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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ten Moments of 2007

My good friend, Mark Webb, has a blog entitled Converging Heritage on which he posted 10 memorable moments of the last year. I always enjoy reading Mark's blog (and I would encourage you to take some time to read through his thoughts) but I thought I would copy his post. This is always a good exercise - to look back over the year and think about its impact. If you are reading this, consider yourself "tagged" and create your own "Ten moments of 2007" and post the link in the comments. I would love to read about your year.

1. Our family's trip to Overton, Nevada (June)
We traveled to this little town about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas for a interview for a pastoral position at a church there. We fell in love with the place and the people. We had a great time together as a family and saw some great sites: Hoover Dam, The Lost City Museum, and Valley of Fire. They decided not to call me as their pastor but we gained a new friend, Kim Abbott, who has her own blog entitled A Plumber's Wife, always a fun blog to visit (Kim, if there are better links to any of the above let me know).

2. Our family's daytrip to The Happy Apple farm (July)
The three of us took some time this Spring to run out to Penrose, Colorado, to The Happy Apple Farm, which is a "pick your own" fruit farm. It was a nice day for us as a family and we got some nice apples, with which we made apples pies. Always a good time.

3. Rhonda's and my trip to Portland, Oregon (September)
Another trip on which I was interviewing for position, this time at a bible college there. It was essentially two days of interviews but they gave us a couple of extra days to run around the city. It was a nice time alone with my wife.

4. Mini-vacation with the family (October)
We wanted to get away, but not too far away, so we got a great rate on a nice hotel here in Colorado Springs. We stayed there two nights but ran around town like we were visiting. It is nice to go on vacation where you know all the best places to eat. We all had a great time together.

5. Jessica's knee surgery (November)
Not a fun memory but an indelible one nonetheless. There is nothing worse than knowing your child hurts and the only way for you to fix it is to allow a stranger take her into another room, make her unconscious, and then cut into her. Not the best feeling in the world, but I remember thinking how much worse it will be when I have to let her go. Not fun but very, very memorable.

6. Pastoral visit to a prison inmate in Oklahoma (October)
My pastor and I drove to a prison just inside Oklahoma to visit an inmate whose mother goes to our church. We had a great time going there and back and laughed a lot (see here and here for a sample). We also had a more somber time during the visitation (see here for more on that). It was quality time with my pastor and good time ministering.

7. Weekend with my brother-in-law and his new girlfriend (September)
My brother-in-law came to Colorado Springs in September and we were able to meet his new girlfriend. We had a nice time with them both. We played Wii a lot and celebrated my father-in-law's and my birthday (click here for the post about that). We always have great time when Sean comes to visit.

8. July 4th outreach event (July)
On Independence Day, our church had an outreach event which I spearheaded. The pastor and I planned for several months in advance and overall it went well. Best we can figure, we had about somewhere between 200-250 come celebrate with us. We had singing, dramatic presentations, prizes, food, bounce houses, all kinds of stuff. I was glad to see how well it went and how much the church enjoyed reaching out to the community.

9. Preaching through Psalm 119 (multiple dates)
Granted, this is not one moment but instead 22 moments but as a whole it was a nice time. It had been a long time since I was able to go through a significant section of Scripture with any group. I appreciate my pastor's willingness to share the pulpit with me. I enjoyed everything about it: the studying, the preparation of the sermons, the preaching, the discussion after, the whole thing. But after twenty-two weeks in one chapter, I was ready to move on to other things.

10. Doctoral studies orientation seminar (April)
In April I drove to Kansas City, Missouri to attend the orientation seminar for doctoral studies. I am almost sure this was the worst week of my life but definitely it was the worst week of the year. I met some great people there. I met a new friend from Georgia named Troy Lindsey (scroll about 2/3 down the page for a picture). The class itself was not all that hard and I got an A in the seminar. But I did not like the time away from my family and the professors there were some of the more arrogant people I have ever met. Scripture say, "everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40b) and I did not want to be like these gentlemen. Memorable but not something I would like to do again-at least not at that school.

Well, for good or bad, those where the top ten things I remember about 2007. And now the year is almost gone. What about you? What things do you remember about 2007? If you do not have your own blog, just post yours in the comments to this post.

Have a great 2008! And let me know if this blog has been of any benefit to you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 12.18.07

I can buy a lid!
I can buy the flap on the lid!

Jessica and Rhonda discussing what they could buy with a $2.00 Starbucks giftcard.

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 12.17.07

I want an official, Red Rider, carbine action, two-hundred shot, range model air rifle...oooooo.

Ralphie, on a commerical for A Christmas Story.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Digging Into the Burial of Sarah

For my final post on the chiasms found in Genesis, I want post more of an assignment rather than just posting information. I would like to challenge you read Genesis 23 and identify the chiasm there and the find the focus of the passage in this section of Scripture.

This chapter records the burial of Sarah by Abraham. It is an interesting story. Spend some time looking at this passage. Attempt to find the chiasm by identifing the word pairs in parallel to each other (they are easily identifable in the English translation). After that, you can read this article, which is a great study of this passage, its structure, and how that impacts interpretation of the story. The article is bit technical but skip over all the Hebrew "stuff" and look at the structure and the exegesis. It is a worthwhile read.

I hope this study of poetry in Genesis has been helpful. I will be posting some other posts dealing with Genesis in the coming day. I pray those will be helpful as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The "Point" of the Tower of Babel Story

In the series of post concerning Genesis, I have introducing the topic of poetry and chiasm so that I could share about the tower of Babel story. To begin with, allow me to say that while the tower of Babel story is written in a poetic form, I do believe that it is a true story. Just because something was written with poetic style does not mean that the story is myth. It is just a creative way for the author to convey the story.

The Tower of Babel story, found in Genesis 11:1-9 is written as a chiasm (I wish this was my own thoughts but most of this thought is from Allen P. Ross' book Creation and Blessing, a great commentary for the book of Genesis). This is based on the word pairs identified throughout the story. The image below shows the phrases in which the words are located. It is my desire that the image clearly shows what I am referring to (click for larger image).

One can see from the visual aid that the point of the story is "the LORD came down to see." All the word was united in a ungodly purpose. Most scholars believe that the tower of Babel was a ziggurat on which the people worshipped false gods or intended to worship false gods. Whatever the case, they were building a very tall tower, something of great human accomplishment. I am sure everyone on earth thought it was an amazing feat of human strength and ingenuity. Nevertheless, God has to bend way, way down to see what these puny humans are up to.

Now we know, first, that God is spirit (John 4:24) and so He doesn't "bend" down. We also know that God is omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5) so He does not need to come down to find out what the humans are doing. The author is using this kind of images to show us how infinitly small man's doings are to the Creator and Sustainer of life. Yes, they made a big tower, but only big in man's eyes. God has to bend down and squint to get a good look at it.

You may say, "I see how each word pair relates in this passage. However, there is one set of words that I do not see how they relate. Specifically, 'Come let us make bricks' and 'Come let us confuse.' Why are these in parallel with each other?" This is what make the whole story interesting, creative, and frankly, almost funny.

In the Hebrew, the word for bricks is LBN and the word for confuse is "NBL." Thus, these words are parallel but only because they are the same word but read in the wrong direction. God is saying, you think that you are going to make bricks but I am going to turn that around on you and then you will be confused. Even the words of the story get turned around and make confusion - literally. (Click for larger image)

The story is not only an amazing story of God's power and sovereignty. It is also evidence that the word of God is not only revelation of God, but it is a work of art. God could have revealed Himself to us in a bland lists and plain stories. Instead, He uses the authors' gifts and style to produce an exciting and living revelation of Himself.

Here is the visual aid with both graphics attached (click for larger image):

If I am not beating a dead horse, I would like to share one more story in Genesis structured similarly to this story. I will share it the beginning of next week.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Emphasis of the Image of God

In the previous post, I was discussing poetry, chiasms, and interpreting in Genesis. Continuing on the same topic, I want to post another example of a chiasm to show what a chiasm is and the significance of the structure when interpreting Scripture.

This example is found in Genesis 1:27, which says,
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In the English versions, one can sense there is probably some structure issue present here. It flows like poetry. But, that is not proof. When one looks at the Hebrew, notes the word pairs in the passage, and diagrams the passage, it looks something like this:

(note the "X" in the background, which shows how this poetical form received its name)

While this is a little more intricate than Genesis 9:6, it is still a chiasm and still is worth considering. Several things are noted when the structure of this passage is analyzed. First, the issue man being created sandwiches this whole passage. While not the emphasis of the passage, there is no doubt that the author knew the origins of humans was a creative act of God.

Second, there is something that looks out of place in this whole passage. The third and fourth words in this passage stand out as not parallel to anything. This is indicated in the visual aid as "SDO man." "SDO" is short for "Sign of the Direct Object" which means that man was the direct object, or receiptiant, of God's creative act. Whenever something seems out of place or stands out in a parallel structure, that is also a clue to an important part of the passage.

Third, this is really two chiasms working as one, but they have the same emphasis or point. Specifically, the issue of the image of God is the focus of this passage. Yes, God created humans but He made them special. He made them in His own image. The second, bottom, chiasm shows something interesting about that image of God. God made humans with a plurality to them. This is like God, who has a plurality to Him in the Trinity. In His image He created humans and He created them male and female.

This, again, shows the impact structure has in interpreting a scripture passage. The past two previous posts were introductory material to discuss a larger passage in Genesis where the structure is critical for the proper exegesis of the passage. My next post will address this story, its structure, and the structural impact on interpreting that story.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Structural Issues in Genesis

In a previous post in the series I have been posting on Genesis, I mentioned that one of the more fascinating aspects of the Old Testament literature is the artistry with which it was written. Hebrew poetry is an interesting and enlightening study for the Bible student.

In short, the basis for Hebrew poetry is the word pair or parallelism. Parallelism presents itself in many different forms. One of the more interesting forms is called a Chiasm. First, the word Chiasm (key'-as-um) comes from the Greek letter chi (key) which is written like an "X" (incidently, it makes a hard "K" sound as in the first letter of "Christ"). The reason this is important is because when diagrammed, this form of poetry is shaped like the left half of a chi or an "X."

Secondly, a chiasm is structured so that the middle of the chiasm or the middle of the X is the important part of the passage. For example, an simple chiasm can be found in Genesis 9:6:

            A. Whoever sheds
                        B. the blood
                                    C. of man
                                    C'. by man
                        B.' his blood
            A'. will be shed

There are several to note from this example which will teach us much about chiasms. First, when diagrammed as above, one can immediately see the word pairs and how this structure is shaped like half of an "X." The "A's," "B's," "C's," etc. are for showing how the word pairs relate.

Second, it should be noted that the parallels or word pairs are evident in the Hebrew. That is, a passage may look like a chiasm in an English translation of the Bible but that does not make it so. One must be able to show the same words or words based in the same root word to show the parallelism.

Third, and most important, the point of identifying a chiasm is not to take note of an interesting structure utilized in a passage. The purpose of examining any structure is for interpretive issue. As stated above, the important part of the passage is found in the middle or the apex of the "X." Thus, in the example above, the idea of "man" or "human" is the emphasis of this verse. Genesis 9:6 allows for capital punishment because of the value of human life. If someone is so callous and flippant about human life as to take a life, then that person will not be allow to live. (Note: I am not commenting on the current practice of the capital punishment in America - perhaps in a different post I will - I am commenting on the Old Testament practice of capital punishment.)

In the end, yes, one could gain that understanding from a simple reading of the text. Nevertheless, the author took time to construct this simple verse in an artistic way. As diligent bible students, we should experience the text in the manner in which the author intended. Taking note of specific structures helps the exegete to better interpret what the author was conveying to his audience.

As a sidebar, the present of chiasm in Scripture has been debated among biblical scholars. Some seem to think they are everywhere. Books like Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis and The Literary Structure of the Old Testament propose that it is the main way in which the Old Testament authors, and maybe even the New Testament authors, wrote their contributions to Scripture. Other works, like the article Chiasmus in Ubiquity, acknowledge this type of structure but claim it is no where near as common as the previously mentioned books indicate. (In fact, one can see the almost humorous argument between the two in the titles of the works: Chiasmus in Antiquity vs. Chiasmus in Ubiquity)

My next post will again address the issue of chiasms found in Genesis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Narrative and Poetry in Genesis

It is interesting to note that when one is reading through Genesis there are "tags" which indicate something important just happened. These tags are poetry. In English, the basis of poetry is rhyme. In the Japanese form of poetry called Haiku, the basis of poetry is syllables. In Hebrew poetry, the basis for poetry is word pairs. Thus, various forms of parallelism make up poetry throughout the Old Testament (a great source with which to gain a better understanding of Hebrew parallelism is the introduction section of Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, by Wilem VanGemeren). Most of the time, in English bibles, poetry is formatted differently and can be identified simply by noticing the change in format.

Throughout the book of Genesis, after most of the narrative sections there is a short (usually short - sometimes long) section of poetry. This indicates to us something to the reader. When a poetic section is encountered, the reader is to experience it as poetry. They are to allow the images to infiltrate their emotions and imagination. These sections of poetry may have also been used as mnemonic devises. As the Old Testament was relayed to generations upon generations, the stories were told and then essentially finished with a poem (or perhaps a song?). Thus, perhaps these poetic pericopes helped in the remembering of the story and the order of the stories.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that Genesis 1-11 is poetry, as some Christian leaders teach. I am saying that Genesis is mostly historical narrative with some poetry interlaced throughout the entire book at integral points. Identifing these poetic sections provides a two-fold interpretive result. First, it shows that the narrative sections are in fact to be understood as historical narrative (or they would be written as poetry). Second, it should force us to take note of these important poetic sections.

See the visual aid below (click the picture to enlarge):

This brief investigation of the poetic sections of Genesis should teach us a few lessons:

1) The bible is an amazing work of art. God could have inspired the writers to write the accounts of the Old Testaments in saints in bland, journal-like entries. Instead, the stories are filled with action, emotion, and intrigue written in such a way as to evoke an emotional response from the reader.

2) When we read the stories of the Old Testament, it is critical we read them as the original audience read them. If we read over the poetic sections like it was just another part of the story, we are missing not only the beauty of the passage, but we are missing something of its meaning, as well.

3) The poetic sections should slow down our reading through Genesis. They are "pit stop" on the interpretive road; places for us to stop, lean back, and let our minds dwell on the preceding story. We should allow the poetry do what it was intended to do: stir our imaginations and emotions.

The mix of narrative and poetry throughout Genesis brings us to a deeper apprecation of artistry and understandability, while also bringing us to humble realization that we serve a great and good God, the same God who brought all things into existence as described in Genesis.

The Origins of Public Schools

It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, that so that at least the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded and corrupted with false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers; and to the end that learning may not be buried in the grave of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors.

It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general, by way of supply, as the major part of those that order the prudentials of the town shall appoint; provided those that send their children be not oppressed by paying much more than they can have them taught for in other towns.

And it is further ordered, that when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the university, provided that if any town neglect the performance hereof above one year that every such town shall pay 5 pounds to the next school till they shall perform this order.

The Old Deluder Act of 1647

Why is it that we never hear about this? I never remember reading in history class, either in public school or in seminary, that the reason the Massachusetts Bay Colony began to teach children to read and to write is so those children could read the Bible and be aware of Satan schemes and not be deceived. Christian schools sometimes get ridiculed for even existing but, in essence, they are just attempting to recapture the original intent of public schools. I find that interesting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Orthopraxy Requires Orthodoxy

It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality, unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that...not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.

Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Key to the Structure of Genesis - Toledot

As I indicated in a previous post, I am teaching through Genesis for our Sunday School class. As I have been studying I have become more and more awestruck with how intracately the book has been written. This becomes evident when noticing the main structure of Genesis.

Most Old Testament scholars hold that the key to Genesis structure is a Hebrew world toledot (pronounced toll-uh-dote). This is the word translated "the account of" or "generations" which appears periodically throughout the book. For example, Genesis 2:4 begins with "This is the account of the heavens and the earth..." or, in Hebrew, "the toledot. of the heavens and the earth..." Then the biblical record details the life of the first humans. The word shows up at the beginning of a section of text and this heading,
thus summarize[s] the ensuing discussion, which traces the development of the subject from a starting point to an end. (Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing, pg. 71).
Toledot, then, is almost like a title or summary of the story which is about to take place. However,
contrary to what one might expect, the accounts are not essentially about the titular ancestor but about his descendants. For instance, the accounts of the lines of Terah, of Isaac, and of Jacob are primarily about their offspring: Abraham, Jacob and the twelve sons of Israel, respectively. (Bruce Waltke, Genesis, p. 18)
There are ten actual appearances of the word through Genesis. Some think Genesis 1:1 serves as a "toledot" without the use of the word. Here is another visual aid to show where these division occur throughout Genesis. It created it using Ross' and Waltke's commentaries. Hope it helps.

(click on picture for a larger image)

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Was Born With It

When was the last time your name made the top 1000 baby names? And when it did, what did it rank. Strangely enough, my name never rated high and fell off the charts sometimes in the 1950's.

CLICK HERE for a visual representation of how unpopular my name is.

CLICK HERE to gloat how popular your name is. Go ahead and post your link the in posts so I can see how normal your name is and I can continue to wonder what my parents were thinking.

Have fun.

And I am just kidding. I love my name. Really...