Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Hallowing God's Name

"The purpose of Israel's existence is to sanctify God's name, that is, to attest to His existence, to publicize His oneness, and to advertise His greatness, by worshipping Him and by keeping His laws. Their failure to do so has the opposite effect: His name is profaned, that is, His fame is diminished and His reputation tarnished." - Baruch J. Schwartz in The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford, 2004), 262.

The quotation suits the Lord's Prayer to a T, but Schwartz is commenting on Leviticus 22:31-33:
You shall faithfully observe My commandments: I am the LORD. You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified [= "hallowed"] in the midst of the Israelite people -- I the LORD who sanctify you, I who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God, I the LORD. (NJPS)

Friday, December 24, 2010

An advent reflection: divorce, first-century politics, and the kingdom of God

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." 7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" 8 He said to them, "It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery." (Matt 19:3-9 NRSV; cf. 5:31-32)

When Jesus' prohibition of divorce comes up in my first year Gospels course, we normally look at the relevant NT passages and discuss contemporary implications. Never, as far as I recall, have we turned to Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus and the slaughter of the innocents. Perhaps this is because the Pharisees' question about divorce "for any cause" is typically interpreted in the context of a well-known legal debate between the schools of Hillel and Shammai about proper grounds for divorce. On this reading, Jesus the teacher is faced with the sort of practical legal questions that any religious teacher would encounter; the story functions to emphasize Jesus' wisdom and, perhaps, to inform Matthew's Christian audience.

A few weeks ago, however, as I listened to our pastor's advent sermon about John the Baptist, it occurred to me that the Pharisees' "test" resembles their later question--which Matthew calls a "trap"--about paying taxes to Caesar (Matt 22:15-22). By prohibiting divorce Jesus was aligning himself with John the Baptist who had been imprisoned for telling Herod Antipas that it was wrong for him to marry his brother's wife (Matt 14:3-4). Jesus and Matthew's audience knew well enough that John lost his head over the question (Matt 14:1-11). Divorce, no less than taxes, was a political hot potato in first-century Palestine.

Reading Jesus' teaching about divorce in this political context fits into a larger pattern within Matthew's Gospel that raises other implications in addition to the problem of divorce in contemporary society: The kingdom Jesus announces and embodies regularly threatens the political status quo. It is an upside down kingdom where the great among you must be your servant, where "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (20:26-28). It is a kingdom of peace rather than the sword, but it is not merely a "spiritual" kingdom--the king has at his disposal "more than twelve legions of angels" (26:53). No wonder Herod the Great was frightened at the announcement of one born King of the Jews (2:2)! No wonder Herod's son, Antipas, wanted to put him to death (14:5).

Friday, December 17, 2010


The semester's grades are in as of this evening. Early Sunday I leave for a few days' visit with my parents. (Almost a year after her seizure, my mom is still in hospital.) Weather permitting, I'll be back in time for Christmas. Then it's the rush of reading to prepare for the winter semester. Blogging will have to wait until I have something to say and the energy to say it.

Right now what I'd really like to do is curl up in a hollow tree for the next five or six months and dream about spring.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Prophecy after the Prophets Syllabus

As I mentioned earlier (here and here), I am teaching a seminar next semester on early Christian prophecy within its early Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts. Here is a description from the course syllabus:

This course differs from other Biblical Studies courses in that it focuses on a theme rather than a specific text. However, it has the same goal of contributing to a deeper understanding of Scripture, for extended reflection on a specific theme invariably leads to a more careful, observant reading of passages in which the theme is found. The theme of prophecy is also important and fascinating in its own right. Questions we will consider this semester include the following:

  • What happened to prophecy between the Old and New Testaments? Did it cease only to be restored in the New Testament? Was it transformed or did it continue unchanged? What is the relationship between Old Testament prophecy and early Jewish apocalyptic literature (including the book of Revelation)?
  • Perceptions of past prophecy: How did early Jews and Christians interpret the written prophets? In what ways did respect for the “prophets” as Scripture shape how they viewed contemporary inspired experiences?
  • Future prophets: What role did prophets play in Jewish expectations of the future? How did early Jews and Christians understand Malachi’s prediction of the return of the prophet Elijah, and Deuteronomy’s prediction of a “prophet like Moses”?
  • Jesus the prophet: What sort of prophet was Jesus? How does the title “prophet” relate to the title “Messiah”?
  • Christian prophets in history: What role did Christian male and female prophets play in Paul’s churches? How would Christian prophecy have been viewed in comparison with Greco-Roman conceptions of prophecy? What was the experience of Christian prophecy?
  • Christian prophets and theology: Are all Christians prophets? What is the relationship between prophecy and tongues? What are the characteristics of Christian prophets? How are prophets different from apostles? Is Christian prophecy different from Old Testament prophecy?
  • True and False prophecy: What is the authority of Christian prophets? What does it mean for someone to speak for God? How does one distinguish between true and false prophecy?
  • What happened to prophecy after the New Testament?

As important as these questions are in themselves, they will also serve as an opening into other more general issues in the study of the New Testament, such as the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and between Christianity and the early Jewish milieu out of which it developed, the function of the Bible’s historical contexts, and the ways in which our own experiences affect what we perceive in Scripture. I hope that as we progress through the course we will become more convinced of the relevance of the topic for the church today, and increasingly sensitive to the continuing work of the living God.

This course will encourage the development of, and familiarity with, a diverse exegetical toolset. You will be challenged to hone your ability to analyse and evaluate scholarly arguments, to engage in constructive dialogue, and to present the results of your study persuasively, both in written form and orally in front of your peers.

If you'd like more information, you can download the college (BLST415) and seminary (BT829) versions of the syllabus on my website here.
Any guesses what I'll be reading over Christmas break?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keck on the Agony of Theological Education

"One reason a modern theological education brings so much agony to the students is that they find the ramparts of faith on which they thought they were standing to be really the ruins of Christendom, and that the gospel actually summons them to a radical kind of faith for which they are scarcely prepared. They are in agony because no one has told them that believing and preaching the gospel in a world without Christendom means literally risking their lives. None of the things they had taken for granted, such as the authority of the Bible, the absoluteness of the gospel, the meaning of Jesus, and the work of the church can be taken for granted today, but must be avowed as decisions of faith. Students are pained because, in our day, learning more about the Bible, theology, Jesus, and the church does not make it easier for them to believe, but actually defines the borderline on which they must be willing to make a commitment in faith." - Leander Keck, Mandate to Witness: Studies in the Book of Acts (Judson Press, 1964), 107.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ambition is the mother of all heresies

John Calvin on Acts 20:30:
Therefore, ambition is the mother of all heresies. For the sincerity of the word of God doth then flourish when the pastors join hand in hand to bring disciples unto Christ, because this alone is the sound state of the Church, that he be heard alone; wherefore, both the doctrine of salvation must needs be perverted, and also the safety of the flock must needs go to nought, where men be desirous of mastership. And as this place teacheth that almost all corruptions of doctrine flow from the pride of men, so we learn again out of the same that it cannot otherwise be, but that ambitious men will turn away from right purity, and corrupt the word of God. For seeing that the pure and sincere handling of the Scripture tendeth to this end, that Christ alone may have the preeminence, and that men can challenge nothing to themselves, but they shall take so much from the glory of Christ, it followeth that those are corrupters of sound doctrine who are addicted to themselves, and study to advance their own glory, which doth only darken Christ. - John Calvin, Commentary on Acts, vol. 2 at CCEL.
HT: C.K. Barrett

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Publish and Perish: Of Making Many Books

A few years ago, I asserted that the blooming Biblical Studies publishing industry--with its multiplied commentary series--is a sign of cancer rather than health. No doubt my view has some connection to the fact that I have not yet published any books of my own. If I were a Ben Witherington III with a commentary on every NT book to my name, I would presumably have a higher opinion of the industry.

As time goes on, I grow more comfortable with differences in gifting and ability. Some folks have a way with words, seem naturally to be prolific, and to write things worth reading. How many average composers does it take to make a Tchaikovsky, about whose 1812 Overture he wrote ". . . I have written two works very quickly . . . . The overture will be very loud and noisy, but probably has no artistic merit, as I wrote it without either warmth or love"?

Biblical scholarship is not--or should not be--a competition. So more power to the Wrights' and the Goldingay's. Nevertheless, instead of a Chesterton, I would rather take as my ideal the late great C.F.D. Moule, who published his first book at 40. And I like this description of Canon John Sweet: "He was equally clear that there were too many books in the world; and accordingly he himself wrote sparingly, and only when he had something to say."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The forgiveness of sins in Luke-Acts

When I issued my "lament for unanswered questions" last month, I had just read Jeremiah 31:34--"for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more"--and was reminded that for several years now I've wanted to think about what it would have meant for Jesus to forgive sins in a first century context. The question is somewhat embarrassing since forgiveness is so prominent in the Gospels, and because I used to think forgiveness of sins was the main thing about being a Christian. It doesn't help that most of my first year students assume that the meaning of passages like Luke 5:20 and 7:48 is obviously to show that Jesus is God. (Why couldn't the Pharisees understand?) To be sure, Luke's Christology is high indeed, and the passages emphasize the son of man's authority to forgive sins; Jesus acts on God's behalf.

My question, though, is not with Christology, but with why Jesus would forgive sins in the first place when there was a functioning cult center in Jerusalem that operated a system of atonement that had been established by God. Why forgive sins when this is what the Temple was for?

(1) E.P. Sanders, who has probably done more than anyone else to raise the question, concluded that the historical Jesus offered forgiveness without requiring repentance from the sinners he gathered around him. Unfortunately, Sanders does not help us with Luke's understanding of forgiveness because Luke is careful to emphasize that Jesus called sinners "to repentance" (5:32).

(2) John Howard Yoder connected the forgiveness of sins to Jesus' quotation from Isaiah 61 in Luke 4:18, and argued from allusions in Isaiah 61 to the year of Jubilee (Lev 25) that Jesus meant to inaugurate God's Jubilee. Announcing forgiveness is the Jubilee 'release' in action. See this post for more details on Jubilee imagery in the OT.

(3) N.T. Wright argues that Jesus believed the Temple's system of atonement was broken, and that forgiveness in Jesus' ministry means what it did in Jeremiah: return from exile. It's an interesting suggestion with a great deal of explanatory power when it comes to the New Testament, but--as I've suggested elsewhere--the idea that most Jews believed they were in exile is problematic.

Although I have been working around the question for a little while, I have not yet taken the time to work carefully through the theme of forgiveness in Luke-Acts, and I'm still puzzled. If you can point me to the answer, please do so!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The difference three years make

The birthday girl (as of yesterday):

The birthday cake:
...and some things never change:
(For the sake of comparison, consider last year's photo.)

Why Christian schools don't need to worry about plagiarism

...or not:
"I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.
"I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked." - "Ed Dante", academic ghostwrier
Read the whole sad story here.

HT: Cheese-Wearing Theology

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prophecy after the Prophets: Draft Schedule and Reading List

The syllabus for my BLST415 / BT829 Prophecy after the Prophets course is officially due a month from Monday, so this draft list is probably pretty close to final, but there is still time to make changes. Does the reading seem too heavy? Are there other, better readings that I should include? What am I missing? I welcome any and all feedback:

Part I: Biblical Prophecy and its Aftermath

Introduction // Old Testament Prophecy: An Overview (14 Jan)
Secondary Reading (27 pages): Petersen, David L. “Prophet, Prophecy.” Pages 622-648 in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 4. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009. 
Primary Reading: 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 10; Jeremiah 1-4; Ezek 1-3; Amos

What Happened to Biblical Prophecy? Part I (21 Jan)
Secondary Reading (23 pages):
Wellhausen, Julius. “Chapter X: The Oral and the Written Torah.” Pages 392-410 in Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel. Edinburgh: A&C Black, 1885. Repr. New York: Meridian, 1957. Online: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cv/phai/index.htm.
Cross, Frank Moore. “A Note on the Study of Apocalyptic Origins.” Pages 343-6 in Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973. 
Primary Reading: Isaiah 24-27; Daniel 7-12; Zechariah; 1 Enoch 1-16

What Happened to Biblical Prophecy? Part II (28 Jan)
Secondary Reading (58 pages): 
Greenspahn, Frederick E. “Why Prophecy Ceased.” Journal of Biblical Literature 108.1 (1989): 37-49. 
Sommer, Benjamin D. “Did Prophecy Cease? Evaluating a Reevaluation.” Journal of Biblical Literature 115.1 (1996): 31-47. 
Grabbe, Lester L. “Thus Spake the Prophet Josephus . . . : The Jewish Historian on Prophets and Prophecy.” Pages 240-7 in Prophets, Prophecy, and Prophetic Texts in Second Temple Judaism. Michael H. Floyd and Robert D. Haak, eds. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 427. New York: T&T Clark, 2006. 
Miller, David M. “Josephus and the προφηταί: Exploring the Non-Use of a Label.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, Vancouver, BC, 3 June 2008.

Part II: Perceptions of Prophecy and Inspired Experience in Early Judaism

Perspectives on the Past and the Present (4 Feb)
Secondary Reading (52 pages): 
Barton, John. Pages 96-140 (Chapter 3 “Prophets and their Message”) and 266-273 (Conclusion) in Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile. Repr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 
Brooke, George J. “Prophecy.” Pages 694-700 in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls. L. Schiffman and J. VanderKam, eds. Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill, 2000. 
Primary Reading: Excerpts from Josephus, Philo and Ben Sira

Reading the “Prophets” (11 Feb)
Secondary Reading (66 pages): 
Barton, John. “Chapter 4: Modes of Reading the Prophets.” Pages 141-153 in Oracles of God: Perceptions of Ancient Prophecy in Israel after the Exile. Repr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 
Wendel, Susan. “Chapter One: Early Jewish Exegetes and Community Identity.” Pages 27-79 in “To Hear and Perceive: Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr.” Ph.D., McMaster University, 2009. 
Primary Reading: Habakkuk; 1QpHab

Eschatological Prophets (18 Feb)
Secondary Reading (77 pages): 
Allison, Dale C. Pages 73-84 in The New Moses: A Matthean Typology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 
Faierstein, Morris M. “Why Do the Scribes Say That Elijah Must Come First.” Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (1981): 75-86. 
Allison, Dale C. “Elijah Must Come First.” Journal of Biblical Literature 103 (1984): 256-258. 
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “More about Elijah Coming First.” Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985): 295-296. 
Barnett, P. W. “The Jewish sign prophets--A.D. 40-70--their intentions and origin.” New Testament Studies 27 (1981): 679-697. 
Horsley, Richard A. “‘Like One of the Prophets of Old’ : Two Types of Popular Prophets at the Time of Jesus.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 47 (1985): 435-463. 
Primary Reading: Deut 13, 18, 34; Malachi 3-4; DSS and Josephus excerpts

Part III: Prophecy and Early Christianity

Prophecy and the Historical Jesus (25 Feb)
Secondary Reading: (59 pages)
Jeremias, Joachim. “The Return of the Quenched Spirit.” Pages 76-85 in New Testament Theology: Part One: The Proclamation of Jesus. London: SCM Press, 1971. 
Wright, N.T. “Chapter 6: The Praxis of a Prophet.” Pages 147-195 in Jesus and the Victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. 
Primary Reading: Luke 1-2

Prophecy and Luke-Acts Part I: Christology (4 Mar)
Secondary Reading: (48 pages)
Robinson, John A. T. “Elijah, John and Jesus: An Essay in Detection.” New Testament Studies 4 (1958): 263-281. 
Croatto, J. Severino. “Jesus, Prophet Like Elijah, and Prophet-Teacher like Moses in Luke-Acts.” Journal of Biblical Literature 124.3 (2005): 451-465. 
Kingsbury, Jack Dean. “Jesus as the ‘Prophetic Messiah’ in Luke’s Gospel.” Page 29-42 in The Future of Christology: Essays in Honor of Leander E. Keck. A. J. Malherbe and W. A. Meeks, eds. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1993. 
Primary Reading: Luke 1-4; 7; 9; 13:22-35; 16:16; 20:6; 22:63-71; 24; Acts 3:11-26; 7

Prophecy and Luke-Acts Part II: Christian Prophecy // Research Workshop (18 Mar)
Secondary Reading: (67 pages)
Aune, David E. “Chapter 8: The Character of Early Christian Prophecy.” Pages 189-231 in Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.
Ellis, E. Earle. “The Role of the Christian Prophet in Acts.” Page 55-67 in Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce on his 60th Birthday. W. Ward Gasque and Ralph P. Martin, eds. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. Online: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/prophet_ellis.pdf
Stronstad, Roger. “The Prophethood of All Believers: A Synthesis.” Pages 114-124 in The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology. Journal of Pentecostal Studies Supplement. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999. 
Primary Reading: Acts 2:1-47; 11:27-30; 13:1-12; 15:1-41; 19:1-21; 21:1-16

Prophecy and Luke-Acts Part III & Prophecy in the Greco-Roman World (25 Mar)
Secondary Reading: (74 pages)
Moessner, David P. “‘The Christ Must Suffer’: New Light on the Jesus - Peter, Stephen, Paul Parallels in Luke-Acts.” Novum Testamentum 28.3 (1986): 220-256. (ATLAS)
Forbes, Christopher. “Chapter 11: Prophecy and Oracles in the Hellenistic World.” Pages 279-315 in Prophecy and Inspired Speech in Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. WUNT 2/75. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1995. Repr. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997. 
Primary Reading: To be determined.

Paul and Prophecy Part I (1 Apr)
Secondary Reading: (52 pages)
Grudem, Wayne A. “Appendix 5: Why Christians Can Still Prophesy.” Pages 313-328 in The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Rev. ed. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 2000. 
Gillespie, Thomas W. “Chapter 4: Prophecy and Tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-40).” Pages 129-164. The First Theologians: A Study in Early Christian Prophecy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 
Primary Reading: 1 Cor 11-14; 1 Thess 5

Paul and Prophecy Part II (8 Apr)
Secondary Reading: (55 pages)
Turner, Max. “Chapter 12: Prophecy in the New Testament.” Pages 185-220 in The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament Church and Today. Rev. ed. Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998
Moberly, R. W. L. “Chapter 7: Prophecy and Discernment Today?” Pages 221-239 in Prophecy and Discernment. Cambridge studies in Christian doctrine 14. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 
Primary Reading: 1 Cor 11-14; 1 Thess 5

Revelation and Beyond (12 Apr)
Primary Reading: Didache 9-16; Hermas, Mandate 11; Justin Dialogue 82.1-2; Tertullian, On the Soul 9.4; Eusebius, Ecclesiatical History 5.14-19

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

C.S. Lewis on the Learned Life

This selection from "Learning in War-Time" is my last post from Lewis's wonderful collection of essays, C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949). Hopefully, it will whet your appetite to read the whole (short) thing:
"By leading that [learned] life to the glory of God I do not, of course, mean any attempt to make our intellectual inquiries work out to edifying conclusions. That would be, as Bacon says, to offer to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie. I mean the pursuit of knowledge and beauty, in a sense, for their own sake, but in a sense which does not exclude their being for God's sake. An appetite for these things exists in the human mind, and God makes no appetite in vain. We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty, as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so. Humility, no less than the appetite, encourages us to concentrate simply on the knowledge or the beauty, not too much concerning ourselves with their ultimate relevance to the vision of God. That relevance may not be intended for us but for our betters--for men who come after and find the spiritual significance of what we dug out in blind and humble obedience to our vocation." (49)
"The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. . . . [W]e may come to love knowledge--our knowing--more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived." (50)
"There are always plenty of rivals to our work....If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come." (52)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The chief art of the teacher is to conceal himself

Isaac Gross at The Ground Beneath Your Feet posted this quotation by John Stott on preaching the other day. I've been wondering how it might relate to teaching:
“The main objective of preaching is to expound Scripture so faithfully and relevantly that Jesus Christ is perceived in all his adequacy to meet human need. The true preacher is a witness; he is incessantly testifying to Christ. But without humility he neither can nor wants to do so. James Denney knew this, and had these words framed in the vestry of his Scottish church, ‘No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.’ Something very similar was spoken by John Watson, the ‘Ian Maclaren’ who wrote the best-selling novel Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, ‘the chief effect of every sermon should be to unveil Christ, and the chief art of the preacher to conceal himself.’” - John W. Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 325.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My advice for improving airport security

I was not surprised to hear that a disguised man made it onto an Air Canada flight from China without showing a photo ID. I had the same experience flying out of Toronto on Air Canada last month: Although my boarding pass was checked twice, no one in airport security or Air Canada checked my photo ID. (For the record, I wasn't wearing a mask.)

My simple advice for improving airport security: check photo ID.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scooping the story or plying a craft

The pit of anxiety when I'm writing (or thinking about the writing I'm not doing) signals something amiss. At times it is the worry that someone else will get there before I do, leaving nothing left to say for all my effort. More often it is the background chatter of imagined voices assigning praise or blame, or telling me I have finally arrived.

Perhaps the chatter is inevitable. One writes for an audience, after all, and recognizing the natural desire for approval is surely better than the self-deception that insists, "I didn't build it for me."

Still, the best one can do is ignore the "deadly poison of self-admiration" (or, for that matter, self-blame), for it is the siren cry of what Lewis calls the "Inner Ring" where vocation is reduced to a tool to be manipulated for personal advancement. It is much better to ply your craft for its own sake:
"The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. this group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ringer can ever have it." - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 65.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Perfect humility dispenses with modesty

"[N]othing is so obvious in a child--not in a conceited child, but in a good child--as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. . . . Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years, prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures--nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment--a very, very short moment--before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero's book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the  work, the work may be satisfied with itself" - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 9.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Top Ten Books I Never Finished

I usually ignore memes, but Dale Harris's recent list of "Top Ten Books I Never Finished" is too good to pass up:
"So here's my list of the top ten literary ghosts of my past, rattling their unfinished chains at me from the dusty corners of my bookshelf. What about you? Any books back there that you started with the best of intentions only to get bogged down and abandon somewhere between "Once upon a time" and "happily ever after"?"
So among the scores of unread books on my shelves, here's a list of ten that I have attempted and, for the most part, grudgingly replaced:

Don Quixote: Complete and Unabridged (Signet Classics) 10. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes. I began Don Quixote in high school because it was one of the books in our temporary residence, and a classic. I read enough to learn what quixotic means.

The Pilgrim's Progress (Penguin Classics) 9. Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan. I read the picture book as a child, but have never made it through the unabridged edition.

Modern Times Revised Edition: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (Perennial Classics) 8. Modern Times, Paul Johnson. A gift from my uncle. I always thought I should finish it, until I realized that it is now a piece of history in its own right.

G.W.F. Hegel: Theologian of the Spirit (Making of Modern Theology) 7. G. W. F. Hegel: Theologian of the Spirit, G.W.F. Hegel. This collection from the writings of Hegel is, hands down, the most boring book I have ever attempted. Although I returned it to my bookshelf years ago, the bookmark is still in place.

Truth and Method (Continuum Impacts) 6. Truth and Method, Hans-Georg Gadamer. Compared to Hegel, Gadamer is impossible to put down. Lots of good stuff here, and I hope to return to it someday. Book-mark in place, but back on the shelf for now.

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) 5. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin. My failed dream of reading through Calvin's Institutes on his 500th anniversary is documented here. 600th anniversary, anyone?

Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion 4. Paul and Palestinian Judaism, E.P. Sanders. I read the first 238 pages (on rabbinic Judaism) as a requirement in grad school, and loved it. Someday I'd like to return to the final 400.

The Problem of Pain 3. The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis. After two attempts, I decided the problem with this book was not mine: Lewis's apologetic is dated and not to my taste.

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God 2. The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard. I could make a separate list of failures as read-aloud-before-bed books. Whatever his other merits, Wallace Dillard (as he is affectionately known in our household), does not write for the ear. This one is still on my night stand, but has been usurped by #1.

The Cost of Discipleship 1. The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As I recall, I read through most of The Cost of Discipleship in Kenya in 1995, but left the country without the book with a few chapters still to go. I am now trying again....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Lament for Unanswered Questions

Teaching, grading and interacting with students to one side, preparation for current courses and work on active writing projects leaves little time to think about the Big Questions.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my current writing projects, and I hope they contribute in some small way to the larger scholarly issues of which they are a part.

The Big Questions I have in mind are central to my life as a Christian and embarrassingly basic. I am not concerned to find something new to say about them. I don't need to publish anything. I just want to resolve them to my own satisfaction.

In an effort to keep the questions on the table, I plan at least to introduce one or two of them here. Maybe someone will be able to point me to the answers...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Prophecy after the Prophets

I will be offering an upper level seminar at Briercrest College and Seminary next semester on early Christian prophecy within its early Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts. The course will be cross-listed in the college as BLST415 Advanced Studies in New Testament Literature, and in the seminary as BT829 New Testament Specialty: Prophecy after the Prophets.

The questions we will consider include the following:

  • What happened to prophecy between the Old and New Testaments? Did it cease only to be restored in the New Testament? Was it transformed or did it continue unchanged? What is the relationship between Old Testament prophecy and early Jewish apocalyptic literature (including the book of Revelation)?
  • Perceptions of past prophecy: How did early Jews and Christians interpret the written prophets? In what ways did respect for the “Prophets” as Scripture shape how early Jews and Christians viewed contemporary inspired experiences?
  • Future prophets: What role did prophets play in Jewish expectations of the future? How did early Jews and Christians understand Malachi’s prediction of the return of the prophet Elijah, and Deuteronomy’s prediction of a “prophet like Moses”?
  • Jesus the prophet: What sort of prophet was Jesus? How does the title “prophet” relate to the title “Messiah”?
  • Christian prophets in history: What role, if any, did Christian prophets play in the transmission of the Jesus tradition? What role did Christian male and female prophets play in Paul’s churches? How would Christian prophecy have been viewed in comparison with Greco-Roman conceptions of prophecy?
  • Christian prophets and theology: Are all Christians prophets? What is the relationship between prophecy and tongues? What are the characteristics of Christian prophets? How are prophets different from apostles? Is Christian prophecy different from Old Testament prophecy?
  • What happened to prophecy after the New Testament?
I will post the syllabus when it is complete. (My next major task is deciding on the readings--the single most important part of designing a successful seminar. Any recommendations?)

The course is currently scheduled on Friday's between 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., so you'll need to be in the Caronport area if you'd like to participate.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bonhoeffer Thought for the Week

"[H]e was in deadly earnest when he called for Christian action and self-sacrifice. This explains why Bonhoeffer always acted spontaneously, 'in hiding', frar from all publicity, and why he considered self-righteousness and complacency great sins against the Holy Spirit, and regarded ambition and vanity as the start of the road to hell." - G. Leibholz, "Memoir", p. 18 in The Cost of Discipleship (New York: MacMillan, 1959).

Good thing biblical scholars and theologians aren't motivated by ambition or vanity.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Society of New Testament Literature (?)

This is a good year for Luke-Acts scholars at the Society of Biblical Literature's Annual Meeting: I counted 4.5 sessions dedicated to the Book of Acts, the usual 2 sessions on the "Formation of Luke-Acts," and another 3 sessions dedicated entirely to the Gospel of Luke, for a total of 9.5 sessions--and that's not including papers in other sessions that happen to focus on Luke and/or Acts.

Is this because Luke-Acts remains a "storm-center in contemporary scholarship" to use the over-worked description that W. C. Van Unnik originally penned in the 1960's? Or is something out of balance here? (Or am I just jealous because I'm not going?)

For the sake of comparison, there are 6 sessions on Matthew, 4 on Mark, 3 on Isaiah (2 on the Formation of Isaiah; 1 on "Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture"), 3 on Jeremiah, 2 on Genesis (if you include one on Christian readings of Genesis), 1 on Exodus. Notice a pattern? Of course, there are also plenty of sessions on various hermeneutical theories and approaches, but my guess is that a majority of text-based papers in these sessions focus on the NT.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jerome Kodell on Salvation, Preaching and Community in Acts

First, the gem: "In preaching the word, the believer is preaching his own life as lived in community, and the offer and challenge of faith is an offer of community."

The context (including several more gems):
"Salvation through Christ and life in the church is a complex mystery in Acts. Christianity is acceptance of the message that Jesus is Lord and Christ and adherence to him in personal faith. But acceptance of Christ and his message is still only a beginning. This act leads necessarily to baptism into a community, where believers share life together in κοινωνία [fellowship]. Because the church is missionary, this fellowship is not introverted, but opens out to the world under a mandate to witness to Christ by preaching the word to others by word and deed. Faith leads to community, community to witness. The circle is completed when the believer, having accepted the word through the church, takes the word to others as a member of the church.
"After the resurrection, the word of God is embedded in the Christian community. It lives in the church in a community of life with the believers. In preaching the word, the believer is preaching his own life as lived in community, and the offer and challenge of faith is an offer of community. Luke sees the word so bound up with community life and witness that he can say "The word of God grew" when the church adds new members."
- Jerome Kodell, “‘The Word of God grew’: The Ecclesial Tendency of Λόγος in Acts 1,7; 12,24; 19,20” Biblica 55 (1974): 505-519, here 518.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Blogging

Some interesting thoughts (by a blogger) about why young students and scholars should avoid blogging:

Academic Blogging: Some Reservations and Lessons

It's good advice for those who do blog too. In its immediacy, blogging can inhibit reflection.

Since I am obviously not following Blum's advice to avoid blogging altogether, I may as well mention that (1) Blum doesn't address the public service aspect of scholarship and (2) while I agree that peer review is important,  I am more inclined to put whatever "new" ideas I have out there because I think that there is something fundamentally broken about the way the academic publishing system works (more on this, hopefully, another time). Or maybe it's because I see myself as a גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב.

Here is another perspective mentioned in the comments to Blum's post: The Common School.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Favourite Bonhoeffer Quotation

"Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive.  He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together 
The quotation demands a hearing precisely because Bonhoeffer was no supporter of the status quo. It reflects Bonhoeffer's experience running an underground seminary--actually an experiment in communal living--during the years leading up to World War II.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Meaning of Ioudaios in Ancient Judaism

Since it began as a series of posts on this blog--and since publishing events are still rare enough in my case--I thought I'd mention that my article, "The Meaning of Ioudaios and its Relationship to Other Group Labels in Ancient 'Judaism'" Currents in Biblical Research 9.1 (October 2010): 98-126 has now been published.

SAGE is offering free access to its journals until October 15, so if you'd like to peruse a free electronic copy, now is your chance. Click on this link for instructions.

I originally pitched the article as a revision and expansion of my December 2007 "What's in a Name?" blog series on the meaning and translation of the Greek term Ioudaios (normally translated 'Jew' or 'Judaean'). What emerged was something of a prequel. Here is the abstract:
This article, the first in a two-part series, describes and critically evaluates major contributions in the last seventy years of scholarship on the relationship between Ioudaios (‘Jew’ or ‘Judaean’) and other group labels. The first section examines the common suggestion that Ioudaios was an outsider label, and ‘Israel’ an insider label. The second section surveys explanations of the relationship between Ioudaios and other terms such as ‘Galilaean’, ‘Idumaean’ and ‘Ituraean’, evaluating them in light of the evidence from Josephus. The conclusion sketches the decline of religion and rise of ethnicity as interpretive categories in scholarship on Ioudaios, and raises questions about the meaning of the term that require further discussion. The second article in this series will analyse the use of religion and ethnicity in scholarship on the meaning of Ioudaios, and evaluate the debate over the term’s English translation.
My conclusions run counter to the positions of Richard Horsley and John H. Elliott, in particular:
(1) Elliott (2007: 153) has recently argued that since ancient Jews normally referred to themselves as ‘Israelites’ not Ioudaioi, modern scholarship should follow suit, adopting ‘Israelite’ as the normal scholarly designation for Jesus and his Second Temple ‘Israelite’ contemporaries. (2) Horsley (1995: 13) argues that since Ioudaios was closely associated with the region of Judaea and typically opposed to ‘Galilaean’, it should be translated as ‘Judaean’ rather than ‘Jew’. I will argue against Elliott that Ioudaios, like ‘Israelite’, was in use as an insider self-designation, and against Horsley that Josephus, at least, regarded Galilaeans as Ioudaioi. (100)
Part 2, which will interact more directly with the work of Shaye Cohen, Philip Esler, Steve Mason and others, is still in production, but you can get a sense for what I expect to say here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A sarcastic Jesus?

I was reading Mark 14 this morning and noticed that the standard Greek editions (NA27 and UBS4) do not punctuate Jesus' final comment about the disciples' sleep with a question, as the translations I grew up with do.

According to the NIV, NRSV, NET, ESV, NKJV, and NASB, Jesus returns the third time and asks a variation on the question he addressed to Peter in verse 37: "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." (NIV)

The sentence could also be a command, however, since in Greek 2nd person plural indicative and imperative verb forms are identical, and the original text would not have indicated the difference between a question and a command by punctuation. A (sarcastic) command fits the context well. This was the interpretation that the KJV adopted, and that the NLT returns to:
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (KJV)
When he returned to them the third time, he said, "Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no -- the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (NLT)
He came back a third time and said to them, 'You can sleep on now and have your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son of man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. (NJB)
On this interpretation, the disciples have missed their chance to watch and pray; they may as well sleep. It fits the context and is consistent with Mark's portrayal of Jesus. What do you think?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflections on Keck and Carson on Reading the Bible as Scripture

This posts reflects on the quotations by Leander Keck and D.A. Carson that I posted back in August here and here, and continues a conversation that Nick Meyer started in the comments.

The quotes from Keck and Carson share a lot in common. Carson speaks of a "questing obedience"; Keck is concerned about genuinely "reading the Bible as Scripture" in a way that leads to "serious questions about what we read" and, ultimately, an obedient response.

Readers of this blog may know that my tendency is to emphasize questions. I prefer to refer to my approach as a hermeneutic of wonder rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion, but the distinction can get blurred. For this reason, Carson's challenge to approach Scripture with "reverence, a certain fear, a holy joy" comes as an important reminder.

Yet there's something that niggles at me. Carson is concerned about the dangers of an approach that by its very nature leads to a godless resistance to the text, while Keck is concerned to guard against a pious subversion of it. The one emphasizes reverence, obedience over questing, the other the genuine questioning required for questing obedience to be authentic. It seems to me that Keck fingers the fundamental problem in the evangelical conviction that the Bible is true: Because it all has to be true, there is a tendency to tame the text instead of wrestling with it. It is more honest to disagree (as an immediate, not a final response)--more honest and more dangerous because serious wrestling runs the risk of being mastered by the text (or rather, being mastered by the God who speaks through the text).

I resonate more with Keck not only because I think it is a bigger problem in my context, but also because it gets at the struggle that is involved in genuine interpretation. I am happy to affirm, with Carson, that the Bible is God's Word and that when "God speaks to us through his Word, those who profess to know him must respond in an appropriate way." But the sense of struggle is missing here, and I wonder if it is because Carson's formulation of the authority of Scripture conflates text and interpretation.

(See also Nick's independent post, as well as Larry Hurtado's thoughts on approaching the Bible as Scripture.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dallas Willard on the Word of Jesus

On living in a "God-permeated world": "Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us" (61-62).

On teaching outcomes: "Does the gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear it to become full-time students of Jesus?" (58)

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Writing Encouragement

"When you are actually writing, and working as hard as you should be if you want to succeed, you will feel inadequate, stupid, and tired. If you don't feel like that, then you aren't working hard enough." - Michael C. Munger
Read the rest of Munger's advice on writing less badly here, and Scot McKnight's reflections here.

I've got a few more substantive posts in the works, pending time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Letters and Papers from Prison, the Overwhelming Edition

My birthday present, the new English translation of the critical edition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 8; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010), arrived yesterday. As you can see, it is considerably larger than the edition I read and quoted from earlier this year (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

I'm looking forward to adding it to the long list of books I started this summer but did not finish before the fall semester with its other, more urgent, reading demands intervened. 

There's always next summer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blood Computers

I switched on the radio to CBC's "As It Happens" last Friday and caught the last few minutes of an interview with Chris McGreal about atrocities in Congo. I was just thinking I should ask my colleague, Tim Stabell, what he thought, when Craig Norris began reading an email Tim submitted to the talk-back line. I quote Tim's email here, as it appears on the Program Log:
I was once again horrified by the news out of Congo last night, a country where we lived for about fourteen years, and where we still have many close friends.
The news of the mass rapes that took place in North Kivu was dismaying, but is nothing new, except perhaps the scale of this particular incident. Tens of thousands of women and children, and even some men, have been traumatized and victimized by this 'tactic' of war. The international community has known about this for a long time.
The CBC, along with other media outlets, are challenging the efficacy of the U.N. mission to Congo.
There is certainly good reason for a full investigation of this case, but only if it leads to a heightened, rather than a lowered, commitment on the part of the international community to work toward both prevention of further such attacks in the short-term, and a long-term political resolution that addresses the roots of the problem. The latter is closely bound up with illegal mining activity for minerals used in the electronic devices we have all come to rely on so heavily. We are now emailing one another on 'blood computers' and talking to each other on 'blood cellphones'. Until this set of realities is addressed effectively, we will continue to hear stories of horrible violence destroying the lives of our Congolese sisters and brothers."
So we are implicated. What is there to be done? Tim recommends the following:

Enough! The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity
Raise Hope for Congo

You can listen to the entire CBC broadcast here. For more on "Blood Computers" see this July 2009 Time Magazine article: First Blood Diamonds, Now Blood Computers?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lord's Prayer in Hebrew

(Update:Hagop Karakashian informs me that he will be producing a tile with the Lord's Prayer in Hebrew in 2011.)

When I was in Jerusalem last year I wondered again why I could walk into shop after shop in the Old City and find identical "Armenian" "handpainted" ceramic plate renditions of the Lord's Prayer in Greek, Arabic and Syriac, but not Hebrew. So I made my way to the Karakashian Bros' Jerusalem Pottery shop--famous for its original, genuinely Armenian work--and asked the proprietor if he knew of any Hebrew versions of the Lord's Prayer on ceramic pottery. "No," he replied. But before I left he mentioned he would be interested in producing one--if I could provide the Hebrew text. I said I would email a Hebrew version on my return to Canada. Now more than a year later, it is time for me to keep my word.

The obvious answer to the question why no Hebrew versions of the Lord's Prayer are available for sale on ceramic tile is that most Hebrew speakers are not interested, and that the Lord's Prayer was preserved by Christians in Greek, Arabic and Syriac translation. Since Jesus is commonly thought to have taught exclusively in Aramaic, few scholars interested in the ipsissima verba of Jesus have tried to reconstruct a Hebrew version of the Lord's prayer. As I have already explained, my working assumption--based on recent scholarship as well as my experience growing up in Kenya, a country where bilingualism, at least, is the norm--is that Jesus could well have taught in Aramaic or Hebrew, and could probably converse in Greek. A Hebrew original of the Lord's prayer is not out of the question.

The problem is choosing the best Hebrew version. Because there is no centuries-old tradition of reciting the Lord's prayer in Hebrew, there is no standard liturgical version. The three Hebrew translations of the Lord's Prayer that I have consulted all differ, and I am, unfortunately, not qualified to arbitrate between them, much less to improve on them. Hence this post. Below the jump break, I present the English (KJV), Greek (NA27), and Hebrew versions of the Lord's prayer in parallel. I invite your feedback on which translation to recommend.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carson on Reading the Bible as Scripture

"[T]he vision of 'objective scholarship' (a vain chimera) may actually be profane. God stands over against us; we do not stand in judgment of him. When God speaks to us through his Word, those who profess to know him must respond in an appropriate way, and that is certainly different from a stance in which the scholar projects an image of autonomous distance. Yet this is no surreptitious appeal for uncontrolled subjectivity. . . . an even-handed openness to the text . . . is the best kind of 'objectivity' of all. If the text is God's Word, it is appropriate that we respond with reverence, a certain fear, a holy joy, a questing obedience." - D. A. Carson, "Editor's Preface" to David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles [Pillar; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], xiv.

Any thoughts about the differences between Carson and Keck?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Keck on Reading the Bible as Scripture

 "It is not enough simply to learn 'what the Bible says.' It is not even enough to learn what the biblical authors intended to say in their own times, though this minimum is absolutely essential. Rather, Bible study in depth becomes possible only if we ask serious questions about what we read. Through these we probe the underlying meaning, and thus take the risk of discovering that there is a significant disagreement between the text and ourselves over the truth of the matter. The person who has never experienced this tension with the text ought to ask whether his real self has yet heard the real message of the Bible. . . . Going beyond simply learning about Acts to the point where one must actually reckon with Acts is an important element of reading the Bible as Scripture. In other words, Bible study can be vital if one not only asks what the Bible says, but whether this is true, true enough to believe, believe deeply enough to act on." (10). Keck adds that "Asking this question openly and trying hard to answer it honestly . . . means allowing people to say 'No' to what Acts says" (11).

- Leander Keck, Mandate to Witness: Studies in the Book of Acts (Judson Press, 1964).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Miller Family History Day

We took a birthday drive out to the old Miller stomping grounds in Elbow yesterday afternoon. The village museum is home to some family artifacts, including the bathing suit, pictured to the left, which my grandmother wore on her honeymoon in 1926.

In biblical style, my genealogy goes something like this: Johannes M. Müller begat Adam B. Miller, Adam B. Miller begat John H. Miller, John H. Miller, begat John G. Miller, John G. Miller begat David M. Miller. But that leaves out a lot--including the women who donated their bathing suits to museums. So here is a bit more information for any Miller relatives (and anyone else) who may be interested.

The two lamps on the right belonged to one of the Müller daughters.
My great-great-grandfather, Johannes M. Müller (29 July 1825 - 7 Sept 1916), was born in Daisbach, Baden, Germany to Johannes Müller and Katherina Weber. My great-great-grandmother, Catherine Brandt (1829-1906), was born in Reichertshausen, Baden, Germany, to Konrad Brandt and Annie Marie Schmaltz. Johannes and Catherine sailed to North America in 1852 on the same ship. They landed in New York, and were married in 1852 in Canada. Did they know each other before they left or did they meet on the boat? Their marriage, at any rate, was fruitful. They had nine children: John Henry, Adam B., Charles B., Katherine, Henry B., David, Augusta, William, and Barbara. (I understand that the recurring 'B.' was part of the acculturation process: Canadians wrote their middle names as initials; the Müllers added middle initials as their middle names. Another part of the acculturation process was anglicizing Müller to Miller; this happened gradually.) Johannes M. and Catherine lived in several different places in southern Ontario; they are buried in a small cemetery outside Neustadt, ON.

To recent immigrants like the Müllers, land and livelihood were more important than nationality. While some of Johannes and Catherine's children, such as Charles B., remained in Ontario, others, such as Henry B., moved to the vicinity of Saginaw, Michigan.
Adam B. Miller's scarf (pre-1900)
My great-grandfather, Adam B. Miller (1854-1908), apparently followed Henry south (?) and then west. In 1885, while living in Marion, Kansas, he married Sophia Krueger (Oct 1859-28 Oct 1931), who was born in Serran Mecklenburg, Schwerin, Germany. Adam and Sophia had two children in Kansas (Wilhelmina Edna and Lena Violet). At some point between 1887 and 1890 they returned (or moved?) to Michigan, where their remaining five children were born: John Henry, Walter Lewis, Eleanore Henrietta Marie, Emma Augusta, and Elsie Marie.

Adam Miller Family Potato Masher
In 1905 the Adam B. Miller family moved to what is now Saskatchewan, taking advantage of the offer of free land by the Dominion Lands Act, and set up a homestead at SE Section 12, Township 26, Range 6, West of 3rd Meridian.  After the museum and a stop at the lake, we made a pilgrimage past the old Miller house, the homestead, and the Loreburn cemetery, where Adam, Sophia, my grandparents, and a few other Millers are buried. For pictures and more detail about the house and the homestead, see this post on our April 2008 visit with my Dad and Mom. The house is as dilapidated as ever, but the surroundings look more pleasant in mid-August near the end of a very wet summer:

 Adam died in 1908, three years after moving to Saskatchewan. I have in my possession a collection of century-old letters sent to Adam from his father and siblings in 1907-1908. They were preserved, no doubt, because they arrived around the time he died, but they don't explain why he died. Adam was survived by his wife, and seven children between the ages of 8 and 22. My grandfather, John Henry Miller (15 May 1890 - 20 Feb 1987), was the oldest son, and took over the family farm. (Grandpa's only brother, Walter Lewis [b. Nov 1891 or 1892], presumably helped too; he died in Dawson Creek, BC, in 1917.)

In 1912, John Henry graduated from an engineering school in Regina (2nd from right in the back row):
He later studied agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Did this "Cameron, Miller and Miller Threshing Outfit" from 1923 include my grandfather?
On 11 Oct 1926, after the harvest was in, Grandpa married Edith Olive Edmonds (22 Feb 1906 - 19 Mar 2003). Grandma E. Olive Edmonds was born in Maryfield, SK, the daughter of Gunson Edmonds (15 Nov 1869 - 26 Oct 1927) and Mary Margaret Wiggins (28 Mar 1879 - 2 Nov 1958). Grandpa was 36, Grandma, almost 21. A newspaper clipping included in Across Border and Valley, a Maryfield history, reports the following:
Mary Margaret Wiggins's sewing basket
"On Monday afternoon . . . a pretty wedding took place at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. G. Edmonds, of Maryfield, when Edith Olive was united in marriage to John Henry Miller, of Loreburn, in the presence of immediate relatives and friends of the bride.  To the strains of Lohengrin's wedding march the bride entered the parlor leaning on the arm of her father, who gave her in marriage.  . . . The bride was beautifully attired in white crepe georgette, with seed pearls, and crowned with a bridal veil held in place by a wreath of orange blossoms.  After the ceremony the guests to the number of almost 20 sat down to a sumptuous repast.  The white table was decorated with flowers and centered with the wedding cake.  The groom's gift to the bride was a string of pearls, and other presents were numerous and costly, including cheques from her father and uncle, Mr. C. Edmonds, indicated the love and esteem in which the bride is held.  Mr. and Mrs. Miller leave for points west and will spend the winter in California before returning to the groom's farm at Loreburn."

The news clipping accounts for the swimsuit, but does not explain how John Henry met and wooed a woman 16 years his junior who lived on the other side of the province. Fortunately, my dad was able to fill in the gap: Edith Olive Edmonds became a school teacher--in her late teens, presumably, since she was married at 20--and her first school was Wild Lily School, exactly two miles down the road from the homestead. She boarded with her future sister-in-law, Eleanore Miller (married to Dave Miller--same last name, different family--from Dreispritz, Russia). A meeting with Ella's eligible bachelor brother, John Henry, was therefore inevitable.

When they returned from their honeymoon in time for the new farming season, John and Olive settled at the Miller homestead, where my dad, John Gunson Miller, was born. Did Sophia Krueger, John Henry's mother, live with them until she died in 1931, or did she retire to Loreburn or Elbow?