Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hymns and songs

This deserves special mention.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John and structure

Richard Bauckham has written a fascinating book - Jesus and the Eye-witnesses. I have nearly finished. I am just experimenting with some diagrams on John and word-counting. A preliminary diagram is posted here with the first counts showing. I hope eventually to show more of the structures of John - but it will play second priority to the Psalms for some time to come.

The significance of the eye witnesses testimony may help appreciate what they had written in their names. It does not mean that they were reporting without the benefit of poetry and parable as well as personal experience.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The best picture of the walk

I hope you can see this with the highlights - It is difficult to be groaning when there is such a place to walk in.

Sceptics Questions

Loren Rosson over at the busybody engages with some known and unknown to me through this quiz. To make the comment more interesting, I have included some pictures from a walk this morning.

I wasn't going to answer but I think there are a few points to touch on as Chris Heard did.

There are 43 questions and I found myself wondering what the compilers were after. It might be more instructive to go through Paul's 55 questions in Romans - but whatever. So I will take my guesses as to why these questions are being asked. Why I am doing this is beyond me - it is not as if there is time for such an exercise. But maybe the discipline will put me in touch with a wider circle - maybe not. Some of us are turtles, some ducks - swim well. As you can see it was a beautiful walk. The Abkhazi garden is in Victoria, BC.

1. on hospitality: perhaps this refers to Lot in Sodom though the relationship is reversed. If so the question is confused. My experience is that the hospitality in the NE today is a special gift. The extreme thoughts in the question perhaps should not be thought.

skip 2

3. Mithra? The mystery cult was always a poor guess at the primitive mind (e.g. as noted in some of Maccoby, The Mythmaker). Such 'proof' of similarity by analogy does not seem desirable or conclusive. So what if death and resurrection is a part of the imagery of creation or fertility or whatever, the core of the message of the NT - nicely framed in Mark's gospel (transfiguration) reflecting the symmetry of Psalm 16 - is of an everlasting glory, not a natural cycle.

4. Hate - your family - hyperbole maybe - but more representative of radical priority of choice.

5. Amalekites - there's no real excuse for failure. And D is failure. The so called 'right' answer is seriously misleading. As Chris Heard points out, the issue of vengeance might be a better answer - but that too misunderstands the nature of God's vengeance which is tuned both to bear the cost and to invite maturity.

6. Canaanites - similarly the us versus them attitude in the 'right' answer is indicative of the flesh - if only I get my answers right, I will escape - Not so.

7. Matthew's use of Hosea - the use of exegetical in the answer is a $10 word where it isn't needed. That's how Matthew used the allusion - it needs to be noted but Matthew doesn't need an excuse for it. What does it say about the Son? Cet enfant - c'est lui (comme l'étât, c'est moi). Or as John would put it, I am the vine.

8. (also 36) Jacob and the striped animals. I always thought this was a good example of genetic manipulation - but I'm no expert here. There's plenty of evidence in the garden for evolution.

skip 9

10. Treasures on earth. For securities - see again psalm 16

skip 11 - the choices are too awful

skip 12 - inerrancy is a doctrine of the flesh, a false security.

13. This is a serious question - sources for the doctrine of the trinity.

skip 14-20 - more inerrancy (and I am getting bored)

skip 21 - I learned something from the Jesus Seminar but I never did believe in the voting mechanics.

22. How saved? Good grief - another serious question. Well, my word these days is engagement - not with a set of beliefs but with the one who loves you. Here is my 'creed'.

skip 23

24. Genesis may well be a response to some earlier stories. Were there real other people living then? Wow.

skip 25 and 26 - walking through this graveyard of questions.

27-28 On Sex - really, are these the best questions you can come up with? I think there should be 66 questions, one from each book of the Bible on sex. See what you find.

skip 29-34

35. I really did get the fire brigade to come for burnt toast once.

skip 36-37 - why are you looking for 'proof' - what is that anyway?

38. Numbers 31 - the appalling chapter. It's appalling - there is no rationale for it nor any excuse to make one. Why should you want to explain it away? Adoption is more difficult than you think.

enough. An unpretentious house with an overgrowth of flowers could be beautiful (it's a few blocks from our place).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Romans - a new book

I may not get this book, but it is possibly relevant (and the review certainly is) to my own work with Romans as part of the theodicy issue for Paul. See the review here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Romans with a little more colour

It is slightly easier to see where I hope to go with this image:

Overall structure is formed with thesis, expansion, and recapitulation as one might expect. I think Paul is addressing the question that Milton reflected on in Paradise Lost - "to justify the ways of God to Man".
His questions are specific: Framing the argument: what is the advantage of those under the covenant? Within the argument: how to we get out of trouble? is the law good? is God righteous? And his exploration of pairs of words in the central section, Sin and grace; law and grace; law and sin; Spirit and flesh; creation and hope, reflects much of our future dialogue (hah - no kidding).
Here's a better overall thumbnail of the letter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


My copy of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses has arrived and I have to admit that I am more excited about reading this than I have been in 11 years or so when I first read Crossan's Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.

I am currently preparing, if preparation is possible, for the upcoming colloquium on the Biblical Studies Group with Bauckham. There isn't enough time. A quicker review by Chris Tilling is available here. The book is a bit longer than CT's review.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Romans - for reading

Well, I think we might just as well forget about Romans as a diagram in One Pass. It is just too big to see Paul's argument visually. At 60% zoom factor, the jpg is still 6M.

The Hebrews diagrams were more successful because I did them in a hierarchy. So that is what will have to be done with Romans if I decide to continue. In the meanwhile, the old stuff I wrote on Romans remains on my old web-page.

see also Essays on Romans (2002) Table of questions Summary of the Argument (if you want).

One day I will do more on this - after all, this Blog takes its name from that letter.


Some time ago I did some work on Romans. I hope to present the structure in a diagram. It is harder than translating a psalm. Here is a preliminary image - Paul's brain. It will take a while.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Psalm 16

Don't hug when there are items to be spilled nearby. While investigating Psalm 16, I spilled a glass of wine on my hostess and managed to spill my son's coffee - two separate incidents, both over a hug. Perhaps these illustrate the wording of verse 5 - the LORD deals with my cup of wine and has dealt me my lot (the coffee is with a street person who is my adopted son and who woke me up at 7:30 this morning - I never sleep that late, and I was angry - I don't wake in fear or anger. I just didn't want to deal with that son this morning. There's a book in that sentence.)

I expect there are a few children of glory that the LORD doesn't want to deal with. (How long must I bear with you!) But I did deal with him at a local restaurant with money extracted from a machine in the early morning before church - O my hypocritical enravished soul! I did not deal with him at home since my other adopted son was asleep and had worked hard the previous day. Why does one son have a home and another does not? God is love and deals our lot with care to let us engage as we must. So we also deal with each son recognizing what we cannot do because he must do it. Does this help with some of the theodicy problem? We have other children too.

More to come - comparing Dahood and Craigie and other earlier commentaries is a hoot. The disagreements are so far fetched and the manuscript interpretations so wide, I think one might be able to make anything up about this Psalm. How can I as poet leave it as ambiguous as the evidence we seem to have?


One of the earliest links I found on the web 10 years ago was David Blumenthal's site. I kept this link on my homepage for years, then lost it, and now found it again since the theodicy issue raises its head repeatedly. See particularly his article on theodicy.

On my Psalms study blog, I began a response to two articles that turned up on my aggregator on the same day. I want to see if the Psalms (as do Job and Ecclesiastes) would provide a way through this question.

Related is the question of how to engage without the lust to power that mars our own humanity. I use this word 'engage' since it avoids the cerebral notion of belief or faith. I do think that belief and faith are legitimate words, but I do think also that they are badly used. Kim Murray of Saltspring said to me once that the essence is in Jesus' phrase 'follow me' - the rest is commentary. If I take this name out of the framework of Christendom, it is not that we would be associated with any of the 25,000 forms of 'Christian' 'belief', but that we would act on the engagement with this person, by all accounts a man of self-giving love.

I can't go in one step to where this engagement has taken me, but there is a difference. Imagine a pear tree with many branches and much fruit. A tender shoot is forced to grow next to a wooden wall. Where else does a shoot grow? It can hardly move from its budded position. When the flower forms, it finds itself approaching the edge of a wooden protrusion on a fence in the garden. The bees find another pear tree nearby and manage to pollinate this flower. The fruit forms and is not an early drop off but the branch has lengthened just the right amount that the fruit catches on the protrusion. The gardener doesn't notice. Nearing the harvest, but before ripening, the pressure from branch growth pushes this pear from its constrained space. It finds itself with a painful deformation. Then in the new freedom of its place in the sun, its ravined surface begins to fill out. It has seen wood, but it is becoming full and fruitful. There is a difference.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


There are two reviews in the latest SBL list of The Preexistent Son, Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Gathercole, Simon, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Matera is polite and open-ended, Dunn is polite and devastating. Pre-existence is a false word. That time is a dimension mediated by the square-root of -1 and that there are 4 at least additional dimensions in the latest mathematical theories of ha-olam, should lead us to doubt pre- as a prefix or even as a fix. Instead of revelling in enclitics, let us engage with the multi-dimensional Reality that loves us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Genesis 1:1-8

From time to time, I translate other things than the Psalms. Here is a diagram of Genesis 1:1-8 for the level-2 Hebrew class at Congregation Emmanu-El in Victoria.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Meditation on the Psalms

Yes, you support me
You support me through these words
It is not just for one David or one Ethan or one unknown author
But for me, your one

So I knew in all my error
The error shows my faltering
My feet you teach to walk in love
My feet you reach to teach me love

Is it too little too late?
Did our beloved enemies push me too far too soon?
Is your hand too short to support their error or my recalcitrance?

What answer is possible!
Only One answers the call of those who stumble
Even if they scarcely know your name
Shema, Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai, Echad.

A Kurt Response

I submitted my 5000 word response to "In these times". Am I a freelance writer or what?
In defence of inerrancy (a form of idolatry) I write this comment:
the letters of fire consume the sacrifice of a broken spirit.
It is enough.
In defence of Papal infallibility (a form of idolatry) I write this comment:
the love of a man covers a multitude of sin.
It is enough.
In defence of Christendom as empire (a form of idolatry) I write this comment:
lust for power like the love of money is the root of all evil.
It is not enough.
Do you teach your kids to love then send them out to kill other kids?