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Living in our rental house is not the only change we’ve been making in Roy’s life – we’ve been teaching him Christianity 101.
He’s been going to church with first his mom (Kevin’s grandmother) and then with Kevin’s parents all his life. And I’m not knocking church – it’s great if you’re getting something out of it. And by that I mean, you’re studying God’s word and learning how, and why, God wants you to live a certain way. It’s a great place to fellowship with other Christians and to make life-long friends. God wants us to fellowship with other Christians.
However. If you dread Church, or you’re not getting anything out of the lectures pastors give, then perhaps it’s time to step back and re-evaluate why you’re going or why you’re not receiving God’s wonderful messages.
That’s where we are with Roy. Roy’s churches have continued to use the King’s James version of the bible. And there’s nothing wrong with the King’s James version, it’s just an antiquated language that is not used anymore. It’s hard for people to understand because we don’t use that language anymore. And because people don’t understand the language (or the culture in which the Bible was written), then people just assume that the Bible is not meant for us to understand.
AND THAT’S BULL HOCKEY.
God WANTS us to know how to read the Bible. He wants us to live our lives by rules laid out in the Bible. He gives us examples of how to live our lives and what can happen if we choose NOT to live by his rules. If we don’t live our lives by His rules, then he is unable to protect us against Satan’s tricks. And of course, it’s Satan’s goals to trick people into thinking they are incapable of understanding the Bible because then he will swoop in and create havoc in our lives.
So. Roy has made the decision of NOT going to church for a while and sitting with us when we have Bible study at our house every Sunday evening after dinner. We watch a few videos from the Truth or Tradition YouTube channel and then we all take turns reading out of the New International Version of the Bible. He made the decision to not go to church because he never felt like he understood anything that was taught. Too many churches focus on the hell and damnation of the Bible and though that is part of God’s word, it’s a VERY SMALL part of God’s word. Or worse, pastors will pick and choose verses out of the Bible, taking them completely out of context, and use them to their own advantage. The first time I realized that was happening was the last time I set foot in a church. I have NO INTENTIONS of going back to church – ever.
God is about love and teaching us humility, compassion, forgiveness and HOW TO LOVE OTHERS. How is anyone expected to be inspired or moved into helping others when all they are fed every Sunday is scary crap about Satan and being fried alive in hell?
Think about it.
Anyway. After watching a video, I asked Kevin to bring up one of their older videos (we have it set up where we watch YouTube on our TV and Kevin controls it with his phone – TECHNOLOGY RULES!) where they talk about HOW to read and understand the bible. Kevin brought up this video:
We’ve been watching Truth or Tradition videos for as long as they’ve been making them and somehow, we missed this one. What a COOL summary of the Bible!!
And we started talking about buying Roy a Bible that he can understand – more like a children’s bible. I wouldn’t mind having a children’s bible to read the basic stories myself. I’m not even sure I know all of the basic stories, to be perfectly honest.
I think all of us, deep down, are searching for something in our lives. Whether that’s the meaning of life, how to make our marriages successful, how to raise a God-fearing child (and God-fearing is actually, more accurately translated, into RESPECTING GOD), how to seek forgiveness or how to cultivate patience … learning God’s word, living a Godly life, tends to satisfy that hunger and produce peace.
Don’t believe me? Try it. What have you got to lose?
*Oh, by the way – I just found out they have an iPhone/Android app. Which I downloaded and am looking forward to using on-the-go.
I hope you’ll take time to listen to these audio teachings, if not here, then perhaps you’ll consider downloading them and taking them with you?
What the Bible really says about Death, Judgment, Rewards, Heaven, and the Future Life on a Restored Earth. God originally planned for mankind to live on earth, and His plan, though postponed by sin, will not be thwarted – it will come to pass in the future when a new earth is created. The Christian’s Hope shows from Scripture that each Christian will be rewarded in the coming world in direct proportion to the quality of how he lives for God in this world.
Click the arrow to listen to the Acknowledgements/Prayer/Introduction.
Click the arrow to listen to Our Valuable Anchor.
A Biblical Look at “Hope”
In order to properly understand the Christian’s hope, it is important to examine the exact meaning of the word “hope.” “Hope” means “a desire for, or an expectation of, good, especially when there is some confidence of fulfillment.” It is used that way both in common English and in the Bible. However, the Bible often uses the word “hope” in another way—to refer to the special expectation of good that God has in store for each Christian in the future. This includes the “Rapture,” receiving a new, glorified body, and living forever in Paradise. Today, the ordinary use of “hope” allows for the possibility that what is hoped for will not come to pass. However, when the Bible uses the word “hope” to refer to things that God has promised, the meaning of “hope” shifts from that which has a reasonable chance of coming to pass to that which will absolutely come to pass. To be a useful anchor, hope must hold fast.
Moses and Pharaoh are returning to the big screen in Ridley Scott’s seasonal blockbuster, Exodus: Gods and Kings. With a $200m budget and Christian Bale in the leading role, the British director will hope to replicate the success of Gladiator (where he resurrected the sword and sandals genre) and surpass the shock and awe of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Even before its release, the movie sparked controversy. The casting of white actors as Egyptians provoked charges of racial discrimination; describing Moses as ‘barbaric’ and ‘schizophrenic’ did not endear the leading actor to traditional believers; and casting a truculent young boy as the voice of Yahweh was bound to raise eyebrows. In other respects, the storyline remains traditional. Indeed, the film follows a long tradition of interpretation by presenting the Exodus as a political saga of slavery and liberation. 600,000 slaves are delivered as an oppressive empire is overwhelmed by divine power.
This political reading of the biblical epic will be familiar to anyone who has studied its remarkable reception history. In Christian preaching, liturgy and hymnology, Exodus has been read as spiritual typology — Israel points forward to the Church, Pharaoh’s Egypt to enslavement by Satan, Moses to the Messiah, the Red Sea to salvation, the Wilderness Wanderings to earthly pilgrimage, the Promised Land to heavenly rest.
Yet there has been an almost equally potent tradition of reading Exodus politically. It originated with Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century, who hailed the Emperor Constantine as a Mosaic deliverer of the persecuted Church. It took on new intensity when the Protestant Reformation was promoted as liberation from ‘popish bondage’. As a vulnerable minority, European Calvinists identified with the oppressed children of Israel in Egypt and then celebrated national reformations in Britain and the Netherlands as a new exodus. The title page of the Geneva Bible (1560) pictured the Israelites pinned against the Red Sea by the chariots and horsemen of Pharaoh, the moment before their deliverance. Deliverance became a keyword in Anglophone political rhetoric, a term that fused Providence and Liberation.
Over the coming centuries, this Protestant reading of Exodus would go through some surprising twists. The Reformers had sought deliverance from the Papacy, but radical Puritans condemned intolerant Protestant clergy as ‘Egyptian taskmasters’. Rhetoric that had once been trained on ecclesiastical oppression was turned against ‘political slavery’, as revolutionaries in 1649, 1688 and 1776 co-opted biblical narrative. For Oliver Cromwell, Israel’s journey from Egypt through the Wilderness towards Canaan was ‘the only parallel’ to the course of English Revolution. For John Milton, tolerationist and republican, England’s Exodus led to ‘civil and religious liberty’, a phrase coined in Cromwellian England. The most startling development occurred during the American Revolution, when Patriots unleashed the language of slavery and deliverance against ‘the British Pharaoh’, George III. The contradiction between their libertarian rhetoric and American slaveholding galvanized the nascent anti-slavery movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Black Protestants now seized upon Exodus and the language of deliverance. ‘For the first time in history’, writes historian John Saillant, ‘slaves had a book on their side’.
African Americans inhabited the story like no other people before them. When they fled from slavery and segregation and migrated to the North, they consciously re-enacted the Exodus. In slave revolts and in the American Civil War they called on God for deliverance from Egyptian taskmasters. In the spiritual ‘Go Down Moses’, they re-imagined the United States as ‘Egyptland’, throwing into question the biblical construction of the nation as an ‘American Zion’. They sang of a deliverer who would tell old Pharaoh, ‘Let my People go’. They celebrated the abolition of the slave trade, West Indian emancipation, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by recalling the song of Moses and Miriam at the Red Sea.
The black use of Exodus was not without its ironies. It owed more than has been recognized to the long tradition of Protestant Exodus politics, albeit reworked and subverted. African Americans took pride in the fact that Moses married an Ethiopian (Numbers 12:1), but they were embarrassed by the sanction given to slavery in the Mosaic Law, and by the Hebrews’ oppression at the hands of African Pharaohs. Yet Exodus spoke to African American experience like no other text. Like the Children of Israel, their Red Sea moment was followed by a long and bitter Wilderness experience. On the night before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr assured his black audience that he had ‘seen the Promised Land’. Barack Obama talked of ‘the Joshua Generation’ completing the work of King’s ‘Moses Generation’, but the land of milk and honey can still seem like a distant prospect.
Heading image: Dura Europos Synagogue wall painting showing the Hebrews leaving Egypt. Adaptation by Gill/Gillerman slides collection, Yale. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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Everyone talks about the Bible, though few have read it cover to cover. This is not surprising—some sections of the Bible are difficult to understand without a commentary, others are tedious, and still others are boring. That is why annotated Bibles were created—to help orient readers as they read through the Bible or look into what parts of it mean. For those who have not read the Bible cover-to-cover—and even for many who have—here are some common misconceptions about the Hebrew Bible.
1. The Ten Commandments are the most important part of the Bible.
No biblical text calls them the Bible’s most important part. Various prophetic texts such as Ezekiel 18 summarize righteous behavior, but most of these do not refer to the Ten Commandments. In fact, the English term “Ten Commandments” is a misnomer from a Jewish perspective, since in the Jewish enumeration, “I am the LORD your God…” is the first divine utterance in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and it is not a commandment at all. Thus, Jews prefer to call these the Decalogue, “the ten sayings,” which reflects the Hebrew aseret hadevarim (Exodus 24:38; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4).
2. We know what the original text of the Bible is.
Like all texts transmitted in antiquity, the Bible in its earliest stages of transmission was fluid. Scribes changed books that became part of the Bible accidentally and on purpose; this is now clear from evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
3. The Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are different names for the same books.
The Jewish Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old Testament contain the same books, but in a different order—and order matters. The Catholic Old Testament is larger than the Jewish Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old Testament. It contains the Apocrypha—select Jewish Hellenistic [Greek] Writings such as Sirach, Tobit, and Maccabees—and in two cases, Esther and Daniel, the Catholic book is larger than the Hebrew book, containing material found in the Greek texts of these works, but not in the Hebrew.
Different religious groups have different orders to the Bible. Christians typically divide the Old Testament into four sections (Law [=Torah], historical books, wisdom and poetic books, prophetic books), while Jews divide the Hebrew Bible into three sections: Torah, Nevi’im [prophets] and Ketuvim [writings]. Both of these ways of ordering biblical texts probably reflect different ancient Jewish orders that ultimately helped to define Jewish versus Christian identity. In addition, Jewish manuscripts show many different orders of the final section, Ketuvim, and the Babylonian Talmud notes an order of Nevi’im that is different than the more commonly used.
5. Everything in a prophetic book is by that prophet.
Many prophetic books contain titles or superscriptions, as in Jeremiah 1:1-3: “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.” However, we never have the autographs of individual prophets, and often their disciples and others added material to early forms of prophetic books, in the names of the prophet himself!
6. The Bible is history.
The modern concept of history, judged by whether or not it gets the facts right, is by and large a modern conception. In the past, all peoples told stories set in the past for a variety of reasons, e.g. to entertain, to enlighten, but rarely to recreate what actually happened. Archaeologists have uncovered many cases where the biblical account disagrees with the archaeological account, or with what we might know from other ancient Near Eastern texts.
7. All of the Psalms are by King David.
About half of the psalms in Psalms contain the word ledavid, “to/of David,” in their first sentence. But many do not. Some are anonymous, while others are explicitly attributed to other figures such as Asaph (50, 73-81). We are not even sure how ledavid should be translated—does it mean to attribute authorship to David, or might it mean “in the style of David”? Furthermore, none of the psalms reflects tenth century Hebrew, the Hebrew of the period in which David was purported to have lived, and several psalms refer to events long after that period (see e.g. Psalm 126:1). In fact, scholars do not attribute any of Psalms to King David. And at least in Jewish tradition, attributing all of the Psalter to David is not dogma, and several medieval scholars acknowledge the existence of later psalms.
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On (and off) the drawing board:Add a Comment
In Dreams: A Way to Listen to God Morton Kelsey says, “…the Church has developed no theory that can bring the spiritual world closer to human beings.” This is a powerful statement. One would think that it would be a primary function of Christian religions to do this. Instead, the mainline Christian churches have traditionally offered biblical and theological studies which provide intellectual and cultural understandings of Christianity, but have moved away from experiential forms of spirituality which might let us personally “taste and see” the glory of God. I think this is one reason so many people have left mainstream Christianity to explore yoga, meditation and other experiential approaches to connecting to something greater. Yet, as Kelsey points out in his book, dreams have always been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and he heartily recommends using them as a spiritual methodology to bring the spiritual world closer to us.
It’s not like the spiritual world isn’t trying to contact us. It does so nightly in our dreams! But how few people make an attempt to remember their dreams, and of those who do, how few make it a practice to honor, record, reflect and learn from their dreams?
One only has to pick up a Bible and see the frequent references to dreams and the important role they played in shaping people’s lives. People who could interpret dreams, like Joseph and Daniel, were held in high esteem because it was thought that God spoke through dreams. In the Bible, the information received in dreams is shown to be very important such as in predicting times of flood or famine or helping a person in need. Joseph, the husband of Mary, was one of many who received an important message in a dream. He was told to not worry in taking Mary as his wife since the child she had conceived came in a most unusual way. All these characters in the Bible worked with and let dreams shape their lives—even when their lives depended upon it.
Perhaps, if we let God into our lives through our dreams, our lives would take on a much greater meaning and significance compared to the trivial and myopic views we hold in an uninformed waking life that is often driven by the demands of others as well as egoistic and material needs.
The New Testament contains two Christmas stories, not one. They appear in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2. They have some points in common. But there are many differences in their characters, plot, messages, and tone.
In the familiar version of the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because there was no room in the inn, the baby Jesus is born in a stable and placed in a manger. His humble birth is celebrated by choirs of angels and shepherds, and he is given precious gifts by the mysterious Magi. This version freely blends material from the two biblical accounts. It has become enshrined in Christmas carols and stable scenes as well as the liturgical cycle of readings during the Christmas season.
My purpose here is not to criticize blending the two Christmas stories or to debate the historicity of the events they describe. What I do want to show is that by harmonizing the two stories we may be missing points that were especially important for Matthew and Luke, respectively. I want also to suggest that appreciating each biblical account separately might open up new perspectives on the infancy narratives for people today.
In The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously, Marc Z. Brettler, Peter Enns, and I explore how each of our religious traditions—Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic—tries to bring together the modern historical-critical reading of the Bible and contemporary religious faith and practice. There are, of course, many differences among us. But there are some principles we hold in common: the value of reading biblical texts in their original historical settings, the need for careful analysis of the literary dimensions of each text, and respect for what seems to have been the intentions of the original author. Applying these principles to the two Christmas stories in the New Testament will reveal more clearly their historical significance, distinctive literary character, and theological riches.
Matthew wrote his Gospel in the late first century CE, perhaps in Antioch of Syria. He was a Jewish Christian writing primarily for other Jewish Christians. He wanted to show that the legacy of biblical Israel was best fulfilled in the community formed around the memory of Jesus of Nazareth. Now that the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed and Roman control over Jews was even tighter, all Jews had to face the question: how is the heritage of Israel as God’s people to be carried on? Matthew’s answer lay in stressing the Jewishness of Jesus.
This setting helps to explain why Matthew told his Christmas story as he did. He begins with a genealogy that relates Jesus to Abraham and David, while including several women of dubious reputation who nonetheless highlight the new thing God was doing in Jesus. Next, he explains how the virginal conception of Jesus through the Holy Spirit fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (7:14), and how Jesus the Son of God became the legal Son of David through Joseph. Besides Jesus, Joseph is the main character in Mathew’s Christmas story. Guided by dreams like his biblical namesake, he is the divinely designated protector of Mary and her child Jesus.
The Magi story in Matthew 2 is part of a larger sequence that involves danger for the newborn child and his parents. When King Herod hears about the child “King of the Jews” as a potential rival for his power, he seeks to have Jesus killed. As a result the family flees to Egypt, while Herod orders the execution of all boys under two years old in the area of Bethlehem. Only after Herod’s death does the family return to the Land of Israel, though to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem. At each point in their itinerary, the family is guided by dreams and texts from the Jewish Scriptures.
In his Christmas story Matthew wants us to learn who Jesus is (Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of God) and how he got from Bethlehem to Nazareth. Thus he establishes the Jewish identity of Jesus, while foreshadowing the mystery of the cross and the inclusion of non-Jews in the church. The tone is serious, somber, and foreboding.
Luke wrote his Gospel about the same time as Matthew did (but independently), in the late first century CE. He composed two volumes, one about Jesus’ life and death (Luke’s Gospel), and the other about the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts of the Apostles). The dynamic of the two books is captured by words now in Luke 2:32 taken from Isaiah (42:6; 46:13; 49:6): “a light for revelation to the Gentiles [Acts], and for glory to your people Israel [the Gospel].”
While in his prologue (1:1-4), Luke shows himself to be a master of classical Greek, in his infancy narrative he shifts into “Bible Greek,” in the style of the narrative books of the Old Testament in their Greek translations. Also there are many characters besides Jesus: Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, and Simeon and Anna, as well as various angels and shepherds. These figures represent the best in Jewish piety. Thus Luke creates an ideal picture of the Israel into which Jesus is born.
In the gross structure of his infancy narrative, Luke seems intent on comparing John the Baptist and Jesus. His point is that while John is great, Jesus is even greater. So the announcement of John’s birth as the forerunner of the Messiah is balanced by the announcement of Jesus’ birth as the Son of the Most High (1:5-25; 1:26-56). And so the account of John’s birth and naming is balanced by the birth and naming of Jesus as Savior, Messiah, and Lord (1:57-80; 2:1-40).
Luke portrays Jesus and his family as observant with regard to Jewish laws and customs. At the same time, there are subtle “digs” at the Roman emperor and his clams to divinity. The narratives are punctuated by triumphant songs of joy. They are well known by their traditional Latin titles: Magnificat (1:46-46), Benedictus (1:68-79), and Nunc dimittis (2:29-32). These are pastiches of words and phrases from Israel’s Scriptures, and they serve to praise the God of Israel for what he was doing in and through Jesus.
With his infancy narrative, Luke wants to root Jesus in the best of Israelite piety, while hinting at Jesus’ significance for all the peoples of the world. That is why Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38) goes back beyond Abraham all the way to Adam. Luke’s infancy narrative has provided the framework for the traditional “Christian story.” Its tone is upbeat, celebratory, and even romantic.
I have shown one way to read the Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke. It is a way that respects their historical contexts, literary skills, and intentions. It is not the only way. Indeed, during this Christmas season I will be celebrating (God willing) the traditional Christmas story in the two parishes in which I serve regularly as a Catholic priest. What I hope to have shown here is that there is more to the biblical Christmas stories than gets included in the traditional account.
Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., is professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, and co-author (with Marc Z. Brettler and Peter Enns) of The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously.
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Here is a treat from one of my dear friends and a talented author. My review of the first book in her inspirational epic fantasy:
For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary and about people who talk about the Dictionary in the same way that they talk about the Bible. But after a while I realized that nearly all the examples in the lecture were, like me, American. At first, I could use the excuse that I’d not been in the UK long enough to encounter good examples of dictionary jingoism. But British examples did not present themselves over the next decade, while American ones kept streaming in. Rather than laughing with recognition, were my students simply laughing with amusement at my ridiculous teachers? Is the notion of dictionary-as-Bible less compelling in a culture where only about 17% of the population consider religion to be important to their lives? (Compare the United States, where 3 in 10 people believe that the Bible provides literal truth.) I’ve started to wonder: how different are British and American attitudes toward dictionaries, and to what extent can those differences be attributed to the two nations’ relationships with the written word?
Our constitutions are a case in point. The United States Constitution is a written document that is extremely difficult to change; the most recent amendment took 202 years to ratify. We didn’t inherit this from the British, whose constitution is uncodified — it’s an aggregation of acts, treaties, and tradition. If you want to freak an American out, tell them that you live in a country where ‘[n]o Act of Parliament can be unconstitutional, for the law of the land knows not the word or the idea’. Americans are generally satisfied that their constitution — which is just about seven times longer than this blog post — is as relevant today as it was when first drafted and last amended. We like it so much that a holiday to celebrate it was instituted in 2004.
Dictionaries and the law
But with such importance placed on the written word of law comes the problem of how to interpret those words. And for a culture where the best word is the written word, a written authority on how to interpret words is sought. Between 2000 and 2010, 295 dictionary definitions were cited in 225 US Supreme Court opinions. In contrast, I could find only four UK Supreme court decisions between 2009 and now that mention dictionaries. American judicial reliance on dictionaries leaves lexicographers and law scholars uneasy; most dictionaries aim to describe common usage, rather than prescribe the best interpretation for a word. Furthermore, dictionaries differ; something as slight as the presence or absence of a the or a usually might have a great impact on a literalist’s interpretation of a law. And yet US Supreme Court dictionary citation has risen by about ten times since the 1960s.
No particular dictionary is America’s Bible—but that doesn’t stop the worship of dictionaries, just as the existence of many Bible translations hasn’t stopped people citing scripture in English. The name Webster is not trademarked, and so several publishers use it on their dictionary titles because of its traditional authority. When asked last summer how a single man, Noah Webster, could have such a profound effect on American English, I missed the chance to say: it wasn’t the man; it was the books — the written word. His “Blue-Backed Speller”, a textbook used in American schools for over 100 years, has been called ‘a secular catechism to the nation-state’. At a time when much was unsure, Webster provided standards (not all of which, it must be said, were accepted) for the new English of a new nation.
American dictionaries, regardless of publisher, have continued in that vein. British lexicography from Johnson’s dictionary to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has excelled in recording literary language from a historical viewpoint. In more recent decades British lexicography has taken a more international perspective with serious innovations and industry in dictionaries for learners. American lexicographical innovation, in contrast, has largely been in making dictionaries more user-friendly for the average native speaker.
Local attitudes: marketing dictionaries
By and large, lexicographers on either side of the Atlantic are lovely people who want to describe the language in a way that’s useful to their readers. But a look at the way dictionaries are marketed belies their local histories, the local attitudes toward dictionaries, and assumptions about who is using them. One big general-purpose British dictionary’s cover tells us it is ‘The Language Lover’s Dictionary’. Another is ‘The unrivalled dictionary for word lovers’.
Now compare some hefty American dictionaries, whose covers advertise ‘expert guidance on correct usage’ and ‘The Clearest Advice on Avoiding Offensive Language; The Best Guidance on Grammar and Usage’. One has a badge telling us it is ‘The Official Dictionary of the ASSOCIATED PRESS’. Not one of the British dictionaries comes close to such claims of authority. (The closest is the Oxford tagline ‘The world’s most trusted dictionaries’, which doesn’t make claims about what the dictionary does, but about how it is received.) None of the American dictionary marketers talk about loving words. They think you’re unsure about language and want some help. There may be a story to tell here about social class and dictionaries in the two countries, with the American publishers marketing to the aspirational, and the British ones to the arrived. And maybe it’s aspirationalism and the attendant insecurity that goes with it that makes America the land of the codified rule, the codified meaning. By putting rules and meanings onto paper, we make them available to all. As an American, I kind of like that. As a lexicographer, it worries me that dictionary users don’t always recognize that English is just too big and messy for a dictionary to pin down.
Lynne Murphy, Reader in Linguistics at the University of Sussex, researches word meaning and use, with special emphasis on antonyms. She blogs at Separated by a Common Language and is on Twitter at @lynneguist.
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I’m reading through the New Testament this year. I’ve done the Bible in a year plans and tend to read quickly just to get finished and don’t focus on the text. So I thought I would try a plan on my iPad for just a chapter a day and try to soak it in. Yes, I’ve gone digital. Sometimes I miss the onion skin and writing in the margins. But I like to take notes and be able to find them again. I can categorize and sort on the iPad. I also enjoy shuffling translations on the fly.
Sometimes, digital bites you in the behind, though.
Take this morning. My text was Matthew 23. Almost completely in red. Jesus said it, I’d better pay attention:
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbiby others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:5-9 ESV)
After finding a suitable definition for phylacteries, I moved on to define rabbiby. Stumped. Nothing on the web but alternate suggested spellings. Why is it in the Bible if I can’t get a definition? Get behind me Satan, I’m going to figure this out. I plugged away at the word and searched. Twenty minutes of painstaking research has brought me to the following conclusion that I would like to share with you:
1. Rabbiby could be the plural of Rabbi.
2. Rabbiby might be a term of derision used by average citizens.
3. Rabbiby possibly is a greeting given between brothers who are both scholars of the law. “Hey Rabbiby, you gonna finish that?”
My research is incomplete on this matter, and I welcome any insight. I have but one other theory – that print editors are slightly better than the digital ones. Butthatisonlyatheory.
I like to think I was a good sitter for the kids when they were little. I mean, I’m dad, so I should be able to provide for their basic needs on occasion. I remember a particular Saturday when our first was a toddler. Instead of playing the usual dolls and house (which I was excellent at, by the way), I decided that her tummy, back, and arms made the perfect canvas for a jungle mural. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We drew and drew until elephants, lions, and zebras were marching all over her flesh. Great, giggly, tickly fun.
Great fun until Mom came home and the little fink sold me out. My lovely wife hadn’t gotten two steps into the kitchen before the scamp had pulled her shirt up to reveal the masterpiece. I don’t recall if it was the classic grocery bags hitting the floor or not, but her fury stretched across the room and melted part of my ear. Something about her perfect, beautiful baby looking like a tattooed Harley rider.
That was the day I received a fairly detailed list of appropriate activities for times when mommy was away. I also learned the difference between permanent and washable markers.
That was a “first child” thing. She’s mellowed about keeping them in pristine condition and maybe I’ve matured a little. Either way, I pale in comparison to the worst babysitter ever. Some of you look for deep meaning in Bible stories and I applaud you. My infantile mind reads some of the odd ones and starts playing Paul Harvey – looking for The Rest of the Story.
When I read Genesis 22, I am awed by Abraham’s obedience. To listen and follow God at the expense of the one thing he had waited a hundred years for, his baby boy, is incredible. For so long he had begged and schemed for a son, but couldn’t have one with Sarah until he completely gave up his own plans and got to a place where he put his utter reliance on God and not himself. Only God.
We know how the story goes. Just before he offers Isaac as the sacrifice, God shows him a ram to use as a substitute, sparing his son’s life. Can you imagine the sheer joy? Can you picture the relief of his heart? Do you think Isaac flinched when the knife went up? Do you wonder at what Sarah said when they got home?
Seriously, how do you relay that to your wife?
“Hi Honey, we’re home.”
“Oh, I missed you two so much. How was the camping trip?”
“It was fantastic. You’re never gonna believe what God did. First, he told me to sacrifice Isaac. So I built this altar and put him on it. Just as the knife was about to come down…”
“YOU DID WHAT???”
The Bible omits that part of the story. But I wonder sometimes.
I wonder what things I hold too dear to put on the altar. I certainly wouldn’t put my kids on there. (Heck, I won’t even draw on them anymore.) But there are other things too precious to me that I hold back. I know it – and so does God. Lord help me to have more faith and obedience like Old Abraham. I just pray I’m a better babysitter.
Religion has provided the world with some of the most influential and important written works ever known. Here is a reading list made up of just a small selection of the texts we carry in the series, covering religions across the globe.
Bede’s most famous work was finished in 731, and deals with the history of Christianity in England, most notably, the tension between Roman and Celtic forms of Christianity. It is one of the most important texts in English history. As well as providing the authoritative Colgrave translation of the Ecclesiastical History, the Oxford World’s Classics edition includes a translation of the Greater Chronicle, in which Bede discusses the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Bede’s Letter to Egbert gives further reflections on the English Church just before his death.
The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James
This work is William (brother of Henry) James’s classic survey of religious belief in its most personal aspects. Covering such topics as how we define evil to ourselves, the difference between a healthy and a divided mind, the value of saintly behaviour, and what animates and characterizes the mental landscape of sudden conversion, The Varieties of Religious Experience is a key text examining the relationship between belief and culture. At the time James wrote it, faith in organized religion and dogmatic theology was fading away, and the search for an authentic religion rooted in personality and subjectivity was something deemed an urgent necessity. With psychological insight, philosophical rigour, and a determination not to jump to the conclusion that in tracing religion’s mental causes we necessarily diminish its truth or value, in the Varieties James wrote a truly foundational text for modern belief.
On Christian Teaching – Saint Augustine
This is one of Saint Augustine’s most important works on the classical tradition. Written to enable students to have the skills to interpret the Bible, it provides an outline of Christian theology. It also contains a detailed discussion of moral problems. Further to that, Augustine attempts to determine what elements of classical education are desirable for a Christian, and suggests ways in which Ciceronian rhetorical principles may help in communicating faith.
Along with the King James Bible, the words of the Book of Common Prayer have permeated deep into the English language all over the worldFor countless people, it has provided the framework for a wedding ceremony or a funeral. Yet this familiarity also hides a violent and controversial history. When it was first written, the Book of Common Prayer provoked riots, and it was banned before eventually being translated into a host of global languages. This edition presents the work in three different states: the first edition of 1549, which brought the Reformation into people’s homes; the Elizabethan prayer book of 1559, familiar to Shakespeare and Milton; and the edition of 1662, which embodies the religious temper of the nation down to modern times.
The Qur’an, the Muslim Holy Book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 1400 year ago. It is the supreme authority in Islam and the source of all Islamic teaching; it is both a sacred text and a book of guidance, that sets out the creed, rituals, ethics, and laws of Islam. The greatest literary masterpiece in Arabic, the message of the Qur’an was directly addressed to all people regardless of class, gender, or age, and this translation aims to be equally accessible to everyone.
Natural Theology – William Paley
Natural Theology is arguably as central to those who believe in Intelligent Design as Darwin’s Origin of Species is to those who come down on the side of evolutionary theory. In it, William Paley set out to prove the existence of God from the evidence of the order and beauty of the natural world. It famously starts by comparing our world to a watch, whose design is self-evident, before going on to provide examples from biology, anatomy, and astronomy in order to demonstrate the intricacy and ingenuity of design that could only come from a wise and benevolent deity. Paley’s work was both hugely successful, and extremely controversial, and Charles Darwin was greatly influenced by the book’s accessible style and structure.
‘I have heard the supreme mystery, yoga, from Krishna, from the lord of yoga himself.’
So ends the Bhagavad Gita, the best known and most widely read Hindu religious text in the Western world. It is the most famous episode from the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata. Across eighteen chapters Krishna’s teaching leads the warrior Arjuna from confusion to understanding, raising and developing many key themes from the history of Indian religions in the process.
It considers religious and social duty, the nature of action and of sacrifice, the means to liberation, and the relationship between God and human. It culminates in an awe-inspiring vision of Krishna as an omnipotent God, disposer and destroyer of the universe.
Kirsty Doole is Publicity Manager for Oxford World’s Classics.
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
The post A religion reading list from Oxford World’s Classics appeared first on OUPblog.
Want to Get an In-depth Understanding of Your Christian Faith and Tradition?
Education for Ministry (EfM) is a training program of the Episcopal Church which helps people, especially lay leaders and ministers, to
Each session includes prayer, discussion, and reflection according to a Theological Reflection (TR) process, and may also allow time for refreshments and socializing before or after the class. Reading assignments prepare participants for each session.
Beginning in early September, 2014, St. Mary’s and St. Elizabeth’s will join to offer a year-long class of this four year program for members of their congregations. Participants must be willing to commit to an academic year of training (36 sessions of about 2.5 to 3 hours each). A free session can be given ahead of time for prospective members to see if this is “your cup of tea.” To the degree possible, dates and times of sessions as well as class location will be scheduled after the class is organized to meet the needs of the participants.
Online information is available at http://theology.sewanee.edu/academics/education-for-ministry/.
If interested, and to get more information, please contact Fran Kramer at 457-9753 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration needs to be done by late July to place orders for books and to finalize the class preparations.
NOTE: This course is being announced on this website but does not imply there is a connection to the study of dreams or intuition in the course. Course content will be determined by Sewanee.
Once again I had the honor of being substitute preacher at Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City. While we’ve been without a pastor we elders have stepped up and taken turns at the pulpit. Our new pastor, Rev. Greg Gillispie, will take over in July.
This time around my subject was the stoning of Saint Stephen and the introduction of that one-man paramilitary wing of the Sanhedrin, Saul—found in Acts 7:55-60.
My talk centered around storytelling—particularly visual storytelling. Here you can see character designs for Stephen and Saul; an explanation of character arc used Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Walter White from Breaking Bad; Saul’s Road to Damascus moment; and Saint Paul who shaped the young Christian Church through his writings.
This was some of the best fun I’ve had speaking in front of a group. I am grateful for a supportive and forgiving congregation! Best wishes & welcome to Rev. Gillispie.
I have a "Letters from God" journal where I keep any promise of God I come across in the Bible. These promises bring me so much comfort, especially when I remember that God has never gone back on a promise and He never will. Never. So for Inspirational Sunday, I'd like to post those promises. May they bring you as much comfort as they have brought me.
Are you tired? Weary? Weak? Then put your hope in Me. I will give you strength when you are weary and power when you are weak. If you are tired, I will renew your strength. You will soar like eagles. You will run without growing weary and walk without growing faint. All you need to do is put your trust in Me.
Love, your Father
Yes, I am tired, weary, and weak. I don't have the energy to go on. But I thank you that I can find my strength in You. You have promised that, if I put my hope in You, I will be strengthened and given power. Thank you for giving me eagle's wings. Thank you for giving me the strength to go on. Thank you for allowing to run and walk this race called life without growing weary or faint. Thank you!
Love, Your princess
There is a pressing need to re-establish a cultural narrative for science. At present we lack a public understanding of the purpose of this deeply human endeavour to understand the natural world. In debate around scientific issues, and even in the education and presentation of science itself, we tend to overemphasise the most recent findings, and project a culture of expertise.
The cost is the alienation of many people from experiencing what the older word for science, “natural philosophy” describes: the love of wisdom of natural things. Science has forgotten its story, and we need to start retelling it.
To draw out the long narrative of science, there is no substitute for getting inside practice – science as the recreation of a model of the natural world in our minds. But I have also been impressed by the way scientists resonate with very old accounts nature-writing – such as some of the Biblical ancient wisdom tradition. To take a specific example of a theme that takes very old and very new forms, the approaches to randomness and chaos are being followed today in studies of granular media (such as the deceptively complex sandpiles) and chaotic systems.
These might be thought of as simplified approaches to ‘the earthquake’ and ‘the storm’, which appear in the achingly beautiful nature poetry of the Book of Job, an ancient text also much concerned with the unpredictable side of nature. I have often suggested to scientist-colleagues that they read the catalogue of nature-questions in Job 38-40, to be met with their delight and surprise. Job’s questioning of the chaotic and destructive world becomes, after a strenuous and questioning search in which he is shown the glories of the vast cosmos, a source of hope, and a type of wisdom that builds a mutually respectful relationship with nature.
Reading this old nature-wisdom through the experience of science today indicates a fresh way into other conflicted territory. For, rather than oppose theology and science, a path that follows a continuity of narrative history is driven instead to derive what a theology of science might bring to the cultural problems of science with which we began. In partnership with a science of theology, it recognises that both, to be self-consistent, must talk about the other. Neither in conflict, nor naively complementary, their stories are intimately entangled.
The strong motif that is the idea of science as the reconciliation of a broken human relationship with nature. Science has the potential to replace ignorance and fear of a world that can harm us and that we also can harm, by a relationship of understanding and care. The foolishness of thoughtless exploitation can be replaced by the wisdom of engagement. This is neither a ‘technical fix’, nor a ‘withdrawal from the wild’, two equally unworkable alternatives criticised recently by Bruno Latour in a discussion of environmentalism in the 21st century.
Latour’s hunch that rediscovered religious material might point the way to a practical alternative begins to look well-founded. Nor is such ‘narrative for science’ confined to the political level; it has personal, cultural and educational consequences too that might just meet Barzun’s missing sphere of contemplation.
Can science be performative? Could it even be therapeutic?
George Steiner once wrote, “Only art can go some way towards making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of matter…”
Perhaps science can do that too.
Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at University of Durham, and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Physical Society and the Royal Society. He is the author of Faith and Wisdom in Science.
We print many different types of bibles here at Oxford University Press, one popular line being our Book of Common Prayer. While this text is used worldwide, you may not know about its interesting history. From the fact that there are a half a dozen books in print with this title, or perhaps that it is not so much a collection of prayers as a sort of “script” to be used, there is much you may not know about this text. Take our quiz below to learn more.
Alyssa Bender is a marketing coordinator at Oxford University Press. She works on religion books in the Academic/Trade and Reference divisions, as well as Bibles.
Nearly three hundred years since his death, Isaac Newton is as much a myth as a man. The mythical Newton abounds in contradictions; he is a semi-divine genius and a mad alchemist, a somber and solitary thinker and a passionate religious heretic. Myths usually have an element of truth to them but how many Newtonian varieties are true? Here are ten of the most common, debunked or confirmed by the evidence of his own private papers, kept hidden for centuries and now freely available online.
10. Newton was a heretic who had to keep his religious beliefs secret.
True. While Newton regularly attended chapel, he abstained from taking holy orders at Trinity College. No official excuse survives, but numerous theological treatises he left make perfectly clear why he refused to become an ordained clergyman, as College fellows were normally obliged to do. Newton believed that the doctrine of the Trinity, in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were given equal status, was the result of centuries of corruption of the original Christian message and therefore false. Trinity College’s most famous fellow was, in fact, an anti-Trinitarian.
9. Newton never laughed.
False, but only just. There are only two specific instances that we know of when the great man laughed. One was when a friend to whom he had lent a volume of Euclid’s Elements asked what the point of it was, ‘upon which Sir Isaac was very merry.’ (The point being that if you have to ask what the point of Euclid is, you have already missed it.) So far, so moderately funny. The second time Newton laughed was during a conversation about his theory that comets inevitably crash into the stars around which they orbit. Newton noted that this applied not just to other stars but to the Sun as well and laughed while remarking to his interlocutor John Conduitt ‘that concerns us more.’
8. Newton was an alchemist.
True. Alchemical manuscripts make up roughly one tenth of the ten million words of private writing that Newton left on his death. This archive contains very few original treatises by Newton himself, but what does remain tells us in minute detail how he assessed the credibility of mysterious authors and their work. Most are copies of other people’s writings, along with recipes, a long alchemical index and laboratory notebooks. This material puzzled and disappointed many who encountered it, such as biographer David Brewster, who lamented ‘how a mind of such power, and so nobly occupied with the abstractions of geometry, and the study of the material world, could stoop to be even the copyist of the most contemptible alchemical work, the obvious production of a fool and a knave.’ While Brewster tried to sweep Newton’s alchemy under the rug, John Maynard Keynes made a splash when he wrote provocatively that Newton was the ‘last of the magicians’ rather than the ‘first king of reason.’
7. Newton believed that life on earth (and most likely on other planets in the universe) was sustained by dust and other vital particles from the tails of comets.
True. In Book 3 of the Principia, Newton wrote extensively how the rarefied vapour in comet’s tails was eventually drawn to earth by gravity, where it was required for the ‘conservation of the sea, and fluids of the planets’ and was most likely responsible for the ‘spirit’ which makes up the ‘most subtle and useful part of our air, and so much required to sustain the life of all things with us.’
6. Newton was a self-taught genius who made his pivotal discoveries in mathematics, physics and optics alone in his childhood home of Woolsthorpe while waiting out the plague years of 1665-7.
False, though this is a tricky one. One of the main treasures that scholars have sought in Newton’s papers is evidence for his scientific genius and for the method he used to make his discoveries. It is true that Newton’s intellectual achievement dwarfed that of his contemporaries. It is also true that as a 23 year-old, Newton made stunning progress on the calculus, and on his theories of gravity and light while on a plague-induced hiatus from his undergraduate studies at Trinity College. Evidence for these discoveries exists in notebooks which he saved for the rest of his life. However, notebooks kept at roughly the same time, both during his student days and his so called annus mirabilis, also demonstrate that Newton read and took careful notes on the work of leading mathematicians and natural philosophers, and that many of his signature discoveries owe much to them.
5. Newton found secret numerological codes in the Bible.
True. Like his fellow analysts of scripture, Newton believed there were important meanings attached to the numbers found there. In one theological treatise, Newton argues that the Pope is the anti-Christ based in part on the appearance in Scripture of the number of the name of the beast, 666. In another, he expounds on the meaning of the number 7, which figures prominently in the numbers of trumpets, vials and thunders found in Revelation.
4. Newton had terrible handwriting, like all geniuses.
False. Newton’s handwriting is usually clear and easy to read. It did change somewhat throughout his life. His youthful handwriting is slightly more angular, while in his old age, he wrote in a more open and rounded hand. More challenging than deciphering his handwriting is making sense of Newton’s heavily worked-over drafts, which are crowded with deletions and additions. He also left plenty of very neat drafts, especially of his work on church history and doctrine, which some considered to be suspiciously clean, evidence, said his 19th century cataloguers, of Newton’s having fallen in love with his own hand-writing.
3. Newton believed the earth was created in seven days.
True. Newton believed that the Earth was created in seven days, but he assumed that the duration of one revolution of the planet at the beginning of time was much slower than it is today.
2. Newton discovered universal gravitation after seeing an apple fall from a tree.
False, though Newton himself was partly responsible for this myth. Seeking to shore up his legacy at the end of his life, Newton told several people, including Voltaire and his friend William Stukeley, the story of how he had observed an apple falling from a tree while waiting out the plague in Woolsthorpe between 1665-7. (He never said it hit him on the head.) At that time Newton was struck by two key ideas—that apples fall straight to the center of the earth with no deviation and that the attractive power of the earth extends beyond the upper atmosphere. As important as they are, these insights were not sufficient to get Newton to universal gravitation. That final, stunning leap came some twenty years later, in 1685, after Edmund Halley asked Newton if he could calculate the forces responsible for an elliptical planetary orbit.
1. Newton was a virgin.
Almost certainly true. One bit of evidence comes via Voltaire, who heard it from Newton’s physician Richard Mead and wrote it up in his Letters on England, noting that unlike Descartes, Newton was ‘never sensible to any passion, was not subject to the common frailties of mankind, nor ever had any commerce with women.’ More substantively, there is Newton’s lifelong status as a self-proclaimed godly bachelor who berated his friend Locke for trying to ‘embroil’ him with women and who wrote passionately about how other godly men struggled to tame their lust.
Sarah Dry is a writer, independent scholar, and a former post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics. She is the author of The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts. She blogs at sarahdry.wordpress.com and tweets at @SarahDry1.
|Is Your Family's Faith Like a Fairy Tale?|
In an emotional vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama spoke about the tragedy that occurred in that community last week.
In his speech, the President quoted three passages from the Bible. Obama concluded with Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
You can read a transcript of Obama’s speech online or watch the video below. If you want to see the passages in context, we’ve linked to English Standard Version of the Bible for the individual quotes.
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