Steph Was Right (Well...Maybe)

A few days ago, I wrote a post that dealt with Christian contestants on reality game shows like Survivor. In that post, I asked if it was wrong--even if this was a "game" show--for Christians to use lying and deceit to win. I got some pretty good replies but Steph (all I know about her is that she lives across the pond somewhere) was on to something when she said that these reality shows tend to bring out the ugliest in people.

Last night on The Apprentice, this was entirely the case. The Brit, Piers Morgan, and the movie mob boss, Vincent Pastore, went head-to-head. It was sheer cutthroat. In the mix of it all was acclaimed evangelist Stephen Baldwin. Actually, in one scene Baldwin was shown asking Morgan if he'd accept Christ. Morgan replied by saying that he was a Roman Catholic who was educated by a group of nuns. Sadly, Baldwin (who did act quite pious at times but rather impious at other times!) and Morgan went after one another. Even more sadly, next week's episode shows these avowed Christians totally against one another. As far as we know, these are the only two Christians on the show and they can't even unite. Anyways, this is quite unfortunate!

It still raises questions for me, though, about what is gameplay and what is not. Clearly, in a game, you want to beat your competitors. Sometimes that involves trickery (no matter what game it is!!!) and strategy. This, I do not think is wrong. However, I must say, I do have scruples about these two Christians fighting the ways that they are; it is quite a shame.

My 6-Month Old Is A Literalist

I should qualify the title of this post by noting that I'm referring to "wooden-literalism". Anyways, when I saw her eating the scroll (her Bible), I couldn't help but think that she was taking the biblical writers a bit too literally. Perhaps I should create a bumper sticker that says something like: "Proud Parent Of A Literalist Daughter".

The end-result of wooden-literalism


Top 10 Up-And-Coming Hermeneutics

For the newcomer to the field of biblical studies, things can be confusing. Words like “exegesis”, “hermeneutics”, “homiletics”, etc. can even sound intimidating. By the same token, words like “biblical criticism” can sound offensive. (How dare someone criticize the Bible!) Yet, as one becomes more and more familiar with the field, they realize that criticism is not necessarily a “bad word”, instead, it just means to think about things critically. Once the new exegete gets past this hurdle, they realize that there are scores of “criticisms”. If those already in existence aren’t overwhelming enough, soon comes the realization that more and more are budding every day. So, because one of the aims of Pisteuomen is to help my readers stay up-to-date and in-tune with biblical studies, I thought I’d offer some insight and explanation into the 10 newest, up-and-coming forms of biblical criticism. Of course, since there are so many different people in the world with so many different problems, sensitivities and special interests, Bible scholars have learned that they must cater to each group, that they must pull them from the margins, give them a voice and set them free. It is no surprise, then, that these new criticisms pander to the “least”; those whom need spoken up for. Here is my synopsis (really just a cynical look at the ridiculousness of how people read the Bible):

1. Anime Criticism – A few years ago an acclaimed Christian songwriter felt the conviction of the Lord come over him. This led him to pen one of Christendom’s greatest hits: The Cartoon Song. Who could forget that line: “What if cartoons got saved?” Well, who has been more marginalized than cartoon characters? It is time we let them think outside of the box and speak up. Think of all the great commentaries and journals they might publish. Personally, I'd sing up for Disney Theological Quarterly in a heartbeat!

2. Impotencism – There is a growing number of males in the United States and across the world who have become lame—if you know what I mean. These men need some serious healing. They’ve lost their reason for living, they’ve lost their testosterone and they’ve lost their deep voices. It is time that we scholars take note of this and give them their voices back.

3. Siametics – One of the smallest groups in the world—and therefore, one of the most shunned—are Siamese Twins. It goes without saying that biblical scholars could really learn from these folks. Indeed, we could learn twice as much from them as most others. It is time they have their own hermeneutic—probably some nuanced form of a dual-covenant approach.

4. Diabeticism – Along with the rapid increase of diabetes, we have also seen a rapid increase of pushed-aside people. The bracelet-sporting people-group known as diabetics are not just a mass heart attack waiting to happen, no, they are more than that. Perhaps more than any others, these people need a special place among scholarship to go with their special parking tags. It is my contention that when we adopt the hermeneutic of diabeticism, we will get back to the “heart” of biblical studies.

5. Caninical – It is likely that some group like PETA could use their fame to get this biblical approach off the ground and front-and-center. Too many dogs today are abused and mistreated. While some canines live it up with the rich and famous, others are stuck wandering the streets and sleeping in plastic domes with leaky roofs. These dogs deserve better. If we let them, they can teach us a lot about ethics and perhaps a thing or two about digging into Scripture.

6. Recessive Criticism – When you see some low-fund commercial that has some balding guy complaining about hair loss does your temper flare as quickly as mine does? I thought so! It’s high noon and it’s time for hairless people everywhere to be heard (not seen, of course). This group of people, rejected and un-envied has some things to teach us—like humility and fear—and we’d do well to listen. Let’s give this group a “pass go and collect $200” card along with a special place in our field. Who’s up to be the frontrunner of this approach?

7. Obesicsm - It is official, America’s adults and children are now the most obese in the world. And we are not keeping quiet about it. Fat people have become stars on shows like Fat March and The Biggest Loser. We could afford to add some weightier arguments to the guild. So, what do you say, let’s pander to these people who have a hunger for biblical studies that’s big enough for the three of us.

8. Fuglicism – Do you know someone who isn’t beautiful? Have they been turned down, made fun of or have they even shocked a dermatologist? Well, now is the time for ugly people across the world to unite. Love the Bible? Hate yourself? Then this hermeneutic is for you beautiful.

9. Midgetism – Need I say more than this: Little people can make big contributions to the field? Let’s pander to and love on these little ones. After all, in Mk. 9 and 10, Jesus commands us to forbid not the little ones come unto Him. Heck, Jesus even picked them up. The least we could do is add them to the rank-and-file of biblical hermeneutics.

10. Testubism – Swirling amid the masses today are people born out of test tubes. These test tube babies had controversy surrounding their conceptions and well, they just had a rough way to go. It is time we give birth to a new hermeneutic that caters to them. Though this new criticism has the inklings of already coming into its own, it is still in its infant stages. How long will it be before we fully embrace and take hold of this new method? Give it a shot, it needs tried and tested.


God Looks, Thinks & Acts Just Like Me

(An off-rhythm, off-the-cuff poem)

If you traveled through time and
Through many places
If you were looking for Jesus
You’d see a man of many faces

If you asked an ancient Roman
They’d say He was a crook
If now you asked a little child
They’d say a character in their book

If you asked a group in Africa
They might say that Christ had dreads
If you went into a white Church
Well, they’d put blonde hair upon His head

If you asked someone who’s poor
They might tell you Christ was just like them
If you asked a well-to-do
They’d tell you: “He’s my best friend”

If you spoke to someone who’d been attacked
They might speak of Christ the judge
If you asked Mr. Middleclass
He might tell you Christ is love

If you spoke to Michelangelo
He’d paint a picture of bearded might
If you spoke with a conservative
They’d say Jesus is on the right

If you spoke with a Baptist
Then you’d know what Jesus was like
If you spoke with the Christian Church
Then Jesus was a Campbellite

If you spoke with an artist
Then they’d say that God’s “Creator”
If you talked with special interest groups
Then you’d learn that God is just a hater

If you spoke with an atheist
Then God would be nowhere
If you spoke with a contemplative
Then God would be now here

If you spoke with a believer
They’d say Jesus held their beliefs
If you proved that concept wrong
Still many would not concede

If we were to take just a moment
To travel on within
If we’d be honest with ourselves
Then, and only then,

We’d realize that we make God to be like us
That we create Him in our image and likeness
That we shape Him into the spiritual replica of our ideal selves
That we’ve concocted so many answers to “Who do you say I am?”
That we have fashioned for ourselves a God we can relate to, our very own God
That we’ve had the tendency throughout time and the world to do this
That we think, when compared to all others, we’ve got a corner on God
That, perhaps, we need to reconsider, just who God is

--TMW Halcomb (2008)


Is Genesis 1 Poetry?

The notion that Genesis 1 is poetry has been around for a while now. I must say, I'm not totally convinced that it is poetry but there may be a number of reasons to think that it is. Of course, this is much easier to discern in the Hebrew than in any other text; if it is poetry, English definitely does it injustice! Here are a few reasons to think it might be poetry (to listen to me pronounce these words/phrases, click on the button that follows them):

1. Alliteration - Gen. 1.1 begins with two "B" sounds: בראשית (sounds like: bey-ra-sheet) and ברא (sounds like: bah-rah).

2. Repetition - Gen. 1.1 repeats a number of sounds. For instance, it repeats the "ra" (and "b") sounds in the first two words (see above). Of course, the two definite-article markers sound exactly the same: את (sounds like: eight). Towards the end of 1.1 we find the conjunction ו (sounds like: vay), which shows up only a few spaces later at the beginning of verse 2. Then we have the last word of verse 1 which is the same as the first full word of verse 2: הארץ (sounds like: ha-er-ets). In verse two, there is also the repetition of to phrase צל-ףני (sounds like: al-pan-ay).

3. Rhyme - The third and fifth words rhyme: אלהים (sounds like: El-o-heem) and השמים (sounds like: ha-sha-my-eem). These two terms, coupled with both uses of את also create a nice sounding rhyme. Something very similar happens towards the end of verse 2, there we find אלהים (sounds like: El-o-heem) again and then, המים (sounds like: ha-meem). In verse two, we also have the nice rhyme of תהו (sounds like: toe-hu) and ובהו (sounds like: va-bo-hu). To listen to my reading of verses 1 and 2, cick the button.

I could offer more on this but I do not feel the need to do so. From a textual point-of-view, it seems that at the very least, it is possible that the first two verses could be poetic. Indeed, the verses have a number of poetic features. But here's the thing, if these verses are poetic, does that mean that they are empty-and-void (nice wordplay, I know) of historical meaning? To put it differently, does the fact that this is poetry (if it is) mean that it cannot be describing an actual historical event? I think not. I mean, we eulogize historical events via poetry and song all of the time. Think of the Star Spangled Banner. It is very mythic and poetic but it is based on a historical event.

The reason I bring this up is because many people play the "poetry" card on Gen. 1.1 to negate the fact that it is historically based. What I'm suggesting is that one cannot turn to the poetry argument to try to make this point. I find it quite humorous that Darwinists and Evolutionists often pull out the poetry card in an attempt to strengthen their case. In fact, if one wants to poke holes in that their argument, they need only cite some of Darwin's own work. Here's some poetry from Darwin, pertaining to the creation of the world found in his 1792 work, The Economy of Vegetation (HT: sah):

"When high in ether, with explosion directions
From the deep craters of his realms of life,
The Whirling Sun this ponderous planet hurl'd,
And gave the astonish'd void another world."

Here's yet another one of Erasmus Darwin's poems, this one was penned in a work of his titled The Botanic Garden:

"Organic Life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in Oceans pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And, breathing realms of fin, and feet and wing."

My point is that in every case where poetry crops up in the Bible, one cannot appeal to the argument that there is no historical basis behind it. This is a patently flawed argument. Indeed, there exists poetry in the Bible with no historical basis behind it at all (especially in the Psalms) but there is also poetry rooted in history. If Genesis 1.1 and following is poetic, then it seems we have to take the latter route. So, it is time to quit trying to play the poetry card to discredit the history that lies behind the opening verses of Genesis. And really, Darwin could have told us that!


Is It A Sin To Cheat?

In a week or so, the new "Survivor" series will begin. Usually, they have at least one person on the show that claims to be a Christian. In fact, this is not something unique to survivor, many reality (game) shows seek a Christian contestant to throw in the mix. But this raises an interesting question for me: On a reality game show, like Survivor, is it okay for Christians to use lying and deceit as tools that might help them win the game?


The Fourfold Hermeneutic

As I was reading last night, I came across a "verse" from the 16th century (attributed to Augustine of dacia). It summarizes the fourfold hermeneutic that was employed in those days, here's what it says:

"The letter shows what God and our fathers did;
The allegory shows us where our faith is hid;
The moral meaning gives us rules of daily life;
The anagogy shows us where we end our strife."

Of course, "letter" refers to the literal-historical meaning, allegorical and moral speak for themselves and "anagogical" represents the heavenly or non-earthly meaning. Interesting stuff!

Mark & Method

Thanks to the great folks over at Augsburg Fortress Press for sending me the fresh-off-the-press copy of Mark & Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies. This looks like a great book. Here are the essays in it:

* Introduction: The Lives of Mark
* Narrative Criticism: How Does the Story Mean?
* Reader Response Criticism: Figuring Mark's Reader
* Deconstructive Criticism: Turning Mark Inside-Out
* Feminist Criticism: The Dancing Daughter
* Social Criticism: Crossing Boundaries
* Cultural Studies: Making Mark
* Post-Colonial Criticism: Echoes of a Subaltern's Contribution and Exclusion

As always, I'll get to the review when I can. Thanks again, folks.


Hilarious!!! Fridays are for Fun

A friend passed these short videos on to me and since they are hilarious, I thought I'd do the same. Enjoy!

The Dancing Weather Girl - Watch more free videos


Praying Over The Phone

In lieu of my new "praying hands" background, I thought I'd write a short post that I've been thinking a bit about lately:

Is it just me or does anyone else out there think that praying over the phone with someone is odd? I mean, I have no real problem with it; I've prayed over the phone with people more times than I can recall (somewhere in the hundreds probably). Yet, even after all those times of praying over the phone, I still find it odd when someone says to me: "So, let's pray together before we hang up." I had this happen to me three times last week. Again, I have no problem with it, in fact, it is probably a good thing. I just don't know why I'm still kind of wierded-out by it. Surely, I'm not the only one though, right?


Pisteuomen: New Look, New Feel

I've been trying, since I've started Pisteuomen to make the site as easy to navigate as possible. I think I've finally found the format I'm going to stick with. It took a bit of work to set the site up this way but I think it's much more user-friendly and clean-cut. I hope you like it too!

Major Construction

At present, Pisteuomen is under major construction. Please disregard the mess, everything should be nice and tidy tomorrow. Also, for those of you who have page readers, you may get a funky post or two (but probably not).

Top 10 Albums of My Lifetime

Here are "MY" top 10 favorite albums of "MY" lifetime (I'm not attempting to speak for everyone). Of course, these are records I grew up on or listened to through high-school and college. I judged them by 1 criterion: I could put them in my stereo and listen to them over and over without ever getting sick of them, that is, I could leave them in the cd player for months on end and never wear them out. I listed them in order:

1. Goo Goo Dolls: Dizzy Up The Girl
2. Dashboard Confessional: MTV Unplugged 2.0
3. Jimmy Eat World: Bleed American
4. Matt Wertz: Somedays
5. John Mellencamp: The Best That I Could Do
6. Third Eye Blind: Success
7. Everclear: So Much For The Afterglow
8. Bob Seger: Greatest Hits
9. Chris Tomlin: Not To Us
10. The Get Up Kids: Four-Minute Mile

11. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony: E 1999 Eternal

Mark & Maximalist Historians: Studies in Mark, Pt. 42

With a little help from C. Clifton Black and some bible dictionaries, I offer here the maximalist’s approach to Mark’s Gospel (not because I agree with all of it!). Of course, there are a number of nuances when it comes to this view but what follows is, in general, the usual approach. It should also be said that there are minimalist methods that shoot down all of what follows (a method, which also has it’s own nuanced viewpoints) but ultimately, one must decide which is approach is the best or they must strive to see if there is yet another way to think about Mark’s work (which, isn’t out of the question)!

I want to start by listing all of the New Testament verses that talk about or mention the fellow named “John”, “Mark” or “John Mark”. Usually, maximalists approach texts this way in order to try to reconstruct Mark’s identity and his role within the early Jesus Movement. Here are the verse references, in a specific order, which will help construct the profile that follows: Acts 12.12, Mk. 14, Acts 12.1-17, Gal. 1.18-24 and 2.1-10, Acts 15.1-11, Acts 12.17 and 9.27, Col 4.10, Acts 11.27-30 and 12.25, Mk. 1.16, Mk. 4.36-8, Mk. 9.6 and 14.72, Mk. 1.21, Mk. 3.2 and 30, Mk. 4.33-4, Mk. 10.32 and 1.29, Mk. 1.36, Mk. 8.29 and 32, Mk. 9.5 and 10.28, Mk. 14.29 and 54-72, Mk. 16.7, Acts 4.36 and 13.1-13, Acts 13.14 and 15.1-38, Acts 15.39-14 and 16.1-5, Col. 4.10, Phm. 24, 2 Tim. 4.11, 1 Pet.5.13 and Mk. 16.8.

If you get out a Bible, read these verses in order (even in a chronological sense) and accept that they are all referring to “the” John Mark, here’s the picture you get:

Mark was the child of a Jerusalemite woman whose name was Mary, a widow who had a large estate and lots of money. In fact, it was her home that was the designated site of The Upper Room. It was here, too, that Mark first saw Jesus and His followers—it was also here that Mark saw (or heard) Judas betray Jesus. Late in the night, after the meal, Mark wrapped a sheet around himself and followed Jesus and company to the Garden of Gethsemane; he saw everything go down. After some time had passed, Mark and Peter came to know one another well—especially as Peter fled to the Jerusalem home after escaping prison. At this point, Mark—an Aramaic speaking Jew—began memorizing the stories of Jesus by heart. After Peter had left Jerusalem, Mark became acquainted with Paul, through his cousin Barnabas, and traveled around doing ministry with them. Upon their visit to Antioch, Mark recounted some of the stories about Jesus and the missionary trips and translated them into Greek. This is why Mark’s Greek works often seem clumsy and grammatically awkward (e.g. the Petrine Letters, too). Nevertheless, he could recount some of his, Paul’s and Peter’s adventures in multiple languages. Mark’s main task in his travels with Paul was to be secretary. However, upon their arrival in Pamphylia, Mark left Paul and friends and went back to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas continued on. Later, Mark met back up with them in Antioch, after the Jerusalem conference. Mark decided to join them again for another missionary tour but once again, he left them, this time angrily. On this occasion, Barnabas went with him. So, Paul picked up Silas and Timothy; Timothy took Mark’s tasks upon himself. After a number of years had passed, Mark made his way to Rome where Paul was on house arrest. (Enter the accounts of the Church Fathers) Luke had written a Gentile-oriented Gospel and Paul wanted Peter to make sure it was reliable. So, Peter came to Rome and with the Matthean Gospel in one hand and the Lukan version in the other, gave lectures. His lectures were comparisons of the two; making sure they weren’t erroneous or misleading. Some Romans in the crowd asked Mark to take notes and to develop an account of Peter’s lectures. Selectively, Mark did that and that is how the Gospel bearing his name came into being. His account may end at 16.8 because it was at this point that the guards burst into the place, swords flying, knives stabbing, and killed all the Christians there; hence, the abruptness. Again, I'm not saying I agree with every detail of this but if one were to simply take these texts at face value, this is what you get!


If I Hade To Vote Today...

If I had to vote today, I would vote for Ron Paul! Here's why:

* He says that he'll lower taxes for working Americans
* He's against the Iraq war
* He's 100% pro-life
* He has a good health care reform plan
* He has a commitment to homeschooling
* He has a commitment to public education
* He's an advocate of environmentalism
* He has a great position on prejudices
* He's bold
* He has a good energy plan
* He's not an annoying Christian, though he is a Christian

What I'm not sure about or where I tend to disagree:

* His stance on border security (He seems more stringent than I am)
* His stance on persons rights to bear arms
* His stance against free trade

Of all of the candidates, his views align with mine more than anyone elses. So, if I had to vote today and he were on the ballot, I think I'd vote for him.

Innerancy or Inherency? Reorienting the Issue

In the last few hundred years there has been a lot of talk among Christians about "inerrancy". In the last few months, this has been particularly true of Christian bloggers. Often, we see polarized views: A) The Bible is inerrant or B) The Bible is errant. Others attempt to take a position somewhere in between these two poles. Some want to hold on to what seems like traditional language; they want to keep the term "inerrant" but they may redefine it or add a nuance here and there.

I wonder, though, if the debate about inerrancy is actually more of a debate about inherency? To put it differently, when persons affirm one position or another, is it because theologically, they have inherent beliefs about who God is (or isn't) and what the Bible is, isn't or cannot be? It seems to me that this is always the case. There always seem to be inherent concepts of both what God and this book that contains a narrative of how God interacted with certain ancient peoples must, must not or can and cannot be.

Inherent in the idea that the Bible is inerrant is the theological supposition that God is trustworhty. But also inherent is the notion that somehow, God was involved in the composition of this book that is made up of many books. It is at this intersection that we can raise questions: 1) What does it mean for God to be trustworthy and 2) does that have anything to do with the book(s) that make up the biblical canon? I will not attempt to give an answer here, instead my goal is to simply illustrate that the notion of inerrancy might be based on questions of inherency. The same is true for those who hold that the Bible is errant. Questions arising here might be: 1) Can humans do anything that calls God's trustworthiness into question, and 2) If not, how then, can a humanly composed book put God (and God's trustworthiness) on trial?

As for the questions I've raised above, I may be off a bit on those. Just as well, there may be other questions that are more "inherent" than the ones I've selected. If so, that's fine. My aim here was not to define or defend inerrancy but rather to attempt to move beyond (or perhaps behind) the issue and ask deeper questions about inherency. It seems clear to me that inherency is an issue worth talking more about because without a doubt, whatever position one takes on issues pertaining to inerrancy, there are always inherent presuppositions and assumptions. Perhaps, then, that is where our conversations should begin (and end)!


King Would Be Against King Day

I am a fan of Martin Luther King, Jr. I've read three of his biographies, listened to, read and watched a number his sermons and I've even taken a grad. school course on him. Now, I am no expert on the man but I do have to say, I think he'd be against MLK Day. Afterall, it was King himself who said he didn't want an elaborate funeral or an ornate memorial. I have to wonder if King, who fought so hard for vocational and educational eqauality, would love the fact that on his "day" everyone stops working and learning? I agree with Vernon Harding that, at this point, King's "day" proves nothing more than the fact that America has amnesia. Indeed, on this day we hear sound-bytes and clips, segments of speeches and interviews. We only see and hear the tamed down, memorable stuff. This man's life is reduced to a few good quotes from lectures. We don't see clips of white's torturing and murdering blacks and we don't see footage of the KKK burning crosses and throwing bombs. No, we domesticate all that the Civil Rights Movement and King stood for, into one day that gives some people time off of work and some kids time off of school. Honestly, it is sickening.

Perhaps some poetry will capture what I'm trying to say best. I offer to you, the words of C. W. Himes, Jr.:

Now that he is safely dead,
let us praise him,
build monuments to his glory,
sing hosannahs to his name.
Dead men make
such convenient heroes; They
cannot rise
to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives
And besides,
it's easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.
So, now that he is safely dead,
we, with eased consciences
will teach our children
that he was a great man......knowing
that the cause for which he lived
is still a cause
and the dream for which he died
is still a dream,
a dead man's dream.

"Praying With My Legs" : Abraham Heschel

Last night, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly did an excellent piece on the life of Abraham J. Heschel. Heschel was a Jewish theologian, a social activist and a mystic among other things. If you've never read his stuff, you really should. Heschel spoke out loudly against the Vietnam War and he walked boldly and proudly on the front lines of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s marches. In fact, it was during these marches that he said: "I felt like I was praying with my legs." So, on MLK Day, I speak not so much about King himself (many others have already done that in the blogosphere and rightly so) but rather of one of the lives he touched: Abraham J. Heschel. To learn and see more, check out the following link: Life of Heschel.


Tilling Looks More Like satan than Bultmann

It's pretty frequent that my friend Mr. Tilling gives Bultmann a good slap in the face. So, when I found this "look-alike meter", I decided I'd settle the issue once and for all. I asked the look-alike meter: Meter, who looks more like satan (that is, Mel Gibson's satan)? Well, I'm not a Bultmannee, so, I didn't rig the results; nope, the meter spoke for itself. However, I'm not sure that Tilling will take these results as the last word.

Halcomb Look-alike Meter

Everyone keeps telling me that the baby looks more like me. The meter disagrees!

Der Markus-Evangelium

This morning I received my copy of Thomas Söding’s Der Markus-Evangelium (Exeges Und Predigt series) in the mail—shipped directly from Belgium. It is my first German commentary on Mark to work through. Because my German is not impeccable, I decided that I’d start off with something a bit more practical and easier to read than some of the other, more in-depth German works. I think that, just for my sake, I’m going to start a short series of some sort on this book. Perhaps it will just be quotes from the book with definitions to follow or grammar tips, etc. We’ll see. I’m excited, though, to finally have a Kommentar to be able to read alongside my German copy of Die Bibel.

Tupac & A 75-Year Old White Man

A couple of days ago I was having a conversation with a fellow, a not decided on Christianity type of guy, who said something that gave me a little grin and a stomach ache at the same time. I asked him: "Who do you think is going to win the election?" He replied: "Hopefully not him (he called him Obaka, purposefully saying his name wrong--as a slander)." He spoke again and this time his words were exactly (I mean exactly) the same as something Tupac said in a song about 10 or 15 years ago, he replied: "We ain't ready to see a black president." I grinned a bit because I knew this guy had never listed to Pac and it was odd that they said the same exact words. But the grin quickly wore off as my stomach turned to a pit--this guy was harboring prejudices that were totally uncalled for.


Jesus Keeps the Money Comin'

I'm not going to say much about it because the interview speaks for itself but you have got to see Nightline's sit-down session with Creflo Dollar. Personally, I think Dollar is full of it. When I first became a Christian, I went to one of his conferences in Cincinnati, OH. For the first full hour, people were dancing, falling down, speaking in tongues, etc. Then he came out and talked about nothing but money. When he gave the call for offering, I kid you not, gallon buckets were filled and the blue-carpeted altar was no longer visible as it was covered with green dollar bills. I heard him talk about his jets and his cars and that's when I left. Ridiculous I tell you, ridiculous. Here's the Nigthline link, please watch it: Dollar On Nightline.

Also, while you're at it, check out this video (titled "Money Comin'") that Dollar made with some young rappers from his congregation, the group is named Ziklag. How about that line where the rappers say: "I'll never be poor another day of my life, I'll never be sick another day of my life."


Presidential Candidates & Religion

I was surprised today when I realized that every Presidential nominee is somehow, affiliated with the Church. While many would debate that Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon, is a Christian or not, I do not wish to deal with here. Anyways, if you haven't yet taken the time to see where the candidates align religiously, here's the analysis (for a more in-depth look, go here):

Huckabee (R): Southern Baptist
Obama (D): United Church of Christ
Romney (R): Mormon
Clinton (D): United Methodist
McCain (R): Baptist
Edwards (D): United Methodist
Thompson (R): Church of Christ
Richardson (D): Roman Catholic
Giuliani (R): Roman Catholic
Hunter (R): Southern Baptist
Paul (R): Baptist


Creflo Dollar In The Hot Seat

Creflo Dollar will be on Nightline Jan. 17th. He will be answering questions about the IRS inquiries into preachers of the Word of Faith/Prosperity movement. On the teaser, Dollar was shown saying, "Everybody says Jesus was poor...Why do we think that the Son of God would come to this earth and be poor?" I may blog on this tomorrow night after the segment, we'll see. Give Nightline a watch, though.

See Antiquity @ Eikon

Want to see the ancient world? Well, in addition to my "Images of Antiquity" series, you can visit Yale's "Eikon" page. This site contains thousands of pictures of the ancient world and is by far, the best photographic site of the ancient land that I've seen yet and it is incredibly easy to search. Check it out by clicking the following link: Eikon


Free (Aramaic) Bible Study Resource

The time has come to add another free bible study resource that I have created to my site. The resource is called "Aramaic AlapBeth 1.0". This is an incredibly easy-to-use module that allows you to learn the Aramaic alphabet through repetition and interaction. The module can act like a flashcard program, it is written in Aramaic script, it contains audio of the complete Aramaic alphabet, it has English transliterations and at various points, offers a number of helpful tips. The resource is tellware, which means that it is completely free of cost. However, if you download it, all I ask is that you tell at least two other people about it. You can find a couple of links to the study tool at the bottom of this post. Also, a permanent link/banner has been added to the right hand column of this site, which will remain there. Please, if you download this resource, let me know what you think. Enjoy!!!

Alt. Link (.exe file)

Gay Love In Mark's Gospel? : Studies in Mark, Pt. 41

To the general populace or perhaps the common layperson, "Secret Mark" may not ring a bell. To serious Markan scholars, however, we know this title all too well. I do not have time to give an in-depth assessment of "Secret Mark" here, although I may sometime in the future. That said, here's a short, one paragraph, introduction to the subject (taken from the back cover of Morton Smith's work):

"In 1958, Morton Smith traveled to Jerusalem to do research in the monastery library of Mar Saba, in the Judean desert. What he found was no routine corroboration of New Testament history, but a precious fragment of a second-century document that would change our understanding of the work and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth."

Smith's theory suggests that after the completion of his first Gospel, Mark went to Alexandria and composed another, adding stories to it. It was in this place that Clement of Alexandria in his day became familiar with this "secret" work. In fact, Smith contended that Clement, in a work unknown before his finding of "Secret Mark", actually mentioned the book. Smith also argues that the author of the Gospel of John based his work on "Secret Mark" (see ch. 7). Really, this is one of his main and most radical contentions.

One of the things Smith says in his book concerns the raising of Lazarus and it's relationship to the secret gospel's account of a similar story (pp. 47-8; see also Mk. 14, the story where the young man's linen cloth comes off, a link Smith himself makes as he believes this is the same young man shedding his clothes for Jesus). Here's what the secret gospel says:

"And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, He stretched His hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon Him, loved Him and began to beseech Him that he might be with Him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. [The nocturnal initiation] And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan."

Notice a few things here: 1) Jesus goes into the tomb to get Lazarus, reportedly the same young boy whose linen cloth came off in Mk. 14., 2) The young boy beseeches Jesus that he might be with Him--that is, sexually, 3) So, they went to the boy's house, 4) Jesus had sexual relations with the boy a.k.a. nocturnal initiation, and 5) the next morning Jesus left and returned to the Jordan.

Wow! So, secret Mk. tells us of Jesus raising a young boy from the grave so that He can go have a one night stand with him. Well, other than persons like Elaine Pagels who have highly commended Smith's findings, a fellow by the name of Will Roscoe has seized upon this too. Roscoe has written a book titled: Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same-Sex Love. (Some people just love conspiracy theories and will do anything for a buck!) Here's some of what Roscoe has said:

"Jesus was not a 'homosexual baptizer'...his own sexuality remains a mystery--but he was someone for whom love between men could embody some of the highest ideals of humanity. Like Plato before him, 'Jesus considered the love of comrades qualitatively different from that of other relationships...For Jesus, the love of friends is the 'greater love' because it is voluntary. Nothing demands or requires that friends love each other; they can love without conditions...As shocking as it may seen to today's conservative Christians, Christian ideals of love are rooted in a philosophical tradition inspired by homosexual desire. According to the Gospel of Mark (14:51-52), when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem 'a certain young man was following him, having thrown a linen cloth around his naked body. And the young men caught him. But he, leaving behind the linen cloth, fled from them naked. Though the canonical Gospel of Mark says nothing more about this wayward youth, in a 'Secret Gospel of Mark' which, though no longer available was quoted extensively by Bishop Clement of Alexandria (150-215 ce). Though the Bishop's letter 'conveniently' vanished after it was re-discovered in the monastery of Mar Saba, scholar Morton Smith (who found the letter) quoted it for posterity. It speaks of a young man, whom Jesus raised from the dead, who 'loved him [Jesus] and began to implore that he might be with him...When evening arrived, the young man came to him, having wrapped a linen cloth around his naked body, and he remained with him that night. Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God.' That this can have sexual connotations there is no doubt, for Bishop Clement goes out of this way to point out that this 'mystery' did not involve 'naked man with naked man.'"

For me, it is not important to attempt to discredit that Smith's discovery was an actual discovery. Nor is it important for me to attempt to prove that the earlier accounts of Mark's work are more valid (again, earlier does not always = better). What is important to me is that in the tradition of the Church, canonical Mk. is what we have. Just as well, in the tradition of the Church Jesus and His followers are never portrayed as partaking in homosexual acts but rather, speaking out against them. In fact, Mk. 10 may well be an instance of this. For me, Smith's find is an interesting but not convincing one. We have what the Church canonized and that's what I'm sticking to. It is not a matter of covering my eyes or closing my ears, instead, it is a matter of trusting my forebearers and acknowledging the fact that what Smith found, doesn't line up with the canonical Gospel's presentation of Jesus in His life and cultural milieu.



A few of questions: 1) Has anyone out there had experience with the adoption process, and if so, would you be willing to offer some tips? and 2) Does anyone out there gone through a Christian adoption agency and if so, would you reccomend them? 3) Has anyone out there indirectly gone through the adoption process (as in, you had a relative do it or something like that) and you know of an organization (Christian or not) that you would reccomend? My wife and I are looking into adoption and the whole process that comes with it and we want to be prepared. Any insights and leads would be great. Thanks.

"Christians Get On My Nerves"

USA Today Columnist Brent Jones wrote an interesting piece last week titled "Non-attendees Find Faith Outside Church". His article is basically the interpretation of a recent survey given to 1,042 un-Churched people. Here are some of his findings:

* %72 of un-Churched Americans believe in a higher power
* %72 also say they believe Churchgoers (aka Christians) are hypocrites
* %61 say the believe the God of the Bibe is no different than other gods
* %79 said Christianity is more about organized Church than loving God and people
* %100 agreed that to some degree, Churchgoers get on their nerves

Check out the stats here (it's a quick read!): USA Today On The Un-Churched.

HT:Scott Bailey

Pisteuomen Turns 10,000

Well, today marks the day on which I have been blogging for 7-months. I started on June 14th, 2007. Today also marks the day that Pisteuomen passed the 10,000 hits mark. I am amazed at the number of people all over the world I've met, interacted with and talked to because of my blog. If you're reading this then thank you very much for helping Pisteuomen be a success. I only hope that in the future it will do even better.


Original Autographs Are Unnecesarry

It used to be my belief that (and I know many persons who still hold to this view), as far as inerrancy goes, the original autographs of biblical documents were inerrant. The argument kind of runs along these lines: At present, all we have are copies of copies of copies and all of the M/mss are not in agreement. Thus, our present versions of the Bible, especially those translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to another language, are not perfect. What is/was perfect, however, were the original autographs.

Personally, I am no longer an advocate of this position and I am not convinced that it is even an argument worth having. It makes no difference whether or not the first manuscript was errant. Of course, I am referring to things like incorrectly spelled words, left out words, extra words, etc. It seems more likely to me that documents like the Gospels were composed over time, not in one sitting. In short, the production of the Gospels happened in a process. The authors were at liberty to add, take away, etc. They could have written the original, taken something out, replaced or added something to it or scribbled a note in the margins. Who knows? Who cares?

There is an assumption underlying the mentality of "getting as close to the original autographs as possible" that I think is fundamentally flawed too. It is not always true, even from a text-critical standpoint, that earlier = better. In fact, it is very often the case (in very many things) that later = better. It is quite possible and plausible that the earliest manuscript was a rough draft. Maybe the author(s) went back later and read it and decided more needed to be said, or less. Maybe the first and earliest manuscript was written on a piece of papyrus that was too short or maybe they didn't have enough ink or even money to buy more materials. In other words, there are many reasons to shed the idea that earilest = best. If the texts were composed in a process, then, it is not the earliest that's most important at all but perhaps a late, finished manuscript--or even a copy created in the middle of the process that was best.

All I am attempting to argue here is that earliest does not always = best, most reliable, most informative, most accurate, most easy to read, best spelling or best grammar, etc. That is why I don't hold tightly to the view that I used to, that, if we could just find the originals, we'd be so much better off than we are now. Indeed, finding mss is great but whether or not we find an original well, that does not make the Bible any more inerrant or inspired than it already is (however one defines and uses the terms--or doesn't--inerrant and inspired).


Test Your Knowledge Of Mark's Gospel

If you click on the icon below, a popout screen will appear which will take you to a larger version of a crossword puzzle. The puzzle deals with the first eight chapters of Mark's Gospel account. I don't know if it will return any response but if there are some of you out there who want to make it a challenge, time yourself and leave your results in the comment section. At the end of the week, if anyone has done this, just for kicks, I'll announce the winner. Enjoy.

*Note: The clue "synagogue officials" should not be plural but singular, as "synagogue official".

Harland On Mark

Phil Harland, who runs the site Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean has written a couple of posts on Mark lately. The first one "Who is this guy?" deals with the genre and authorship of Mark. Yet, the main thrust of the post focuses on Jesus' identity per Mark. The second post compares Mark's Gospel to the Bourne film series. Harland discusses "suspense" in Mark's account. Of course, I am interested in all things Mark, so, I found these posts worth passing on (though I might not agree with every last thing in them). Anyways, check them out when you get a chance. And if you know of any others out there who are blogging on Mark's Gospel, please, let me know. Thanks.


Added to the Blogroll

Several posts back I mentioned my friend Daren's endeavor to walk across the world, a walk which will raise funds and awareness for the Blood:Water Mission. I've decided to add his blog to my list. He will be leaving in less than two months and will keep the world informed of his travels, experiences and whereabouts via his blog. I would encourage you to add his blog to your list as well. Here's the link: Earth Expedition Blog.

Modern Day Diatesseron

I accidentally found this link yesterday which takes you to a modern day attempt at the formation of a Diatessaron. Of course, there are some obvious issues with it but it is nicely laid out. Take a minute or two and give it a look--and try not to squirm too much! Here's the link: Chronology of the Life of Jesus.


Pastor To Prisoner

My wife loves her job; she is a nurse who works with cancer patients. Given the location of the hospital at which she is employed (near a regional prison facility), her job entails treating many inmates with various health issues. She usually isn’t bothered by this but she was telling me this morning that recently, while changing the bed in one of the prisoner’s rooms, out of nowhere the two officers in there guarding the man, at one moment, just jumped quickly out of their seats—though, probably just for precautionary measures. This kind of freaked her out. (She says that security is poor. The majority of the time the convicts are left un-cuffed and at night, the officers fall asleep.) She wanted to know what this guy was in for and if it might be in her best interest to be aware of his crimes and tendencies. So, this sent her looking for information on the Internet about the convict, unfortunately, the details concerning his detainment were not listed.

Well, after searching for information on this patient-convict, I searched for the name of a minister I used to be friends with. Some time ago, he got locked up and convicted of sexual abuse. He’s serving 6-years. Unlike the search for the other guy, the search for the person I knew turned up a lot of results. In fact, there was even a picture of him provided. It was the traditional mugshot with him holding up his #SPN under his chin.

When I saw this, my heart just sank; I instantly grew depressed. His head was shaved, his face was unshaven—he looked bad. There was a huge scar/bruise on the side of his face and head, which was not there before, so, something bad must have happened while he has been behind bars. This guy who used to be so happy, outgoing and full of joy was just dejected. He was spiritless. He was empty and I could tell he was aching. Man, talk about putting a downer on my day. Even as I type this, I feel so out of it—I am upset. From an outsider’s point-of-view, the mindset is: "Don’t feel sorry for him, he got what he deserved.” Actually, from a legal standpoint, he probably should have gotten worse. But from an insider’s viewpoint, it is still hard to see someone you know—especially someone whose ministerial influence was as tremendous as his—in such a cracked out situation.

All I can do is ache for this guy and pray that God would bring him a sense of redemption. The family should be prayed for too. But right now, I’m in one of those moods where I just don’t feel like praying. Maybe I will later.

Images of Antiquity: Amphipolis, Berea and Matera, Pt. 10

Exactly one year ago today, I set out for a study trip to Turkey and Greece. At present, I am finishing up a video commentary of that trip (I've been sifting through about 8 hours of very raw footage) which I will post soon. For now, though, I am just going to share a few more pictures for my Images of Antiquity series.

In the first photo of the slideshow, we see a statue of the famed Amphipolis lion. There isn't much significance to this photo other than the fact that it marks the ancient territory of Amphipolis ("around the city"). Of course, Amphipolis is one the cities that Paul traveled through after leaving Philippi. It is mentioned in brief at Acts 17.1. Amphipolis was a fortified city located about 3 miles from the Aegean, a body of water which Paul was no stranger to.

The second photo is a picture I took while walking through the Jewish Quarter in Berea (pronounced with a "V" as in: very-uh). The building seen here is the present-day synagogue located there. Many locals and many scholars think that the ancient synagogue where Paul preached has been built on top of. Thus, it is suspected that where this synagogue now stands, Paul preached many years ago. This supposition is quite likely!

The third picture is of one of the mosaics dedicated to Paul, which stands in the middle of the modern city. This particular mosaic (which is covered up by some of the video controls) depicts Paul's Damascus Road encounter. Berea is mentioned at four junctures in Acts: 17.10, 13, 14 and 20.4. Like everywhere else Paul went, he faced opposition (because of his preaching and teaching) in Berea. However, Paul also had his allies. Luke tells us that Paul had a ministerial associate named Sopater from this town.

The fourth photo is of the mountain range in Matera (or Meteora). I've written a bit more in-depth about Matera and also included more pictures--you may like the "shelves of skulls" photo!--of the site here. Matera has nothing to do with Paul but instead, it's claim to fame is it's odd looking mountains and the fact that monks and nuns have long inhabited them. Again, read my previous post on this site for more information.

Feel free to copy and use the pictures at leisure as long as you do not manipulate or change them and as long as you give credit where credit is due.


Turkey Bids Again

After a number of tries to become part of the EU, Turkey is putting in their bid again. Today, President Bush actually pushed for Turkey's inclusion. Honestly, having been to Turkey, having read it's political history and having talked to Turkish folk, I think it is about time that they be included. While it may add a more secular tint to the country--which, in fact, may prove better for Christians living there, often amongst persecution, which many Turks don't want to acknowledge still exists--being part of the EU will be a good thing!!! Inclusion in the EU may also bring some calm to what is or at least is often made to seem like extremism on behalf of Turkey's Muslim leaders. Without a doubt, it will bring some more hope and structure to the country's financial situation. Anyways, we'll see what happens and despite the fact that my opinion means nothing to anyone, I think it's about time that they be "let in".

Timelines After The Transfiguration: Studies in Mark, Pt. 40

From a textual (and contextual) standpoint, Mark’s account of the transfiguration is one of the most enigmatic in his Gospel account. In the main, Mk. 9.10-3 is the source of all of the confusion. After having just seen Jesus transfigured, the arrival and disappearance of Elijah and Moses and after being told to keep quiet about it all until the Son of Man is raised from the dead, a conversation between Jesus and the three (Peter, James and John) ensues. Here are the verses as rendered in the NIV:

They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

As you can see, this is quite a confusing passage. Here are a few questions that I asked of these verses, some of which other scholars have asked too: 1) How do the disciples connect “rising from the dead” with the coming of Elijah? 2) What do the “teachers of the law” mean when they say that Elijah must come first? 3) What does Jesus mean when He says that Elijah comes first and restores all things”? 4) How does Jesus connect suffering and rejection to Elijah’s return? 5) Where is it written that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected? 6) Since Mark relies, in-part, on Matthew’s work, should Matthew’s explanation that John the Baptizer has come in the place and tradition of Elijah to be carried over? 7) What do we make of the three statements in Mk. 9.13: a) Elijah has come, b) they have done everything to him they pleased, and c) as it is written about Him?

That is a lot of questions, I know (still, even more could be asked). But then again, this is a tricky passage. My thinking is that by asking pointed questions, we might arrive at a more clear understanding of what is written. So, I’m just going to go through the above questions, one at a time and try to make sense of what is said.

(1) So, how do the disciples connect “rising from the dead” with the coming of Elijah? The answer to this question is rather simple. The disciples had always been taught that prior to the “general resurrection of all Israel”, Elijah would come, preach a message of repentance and restore the hearts of wayward Jews to God (Malachi 4.4-6; notice the connection with Moses, here, too). Thus, when they heard Jesus talking about “resurrection”, the general resurrection came to their minds. Also, they had just seen Elijah and so, the saying in Malachi probably entered their minds too. Therefore, we might understand their thinking as follows: “Jesus, you are talking about the resurrection. We know that Elijah is supposed to come and turn the people to God before the resurrection. However, Elijah just came and He did not do that. So, is Elijah coming again, in addition the trip he just made here? Or, do you misunderstand the resurrection?” And as I have shown in a previous post, in this section of Mark’s Gospel we find that Peter really believes that Jesus has misunderstood “the” resurrection; that’s why he rebukes Him for it. We might see him doing the same thing here. His question is less about Elijah’s return than it is a rebuke of Jesus’ misunderstanding of the resurrection. Peter is trying to make a point.

(2) What do the teachers of the law mean when they say that Elijah must come first? Well, as I’ve alluded to, this was what Peter and company had been taught their whole lives: Elijah comes to restore before the resurrection. I think we should take Peter’s question here, though, as more of a point than a question. He is challenging Jesus. He wants Jesus to defend Himself and His new interpretation against the traditional teaching. Again, Peter thinks Jesus has got it wrong. By raising this issue, Peter is showing Jesus where He is off base.

(3) What does Jesus mean when He says that Elijah comes first and restores all things”? Here’s where things start getting foggy. And here’s where you also have to compare (or contrast) this question with the previous one. In placing these two questions side-by-side, we come to realize that Peter is on to Jesus. Peter realizes that what Jesus is saying definitely does go against what He has always been taught. In short, Peter realizes that Jesus has a different teaching than the traditional one given by his teachers. (This makes me wonder if the arguing “συζητεω” of the disciples—the NIV tames it down to discussing—is actually an argument between the disciples on whether or not Jesus is saying something different than the teachers of the law. I think this it is.)

So, up to this point, what we have found is that Peter is on to Jesus. He realizes that Jesus has a new teaching on the resurrection. Therefore, on coming down from the mountain here, we see Him challenge Jesus’ statements on the resurrection once more (again, he didn’t rebuke Jesus at Caesarea Philippi for saying that the Messiah would suffer—as every single commentator in the history of Mark seems to ‘presuppose’—but rather because Jesus was referring to a one-man resurrection; Peter believed that Jesus totally misunderstood the resurrection).

(4) How does Jesus connect suffering and rejection to Elijah’s return? Well, Jesus’ new interpretation of Elijah-before-the-resurrection, totally places emphasis on Himself. Essentially, Jesus is trying to say to the disciples: “You and the teachers are right that the Elijah passage exists. But where you go wrong is in how you understand that passage.” Thus, Jesus says, “Don’t take the passage so literally. The way you should understand Malachi 4.5-6 is typologically. Now, I know you just saw Elijah and at that time you did not see him preach repentance and try to turn people back to God. Well, that’s because that’s not his job. Malachi 4.4-6 is speaking of one who comes in the tradition or stead of Elijah; one who has Elijain traits and characteristics. Of course, that person is our dear fried John the Baptizer. John has come in the tradition of Elijah and he has preached a message of repentance. You ask, 'So what does this have to do with the Son of Man suffering and being rejected?' Well, if John is the “one like Elijah” then I am the Son of Man who must suffer. And if Elijah has already come to restore, then that means the time has come for Me to do My thing. The problem is, Peter, James and John, that you have developed timelines of The Day of the Lord and they are wrong. Quit relying on them and listen to Me—God the Father makes this suggestion to listen too.”

(5) Where is it written that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected? Well, a number of passages, including Psalm 53 have been suggested here. But this is precisely where I differ with every other commentator (at least 30) that I’ve read. I would say that we should stick with the Malachi reference here. After referring to Moses and Elijah, it is stated by God Himself that if the people do not turn their hearts to Him, He will strike (נכה) them with a curse (חרם; Mal. 4.6b). I think that Christ is applying this to Himself; He is taking the curse on His own shoulders. This is precisely why He will suffer; suffering that is the result of first rejecting God and then rejecting repentance. I am quite amazed that no commentator to date has suggested this. Therefore, as we see, Jesus has given the Malachi passage a new spin; Peter surely wasn’t expecting the answer Jesus gave.

(6) Since Mark relies, in-part, on Matthew’s work, should Matthew’s explanation that John the Baptizer has come in the place and tradition of Elijah be carried over? This question is biased, of course. I hold the view that Mark used Matthew’s work as well as Luke’s and thus, I do conclude that the tradition of John coming in the place of Elijah should be carried over. Again, Jesus is applying this passage in a way that neither Peter nor anyone else would have ever seen coming. And it is such a radical way of interpreting it that Peter just has to challenge it. Everything that Peter has ever heard concerning this passage is being challenged by Jesus and so, everything that Jesus says, Peter challenges.

(7) What do we make of the three statements in Mk. 9.13: a) Elijah has come, b) they have done everything to him they pleased, and c) as it is written about Him? Certainly, this is the most complicated portion of the pericope in focus. Concerning (a), we have already noted that this is a cryptic reference to John the Baptizer. As for (b), I would say that this is actually a reference back to the “Son of Man”. On (c), I would point us, as I did in #5, back to Malachi 4.6b. But these answers require a bit more of an explanation. To arrive at this conclusion, I have taken Mark 9.12 and 9.13 together. In each of these verses, Jesus starts off talking about Elijah, then soon after He makes reference to Himself and along with an “as it is written” statement. A table might help us visualize this:

In this table, we see that in verses 12 and 13 statements about Elijah come first. After that, Jesus refers to Himself and the Malachi passage where these things are written of (or the Malachi passage and Himself). Either way, Jesus is giving the Malachi verse a new spin. Let’s connect the dots in a very summarized manner: Before going on to the mountain to witness the transfiguration, Peter had rebuked Jesus for misunderstanding the resurrection. After coming down from the mountain, Peter still thinks Jesus has the resurrection wrong. So, Peter challenges Jesus because a one-man resurrection goes against everything Peter has ever heard. Having just seen Elijah, Peter asks, “Oh yeah, Jesus, isn’t Elijah—as my teachers have always said—supposed to come back and turn people to God before a general resurrection can happen? And from what I just saw on the mountain, he didn’t do that. So, you’re talking about a resurrection but Elijah hasn’t even returned to preach repentance. Doesn’t this suggest that the resurrection is far off and that you’re view of the resurrection is indeed, wrong?” Jesus answers by putting a twist on the Malachi passage. Jesus says that John has come in the tradition of Elijah—thus, the attempt to turn people to God has already happened. Moreover, Jesus says that because many have not repented, a curse must be placed upon Him—just as the Malachi passage says. Jesus then goes on to say once again that Elijah has come (that is, John has come in the tradition of Elijah) and as for Himself, people are already plotting to kill Him and are doing whatever they please to Him. In short, Jesus has taken the curse of sin upon Himself, just as it was spoken of in Malachi, that if people didn’t turn to God, He (God) would send a curse. (This comes terribly close to what Paul speaks of in Galatians 3.10 where Jesus has the curse placed upon Him.)

In this post I have argued for a bit of a new reading of Mk. 9.10-3. Among other things, one of the suggestions I have made is that the Malachi passage must be borne in mind for this whole episode, not just part of it. In addition to this, I have suggested that Jesus gives a radical new reading of those verses, a reading Peter could never have imagined. In fact, it is so far from anything Peter had ever heard that he just couldn’t go without challenging Jesus’ view of the resurrection once again (immediately after Jesus says to keep quiet about it, Peter decides to say something to Jesus about it). Peter’s reply is both a challenge and a rebuke, though this rebuke is a bit softer than the one offered in the previous episode at Caesarea Philippi.

From the standpoint of application, one of many things that this story suggests to me as a modern reader is that in the wake of the transfiguration, there is no need for trying to develop eschatological timelines. Peter had his timeline (e.g. Elijah then resurrection) and so did others. Still today, people like developing charts and timelines (e.g. Dispensationalists like John Hagee or others like Perry Stone or Michael Rood). The fact is, anyone who has ever tried to predict the Day of the Lord has been wrong. When it comes to this subject, there is a 100% failure rating. Indeed, we should quit “debating” (συζητεω) these things and get busy sharing and living the Gospel. Furthermore, we should not only take the message of Moses, Elijah, John and Jesus—the message of repentance—to the ends of the earth but we should heed to it and practice it ourselves. Besides, I have found that when I’m striving to live a life of holiness, when I have to repent as little as possible, I’m not at all eager for the day of judgment. Finally, I share the conviction of Jesus and the prophets that if people will only turn to God, His judgment might be delayed and because of that, we’ll have more time to share the love of Christ with those who need it most.


From Yale To Taylor

A few years ago while working at a youth summer camp in Indiana (the same place I met my wife), I also met a fellow by the name of Robby Moeller. I didn't take him to be a "politicker" at the time but now, it seems that he is. Lately, Mr. Moeller has been debating a former clasmmate of his (Brent Maher) from Taylor University (Indiana). The context of the argument is as follows: Last fall when the Yale Document (an open letter from Christians extending a hand of peace to Muslims) came out, Maher signed his name and his school's name to the letter, which upset Robby. Well, time has passed, Robby wanted to take him to task for it and now they're engaged in a convo concerning the matter. Robby thinks it is an irresponsible letter and Brent thinks it is much needed. Moeller thinks it's ridiculous, Maher thinks it's a good start. If you want to keep up with the conversation, which is quite interesting, click on the two following links and follow the other links provided (it starts with Moeller's entry first): Moeller's Introduction, Maher's first reply, Moeller's first rebuttal.


The Earth Expedition

In my undergrad days I was not nearly as concerned with academics as I was with being a college student. I loved being the class clown and I loved hanging out, writing and singing music. I hated work but I loved playing soccer. During one of my college soccer seasons I actually made the all-region team, which was a pretty good accomplishment, I think. Anyways, one of my team and classmates was a fellow by the name of Daren Wendell. If you listen to K-Love, perhaps you've heard his name recently--he just did an interview with them.

A couple of years ago, Daren rode across the United States on a bicycle. While this was an odd goal of his, he also used it as a time to do ministry. Well, now, Daren has more than one-upped himself, he has fifty-upped himself. I say this because Daren is planning The Earth Expedition. His plan is that in less than 60 days from now, he will embark an a 7-year walk around the globe. But he's not just doing it for kicks. His goal is to raise both worldwide awareness of the aids and water pandemic in Africa, as well as to raise money for that cause. Thus, %100 of his proceeds will go the Blood:Water mission.

I would encourage you to take a few short minutes out of your day to check out his site and see what it's all about. This is fascinating stuff. And we should not only pray for Daren (he has calculated that there is a %99.9 chance that he will get mugged at least once) but for the cause as well. Who knows, you might even be able to help Daren as he treks through your neck of the woods. So, please, take this plug for my old pal and teammate to heart. Give his site a visit and his cause some support.


Pisteuomen Overhauled

As you can see, this site has been completely overhauled. I apologize for the rearrangement but I am attempting to make the site more user-friendly and polished. So, please pardon the construction, keep reading and keep interacting with me. Be blessed.

New Features On Pisteuomen

Over in the right-hand column of this site, I have added a couple of new features. The first is simply a click-and-subscribe link. By clicking on this link, you can add Pisteuomen to your page or site readers. It's that easy. I have also added a Pisteuomen banner that links back to my site. So, you can copy the code that is under the icon and paste it into your site, then the button (with link included) will appear on your page, just like it is here. Fun stuff! All subscriptions and banner additions are highly appreciated. To all who read and interact with me on this site: Thank you so much.


Pastoring is hard, but...

Anyone who has ever pastored knows just how tough it can be. Some days it feels like you're down in the trenches and some days it feels like you're running the gauntlet. To coin a phrase (I've said this since the beginning of my ministry days): "The best thing about ministry is people and the worst thing about ministry is people." Sometimes you feel like you've given all you've got but some don't think it's enough. Sometimes you feel spent. Sometimes you feel burnt out. Other days you question your calling or even your faith. Still, at other times you're wondering if it's all worth it. Ministry and pastoring is hard, but...there are those sacred moments; there are those moments that give you hope and seem to say: "it's all worth it".

I had a few of those moments this week. One of them was while making a hospital visit to an ailing congregant. The patient, who has been through a traumatic 3+ years of innumerable surgeries, hospital visits, doctor visits, medicine subscriptions, etc. just broke down in tears. This congregant was very emotional. It was a blessing to share in that moment. But what made it all the more special was when about 8 or 9 family members walked in that I had never met. The congregant wiped the tears, raised up and said with joy and pride "This is my minister." There I was, a 27-year old, young in comparison to this person but they were proud of me, proud to introduce me and proud that I was their minister. I was proud too.

Then, yesterday, one of my favorite things happened: A congregant called to ask me a Bible question. I always love this because it tells me that people are thinking about the faith, their Church, etc. (One of the things I did as soon as I became Sr. Minister a number of years ago was to put up a big banner to the left of the pulpit that reads: A Thinking Church, Growing In Christ, Bringing God Glory". This is embedded in our weekly newsletter that travels all over the United States every week too. Many have really began to believe this statement. Anyways...) This congregant called me from work because a conversation had ensued there about being a "brother's keeper" and what that might mean and even look like today. We talked for a few minutes, I shared some thoughts on the passage and this congregant went back to work, back to the mission field, back to the conversation with confidence. That was a great moment.

Lastly, during another hospital call, I visited the spouse of a congregant who, as far as I know, is an unbeliever. I visited for no longer than five minutes, it was really brief. But as I was preparing to leave, I said: "Well, I just thought I'd stop and say hello and see how you are doing. If you need anything, let me know." The patient replied, "No. Don't need anything. But you just keep doing what you're doing, it's really good." I couldn't help but think as I walked out of that room and on to an elevator that God was working and just how good He is.

As I said, moments like these can never come too often in the ministry. The sad thing is that they come few and far between. However, they are the things that keep me motivated and keep me going. So, for all of you pastors and ministers out there, keep on keepin' on and whenever you get down, just remember, something sacred might be waiting just around the corner for you.

Blogging Is Redemptive (or can be) : Blogging Series, Pt. 1

*I should note that this post is going to lead into a small series on why I think (most but not all) Christians should blog. So, I will just consider this part 1.

A few months ago while visiting family in Michigan, I had the opportunity to worship with the congregants of Mars Hill Bible Church. If you don’t know, this is lead by the ever-so-creative, trendy and polished Rob Bell. I must say, I think Rob Bell is an excellent teacher-preacher. We need more Rob Bell type of preachers and for anyone who stands in the pulpit, well, they can stand to learn a bit about homiletics from him. I was glad I had the opportunity to attend Mars Hill.

That said, I think Rob Bell could stand to learn a bit from others too—like bloggers. In a recent interview with Relevant magazine (HT: L&H), Bell said this about blogging:

"When the followers of Jesus can think of nothing better to do with their time than to pick apart and shred to pieces the work of other followers of Jesus who are trying to do something about the world, that's tragic . . . When a Christian can find nothing better to do with their time in the face of this much pain and heartbreak, you start realizing some Christians need to be saved. . . You have to be totally disconnected from the pain of the world to think that blogging is somehow a redemptive use of your time. I guess I have some strong thoughts on that."

Now, I’m not going to pick Bell apart here (that would make him right) but I do want to say that for the most part, I disagree with him. However, there is one element of his statement that I think is spot-on, I want to comment on this first. Bell is surely right that in the blogosphere—and this is particularly true in the biblioblogosphere—that there is too much sarcasm, too much picking one another apart, too much criticism, etc. Indeed, it’s so easy for people to get caught up in it, so easy in fact, that many people don’t even think twice about how it affects others or even their own personal witness. On this topic, Bell is absolutely correct. I can see where someone like a young believer would feel terribly threatened and ridiculed by more experienced biblicists and bloggers. I can also see where both Christians and non-Christians could become quite disillusioned with the whole thing (like Bell has) and just shun it. If changes were made in this area, I think the reach of Christian blogs would go beyond the bubble that it’s in and do great things. Granted, Bell is right on this topic but I do disagree with his comments about blogging being a waste of time and being un-redemptive.

Here’s why I disagree with him: Blogging, for me, has had (and still has) a redemptive side to it. In fact, in the last week, I’ve had a number of people drop me lines saying how much they appreciate me and my site. Some have even asked for permission to download or copy my entire site—what is that but a positive influence? Needless to say, Pisteuomen has been redemptive in some people’s lives, including my own.

It is redemptive for me personally in the sense that I get to share truth with my Christian brothers and sisters as well as with non-believers. It is redemptive for me in that I get to converse with people all over the world about God. It is redemptive for me because it allows me to hone my gifts. It is redemptive for me because I get to make connections with people that I otherwise would have never met. It is redemptive for me in that I am challenged to go deeper in my faith and studies. It is redemptive for me in that I get to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (or at least other parts of it). It is redemptive for me because it allows me to keep up with and stay informed about Christians and various Christian movements and events all around the globe. It is redemptive for me in that it is a release from other stressors that I have in my life. It is redemptive for me because it reminds me that there are thinking Christians left in the world. It is redemptive for me because with so much trash online, Christian blogs can be (and while some aren’t but certainly should be) a positive presence on the Internet. I think I could offer many more ways that blogging has been redemptive in my life but I will pause here.

In short, Bell is right that it is high time for Christian bloggers to change some things. Yet, he is off base in that blogging cannot be a productive or redemptive thing. Indeed, I believe that my blog is another aspect of my ministry and I always try to keep that in mind. I would say that for guys like Alan Knox, the same is true. Without a doubt, I am always encouraged by him and the way that conversation is conducted on his blog. For many of us, I think we would do well to treat our blog (as he does and as others do) as a ministry, not just a popularity contest, a soapbox for criticism or whatever else. The world is watching (and reading) and we never know who might happen upon our site and be touched by it. May we heed to the call to be redemptive people this year and in doing so, be redemptive bloggers.

À la Hengel

"[Early Christian History] did not get lost in an anonymous, unbounded and imaginary setting."

Martin Hengel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1980), 27.

The Markan Use of רב : Studies in Mark, Pt. 39

At present, I am fully persuaded that the author of Mark’s Gospel account was at the least, bilingual with some additional knowledge of Latin and perhaps Hebrew. However, Mark’s first language was the same as that of Jesus: Aramaic. Mark’s second language, which scholars have noted is incredibly rough and quite elementary was Greek. As Moulton has noted, as a translator, Mark’s Greek was always “translation Greek”. Indeed, when Mark wrote his account, he was translating from Aramaic into Greek. This accounts, I believe and so do other text-critics and biblical linguists, for a number of grammatical issues that often crop up in a close reading of Mark’s text.

As of late, I’ve written a few posts on Mark 2.26 (the Abiathar passage) and I have continued studying that verse in both it’s immediate and broader literary context. In fact, I went through, found, analyzed and compared every occurrence of the terms “rb” and “khna” (Aramaic) and their Greek counterparts. If nothing else, the results were interesting to me and I think they lend some support to my argument that in Mk. 2.26, one can certainly read “rb khna” (or khna rb) as “great priest” (as opposed to “high priest”).

Before delving into issues of Greek and Aramaic, I should say that while many are fine with suggesting that Mark 2.26 is historically inaccurate, to me, that answer is not satisfying. I find it lacking because it fails to consider evidence to the contrary, evidence that easily (perhaps too easily for some) makes sense of our modern confusion(s). Personally, I do not take Mark to be an idiot. Neither do I think he was so removed from Israel’s story and his immediate religio-political context that he was unable to differentiate between priests and their various roles in the Old Testament and the priests of his own day. It would be rather presumptuous of me, I think, to hold to such a weak theory.

In my survey of the Aramaic and Greek texts, here is what I found (for each use and its parsing information, see the listing at the bottom of this post):

1. Mark uses some derivative of "rb" times.

2. Mark uses "rb" 4 of those times in conjunction with “knwsta”. Literally, this translates into something like “great one of the community”, “chief of the school”, or “elder of the synagogue”. It is interesting to note that Mark does not use the typical “rs” here (“head” of the synagogue). Further, when he moves from the two Aramaic terms to Greek, he decides to use a compound Greek word: Arche/synagogon. We should emphasize here that Mark may be fond of taking two familiar Aramaic terms and trying to combine them into one Greek compound.

3. Mark also uses a cognate of “rb”, that is “rby”, 15 times. He uses it in conjunction with “khna” a number of times. However, when used on its own, Mark moves between 2 Greek terms: Rabbouni and Didaskale. In 14.45, Mark uses the word back-to-back (the only time he does this). It is hard to tell why Mark moves between the two Greek terms but we might suggest that he uses Rabbouni when he wants to connote a leader/follower relationship and Didaskale when he wants to emphasize teacher/disciple relationship. So, why would Mark use the same term to speak of a rabbi or teacher, that he did when speaking of the priest? One answer, and in Mk. 2.26 this seems especially true, is that there really wasn’t an alternative. This takes us to the next insight.

4. Twice in his account, Mark uses “rb” in a comparative sense (9.34; 12.32). The Greek word is “meizon”, meaning “great/greater/greatest”. Actually, in these two verses, Mark uses “meizon” in a superlative sense. Some have argued: “If Mark knows the term ‘great’ then why doesn’t he say that Abiathar is the ‘meizon iereus’ in Mk. 2.26? The answer to this is twofold: a) Mark doesn’t use ‘meizon’ in an attributive adjectival sense, and b) Mark only uses ‘meizon’ as a superlative. Thus, if he attempted to use it in 2.26 he definitely would have misspoken—he didn’t think Abiathar was the ‘greatest’ priest—in fact, Abiathar is placed beneath David and then paired with Zadok. It just wouldn’t work. Grammatically, the author of Hebrews made it work. Contextually, though, Mark couldn’t have made it work in 2.26 with the story he tells (and has Jesus telling).

5. Mark uses the word “khna” 19 times. Sometimes he uses it with “rb” and sometimes he doesn’t. This is critical because it suggests that if nothing else, Mark is aware of different types of priests and different priestly roles.

6. Mark uses “rb” and “khna” together 17 times. As may be typical of him, when he has two Aramaic terms, Mark may try to combine them into one Greek compound that he’ll use repeatedly. Here, that Greek compound is “archiereus”. In Greek, this could have a number of meanings when taken with priest (e.g. head, top, chief, great, first, etc.). Now, even though Mark sticks with this one compound all throughout his work, this does not mean this compound could not have different meanings in different places. We’ve already seen that Mark cannot use “meizon” in 2.26 because it is impossible. We’ve also seen that Mark knows that different types of priests exist. We also know that Mark uses “rb” to denote different things (e.g. “leader of the synagogue”, “rabbi”, “great teacher”, etc.). Therefore, it is not at all unthinkable that Mark could have meant “great priest” in 2.26—after all, what other word could or should he have employed?

It is clear to me that Mark chose the right words and that he stuck with what he knew. Without a doubt, Mark was more comfortable with his Aramaic than his Greek. This is made clear by the simple fact that his Aramaic was much more fluid. That is why he could use this one word 29 times with such great ease (e.g. it had various meanings) but when he crossed over to Greek, he attempted (and I would say, struggled) to find words—he tried using 5 different terms—that wouldn’t confuse his Greco-Roman audience(s). Being a translator myself, from the vantage point of such work, I recognize that it is often tough to move from language-to-language. I suspect that the same was true for Mark. Again, I would submit that this is certainly why we see his Aramaic fluidity with one term slow down and take on different forms in the Greek language.

List of relevant terms and parsing information in their respective locations:

1.44: knh = priest (Grk. Iereus - Dat/Sg/Ms)
2.26: rb knh = great, high – priest (Grk. Archiereus – Gen/Sg/Ms)
2.26: knh = priests (Grk. Ieries – Acc/Pl/Ms)
5.22: rb knwsta = synagogue rulers (Grk. Archesynagogon – Gen/Pl/Ms)
5.35: rb knwsta = synagogue ruler (Grk. Archisynagogou – Gen/Sg/Ms)
5.36: rb knwsta = synagogue ruler (Grk. Archisynagogoi – Gen/Sg/Ms)
5.38: rb knwsta = synagogue ruler (Grk. Archisynagogou – Gen/Sg/Ms)
8.31: rby knh = high priest (Grk. Archiereon – Gen/Pl/Ms)
9.5: rby = rabbi (Grk. Rabbi - Voc/Sg/Ms)
9.34: rb = greatest (Grk. Meizon – Adj/Nom/Sg/Ms/Comparative)
9.38: rby = teacher (Grk. Didaskale – Voc/Sg/Ms)
10.33: lrby knh = great, high priests (Grk. Archiereusin – Dat/Pl/Ms)
10.51: rby = rabbi (Grk. Rabbouni – Voc/Sg/Ms)
11.18: rby khna = great, high – priest (Grk. Archiereis – Nom/Pl/Ms)
11.21: rby = rabbi (Grk. Rabbi – Voc/Sg/Ms)
11.27: rby khna = great, high – priest (Grk. Archiereis – Nom/Pl/Ms)
12.31: drb = greater (Grk. Meizon – Adj/Nom/Sg/Fem/Comparative)
12.32: rby = teacher (Grk. Didaskale – Voc/Sg/Ms)
14.1: rby khna = great, high – priest (Grk. Archiereis – Nom/Pl/Ms)
14.10: rby khna = great, high – priest (Grk. Archiereis – Acc/Pl/Ms)
14.43: rby khna = great, high – priest (Grk. Archieron – Gen/Pl/Ms)
14.45: rby rby = teacher/ great, teacher (Grk. Rabbi – Voc/Sg/Ms)
14.47: drb khna = high, great - priest (Grk. Archiereos – Gen/Sg/Ms)
14.53: rb khna = high, great - priest (Grk. Archierea – Acc/Sg/Ms)
14.53: rby khna = high, great - priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
14.54: drb khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereos - Gen/Sg/Ms)
14.55: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
14.60: rb khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereos - Gen/Sg/Ms)
14.61: rb khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereus - Nom/Sg/Ms)
14.63: rb khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereus - Nom/Sg/Ms)
14.66: drb khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereos - Gen/Sg/Ms)
15.1: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
15.3: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
15.10: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
15.11: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)
15.31: rby khna = high, great – priest (Grk. Archiereis - Nom/Pl/Ms)