Scenes From Jerusalem's Wailing Wall

So, my schedule here in Jerusalem is very full and intense, which means that blogging is difficult to get around to.  With so many photos and video clips taken, I thought that I'd be selective here and offer just a few shots of the Wailing Wall (or Western Wall or Solomon's Wall) within the Old City (the term "Old City" is used to refer to ancient Jerusalem, which was a walled city and which is different, of course, than modern Jerusalem, which surrounds it).  So, here are some photos and a videos with brief descriptions.

(This is a picture from near the old German hospital looking diagonally towards the Wailing Wall. The Wall is located just below the Muslim Dome of the Rock, which is related to the near Al Aqsa Mosque (which would be just off to the right of this picture). The Wall is known as the Western Wall as it is located on the Western portion of the temple mount in 2nd Temple / King Solomon period. It is nick-named the Wailing Wall because Jews can often be heard lamenting or wailing there, crying out for the coming of the Messiah, among other things. Click the image to make the photo larger.)

(This is a head-on shot of the Wailing Wall. While there is much serious study and prayer that goes on in this area, you can also see celebrations taking place and people doing routine things like talking on cell phones, etc. Those praying at the wall can slip pieces of paper through cracks with prayers on them that are seen as something akin to sacrifices/offerings to God.)

(If you look at the bottom right corner of this picture, you will notice a group of young boys following a father who is carrying his son upon his shoulders. They are all singing and making noise. They are celebrating the boys Bar Mitzvah. This particular day is Dec. 27th, 2011, which is the day before Hanukkah ends. There were numerous celebrations (see the video below) which were taking place in this area on that day.)

(Here you can see Jews and even a non-Jew praying at the Wall. Non-Jews are welcome. In recent history the Pope visited the Wailing Wall and prayed there and also slipped a piece of paper through one of the cracks. Notice the giant Menorah off to the right in the photo. It has 9 candelabras, which is different from the traditional 7-armed menorah. The 9-armed menorah is in celebration of Hanukkah.)

(In this picture, we are looking at a portion of the Wall which is located under a tunnel. Within this tunnel there are large bookcases with Hebrew scriptures and commentaries. There are also many desks. Devout and studied Jews will often sit in this tunnel, facing the Wall, and meditate, pray, study, read, etc. Notice those stand and those sitting. Also take note of the differences in garb, some being traditional and some not.)

(Again, here is a shot of some folks reading and praying.)

(Here is a brief video I shot of some Hanukkah celebrations taking place at the Western / Wailing Wall.)

***UPDATE:  Just as I was finishing writing this post, something incredibly moving and intense happened to me!  The place where I'm staying here in Jerusalem is located in an apartment complex.  For about the last hour the woman upstairs, who I just learned was a Holocaust survivor, has been wailing and crying like nothing I've ever heard in my life.  On top of that, she is beating her head against the walls and floors.  Evidently, she goes through these spells quite frequently.  It is so eerie.  Chills have come over me like never before.  It is hard to convey through typing at this point but the sheer anguish and hurt almost seem inhuman!  I seriously have never heard any kind of emotion on this level from anybody!!!  It is the realest, rawest display of emotion, so much so that, one can almost imagine themselves in the horrors of the Holocaust there with here.  I am deeply moved and am almost paralyzed with shock and fear.  It is so bad that I had gone out to wake my hosts, thinking that a child or woman was being severely (and I mean severely!!!!!) beaten and that we really needed to call the police.  My hosts proceeded to tell me of her story.  The stark irony is that this all was going on during a post on the Wailing Wall here in Jerusalem, a place where Jews mourn, grieve and pray deeply for deliverance from suffering, for the coming of the Messiah and the heartbreak of their devastated past.  All I can really say right now is, this will be experience that may haunt me for the rest of my life!


Jerusalem Cityscapes

So, it's after 3am here in Jerusalem and I find myself awake and flipping through photos and writing a blog post...go figure.  I spent all day Wednesday hiking through the Old City exploring the sites, taking in the culture,  snapping photos and letting my imagination run wild.  As evening rolled around I attended orientation for the class I'm taking and then, headed over to Hebrew University with my host to hear a lecture on life during the Ottoman Empire, which was overseen by the renowned Dr. Shimon Gibson.  It was a very full day.  In about 5 hours, my class sessions will begin and they will run from around 8:30am - 4:00/5:00pm every day; it is going to be quite intense!  If I'm not completely exhausted, I hope to post some more photos, videos and even explanations of what's going on in my brief time of study here.  Yesterday alone I snapped a few hundred photos but of course, I have not had time to upload them all or post anything significant as of yet.

Having said that, I did want to post, briefly, a few of the cityscape and/or panoramic shots that I took yesterday.  In the future, I plan to post some photos with more in-depth descriptions later but for now, I'm going to try to get some more rest before things pick back up again in just a few hours.  Enjoy!

(Standing on the Mt. of Olives in the Jewish burial grounds, looking toward the Old City Wall. To the left of the Dome of the Rock is the old Temple and the Temple Mount and just behind the Dome is the Western (Wailing) Wall and of course, more of the Old City. Just in front of the wall, you can see the 3 burial areas.  Beginning with the closest you have the Muslim burial grounds, just below that the Christian tombs and then one the near side of the valley and on the Mt. of Olives, the Jewish sarcophagi.  The valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olive is called Kidron Valley. Click on the image to enlarge the photo.)

(This is the view from North Talpiyot. The Old City is directly in the center of the photo, you may be able to spot the Dome of the Rock. Just below the Old City and to the left, we have Mt. Zion and the Hinnom Valley, also known as Gehenna. Just behind the Old City and to the left is Mt. Scopus.)

(Looking from the Herodian Square, to the left we can see the Dome of the Rock. Just below it, we see the Western (Wailing) Wall. The bridge leads up to the other side of the old Temple, some of which you can see just to the right of the bridge and in the center of the photo. Just behind and to the right of the grayish dome you can see the Mt. of Olives and a small village in the Kidron Valley range.)

(To the left of the small town, we are looking directly at the Mt. of Olives. Just to the left of that, in a small forested area, we have the Garden of Gethsemane as well as Mary's tomb and the church of St. Mary. To the right of the Mt. of Olives and just below the small housing area, which you cannot see in this photo, we have Absalom's Pillar, Zakharias's Tomb, and the Pool of Silo'am among other things.)

(This is me standing on the Mt. of Olives getting my photo taken by the slickest Arab sherut (taxi) driver in all of Jerusalem. For more details, refer to photo 1 above.)


The Middle-Eastern Sunset

So, I arrived in Israel last night and as soon as I exited the airport, I caught a "Sherut" (Shared Taxi) to Jerusalem. My short stay here has me in East Talpiot, home to the Talpiot Tomb (which I hope to see today, at least its location anyway). It's a little after 5:15am. I slept about 6 hours and pretty much went right to bed once I arrived at my hosts' home. I will head out to see some of the old city today before attending an orientation in the evening for my class. I am glad that I have internet access, so, I will be able to blog and post some while I'm here. I don't have much so far but here are some pics I took of the Middle-Eastern sunset (click on the image to make it larger). Enjoy!


A Koine Kinda Christmas

So, as I write this, I'm sitting in the airport about to head to Israel, where I'm enrolled to take part in a Koine Greek fluency workshop.  As you can imagine, I'm quite excited.  Beyond this Christmastime trip, however, my Christmas has been a rather Greek one.  Here are some of the gifts I got, which range from basic to advanced within the Greek language:

  • Bill Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, DVD Lectures
  • Richard Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach
  • Joseph Smith & Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek: Illustrated with Examples (SPIB)
  • Stephen Levinsohn, Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebrook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek
  • David Alan Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications
  • Gerald Stevens, New Testament Greek Intermediate: From Morphology to Translation
Merry Christmas everyone!


Reading Jude: Greek App

Earlier today I noted that I would soon be releasing another Greek reading app. I didn't think that I'd have time to get around to it today, but I did. So, I went ahead and made it available. This is my 15th app and my 9th in the "Getting Greek" family of apps that I've created; it is called "Getting Greek: Reading Jude". You can get it by scanning the QR Code to the left or clicking HERE. The app is incredibly user-friendly and best of all, is only .99¢. You can see screenshots and a video of the app in action HERE. To see all of my apps, you can click HERE. For those of you who don't know, here are the 9 "Getting Greek" apps I've created so far, click each to get them:

New Greek App: Reading 1 & 2 Jn

Hello everyone, I just wanted to make a brief note here on Pisteuomen about the release of my newest app, which is titled Getting Greek: Reading 1 & 2 Jn.  It is a simple, user-friendly app that allows you to read and hear the Greek texts of 2 & 3 Jn simultaneously.  Best of all, it is only  ¢ .99 cents!  You can see the app in action by way of video by clicking HERE.  Of course, this app is part of the "Getting Greek" family of resources that I've created, so, when you're done checking this one out, give the others a look.  You can get the Android app by scanning the QR Code to the left or clicking HERE.  You can see my other apps in the Android Market by clicking HERE.  Visit my Getting Greek site HERE and my Theological Languages Portal HERE.  Be on the lookout for another Greek audio app soon!


Merry Χ-Mas: A Very Christian Phrase!

I'm a Christian. But I'm a Christian who, to be quite frank, is just incredibly sick and tired of a lot the public antics of other so-called Christians. Or, maybe it's just the idiocy or ignorance of them that really gets me. Either way, I just wish these folks would get their heads out of the clouds and come back to reality. I say this right now because at perhaps no other time during the year are these types of people more arrogant and ignorant than during the Christmas season. I am ashamed that people within the church, people who perceive themselves as pious and devout and knowledgeable are none of these. It just makes every Christian look bad AND stupid!

I'm thinking in particular here of the notion of "The War on Christmas". Lots of church-folk have been led to believe that saying anything but "Merry Christmas" during this season is borderline if not fully heretical. So, in what they believe to be a litmus test of faith, they will not back down; whether it is offensive or not, they will say Merry Christmas to Muslims, Jews, Atheists and anyone else they know is not a Christian. They will also go on the news and complain about cashiers or waitresses who do not use the phrase "Merry Christmas" and how it is an affront to the principles this nation was founded on. I say "Hogwash!" But the whole nation's foundations argument is something we shall save for another day. Here, I want to focus briefly on the phrase "Merry X-mas" and show why it is COMPLETELY Christian to say such a thing!

First, I just want to say a word about the idea of what social-scientists refer to as "presentism". Now, we in the West, we here in America are incredibly good at practicing presentism, even if we don't know it. Basically, presentism is the notion that what something is now is the way it has always been. This happens a whole lot on the mission field for example. Missionaries will often travel to different cultures and when they get there, they will encounter different types of lifestyles and practices. For instance, they find out that communion is being dispersed differently during worship. Instead of attempting to understand those customs for what they are, because they are different, they are seen as wrong or sometimes even sinful. So, what do the missionaries do? They say, "No! This is wrong, it needs to be done this way (= our way); this is the way it has really always been done and this is the right way." This is presentism! (I'm not talking about the Buddhist idea of presentism here!)

This same principle applies with the issue of "Merry Christmas"! When Christians hear someone say Merry X-mas, they freak out! Why? Because they believe that this is different than the way it has always been done. They believe that by saying Merry X-mas, people are trying to "take Christ out of Christmas". They believe that history is being sacrificed. They believe that faith is under attack. But...they are wrong! They are VERY wrong; they are completely misguided, in fact.

The truth is, saying "Merry X-mas" is a good thing and it is absolutely in-keeping with Christianity. Why do I say this? Well, the fact is, the "X" in "Merry X-mas" is not meant to cross-out or remove or replace Christ. Early on in Christianity, writers were using this letter as a sort of short-hand, an abbreviation, for the name of Christ. The English or Latin letter "X" actually comes from the Greek letter Chi (pronounced "key"). Chi is written as Χ (upper case) / χ (lower case). Some early Christian writers actually used two Greek letters, the first two letters of the word "Christos" (Christ or Messiah), which where Chi (X ,x) and Rho (Ρ, ρ). Now, in Greek, the letter Rho, which is "Ρ" actually looks like an English letter "p". So, the abbreviation could be ΧΡ.

So, why did the early Christians use these abbreviations? Well, in antiquity, writing materials were very expensive. Papyrus and ink were costly and used sparingly. So, to save ink, the early Christians when they were writing, would use abbreviations like Χ or ΧΡ. Papyrus (the paper-like material) was often hard to acquire. To preserve space on the papyrus, abbreviations were used. Thus, in biblical manuscripts, sometimes instead of spelling out the full word "Christos", authors would use Χ or ΧΡ. For them, then, saying Merry X-mas would not have raised one eyebrow or sparked one argument. In fact, they would likely look at modern folks getting in a hissy fit over this and shake their heads; they wouldn't be able to stomach or believe it!

And before some of you Christians out there start going haywire over what I'm suggesting here, I'd suggest you take a look at all of the cars in your church parking lots (or driveways perhaps) with all of the little fish symbols on them! Typically, inside those Christian fish emblems, you will find these 5 Greek letters: ΙΧΘΥΣ. In English, that's the word "Ichthus". In fact, here in the town where Asbury is, there is a HUGE music festival each year called "Icthus". Millions have attended over the years!

Ichthus is Greek shorthand; it is a Greek abbreviation. The Ι (iota) stands for "Jesus", which was spelled Ihsous (Ιησους) in Greek. The Χ (chi) stands for "Christos", which we have already covered here. The Th (theta) stands for "Theos" (Θεος), which means "God" in Greek. The U (upsilon) stands for "Huios" ('Υιος) which means "son" in Greek and the Σ (sigma) stands for "Soter" (Σωτερ), which means "Savior" in Greek. Put all of this Greek shorthand or abbreviation together and you have Ichthus, which means "Jesus Christ God's Son, Savior". Many times it is the very same Christians who cry foul when the abbreviation X-Mas is used, that have these abbreviated Christian symbols attached to their cars. One could, I suppose, cry foul against them saying that they are trying to write the words Jesus, Christ, God, Son and Savior out of the Christian faith because they use symbols. This could be especially true of those who have the fish symbol without the Greek letters!!! But, alas, I have said enough!

The point is, Christians who raise a stink every Advent about "taking Christ out of Christmas" are often walking contradictions; they are often practicing presentism, which is really just a form (in this case) of arrogance mixed with ignorance in a religious context. The end result, however, is that it makes us all look bad. If more Christians were aware of their history, the faith would be so much better off. Yet, instead of doing the hard work of historical research, they'd rather make a public spectacle of the faith.

I suppose that much of this is because we don't have a lot of real physical persecution in this country. So, to make themselves feel like they are sacrificing for the faith, they whine and whine about things like this so that they can feel like they are enduring persecution and that they are faithful. Really, this is nothing more than a pseudo-piety, that is, a false piety. So, with all of that in mind, I wish you all a very Merry X-mas! And I say that knowing that I'm in the good company of many of our earliest Christian writers and their documents!

How Do You Tell Your Kids Santa Isn't Real? (A Repost)

This is a post I put on Pisteuomen last Advent season.  I hope you find it thought-provoking and helpful.  Happy Advent!

The question posed in the title of this post is an interesting one. Many times, when people ponder this question, they are also asking something like "How do I tell my kids the truth about Santa?" or "Is it wrong for my Christian kids to celebrate a Christmas that has Santa included in it?" For me, however, I think the question raised in this post's title is a good starting place for all such questions.

This year at Christmastime, my daughter is 3 and 1/2 years old. For the first time, she's beginning to associate Santa with the holiday. Just as well, my wife and I have already started to tell her the truth about Santa. The truth is: Santa was real but no longer exists! However, the truth is, a man named Saint Nicholas, the person on whom our modern day Santa Claus is really based, did exist at one time and to be sure, was real! Saint Nicholas of Myra was a bishop around 4 CE. He was known for both his seriousness and his practice of giving gifts, especially to those in need.

So, when we tell our daughter about Santa, to avoid confusion, we just tell her the truth, the truth that he lived long ago and now, a lot of people, people who are friends of Santa and who dress like him, are doing what he used to do, namely, giving gifts. And we tell her that we give gifts too, just like Santa, because God gave us a gift, the gift of Jesus. And Jesus gave us a gift too, the gift of His love and the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit gave us the present of spiritual gifts and a connection to God. And really, this is a lot for a kid to take in but it is not completely over their heads. Even my daughter can grasp some of these basic things.

So, we have no trouble letting Santa be a part of our Christmas, however, we don't pretend that Santa himself is still alive. We don't have our daughter "ask Santa for things". But if we were to take her to say, a mall and let her sit on Santa's lap, we wouldn't have a problem if she told that "friend of Santa" the things she likes or might like to have. Also, we have no problem with singing the songs or watching the movies / cartoons or even embracing some of the fun mythological embellishments of the holiday. Some of those things help a child's imagination. For example, talking about Santa living in a far-off place, well, there's no problem with that because as it stands, where Santa lived was far-off. Or talking about Rudolph or the North Pole, the more mythic elements of the story, those are not problematic either. Again, I defer to the value of imagination here. But when it comes right down to it, we have no problem telling our kids that the reindeer were added to the story, as was the North Pole, etc.

We don't think that the story of St. Nick is contrary to the story of Christ, instead, we see it as complimentary. If our child grows up knowing the truth about Santa as opposed only to knowing the myth, well, then she is in a better place for that because she may not have to endure the "heartbreak" of finding out that a mythological figure she believed in really didn't exist. This could even damage a kid's imagination and / or faith down the road. The fact is, Santa did exist and for us, that is something worth sharing. And really, it only compliments the story of Jesus, which really doesn't make it hard at all. Probably, the toughest part is explaining that St. Nick "lived a long time ago" but isn't "living" today. That, then, brings up the issue of death, which is something much harder to explain to a kid than anything about a fictitious man (who, in America has had his identity totally made-over by the Coca-Cola company) who is making a list and checking it twice!

Letter to the Editor

Here's a brief snippet of my "Letter to the Editor" that appeared in yesterday's issue of my local newspaper.  You can click HERE to read the rest:
Schools Guilty of Unsportsmanlike Conduct

As a Jessamine County resident, I am embarrassed by our school officials and students. Recently, I attended two boys’ high-school basketball games and on both accounts regretted those choices. As an educator, sports official and parent, I was taken aback by the disrespect the student sections at East and West showed toward visiting players and referees. It is one thing to do an about face or raise a newspaper when players from the opposing team have their lineup called, but it is another thing to chant slurs and profanities at them for the duration of a game...(Click HERE for the rest of the article)


Midwest SBL Paper Accepted

I just got word that my paper titled From Ancient Apocalypse to Modern Tongue-Twists: Mixing-Down Hip Hop & Christian Scripture was just accepted for the 2012 annual meeting of the Midwest Society of Biblical Literature.  Very cool.  With other stuff I have going on, this means that I'm on track to make my 40th conference appearance/paper presentation this spring!  


Best Ron Paul Video Yet?

I'm a BIG Ron Paul fan! He's got my vote, no bones about it! Even so, this video is hilarious! Check it out!!!


The Audio Greek New Testament: Review, Pt. 2

In yesterday's review (Pt. 1) of The Audio Greek New Testament, I mentioned that I would provide a snippet of audio from this great resource and also make some comments about it. So, here is a short clip from the salutation of Paul's letter to the Galatians (1-5).

As you can hear, The Audio Greek New Testament uses an American Erasmian pronunciation. This, of course, will not suit everyone's preferences but for me personally, I quite like it. As an alternative to the pronunciation schemas used by Randall Buth and Christophe Rico among others, this is the pronunciation system that I was taught and therefore, I am right at home with it.

One of the more difficult challenges I find with this product is that it can be tough to listen to in large chunks. That is because it is read with little inflection (emotion, etc.) and as a result, can have something of a monotone feel to it. To be sure, it is well produced and the audio is crisp and clear, yet a listener such as myself would have hoped for something a bit more dramatic perhaps. In fact, a dramatic reading of the GNT is something that I myself would really enjoy being a part of, so, if there are any of you out there that would be interested in joining forces to make something like this happen, drop me a line here and let me know. In the meantime, the resource that Hendrickson and Schwandt have provided us with is a great resource. I know there are other versions of the GNT being read out there, but what separates this from the others is 1) Its quality, and 2) Its very user-friendly and intuitive interactive PDF.

So, I stand by my recommendation of this project and encourage everyone to head on over to the Hendrickson site and pick up a copy for yourself or the Greek scholar in your life right now. You can do so by clicking HERE. Thanks again to Hendrickson for this great tool!


The Audio Greek New Testament: Review, Pt. 1

Today I received a wonderful package in the mail from the fine folks over at Hendrickson. It is a DVD titled The Audio Greek New Testament, which is performed by John Scwandt, who is a Fellow of Classical Languages at New Saint Andrew's College and the founder of the Institute of Biblical Greek (BiblicalGreek.org). I want to do at least a two-part review on this resource. In this first and very brief review, I just want to draw attention to some of the features. In the next part, I will build on this and also provide a snippet of audio to whet your appetite. To begin, this DVD is in Mp3 format, which means that you can transfer the audio to your smartphone, iPod, computer, Mp3 Player, etc. This means that you can essentially listen to the text wherever you go. The only discernable drawback here is that it is in DVD format, so, you will not be able to play it in your automobile. However, you can transfer it to your computer and put it on a car-compatible CD. One of the reasons it is in a DVD format is because it includes a very nice, attractive and interactive PDF, which you can see images of below.

The audio follows the UBS4 Greek New Testament, so, for those of you who already have that text, this is for you. If you don't have it, you really should get one and this product will be for you! As you will see just below, listeners can use the interactive PDF to select whether they want to hear readings via pericopes or chapters. This is a very user-friendly, intuitive and creative feature!

On an interesting side note, Schwandt also has a version of this tagged within the Logos software platform, which is very cool; it highlights the Greek terms being pronounced as they are read within the text. However, you are MUCH more limited with that product as you are not really able to easily export it into a transportable Mp3 or DVD format. So, I would highly encourage everyone to pick up this great resource. Again, I say more about it in the next part of my review but for now, take a look at the brief screencast below to see and hear it. Then, go get your copy of The Audio Greek New Testament HERE! Have a Christmas list? Why not tell someone you'd like this for a gift?

Here a brief look via screencast at the eye-pleasing, interactive PDF and how it functions. (NOTE: To make the video larger, click the TV/Screen icon in the bottom right corner.)

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Joel Osteen's New Reality TV Show With Mark Burnett

I could hardly believe it when I heard it, that is, that Joel Osteen has signed with the most prolific "Reality TV" producer in all off television: Mark Brunett! As you probably know, Brunett is famous for hit shows like Survivor, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader, Shark Tank, Bully Beatdown, etc. Now he has tapped into the religious mainstream and has teamed-up with Joel and Victoria Osteen to produce a television reality show about his mega Lakewood Church in Texas. The show has no title as of yet, but the concept will fall along the lines of following Osteen and his church members around the world as they "do missions". While I am one who has an interest in reality television, I'm not so sure about this one. Perhaps it is a little too close to home. 

Osteen has taken his "Prosperity Gospel" far enough and this show will inevitably just be an extension of that. The mullet-donning motivational speaker of Lakewood has already fooled enough people and I cannot help but think that this will only continue in that vain. However, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what this is going to look like. Osteen says, "We would take a group of 300-500 people from this auditorium, from our ministry, and go somewhere in the world--probably the U.S. to start--but just to help a place in need.  A place hit by a tornado.  Maybe a run-down neighborhood."  Hearing this, the show will likely mirror Extreme Home Makeover or something similar to it.  The problem I foresee is this:  When Osteen is criticized in the future about his false Gospel, the response will be, "But who cares if his teachings are a bit off, he's doing a lot of good in the world and that's what we should focus on."  This is but one more way of pulling the theological wool over folks' eyes and saying to them that reason and belief don't really matter, rather it is your personal faith and your personal experiences that take precedence.  Quite simply, as I said above, I'm not so sure about this show already.  Then again, I'm one of those who Osteen would call the "Doctrine/Theology Police" so, to him and others, well, it really doesn't matter what I say.

*UPDATE:  Here's a clip I found:


Review of The Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear: Pt. 2

Here's the second screencast of my review of Rick Brannan's new The Apostolic Father's Greek-English Interlinear. In this second review, I focus more on the textual and "interlinear" features that are available with this work in Logos.  Anyway, you can pick up your copy of the book HERE. Enjoy! (Note: To make the screencast larger, click the "tv" icon in the bottom-right corner of the video.)

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Review of The Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear: Pt. 1

Here's the first of at least two screencasts where I review Rick Brannan's new The Apostolic Father's Greek-English Interlinear. In this first review, I don't really focus on the "interlinear" aspect of the work as much as I do some of the viewing features that are available with this text in Logos; the interlinear aspects will come into play in the next review!  Anyway, you can pick up your copy HERE. Enjoy! (Note: To make the screencast larger, click the "tv" icon in the bottom-right corner of the video.)

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Call For Papers: Mark's Gospel in Mediterranean Context

I just wanted to remind folks of the call for papers for this year's "Mark's Gospel in Mediterranean Context" meeting, which will take place at the annual SCJC.  We still have a couple of open spots for papers, so, if you or anyone you know might be interested in submitting a title + abstract, please, forward this link or flyer on to them.  


On Losing A Newborn: A Moving Story of Faith & Love

Recently, those within the Asbury Theological Seminary community have stood alongside one of our own as they've been forced to grieve a deep loss.  Certainly, some have been more closely and intimately involved than others, but breathing room and space are always needed.  The fact is, even for those indirectly involved, our hearts break for the Holloway family.  Suffering is never easy.  Loss is never easy.  Pain is never easy.  Grieving is never easy.  Making sense of life's wounds is often scarring and traumatic, it is never easy.  Yet, within the Christian faith there is always hope.  Having said that, I should also say that nothing that I have read recently has been so powerful or moving as THIS POST that Asbury's own Gabe Holloway has written about experiencing the loss of his newborn daughter, Annie Elizabeth Holloway (in the picture above), only hours after she was born.  This writing is just God-saturated!  So, please, go read it.  I plead with you, go read it.  And when you're done, share it.  And if you are able, show the Holloway family love, even if you don't know them.  Perhaps this post will minister to your spirit and allow you to minister to others in the beautiful way that Gabe has done here.  

On the Two Lesbians Who Raised an Incredible Young Man: A Response

Today, the video below has been floating all over the internet. It is a moving and on the surface, quite compelling speech that this young man gives. However, my friend Chris Van Allsburg gives us reason for pause. He suggests that there is a very logical mistake being made in the celebration of this young man's highly emotive rhetoric. Well, enough of me, I'll let him speak for himself. In this Guest Post, his article is provided in-full below and please, check out his site HERE.

The video shared on the net and primarily through facebook about the fine, young man raised by two lesbians is being used to show that it is indeed possible for a person to be raised as a responsible, educated, and industrious citizen without the aid of a male/female parentage, the latter vision of which so often appears in the minds of people when the term "traditional marriage" is invoked as a cultural norm. After all, we must ask ourselves, is it not better, indeed--far better--for such a situation to occur than for one to be raised in an abusive, albeit "traditional home"? We should not dispute that it is not better. Of course it is better to be raised in an atmosphere of love, compassion, encouragement, et. al, as opposed to one of ridicule, neglect and abuse. What would the world be like if all children had such a life? The world would instantly change into a paradise full of grown-ups fulfilled in every sense with the self-esteem required in order to apply personal ambition and dreams, as well as the selflessness required in order to perpetuate this kind new world rolling with fields of love and compassion. Ah, blessed hope! To this end we are striving.

The young man appeals to the courts and to his fellow citizens to please vote in favor of gay marriage. "After all," we are told, "look at me: I'm a fine citizen and proof of what is necessary in order to make the world a better place. Imagine if I had been raised in a home where there was no love, or an abusive home. I could be a common criminal, but instead I am a fine, upstanding young man." We applaud this young man!

But wait. Let's put our emotions aside and think for a moment. Is something good because it produces a desired result? Let's think of a different scenario. Think of a parent who *does* abuse his child. The child is beaten upon the first instance of disobedience. The child is chided when mistakes are made in school. The child is given a stern look when "tomfoolery" is detected. The child then grows up to be a hard-working, industrious, educated, producer--a CEO of a big business. He provides jobs for 1000's of people. He gives to charity. Maybe his marriage suffers (or even fails) because he is unable to enjoy life because of his upbringing and his work ethic and his askance toward "tomfoolery" aka, "having a laugh." But all the same--he's a good guy. Now, would we argue that his abusive parents (or dad) was right in doing so? After all, look at what has been produced? That's ridiculous, you say. You are right--it is ridiculous to say his stern, mean father was good and right for doing what he did and *being* who he was.

"But wait," you say. You're are using a bad example, for our example is one of two, loving lesbians who raised an upstanding young man, whereas your example is one of a harsh, stern parentage (or, just the dad) which produced something similar." Correct again. But perhaps you will see my point in this: the outcome of something does not validate its origins, and this we call pragmatism. Pragmatism says, "If it works, it's good." In our case of the lesbian couple, we are told to vote "yes" for gay marriage because of a particular outcome, in this case, the outcome of a fine, upstanding young man. (Of course, we know nothing of this man's personal life, other than a 3-minute video, so we really know him not at all, but let us take it for granted that these 3 minutes are sufficient to the task at hand). Pragmatic theories of ethics are not desirable tests for social structures, however. For pragmatism proves nothing except that some things work. Many cultures have resorted to pragmatism in order to produce desired results: Stalinist Russia, the Nazis, pagans who sacrifice to idols, Southerners who owned slaves. So, just because something produces a desired result, does not mean it is, in and of itself, good and right. And, we should note that while we can be thankful that such a fine, young man has had his genesis and nurture from this lesbian couple, it does nothing to say for others who may have been raised in similar household who have not enjoyed such success. Does one, good example nullify any (possible) negative ones?

Please note: I am not comparing those who support gay marriage to the aforementioned groups who have committed atrocious crimes against humanity. These are only glaring examples of pragmatism.

If gay marriage is going to be argued as something that our society should affirm, proponents of it need to argue on better grounds than those of pragmatism, for as we have seen, pragmatic arguments are weak, and should not be accepted as solid criterion upon which to build a societal ethic.

Now, we may also note that the argument is also that

*two people who love each other should not be told they cannot marry.

But we need to ask ourselves why we should limit ourselves to *two* people in a marriage? And what rules should there be concerning age, or relation? The argument proposed by the proponents of gay marriage rests on "two people in love with each other." But surely this is insufficient. There is an intuitive, unmentioned assumption that the following rules apply:

1) no close relatives 
2) no minors married to adults 
3) no human/nonhuman unions 
4) no minors married to minors
5) no more than *two* people per marriage.

But why, and on what grounds? If we must throw away the traditions that bind and oppress us and keep us from loving each other, then why must we obey rules 1-5? (Rules 1-5, by the way were codified millennia ago by Moses to his fellow Hebrew freedmen). What of the old woman who loves her faithful pet? What of the uncle who loves his niece? What of the cousins who love each other? We'll not go further and insult ourselves with gross illustrations. Ah, I've insulted you now. I should stop. But, please allow me to ask: why must we obey any rules at all? Why must rules 1-5 apply? After all, who is to say that it is wrong? And how would you respond to someone who says, "But we love each other?"

By now perhaps you are angry with me, for I have dared to make such statements and ask such questions. But I am only asking questions, and I am asking what I do trust is done so in humility and love. For now, however, the burden of proof is not upon the "traditionalist" but on those who would change the tradition of one man/one woman for marriage (with additional rules about age and relation). Yes, the burden of proof is on the proponents of gay marriage to provide grounds for their position, based not upon pragmatism, and also to answer questions 1-5, and especially number 5.