Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bad pun

From the book I'm reading right now:

They [the Egyptians] oppress the Israelites harshly in order to reduce their population. When their plan fails, they take more drastic measures, requiring midwives to kill babies during parturition. After this plan is aborted, the Egyptians order the liquidation of all Israelite male infants. —p.93

<idle musing>
Bad pun, or unintentional one? Either way, it fits the Exodus story: Egypt tries to thwart YHWH's plan, but Egypt itself is thwarted. Indeed the theme of the entire Hebrew bible is the thwarting of man's and satan's plans and the fulfillment of God's.
</idle musing>

Quote for the day

"Mercy! Good God! What manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and alas! many pastors are totally incapable and incompetent to teach."—Martin Luther

<idle musing>
Some things never change, do they?
</idle musing>

More from Ethics

“If we nevertheless must say that self-murder is reprehensible, we can do so not before the forum of morality or of humanity, but only before the forum of God. The self-murderer is guilty before God alone, the creator and lord of the person’s life. Because there is a living God, therefore self-murder is reprehensible: the sin of unbelief. Lack of faith, however, is not a moral fault; it can accompany motives and deeds that are both noble and mean. Unbelief does not reckon, in good things or bad, with the living God. That is its sin. Unbelief is the ground from which human beings reach out for their own justification and its ultimate possibility, serf-murder, because they do not believe in a divine justification. Unbelief hides from people in a disastrous way the fact that even self-murder does not deliver them out of the hand of God, who has prepared their destiny. Unbelief does not recognize, beyond the gift of bodily life, the Creator and Lord who alone has the right to dispose over creation. Here we come up against the fact that natural life has its right not in itself but in God. Freedom towards death, which is given in human natural life, is misused when it is not used in faith in God.

“The right to the end of life is reserved for God, because only God knows the goal toward which a life is being directed. God alone wishes to be the one who justifies or rejects a life. Before God, self-justification, and therefore self-murder, is the epitome of sin. There is no compelling reason for rejecting suicide as reprehensible other than that there is a God above us. Self-murder denies this fact.”

“…God gives people the freedom to risk their lives for something greater, but God does not will this freedom to be used arbitrarily against their own lives. As surely as one should offer one’s life as a sacrifice for others, so surely one should not turn one’s hand against oneself. A person should place earthly life utterly into the hand of God from which it came, even though it be a life of torment, and not try to be liberated from it by self-help. When dying, one only falls again into Gods hands, which had seemed too severe in life.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 198-199, 200

Monday, October 30, 2006

A dad's bragging

We talked to our son, Ryan, last night. He's 22 and lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He stayed there when we left Minnesota and came to Indiana 3 years ago. Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Ryan is on the leadership team for a ministry called God's Barn (as well as being the drummer for the worship band). OK, background out of the way, he called us last night all excited, because God's Barn had been written up in a regional paper. Here's some of what they said:

God’s Barn exists as a testimony to the promise of redemption, the hope of Christianity.

Like those the ministry would serve, the building’s beginning came near its end, and opposed all worldly wisdom, which with one glance screamed despair.

Swooning amidst 25 years of overgrowth, its broken windows, wet rotting wood floors, collapsing roof, back-arching walls and damaged support structure offered no promise of restoration or purpose.

But for Jim and Becky Leebens of Lakeville their years-felt desire to establish a ministry for at-risk youth centered on restoring the decrepit and battered barn, part of Becky’s family’s farm for generations.

“Everyone told us to just tear it down and build a pole barn,” said Jim.

But they say God was telling the couple to restore the old building, and they prayed for confirmation and clear direction...

God’s Barn opened without heat, electricity or insulation in January 2005 and was home to their (very cold) first small group.

Those first worshippers autographed the wall in marker, and since then, many more have written Bible verses on the wooden floor.

Greeting visitors entering the premises of God’s Barn is a statute of a lion of Judah; three crosses stand nearby the bright red barn’s front door.

Inside, at one end of the large space, microphones and band equipment stands ready; a much-utilized pizza oven is set up across the room and stacks of plastic chairs line a wall...

There are youth events throughout the year, although there is no formal advertising; teens arrive by word of mouth.

“It’s not like we have big events or big sports names out here,” said Fred. “We have simple bonfires; we talk and share our lives. If we share our life with them, we’ll share the Gospel.”

Too bad the picture from the print version isn't on the web. Jim and Fred refused to allow them to photograph them. Instead, they turned their backs to the camera and, wearing "God's Barn" jackets, pointed with raised arms to the barn that God had raised back up.

So, if you happen to be in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, run down I-35 South and see for yourself what God is doing.

For me this verse is more true each day: "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth." 3 John 4 (RSV)

Bonhoeffer yet again

“Individuals definitely may defend their natural rights. Whether, how, and when they should is another question to be decided later. Under all circumstances they must defend a right in such a way as to make it credible that God, not the individual, is standing up for the right.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 185

“Never may the killing of another’s life be one possibility among many, however well founded that possibility may be. Where there is even the smallest responsible possibility of allowing the other to stay alive, then the destruction of this life would be arbitrary killing—murder. Killing or sparing life are never equivalent alternatives in a decision. The preservation of life has an incomparable priority over destruction. Life may claim all grounds to validate itself, while for killing there is one single valid ground. Where this is not considered, one runs afoul of the Creator and Preserver of life. In supporting the right to euthanasia on several different grounds, one puts oneself in the wrong from the beginning, by admitting indirectly that there is no single absolutely compelling ground.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 190-191

<idle musing>
If you want to read a very good argument against euthanasia (actually dysthanasia would be a better term), pages 185-196. Bonhoeffer’s argument wasn’t formed in an ivory tower; euthanasia was a living and active entity in Germany while he was writing.

I say dysthanasia, because the eu in euthanasia means “well, good” in Greek, whereas dys means “bad, evil.” Thanasia means death, so euthanasia literally means to die a good death. Talk about a misnomer!
</idle musing>

Sunday, October 29, 2006


There's a good post today over at The Heresy about complacency and the effectiveness of the evangelical church:

"...your average evangelical doesn't act differently than anyone else on a handful of major ethical issues, then the net impact of every evangelical ministry in America is almost nil. Every church, seminary, bible school and youth group is unsuccessful in facilitating the life transformation that would result in less racism, more generous giving or less broken families...

...It disturbs me that we are as comfortable as we are. More and more I struggle living in a world that assumes we are making a difference for the Kingdom of God while we remain largely safe, secure and comfortable collecting an income."

<idle musing>
I personally think it is because we settle for half the gospel. We are content to "accept Jesus" and go on our merry way expecting that we will make it into heaven at some point. We forget that we are "bought with a price." Repentance doesn't exist, you just feel sorry, but don't really repent.

I was just reading in I John this morning. Pretty harsh words in there about those who sin. We hang onto the soft words and ignore the strong ones. Selective reading, saying in effect, "Sure I believe the Bible, but only the parts that are comfortable and don't require me to die."

The scripture still stands, ominous and forbidding, but it stands nonetheless:
"He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39 RSV

The master summons us to a life of death to self. And we sit in our comfortable chairs and change the station via the remote to something less challenging, more comforting, more in line with bread and circuses—yet we still expect to reach the promised land!

I submit to you that if you aren't desiring to be in God's presence now, you certainly won't be happy in heaven. After all, if you look at Revelation, heaven is all about worshiping the Creator and bowing before Him day and night.
<idle musing>

Still more Bonhoeffer

“It is a commission of immeasurable responsibility given to all who know about the coming of Jesus Christ. The hungry person needs bread, the homeless person needs shelter, the one deprived of rights needs justice, the lonely person needs community, the undisciplined one needs order, and the slave needs freedom. It would be blasphemy against God and our neighbor to leave the hungry unfed while saying that God is closest to those in deepest need. We break bread with the hungry and share our home with them for the sake of Christ’s love, which belongs to the hungry as much as it does to us. If the hungry do not come to faith, the guilt fall on those who denied them bread. To bring bread to the hungry is preparing the way for the coming of grace.

“What happens here is something penultimate. To give the hungry bread is not yet to proclaim to them the grace of God and justification and to have received bread does not yet mean to stand in faith. But for the one who does something penultimate for the sake of the ultimate, this penultimate thing is related to the ultimate. It is a pen-ultimate, before the last. The entry of grace is the ultimate.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, page 165

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Some more goodies from Bonhoeffer's Ethics

“The whole of the past is embraced by the word ‘forgiveness’; the whole of the future is preserved in the faithfulness of God. Past sin has been sunk in the depths of God’s love in Jesus Christ and overcome; the future will be, without sin, a life born of God (I John 3:9). This life knows itself stretched and sustained from one eternal foundation to another, from its election before the time of the world toward eternal salvation to come. This life knows itself as a member of a church and of a creation that sings the praises of the triune God. All this happens when Christ comes to each person. In Christ all this is truth and reality. Precisely because it is not a dream, the life of a person who has encountered Christ’s presence is no longer lost, but has become justified, by grace alone.

“However, not only by grace, alone, but also by faith alone. So scripture and the Reformation teach. Not love or hope, but only faith justifies a life. It is faith alone that sets life on a new foundation, and only on this new foundation can I live justified before God. This foundation is the living, dying, and rising of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this foundation a life before God is unjustified; it is surrendered to death and damnation. The justification of my life before God is to live because of and toward the living, dying, and rising of Jesus Christ. Faith means to find, hold to, and cast my anchor on this foundation and so to be held by it. Faith means to base life on a foundation outside myself, on an eternal and holy foundation, on Christ. Faith means to be captivated by the gaze of Jesus Christ; one sees nothing but him. Faith means to be torn out of imprisonment in one’s own ego, liberated by Jesus Christ. Faith is letting something happen and only therein is it an activity. Yet both words together cannot adequately express its mystery. Faith alone is certainty; everything outside of faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ who tells me that my life is justified. So there is no way toward the justification of my life other than faith alone.”—Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pages 147-148.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What's going on around

Some real good stuff around the blogosphere right now...

Jim Martin over at A Place for the God-Hungry has 2 posts from St. John of the Cross, The Seven Sins of the Spiritual Life (Part 1) and (Part 2). I hope he keeps going with it. If you want to read the whole thing without waiting for him to post, you can head on over to CCEL.

Dan Kimball at Vintage Faith has a good post on pastors:

In a small church, the "pastor" is slave to the people and their opinions of how things should be done, does most of the chores and jobs around the church and is on call at any time day or night for the people.

In a large church, the "pastor" is king of the people, and comes out once a week on Sunday to give a mesmerizing speech which woos the people and then he disappears for another week.

And Scot McKnight has a nice series going on women in the church, specifically from the book by Sara Sumner. here is the one from yesterday, a short quote is in order:

Here’s 1 Cor 11:7 (TNIV):

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Sumner observes that “he” is the “image” of God while she is the “glory of man.” This led Augustine to comment on the text with two major implications:

First, that only Adam is the image of God; Eve is “image” only when in union with Adam. This drives the woman to be married to the man/male in order to form a complete identity.

Second, the “image” of God is the “rational” part of humans (males); females are more concerned with lower things while males with higher things. Women can “bear” the image of God; a man “is” the image of God. Women cover their heads in worship to cover their lower-focused heads/minds; men don’t cover their heads because they are focused on higher things.

<idle musing>
I think she is right on the money here...I like Augustine in some things, but his view on women is not one of them.
</idle musing>

And Ted Gossard has some insights into why less is more:

I'd rather give a one page handout, getting us into Scripture with some questions to facilitate discussion, than give a handout with reams and reams of material, that likely neither they nor I am really going to "get" very well. In this case, less is more, and more is less.

New catalog!

Yep, another one. Hey, we've been busy :) This one just arrived today. We're pretty proud of it, being in color and all. You can pick it up at AAR/SBL or ASOR, if you want to wait that long. Or, being the impatient people that many of you are, you can download it here

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Get thee hence!

If you are running on Windows, you should download the latest Firefox update here, it is now version 2.0. If you are still using Internet Explorer, you definitely need to change to Firefox!

Google's custom search

I told you I can't resist beta software :)

Google has a new custom search, and I just couldn't resist it. Take a look on the right hand side of the page. So far it searches these sites:

NT Gateway
Jim West's resource page
this site

Want to help? Supposedly you can, but I don't know how to tell you to do it... If somebody does, feel free to comment. Otherwise, add the links to the comment section. I know there are some more out there, didn't somebody have a good bibliography on text crititcism?

Ok, thanks to Jim West, here's how you can help:
Go to the Idle Musings search home page and click on the button that lets you volunteer to help. Take it from there and add links to sites with good ANE and biblical studies resources.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Quote for the day

"Bury yourself in a lexicon and arise in the presence of God."—Sir Edwyn Hoskyns

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wanderings around Warsaw/Winona Lake

As I was walking to work this morning, I thought maybe people would enjoy a few insights into life in the town, so whether you wish or not, here we go...

There have been a few chain saw carvings lately. One is a violin, the other a trombone. here is the violin:

Stolen from our webmaster and graphic artist, Andy's post

Here is the trombone:

Compliments of Heather, one of our customer service reps, who was trying out the night settings on her new camera. She also took one of Princess Winona.

As I was walking to work through the snow flurries, I saw a cement truck getting ready to pour a new sidewalk. Now that is not a job I would enjoy today! I did enjoy walking through the leaves, though. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Saturday, Debbie and I took a bike ride and the leaves were wonderful, all kinds of yellows and reds, some green still sprinkled in amongst them. Good thing we went Saturday, because Sunday was rainy and windy. Lots of the leaves are now on the ground for me to crunch through on the way to work :)

There is a new Christian bookstore about to open, taking the place of the one that closed last spring. This one is hoping to draw more people by having a coffee shop and fireplace. Fireplace sounds good to me on a day like today. You can find more details here, complete with a picture of the plaza.

In other meanderings, Andy asks Would you go? I hope he finishes all the AAR/SBL graphics before the does! He assured me he will.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What I'm reading now

The rep from Abingdon gave me an interesting little book recently. I started it on Thursday and it is very good. Let me quote from the blurb on Abingdon's web site:

We need committed Christians who care for the common good, who seek to be uniters rather than dividers, in deed and not just in word, who let their faith modify their politics rather than the reverse, who are suspicious of "graven ideologies," and who love their political counterparts by refusing to see them as enemies, treating them instead as beloved neighbors. We need people of faith who search the Scriptures, not for proof-texts to support the policies about which they’ve already made up their minds, but rather for new truths that will stretch their political and social understandings beyond the planks of any party.

That describes Dr. Hunter’s aim in this important and well-written book.

In spite of the word "Democrat" in the title, Dr. Hunter isn’t interested in getting Republicans to switch parties. He wants to help Christians - and especially evangelical Christians - see that their first loyalty is to a King and kingdom higher than any "principality or power" on earth. If we get that straight, we can expect a revolution of goodness and peace to continually unfold. The effects of that revolution will make themselves felt in the areas of economics, ecology, sexuality and family, poverty, education, the arts, racial reconciliation, the media, religion, and yes, even politics.

You should read this book!

No, Eisenbrauns doesn't sell it. No, I don't get any commission. All I want is for people to move beyond the current mindset that seems too prevalent: "Republican = Evangelical Christian" and into a biblical mindset of "Christ only, Christ all!"

Back in the mid 1970's Billy Graham warned that the right has always tried to hijack the conservative christian cause. He said they did it in the 1950's, and then jettisoned the christians when it no longer suited their needs. Would that people has taken his warning to heart!

Hey, look at this post that just popped up on my RSS reader (it's a month old, but my reader is weird that way):

Remember, we march to the drum that the world cannot hear. It cannot join us. Except in Christ. Not either in the Democrat or Republican party. Nor through any other entity in this world. The victory of God in Christ is not a victory for either, or any of these.

Let's not forget it. Let's remember where our allegiance lies. And learn to live in that allegiance. As those in Jesus who have our feet on the ground, but whose orders are ultimately always from "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15; TNIV)- Amen.

Oh, by the way, the name of the book is Christian, Evangelical, and . . . Democrat?

Church meanderings

Catching up on posts from this week, I noticed a good one over at House Church Blog on the basics of house church. Here is a sample:

* The "house church movement" is not about getting the church out of bigger buildings and into smaller, homier, ones. I would suggest that it is about seeing the church become a movement again as intended. In other words, the church is God's people lit up by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Our sense of this, from the New Testament, is that God intended his church, his people, to truly be a wildfire taking his life, power, and transformation from one person to the next until the world is engulfed with him. God was and is on the move through his people. A movement that is led by the Spirit of God (the church) can not be contained nor controlled without it losing its very essence. In that sense, he never intended for us to build fireplaces.

* Over the years we have, with very good intentions, become focused on building fireplaces. Much good has come from this. However, we have often found ourselves so busy with housing the fire that we have lost the intensity and fervor that fuels a movement. It is this movement that God has always been after and that he is restoring.

* Simplifying church back to its basics makes room for us to re-align our time and energy with God's purposes to fuel movements of his Holy Spirit everywhere. Just because we have simplified church does not mean this will happen. But it does provide the opportunity for us to put the priority focus back on those things that can facilitate that movement.

And then, there was an excellent post over at House Church Chronicles about being fed

Babies or the sick get fed. Healthy mature adults feed themselves. The church of our culture has done great disservice to the body of Christ by normalizing "spoon feeding" to those who should be feeding themselves…

One "bread" of our church culture is entertainment. Roman culture taught us to appreciate and be entertained by great oration. The resulting monologue has hijacked Christianity and formed how we "do church". Conversely, Hebrew and Greek cultures used dialogue for education. A good teacher in those cultures was one who could moderate a discussion and draw out the conversation of the participants. Then there is music. Our Christian culture is addicted to music. I am a musician and enjoy music from both sides of the guitar. The entertainment factor has dictated that only the big flashy shows will survive. After one gathering with His disciples we learn this of Jesus - "and after singing a hymn, they went out". No worship team, no rock-n-roll band, no expensive sound systems... Jesus could not compete in today's music market.

Another "bread" of our church culture is instant gratification. It is much easier to run by McDonald's and pick up fast food than it is to prepare a meal…

What more can I say?

Language musings

Over at Better Bibles Blog, there is an excellent post from a few days ago.

I thought that there was a little book written just for preachers that gave the instruction not to ever say "This is what the Greek actually says," especially if every single Bible translation that has ever existed in English does not mention that option for translating a verse.

<idle musing>
He goes on to talk about he misuse of Hebrew in a "women are a doormat" sermon he heard.

Excellent post, and worth the read, but the part I quoted is what caught me. Those of us who know Hebrew and/or Greek need to be careful how we use it. I have seen this knowledge used to skewer people who don't agree with a point at issue. I have seen it used as a badge of honor in order to look down on "hoi polloi" who don't know the languages. When I was in seminary, one of the Hebrew profs brought this up, pointing out that there are not two tracks labelled "dummies" and "brains," i.e., English Bible & original languages, but that they were meant to be complementary. Both were designed to teach people to do careful exegesis, with the ultimate goal of leading people to a deeper relationship with God.

When using the languages, the emphasis should be on the fuller understanding available—the full semantic range of the word in the original. People should know that they can trust their translations to be accurate, but they should also know that there is a much richer meaning in the original than can be conveyed without turning the translation into an expanded Amplified Bible.

Above all, they should not be made to feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom. If they are, then we who do it are guilty of the grossest Phariseeism and deserve all the scorn and condemnation that Jesus poured on the original scribes and Pharisees.
</idle musing>

Friday, October 20, 2006

More from Bonhoeffer's Ethics

The church confesses that it has looked on silently as the poor were exploited and robbed, while the strong were enriched and corrupted.
The church confesses its guilt toward the countless people whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation, and defamation. It has not condemned the slanderers for their wrongs and has thereby left the slandered to their fate.

The church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.

<idle musing>
I wish I could post the whole chapter entitled "Guilt, Justification, Renewal" from Ethics, but I would tire of typing long before the end...

He has gone from preaching and started meddling in this passage. Granted, it was written of the German church during Nazi times, but doesn't it ring true today?

Hasn't the church too often forgotten its prophetic calling and gotten too cozy with the status quo? Haven't we forgotten James' warning: "Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name which was invoked over you?"
<idle musing>

One more quote from this chapter:

Not all wounds that were mad can be healed; but it is critical that no further wounds be inflicted. The law of retaliation, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,'is reserved for God, the judge of the nations. In human hands it only causes new disaster...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

James Barr

<idle musing>
There are posts all over the Internet about the death of James Barr. You won't find more of that here. I only met him once and didn't really talk to him, so I'll let others sing his praises who can do a better job. No, these are thoughts along a different track altogether.

I used to work for a producer of video tapes and among the things produced were documentaries of famous people. We had a double video cassette documentary of Frank Sinatra, among others, but this one sticks in my mind. For good reason, at the time Frank Sinatra was quite ill and was in and out of the hospital and appeared about to die. So, the marketing director (not I), ordered several thousand copies to be duplicated, anticipating the nostalgia impulse buy. Sure enough, Musicland ordered 2 pallets worth of them, as did Best Buy. Frank Sinatra died about 2 weeks later.

That's not the point, though. What was sad was that every day the marketing people were fixated on whether or not he was going to die that day. At first they were hoping he would hang on long enough for the shipments to get to the stores, then they were hoping he would die before people lost interest and the videos got shipped back to us without selling. Pretty sad, isn't it? The life and death of a person was reduced to a few extra dollars in the bank—well, quite a few extra dollars, but you get the point.

How does this relate to James Barr? Well, we publish one of his books, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament. Now, do I run a sale on this book in honor of him? Or, will people think I am trying to cash in on the recent publicity and make a few dollars? In fact, I hesitated even linking to the book for fear that people would take it as a cheap plug.

When Erica Reiner died last summer, I decided not to run a sale or even mention it—and I actually knew her from my University of Chicago days at the Oriental Institute—for fear that it would be viewed as a cheap exploit.

The death of a person is not an opportunity to make money; it is a serious event, ushering them into their eternal destiny. For that reason, more than fear of misinterpretation, I have decided not to run a sale on the book.

What do you think? Am I creating a moral dilemna where none exists?
</idle musing>

Quote for the day

"There is no human perfection in this world and there are no golden ages in the life of the Church. There are simply moments when the Church is either less authentic or more authentic."—David Wells in Above All Earthly Pow'rs.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quote for the day

"Already yesterday's concerns are consigned to forgetfulness, and tomorrow's are too far away to obligate us today. The burden of yesterday is shaken off by glorifying shadowy time of old; the task of tomorrow is avoided by talking about the coming millennium. Nothing is fixed, and nothing holds us. The film, vanishing from memory as soon as it ends, symbolizes the profound amnesia of our time. Events of world-historical significance, along with the most terrible crimes, leave no trace behind in the forgetful soul. One gambles with the future. Lotteries and gambling, which consume an inconceivable amount of money and often the daily bread of the worker, seek the improbable chance of luck in the future. The loss of past and future leaves life vacillating between the most brutish enjoyment of the moment and adventurous risk taking. Every inner development, every process of slow maturing in personal and vocational life, is abruptly broken off. There is no personal destiny and therefore no personal dignity. Serious tensions, inwardly necessary times of waiting, are not endured. This in evident in the domain of work as well as in erotic life. Lasting pain is more feared than death. The value of suffering as the forming of life through the threat of death is disregarded, even ridiculed. The alternatives are health or death. What is quiet, lasting and essential is discarded as worthless."—Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Ethics

Wow, that was written in 1940, but it could describe today. I just started Ethics over the weekend. Debbie looked at it and said, "Wow, that's a big book." She's right, it is almost 600 pages. Of course, with Bonhoeffer, you don't read quickly. I figure this will last me through the end of the year :)

UPDATE: Sorry, the links didn't work. I fixed them (I think). —Thanks for pointing it out, Andy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just arrived

We weren't expecting this until tomorrow, but we'll take it a day early!
Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch

Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch

by Jean-Louis Ska
xvi + 285 pp.,English
Paper,6 x 9
ISBN: 1575061228
List Price: $29.50
Your Price: $26.55

Only two more books to arrive before we ship everything off to AAR/SBL: The Na'aman and Dever Festschriften.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quote for the day

"With what reality will we reckon in our life? With the reality of God's revelatory word or with the so-called realities of life? With divine grace or with earthly inadequacies? With the resurrection or with death? This question itself, which none can answer by their own choice without answering it falsely, already presupposes a given answer: that God, however we decide, has already spoken the revelatory word and that we, even in our false reality, can live no other way than from the true reality of the word of God. The question about ultimate reality already places us in such an embrace by its answer that there is no way we can escape from it. This answer carries us into the reality of God's revelation in Jesus Christ from which it comes."—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics

Some thoughts on church

Seems it is the week for long titles. Over at Vintage Faith, Dan has a long post entitled Pews, Pulpits, Pastors, Preaching and other things that can get in the way of the church "being" the church. Well worth the–long–read. I only quote a brief section or two:

…my growing theory of most churches is that when churches become so inwardly focused, we can produce the fruit of knowledgable but usually negative and critical people always pointing out the wrongs in everything. Or when we become so outwardly focused, we can become shallow theologically and produce Christians who barely know the Bible. Or when we become so felt-needs and methodology focused , we can produce consumer Christians who end up depending on which church best meets their needs which produces a bigger and better cycle for the church leaders to deal with. All of these things can produce a people who aren't seeing themselves as missional Christians being the church throughout the week - but people who have faulty (in my opinion) definitions of church and then they "go to church" for meeting the faulty expectations we have set up for them to define "church" by…

He goes on to name pews, pulpits, pastors, and preaching. Here is the one on pulpits:

Pulpits – There were no such things as "pulpits" in the early church or first in the 300 years of the church. They were primarily adapted from Greek and Roman forms of communicating and at first people sat to speak and standing to "preach" developed later. Pulpits became a focal point and raised high primarily after the Reformation. They create a definite distinction between the people in the seats and the person who gets behind the pulpit.

You really owe it to yourself to trot on over and read the other ones. You may not agree with all of it, some of it, or any of it, but you should at least let your horizons be broadened. One last quote, and then I’ll stop “preaching”

I am wondering more about what we produce whether house, small, or large church and how we do things and why we do what we do, when there isn't any biblical basis for most of what we do (in method and style and format).

UPDATE: I fixed the link, sorry about that.

The politics of Jesus?

I’ve been meaning to point out a very good post by Ted Gossard over at The Jesus Community. On Tuesday, October 10, he posted about Confidence in Politics. Here are a few snippets:

I believe that we, as those of the Jesus community, and I'm speaking for those of us who live in the United States- we tend to put too much stock in politics. I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not saying that politics doesn't have its place, and that, in fact, it is an insignificant place. No. But I do believe our confidence in this political process and in political parties all but borders on being idolatrous…

What is needed is nothing less than a revolution. But not from either the Democrats or Republicans or some other political party or entity. Oh, we'd do well to want to see them all turned on their heads, for that matter.

No. What we need is a major revolution in seeing the kingdom of God in Jesus have an impact through us, as the Jesus community, first in our homes, then in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in all spheres of life to which God calls us.

To get an idea of what this revolution would look like we should read and meditate on Matthew 5-7, for a start. If we concentrated on living this out, we would not put so much stock in the political process. We would not be sweating over who is going to win what race. We would know that these things can have their place. That God can truly be at work in them (look at William Wilberforce). But that the way of Jesus and the kingdom of God is a way that will cross out the ways of the world. It will run counter to it in how we live in Jesus. And we will be calling people to and endeavoring to live in no less than Jesus and his teaching.

And then, today, he has another post, this one entitled a small editorial: political (and talk radio) arrogance: let's avoid it. Quite a mouthful, that. The actual post is almost shorter than the title, so I will quote it in full:

I am fascinated by the charges of arrogance given by talk radio against the political party they oppose. There is really arrogance on every side. And the devastating part is when we Christians are caught up in all of this. Then we unwittingly can become partakers in this same kind of arrogance.

I am sad at saying this. I really can't take seriously much of what I catch on talk radio. Because those ready to do eye surgery on others, or ready to stone others, fail to see their own blindness and sin.

It is refreshing to see people talk about issues and with respect to their opponents, as Eikons of God- when that happens. Let's not lower ourselves, as those in the Jesus community, to the thoughts and standards that are common fare- and even more so, this political season.

<idle musing>
Well put. I couldn’t say it better myself. As Christians, we are called to live differently from the world. We are a light placed on a lamp stand; we are salt, but if the salt loses it saltiness, what good is it except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. I submit that christians earn a good deal of the scorn which is cast upon them. I include myself in that statement; anytime I don’t allow Christ to shine through me, I am bringing scorn upon His name. As it says in Romans 2:24: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” RSV

Now, lest you think I am saying we can do it, let me disabuse you of the idea that outside of the power of the Holy Spirit resting and abiding in us we can do it. It must be the power of God, as we abide in Christ, living His life through us. Works won’t cut it. You and I will just end up failing—usually pretty dramatically, too.
</idle musing>

Friday, October 13, 2006


Hey, check out this article from the NY Times. And this is the place where AAR/SBL will be held this year :) I can't get the URL to work, so I didn't post it, but here is an excerpt:

October 10, 2006
That Which Simmers Is Not to Be Dissed

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — Time was when it seemed safe to regard the works of Plato as intellectually superior to the racy romance novels of, say, Nora Roberts. In underground Washington, those days are over.

Consider the hoo-ha over new subway posters that try to capitalize on the percentage of people with advanced degrees living in the region.

The Greater Washington Initiative, a business group devoted to attracting investment to the area, put up the posters, which feature side-by-side photographs: of a man reading Plato’s “Republic,” under the caption “Greater Washington Subway Reading,” and of the same man poring over a romance novel, under the caption “Average Subway Reading.”

The reaction from romance writers — and readers — was as fast and heated as a steamy sex scene.

“I’m an erotic romance/romance publisher, and I live in your marketing area,” Stephanie V. Kelsey, editor in chief and chief operations officer of Mojocastle Press, wrote to the group. “Despite the erroneous position many take that romance is ‘easy money,’ it requires the same hard work, honing of skill and commitment as any other genre. To insinuate otherwise in a media representation of your company is not recommended, and we are not amused.

<idle musing>
It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Obviously I need to lose my out-moded meta-narrative and embrace the new po-mo one that there is no meta-narrative. After all, who has the right to say that Plato is better than a romance novel? Aren't they both of equal value in nourishing your mind and soul?

Just think if they had shown the same person reading The Republic in a Loeb or Oxford Classical Text!
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Scholar's Source available for download

For those of you who can't wait the 2 weeks or so that it takes for it to arrive in the mail, here is the download link for the latest Scholar's Source.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's Here!

I walked over to the warehouse before lunch, as I usually do, and there it was. Big as life, still in the boxes from Germany. Jessica looked at me like I was crazy, but I couldn't help it. I tore open the box, pealed back the shrinkwrap and flipped through the pages. John Cook, our acquisitions editor, walked in just then. He let out an excited yelp and grabbed it from my hands. We both were acting like crazy people. Why, you ask? Because it finally arrived:

Biblia Hebraica Quinta
Biblia Hebraica Quinta - BHQ 20
Edited by David Marcus
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart,Forthcoming Late 2006
296 pages,Hebrew
ISBN: 3438052806
List Price: $98.00
Your Price: $73.50

Wouldn't you get excited? I promise, I only drooled a little, and only on one of them. They will start shipping tomorrow, so watch for it. If you haven't ordered it yet, we still have a few from this shipment left and another one on the way...

More pacifism

I'm a bit slow on things these days. Blame it on trying to get too many things done—the AAR/SBL/ASOR order forms and quantities, the new catalogs in time to get them in your hands before AAR/SBL, my in-laws moving to Winona Lake/Warsaw in 3 weeks, the list goes on. Anyway, this post has been up since Saturday, but I only found out about it today, and then only because Jim Eisenbraun mentioned it to me in conversation... OK, enough introduction.

Ben Witherington has an excellent post on the Amish community in PA and their willingness to forgive.

This friends is real Christianity. Christians do not retaliate. They do not seek revenge, for the Bible says that vengeance should be left in the hands of the Lord. In fact they do quite the opposite. They offer forgiveness even to their tormentors. They seek peace at the least and reconciliation at the most with those who revile them, harm them, kill them...

Somewhere out there, there is someone who is muttering about meekness being weakness. There is someone out there suggesting that violence is the way to answer and silence senseless violence. There is someone simply ignoring the words of Jesus that those who live by the sword die by the sword.

As I've said before, I don't usually read Witherington's blog, but this post definitely is worth reading.

On a related note, Ben Myers is letting Kim do another guest blog on pacifism. Check it out here. A brief excerpt, but you really should read the whole thing.

Second, opponents of pacifism are also surprisingly – or perhaps I should say unsurprisingly – quiet about the pacifist church of the first three centuries. Did the church get it wrong? Or is it that the changing circumstances of the church under empire, and then under nations, changed everything? But if so, why? What does Constantinople – or Washington – have to do with Jerusalem? If Christians were pacifist under pagan rule, why should they abandon pacifism under Christian rule? Indeed, what constitutes “Christian rule”? Is not the very idea that a Christian ruler/government may wield the sword an oxymoron? This is certainly a question that needs to be answered rather than begged.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quote for the day

“If our standards were higher, if we really proclaimed the truth of genuine repentance—does this sound like radical religion? It ought to be the normal, the ordinary thing. The Lord told us that power must come to our lives. We must experience the presence, the revelation of God as we believe in Jesus Christ, His Son. This is not radical. It is the other thing—the deadness, the lack of power, the uncertainty—that is abnormal.”—A.W. Tozer

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The revenge of Arianism, part 2

<idle musing>
Still not convinced by my last post? OK, maybe I’m wrong. Rather than arguing grammar, let’s use the New Testament itself. Turn to Revelation and we’ll find out who the Alpha and Omega, First and the Last is:
Revelation 1:8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,”says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

Now, clearly the Alpha and Omega here is God, no doubt about it. So, let’s look at Revelation 21:5-7:

The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.

Here we have the Alpha and Omega—clearly God, not Jesus—equated with the
beginning and the end. Remember that and let’s look at Revelation 22:13:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Here we clearly have God equated with Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end. Quite a set of attributes. So, we have 3 passages which clearly define God, the Father, not the son as Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, first and last. Bear that in mind as we turn to one more passage in Revelation, Revelation 1:17:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,”

Seems like a reasonable response, you see the first and the last, whom we have already seen is God, and you fall at his feet as a dead man. That was the normal response in the Hebrew bible when people got a glimpse of God. But, there was a comma there, not a full stop, so let’s see what verse 18 has for us:

and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Hmm, what do you say now? Did God ever die? Did the Almighty, who sits on the throne ever die, except in the form of Jesus?

Ponder that for a while and then tell me that the New Testament never equates Jesus with God the Father.
</idle musing>

Saturday, October 07, 2006

John 1:1 and the deity of Jesus, or Arianism on the rise

<idle musing>
It seems that Arianism (the belief that Jesus in not fully God) has been on the rise of late. In the last year, I have seen more discussions on e-mail lists questioning the deity of Christ than in any other time. Perhaps it is just coincidence, perhaps it is just the same people on different lists. Perhaps it is the rise in gnosticism, as witnessed by the huge publicity stunt around the Gospel of Judas. But, people are definitely becoming more vocal in their questioning of who Jesus is/was.

The most common line of attack for those who know some Greek is to use John 1:1c: KAI QEOS HN O LOGOS (I am using the standard Greek transliteration for e-mail here, Q equals theta, H equals eta). For those of you who don’t know any Greek, the line of reasoning is that since the word for God doesn’t have a “the” (article) in front of it, it should be translated “a god.” In English the usual translation is “and the word was God.”

There is a sound grammatical reason for no article in front of QEOS; in Greek, when the copula (to be) is used, the subject has the article, and the predicate has no article. How else will you know what the subject is? Greek is not a word order language like English, it depends on the form of the word to determine what is what. This construction is elementary Greek; for those of you who have access to Smyth’s Greek Grammar—the standard reference grammar in English—take a
look at paragraph 1150

A predicate noun has no article, and is thus distinguished from the subject.

Perhaps you would prefer a different grammar, maybe a New Testament one? Try Brooks & Winberry, Syntax of New Testament Greek, page 140-141:

Note: When the article is used with one of two nominatives connected by a copulative verb, the noun with the article is the subject nominative. If one of the two nouns is a proper name, it is the subject. If a pronoun is joined with a noun, the pronoun is the subject (italics theirs)

Or, maybe you prefer Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (basically an abridgement of Robertson’s A Grammar of the Greek New Testament), try reading pages 137-140, it’s too long for me to write out here. Robertson himself has a discussion of John 1:1 on pages 767-769. They all explain why the Greek QEOS is anarthrous, but is still definite and translated “God.”

Perhaps another Classical Greek Grammar would convince you? Try Goodwin & Gulick, Greek Grammar, paragraph 954: “A predicate noun seldom has the article.”

Pretty straightforward explanations, aren’t they? How else could John have written it in good Greek?

Still not convinced? OK, let’s look at a couple of other anarthrous (without the article) uses of QEOS in John 1:1-18:

John 1:12 in English reads “He gave them authority to become children of God.” The Greek for children of God reads TEKNA QEOU. Now, I have never heard anyone argue that this should be translated “children of a god.”

John 1:13 in English reads “They were born by the will of God.” The Greek reads EK QEOU EGENNHQHSAN. Using the lack of article as a guide, we should translate it “they were born [by the will of] a god.”

How about John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God...” Greek: QEON OUDEIS hEWRAKEN PWPOTE MONOGENHS QEOS. So, should we translate that as “No one has seen a god at anytime, an only begotten god...” Clearly, that is a nonsense statement, yet both cases of QEOS are anarthrous.

Or how about this, an anarthrous occurrence of PATHR (father) in verse 14: MONOGENOUS PARA PATROS. Who would translate this as “the only begotten from a father?” That is patent nonsense! Or, should we start a new version of Christianity that says there are multiple God the fathers? Oh, too late, that’s Mormonism.

This has gotten long enough for now, but clearly the grammatical construction of John 1:1 is a non-starter for arguing Arianism. Perhaps that is why the Early Church Fathers—both pro-Nicene and pro-Arius—never used the grammatical argument? It was always a philosophical/theological argument. The grammar of John 1 has only been an argument in the last 2-3 centuries, and usually by those with just enough Greek to get into trouble...
</idle musing>

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pacificism, again

Run on over to Faith and Theology." Kim Fabricius has a great 10 point post on peace and war. A brief excerpt:

6. And so-called Just War theory? It is the Trojan horse in the city of God. If ever there was a knockdown incrimination against natural theology this is it. Its origins lie in Stoicism, the pinnacle of philosophy in the Pax Romana – which, of course, is spin for “imperial terror.” Augustine (who, in fact, was less than satisfied with the implications of his own teaching) acted in haste – and ever since the church has been repenting at leisure. Just War theory is the elephant in the confessional, the bad faith of the church.

9 more excellent points, read them for yourself.

Quote for the day

Too often we have reduced the gospel invitation to a formula. ‘Put a nickel in the slot, pull down the lever, pick up your prize and go on your way. You believe on Jesus? Then take this tract and everything will be fine!’ That may be the beginning of Christianity. It is something, but it certainly is not the sum of the gospel.

“What does the Bible say about true Christianity? It says that if you will take Christ, follow Him and do what you should about Him, letting Him do what He wants with you, He will certainly take the bitterness out and put His love in. He willl take the avarice out and put generosity in. He will take the hatred out and put peace in its place. That is what Christianity teaches and promises.

“Those enemies of Jesus were perfectly sure that they were right because they believed the right things. They could have joined some of our fundamentalist churches that ask: ‘Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe it is God’s inspired Word?” The Pharisees claimed to believe the right things. They appeared to be relatively right and clean. But there was hatred in their hearts.”—A.W. Tozer

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quote for the day

"It was Christ, with all of his painful demands of obedience, not comfortable country clubs that early Christianity was about. It was what God had done in space and time when the world was stood on its head that was its preoccupation, not the multiplication of programs, strobe lights, and slick drama. Images we may want, entertainment we may desire, but it is the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen that is the Church's truth to tell."—David F. Wells in Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, pages 231-232.

Now this is neat!

This was just posted to the B-Greek e-list:

"The Cambridge New Greek Lexicon has already been nearly eight years in the making. But the growing range and sophistication of the project made it imperative to find extra funding, which until now has had to be raised independently of the research grant system, with the help of various benefactors.

" The project to create a new lexicon was begun in 1998 by Dr John Chadwick, a Cambridge academic distinguished for his collaboration with Michael Ventris on the decipherment of Linear B. His initial aim was simply to revise the intermediate edition of Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, a student version published unchanged since the end of the 19th century. However, once the inadequacies of the work became clear, the decision was taken to start afresh.

"To achieve this, the Cambridge team entered into collaboration with Perseus, an American digital library with a huge databank of Classical texts. From it, a database has been created large enough to fill 30 CD-Roms, which enables them to find each occurrence of an individual word in the original Greek texts."

Read the whole story here. I had heard rumblings of something like this for years, but I'm glad to see it is coming along.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Yes, already! It is looming closer by the day!

I have been working on what books to bring and how many. This is a time consuming and, ultimately, futile task. It never works out right, we always run short on some titles and have too many of others. You need to let me know what and how many you are going to buy :)

So far I have 111 titles for our distribution partners—not including Carta or Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht—and 94 Eisenbrauns titles. Harrassowitz will also be in our booth this year, so that means more titles still. Isreal Antiquities Authority is also sending us all IAA Reports to sell at a 30% discount for all you archaeologists out there (Joe, are you listening?). We also will have the 3 latest 'Atiqot volumes–50-52, also at 30%.

How's that for teasers? More later...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Three years!

No, that is not how long I have been blogging, nor my emotional maturity level. Three years ago today, I started working at Eisenbrauns.

I had been planning to start October first, but the truck rental company didn't deliver on time. In fact, I ended up driving to the north side of St. Paul to get an available truck (an extra 60 miles and two days later). We loaded up the truck, cleaned the townhouse and started on the long road to Indiana from Chaska, Minnesota...

Monday, October 02, 2006

October sale at Eisenbrauns

October's monthly sale offers you all available volumes of the highly acclaimed Göttingen Septuagint project for 20% off. Several of the volumes have recently been reprinted after being unavailable for some time.
All the details here.

Additionally, we are offering a used book special: during the month of October, purchase $500 worth of used books in a single order, and we'll give them to you at 10% off. Want more used books for a better price? Spend $1000 for a 15% discount, or $1500 to receive 20% off the used book total on your order.