As I continue to share my summaries on my Septuagint (LXX) studies, I have come to realize how much I am assuming you know, and have concluded that that amount is too much.
First, this is my blog. I’m doing my best, but my aim is not much greater than sharing a curiosity of mine in an enjoyable way. Here are three books you need to read if you want to know more. Links to a certain, large online retailer are here, here, and here.
Now, let’s announce the problem. Well, it’s not a problem, it’s just life. I’ll just call it the intrigue. Here’s the intrigue. For protestants, our Old Testament is based on the Hebrew text known as the Masoretic Text. This text dates about one thousand years ago (all dates are debatable) to the 10th century A.D. Now, the Septuagint–the name for the Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures–is dated to 250 B.C. Naturally, that’s quite a bit earlier (1250 years). Everyone knows that the Septuagint is a translation. But we don’t have the text that it was translated from, so we call what we don’t have the parent text, or Vorlage (4-log-eyh if you’re cool). The Vorlage is what we hope to find. See the complexity?
Put another way, we have the translation (LXX) and know it is a translation–there is no dispute here at all. But we do not have the original (Vorlage). Then 1000 years later we have what is presumably the original, but cannot possibly be for at least 1000 reasons. And “no” the MT is not some weird and late translation of the LXX into Hebrew. The contents of the MT (Mastoretic Text) and LXX are close, but obviously not equivalent–no translation is. So what did the LXX translators have? That’s our question. Now you know.
To me, this is fascinating and enjoyable to pursue. Overall, though, it has nothing to do with blood. Ink on paper is not the blood of our Savior. Never forget this obvious truth.
The fact remains that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead our heavenly Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.“
I’m wearing down. I’ve been studying Hebrew nearly all day. I figure I have one more round of flashcards in me after I write this. Then the big final is in the morning.
This wraps up my third semester of studying ancient biblical languages (though, unlike Koine Greek, Hebrew is alive and well). I love it. Really, I do. I even switched my degree program and concentration so that I take more languages. But I have one big beef with the way the material is being presented. Often times we are told something like, “So because of this, then, we know we’re working with a nominative noun, and that’s how we know he meant ‘ship’.” Or what have you.
That’s flatly wrong. Grammar does not give words their meaning, we do. Grammar is a tool we invented to help communicate meaning, but at the end of the day, we give words their meaning–you and I.
Words are not transcendent. They are here. They are mine and they are yours. They are me. They are you.
Do you understand my words?
We are each responsible for our words’ meaning. It’s not like there are a bunch of words floating around and we just grab them out of the air and order them in some aurally or visually pleasant manner–no. We have something to say (or not) and then we begin to utter the words within us. Where do we get new words? People. How do we know what the new words mean? People tell us.
Looking for fun in unexpected places? Join me in telling “men of letters” that they give their words meaning. Sheesh. It’s like I was arguing for flat earth or something. It is quite frustrating. The more “educated” someone is, the more they desire, perhaps unwittingly, to turn words into numbers. Folks want each word to mean one thing and only one thing. This desire and the attempt to manifest the desire is selfish. By calling it selfish, I do mean to communicate clearly that I believe it is downright evil.
To be sure, if you’re ever confused about what I meant, just ask. I will tell you what my words mean. If I’m confused and ask what you meant, then you tell me what your words mean. This back and forth is called talking.
Welcome to Erff.
So, remember my anti-bad teachers rant(s)? Only moments ago, H- told me something that *I think* gave me a glimpse of heaven.
She said, “Dad, today I fell asleep at school.”
A bit shocked, I asked, “When? Where were you?”
She said, “While we were watching T.V.”
Yippee!!! Hallelujah!! She’s doing it! Victory!!
I said, “Will you do something for me?”
She answered, “What?”
“Will you fall asleep every time you watch TV?”
(See what I’m doing here?)
So, from now on, if my little ruse works, I’ll have contributed to a problem which proves the problem. I cannot wait for some teacher or administrator to address me about H-‘s sleeping habits at school. The very thought of that moment is, itself, nourishment to my soul.
Clever title, no? Last week I introduced that for my Christian character formation class I have committed myself to working on the Christian trait of humility. I shared this partly with the intent of demonstrating what such a process looks like for adult Christians seeking a bit more rigor in their faith (not to take credit for developing this method, but to give an example of what a masters degree program at an Evangelical seminary entails). One active practice that I am going to use to work on humility is a weekly blog post dedicated to reflection on how the process is coming along. Three hundred plus word reflection starts now.
It turns out I’m not very comfortable with the idea of blogging about humility. God has seen fit that I possess the ability to read word definitions and talking and writing about my thoughts on humility seems counter-humble. As evidence of this, when I look back on my blog most of my blog posts have been laced with pride. Many were much more than laced. I don’t regret any of my boastful posts or their evidence of self-righteousness or snarkyness, not at all. How could I? I’ve ended up on a good path and to look back and regret would be a mistake. But I do now see how maladjusted my attitude was. And I do repent of that. I’ve been blessed with too much goodness to be so prideful.
As a result of this, part of me wanted to just publish a blank post titled humility because that’s what I really think about the subject. But that would require me to tell my mentor or mentoring director that I bent the rules a bit on my plan (it requires a weekly 300+ word reflection on the process), which in turn would require justification, which in turn would require more talking, which in turn would require more pride, which is the opposite of my goal. So I’m not going with the blank creative “look at how clever I am” concept.
So the real question is, “How does one who has written so many words out of pride adopt a new attitude of humility?” with the follow-up, “…and be convincing to (possibly) the same readers?”
The first step seems to be to ensure the words convey that the end state of Christian humility is constant recognition of total dependence on God, the father almighty. At the moment I’d express this dependence by thanking God for the ability to blog over the past few years. He has provided me half-a-pea-sized brain and fingers and food and shelter and a laptop and internet connection. Most humans have not been so fortunate. And I want to thank the folks in my life, especially my brother-in-law and the members in Cherry Creek Toastmasters, for encouraging me to blog/write. I don’t believe they intended me to re-adopt Christianity (or be re-adopted by Christianity as it were), but I can’t imagine how I would’ve gotten to the point of working on humility without blogging and therefore without them.
Speaking of, one CCTM friend just emailed me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “Weight of Glory” sermon last night (he’s never emailed me anything specifically Christian before) and as I read my class textbook today I came across portions of that very sermon/writing by Lewis (never mentioned before). Given the preponderance of “threes” when it comes to these things, we’ll just have to wait and see how Lewis’ work will next appear. And it is some solid writing. In the past I would’ve mocked this as coincidence. These days I am inclined to determine why God sees fit to impress upon me these specific ideas of Lewis’. So I thank God that friends aren’t afraid to share a bit of their life with me as I attempt to transform my own.
Another shift that I can’t help but notice as I’ve been specifically reading on humility and also memorizing the Psalms (which through Psalm 10:16 are in fact uniform on our dependence on God), is my thinking about my ex-wife regarding rearing H-. We were still married for H-‘s first two years, and I’ve said and written many times that she did a great job during those two years. But then I would continue by adding a malicious assessment of the reason (that only I–as her husband and confidant–knew) as to why she did a great job. Does that make sense? I would undercut the compliment with a punch to the throat that only I could deliver because of secrets I knew. Well, though I might not be able to explain it fully, these days I honestly don’t desire to punch. It’s not because I’m tired of punching, but because I can now see how God gave us H- despite ourselves. Her mom and I were just a couple of knuckleheads trying to live the American dream. So these days I just want to express gratitude to her for mothering and nurturing H- with an integrity and discipline that many contemporary American women simply don’t value.
I don’t have a conclusion here so I’m just going to use this admission as one.
When I was at the school house for my MH-53 Pavelow training, there was a moment when a young flight-engineer-in-training was lacking confidence and as such his performance was suffering. The instructor–knowing full well both that these moments are pivotal in men’s careers and that he has the responsibility to keep unsafe and unqualified aircrew out of the aircraft–broke down the situation simply. He told the young man, “Confidence is the direct result of knowledge. You need more knowledge. You need to study more.”
There is a fairly low-flying film called The Legend of 1900. It is a story about a virtuoso pianist who was born on and never leaves a ship that crosses the Atlantic Ocean back and forth repeatedly. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a passenger tells the virtuoso about a time when he looked out at the sea from land and heard the sea say, “Life. Life is immense.”
A friend asked if I could explain why Christians are having a hard time being brave enough to tell others that they are Christians. By my thinking there are a few reasons. First, it is very possible that some Christians are honestly unsure if they are Christians. The result being that they aren’t ready to broadcast their beliefs because they know they can’t defend them–and we all know that they will be asked to defend them. Second, some Christians know that they’re Christians without a doubt. But their life circumstances have led to them also not being confident or in the mood to defend their beliefs. Add to this that a result of unbelief is the belief that Christians are fools. The Apostle Paul mentions this. Naturally, nobody wants to be called a fool and then appear to be one when they can’t defend why they are not foolish at all. Third, Christianity is immense. It is practiced the world over and with great diversity outside of a few central tenets. I have grown up in the religion since kindergarten at a private christian school and even I didn’t learn this until last semester during a master’s program. I’m well-read for a lay-person, if that. I’m comfortable in public as a Christian because it takes about two topics for the average person to concede that their diet consists of hours of daily television brainwashing and mine doesn’t. When I talk to a Christian with a healthy diet of television, I become uncomfortable and I’ve seen that consequently make them uncomfortable. I’m sure the same is true for when they realize that their brainwashed-by-television self isn’t much different than the non-christian brainwashed-by-television self that questions their beliefs.
In my apologetics class the other day I asked if the professor had any evidence of certain settings being more favorable to winning converts. (He didn’t.) But then my mind started racing. There we were, about 30ish students and the professor. We’re all academically strong individuals. And we’re motivated. Additionally, we know that manipulation and real-deal cults that brainwash folks into membership exist. Yet we wouldn’t employ those tactics to increase membership–far from it. All we’re asking for non-believers to do is consider it–simply consider it. For example, during my undergraduate program the value of being able to argue from both sides of an issue was instilled in me. There are very few non-believers who are able to even defend Christianity for the sake of argument. The reason they should want to is simply Pascal’s wager. What exactly is lost for test-driving Christianity? Friends? They aren’t your friends if they’d un-friend you for believing–and visa-versa. Family? Money? There are plenty of wealthy believers. Time? What? Independence? Enslavement to sin?
Christian confidence, just like any other confidence, begins and ends with knowledge. It always has and always will.
My daughter’s school, and many others in town it seems, just formally celebrated completing 100 days of school as if America is a third-world country that is excited to finally have formal education. When I picked her up she had a sticker on that said, “I have completed 100 Days of School!” With such an upside-down public education system, it’s surprising that there are any Christians left in America.
My main man when it comes to movie reviews is Bill Gibron. Back around the time that the internet first came to be there was a website called filmcritic.com. I discovered him there, I think. Anyhow, I have always appreciated his reviews and found them to be helpful in deciding whether or not to shell out the big bucks for a movie ticket. Over time I have noticed that he has had a particular love affair with Darren Aronofsky. Because of my esteem of Mr. Gibron, I have desperately sought the same love affair, but never quite saw the “genius” that Mr. Gibron did. I really enjoyed Mr. Aronofsky’s films, I just didn’t fall in love with the man like Mr. Gibron seemed to. All that has changed.
H- just began to learn Peter Tchaikovsky’s epic Swan Lake theme on the piano. It is a force of nature even when played with just one note at a time. In any case, this event taken together with a real desire to give Mr. Gibron’s passion one more go led to me viewing Black Swan for a second time. This time around I finally see the genius. Black Swan is the story of a ballet dancer who is trying to be the best as would be indicated by her dancing the role of the swan queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in some hot shot’s revision of Swan Lake. So it’s a movie about a revision of a very famous ballet that includes themes of sacrifice and pressure to perform etc. But it’s not! It, Black Swan itself, is the revision of Swan Lake for movie-going audiences! And that’s why Mr. Aronofsky is a genius and deserves our attention. He cuts through all our defenses and serves up Tchaikovsky’s timeless story in a new way that forces us to reckon with all of our notions of love and happiness and truth and sacrifice. It’s an amazing film. Watch it. Watch it again.
Perhaps some of you think I am too hard on public school teachers. Here’s something to consider. A public school teacher with an amazing (if any divorce blog can attain such a title) blog mentioned that she finds herself teaching “frustration management” to her students. At this point, I would like to call my roughneck friends to the discussion. You see, when I was working in the oil fields, there was work to be done. Manly work. And yes, I mean that in the gender specific way. Work that men and only men can accomplish. For instance, every time we finished drilling a well, we had to move the rig to a new well. One of the things that this move required was the tightening of nuts onto bolts. The nuts were about the size of a woman’s fist, and the bolts were just over a foot long. The way we tightened these nuts was by swinging a sledge hammer as hard as we possibly could against a hammer wrench which was placed around the nut. Out of a twelve hour shift, how many minutes do you think we were given to not swinging the sledge hammer in favor of discussing how to deal with how frustrating the task was?
Do not hear me say that learning is not frustrating. And remember that I am the one who quit being a “teacher” because I refused to buy into the “be the change” mantra that schools with poor performing students chant. Instead, hear me calling public school teachers to realize that they are making the weather that they are complaining about. No other group–no other group–who controls their destiny does it in such a poor fashion as public school teachers. That’s what frustrates me (and I think most non-public educators).
By way of example, guess which specialty runs the Air Force? Pilots. Guess what pilots do for each other in the Air Force? Take care of each other. They ensure the flying is safe and smart and everyone is compensated well. Public school teachers, on the other hand, cite chapter and verse about all the limitations and massive time requirements etc. that they have to operate within and never once consider that just like Air Force pilots they are the one’s who write the book. Spending time teaching kids how to deal with the fact that learning takes effort? That cannot but be a disservice to the child–and I think teachers know that. So stop doing it. Kids need to learn to hit the hammer wrench as hard as they can and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after the task is completed and completed well. And the only way to learn this is for teachers to tell the kids that the nuts must be tightened by a sledge hammer. As it stands, the only thing kids are learning is that the nuts don’t need to be tightened. Maybe teachers agree.
Long-time readers know of my, how shall I put it, no-love-lost relationship with public school teachers. Yes. That’s a fair way to describe the romance. Of course, it is a difficult thing to critique people who do thankless jobs. However, because teachers are adults and I know what being an adult feels like, I won’t hesitate to critique them.
This morning I went to help the kindergartners read. They each have a reading folder which contains an appropriate skill-level book and a sheet of paper on which data is recorded, data like book title, date, skill level, and the like. To give feedback to the teacher or next volunteer, there are three boxes to choose from which describe the contest between student and book: Just Right, Too Easy, Too Hard.
(New readers: My daughter is in the class.)
Anyhow, the teacher is setting me up at my spot just outside the classroom and she actually told me, instructed me, to not mark any “Too Easy”. (Pause for effect.) How could she possibly know the future?
More than that, she emphasized heavily that everything should be positive feedback and that I wasn’t to use the word “no” or say “that’s not right”. More than that, she gave me the okay to give the student the difficult word rather than have them sound it out.
If my daughter was overly shy and unkempt and occasionally had bruises that she hurriedly covered up and could not ruh-ruh-ruh-ree-add, then maybe I could see the need to talk to me about the nature of teaching the skill of reading–maybe.
Oh and another thing. One little girl was pouting because her dad’s finger accidentally touched her cheek as he got her out of the car. After sending the little girl to the nurse to get some ice, the same teacher looked at me knowingly and said, “Sometimes all it takes is a hug and a little ice.” All it takes for what? What exactly is the predicted/anticipated/desired future for indulging that kind of behavior? If you’re less than fifty and have kids I blame you. It’s probably against some policy somewhere to tell a 5 year old human-in-training, “Stop crying. You’re not hurt. Move along” because either you or parents you knew complained that a teacher with your child’s best interest in mind was being a meany.
In a stunning turn of events whose deeper meaning even I am still struggling to discern, I just finished my first week at seminary where I am taking courses which line me up to earn a Masters of Divinity, with a major in theology. Smile, people. I am.
I don’t really have time to be writing for free at the moment, but I just feel like sharing some observations about this new journey.
First, this news should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I love talking/thinking/studying Christianity and theology. It only makes sense that I’d end up doing it in a formal school.
Second, I can now pronounce and write the Koine Greek alphabet in upper and lowercase.
Third, did I mention I can’t stop smiling? Here’s why. I was late to the orientation where the few other theology majors were chatting with the department heads. When it came time for questions, I asked, “So. Say a person doesn’t really know what theology is. How would you explain it?” My heart was pounding. I didn’t have time to add/drop courses etc, and so I didn’t want to discover that I was in the wrong room. Yet I had to ask the question. When he began to answer I played it cool and listened, though I am sure my eyes had a sparkle. When he stopped, I couldn’t suppress my excitement any longer. Boom. Huge smile. I was in the right place. I said, “You just made me happy.” The two professors couldn’t believe it. Ha. They chuckled and said, “We don’t usually hear students say that…” B, for one of my courses, I have to write a book report on a book called War in the Bible and Terrorism is the 21st Century. Knowing my own stance on war, post military service which included combat, I couldn’t help but feel like I just showed up to an all you can eat pizza buffet and discovered that there was also a dessert buffet. Read and write about whether “love your enemy” stops somewhere short of unless they’re building nukes? Yes sir. I’ll take another piece. And some ice cream.
Fourth, what this really boils down to is “I want to know what I believe.” I just want to know.
Fifth, as I’ve shared what type of Masters program I’m in with non-believers, I have chuckled nearly every time upon the discovery that while I’m the one attending, they seem to know more about my future as they say, “You want to be a preacher?” Ha. I have no idea. I just want to learn for now. It’s funny that learning as a virtue is totally gone. If there is no professional monetary endgame, then people become confused. “Why are you going then?” (Naturally, at this point I have to insist it’s to get in to heaven.)
Sixth, I cannot describe the feeling I get while on campus. Forget Jesus (forgive me Jesus), forget God (ditto), forget theology, forget the Bible (I’m really going to hell now), forget Christianity. Forget it all, and the place is still shocking. Unlike all the jobs and co-workers I’ve had, unlike the folks that constitute my beloved Toastmasters club, unlike those who attended my Mark Twain Listening Club, the seminary is a place filled with people who honestly want to make the world better. They’re not selling t-shirts, they’re not handing out business cards, they don’t have a desperation in their voice about closing the sale, they’re not trying to get the upper-hand in the conversation, they just have come to a place in their lives where they see service to others as their mission and want to do it in an as informed a way as possible. The campus, the offices, the classrooms, the chapel, the coffee shop, it’s just oozing with heart.
Seventh, I will not become a robot. One ex-mormon blogger-friend comes to mind now and I can hear her disdain at this news already. Allow me to rebut. Whatever other seminary’s exist, and what goes on behind their closed doors, I don’t know. So far this one is not a brain washing factory. So far the professors are classic professors. They are extremely well-read (and traveled), they are decent public speakers, they challenge commonly accepted beliefs and paradigms, and they have adorable quirks that can only be developed after years of standing at the front of a classroom and of which they are unaware. Let it be known: If anything gets weird, I’ll share it. And then I’ll definitely stay in the program. Undercover student in a cult indoctrination? That job is almost cooler than actually believing I might be able to learn how best to actively glorify God and perhaps be on the contributor side of the equation that might lead to a pagan experiencing the joyful spiritual transformation that occurs after accepting Jesus as his/her personal savior. You might call that a win-win situation.
Eighth, one of my first devil’s advocate questions to any heathen reader right now is this: “Do you believe human beings possess the parts/capability to discern that a leader is speaking from (brace yourself) God?” Put another way, is it possible for me to convince you that I honestly believe (as a reasonable, sane citizen) that leader So-and-So’s ideas/rhetoric/vision/plan/mission transcends generally accepted scientific knowledge? That they are acting as an agent of some unnamed ultimate reality? Or will you always label me a “sucker” or “delusional”? Why or why not?
Ninth, on a wholly un-theological note, I think God might have messed up. As H- gets older and older it is becoming clear that she is supposed to be the daughter of a blind couple. Does anyone else’s kid announce every single thing they do? “I’m walking. I’m putting on my shoes. I’m jumping. I’m playing. I’m swimming. I’m dancing. I’m raising my hand.” Yeah, H-, I get it. I’m right next to you and can see what you’re doing. These eyes aren’t just for show. Shyat!
“She has to know, right?”
“I don’t know, man. Does she? Know what?”
“Know that her words are very flattering. Very, very flattering.”
“I mean, sure she’s your teacher and we’d all like to believe teachers are more aware than their students, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s thinking like you think she’s thinking.”
“I’m not saying I know how she’s thinking. I’m just saying that it has been a long time since anyone has said I’m fascinating, endearing, and an enigma.”
“Whoa, slow down buddy. She didn’t say you were fascinating, endearing and enigmatic. She said your writing was.”
“Hey, don’t ruin this moment for me.”
“So what do you think my next play should be?”
“All I know is that she’s your number one contender right now.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“You said she reads your blog?”
“She said she does. She even used the word ‘wildly’ to describe an aspect of them. ‘Wildly’. I like that.”
“You told me that she said your blog was ‘wildly different’ than your discussion posts for class.”
“Like I said, ‘wildly’.”
Those of you who left the world of academia long ago might be unaware that there is a debate raging about the humanities. Are college students interested in majoring in the humanities? Are they not? Would they like to, but their practical mind says, “Don’t be a fool. There are no jobs for humanities majors.”
My question is why is this debate even happening? I suspect that students who major in vocational type degrees get their long-sought-after jobs and live happily ever after. Just like students who major in the humanities or liberal arts degrees don’t get jobs related to their degree and live happily ever after.
There is some notion that accompanies attending college which goes something like, “If only we all do this right, we can achieve heaven on earth.” Is that what we (humans) really think?
I say do what you want. I wanted to get good grades and learn about why people behave they way they do. So I majored in sociology. Some people want to become very rich, so they major in fields that lend themselves to making money. Other people want to paint, so they major in art. I don’t see why this is a discussion. Am I missing something?
I want to be the best that I can be. Isn’t that enough? Why do I have to conform to your utopia? How about this: You just do your best rather than worry about forecasting what will happen if nobody studies English or History anymore. And I’ll do the same. And then we’ll see what happens.