Thursday, April 30, 2015

Too normal

From personal experience, I already knew how damaging the two-tiered mentality was for those presumptuous enough to assign themselves to the top. As a pastor, I’ve discovered how detrimental it is for those who believe they belong on the bottom tier. Most Christians look at the greats—the apostle Paul, Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa—and decide they can never measure up. Or they look at missionaries, street preachers, and pastors and feel certain that they just aren’t on the same level as professional Christians. Too many Christians feel guilty for their normal, everyday lives, which doesn’t involve performing miracles, standing behind a pulpit, or sharing the gospel in a distant jungle.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

tolle! lege!

Reading aloud is more complex, and therefore more demanding, than silent reading.—Understanding Reading, page 34

Who's on first?

Preposing is normally performed on an entire clause-level constituent. When the constituent involved is a compound phrase, there are several preposing options. In most cases the entire phrase is preposed, even when it is a long coordinated chain.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 67

<idle musing>
This is in contrast to Koiné Greek, where in a long phrase only one-two elements are preposed
</idle musing>

Let go of the pride

As Bruce Malina and others have shown, to cancel lawful debts, let alone to forgive one’s enemies, without some good or mitigating reason was an action that brought intense shame on the one who did so. For in this, the one forgiving debt and offenses to his person (and his people) would be showing himself as a fool, as weak, as fearful of standing up for his rights, and as someone who, as we might say, was ready to let others “get away with murder.” Thus the promise of forgiveness to those who owe “debts” is the abandonment of the cultural criteria for maintaining one’s honor when disgraced, through retaliation. It is a commitment to magnanimity, mercy, and peace, even if it means that others will see one remaining in disgrace.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 130

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grace is the answer

Grace saves us from both obsessive and complacent Christianity. It frees us from both legalism and sin.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Amen! This seems to answer some of my concerns yesterday...
</idle musing>

Metaphors really do matter—a lot

The metaphorical nature of terms like scheme and script is often overlooked. The use of computers as an analogy for the brain in educational theorizing has led to a belief that schemes, scripts, and cognitive structure itself are “data” or “programs” that people must “acquire” through instruction. The alternative view is that the distillation of experience into forms that might be conceptualized as schemes or scripts is natural for humans of any age.—Understanding Reading, pages 29–30

<idle musing>
I'm noticing this in most of the linguistics books I've been reading lately. They all treat the brain—and by extension, the person—as a machine, a large and very complicated computer. If we can just figure out the correct program, everything will make sense. Except that people aren't logical and, metaphors do matter.
</idle musing>

What to do with that pesky Hebrew vav

Scholars are divided as to the proper syntactic classification of clauses with a “subordinate” ו. Van der Merwe et al. (1999: §40.8) recognize a separate use of ו as a subordinating conjunction. Waltke and O’Connor (1990: §38.1h), in contrast, write that “the system expressed in the text may skew the unexpressed semantic system”; that is, the formally nonsubordinate ו clause may be used to express a logically subordinate idea. Steiner (1997: 168) takes an intermediate view between these positions, stating that “the boundary between coordination and subordination in BH is not as sharp as in English.” He views ו as a universal connector that can be used to connect coordinated or subordinated clauses.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 57

Could it be?

Consider the implication of the fact that Jesus uses the phrase ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου as a coordinate of the phrase “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς [genēthētō to thelēma sou, hōs en ouranō kai epi gēs], Matt. 6:10bc). If we assume, as I think we should, that the concern of this coordinate phrase is God’s enabling of the disciples’ obedience in the face of a desire to act otherwise, then it seems more likely that the sense of the petition ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου, for Jesus (and certainly for Matthew), was less to implore God to manifest his reign ahead of the time he intended to do so, than to invite God to ensure that the will of his people is in harmony with his own purposes for them. The fuller connotation of the petition might then be paraphrased, “may we be made worthy of your reign by being conformed not to our own will but to yours.”—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 113

<idle musing>
Interesting proposition, isn't it? I ran into the same idea while reading David Clark's dissertation. At the time, I was skeptical—as I was when I started reading this book. But, I think Gibson makes a good argument. In fact, I've come to believe he's correct.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The extent of grace

Many Christians think that grace basically means “Jesus saved me from my sins and now I get to go to heaven.” But grace is far bigger than that. ...

Some Christians think grace means God paid your entry fees and put you on the race course, but now it’s up to you to run the race. Other Christians think grace means that if you try really, really hard but complete only the 5k race, God will give you a marathoner’s medal anyway because he’s nice that way. Neither of those goes nearly far enough.

To run with the racing analogy, grace means you’re a quadriplegic who can’t afford a wheelchair, let alone the entry fee. Grace means that the only way you’ll get on the racetrack is if Jesus pays your fee and carries you onto the course. Grace means that the only way you’ll run the race is if Jesus carries you every step of the way. And grace means you’ll cross the finish line and receive the finisher’s crown solely because Jesus carried you across.

What’s your role in all this? Your biggest job is letting Jesus carry you through the race. Invariably, this proves too much for you and me, and we end up head butting Jesus until he lets us wallow in the mud of our sin.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
That's a great analogy, but it sounds a bit too monergistic (God does everything, we are just passive). Mind you, it is all Christ empowering us and enabling us. But, we have to get out of the boat, to change the metaphor to when Peter walked on water. It was faith in Christ that allowed Peter to do it, but he had to take the step. Mind you, it was all Christ, all the time—or I should say faith in Christ—but Peter's legs didn't just move monergistically! He had to move them. And that is where it is soooo easy to have it morph into works. And that is what he's really trying to prevent here. But, we need to remember that our response is real and it counts. It is in a very real way synergistic (working together), but the initiative is always (and I can't emphasize that enough!) God, and the power to even respond is from God.

Has that just muddied the waters? I hope not.
</idle musing>

We love to categorize

I want to consider how language creates worlds, objects and relationships, which in no other sense exist. Language makes us think something is there when it isn’t. It deceives us.

The human race is always prone to give names to aspects of experience, and then to take for granted that whatever corresponds to those names exists. Give something a name (like intelligence, or perseverance, or wickedness), and many people will think that it exists, not as a kind of behavior that fits a certain description, but as the cause or underpinning of the behavior. Thus for example reading, which in general is easily identifiable behavior, has become transmuted into the reading process, which is assumed (by many) to actually exist within the human brain (which is also supposed to contain a writing process, a grammatical process, and a phonemic awareness process) .—Understanding Reading, pages 7–8

Sentence? What sentence?

In Biblical Hebrew, the quest for the sentence is probably an exercise in futility. The researcher trying to define the sentence in Biblical Hebrew must grapple with texts that appear to be one interminably long sentence, because almost every clause in narrative begins with the coordinator ו. Although the traditional verse division groups clauses into units, there is no particular reason to think that verse division corresponds to syntactic sentence boundaries.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 49

Come? Or "draw us near"?

In the formal and material parallel to the “kingdom” request found in Rev. 22:20c—namely, the petition ἔρχου, κύριε Ἰησοῦ (erchou, kyrie Iēsou), which, like the “kingdom” request in the Disciples’ Prayer, consists of a form of ἐρχομαι (erchomai) in the imperative subject, and also is uttered in the context of an announcement of the dawning of a divine visitation. The function of the verb ἐρχομαι is not so much to express a sense of distance and separation as it is to invite closeness, and concomitantly to express the desire to be acceptable to the one invited to “come.” It is not the Lord (or, in the Disciples’ Prayer, the kingdom) that must be “turned” so that it “come”; rather, both prayers express the desire that the one praying be turned from disobedience and conformed to the reality, or the person, that is called upon to “come.” This suggests that the ἐλθέτω in the petition ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου expresses the wish to be made worthy of God’s kingdom and to be protected from all that would prevent this end.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 112

Monday, April 27, 2015

The weight of obligation

Too many Christians struggle under the weight of trying to do enough. They’re so busy trying to be spiritual enough that they miss God’s blessings in everyday life. They’re like frightened children who refuse to go to the beach because they think their father would be more pleased if they did extra chores.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Right on! Do you think God would be more pleased with you if you read another couple of chapters in the Bible? Or if you spent more time in prayer? Or if you went to a soup kitchen? Or helped the homeless?

While none of those are bad in and of themselves—actually they are commendable acts—but if you are doing them to "please God more" then they are dead works. Trash! Garbage! Worthless! You are trying to earn what you already have—the love of God. Stop it! Change your heart and mind (i.e., repent) and accept the love of God in Christ.

He might still lead you to do those things—in fact, he probably will!—but now they will be out of a different motivation. And that is what counts.
</idle musing>

Consistency? Not so much...

All live religions are many things. The formal ritual of public occasions teaches one set of doctrine. There is no reason to suppose that its message is necessarily consistent with those taught in private rituals, or that all public rituals are consistent with one another, nor all private rituals.—Purity and Danger, page 205

<idle musing>
And should we expect consistency? Look at your own life and theology. I'll bet there isn't a whole lot of consistency there! I know that I catch myself in inconsistencies all the time. Humanity is not a rational being, despite what we would like to think. My goal is to prayerfully eliminate the inconsistencies, though; I want my life to be consistently Christian, with Jesus shining through in thoughts, words, and deeds.

What about you? Is that your goal too?
</idle musing>

If only it were easy

A structural approach, in which syntactic categories are defined using formal rather than semantic criteria is followed wherever possible. Unfortunately, linguistic categories do not always have neat boundaries even when defined in structural terms (Huddleston and Pullum 2002: 90). A category may have central members that possess all of the characteristics typically associated with the category, as well as peripheral members that have only some of these characteristics. Trying to decide which category to assign to a peripheral item is at times a fruitless and artificial endeavor.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 48

<idle musing>
As I told someone the other day, "If it were easy, we wouldn't still be arguing about it!" But that's the fun of it, right? Right? Oh, come on—it's fun, right? : )
</idle musing>

Hold on!

It [the Lord's Prayer] was intended to shape the disciples as a group that, in word and deed, would stand as a witness against the teachings of “this generation” regarding how Israel should be Israel. The occasion of Jesus’ giving it to the disciples was his perception that they were in grave danger of falling away from their calling and becoming members of “this generation,” and so he gave them the prayer as a means to secure from God the divine aid necessary to remain faithful to their calling. Its petitions echo the narrative of the wilderness generation, which Jesus regarded as the biblical prototype for the disobedient in his own time.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 104

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I don't like this

I just ran across this summation of some bee-related research. Seems the bees are just as good at getting addicted to bad food as we are. That does not bode well for the future...
Neonicotinoid apologists reject these studies, in part because the researchers force-feed neonic-laced food to the bees. The critics say that the most important thing for bees is freedom of choice. Give bees the right to pick their own nectar in the wild, they say, and they will eat a wide variety of foods that best suits their individual needs, mostly avoiding the poisonous plants. It sounds oddly like the talking points of soda manufacturers in soda ban debates: Let consumers “make the choice that’s right for them.”

The journal Nature published two studies today that disprove the “freedom of bee choice” theory. In the first, researchers offered bees two food sources: a pure sugar solution and a sugar solution laced with neonicotinoids. The bees did not avoid the contaminated food—they actually preferred it! The researchers then went a step further, testing the bees’ neural response to the insecticide. (Isn’t science amazing?) Although bee brains have bitter-sensing neurons that help detect poison (humans have them, too), this defense mechanism didn’t respond to neonicotinoids. In the end, the neonic-fed bees died earlier than their health food-eating peers, essentially poisoning themselves with junk.

Textual Criticism

Textual criticism traffics in critical analysis, not in claims of authority. Cappel [Critica Sacra, 1650] made a distinction between the content of Scripture, which in his view was divinely inspired, and its textual transmission, which was a wholly human phenomenon. The accumulated errors in the texts are the product of human hands. The necessary remedy is textual criticism, a rational procedure whereby one can repair these accumulated errors and restore the text closer to its pristine state.—Ron Hendel, "The Idea of a Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible: A Genealogy" in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 4 (2014), 400

Saturday, April 25, 2015

ANE backgrounds

On Thursday morning, I had the privilege and pleasure teaching a 4.5 hour seminar (via Skype) to a group of YWAM Minneapolis students on the Ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

I've posted the outline that I created, along with a supporting file of graphics, on I hope at least a few of you might find it helpful.

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be an academic/scholarly outline. It is intended to give a good overview of the ANE backgrounds to a group of Christians who want to better understand the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. The presentation takes about 4.5 hours, allowing for three breaks and questions; in this case the questions took between 30–45 minutes. Of course, depending on the group, the question session may be shorter or longer.

I had a blast doing it. I hope I get the privilege of doing it again sometime soon. I'm sure I'll continue to modify the outline, so if you have suggestions, please leave a comment. Again, bear in mind that this is designed as an overview for the advanced lay person with a basic knowledge of the Bible, so suggestion should be appropriate for that audience.

As an aside, they posted an interview with one of the students (Marie) on their Facebook page. Although I have to say, I am not a professor!, but thanks for the compliment : )

Update: I found out that you need to log in to in order to download the files. Sorry about that. Try this link for the outline:
and this link for the graphics:

Let me know if the links don't work!

Friday, April 24, 2015

What exactly is "radically normal" anyway?

In our human sinfulness, we tend to be proud of our obsessiveness or to excuse our complacency. But the life that God desires isn’t found at either extreme. Wholehearted devotion to God consists of radical obedience lived out in surprisingly normal, joy-filled ways. This is what I mean by being radically normal. It’s the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

<idle musing>
Isn't that a refreshing viewpoint? I think I'm going to like this book...
</idle musing>

It's all about context

[A] Martian anthropologist might come to the wrong conclusion on overhearing an English plumber asking his mate for the male and female parts of plugs.—Purity and Danger, pages 106–7

<idle musing>
OK. That one brought a smile to my face : )

Context really is everything. And sometimes I wonder how correctly we get the context in the ancient world...and how can we know if we get it right? But that's the challenge that keeps me digging deeper all the time!
</idle musing>

Now we're getting somewhere

As the emphasis-centered model has largely fallen out of favor, backgrounding/temporal-sequencing and information-structure models dominate the field of contemporary research on BH word order…

The present study explores the significance of information-structure functions for preposing in BH. The concepts of focusing and topicalization are clarified and redefined so that they provide insights into when and why preposing occurs. A sample of preposed clauses is examined to determine whether information-structure functions are statistically dominant or whether functions that relate to the clause as a whole, such as simultaneity and anteriority, are the dominant kind. In addition, differences between preposing in narrative and direct speech are explored. In subsequent chapters, focused and topicalized clauses are analyzed in detail from the syntactic and the pragmatic perspectives.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, pages 46, 47

Not of "this generation"

Each of the individual petitions of the Disciples’ Prayer not only recalls but also appears to be set out in (conscious?) contradistinction to the description of the wilderness prototype of “this generation.” The “wilderness generation” was called by a messenger of God (Moses) to be God’s people by following the ways this messenger had proclaimed. Yet it refused to sanctify God’s name and instead profaned it (Num 20:12; 27:14). It did not do God’s will (Psalm 95). It called on God to stop giving them the “bread for the morrow” it received from him, and with which it should have been satisfied (Num. 11:1-6; Ps. 78:17-18). And it put God to the test (Exod. 17:1-9; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 78:40-41; 95:1-11; 106:14).

Why would Jesus make reference to all of this, and why would he frame the petitions of the prayer he gave his disciples in terms of not doing what the biblical prototype of “this generation” does, unless he was trying to give to his disciples something that would help them avoid becoming like them?—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 98

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Another new book—well, new to me anyway

So many of us have a deep-seated fear that we have to choose—do we want to be obsessive Christians who don’t enjoy this life, or do we want to be complacent Christians who have a lot of fun here? We feel as if those are our only two options. Should we give up football, sell all of our possessions, and become missionaries to India? Or should we have nice houses, be well liked, and climb the corporate ladder? We know those aren’t really the only options, but we’re still haunted by the feeling that God must be happier when we read our Bibles than when we watch football. I wonder how many Christians remain lukewarm primarily because they think that being on fire would be miserable.—Radically Normal, electronic edition

It's got to fit!

In a chaos of shifting impressions, each of us constructs a stable world in which objects have recognisable shapes, are located in depth, and have permanence. In perceiving we are building, taking some cues and rejecting others. The most acceptable cues are those which fit most easily into the pattern that is being built up. Ambiguous ones tend to be treated as if they harmonised with the rest of the pattern. Discordant ones tend to be rejected, If they are accepted, the structure of assumptions has to be modified…

Uncomfortable facts which refuse to be fitted in, we find ourselves ignoring or distorting so that they do not disturb these established assumptions.—Purity and Danger, pages 45, 46

Topic? Who knows!

The various definitions of topic remain problematic. The most accepted conception of topic, the notion of “aboutness,” has thus far resisted objective formulation, despite valiant efforts on the part of many researchers. Gómez- González (2001: 31) sums up the state of the field as follows: “the intricacies raised by the numerous and heterogeneous variations of the semantic interpretation have led many scholars to conclude that Theme/Topic in terms of aboutness cannot be regarded as an objectively identifiable unique category, but as a clearly intuitive, and therefore subjective concept.”— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 33

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! I'm wading through Lambrecht's Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic, Focus, and the Mental Representations of Discourse Referents right now. Talk about dense! And confusing doesn't begin to describe it...I've heard people say it is one the hardest books they ever read. I agree. I'm not sure if it is the subject or the writing—or both!

So, for someone to say that the whole idea of topic is "problematic" is refreshing. At least I'm not the only one confused...
</idle musing>

Why disciples?

But Jesus called and gathered disciples for another reason as well: to found what sociologists have called “intentional communities,” small groups and cells of followers, some living within their home villages and towns, some on the road as itinerants. These cells would, by living out a particular kind of corporate life consistent with the path of faithfulness to God that he was calling Israel to adopt, make incarnate his vision of what faithful Israel should look like. This must not, mind you, be in any way understood as something tantamount to a desire on Jesus’ part to found a church. For as far as Jesus was concerned, there already was a “church,” one he wholeheartedly belonged to, namely, the ἐκκλησία κυρίου (ekklēsia kyriou), the “congregation of the Lord,” that is, the people of Israel. Moreover, he never spoke of the group he called into being except in terms of titles used previously by the prophets and his contemporaries to designate the people of Israel, one of which was, notably, “son” or “sons of God.” Rather, he called and gathered disciples around himself in order to accomplish what he believed was another task given to him by God, namely, to reconstitute Israel and to rescue it from what he and other figures of his day called the “wrath to come,” that is, the judgment, often embodied in national calamity, that the prophets declared was inevitable for Israel if they were persistent in covenant unfaithfulness.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 86

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Huh? Say that in English please

In conclusion, the backgrounding model and temporal-sequencing models are not applicable to all preposed clauses. The most plausible formulations of the theory apply exclusively to subject-preposed clauses; thus, object-preposing and adjunct-preposing are not afforded an explanation. Furthermore, many subject-preposed clauses do not describe backgrounded or nonsequential events and cannot be accounted for within these models.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 31

Love that dirt

As we know it, dirt is essentially disorder. There is no such thing as absolute dirt: it exists in the eye of the beholder. If we shun dirt, it is not because of craven fear, still less dread of holy terror. Nor do our ideas about disease account for the range of our behaviour in cleaning or avoiding dirt. Dirt offends against order. Eliminating it is not a negative movement, by a positive effort to organise the environment.—Purity and Danger, page 2

It ain't easy

Above all, the key sticking point is the existence of conceptual metaphor. If conceptual metaphors are real, then all literalist and objectivist views of meaning and knowledge are false. We can no longer pretend to build an account of concepts and knowledge on objective, literal foundations. This constitutes a profound challenge to many of the traditional ways of thinking about what it means to be human, about how the mind works, and about our nature as social and cultural creatures.

At the same time, what we have discovered is fundamentally at odds with certain key tenets of postmodernist thought, especially those that claim that meaning is un-grounded and simply an arbitrary cultural construction.

What has been discovered about primary metaphor, for example, simply does not bear this out. There appear to be both universal metaphors and cultural variation.—Metaphors We Live By, pages 274–75

Loving means not willing the destruction of enemies

To be a son of God, then, is to act in the world as God does, showing mercy and forgiveness toward all, refusing to retaliate injury for injury, accepting suffering and persecution as the price of living in conformity to God’s will, and, most importantly, loving and not “hating” (seeking or willing the destruction of) those ordinarily deemed the enemies of Israel.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 84

<idle musing>
And the standard hasn't changed in 2000 years...mercy and forgiveness, loving. And the last time I checked, those three words don't have a meaning of "hate" or "bomb them to death" in their definition. No, not even for "American interests" that "need to be defended."
</idle musing>

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Too vague to be useful

The concept of emphasis has been criticized as overly subjective and vague. It is difficult to say whether an emphasis on the preposed element was really intended or whether the researcher is simply assuming it to exist because of that element’s position at the head of the clause. In addition, the notion of emphasis in and of itself does not explain why and for what purposes the speaker wishes to emphasize something.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, pages 18–19

<idle musing>
In other words, we need a good linguistic reason for the preposing of subjects and/or objects. "Emphasis" is just a catchall term to say "We're not sure, but this seems to make sense." Not terribly convincing, is it?
</idle musing>

A scary alternative

In other words, by taking certain capacities as conditions for entry, liberalism prevents us having to fall back upon irreducibly religious models of recognition. Yet if phenomenology reveals the capacities approach to justify inclusion only of the fully functional, phenomenology in effects collapses the buffer erected between political practices and religious convictions. Phenomenology signals in effect the failure of the liberal solution to recognition. Where then are we left? Essentially, facing a choice between an irreducibly religious model of recognition (ascribing rights to human beings regardless of the abilities they happen to exhibit at any given moment) and Nietzsche’s power-play according to which only those strong enough to claim rights are to be ascribed to them.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page 193

It's all around me!

* Metaphors are fundamentally conceptual in nature; metaphorical language is secondary.
* Conceptual metaphors are grounded in everyday experience.
* Abstract thought is largely, though not entirely, metaphorical.
* Metaphorical thought is unavoidable, ubiquitous, and mostly unconscious.
* Abstract concepts have a literal core but are extended by metaphors, often by many mutually inconsistent metaphors.
* Abstract concepts are not complete without metaphors. For example, love is not love without metaphors of magic, attraction, madness, union, nurturance, and so on.
* Our conceptual systems are not consistent overall, since the metaphors used to reason about concepts may be inconsistent.
* We live our lives on the basis of inferences we derive via metaphor.—Metaphors We Live By, pages 273–74

The path of the "true child of God"

Jesus is presented not only as calling those who aspire to be true sons of God to imitate God specifically in his displays of indiscriminate mercy to the “wicked” but also as declaring that conduct to be worthy of the office and title of a “true child of God.” To be called and appointed by God to this office and title, one must acknowledge that the path of nonviolence, nonretaliation, and, preeminently, active love and concern for the enemy is the path “of God."—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 83

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yes, verb first

In conclusion, basic word order in the typological sense is the pragmatically unmarked order. Basic word order is usually established by the criterion of statistical dominance. The mainstream view that BH is typologically VSO is strongly supported by the statistical evidence. BH, like other VSO languages, has an underlying SVO word order from the generative perspective, but this fact does not affect the typological classification of the language. Basic word order in BH does not vary according to discourse genre.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 17


The condition of the newone points forward to the reality that we are dependent creatures: the secret to the meaning of human life—our need of each other—is given away by its newest members.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page 115

<idle musing>
So much for the myth of the self-made person! Or the wishful thinking that we can control our own destiny. And this has ramifications for the arguments about he will make clear (eventually!).
</idle musing>

It's universal

You don't have a choice as to whether to think metaphorically. Because metaphorical maps are part of our brains, we will think and speak metaphorically whether we want to or not. Since the mechanism of metaphor is largely unconscious, we will think and speak metaphorically, whether we know it or not. Further, since our brains are embodied, our metaphors will reflect our commonplace experiences in the world. Inevitably, many primary metaphors are universal because everybody has basically the same kinds of bodies and brains and lives in basically the same kinds of environments, so far as the features relevant to metaphor are concerned.—Metaphors We Live By, page 258


It is interesting to note that, as H. Windisch has pointed out, Jesus’ view of who and what a peacemaker is stands in stark contrast with the view, current in the Hellenistic world, of what this office entailed. Those who were to establish peace, security, and economic welfare were expected to do so only for their own people and through the conquest of their enemies.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 82

<idle musing>
And what has changed? What do "peace-keeping missions" do today but enforce our view? Why is it that the politicians are always "defending American interests" if not because they believe this? The pax americana is the same as the pax romana; if you don't support the regime, it isn't very peaceful. The more things change, the more they remain the same...<sigh>
</idle musing>

Friday, April 17, 2015


Biblical scholars have long been aware that finite clauses in BH are most frequently verb-first. This fact was noted by the 19th-century biblical exegete Malbim (Rabbi Meir Loeb ben Jeḥiel Michael, 1809–79). Malbim (1973: §111) states that the general rule is that the sentence begins with the verb. In his commentary on 1 Kgs 20:18, Malbim (1964: 209) explains this rule as deriving from the principle that the most important item comes first. The verb is generally first because it is usually most important. A noun may be preposed in order to specify something about the noun or in order to express contrast, contradiction, or exclusion (Malbim 1973: §111).— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 10

We are communal beings

The Cartesianism Heidegger targets throughout his treatise [Being and Time] famously revolves around the conception of a self-possessed subject: I am who I am first; I am affected by the world second. But if, as Heidegger contends, this conception is untenable, if, on the contrary, affectedness is ontological or basic then it follows that people are among the things which affect me at my very core. The corollary of the Cartesian affirmation that I am who I am first and affected by the world second is that I am first in isolation and second in community...[But] we are not free-floating subjects who flit in and out of community at will. Rather, in the crowd is where we find ourselves. Accordingly, ‘concern’ for another person, him or her mattering to us, in not an option we select. It is intrinsic to our way of being; it is natural for us.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page 101

But is it really a resource?

Most contemporary economic theories, whether capitalist or socialist, treat labor as a natural resource or commodity, on a par with raw materials, and speak in the same terms of its cost and supply. What is hidden by the metaphor is the nature of the labor. No distinction is made between meaningful labor and dehumanizing labor. For all of the labor statistics, there is none on meaningful labor. When we accept the LABOR IS A RESOURCE metaphor and assume that the cost of resources defined in this way should be kept down, then cheap labor becomes a good thing, on a par with cheap oil. The exploitation of human beings through this metaphor is most obvious in countries that boast of “a virtually inexhaustible supply of chap labor”—a neutral-sounding economic statement that hides the reality of human degradation.—Metaphors We Live By, pages 236–37

Forgiveness is first

These passages illustrate two things: first, to be included among the sons of God, a disciple must be willing to forgive even their enemies. Second, would-be sons who refuse to forgive their enemies exclude themselves from being or becoming “sons of God.” Moreover, forgiveness is concretely related to repentance (Luke 24:47) and to a disciple’s acceptance that the ways that Jesus proclaims as the way for Israel are indeed God’s ways (Mark 2:5).—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 80

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If it were simple, we wouldn't be arguing about it...

One of the parameters by which languages can be classified is basic word order. “Basic” is often understood to mean the pragmatically unmarked or neutral word order. Of the several orders allowed by a particular language, usually one order occurs in a wide variety of discourse contexts, whereas the others have more restricted uses. The word order with a broader contextual distribution is the unmarked or basic order…

Basic word order is sometimes used to mean the statistically dominant order, the one that is most frequent in spoken or written texts. There is a widespread assumption that the pragmatically neutral word order is also the most frequent. According to Greenberg (1966b: 67), textual frequency is the only criterion by which basic word order can be established. “Statistically dominant” is clearly a less meaningful definition of basic word order than “pragmatically neutral,” because frequency is a feature of language use rather than language structure. In practice, however, researchers usually rely on textual frequency in establishing basic word order, because proving that a particular order is pragmatically neutral is an extremely involved procedure, requiring the identification and classification of all discourse contexts in which each word order occurs.— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, pages 7–8

Origins matter

How do they come among us, these bodies? We see around us smaller instances of ourselves, younger bodies, the less developed forms of children, infants, and babies, of those on four legs and those on two. But these smaller ones do not come from nowhere. They are not self-posited, nor simply deposited among us. How, then, do they arrive in our midst? Answer: we look back and we find them emerging out of the bodies of others, every single time.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page 14 (emphasis original)

It is true

In general, the true statements that we make are based on the way we categorize things and, therefore, on what is highlighted by the natural dimensions of the categories. In making a statement, we make a choice of categories because we have some reason for focusing on certain properties and downplaying others. Every true statement, therefore, necessarily leaves out what is downplayed or hidden by the categories used in it.—Metaphors We Live By, page 163

True greatness

Jesus thus defines true “greatness” as suffering service to others, not the exercise of dominion over others. For, according to Jesus, those who consider themselves to be the rulers of the nations do when they “lord it over” (κατακυριεύουσιν [katakyrieuousin]) their subjects and “exercise authority” (κατεξουσιάζουσιν) over them do not establish justice and peace, but treat those over whom they rule as if they were foes, and exploit them for their own personal advantage.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 78

<idle musing>
And that is just as true today as it was then...we see a lot of public servants serving themselves and exploiting the public for their own enrichment. The more things change, the more they stay the same...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Word order

The VSO language group makes up about 10% of the languages in the world (Carnie and Guilfoyle 2000: 3), including most of the West Semitic languages, Egyptian, Berber, Celtic, and other languages (O’Connor 1980: 118).— Word Order in the Biblical Hebrew Finite Clause, page 7

No ethics? Meta-ethics might be a better term

[W]hen phenomenological scholars have declared that Heidegger ‘had no ehtics’, they were simply appreciating the fact that phenomenology is a descriptive rather than an action-guiding philosophy. Devoid of ethical claims, phenomenology has never sought to issue forth policy recommendations. To that extent, in the final analysis phenomenology returns us to the metaethical debate about the foundations of ethics, about which principles are needed to sustain practices we already cherish and, if those principles are adopted, what their full implications are.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page xvi

Concealing or revealing the truth?

Though questions of truth do arise for new metaphors, the more important question are those of appropriate action. In most cases, what is at issue is not the truth or falsity of a metaphor but the perceptions and inferences that follow from it and the actions that are sanctioned by it. In all aspects of life, not just in politics or in love we define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act on basis of the metaphors. We draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and execute plans, all on the basis of how we in part structure our experience, consciously and unconsciously, by means of metaphor.—Metaphors We Live By, page 158

Take up the cross

These texts show that the disciples’ cross is not what it is often thought to be—a metaphor for some difficult family situation, a personal loss, a crushing debt, the frustration of one’s hopes, a nagging in-law. It is, rather, what Jesus’ cross was—the price likely to be extracted by the rulers of the world for one’s nonconformity to the ways of the world and for challenging injustice and worldly conceptions of power. For this is not only what brought Jesus himself to be crucified. It was what he was consciously aware would bring him to this end. So being a “son of God” entails being ready and willing to endure persecution and suffering, even to the point of martyrdom, for the sake of faithfulness to God (cf. e.g., Matt. 5:9-12).

Self-Denial:Despite what many of us who were brought up in penitential atmospheres have been taught, in the teaching of Jesus to “deny oneself” (ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτῷ [aparnēsasthō heautō]), especially when it is linked, as it is here, with a command to “take up one’s cross,” has little to do with the practice of asceticism (i.e., to deny something, especially pleasures, to oneself). Rather, it involves the rejection of a presumed prerogative, in this case the right to defend one’s life (ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι [psychēn autou sōsai]) at all costs when faced with danger or death. More particularly, when we take into account how Jesus links “saving” one’s life with seeking “to gain the whole world” (κερδῆσαι τὸν κόσμον ὅλον [kerdēsai ton kosmon holon]) and what seeking “to gain the whole world” signifies, to “deny oneself” means to give up as valid any idea that one has the right to preserve self or life from danger or death through the exercise of self-aggrandizing power. So, “to deny oneself” entails not only accepting a posture of defenselessness in the face of danger and death but also rejecting seeking worldly power and dominion through worldly means.—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 71–72

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Planting time

We've been having some amazing weather here the last few days. The temperatures have been in the lower 60sF, which is about 20ºF warmer than average. In fact, the whole of spring from the beginning of March has been warmer than the last few years.

Of course, that gives me the gardening itch : ) I was tempted to plant in the cold frames at the beginning of March, but knew better than that. But, this weekend I couldn't resist (and it's about time anyway). I planted peas, radishes, and spinach seeds in the cold frames. And I transplanted 36 small heads of Romaine lettuce from the basement into two frames.

I had planted them back in February in a 4 foot section of rain gutter filled with potting soil. I also planted radishes and spinach about the same time. The spinach get real leggy and tough—it just won't grow well for me under lights. That's my second year attempting it and I'm giving up. But the radishes and lettuce did OK. We've been eating fresh radishes from the basement for about 2–3 weeks now. They aren't as bit as from outside, but at least they exist : )

Anyway, back to the lettuce...I tried it last year with poor success. It didn't germinate well and got too leggy. This year, I had newer seed and I made sure to keep the lights very close. The results were much better. The heads are shorter and tighter. And now that they are outside, they should do well. In a few weeks we'll be eating fresh Romaine from the garden. Even if it gets cold and snows, it should do OK; I always use a Winter Density version to resist the cold. In Indiana, I had it growing most all winter in the hoop house, so a few cold blasts won't harm it.

We had a few Romaine plants left after transplanting, so we ate them. Not much of a meal, but were they ever tender—and tasty! So much better than the store-bought stuff, even the organic, locally-raised stuff...

In other gardening news, I've got pepper, tomato, broccoli, cabbage, leek, and onion seedlings growing under lights in the basement. They are doing well and should be ready to go out under row cover by the middle of May.

I'm also experimenting with a few broccoli plants in self-watering containers down there. I was hoping to get fresh broccoli over the winter, but I delayed in planting them too long. But they do appear to be doing ok. We'll see what they produce...

We also started cleaning up the cabins, getting ready for the new season. We don't open until May 8, but it doesn't hurt to be ready early. I'm starting to replace the bathroom floor in Birch. I'm hoping it isn't too bad, but I won't know until I get the tile up. Last year, what we thought would be an easy repair ended up being a large section of rotted subfloor once we got the tile least this year it's above freezing : )

It, too, is lacking

In a parallel way, in Chapter 3, I contend that the contract formulation of encounters, emanating as it did from the seventeenth-century political philosophy, tempts us to conceive of human encounters which are not mutually dependent and equally willed by both parties as in some way lacking. This leads in turn to our missing the significance of what Heidegger termed the Geworfenheit or essential fortuitousness of life—the fact that in the first instance we are ‘thrown into’ an encounter in which we are fully dependent upon the other party.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page xiii

All grace, all the time

[H]eaven surely does not compartmentalize its grace, but we speak about types of grace because of the way that they have come to us. The same gracious act of God that enables people to believe is the same grace that saves, which is the same grace that brings necessary, cooling rains to a rebellious world with each new providential morning.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, pages 221–222

Through narrow glasses

New metaphors, like conventional metaphors, can have the power to define reality. They do this through a coherent network of entailments that highlight some features of reality and hide others. The acceptance of the metaphor, which forces us to focus only on those aspects of our experience that it highlights, leads us to view the entailments of the metaphor as being true. Such “truths” may be true, of course, only relative to the reality defined by the metaphor.—Metaphors We Live By, pages 157–58

Becoming a "son" of God

Jesus taught a number of things about how one becomes or remains a “son” of God. Some of them involved eschewing traditional sources of gaining or maintaining “honor,” such as family connections (see Matt. 10:37-38 // Luke 14:25-35; Matt. 12:46-50 // 8:19-21 // Mark 3:31-35), wealth (Matt. 19:23 // Mark 10:17–23 // Luke 18:24), social status (Matt. 18:1-5 // Mark 9:33-37 // Luke 9:46-48), and possessions (Matt. 19:16–30 // Mark 10:17–31 // Luke 18:18–30). But it seems that the most important of these ways had to do what Jesus called “taking up his cross,” “denying oneself,” “manifesting true greatness,” showing indiscriminate and limitless forgiveness (especially of one’s enemies), and being what Jesus called an εἰρηνοποιός (eirēnopoios), a “peacemaker.”—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 69

Monday, April 13, 2015

I-it or I-thou? It matters

Buber’s picture of encounters, so I argue in Chapter 2, has ‘held us captive’ by making us think that any human encounter which is not characteristized [sic] by a certain degree of reciprocity—which is not suffused by affection or highly inter-subjective—is sub-personal (for Buber, an ‘I-It’ form of relation). Though Buber is more nuanced in what he actually wrote (particularly in the later essays, which serve to qualify his pioneering treatise of 1917), the legacy of his strongly polarized scheme is essentially to idealize encounters. And the effect of this is to dismiss the original encounter between mother and ‘newone’ [his word for the entity in the womb] as in some way ‘inauthentic’, in turn ensuring that we miss the significance of the condition of hiddenness in which human beings first make their entrances in the world.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, pages xii–xiii

But it contradicts my favorite presuppositions

Prevenient grace is an attractive doctrine in many ways, most of all because it makes overall sense of Scripture’s powerful collection of human opportunity verses, command and exhortation passages, and the rational thinking capacity that the Lord expects us to employ in the process of biblical understanding. Many opponents of prevenient grace oppose it not because it is an injustice to the biblical data, but simply because it offers a solution to the human depraved condition through the gracious enabling of the Holy Spirit that undermines the exaggerated larger sovereignty of God. Additionally, the doctrine supports the genuinely universal opportunity of the gospel and confronts the unconditional election and perseverance that construct Calvin’s theology. We have shown how prevenient grace is strongly implicit in Scripture, not contrary to any other biblical passage, and the best overall theological explanation for the universal opportunity and free will passages in the New Testament.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 217

<idle musing>
Indeed! As usual, presuppositions block the ability to see the forest...
</idle musing>

A bit of action

New metaphors have the power to create a new reality. This can begin to happen when we start to comprehend our experience in terms of a metaphor, and it becomes a deeper reality when we begin to act in terms of it. If a new metaphor enters the conceptual system that we base our action on, it will alter that conceptual system and the perceptions and actions that the system give rise to.—Metaphors We Live By, page 145

What's expected

To answer this, let’s first note two things about Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. First, it takes its cue from the presentation in the book of Deuteronomy regarding (a) who Israel was divinely commissioned to be and (b) what faithful Israelites were exhorted to do to avoid showing themselves as a “wicked and adulterous generation.” This notably involved, among other things, not grumbling against God when he provided for their needs, not doubting the efficacy of his ways for them to bring them to their promised destiny, and not putting him to the test. This fact will prove to be significant when we come below to assess the long-standing and widespread view that the aim of the Disciples’ Prayer is to pray down into the present some things that Jews thought to belong properly to Israel’s expected future.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 68

Friday, April 10, 2015

The goal is God

Theological hermeneutics is not an intermediate, descriptive step between biblical studies and systematic or dogmatic theology that must somehow find a way to be relevant. I will not be offering here an approach where first the theology of a particular New Testament book is described, then its relevance for Wesleyan systematic theology is established. Instead, the approach here will consider the interpretation of Scripture as vital to the formation of Christian identity, specifically within the Wesleyan tradition. It will pursue, through interaction with John Wesley’s hermeneutics, how Wesleyan beliefs and practices inform the reading of Scripture, and in turn how Scripture informs Wesleyan beliefs and practices. It will assume that reading Scripture is not a set of steps—say, from grammatico-historical exegesis, to theological description, to constructive theology—but rather an ongoing, living interaction that has no clear starting point, and whose end is not the execution of a methodology but God.—Reading the Way to Heaven, page 5

Phenomenology and ethics

The pivotal presupposition which justifies this application of phenomenology to ethics is that ethics has a stake in description. Some of the most pivotal moral decisions we face, even decisions taken at moments of crisis, hinge upon competing descriptions. How we describe something—some phenomenon in the world, some situation in which we find ourselves involved—makes all the difference as to how we decide we are permitted to act. Say, for example, someone was to describe sex as a purely physical encounter. Would it be coincidental that that person then seized any sexual opportunity that presented itself regardless of any existing relational commitments he or she might have? Well, so too with the beginning-of-life ethics: how we think we are justified in acting depends upon how we have described the entity found inside the mother’s womb and, indeed, to the whole phenomenon of human emergence.—Ethics at the Beginning of Life, page xi

<idle musing>
This dovetails nicely with the last post, doesn't it? How we picture things affects what we see. Metaphors matter. The stories we tell ourselves, the way we picture ourselves, all influence who we are and how we act.
</idle musing>

The hound of heaven

The Spirit convicts the sinner and invites him or her to salvation, but the Spirit also permits hard-heartedness to be a legitimate human response. In fact, generally the Holy Spirit gives stronger and weaker evidence of the presence and blessing of God according to our response to him. In doing all of these acts, the Holy Spirit gives evidence of God’s presence and calls for all glory of a saved sinner to be credited to God.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 206

Words matter

Is paraphrase possible” Can two different sentences ever mean exactly the same thing? Dwight Bolinger has spent most of his career showing that this is virtually impossible and that almost any change in a sentence—whether a change in word order, vocabulary, intonation, or grammatical construction—will alter the sentence’s meaning, though often in a subtle way.—Metaphors We Live By, page 136

<idle musing>
Another reason that the Italian phrase "traduttore, traditore" (the translator is a traitor) is so accurate. Every change affects meaning, however subtly.

And that's also why the copyeditor's job is tough at times. You want to make sure the author's argument comes through the most effectively—but you have to make sure that in doing so you aren't changing it. Sometimes that's easier than other times.
</idle musing>

What it is

At this point, we have established three things about the Disciples’ Prayer. It is most certainly a prayer and not a compendium of Christian doctrine. It is a Jewish prayer. And, from all appearances, it is the creation of a particular individual, not simply a derivative from corporate prayers allegedly (but doubtfully) used in synagogue worship in the first century.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 62

A simple task

We are not asked to do anything spectacular. We are entrusted with the task of quietly giving the light of Christ’s spirit and God’s love to a world of human need. No storm can extinguish this light, a light that no darkness can overcome.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 67

Thursday, April 09, 2015

It's official!

Just announced, on Jack Sasson's Agade e-list:

Proverbs: An Eclectic Edition with Introduction and Textual Commentary
Michael V. Fox
Hardcover $69.95 ISBN 9781628370201
500 pages The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition 1

It's nice to see it in print after spending so many hours poring over it in PDF and print outs. I just hope nobody finds any especially egregious errors!


[Wesley] believes that natural man is free only to do evil, while Spirit-assisted man is able to repent of sin, and this has been true since the Fall. God’s enabling us to believe is not meritorious in itself, nor is it inevitably saving. Wesley affirms our absolute dependence on God’s grace for repentance, even though it comes through the divine empowering to have faith: “We must be cut off from dependence upon ourselves, before we can truly depend upon Christ...till we are delivered from trusting in anything that we do, we cannot thoroughly trust in what he had done and suffered.” [Wesley, “The Lord Our Righteousness”]— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 153

It hides as much as it reveals

The RESOURCES metaphors for labor and time hide all sorts of possible conceptions of labor and time that exist in other cultures and in some subcultures of our own society: the idea that work can be play, that inactivity can be productive, that much of what we classify as LABOR serves either no clear purpose or no worthwhile purpose.—Metaphors We Live By, page 67

<idle musing>
Indeed. A metaphor is a powerful thing. It hides just as much, if not more, than it reveals. By comparing X with Y, you are excluding all other options. You are directing people's thoughts to the particular aspect of X that you want people to notice.

Usually this is a subconscious thing, but not always. You want your version of the truth to be the strongest, so you naturally will choose the metaphor that presents the strongest case.
</idle musing>

First Century Synagogues

For it is now clear, thanks to the investigations of Lee Levine and Richard Horsley on first-century-CE synagogues, and of E. P. Sanders on the beliefs and practices of Palestinian (or Formative) Judaism, that there was no fixed synagogue liturgy in Palestinian synagogues until at least well into the second century of our era. Moreover, they further point out that first-century Palestinian synagogues were not places of communal prayer. They were instead places dedicated only to Torah recitation and instruction.—The Disciples’ Prayer, pages 56–57

That possessive apostrophe

In about 80% of all languages, a prenominal Possessor is finally marked, a postnominal Possessor initially marked.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 367

<idle musing>
I.e., John’s car versus the car of John. Got it?
</idle musing>

Smashing good

There is a spirit among the pious that has no under­standing of God’s kingdom, so that many are even annoyed to see it alive. Since it is active around you, it is sure to offend such people. Pay no attention. Just carry on, and let your deeds speak for you. If Jesus is not a living reality, giving birth to millions of deeds, then he is no greater than any other teacher. But he lives—he is the Rock on which we stand—and deeds born of his spirit will become the rocks upon which the errors of the world are shattered.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 57

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Not universalism

By the death of Christ, which Christ passionately advocated as universal in its efficacy, all men were potentially saved. This is not universalism, teaching that all men, ultimately, will be saved, but it is an interpretation of the work of Christ that makes salvation possible for all.—Herbert McDonigle as quoted in Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 144

Metaphor versus metonymy

Metaphor and metonymy are different kinds of processes. Metaphor is principally a way of conceiving of one thing in terms of another, and its primary function is understanding. Metonymy, on the other hand, has primarily a referential function, that is, it allows us to use one entity to stand for another. But metonymy is not merely a referential device. It also serves the function of providing understanding. For example, in the case of the metonymy THE PART FOR THE WHOLE there are many parts that can stand for the whole. Which part we pick out determines which aspect of the whole we are focusing on.—Metaphors We Live By, page 36

It's not a derivative

The Disciples’ Prayer was not based on, let alone derived from the Kaddish, the Amidah, or the Morning Prayer. Despite claims to the contrary, we have no real evidence that these prayers actually existed, let alone were used by Palestinian Jews, in the first half of the first century CE, at least in the form and wording that those who argue for this view assume they had. Nor do we have any strong reason to believe that Jesus would have known them if they were so used and had the form Jeremias attributes to them early in the first century CE.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 54

"The" or "a"—and why

It follows from these characterizations that indefinite terms will typically be used to introduce a referent into the discourse, whereas definite terms will typically be used for referring back to a referent already established in the discourse. The great majority of usages of definite and indefinite can be understood in terms of this theory.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 139

The indwelling Christ

Although great and profound outer changes can occur quite apart from any revelation from God, there is nothing more wonderful than the indwelling Christ. When he is present, streams of living water flow out, bringing life to people. This is something that transcends human goodness. What God directs is never destroyed, even when nations suffer ruin. Only where Christ’s love rules are human beings valued for who they are, and everything else–social institutions and customs–takes second place and even become quite unimportant.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 53

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Discourse models

When a speaker sets out to convey a piece of information, she assumes her addressee already possesses a certain model of the world (i.e. Cognitive Representation) which is what the speaker wishes to influence. The successful conveyance of information, therefore, requires the speaker to perpetually update their assumptions concerning the current cognitive state of the addressee's discourse model as the speech progresses. In other words, the speaker must constantly speculate about what information is already a part of the hearer's Cognitive Representation during the course of speaking. Information that is assumed to be known or cognitively available at the time of speech is termed 'given information'. Alternatively, the information added to that Cognitive Representation is regarded as 'new information.'—Joshua Westbury, "Left Dislocation in Biblical Hebrew: A Cognitive Linguistic Account" (PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 2014), pages 34–35

<idle musing>
That assumes, of course, that both sides really want to listen to each other. I suspect what we are seeing in society of late is a breakdown of this model...
</idle musing>

As I was saying...

The very systematicity that allows us to comprehend one aspect of a concept in terms of another (e.g., comprehending an aspect of arguing in terms of battle) will necessarily hide other aspects of the concept. In allowing us to focus on one aspect of a concept (e.g., the battling apsects of arguing), a metaphorical concept can keep us from focusing on other aspects of the concept that are inconsistent with that metaphor.—Metaphors We Live By, page 10

<idle musing>
Indeed, just as I was saying in the last post. How we choose to present something, or think about something, has huge ramifications for the answers we get. If we think LIFE IS A BATTLE, then we look at things in a totally different way than if we think LIFE IS A JOURNEY.

If we think life is a battle, then we will have more of a defiant, defensive attitude. We need to hold the fort, defeat those enemies standing in our path. No retreat! No compromise!

If, however, we think life is a journey, we will tend to see things less as a confrontation and more as an opportunity to learn. We will tend to be more open to new experiences, less defensive.

Me? I'm playing the tourist! What about you?
</idle musing>

It's all grace

James Arminius insists that every person must have the grace of God to be able to repent. The Holy Spirit provides this grace; it does not naturally survive the Fall. “This sufficiency [of grace] must be ascribed to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, by which he assists the preaching of the gospel as the organ, or instrument, by which He, the Holy Spirit, is accustomed to be efficacious in the hearts of the hearers.” [Arminius, Public Disputations] It is grace bestowed on all people, not just the elect (as in Calvin’s system): “This aid is afforded to all men, by innumerable methods both secret and manifest.” [Arminius, “The Apology or Defense”] Thus, God’s gracious blessing pours out through Christ to all humankind, and so makes salvation contingent only on a person’s willingness to accept it.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 118

<idle musing>
I wish some Calvinists would understand that for Arminians, it is all grace, all the way. The difference is apportioned grace versus free grace. Arminians believe in Free Grace—free for all, unmeasurable, overflowing, supernatural grace.
</idle musing>

Theology of the Lord's Prayer

But it is not just in its theology that the prayer is Jewish. It is Jewish in its form and in its language. Formally, the structure of the Disciples’ Prayer follows (up to a point) the tripartite scheme of “praise—petitions—thanksgiving” found in many ancient Jewish prayers, especially (so it will be argued below) that of the one many Jews call the prayer, namely, the Amidah.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 50


We defined an SoA [State of Affairs] as the conception of something which can be the case in some world. We also saw that the constitution of an SoA is not only determined by what is said, but also by how what is said is moulded into the predicate frame. These various points boil down to the view that SoAs are not things which exist in reality, but are themselves interpretations or representations of reality. They present a certain codified “view” of reality rather than being part of reality themselves.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 107

<idle musing>
Get that? Reality is a step or two (or three or more) removed from what you are trying to say. Now, throw in a bit of Cognitive Linguistics, and what isn't said is just as important as what is said. By saying things in one way, we are excluding all the other possible ways of presenting it.

Witness the "debates" that are happening in the political realm in our country lately. By presenting the arguments in a certain way, both parties are seeking to control the conversation. What they don't say, and how they don't choose to present their arguments tells you far more than what they do say.

It's a miracle we communicate at all...
</idle musing>

That dichotomy again

We are faced with a paradox: the gospel of God’s coming kingdom seems to us a promise waiting future fulfillment, yet it must be lived out, here and now. We must be able to offer people something they can find nowhere else, and it must be something of practical value. So many rightly say, “If we had to rely on what pastors do for us, we would be in a bad way. We can’t live from sermons. What we care about are actual improvements.” In other words, what people want and need is a practical faith. Ah, the hopeless separation between religion and life!—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 48

Monday, April 06, 2015

Stephanus did us a disfavor

I was reading along in Mark this morning in the CEB (my version of choice at the moment), when I stumbled across something that made me do a double-take. In Mark 3, Jesus is calling the twelve with distinct purposes in mind. But what are the purposes? Here's a smattering of popular English translations in no particular order along with what it seems that the purposes are (we'll ignore the textual issue here because it's not important to the point):

13 Jesus went up on a mountain and called those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve and called them apostles. He appointed them to be with him, to be sent out to preach, 15 and to have authority to throw out demons. (CEB)

Seems that he has three purposes in mind: (1) to be with him, (2) to be sent out to preach, and (3) to have authority over demons.

13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. (NRSV)

Again, the same three purposes.

13 And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons. (NASB)

Not as clear here. Is it three purposes, or only two? (1) to be with him, (2) to be sent out, and maybe (3) to cast out demons. The first two are introduced by "that" or "so that," while the last one is just an infinitive—but the verse number makes me subconsciously want to make it an independent point. So, we'll say three purposes.

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. (ESV)

Also not as clear. But it does seem that there are two purposes, with verse 15 being a subset of "send them out." But, again, the verse number makes me want to posit three purposes.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve[—designating them apostles—]that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. (NIV)

Again, not as clear, but it might be two or three purposes. Because of the verse numbering, I would again say three purposes.

OK, now we're ready to look at the Greek

13 Καὶ ἀναβαίνει εἰς τὸ ὄρος καὶ προσκαλεῖται οὓς ἤθελεν αὐτός, καὶ ἀπῆλθον πρὸς αὐτόν. 14 καὶ ἐποίησεν δώδεκα [οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν] ἵνα ὦσιν μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν 15 καὶ ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια· (Mark 3:13–15)

OK, what do we have? In verse 14, he appoints the 12 "in order that (1) they might be with him, in order that (2) he might send them out for the purpose of (2.1) announcing (the gospel) and for the purpose of (2.2) having authority to cast out demons."

So, what were the primary purposes for calling the twelve, according to the Greek? Two: (1) to be with him and (2) to be sent out. The secondary purposes are (2.1) to announce the gospel and (2.2) to have authority to cast out demons, both or which are dependent on being sent out.

So, the CEB and the NRSV don't convey the Greek well, and the other ones try to, but the verse break gets in the way of our seeing what the Greek says. Stephanus did us a disfavor!

New doctrine

“This doctrine [predestination] was never admitted, decreed, or approved in any Council, either general or particular, for the first six hundred years after Christ.” [Arminius, “Declarations of Sentiments”] He believed the hermeneutics of the early church fathers did not support this claim [of monergism]. The early fathers did not embrace strict monergism as shown by the fact that they allowed for man’s responsibility.— Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, page 110

How deep does metaphor go?

The most important claim we have made so far is that metaphor is not just a matter of language that is, of mere words. We shall argue that, on the contrary, human thought processes are largely metaphorical. This is what we mean when we say that the human conceptual system is metaphorically structured and defined.—Metaphors We Live By, page 6

<idle musing>
In other words, pretty deep. Extremely deep. (And even that wording of "deep" is a metaphor...)
</idle musing>

One king

The Disciples’ Prayer recognizes not only that God has a people, but also that he alone is to be King over them. This is a tenet of Jewish theology so vital to the life of Judaism that when non-Jews such as the Greek king of Syria Antiochus Epiphanes and the Roman emperor Caligula dared to challenge it or prevent it from being acknowledged, they fermented grave social unrest and costly revolts against themselves. Furthermore, the Disciples’ Prayer presupposes, especially in the “kingdom” petition, that the God of Israel has given his people a concrete hope that he intends to decisively establish his sovereignty over all those who have rebelled against him, just as such Jewish texts as the Psalms of Solomon and many of the Dead Sea Scrolls declare he has.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 49

Another reason word-for-word translation doesn't work

Since distance from the deictic centre is a cognitive matter, it will also be culturally and psychologically determined. What is relatively close in the culture may be relatively distant in another; what is relatively familiar to one person may be relatively unfamiliar to another. Distance in pragmatic space is thus a feature of the culturally and psychologically defined cognitive word of natural language users.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 37

Baby steps

Our faith demands commitment and accountability. God’s people and our children must not just live for the moment, but must have something to hold on to, something to which they can remain faithful. Yet this is nothing we, as humans, can plan.

Keep this in mind as you think about starting an association. Such a group could be a small opening for God to work in the hearts of the Chinese people, but only if it is closely knit and affords you the opportunity to witness to God’s reign. Your utmost desire must be that hope for God’s kingdom awakens in many hearts. An association such as this, in which the characteristics of Christ are alive, would in fact be a church. It would be God’s house. Yet meetings and gatherings would arise spontaneously and would lay a foundation on which the Spirit of God could continue building. May God grant you such an abundance of his Spirit that those around you are gripped by Christ and his true nature.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 37

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Would you just get with the program!

Another great One Time Blind Easter skit

He is risen

So? So what? Does that change your life? Does it even change your day?

Check out this One Time Blind skit that (unfortunately) too often sums up Easter for us

He is risen! So?

It is not enough to celebrate Easter and say “Christ is risen.” It is useless to proclaim this unless at the same time we can say that we have also risen, that we have received something from heaven. We must feel appalled when the tremendous events that took place, the death and resurrection of Jesus, are proclaimed again and again and yet actually nothing happens with us. It has no effect.

The long passage of time has brought with it a temptation to keep on speaking about the death of Christ and his resurrection without being moved by it. We hear about Christ’s death on the cross, and we sit there just as bored as if we were reading a newspaper – in fact we would find a newspaper a good deal more interesting. Here the enemy has made a gain, and if we wish to shift him at all, then we must stand before God and fight and pray to find the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.—Christoph Blumhardt

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Not very effective

God has a great sense of humor. In Genesis 30, Rachel is bemoaning the fact that she can't get pregnant. She rails at Jacob, who responds by saying he isn't God. Rachel responds by giving him her servant.

All it does is start an arms race between Leah and Rachel. Both servants bear kids. But Rachel is still barren.

A bit later, Reuben comes in from the fields with mandrakes, which were believed to be an aphrodisiac, which would assist in getting pregnant. Rachel, desperately wanting children, sees them; she wants them. So, she gives away a night with Jacob to Leah in hopes of a long-term gain: pregnancy.

What happens next is interesting. Leah, who gave away the mandrakes, get pregnant. Not once, but three times! So much for the effectiveness of the aphrodisiac!

I think there's something theological going on here, don't you? God's trying to teach Rachel that you can't manipulate him. (Of course, if we learn the lesson, so much the better!) Aphrodisiacs don't work. Prayer does. Not that Rachel really learns; later she steals Laban's idols in another vain attempt to control the future...but that's another story for another day : )

Here's the text in the CEB (chosen because it translates mandrakes as "erotic herbs")

14 During the wheat harvest, Reuben found some erotic herbs in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Give me your son’s erotic herbs.”

15 Leah replied, “Isn’t it enough that you’ve taken my husband? Now you want to take my son’s erotic herbs too?”

Rachel said, “For your son’s erotic herbs, Jacob may sleep with you tonight.”

16 When Jacob came back from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must sleep with me because I’ve paid for you with my son’s erotic herbs.” So he slept with her that night.

17 God responded to Leah. She became pregnant and gave birth to a fifth son for Jacob. 18 Leah said, “God gave me what I paid for, what I deserved for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. 19 Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob, 20 and she said, “God has given me a wonderful gift. Now my husband will honor me since I’ve borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. 21 After this, she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22 Then God remembered Rachel, responded to her...

Friday, April 03, 2015

Take that, you Augustinians!

Take away free choice and there is nothing to be saved. Take away grace and there is no means of saving. Without the two combined, this work cannot be done: the one as operative principle, the other as object toword which, or in which, it is accomplished. God is the author of salvation, the free willing faculty merely capable of receiving it. None but God can give it, nothing but free choice receive it.—Bernard of Clairvaux as cited in Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, pages 76–77

It really is a prayer

But this view [that the LP is a compendium of doctrine] neglects (or chooses to overlook) the fact that according to those who first recorded our text, and presumably to Jesus himself as well, the Disciples’ Prayer is from first to last not a summary of doctrine or a miniature catechism, but a particular verbal, heartfelt, and purposeful act of human communication. As such, not only was it given by Jesus in a concrete historical context (first-century Palestine, under Roman occupation), but it is also just what it says it is: a prayer.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 43

How it is said matters

Take languages seriously. Whenever there is some overt difference between two constructions X and Y, start out on the assumption that this difference has some kind of functionality in the linguistic system. Rather than pressing X into the preconceived mould of Y, try to find out why X and Y are different, on the working assumption that such a difference would not be in the language unless it had some kind of task to perform.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 17

<idle musing>
Seems obvious, doesn't it? But we don't do that. We say, "What he or she really mean is..." I'm in the midst of Lakoff and Johnson's marvelous little book, Metaphors We Live By, and one of the things they stress is that the way we say things matters. A lot. A whole lot. Grab the book and read it, especially pages 136–37.
</idle musing>

Thought for a Good Friday

Our task is to “put on the new man” (Col. 3:9–11). If we can bring ourselves to do this, and if the boredom of our theology and our Christianity has not already killed us, we can become people enthusiastic for Jesus. If Christ alone is our light and life, then we can possibly be a little helpful. Religious talk is useless.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 34

Thursday, April 02, 2015

What about Phoebe?

Good article in the latest issue of JSPL by Matt Harmon, "Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture." After surveying the various uses of private letter carriers in the ancient world, he concludes
Given the role of letters carriers as apostolic envoys who communicated the παρουσία [(virtual) presence] of the sender/author, it is reasonable to conclude that the carrier was expected to be an extension of Paul’s own ministry in that location, of which teaching was a central component. The glimpses of the responsibilities that Tychicus, Timothy, Titus, and perhaps even Phoebe had as letter carriers correspond with the kind of ministry Paul instructed his envoys Timothy and Titus to carry out in the letters he wrote to them. p. 147(emphasis original)
which has interesting ramifications for those who don't believe women should teach...

With thanks to Matt for sending me a copy!

Prevenient grace endorsed

In fact, Arminian theology can find consensus with [the Synod of] Orange [529 AD] as its decisions affirmed both human inability and divine enabling. Moreover, Orange rejected a strict Augustinian interpretation that simply affirms prevenient grace: “The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God’s sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him.” [Conclusion of The Canons of the Synod of Orange (529 AD)] The council did not insist on divine predestination as the solution to human inability; instead it endorsed a Semi-Augustinian version of grace that can be understood as a doctrine of prevenient grace, in which the Spirit initiates an individual’s faith potential, and that person must then seek out God, who prompted the process of salvation.mdash; Prevenient Grace: God’s Provision for Fallen Humanity, pages 73–74

<idle musing>
Truth be known, strict Augustinianism was actually named anathema at one of these synods—Take that Synod of Dort!
</idle musing>

Unconscious transformation (grammar?)

What they think they are praying for when they say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” is either a remittance of expected punishment for the sins they have individually committed or a release from any and all guilt experienced on account of them, since more often than not the pronouns “us,” “our,” and “we” are transmuted, consciously or unconsciously, into “me,” “my” and “I.”—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 38

But my theory has to be correct!

Wherever certain linguistic facts are such that they cannot “naturally” be handled by means of the principles of F[unctional] G[rammar], it is the theory, not the language in question, which will have to be adapted.— The Theory of Functional Grammar Part 1, The Structure of the Clause, page 15

<idle musing>
Indeed! Would that more "theories" of all sort were that willing to change. Usually what happens is that we create "exceptions" to justify our preconceived ideas.

And not just in linguistic theories, either. How many times have you heard or thought, "Jesus didn't really mean that!"? Ouch! Maybe, just maybe, our theories or theology might be wrong. Radical thought, but probably true.

Just an
</idle musing>


A movement of the Spirit will never come from religion – especially not from church rectories and parsonages. The institutional churches, in their so-called wisdom, use their authority to crush every free stirring of the Spirit, or at best to ignore it.—Christoph Blumhardt in The Hidden Christ, page 21

<idle musing>
I hope that isn't true! But, sadly, church history bears it out. As one church history book puts it, "and in the finest tradition, they killed them" in talking about renewal movements. Even Andrew Murray was freaked out when revival came to his church. Why? Because it began amongst the children! It didn't come from the pulpit and he wanted to shut it down because of that!

Old habits die hard, don't they? We're still judging by the world's standards: power, status, hierarchy, prestige!

Lord, forgive us! May we adopt the way of the cross.
</idle musing>

About that atonement thing

Holy Week can produce some of the worst in theology sometimes, but it can also produce some of the best. Brian Zahnd's post is in the latter category. Here's a bit of it, but read the whole thing.
What the cross is not is a quid pro quo where God agrees to forgive upon receipt of his Son’s murder. What the cross is not is an economic transaction whereby God gains the capital to forgive. These legal and fiscal models for understanding the cross simply will not do.

Jesus does not save us from God, Jesus reveals God as savior. What is revealed on Good Friday is not a monstrous deity requiring a virgin to be thrown into a volcano or a firstborn son to be nailed to a tree. What is revealed on Good Friday is the depths of human depravity and the greater depths of God’s love.

And a bit further
The death of Jesus was a sacrifice. But it was a sacrifice to end sacrificing, not a sacrifice to appease an angry god. It was not God who required the sacrifice of Jesus, it was human civilization. A system built upon violent power cannot tolerate the presence of one who owes it nothing. The sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to convince us to quit producing sacrificial victims; it was not necessary to convince God to forgive. When Jesus prays for forgiveness on the cross he was not acting contrary to the nature of God, he was revealing the nature of God as forgiving love.
And yet further
The crucifixion is not what God inflicts upon Jesus in order to forgive, the crucifixion is what God in Christ endures as he forgives. The cross is where God absorbs sin and recycles it into forgiveness.

The crucifixion is not the ultimate attempt to change God’s mind about us — the cross is the ultimate attempt to change our mind about God. God is not like Caiaphas seeking a sacrifice. God is not like Pilate requiring an execution. God is like Jesus, absorbing sin and forgiving sinners.

<idle musing>
Yep. And while we're thinking about atonement, you might want to check out Michael Bird's post from the other day. Here's the conclusion, but read the whole thing.
However, if we were to pick one ring to rule them all, one model which is perhaps capable of linking together the others without relativizing them, then I’d probably say Christus Victor. I say that because the CV is the model which best unites Christology, kingdom, and soteriology together.

In want of a summarizing statement about what the cross achieved, we could say that the atonement is the climax of God’s project to put the world to right through the cross of Jesus. The cross brings God’s people into God’s place under God’s reign to share in God’s holy-loving-glory on account of the love that is demonstrated in the cross and the justice that is satisfied on the cross.

I couldn't put it better myself.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

New book from Carta

I just received a new book from Carta, Jerusalem:

In the Master's Steps: The Gospels in the Land
R. Steven Notley
Carta, Jerusalem, 2015
88 pages, English
ISBN: 9789652208514
Price: $25.00

Description: This volume, the first of four in The Carta New Testament Atlas, is about recent advances in history, geography, toponomy, and archaeology, the tools necessary to shed fresh light on the Gospels.

According to the forward, parts of it are extracted from The Carta Bible Atlas, but I haven't had a chance to see which ones.

I have looked it over, and as usual, it is up to the high standards that Carta has for its products. The maps are clear and crisp, the choice of photos is excellent. And the parts of Steven's commentary that I have read are good. I specifically looked over Chapter 7: Jesus and the Myth of an Essene Quarter in Jerusalem, which appears in The Sacred Bridge as Excursus 22.1. I haven't, however, compared them, so I don't know to what degree they overlap. Further, I have the original 2006 edition, not the updated 2014 one, so even if I did compare them, it wouldn't say much.

Here's the Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Birth of Jesus and the Flight into Egypt
Chapter 2: The Ministry of John and the Baptism of Jesus
Chapter 3: The Travels of Jesus
Chapter 4: The Sea of Galilee: Development of an Early Christian Toponym
Chapter 5: The First Century Environs of the Sea of Galilee
Chapter 6: The Last Days of Jesus
Chapter 7: Jesus and the Myth of an Essene Quarter in Jerusalem
Chapter 8: The Arrest and Death of Jesus
Chapter 9: From the Empty Tomb to the Road to Emmaus

As you can see, it covers the whole of the Gospels. According to the back of the book, the second volume will be Jerusalem City of the Great King, volume three will be From Jerusalem to the Ends of the Earth: The Spread of the Early Church, and volume four will be Armageddon & The Apocalypse: Mapping the End of Days.

If you are looking for an atlas that covers just the Gospels, then this would be it. Even if you owned the shorter abridgment of The Sacred Bridge, Carta's New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible, you would benefit, as it doesn't include the excursus (what's the plural of excursus? Isn't it fourth declension? If so, it would simply be excursūs...).