, hope is a living thing. It breathes and reproduces and moves in jolts and kicks and foolish ambitions. But when it dies, there's no funeral or wake, just a broken down old red truck and the bitter tears of resignation.

 Lord help us all.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Background Images for Everyone - Week 25 - 2017


I am attempting to keep a few things normal - while everything else in my life is up in the air. I'm changing jobs after 18 years, buying a house, moving (into the new house)... and trying keep up with the free, weekly background images.

Here is this week's image - free to you or someone like you, free for you to use *at work, or school, or diving in your car. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others you found it here.





*at work, or school, or driving in your car....


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Biblical Limericks: How Many Seahs to a Gallon?


God came to Abe in the noon-time heat;
Abe said, “I’ll get you something to eat.”
He instructed Sarah
to cook up three seah
of flour – five gallons! Quite a treat.

Genesis 18: 1 - 6

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Asshole of God


I went in search of the glory of the LORD. I went up the mountain to find the presence of the Creator of the Universe, the Father of Lights, the Holy and Eternal One. I climbed the hill, staggered up the steep and treacherous path. I sweated and I bled because I wanted to see my lord.

And there, at the top of that high, lonely mountain, sheltered in the cleft of a shattered, broken rock, I cried into to the cloudless sky: “If I have found favor with you, show me your presence. Let me see your glory.”

But I saw only God’s asshole, smug and superior in his suit, his hair and teeth gleaming in perfection. He farted in my face and told me that his words were pure, direct from God himself.

I suppose I should feel blessed.


(Exodus 33: 12 – 23)

Background Images for Everyone - Week 24 - 2017


Here it is, just for you (or someone like you) - another free background image for you to use at work, or school or driving in your car.*  Use it freely as your very own - I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

























You can also see this image is yesterday's post: It All Evens Out in the End

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Some Doubted


On Galilee’s mountain they shouted,
the disciples had seen death routed.
The eleven were true
followers of Jesu;
they worshipped, but some of them doubted.

Matthew 28: 16 – 17



Background Images for Everyone - Weeks 22 & 23 - 2017


I got a little behind with the free, weekly background images - sorry. Here for you are two images for you to use at work, school, or driving in your car. I only ask that you share them with others and that you tell them that you found the images here.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Black Hills Landscape


The mountains of the Black Hills in South Dakota are overwhelming.

Black Hills Landscape by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Monday, June 5, 2017

Black Hills Camping


I returned late last night from four days of camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota. (I know: totally the wrong time for me to go away, but the trip was already part of the church calendar, and I had a group of guys that wanted to go, so I went.) We had a good time, a great time. And, for those in our group who were nervous about leaving home, and going out of town (and going SO FAR out of town) it was quite an experience.

We went to Mount Rushmore (of course) we hiked on mountain paths, we saw bears, and wolves, and big horn sheep (safely within thier pens...), we toured the Air and Space Museum at the Ellsworth Air Force Base, we walked around the Badlands, we ate good food, and had, as I said, a great time.












Thursday, June 1, 2017

Biblioblog Carnival - May 2017

Welcome, welcome welcome to the Biblioblog Carnival for May 2017, a round up of, if not the best of biblical studies on the world wide web of information, then at least the stuff I thought was interesting. Here at the carnival there are rides and games of chance, performers and daredevils (and regular devils, too). The bearded woman's here (she's Calvanist, obviously). There are thrills and spills and delights around every new corner. Take your time. Stroll down the midway and enjoy the sights.

OT

Four Completely Different Versions of the Story of Moses – by Mark Oliver at Ancient Origins: 

The story of Moses doesn’t just show up in the Bible. In the ancient world, nearly every culture had their own version of what happened. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans all had their own way of explaining why thousands of people left Egypt to live in Jerusalem. The Moses you know, who performed miracles and freed the Jewish slaves from Egypt, is just one version of the story. There are others – and they paint a completely different picture from the one you’ve heard



Our discussion is all about the mystery of Israel’s origins. And it is a mystery. The exodus and conquest of Canaan (Exodus through Joshua) are central to Israel’s identity, and are certainly informed by old traditions and authentic historical memory—but they not historical accounts in the modern sense. How and when, historically speaking, Israel stepped out onto the world stage is a huge mystery, though we have some clues to piece together a compelling picture.







Why 1st and 2nd Kings? By Lester Grabbe:

…the first story in 1 Kings has many incredible elements. This did not incline me to reject the existence of Solomon as a historical person (as it did some), but it suggested that much of what we find in the Bible about Solomon is not history.





On the Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry -  by Bob MacDonald at Dust 


Saying this in non-musical language is nearly impossible. My overall thesis is that the use of the accents defines poetic structure (and prose also) beyond the scope of the line and beyond the scope of the verse. As I have noted elsewhere, this thesis contradicts claims made over the past 1000 years in the literature on the accents, notably from Wickes in his treatises from the 19th century. Two excellent examples are Psalm 96, where the accents define the scope of the stanzas so clearly, and from the prose books, the lament of David over the death of Saul and Jonathan. I can only illustrate these with the music, which to a musician is so much clearer than any list of accents would tell us.



Thus, Jewish priestly education inherited from the Babylonian lexical lists some numerical schemes based on the sexagesimal counting system (i.e., a numerical system with sixty as its base), and the Levitical author presented it as part of priestly knowledge. Once Levi learns how to prepare the holocaust offering and accompanying meal offering together with the fraction notations (14–61), then in his wisdom poem (82–98) he instructs his children/students not to neglect the study of scribal craft (88, 90, 98). The priestly education system is characterized as belonging to the scribal type of knowledge, which indicates a strong Babylonian background and a clear link with the pseudepigraphic book of 1 Enoch




The Scope and Shape of the Watchers Myth in Antiquity by Daniel Machiela at Ancient Jew Review



In this volume of collected articles—most of them published previously in a variety of scholarly venues, though updated here—Loren Stuckenbruck of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, takes the reader on a detailed exploration of the birth and early history of this legend as attested in ancient Judaism and earliest Christianity. There are few, if any, as capable of guiding this tour, and though these individual studies were not originally intended to be read as part of a comprehensive account, readers of this book will come away with a rich understanding of the myth of the fallen, rebellious angels and their offspring as understood in ancient Judaism and Christianity.



NT
Jesus Never Said by Scott Fritzsche  at Unsettled Christianity:

An argument from silence is a rhetorical device designed to be a convincing argument in a simple and straight forward way. It often, on the surface, is. There are numerous inherent flaws in an argument form silence however. This becomes important in theology as arguments from silence are, and have been, used to try and form persuasive arguments as well as having become part of the basis for theological stances.

“E.P. Sanders on Paul’s Life, Letters, and Thought” by Michael F. Bird – at Euangelion:

I love this line on Galatians: “The best way to comprehend Galatians is to read it out aloud, shouting in an angry voice at the appropriate points” (475).

Review: Sacrificial Giving in Philippians – by Ken Schneck at Common Denominator:

The chapter begins with a very brief run through the rhetorical structure of Philippians with a view to possible sacrificial metaphors. Patterson's claim is that these sacrificial metaphors are more than "rhetorical flourishes" but are "a tool of active thought" (113). She wishes to show that "the shelamim sacrifices (sacrifices of thanksgiving) constitute a pattern of offering that Paul applies metaphorically and imaginatively as a guide for the actions of the Philippians" (86).


And the Sea Will Be No More – at Jesus Creed  


In some discussions of a Christian view of creation much has been made of the phrase “it was good” in Genesis 1 repeated in verses 3,9,12,18,21. In verse 31 we have the summary: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. One can, of course, take the position that the image of the sea as chaos and the denizens of the deep as creatures of terror are a result of the fall. Prior to Genesis 3 they were “good” in an idyllic sense. If there had been no fall, they’d be good and tame yet. But we still have a problem in scripture – at least if we take a literal approach as preferred and assume a motif of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Revelation does not really depict a restoration of an idyllic primeval garden or the reestablished perfect creation of Genesis 1.

Kevin McKissick, M.Div student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, reviews The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life, edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica.


Wait. What? … We don’t need to blacken Simon’s character, but it’s totally cool to call the woman a whore even if there’s no evidence of it in the text? We can construct an entire narrative around her life as a prostitute, and her expensive oil that could only have been purchased through her elicit [sic] activity, but let’s make sure we don’t disparage the man in the room — the one who is totally missing the message of Jesus, who is over there looking down on this woman in his heart, playing at the pretense of hospitality with no real love behind it, withholding the lavishness of his love and worship while this woman lets it all out?


EARLY CHURCH / TALMUD
How Did the Early Church Read the Bible? -  Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed:

Here’s the big picture: Those educated today in typical schools learn to think in what is called the historical-critical method. That is, students in theology and Bible are taught to think like a historian, to think critically over against the received traditions, and to base their theology on the evidence (the Bible). The goal, then, is to determine the intent of the author. They are taught not so much to say What does God say in Matthew 5:17-20 but instead, What does the author of Matthew intend to communicate with this text in his historical (Jewish) context?

That form of interpretation is not 1st Century and derives from developments following the Renaissance and the Enlightenment and, ironically enough, the interplay of tradition and history in the orthodox-fundamentalist vs. the who-cares-about-the-orthodox and modernist stream of thinking.
Jesus, the apostles and the early church did not read the Bible in the historical-critical method.

The Date of Thomas – by Jonathan Bernier at Critical Realism and the New Testament:

Now, let me be clear: I'm not arguing that Thomas' Gospel should be dated c. 60. The above is a hypothesis, one which at this point I neither affirm nor reject. I have not yet thought through the issue sufficiently to reach a final judgment. But one who would undertake to argue that many of the texts of the New Testament canon are notably earlier than typically supposed cannot in principle exclude the possibility that the same is the case for some of the New Testament apocrypha. It is thus incumbent upon me to explore such possibilities, considering and vetting hypotheses for such earlier dates. Any other procedure would run the risk of special pleading.

The Talmud’s Hot Tub Time Machine by Adam Kirsch at Tabletmag 

What the Gemara does not point out, but struck me as remarkable, is that the Torah portion that lays out the rule for levirate marriage comes in Deuteronomy, while the story of Zelophehad’s daughters is in Numbers, which of course precedes Deuteronomy in the Five Books of Moses. In other words, the rabbis envision Moses possessing a complete Torah while the events the Torah recounts are still taking place. While he is wandering the wilderness, in Numbers, he can consult the law code he will not actually deliver to the Israelites until years later, in Deuteronomy.


The Days of Tribulation in the Apocalypse of Elijah – by Phil Long at Reading Acts 


The Apocalypse of Elijah is not strictly speaking an apocalypse. It is strongly influenced by the book of Revelation, especially 11:1-12 (the appearance of two witnesses in Jerusalem). There are dozens of possible ways to interpret the two witnesses, from literal people (Elijah and Moses, Elijah and Enoch) to figurative (the Old and New Testament, two volcanoes, etc.) The book does not contain any of the sorts of things we expect in a true apocalypse: heavenly journeys, thinly veiled reviews of history, revelation of mysterious secret knowledge, or angelic guides. Coptic translations of a Greek original of the Apocalypse date to the fourth century. The book is clearly dependent on Revelation and appears to quote 1 John 2:18. A date of the mid-second century seems probable (OTP 1:730). If the book was a Christian re-working of a Jewish original, then some material may be still older (There is a Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah which may stand in the background of the book, but no one has systematically studied the possibility of a Hebrew to Greek to Coptic translation). The book may reflect an Egyptian Christianity, but this is far from clear.



ARCHAEOLOGY

Reports came last week that President Donald Trump would avoid visiting the ancient site of Masada in the Judaean desert during his trip to the Middle East because his helicopter was not allowed to land on the sacred ground there. Here is why the site is important and why President Trump should have walked or taken the cable car to the top--just like everyone else.

Numismatic Report – by David Hendin – at The Ancient Near East Today:

Readers of Israeli newspapers and archaeology blogs for the last few years have seen a notable uptick in the number of coin finds reported by “good Samaritans” (both Israelis and tourists) and turned into the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as well as some newsworthy numismatic finds at licensed excavations. This led The Ancient Near East Today to ask me to look into the finds and their importance, as well as other numismatic discoveries in or related to Israel. I recently returned from Israel, where I talked with numismatic scholars, officials of the Israel Antiquities Authority, licensed antiquity dealers, and collectors. Here is my report.

Two Recent Books on Coins – Larry Hurdato:

In light of the recent day-session on “Coins and the Bible” here, I want to note two recent books.  Coins were a regular medium for kings and administrators to promote themselves and their regimes.  Coins were also sometimes minted to celebrate military victories.  Coinage is one important part of the “material culture” of the ancient world.  The metals used, the use of images and writing, the places where coins were minted, all these things and more contribute to historical understanding of the period in which they were minted.


Thousands of artifacts are being stolen every year and making their way into Jewish hands, yet the Israeli division responsible for theft prevention has just one inspector to cover 2,600 sites

Behaviour is deeply embedded within individual cultural psyches, reinforced by the social groups. As children we are taught to say please and thank you, or to refer to our elders with special terminology to infer respect. In British society, certain behaviour is encouraged and considered polite - eating with a knife and fork, keeping your elbows off the table - standard parental ways to help children understand what is expected of them socially.


CHURCH & THEOLOGIANS & BIBLE
Farewelling Well  - Scott McKnight: 
We Evangelicals have a 500-year history of dividing over all sorts of issues ranging from modes of baptism to the color of the carpets in our sanctuary – even (maybe even especially!) with our fellow Protestants. While there is a pastoral responsibility to inquire with love about a leaver’s spiritual health, what happens if you discover that the one moving to another faith tradition is doing so because their faith is growing, and that growth has shifted their faith out of your particular stream?

Was George MacDonald an Open Theist? – Chuck McKnight at Hippie Heretic:

… his progressive views have garnered no shortage of controversy. Conservative pastor Tim Keller has gone so far as to say that he’s not sure whether George MacDonald was even a Christian. However, despite all the accusations brought against him, I’ve never heard anyone call George MacDonald an open theist. Of course that would technically be anachronistic, as the term open theism didn’t come into use until the late twentieth century, but my point is that I’ve not heard his beliefs compared to what open theists believe about God and the settledness of the future.


It is rare that archival research makes the national news.  Jeffrey Alan Miller’s identification of a draft of a portion of the King James Bible hit the headlines in October 2015: not only was it the earliest known draft, but was uniquely a draft written by the hand of one of the translators, who was known by name.  The notebook in which Miller found this work – Sidney Sussex College, MS Ward B – had belonged to Samuel Ward (1572-1643), Master of the College from 1610 until his death.  Eighteen months after the discovery, the notebook has been digitised in full and published on the Cambridge Digital Library, in the latest instance of an ongoing collaboration between the University Library and the Cambridge Colleges to make archival and manuscript material available online.


Augustine’s reading is what many Christians believe Paul actually said, and which is why Augustine’s notion of “original sin” is defended with such uncompromising vehemence as the “biblical” teaching. But neither Romans nor Genesis or the Old Testament supports the idea.


Matthew Bates’ book Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King is just one straw in a strong wind blowing out of biblical studies, driving us away from theological towards narrative constructions of Christian identity and purpose. In my view, this is an exhilarating and necessary development, but Matthew’s book, for all its merits, has highlighted a fundamental shortcoming. Because evangelicals naturally want to retain the direct practical application of the “gospel”, evangelical narrative theologies exhibit a consistent tendency to leapfrog history.




Why Wesley Removed the 26th Article – by Joel Watts at Unsettled Christianity: 

How odd then, that the man who believed in spiritual perfection of the saints as one full of grace would remove this article? Odd or completely in line with Wesley’s thinking? I think Wesley got tired of the elevation of bishops clearly undeserving of blessing the sacrament. It was a new world, with no episcopal jurisdictions, yet, Wesley was laying the ground for a kingdom of priests, without sin.

Karl Barth: Believing in Demons Makes Us Demonic – by Wyatt Houtz at Post Barthian: 

"It has never been good for anyone—including (and particularly) Martin Luther—to look too frequently or lengthily or seriously or systematically at demons (who for Luther were usually compressed into the single figure of the Devil.) It does not make the slightest impression on the demons if we do so, and there is the imminent danger that in so doing we ourselves might become just a little or more than a little demonic."

Inerrancy and Textual Criticism by P.J. Williams at Evangelical Textual Criticism  


My basic thesis is that inerrancy may only be used as a secondary criterion for the original reading. It cannot be used to overturn strong external support or to support conjecture.

15 Reasons Open Theism Is True by Dan Kent at ReKnew

Recently, Andrew Wilson shared an impressive critique of open theism called: “Responding To Open Theism In Fourteen Words.” Andrew’s article didn’t persuade me, but it did challenge me (seriously!). Below I will respond to each of the words Andrew presents. But first I will add one word of my own (if Andrew gets 14 words, I should get at least 1, right?). The word I want to add to the discussion is “Holy.” 


HUMOR & WEIRD
The Life of Francis at Existential Comics: Francis Bacon Meets Jesus by way of Brian.






Taking inspiration from grim Hollywood reboots like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, B&H Kids announced Tuesday that it would be relaunching the Bibleman series of superhero stories in a dark and gritty resurrection of the purple-and-gold caped crusader.

Jim Bakker says Colbert Is Provoking Anti Trump Violence -



KimKierkegaard:



Dr. Demonology:





Trump in Bible Prophecy  by William Tapley, the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times







OTHER STUFF
Mormon Scholars Debate Joseph Smith’s Role in Translation – Jana Reiss at Religion News Service:

At the end of the day, no one had come up with a Grand Unified Theory about how Joseph Smith translated, but we had raised some important issues that show the inadequacies of the old model (Smith translating from one language to another without any of his own input, or what Skousen called the “tight control” model).

The Book of Mormon Gets the Literary Treatment By Grant Shreve at Religion and Politics


The Book of Mormon is a wholly American Scripture. It is the sacred text for the 15 million-strong Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s the calling card for thousands of missionaries, and part of the inspiration for a Tony award-winning Broadway musical. But rarely has the book, on its own merits, been considered a genuine work of art. That’s changing, as American literary scholars embrace it as worthy of attention. In 2012, during the waning days of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and the nation’s so-called “Mormon moment,” literature professors were on the cusp of their own “Book of Mormon moment.” For the first time, studies of the Book of Mormon’s literary qualities were appearing in major journals of American literary studies. Literature courses that prominently featured the Book of Mormon started to appear with more frequency in secular university course catalogues. Now the text, first published in 1830 and once derided as “a fiction of hob-goblins and bugbears,” is being parsed by non-Mormon students across the country, with literature scholars breaking more than a century of professional silence on the book.


St. Athanasius:



Stephan Huller spent hours compiling all the bad things that scholars have observed about Epiphanius's reliability as a historical witness.  








Oh, and by-the-by, Jim West is hosting his own so-called "Avignonian Carnival." You can visit there if you like, but don't feel like you have to, or anything. I mean, if you do you're likely to see him wearing plaids - two different plaids.  How uncouth.

FUTURE CARNIVALS

If you would like to host the Biblioblog Carnival in the near future (and I recommend that you do) contact Phil Long:

June 2017 (Due July 1) -  VOLUNTEER NEEDED
July 2017 (Due August 1) - Reuben Rus, Ayuda Ministerial/Resourcesfor Ministry 
August 2017 (Due September 1) - Jason Gardner,  eis doxan, 
October 2017 (November 1) - VOLUNTEER NEEDED
November 2017 (December 1) - Jim West, Zwingli Redivivus
December 2017 (January 1) - Jennifer Guo,  jenniferguo










Monday, May 29, 2017

My Memorial Day


Despite my frequent and repeated criticisms of Memorial Day, I did, in fact spend part of this morning at the cemetery with one of the members of our church, helping him find the headstones of his relations that served in the military. We cleared away the weeds and tall grass and broken branches and twigs and picked up the little bit of litter that was there. I've done this with him for the past several years. My criticism of Memorial Day is not with the dead soldiers, but with the conflation of Nationalism / Patriotism and the Christian faith. My criticism is for those who say war is necessary, not for those who have died in those unnecessary wars.

I know that several of my critics (and I have a few) may not believe that. The nuance is usually lost in the shouting.

I came home from the cemetery and worked in my garden and the yard for a while - pulling weeds, and etc. I few weeks ago I shared a photo of the newly tilled garden plot. The plot now has plants and vegetables of various kinds growing in it, including: mustard greens (which have already graced our dinner table a couple of times), radishes, squash (which, until yesterday I had thought were a failure this year), potatoes, and sunflowers - along with wildflowers of many kinds for the birds and the bees.

One of my neighbors stopped by to help me identify a plant that's growing in the garden. We both agreed that it could be a weed or it could be foxglove. Or not. We're pretty sure of that much.

After lunch I spent some time reading (a book from the library as most of my books are packed away in preparation for our upcoming move) and playing in the yard with the dog and the cat.

So - yeah, we're packing to move and I'm still working in my garden as if that's going to matter. I'm trying to figure out what and how I can transplant to our new place at the end of next month.

This evening I'm going to take the dog for a walk with my wife - we'll talk about the house that we're trying to buy, the jobs that are and are not yet quite lined up, about our daughter who'll be going away to college at the end of the summer, about our son, about this that and the other.

All in all, it's been / will be a pleasant Memorial Day (even if I have been and will be critical of it as a holiday.)




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Let God Arise – Psalm 68


Psalm 68 is fascinating. I’m dubious of those people who say that they love the psalms because they are soooo comforting or soooo uplifting. I’m never quite sure which psalms those people are reading. The psalms are gritty, earthy, and dark; the psalms, even the ‘nice’ ones are often unpolished and unrefined. But, as I said, Psalm 68 is fascinating to me because it remains almost completely unintelligible.

Now this isn’t something that we’re supposed to say – especially from the pulpit. But if we read Psalm 68 carefully and honestly, without a filter of pious sentimentality, we will have to admit that it is difficult. Go ahead and read it in a couple of different translations and compare them. Most translations present their finished work without any indication of the difficulty, ambiguity, and oddity that rests just beneath the surface of their words.

But Psalm 68, as refined and polished as we might like it to be, resists our attempts to understand it. It is an “anarchic poem” (Dahood 133). It is “textually and exegetically, the most difficult and obscure of all the psalms” (Dahood 133). There is little agreement among scholars about the author, source, date of composition, or purpose of this melody (Poteat 354). Or perhaps of this medley. It is sometimes suggested that Psalm 68 should not be read a single unified work, but as a collection of songs and fragments of songs from various periods and authors arranged for us now as a haphazard hymnal (Taylor 353).

The meter of the stanzas of Psalm 68 shifts almost as frequently as the imagery, which is to say constantly. The psalm is a long sequence of non-sequiturs. Take for example verses 12 – 14: the kings of enemy armies flee from the presence of God, the women at home divide the spoil and booty of war – while they sit in the sheep pen. Then there’s something about doves with wings of silver and pinions of green-gold, and snow falling on Mount Zalmon - which might be something clever about white snow on a black mountain as “Zalmon” means “Dark One.” (Dahood 142).

But what does that mean? What’s going on here?

There are images of God in psalm 68 that will seem cruel and strange in our modern ears. In verses 21 – 22 he is seen smashing the skulls of his enemies, crushing their “hairy crowns.” The people of God are comforted and told that they will bathe their feet in the blood of their enemies and that their dogs will lap up the blood of their foes (23). And yet this violent, vindictive, warrior God is balanced in verse 31 where God is called upon to “scatter the peoples who delight in wars!” (JPS)

Now - as strange as Psalm 68 is (and it must be maintained that it is strange – at least to us so far removed from its composition) we can make some sense of it, at least a little. There are a few themes that reappear again and again amongst its ever shifting panoply of non-sequiturs and mixed metaphors.

The Psalm, over and over again, remembers the dramatic events of the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt.  The Egyptians are the stubborn rebels forever entombed in the barren wastelands (6). They are the “Beasts of the Reeds” (30) – think of them as vicious crocodiles lurking in the marshlands of Egypt waiting to snap at the passing Israelites.  And from Egypt (and her southern allies in Ethiopia) will come nobles stretching out their hands full of tribute for God (31).

As unwieldy and foreign as Psalm 68 is to us, we can understand it (somewhat) as a melodic celebration of the way God rescued the people of Israel from the hands and chains of their Egyptian oppressors. It is a jubilant expression of praise for a powerful and frightening God. (A God who is so frightening, by the way, that the sky itself breaks out in nervous sweat at the sight of him (8).)

It is a celebration of a God who is concerned for the poor and the lowly, a God who looks after the prisoners and gives the lonely a home (6), a God who is a father to the orphan and a defender of the widow (5). This is not a God of rich and powerful. This is not the God of the great and mighty. Those were gods of Egypt. The Egyptians were the people with wealth and power and prestige and honor. But the God celebrated in this psalm is not impressed or threatened by the greatness of Egypt or the strength of the Egyptian army or the number of Egyptian chariots. The Rider of the Heavens (32), the Rider of the Clouds (4) celebrated in Psalm 68 concerns himself with the poor and downtrodden; he is the God of losers and rejects, the God of the forgotten and the overlooked. 

Psalm 68 is fascinating - not because it is a polished piece of poetry to be read by the pious and sentimental, but because it is an outrageous, over the top, wild and exuberant expression of praise for a powerful and extravagant God. If Psalm 68 remains somewhat incomprehensible to us, perhaps that should be a reminder to us that the God of our faith is not one to be completely reduced, systematized, pragmatized; the God we follow is shocking, dangerous, untamed. Perhaps we should never become comfortable in our faith.

Let God arise. Let God lead us out of oppression. Let God lead us through deserts and wild places. Let the enemies of God (who may not be our enemies…) flee before him. Let them melt like wax, drift like smoke. Let the kingdoms of the earth bring their praise and their tribute to him. He is awesome in his holy place. He gives strength to his people. He gives victory and valor to his people (Dahood 132). Let God arise, and though we don't completely understand it, let us arise and say, “Blessed be God.”




Dahood, Mitchell. Psalm II 51 – 100.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1968. Print.

Hebrew – English Tanakh. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society. 1999. Print.

Poteat, Edwin McNeil “Psalms: Exposition” The Interpreter’s Bible Volume IV. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1955. Print.


Taylor, William R “Psalms: Exegesis” The Interpreter’s Bible Volume IV. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1955. Print. 
The views, comments, statements and opinions expressed on this Web site do not necessarily represent the official position of The Salvation Army.

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