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Friday, May 31, 2013

May 2013 Biblioblog Carnival

amusements photo GoldStarAmusement_zpseed94789.jpgWelcome, welcome, one and all, to the greatest show on earth, the traveling Biblioblog Carnival - a round-up of the month's most exciting, stimulating, scintillating, thought provoking articles and blog posts in the wide, wide field of biblical studies.  We guarantee that even if you were to search the world over, high and low, you wouldn't find anything like it - not until next month.  Rest assured, you'll get your money's worth.  This is, to steal a line, the greatest show in heaven, hell or earth.

Come inside the show's about to start...  Like most carnivals, it may prove that there's too much to see in one visit.  Whether it's because we're unable to discriminate or because there was just a lot of good material this month, we leave it to you to decide.  We encourage you to return again and again.  And invite a friend.

Old Testament
Rod the Demon Hunter at Political Jesus  - And now we have Appleby Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas as a church that publicly admits to teaching the racist Curse of Ham theory.

Joel Watts at Unsettled ChristianityScience Proves the Tower of Babel (sorta) 

Fred Clark the Slactivist – The Sodom and Gomorrah story may be the biblical passage most frequently cited against homosexuality, it may also be the least relevant, because it’s not clear it has much to do with homosexuality at all.”

Matt Page at the Bible Films BlogIshmael's appearances tend to be bland unimaginative and, as in the text, he is very much a character who is acted upon, little more than a moving prop.

Morf Morford at God’s Politics -   There should be no poor among you - Deuteronomy 15:4  This is one of the few commands virtually all religious people easily – even eagerly – follow.  We just do it our own way.

Richard Beck at Experimental TheologyYes, you read the right. This is a post about how to read the cherem texts non-violently.

James Pate at James’ Thoughts and Musings- Who Wrote Joshua 22?

Jack Collins at Worthless MysteriesPoop (in the biblical sense pt. 1) 

Richard Beck at Experimental Theology - One of the interesting tensions in the Old Testament are the mixed messages you get about kings. Are kings good or bad? At times the Old Testament reads like monarchist propaganda. At others times the OT reads like subversive, anti-monarchist literature.

Bible Study and the Christian Life -  In this inaugural episode of the Bible Study and the Christian Life podcast on the Book of Kings, we discuss the backstory of the Book of Kings. We focus on offering an overview of the Book of Samuel, the book that immediately precedes the Book of Kings in the Bible.

Bob MacDonald at Dust - What is the Psalter About? 
Larisa Levicheva at Biblical and Early Christian Studies –  Qoheleth sees the experience of pleasure as the only one available to human beings. The constraints of human knowledge and the lack of control over the activities in this world make material gain illusory and transient.

Richard Beck at Experimental Theology - In light of this, I've taken up hissing as a part of my practice in resisting the Principalities and Powers. I'm now hissing in meetings, in stores, in political discussions.  True, it's all a bit distracting to co-workers, friends and family, but spiritual warfare is spiritual warfare.

St. EutychusA Modern Day Jonah 

BBC News - The University of Bologna in Italy has found what it says may be the oldest complete scroll of Judaism's most important text, the Torah.

Other ANE:
Mike Heiser at PaleoBabble shares a handy .pdf chart to help you keep your Mesopotamian deities straight.

Scott McKnight at Jesus CreedHow is manliness understood today? Why is there so much appeal in the men’s sector for resonance with the manliness vision of Alexander the Great?

Lawrence H. Schiffman - [W]e consider examples drawn from the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular the sectarian scrolls regarded as representing the views of the sect that gathered the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. We will see here that true rationales for commandments are for the most part lacking.

Phil Harland at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean Enoch: Fallen Angels in Early Apocalypticism  

Matt Page at the Bible Films BlogJudith however has passed out of fashion, despite being the subject of what could arguably be called the first real Biblical Epic.

Tablet - A small, ancient sect known as the Samaritans rely on the Torah, and the Torah alone, as their sole religious text—and the Samaritans use a somewhat different version. Two weeks ago, the first English translation of this Hebrew text was published by Samaritan historian and scholar Binyamin Tsedaka: The Israelite Samaritan Version of the Torah. There are some 6,000 instances where this version of the Torah differs from the Masoretic text; the question for scholars is which version is more complete, or more accurate

New Testament              
Scott McKnight at Jesus CreedDo you think empire criticism reads too much into the text and not enough out of the text? Is there anything in Matthew that is overtly critical of Rome?

Joel Watts at Unsettled ChristianityAre we wrong, then, in reading Mark as a simplistic historical narrative of the life of Jesus? Hardly, but we aren't fully reading it with the ears of the first audience. We have replaced the aperte with our need for palam and that prevents any serious investigation into the Gospel.

The Charleston Gazette - According to Watts, Mark did not want to chronicle a perfectly accurate historical narrative, but instead to rewrite history using the literary techniques, namely mimesis, available at the time.

UMJeremy at Hacking Christianity - It’s not always nice to nitpick, but when it comes to the Bible, I feel a certain obligation. After all, my schooling was in the Bible, I use the Bible every day, so if not a resident theologian like myself, who will do the nitpicking?  My nitpick addresses the release of the Common English Bible’s Study Bible.

Jan Krans at the Amsterdam NT Weblog -It is the most striking example of diverging verse numbers in the New Testament…

Michael Kok at Euangelion Kata Markon -Handout 3: John and the Synoptics 

Tony Jones at Theoblogy - In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many confident self-proclamations (conservative Evangelical’s favorite verses which seemingly demonstrate the exclusivity of Jesus). Now, I’m sure that claiming to be God in 1st century Judaism is a really big deal; however, how is it that none of these self-proclamations make it into any of the synoptic gospels? Is it possible that Jesus never made these self-proclamations? If not, how does this affect our understanding of Trinitarian theology in the gospel accounts?

John Barclay’s lecture, at St. Mary's University College “Paul and the Gift: Gift-Theory, Grace and Critical Issues in the Interpretation of Paul,”  with introduction by Chris Keith 

James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix - Romans in Three Hours

James McGrath has also begun a paraphrased retelling of RomansWe know that what the Bible says, it says to and about the people who have the Bible, so that mouths may be shut and the whole world rendered accountable to God. For it is not on the basis of Christian badges of identity, or mere possession of the Bible, that all humankind shall be acquitted before God. The Bible should rather be making us aware of just how far short we fall.

Michael F. Bird at Euangelion We know from Rom 16:1-2 that a deaconess named Phoebe carried Paul’s letter to the Roman churches. However, what was her role in undertaking such a task? Did she just hand on the letter like a FedEx delivery lady, did she read the letter to them, did she answer questions about the letter, or did she even expound the letter?

Jeff Dun at the Internet Monk - For someone who lived 3,000,000 years ago, or 6,000 years ago, or never, Adam sure is stirring up a lot of dust. Of course, that’s what he was made of, if he was made at all.

James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix -  To say that Jesus was tempted in every way that other human beings are seems incompatible with the view that Jesus was an omniscient divine entity. Can one know all the possible negative impacts of one’s actions and still be tempted in the same way we are, when we can deceive ourselves and persuade ourselves that no harm will come of it if we give in to temptation?

James Tabor at Taborblog - James is not merely a figure we need to “add” to our emphasis on Peter and Paul in Christian tradition–he is, quite literally, the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of understanding Christian origins.

Kurt Willems at Red Letter Christians -I want to suggest that most of what you have been taught about Revelation, especially if you watched the cheesy Christian movies or grew up in conservative/fundamentalist expressions of evangelicalism, is wrong.

New Testament Perspectives -  Craig R. Koester, professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., recently gave the 2013 Schaff Lectures (March 22, 2013 at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) entitled: “The Apocalypse, Archaeology, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.”  Here are the videos from that session.


Don Burrows at Note BeneBut in a parenthetical argument in his last chapter, Ehrman also dismisses the notion that these works can be considered "fiction,"and here I have to disagree.

Glen Stanton at The Gospel CoalitionDoes Abba mean Daddy?  
Scott McKnight at Jesus CreedShould we call anyone “Pharisee”? Be careful, that’s my rule. Think historically, my second rule.

Phillip Jenkins at The Anxious Bench I have been posting recently about the survival of the so-called lost gospels into the Middle Ages and beyond. When scholars discuss these texts, they pay special attention to the so-called Jewish-Christian gospels as precious survivals of the earliest Jesus movement. Actually, this Jewish-Christian tradition can also tell us a great deal about how we got our present standard texts of the canonical four gospels.

Don Burrows at Note Bene Religious freedom is under attack in America -- or so says the right-wing echo chamber, where such a sentiment is not only repeated daily but taken for granted as reality. Christians and Christianity are being "frozen out" of America and good followers of Jesus are being "persecuted" roundly in America today for their religious beliefs just like they were in ancient Rome.  ... Of course, this is all fantasy

Historical Jesus: 
James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix - Unless one can demonstrate that [Hercules] Alcaeus was not a historical figure, then showing Jesus to be comparable to him would lead to agnosticism about Jesus’ historicity, and not mythicism.

Tom Verenna - That, to me, is very telling of the state of usefulness of fabrications; that is to say, they are just as useful as the real thing.

James Tabor at Taborblog – The idea seems to be that “secular historians” prejudge evidence and are accordingly biased in that they will not allow even the possibility of the miraculous as part of ones historical inquiry. If historians ask the questions: what do we know and how do we know it–how is it that we claim to “know” from the start that miracles do not happen and that supernatural explanations for various developments are to be rejected?

James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix - Was Jesus a Seditionist? 

Chris Glaser -  If the biblical witness is to be trusted, we know Jesus could read, because he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his home synagogue in Nazareth. And we know Jesus could write, because he “bent down and wrote on the ground” when a woman accused of adultery was about to be stoned. ...  But why didn't he write down all his thoughts and parables on a scroll somewhere, and put the Jesus Seminar out of business? Here are a few possibilities...

Anthony LeDonne at The Jesus BlogWhat Would Jesus Do on Mother’s Day?  

Joel Willitts at Euangelion – What do we mean when we label something “historical”? Is there one blanket, one size fits all, way to think about the historicity of the events in the Gospels?

This month we have been saddened by the loss of some of the greats - Geza Vermes and Dallas Willard.  Many wrote of their appreciation for the work of these wonderful men.
Mark Goodacre shares several videos of Geza Vermes.

T & T Clark Blog
 - Vermes underlined the ‘Jewishness’ of Jesus in a unique way, which would shift scholarship forever

James Crossley at Sheffield Biblical StudiesThere are a number of online recollections of Geza Vermes, all of which, as far as I can see, recognise his importance as a scholar of early Judaism and the New Testament, particularly the quest for the historical Jesus. I want to look at his importance for New Testament studies, with the qualification that this aspect of Vermes’ career was, of course, part of Vermes’ Jewish studies.

Tony Jones at Theoblogy - shares several stories of personal interactions with Dallas Willard.

J.K. Gayle at BLT - His [Willard's] last words were, "Thank you."  

More tributes to Geza Vermes and Dallas Willard can be found here and at the Economist and also here.

And though he wasn't a theologian proper, we also are saddened by the passing of special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen.

John Moreheaed at TheofantastiqueHarryhausen’s collection of creatures — singlehandedly and painstakingly stop-motion animated by the man himself — exhibited a wondrous sense of life, and convinced many of us that, with dedication and love, almost anything that could be dreamed of could be realized on the screen.

First - Second Centuries / Patristics / Mandaean:
Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed  – We have to fill in the lines but there appears to be a fairly common 1st Century slippery slope: If you compromise on this one, you’ll end up inviting the likes of Antiochus Epiphanes back into Jerusalem.

Rod the Demon Hunter at Political Jesushas a Patristics carnival of his very own (even if it is very, very, very, very late.) 

Gabe Martini at On Behalf of All -  Does the evidence put forth by Pr Wedgeworth demonstrate that there has always been an equal opposition to icons and their veneration within the Orthodox-Catholic Church? Is that evidence being properly represented and understood? Were they isolated voices, or part of a large opposition to icons in the history of the Church?

Charles A. Sullivan - Did the Montanist’s speak in tongues, and is this the historical antecedent for tongues in the Church today? Two scholars take opposite conclusions.

Hieroi Logoi - Online Resources for the Mandaeans

Ken Schenck at Quadrilateral Thoughts - What is Theology? 

Edith M. Humphrey at Baker Academic Blog-  In Scripture and Tradition: What the Bible Really Says, I am not aiming to say everything that can be said about tradition. Rather, I train my gaze on what the biblical writers both model and state explicitly regarding our topic.

T.M. Luhrmann at The New York Times - Is That God Talking? 

C Michael Patton at the Parchment and Pen Blog - Is Bad Doctrine Sin?

Andrew Perriman at P.OST - Some Rough and Ready "Rules" for Doing a Narrative-Historical Reading of the New Testament  

Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed - All theology, in the sense of orthodoxy or dogmatics or systematics, is a process. It’s an experimental expression to put into words what one thinks the Bible teaches in words that make sense in a new context. This also means no articulation is infallible or absolute or final. Which is not to say theology isn’t true, but it’s not final truth.

Catholic News Service - Pope Francis, the Jesuits, and Liberation Theology - 

Rod the Demon Hunter at Political Jesus Let’s be honest, I have an apathy for so called Christian apologists and Bull-Horn evangelists who want to monologue at everyone they meet.

Abramkj at Words on the WordHow literal should a Bible translation be? What makes a translation of the Scriptures faithful and accurate? What is the significance of the original form and the original meaning?

Ecclesiology  /Liturgy / Worship:
Tony Jones at Theoblogy- …titles are not about leadership, they are about power. Get rid of them

The Daily Mail - Romanian Nuns Celebrate Easter among the skulls of their dead sisters - 

Paul Jesep at Faith with Wisdom - As a sojourner I have developed an appreciation, perhaps a need, for utilizing both the Julian and Gregorian liturgical calendars.  I find it an opportunity to further explore spirituality from what John Paul II described as Christendom’s left and right lungs (the Roman and Orthodox Churches).  It better oxygenates my soul.  It gives me pause to think in different ways about Christ’s two greatest commandments – to love God with heart and soul and to love one another as Jesus unconditionally loves us.

Timothy Larson at Faith and LeadershipThe present is a very thin place. This moment in history is the best in which to live -- I believe this with all my mind and heart. But it is the best time in which to live precisely because we have the riches of the past to hand: the thoughts, works of art, discoveries and accomplishments of previous generations are ours to enjoy. And their mistakes, blind spots and sinful patterns are there for us to learn from. To reject those riches is to turn the present into an impoverished place.

Carol Trueman at First Things - The problem with much Christian worship in the contemporary world, Catholic and Protestant alike, is not that it is too entertaining but that it is not entertaining enough. Worship characterized by upbeat rock music, stand-up comedy, beautiful people taking center stage, and a certain amount of Hallmark Channel sentimentality neglects one classic form of entertainment, the one that tells us, to quote the Book of Common Prayer, that “in the midst of life we are in death.”

Episcopal Café – Hymnals are more like telephones than automobile tires. Tires wear out visibly and require replacing. Telephones, on the other hand, seldom wear out, yet still get replaced when updated models offer new features attractive enough to warrant the change.

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship  -10 Reasons Hymnals have a Future 

Joel Watts at Unsettled ChristianityReview of Baker Academic’s: Liturgy as a Way of Life 

Danielle Shroyer at The Hardest Question - Pentecost is a radically important day. It’s the rightful conclusion to the story of resurrection. The dismantling that begins in Holy Week isn’t completed until Pentecost.

Dwight Stewart at Jesus Radicals - Socio-political Change in light of the Pentecostal Experience

John Frye at Jesus Creed - We should not be surprised how the soterian gospel has reshaped US American evangelical preaching in view of that gospel’s long run. Thousands of individuals, saved on the skimpiest of information shaped to elicit a punctiliar decision, filled the church as uninformed converts. The robust kingdom of God gospel announcement (kerygma) has been replaced by Bible-based moralisms backed-up with catchy illustrations to teach Christians “how to” live.

Paul Jesep at Faith with Widom - Death comes with much ritual, ceremony, and a huge industry embalming bodies, cremating remains, and burying the departed in crypts, tombs, and sealed artificial boxes in the ground.  In many ways, the death industry does not make sense.

The Huffington Post - The Church of England published a plan on Friday to approve the ordination of women bishops by 2015, a widely supported reform it just missed passing last November after two decades of divisive debate.

Tony Jones at Theoblogy - The Gospel in Two Broad Strokes: Reconciliation and Liberation.

Dr. Ben Myers at Faith and Theology - I Believe...

bright banners photo BrightBanners_zps79692989.jpg
Bible Places Blog -Jerusalem Quarry Discovered

Archaeology and ArtsHear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”. This is how researchers Armin Lange and Esther Eshel interpret the inscription found on an amulet discovered in a third-century C.E. child’s grave near the Roman frontier city Carnuntum.”

Judith Weingarten- Zenobia: Empress of the East   It was also relatively commonplace to leave your own mark on the walls -- even within a god's temple, or a synagogue, or in someone else's home that you happened to be visiting!

The Biblical World Second Temple Door Key from Jerusalem 

Larry Hurdato - It shows how we use history to define ourselves, and so we have to choose what history by which to do so.  It shows also how historical things that once bore one meaning can acquire (or be given) a very different meaning, when people need to do so.  In this case, it also shows a striking instance of how archaeology played a role in profound political developments of the recent past.

-Gabriel Stone -
John Bryan at The Biblical WorldSo, as usual, what we have here is not a bombshell archaeological discovery, but rather another piece of evidence that helps us to better understand the world of the New Testament.

Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus  -Scholarship has become speculationship... 

Book Reviews:
Chaplain Mike at the Internet Monk -Ancient evangelism occurred in a setting hostile to the church and its values; it developed in the context of a clear self-understanding of the church as the eschatological people who are under the reign of God, the people who confess “Jesus is Lord.” It was evangelism with teeth, not an “easy believism” or a “cheap grace”; and it was a spiritual journey of discipleship, spiritual formation, and entrance into a new community.”

Jim West shares Michael Kruger’s review Bell’s book, therefore, is really just spiritualism with a Christian veneer. It’s a book that would fit quite well on Oprah’s list of favorite books.

The Desperate PastorYou Lost Me

Philip Long at Reading Acts - Robert W. Wall, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

Aaron B. Franzen at Christianity Today -  A recent poll from LifeWay Research found that 89 percent of American households still own a Bible, with the average home having 4.1 Bibles. But owning a Bible is different from reading it—and pollsters might be surprised by what happens when many Americans do.

The Dish -It seems Islam is going through its Dark Ages, where lack of education and a confusion of tradition with religion in Muslim countries is causing their people to be manipulated by false sermons of violence against the West as some good deed when it’s a sin and a sin alone.

Huffington Post -  Muslim leaders from across the globe paid tribute to Holocaust victims this week during a visit to Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, where they prayed at the Wall of Death for those who were killed by genocide and suffered under violent anti-Semitism.

Atheist Muslims:
Ali A. Rizvi at the Huffington Post - Richard Dawkins has referred to himself as a "cultural Christian", with an admitted fondness for Christianity-inspired art, literature and Christmas carols… This is probably why he hit the nail on the head when he described me as a "cultural Muslim with no imaginary friend." He understood that this is precisely what I meant when I called myself an "atheist Muslim."

“Regular” Atheists:
St. Eutychus - Dear sir, it has come to my attention as a citizen of the internet, that your, until recently, esteemed publication has named polemicist Richard Dawkins as number one on your “world thinkers” list for this year.

Daniel Fincke at Camels With Hammers - is hosting the inaugural Atheist  Blog Carnival 

Vatican RadioMoney has to serve, not to rule.

Tornados and Theodicy:
Rachel Held Evans  - This theology is, in a word, abusive, for it blames the victim for whatever calamity, abuse, or tragedy she suffers and says it is deserved.

Funnel Cake: 
You can't go to the fair without eating something deliciously unhealthy; how about some Scripture Cake?

swings photo StateFair2010-Swings_zps85a9859b.jpg
See the Wonders of the East:
Phillip Long took a trip to Israel - thrill as he recounts the mysteries of the orient.

The Freak Show:
The circus geeks, fools and freaks.  These are the sideshow wildmen. You don't really want to see them, but, admit it, you can't look away.
Pat Robertson 
Marc Driscoll  
The Thaw 
Pat Robertson – Again
Anna Pierre, RN (and Pat Robertson again, again...)
Matthew Hagee

Marc Driscoll (again) & Pat Robertson (again, again, again)

And William Tapley, the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times

Kim Kierkegaardashian

Fortune Tellers, Magicians and Clowns:
Every circus carnival has a fortune teller's tent.  The biblioblog carnival doesn't disappoint.  We've got a magician too.  Abracadabra!  And clowns... send in the clowns!

Todd RhoadesWhat would HONEST church marketing look like? 

Episcopal Café - Beware the Wrath of an Organist!

Scotteriology - The Seven Deadly Gifs

Christian Nightmares  - a trailer for the new End Times comedy Rapture-Palooza 

Vorjack at Unreasonable Faith Fist of Jesus -  (must be a Gnostic text…wherein flesh is really evil…)

The risqué tent at the carnival:
We all know it's there... that one tent at the carnival.  We won't tell your wife /husband/ boyfriend/ girlfriend...

If you should need medical assistance during your visit to the fair, please visit our first-aid tent.  The nurse there will assist you.

ferris wheel photo FerrisWheelatDusk_zpsd969e68e.jpg Pastoral: 
Micah at A Deeper Story – I raised my hand when the preacher asked, “Who will commit to pray for an hour a day, every day for the rest of their life?” I raised my hand every time a preacher asked us to make a commitment, really. If there was a way to be a better Christian, I would do it. No matter the cost. I wanted so desperately to please God.

Tom Rees at EpiphenomReligion Doesn’t  Seem to Protect Against Depression 

 Deborah Haarsma at Bio Logos - -We have all heard stories of Christian young people who have struggled with their faith because of science. What can ministry leaders do to better prepare young people as they consider science careers? How can all God’s people develop a better appreciation of God’s revelation in nature?

Whispers in the Loggia  - "Jesus is indignant when he sees these things" - said the Pope - because those who suffer are "his faithful people, the people that he loves so much"

Fred Clark at The Slactivist - The whole point of that scene — and of Strickland’s existence as a character in the movie — is that he’s wrong. He’s wrong about Marty, and he’s wrong about young people in general. Strickland is a cruel clown whose words are not intended to be taken at face value. This is made very clear in the scene above, in which Strickland is angry with Marty for entering his band in the school’s dance audition. “Why even bother, McFly?” Strickland says, “No McFly ever amounted to anything.”

Well that's it; the Carnival is over. We hope you've enjoyed your time here and that you'll return again even after the carnival has closed up and moved on.   If you haven't had enough thrills and chills  already, you can check out Jim West’s separatist and heretical Avignon Carnival – I’m sure it will be much snarkier and more exclusively focused on academic articles.

And be sure to visit the Biblioblog Carnival again next month when it will be hosted by Andrew King at The Blog of the Twelve.

Thanks, everyone,


One last link for the road:
Barry TaylorThat melancholy, rooted at the heart of music that emerges from dislocation, disorientation, despair, desire, is what keeps music church for me and it might just be why I struggle with the institutional expressions of church/religion. It lacks melancholy and therefore, for me, it lacks the one ingredient that makes it vital, necessary.

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ferris wheel photo FerrisWheelatDusk_zpsd969e68e.jpgThe Biblioblog Carnival will be here soon...

Then He Remembered the Plague

I'm sharing another short piece of my son's writing (he's 12):

It was no normal tank, of course.  Its sheer bulk was so immense it ripped the cement from the curb. Hamel was surprised that no one else had noticed it.  Then he remembered the plague. Almost everyone in his district had been infected.  Hamel had only barely managed to scrape up enough money for one vial of the vaccine.  Everyone infected was shipped off to be cared for in state of the art hospitals.  That is, if the government's flashy billboards and radio announcements were to be believed.

The Centurion That We Never Meet

The Centurion that we never meet
sends wave after wave
of delegate forces
to approach the Lord.

“He is worthy,” say the elders
“because of his gifts and his offerings;
please heal his honored slave
because of what he has done on our behalf.”

But now come his friends,
those sent to speak on his behalf.
“I am not worthy, not worthy at all,
but I understand the command;
When I speak, it is done.
And if you say the word
my little one can be saved.”

 Jesus, straight from his Sermon on the Plain,
 is amazed by this Centurion he never meets.
“Not even in Israel is such faith to be found.”

Luke 7: 1 - 10

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Clouds Are Angry

The Clouds Are Angry photo IMG_2752_zps36d0e2ab.jpg

We've been having quite a bit of rain here in recent days.  I think the clouds are angry.
I took this photo yesterday afternoon, between storms.  The picture has not been colorized or photoshopped in anyway.  That was the color of the sky for about an hour and a half, before it started to rain again.

What I’m Reading: First, Man. Then, Adam!

“Clearly a theory with dozens of assumptions is probably not likely to stand the test of time.  In this case only one major assumption was made, i.e., that the Garden of Eden was a space ship.”  (pg 65) [i]

I love books like this.  Give me Immanuel Velikovsky, the Knights Templar, the Bermuda Triangle, and the Loch Ness Monster.  I like tales of the weird and of the crack-pot conspiracy.  Irwin Ginsburgh’s 1975 book, First, Man. Then Adam! is right there among the weirdest and most severely cracked.  I found it at my local public library; what a treasure.

The book’s jacket says that Ginsburgh holds a B.S. and Ph.D. degree in physics, and that “he has been a physicist with the research department of a major oil company” for over 25 years - but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about theology, or ancient near east languages, or anthropology, or history, or cosmology, or biology, or genetics, or evolution, or…..

But that lack of understanding didn’t stop him from developing one of the most interesting “theories” I’ve ever read.  Ginsburgh posits that Adam and Eve were “superior” space people who crash landed their space ship on the planet Earth, that these two extra-planetary refugees were forced to mate with the indigenous stone age inhabitants of the Earth, and that the “Tree of Knowledge” at the center of the garden (which was their space ship) was in fact a central computer.

It’s one part Erich Von Daniken, one part Immanuel  Velikovsky, and one part Ed Wood Jr.  It’s the Urantia book meets armchair astrophysics.  It’s crazy fun.

Q.  Where did the space ship come from?
A.  Since God “planted the Garden of Eden,” he obviously made the space ship, and so the space ship
    came from God.  (pg 88-9)

Excuse me… I’d just like to ask a question.  What does God need with a starship?

[i] Ginsburgh, Irwin First, Man. Then, Adam!, Simon and Schuster, New York NY, 1975.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brave Explorer Returns, Says ‘The Legends Are True!’

High in the mist shrouded Rantanouk Mountains is a secret and all but forgotten world of legendary riches and dangerous creatures of fierce beauty.  The Grafelli people that live at the base of these sleeping volcanoes have for centuries told stories of the Fo’olel a’ tel –which translates as something like “the devouring slug” or “the always hungry worm.”  Even the bravest of the Grafelli warriors refuse to travel along the mountain paths during the days after rainfall.  “Fo’oelel a’tel janto! Fo’oelel a’tel janto!”  They shout. “The slug descends! The slug descends!” 

This mysterious slug, described by the Grafelli  as being over four feet in length and of a bright, almost fluorescent pink in colour, is said to be carnivorous and exceedingly fast. 

Until recently most scholars were convinced that the fo’olel a’tel was nothing more than a local legend, akin to the Yeti, the Domovoi or the Mapinguari Sloth that has but one eye and a second mouth on its belly.  But recently an intrepid band of explores ventured up into the mists of Rananouk and have brought back startling evidence of the fo’olel a’tel’s existence.

Captain Richard S. Castle and crew have just returned from a year and a half long expedition to study the Grafelli people – though, “We only intended to stay a year,” says the good Captain.  “We were… delayed,” he says with grim expression. 

Captain Castel and his band (originally twenty-seven brave men and women, now but four battered and scarred survivors) will present a lecture and demonstration every night this week at the Rimbaud Museum of Wonder and Nature.  Included in the lecture will be a series of colour photographic slides as well as a taxidermic example of the no-longer-mythical fo’olel a’tel. 

 Parents are advised to not bring young or impressionable children.

My Sound Design in Another Video

One of the sounds that I have contributed to the Freesound Project has been used in a slightly disorienting video.  Check it out - unless you get dizzy easily.  This video, as short as it is, might induce motion sickness.

tranSPORT from FTTUB on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Common Grackle

We had a bunch of these birds in our yard today - Common Grackles.  They were eating seeds and earthworms and insects.  We also had a few robins and a couple of cardinals as well.

Common Grackle photo Grackle_zpsa228e2bd.jpg

Monday, May 27, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 23

Last week I was a little slow in posting my weekly free powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image.  I was camping most of the week - and not anywhere near the internets.  But this week I'm posting it early.  Early enough that if you want it to use at your church (as we do here) or to use in your own personal, work, or school projects, you can.  Really.  Use it however you like.  I only ask that you share it freely with others and that you tell them that you found it here.

For those who may be interested the picture this week is a close up and double exposed picture of some mineral / rock formations.  I'm not much of a geologist so I can't tell you what kind. Sorry.

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A Question about Judas

I have often seen it noted that the descriptions of Judas in the NT are progressively more villainous over time. For example, in the Gospel of Mark (usually described as the first of the NT gospels) Judas is listed as one of the 12, and is said to have handed Jesus over to the high priests who promised to pay him money.  No indication of his motive is given.  But by the time we get to Luke we read that “Satan entered him” (Luke 22: 3) and in John he has become “a devil” (John 6: 70),” a thief” (John 12:6), and “the son of perdition” – the only disciple to be lost (John 17: 11 – 12). 

His fate is even worse in the hands of later Christian writers.

But one thing about Judas (in the canonical books, at least) remains constant:  the verb used for his action.  He “handed over” Jesus to the authorities.  This verb –paradidonai  in Greek – is less ominous, less villainous than “betray.”  But despite the increasingly harsh description of Judas’ character in the gospels, his action remained this relatively neutral verb “hand over.”

I wonder why?  

Surely the gospel writers were clever enough to think of other more caustic verbs, verbs with more of a barb than “handed over.”  But they didn't use any other verb.  Paradidonai it was and paradidonai it remained.

Curiously it is the same verb used by the apostle Paul (who never mentioned Judas by name) when he said that God handed Jesus over (Romans 8: 32) and that Jesus handed himself over (Galatians 2: 20).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day Is Not a Christian Holiday

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15: 13

It’s Memorial Day weekend again, and, though I have said it before, I will say it again.  This verse has nothing – NOTHING- to do with military service. 

Men and woman do not enlist in the military to lay down their lives.  They may be willing to risk death – but they do not join with the intent that they will deliberately die.  They are, in fact, trained to avoid death and, what is more, to inflict death upon others.  This is not love – at least, not the kind of love described in the verse above.

This verse is speaking of Jesus’ death - a voluntary sacrifice of the self, expressly to the point of death without the killing of others.

While we might wish to honor those who have served in the armed forces of the United States, Memorial Day is not a Christian holiday.  It is a Nationalist holiday.  

We should not confuse the two.

What I’m Reading: A Scanner Darkly

For now we see through a glass darkly… Now I know in part…

Even though he wrote science-fiction, much of what Philip K. Dick wrote is autobiographical.  I noted as much when I shared some of my thoughts about his book Valis.  The same holds true for A Scanner Darkly.  And while he may not have been a character in the book (as in Valis) Dick wrote in the Author’s Note that follows the book, “I myself am not a character in this novel; I am the novel.”

The story follows the lives of drug dealers, users, and narcotic officers pretending to be drug dealers and users, and who become drug dealers and users, and who can no longer remember if they are drug users or narcotic officers pretending to be drug users…  And Dick, who himself was, for a time, a part of this culture, has captured the dark hilarity and tragic comedy of their lives. 

The title of the novel is derived, in part, from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see through a glass darkly…”  The mirror-glass, in this case, is replaced by the science fiction “holo-scanners” hidden in the home of drug dealer / narcotics officer in order to continually monitor and record their actions.  The agent records and watches his life but, because of the schizophrenic-effects of his drug of choice, Substance D (also known as Slow Death) is unable to recognize the other half of his self.

But even this use of Paul’s letter is schizophrenically divided, only recognizing the first half the clauses in the referenced verse.  And though I greatly admire Dick’s writing, and am deeply moved by his willingness to import the tragedy of his own life into his work – I wonder how different his work (and life) might have been if he could have felt something of the second half of those clauses – and, what is more, what it might have been like if he could have felt the depth of the following verse as well.

For now we see through a glass darkly: but then shall we see face to face. Now I know in part: but then shall I know even as I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13: 12 -13

Rapid Creek

I have been posting some of the photographs I took during a recent camping trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Our campground is situated along Rapid Creek - just outside of Rapid City.

The Waters of Rapid Creek from jeff carter on Vimeo.

A little ways down from the camp are the "Thunderhead Falls" - but they weren't open yet this season.  I'll have to visit them next time.

A Few More Photos from the Black Hills

Here are a few more of the pictures I took during my recent camping trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

This was a timed exposure (6 seconds) taken at about 10:30 pm.

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The skies were clouded for much of our trip - though the moon did peek through briefly one evening.

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The waters of the Pactola Reservoir are especially clear.  If I knew how to Scuba Dive I would swim down to see the old mining town that is submerged beneath its waters.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Sparks Fly Upward

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Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
 Surely vexation kills the fool,
    and jealousy slays the simple.
 I have seen fools taking root,
    but suddenly I cursed their dwelling.
 Their children are far from safety,
    they are crushed in the gate,
    and there is no one to deliver them.
 The hungry eat their harvest,
    and they take it even out of the thorns;
    and the thirsty pant after their wealth.
 For misery does not come from the earth,
    nor does trouble sprout from the ground;
but human beings are born to trouble

    just as sparks fly upward.

Job 5: 1 - 7

Camping in the Black Hills, South Dakota

 photo IMG_2443_zps8fa69563.jpgI had been away for several days - camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  I came home yesterday smelling like campfire smoke and sweat.

I'm showered and refreshed now and ready again for regular posting here on the blog.  To start here are a few of the photos I took during my trip.

The first couple of days it was cold and rainy and windy.  And did I say, cold?  I had put up my little tent. But a friend of mine who brought out his pop-up camper let me crash his hospitality.  I stayed in the warm and dry.

We took a trip out to the Mt. Moriah cemetery and saw the graves of WIld Bill HIckok and Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny.  We also visited the gold mine at Lead.  We fished - sorta'... I didn't get completely skunked. I caught a fish (the fact that it was barely bigger than the lure doesn't need to be brought up).  Fortunately others were better able to catch fish - and we ate some very tasty rainbow trout.

It's a bit of drive out there (just over 10 hours from here) but so much fun once you've arrived.

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Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 22

I know it's later than usual.  I was away from home for several days - out in the wild, far removed from my computer and internet access.

But here it is, (better late than not at all) this week's powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image.  These images are free for you to use in your own projects at home, work, school, or church - use them wherever.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be interested - this is a close up photo of some lichen growing on rocks.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Into Darkness with Miracle Max

I have just returned from the watching the latest Star Trek film.  Into Darkness is a good movie.  Great effects, great script, excellent acting (for the most part), an extraordinary villain.  But…  it remains only a good movie.  It was nearly great.  Really.  I loved it up until the end. 

If you haven’t seen it yet and you don’t want spoilers you’ll have to stop here.

If he’s dead, let him be dead.  Let his death be.  Let his death mean.  That’s what made Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan so effective; Spock’s death was real.  His death was powerful because he was dead. Stunningly dead.  William Shatner’s finest moment ever as an actor was in delivering Spock’s funeral eulogy when his voice hitched up on the word “human.”   Spock’s death was powerful and gripping because his death had consequences.

And yes, we all know that movie dead isn’t exactly the same as real life dead.  Sequels are great for undoing and redoing things like that.  But still, if he’s dead, let him be dead.  Let us have our catharsis and our grief – at least until the next film in the series.  

But, even in death, Kirk can’t accept consequences.  He’s only “barely dead” for a few minutes before he’s back, as good as ever.  It’s too easy.  Too glib.  Kirk’s death was meaningless.
Into Darkness telegraphed its ending well ahead of the climax.  As soon I saw the scene with Dr. McCoy injecting the dead tribble with Khan’s blood to discover why it rejuvenates, I knew that someone would die at the end and that that death would be “miraculously” undone by the application of Khan’s super-blood. 

Suddenly Kirk was only “mostly dead” and Dr. McCoy had become Miracle Max.

Friday, May 17, 2013

18 Rabbit and 42 Apes

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This is 18 Rabbit, or, as he’s known in Honduras, Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil.  He was the 13th ruler of the Mayan Empire. (at least I think it is.  I’m not entirely confident of my Mayan royalty…) A friend of mine brought this back for me from Honduras.

18 Rabbit makes me a little bit nostalgic – not for Honduras, as I’ve never been there, and not for the Mayans as I’ve never met any.  But nostalgic for those days when my boy was younger.  When he was little he had not one imaginary friend, but a whole cast of imaginary friends, one of whom was 42 Apes.  42 Apes eventually had an imaginary friend himself, known as 192 Apes. 

I miss that little guy and his imaginary friends.

The Day of the Lord

Scattered from the tower
in the midst of the city that we conspired to build,
splintered and fragmented
by languages we could not and would not share,
we lived our separate lives
anxiously watching for that terrible day
when the sun would turn black
and the sky would dissolve.

But regathered now
in the midst of the city in that dark upper room
when the fires of God burned over our heads
and the noise of a wind echoed all around;
together we realize that
the great and awful day that we feared
is a day to make us whole,
to make us well, to make us one.

Acts 2: 1 – 21

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Investigation Into These Matters Will Continue

They sunk the mines – copper mines – deep into the earth, tunneling through the layers of rock, down, down, down, deeper into the darkness until they struck water.  Cold dark water flowing for billions of years beneath the planet’s surface.  Take a drink of this water.  Taste the rich dissolved gases – hydrogen and methane.  This is the water of life.

10,000 years ago our ancestors were developing language skills and crushing the skulls of their dearly departed dead in order to protect the living.  They feared the rise of zombies as much as we do.

The horror of Dunwich was lost under rising murky waters.  Its buildings eroded and crumbled sank beneath those undrinkable waters.  And should have remained sunken so.  But recently a team of archaeologists from the Miskatonic University have begun using special sonar devices to probe these forgotten mysteries.  Some things should remain lost.

A report was brought to the city council of a trans-dimensional disturbance on a residential street in the German quarter.  A member of the public described it as “a worm-hole or a vortex, like water going down a drain, but it was in the air, you know…”  Thirty or forty golden colored snakes came through before the vortex was closed, but have not yet been captured by Animal Control Services.

Meanwhile residents of the village continue to report low-flying aircraft circling the village limits just after dusk.  Police helicopters launched to investigate have been unable to verify these reports.  But there remains the matter of the lingering contrails that encircle the village every morning.

Is this the work of some sort of alien craft?  Is this interstellar harassment, or is it, as one local authority suggests, an all but extinct species of enormous hawks circling their prey?  When will the governing authorities do something to protect us from these malicious forces?  People are really scared and the council’s repeated assurances that “the investigation into these matters will continue,” isn’t helping. 

We demand action.
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