Friday, November 30, 2007

Common Ground

Having read this to my mind non-polemical invitation signed by 138 Islamic leaders and having read this response from Yale - I wonder what you think? HT Phil Sumpter.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hebrew Body Parts with some random image

John posted two posts on body parts - long lists - and he asked for an image.

I can upload any image to the software I am using, but I just chose a few at random from those already in the test data to show a few body parts. I have also listed the Hebrew pointed and unpointed so they can be read beside each other.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogging out temporarily

I hope for more tennis than computer time in San Diego - so no blogging here or at Bob's Blog till next week. [And no twittering either.]

I have a few things in the pipeline: Secundus knew Prisca and Aquila in Corinth - of course since he lived at the estate of Gaius - and he will recount their Pauline-flavoured commentary on the primary division point of Jew and Gentile. He may note how some other divisions of humanity, slave-free, male-female were only lightly touched upon in the literature available to him - but his memory is good. His next section will be to tell us how he and Prima, his sister, approached the fourfold gospel analytically. No doubt his perspective will improve if his 'creator' gets to some of the Gospel sections at SBL this weekend.

In the psalms area, I expect psalm 78 to occupy me for some time. I am about half way through and the cell structure is there, but I have not arranged the columns to see it yet. I hope some of you look at psalm 51 - it is a marvel of intricate construction. Sin, rejoicing, righteousness, and offering are all clearly shown in this image.

Here is the sequence:

  1. look for the fourfold circles of verbs in the first column.
  2. Observe the threefold circles of nouns in the same column.
  3. See what they surround.
  4. Observe then the linkages from part 1 to part 2:
  5. in the circles: face/presence, and
  6. circled: righteousness, delight, joy, crushed, sin-offering.
  7. note then the circles in the second column - spirit-heart, and the tight circle of 'broken' around heart's repetition.
  8. Note the sevenfold imprecation in the second column.
  9. Note how unified the composition of the whole psalm is - like psalm 67 around God's righteousness (we will not forget God's tender mercies either - rachamim - stated once and a feature of Psalm 78 also).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Much to consider

This post from Iyov has much in it to consider. (A bookmark for later.)

Romans and Rhetoric again

Peter Kirk has posted an argument on the subject of same-sex relationships that I think is wrong. I tried to post a comment there but couldn't for some reason.

He wrote: Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1:26-27 should be understood as normative for Christians in all times and cultures.

My response: No - without question, this is a rhetorical error in the reading of Romans. The condemnation is meant to silence all judges who impose their normative prejudice on times and cultures. (see e.g. my brief comment here and related structural analysis.)

Such an argument cannot be put in a few words. It is contained in the lives of many over many years who are condemned out of hand by those who disallow a rereading of both Romans and Leviticus. In the case of Leviticus, a rereading is needed - as the Jews always reread and comment. In the case of Romans an accurate reading is required - one that does not confuse morality with salvation.

See also here - a note by PamBG who comments on Peter's post also.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Natus Adoratur

Gloria in altissimis Deo et super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis. This passage is a challenge for my translation. Such propaganda! Who will believe that peace does not come from the force of empire? But the invitation is not restricted.

Luke writes of shepherds and Matthew of Magi. These stories have almost nothing in common. Angels and shepherds worship; and some time later, kings. Joy, Bethlehem, Christ, and Mary are shared. In one story there is a manger, in the other a house. In one case a babe, in the other a child.

The family of Jesus followed all aspects of the Law of Israel.

– Every male among you shall be circumcised. If a male is uncircumcised, that is, if the flesh of his foreskin has not been cut away, such a one shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.
– And I will give you a son by Sarah.
Abraham laughed.
– Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!
Abraham was ninety-nine years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised and his son, Ishmael was thirteen.


The blog flavour of the day is apol0getics. John debates with Chris Hallquist over difference makers and abstract objects like mathematical truths.

James Kugel writes: In the case of the Bible, as we have seen, the assumptions one brings to the text are crucial to its meaning. (ht Phil at Narrative and Ontology)

This is a bit like the 10 favorite verses meme. We pick and choose from our needs what we want to see. Are we like the famous creator of Snoopy who claimed he never knew love (see also today's Globe and Mail)?

Did I choose love or did Love choose me? You all know how to play that word game - shall we call it grammatical reversal? But like John's punch in the stomach, life is more than such a game. Agreement on abstraction (latin: to draw out of) is not all that there is to being drawn into the chamber of the one who is lifted up for your sake or being redrawn in the image of the incarnate.

Artist, draw yourself. You see, you need a difference maker.

Phil also nicely comments on Stephen (aka Q)'s response to Kugel, whose reasonable denial of every imaginable form of apology reminds me of Ellul's denial of every reason for prayer (except for one) in his Prayer and Modern Man, a book I used to have a copy of - but you know the act of praying is more important than the book.

Why does the Bible work when other things don't? Well - it just happens to be available. If it weren't available, the same difference maker would create it from the stones.

In the beginning (everything needs a bootstrap - and they are notoriously difficult to design and program), there was a difference, a clumpiness in the primal soup which lit upon the as yet unknown scene of our observation. Was everything else from then debits and credits? When you wrap up the department, do you have a net zero sum impact? O Then and When, do not apply for a job in theology. You are not qualified. I choose instead an orthogonal Glory, one of the additional dimensions of string theory. I think it was Stafford Beer who defined God as a source of negative entropy.

How then! will I enter into Glory? Not then, not when, but Now - be lifted up in the open shame of God by the recognition (Tamar & Joseph) of the humility of the servant who in the love, glory, and unity that is before and in the face of the foundation of the world makes that difference in reality for us, together and alone, that allows the engagement of our flesh in him and he in us.

Tongue tied? Let it go. Enter in to the Holy Place - because you are invited (the only reason for prayer). You will stumble, but you will sing without regret. In the crux of meaning, you will dismiss your false assumptions about a lot of things. You will no longer confuse belief with praxis or praxis with law, morality or ethics. You will say with Peter, Where else will we go? You have the words of eternal life. You can ask with the melismatic pathos of Oliver - Where is love? And you will say to the difference maker - My God, it is sufficient.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Database technology and the Bible

John Hobbins has outlined his requirements for a research database for the Study of Ancient Hebrew Poetry. (see here)

The overview of recent research provided in the preceding posts illustrates the degree to which parallel structures characterize ancient Hebrew verse at every level of the textual hierarchy. A research database designed to facilitate the study of the phenomenon would ideally have the following features. Components of texts presumed to be poetry would be tagged at the macro-structural, prosodic, semantic, syntactic, morphological, and sonic levels. Each of the six levels, to be sure, is multidimensional.

My own specialty over the past 40 years has been in data analysis and database structures. There is a vast gulf between natural language and database. I have not had a chance yet to do much study of a tagged text such as is in the morphological parsing and tagging from the Westminster Theological Seminary.

Here is another undated statement of requirement:

At present there does not exist a freely available syntactic database and corresponding search engine for the Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic syntactician and discourse analyst. Further, there is no standard, universally available database whereby the scientific community can repeat and verify the results of such study. Such a database would permit the researcher to make comprehensive statements about the behaviour of Biblical Hebrew syntax and textgrammar. Since it is first and foremost a research tool, a fundamental requirement is that the data and analysis are completely accessible and configurable by the researcher to reflect varying theories and improved understanding of the text and theories used to investigate the text.
I am sure the techniques are legion and incompatible. The approach I would take would be to discover the objects that are implied and their relationships - has anyone done this type of analysis yet? Some years ago I did a bit of analysis for a text-based database linking verse with scholar. It would not do as a database for what I am doing now or for what John wants, though some of its entities might be extendable in that direction (see this entity-relationship diagram).

There are two related problems to database. The first is design - the 'right' and 'extendible' set of objects. We know there are such objects because people use books and verses to hit each other with - but this is not necessarily the right starting point. The second problem is loading the data from a verifiable source. Both these are almost intractable given the explosion in thinking about Bible texts that is evident in the noo-sphere today. But if we do find the right structure, people will understand what Fred Brooks wrote in the Mythical Man Month in the '60s: "show me your logic and I will be mystified, show me your data and I won't need your logic to understand you."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Rose Macaulay

I have been reading Letters to a Friend, the correspondence between Rose Macaulay on her way back into the Church she had known as a child in trans-Atlantic correspondence in the 1950s with The Rev. John Hamilton Cowper Johnson, of the Society of St John the Evangelist. This one line amused me - it gave me a reason for the priesthood - as a reminder of what we all must do when the time is right as part of our priestly ministry (though for me not as an 'officer').

Dame Rose had been very recitent about seeing a priest. The letters grow on you. Here is what she writes about the first visit:

Fr. Wilkins was very kind and nice. He didn't say anything; practically nothing but the absolution. Perhaps this is his way. I expect he thinks people work out their own problems unaided, except for absolution when they work them out wrong.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Christi nativitas

Joseph was a just man, one unwilling to put another to shame. How do we think of justice these days, Beloved? Is it not when someone gets what they deserve? If we receive what we deserve, are we then blessed? God forbid we should be rewarded for our works. The works we will be rewarded for are the ones that God works in us. This is safety rather than just desserts. Yet we are free to act and to study with or without diligence.

Can one know any more about Jesus' birth than one could know say about my birth, or yours, or the birth of an emperor? I suspect Mary brought him forth from the womb with as much blood and pain and wonder as is common for any birth. Like Tamar, and the wife of Uriah, she was found with child outside of her betrothal. Pain is one measure of our reality. In this God is with us. Let me not be ashamed even of shame for God is with us in the burning fiery furnace of our affliction also, despising the shame for the glory that is to be known, caught even in our own traps.

Mark says nothing of the birth or Joseph. For him, Jesus appears like Melchizedek, without ancestors or progeny, a mysterious man whose identity is not to be revealed till his glory can be known. John agrees with Mark as one might expect, for this beloved disciple, John Mark, had an influence on the Elder's writing. In Mark, he is called the son of Mary, a reference to a fatherless child. In John he is twice called the son of Joseph. Whose son is he? And what is a son that we should adore him?

– He was not an easy child. I remember asking on my way in from the fields, "where is my son that he does not come to greet me?" He was always in the town, never home except at the most inconvenient times and without warning. He did not keep safe company.

Who can say when a birth will herald wholeness?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Slam

We had a game in a writers' regular meeting I used to go to called the Slam. You were given 6 words in common with others and one unique to yourself and you had to make up a story on the spot using those words. Sometimes the audience had to figure out the common 6.

The top ten exercise is a bit like that. Can we say what story is being told by the selection of the top 10? What is it that we speak to by what we chose?

One thing I noted about my own 20- 10 from the TNK and 10 from the NT that surprised even me is that I proved exactly the opposite of what is a commonplace of thought about the OT and the NT. My OT verses have more to say about love and my NT verses more to say about judgment and death.

My Top Ten from KNT

There is a centre somewhere in the Bible. TNKNT. It is in the K - short for the Hebrew 'ki' - the answer to the question 'why'.

These are my impulsive best hits of the New Testament. Favorite books: Romans, Revelation, John, Mark, Hebrews

  1. If you by the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
  2. Out of his belly will flow fountains of living water.
  3. And thou child will be called the prophet of the highest. (ht - the Benedictus to Anglican chant).
  4. Simeon ... was looking for the consolation of Israel.
  5. And he will give you another comforter, the Spirit of truth, who will be with you for ever.
  6. Having boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
  7. I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto him.
  8. Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will rebuild it.
  9. When the Son of Man I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32 - I had to check my memory on this one - compare 3:13 - memory confuses first and third person.)
  10. It is finished.
The centre between the New and the Old is the crucifixion, the place of truth exposing the place of the lie, the place where God meets us, the mercy seat. See also here for my Top Ten TNK. Update: John has evolved the meme slightly.

My Top Ten from TNK

I can scarcely imagine reducing the scriptures to my top ten - but before I read Doug on this, I must have a try. I will confine myself to the TNK first. I am going to go from memory and on impulse.

Narrowing down the books: Psalms, Genesis, Deuteronomy, Job, Ecclesiates, Isaiah, Song, Lamentations - that will do and some of my verses may not come from these favorites and some of my favorite books may not register individual verses. I apologize to the books I have not listed.

Verses: (if I need to say where they come from, they are not your favorite)

  1. Let him kiss me with the mkisses of his mouth for your love is better than wine.
  2. My beloved is mine and I am his - and its counter - I am my beloved's and his desire is for me.
  3. He will not break a bruised reed, nor smother smouldering flax.
  4. O that you were my brother that I might embrace you in the streets and no one would take notice.
  5. Your loving kindness is better than life itself - my lips will praise you.
  6. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn to the LORD your God (ht Thomas Tallis - favorites include musical memory) - to which I will add - ht Stanford - O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee.
  7. Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness (ht Allegri).
  8. My help comes even from the LORD who has made heaven and earth.
  9. My just one will live by my/his faith/faithfulness (take your pick).
  10. Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool (ht Handel).

As for my excuses - that will have to wait for another time.

    Thursday, November 1, 2007

    Jihad for Love

    I expect this film will live up to its advance billing. I have seen the earlier work of Sandi Dubowski and it is tender-hearted - against which there is no law.