Sunday, June 24, 2007

History Channel's Banned from the Bible 2

I had to rewrite this post as I accidentally erased it. Oops. At any rate, I was watching History Channel the other night and they had their show on about books that were "banned" from the Bible. They said something that caught my attention. As the narrator was discussing Acts 8 and the account of Simon Magus, he said that he asked to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter rebuked him, then he repented, got baptized and that's the end of the story.

That's not the end of the story. The end is at 8:24 where Simon asks Peter to pray so that nothing bad will happen to him.

But Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."
Acts 8:24 (NASB)

As someone has commented below, 8:13 does say that he was baptized (I mispoke in my earlier post). However, he wasn't repentant. Notice that Peter tells Simon to pray for himself, and Simon responds by asking Peter to pray for him. Simon was only concerned with the punishment, not the sin itself.

So when the history channel makes Simon's baptizing the end of the story, they muddle things up a bit. He was baptized and then later is shown to be a false Christian.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My New Bible

My mother just got back from a business trip that took her to Munich, Germany. I asked her while she was there to pick up a German Bible and she picked this little number up for me; Hoffnung Für Alle ("Hope For All") . I'm really stoked as I think this will help me with my German skills. In fact, I think it'll help with Greek too. What I'm doing is trying to look at my Greek NT and figure out what German words correspond. This is probably a pretty sloppy way of going about things, but I figure if I can work on two languages at once, I'm in the money. I've got some German grammar books and mom even bought me a few newspapers to work through as well.

Hurtado and the Nomina Sacra

As I've most assuredly stolen a blog name from someone who is more well-versed in NT studies than I am, I feel obliged to write something about the subject.

I'm on my 2nd reading of Larry Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins and I'm really enjoying it. The chapter on the nomina sacra is by far my favorite. Hurtado says that the Christian nomina sacra with the supralinear stroke (a device used in Greek writing to indicate letters being read as numbers) came out of a desire for the word ιησους, or rather the abbreviation IH, to be read as the number 18 because it would correspond to the Hebrew חי (pronounced "Hi", which means life). This is known as "gematria", which is the practice of reading religious significance into the numerical values of letters in Holy texts and is generally associated with "ancient Jewish exegesis" (Hurtado, 114).

This is really intriguing to me! Has anyone else read the book? If you have, what are your thoughts on the origin of the Christian nomina sacra?

Reading Books as an Undergraduate

I was reading Tony's review of Reinventing Jesus over at Apocryphicity today and my first reaction was "nuh uh". I read R.J. awhile back on my own, then I read it in Hermeneutics class (not the appropriate class to read it, but still neat to read). I really appreciated Komoszewski's, Sawyer's, and Wallace's work in the book. However, I had a bit of a realization after reading the an undergraduate, sometimes...most times....I have very little clue what I'm talking about. My first reaction to say "nuh uh" came out of a desire to defend the book, not because I have some well-reasoned argument against what Tony wrote (it may exist, I just don't have it). The realization was that, as an undergraduate, I feel comfortable with taking people to ask with their methodology, or their reasoning....but I just don't know enough about particular areas to criticize them.

I'm a bit like the kid in the playground who wants to go play football with all the high school kids (Graduate and Post-Graduate students in this case). I think the undergraduate period is a good time of just reading as much as possible, assessing ideas, and preparing yourself for really jumping into these ideas and evaluating them along with learning more facts that will help you shape your own opinions.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Book Finds

After a day of having to be a grown-up and run errands, give people money, etc (which always stinks...being grown), I decided to stop in to a local used book store and see what they have. I normally don't buy books from used book stores because they either have no books that I want to read (we have one right down the road from school that sells all the romance novels you can handle.....and that's about it) or they're too expensive (like Stephen's in Raleigh, which has amazing theology books...but they're all overpriced). Well, Edward McKay's Used Books in Raleigh proved me wrong. I walked out of there with 4 books and only spent 24 dollars.

They are:

Langenscheidt's Pocket Dictionary, Hebrew-English: $6

Seeing as how I'm taking Hebrew next semester, I figured this little joker could come in handy.

German Grammar - Eric V. Greenfield: $3

I'm trying to teach myself German and I've already done a little work out of another book, but I figure the more the merrier.

Harper Collins German Dictionary: $3

To go with the above book.

The Interlinear NIV: New Testament in Greek and English: $12

This is my best find. It normally sells for $40 and it's barely even used. I have a UBS 4th edition that I use for Greek class and sometimes church (if I bring only my Greek NT, it will inevitably be a sermon out of the Old Testament). I don't own an interlinear and I figured for 12 bucks I might as well.

New Blog Added to the Blogroll: Pisteuomen

I've added the blog of T. Michael W. Halcomb to the blogroll. It's title: Pisteuomen (which is Greek for "we believe" or "we have faith in" or something like that). He's a recent graduate of Kentucky Christian University, Lexington Theological Seminary, and a current student at Asbury Theological Seminary. My favorite post on his blog thus far is : Did Jesus own a home?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Episcopal Muslim

I read this story first over at Targuman. The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding says that she is both a Christian and a Muslim. Notice the "Rev" before her name. She has been an Episcopal priest for 20 years, a Muslim for 15 months.

The Reverend Redding sees no problem with her two faiths, noting that, "At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need." She goes on to say that, "I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both." Here is where I have to call shenanigans. Her analogy is mind-blowingly fallacious. There aren't any ideologies involved with being an American of African descent. They aren't mutually exclusive. Islam and Christianity are mutually exclusive. What's scary - She starts teaching New Testament at Seattle University next semester (Firstly, because of what she's teaching, and secondly...because someone is allowing her to teach at a university when she makes analogies like that!).

Chris Brady at Targuman gave his two cents on it, and I agree. However, a key part in the article let me know that her beliefs aren't really incompatible. The article goes on to say that the Reverend Redding does not believe in the Trinity and that Jesus was just a man who was filled with God's will. That's what separates Him from the rest of humanity. These few little bits let me in on something....she wasn't a Christian in the first place. In fact, she's nearly been a Muslim the whole time without realizing it. Islam teaches that Christ is just another created being, and worshipping any created thing is the highest sin (cf. Surah 4:48, 116). The sad thing is that she's been in a leadership position in a church (and will continue to be; the article says her Bishop is excited about her new faith...?). This is what has always ruffled my feathers about John Shelby Spong. The man uses the title "Bishop" at every opportunity, but then proceeds to bash all Christian beliefs (which is fine, but quit calling yourself a Christian).

She admits that she believes that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, which obviously conflicts with Islamic teaching. There's no standard interpretation of what happened to Jesus in Islam. Some say he hid in a niche in a wall, others say Judas Iscariot actually died on the cross, and others say that Jesus switched with Simon of Cyrene and allowed him to die. Regardless, in Islam, Jesus did not die upon a cross, and in Christianity, He did. You can't adhere to both the Biblical account and the Islamic account. That's not something you ponder the rest of your life while feeling very spiritual. That's breaking the law of non-contradiction. She is essentially saying, "I'm willing to believe that X and not X are simultaneously true."

Then...she just throws me for a complete loop. She says that she considers Jesus her savior, and that he connects her to God. But..."That's not to say she couldn't develop as deep a relationship with Mohammed. 'I'm still getting to know him,' she said." Do what to who? Does she realize that you don't have a relationship with Muhammad in Islam? And it's particularly unlike the one you have in the Christian faith with Christ. Very odd.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Plea to Christian Restaurant-Goers / Why I hate Tracts

I hate tracts with a passion. They are the worst form of evangelism. I don't even think it qualifies as evangelism. "Here, I'm not going to take the time to build a relationship with you, or show you the love of Christ compels me to do something extraordinary for you.....but, you know, here's a bit of paper folded up that costed me 8 cents that tells you about this Jesus guy." Gee, really?! For me? Well, thank you so much. Has anyone ever even been saved by reading a tract?

I've been waiting tables since January (I did in High School as well), and here are some tips I've come up with for you Christian restaurant-goers.

1) - Please, don't get self-righteous and announce with great pride that you don't drink when the waiter offers you an alcoholic beverage. Some restaurants require their servers to ask you if you want a drink. And please, don't not tip them because they aren't playing into your self-righteousness. Get over yourself.

2) - If you're going to make it very obvious that you're representing Christ (i.e. praying before your meal, handing out tracts, etc), please, for the love of Pete (Paul and Mary), tip well. You will do nothing more than embitter your waiter towards you and the message of the Gospel by leaving your dollar and change alongside your "Romans Road" little tract. Just don't even announce it. If you want to tip badly, do it on your own terms. Once you bust out the Christian thing, you represent something more than yourself. Christians (particularly those of the vocal persuasion) are notoriously bad tippers. If you leave your stupid tract and your dollar and change tip, you may have ruined (or atleast set back) the work of a Christian coworker (HINT HINT). There's a local church that apparently encourages its members to pass out tracts with the church address on them and they ALWAYS tip terribly. I'm fine if I get them...Jesus and I are good. But when other waiters get wouldn't believe the negative reaction towards the people, the church, and Christ. I've had it in mind to write the pastor of the church and ask him to stop giving these things out.

The Important Issues

I just found it funny that Chris Tilling is writing a mega-post about something as important as inerrancy and I'm discussing on my blog......triangleness. I think we're all pretty sure of who the real scholar is here.

The New Testament and Pacifism

I've been really challenged since about last January trying to figure out my stance on pacifism. I agree with Hauerwas that all Christians are pacifists to some extent, but where one draws the line is how they differ. I used to think that killing for your country was okay, because that's not murder. But, as William Cavanaugh puts it, killing for a nation-state is as arbitrary as killing for the telephone company. He has a really great article, Killing for the Telephone Company: Why the Nation-State is not the keeper of Common Good.

Some verses I'm wrestling with are:
Romans 12:14 - Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:17a - Never pay back evil for evil to anyone...
Matthew 5:44 - But I say to you, love your neighbor and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 19:19b - Love your neighbor as you love yourself...

Now, those are just a few of the verses I'm trying to look over. The question in my mind is: what makes someone not my neighbor? Why is an Iraqi not my neighbor? And can I really fulfill the commandments to love if I'm shooting at someone? What would the early church have looked like if they fought back?

Practically, I think about "What if I get married and someone breaks in? Can I defend my wife?" If not, I'd say I'd rather not get married.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

God and Logic

I should preface this by saying I'm not much of a theologian (which becomes extremely apparent if you discuss anything theological with me for any extended period of time). I've studied theology at school, and my second major focuses around a lot of philosophical works, but I'm far from being a theologian.

That said: I went to Chapel Hill tonight to visit my cousin and hang out. We always have good conversations and tonight was no different. We discussed Hume a bit, and then we moved into Leibniz's best possible world argument. In discussing a paper that my cousin is writing, I objected to Leibniz's idea that logic was "created" by God. I said that it made far more sense to me that logic is part of God's nature. Now, it's muddled down here and we can't fully grasp the concept of "pure logic", but I imagine that rationality has its place within God's very nature (likewise with existence, goodness, etc). I then gave the example that I think triangles are inherently triangles. God, although omnipotent, cannot make square triangles (because this would be against His nature). Side Note: if logic is arbitrary, or if God 'created' logic, then on a whim, He could essentially create something illogical (or illogical to our current standard of logic) like a square triangle. But, since I don't think logic is arbitrary or created, but merely part of the spirit of life breathed into us, I don't have that problem./Side Note So, I believe that the concept of triangles is, in some way, part of the rationality that comes from God. Triangles have to be three-sided shapes whose interior angles add up to 180 degrees. This isn't because God decided it, or that a triangle could actually be a square if God so chose, but because there is an inherent triangleness within the mind of God.

You may say, "Gee, Josh, I think some philosopher beat you to the punch about 2400 years ago." Yeah, I sound like Plato. I dig Plato and I dig forms. However, I think that these "forms" exist within the mind of God. I think before creation ever existed, the idea of triangles existed within the mind of God. "Before the beginning, there was triangleness...."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New to the blogroll

If you read my blog, chances are you already read this one, but hey...just in case. Michael Pahl is a Ph.D student (just finished his dissertation) and New Testament Professor in Calgary. I really dig his blog, so if you haven't read it, go read

The Summer Blahs

I feel....odd when I'm not in class. I like having homework, papers, tests, lectures, etc. I enjoy learning, discussing with other students, and the whole deal. Granted, I'm reading on my own (preparing for some classes next semester and trying to become more familiar with church fathers), but it's just not the same. So, my question, what do you do to get over the summer academic blahs?

Graduate Schools: An Update

After doing a little research, writing some emails, etc, I've got a working list composed of various Graduate schools to which I'll be applying (if anyone's interested).

They are, in no particular order:
1) Duke
2) UNC
3) Trinity Evangelical
4) Wheaton
5) Boston College
6) Baylor
7) (Possibly) University of Chicago
8) Harvard Community Technical College Online for an MA in Crazy Street Preachery

If you have any other suggestions (with the two criteria below in mind), please feel free to post them. Also, if you're the chair of a religion department and you're thinking to yourself, "This kid's got it! We should fund his entire graduate education." Well, sir, you just feel free to email me directly.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Questions about Graduate Programs

The meeting today with the professor from UNC went well, but he said something that...scared me a bit. He said that over 120 people applied for the graduate program at UNC for religious studies, 7 were accepted, 1 in my field. Wow. 1?! I've gotten the same response from Yale (in significantly less nice terms. I basically felt like Yale was saying, "You have a snowball's chance in hell of getting in here. Apply elsewhere....but, we'll take your application money if you want to throw it away.")

So, I need to start gathering together school's that are perhaps 2nd tier. Backup schools, I suppose, just in case I don't get in to my top-choice schools, like Duke (although I've been reading some Joel Osteen and naming and proclaiming a Ph.D from Duke, so I think I'm in). What I'm looking for:

1) A good New Testament staff/scholar - My particular interests are in the historical transmission of the NT text, patristic hermeneutics, and early christian history.

2) A program with pretty significant funding - I've worked 40+ hrs my entire undergraduate career much to the chagrin of my GPA (the most scholarship money a single white male can get from Southeastern is 300 dollars a FAFSA is accepted). I would actually rather the funding be based on being a TA or something along those lines. I'm willing to grade papers until my hand falls off if the school's willing to help me out. But I'd like to have a chance to just be a student. I know this sounds odd...when most people my age are concerned with partying and chasing down people of the opposite sex, all I want to do is study and research. Unfortunately, having won the genetic lottery, I'm constantly plagued by the ladies chasing me. It ain't easy being pretty.

Genesis 1-3

This will probably not rock anyone's world or seem very scandalous except to those of a very conservative background, but....after careful prayer, research, and consideration...I don't think Genesis 1-3 should be taken literally. Most are looking at the computer screen in shock....that people even considered it to be true in this day and age. But I did. I thought that the text demanded to be read literally and anything else was dishonest. I think it's true, I just don't think it's literal. I think the point of the text is to establish God as Creator and man as sinful. As was brought to my attention by my friend Matt (a Duke Divinity student), the same truths can be gathered from the Exodus story (which I still take to be factual). God has providence and man turns away from Him. Here are a few of the reasons I don't think Gen. 1-3 is literal:

1. The Bible is a theological text, not a scientific text This seems obvious. Again, I doubt this will really scandalize too many people. But, for the last year or so I've become very uncomfortable with theology informing science. It just doesn't seem proper to me. The other side is that I'm not comfortable with science informing theology. To me, it just doesn't matter if yom is a literal, 24 hour day, or gazillions of years (yes, gazillions). The point is still that God is Creator and man is sinful. I get that no matter what kind of science you put into it. If you want to believe in a 6,000 year old earth, so on scientific reasons. If you want to believe in a gazillion year old earth, so on scientific reasons. I don't think God thought to Himself, "Well now, I'm going to teach them a bit about cosmology and origins in this little bit. How convenient."

2. This isn't history like most of the Pentateuch I believe in Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. I do not think the Wellhausen theory accounts for the evidence and there are really compelling arguments against his theory. That said, I'm not an expert on the Old Testament (or anything, for that matter), so I may one day change my mind if I find evidence that is compelling. Okay...on with my reason. When I read in Exodus about the exodus out of Egypt, that's a particular kind of history. That's history that was lived-out by the author (I also believe the exodus occured during the reign of Thutmoses IV, not Rameses....I'm a giant fundamentalist, I know). But, the account of Adam and Eve isn't the same kind of history. Even if God gave the words of Genesis to Moses, it's not the same as when Moses himself lived it out. And that leads me to my next point:

3. It doesn't have to be literal to be true Yet another "duh" for most of my readers, but...remind yourself, I just started this Biblical studies bit about 3 years ago. At any rate, I agree with Aquinas, Calvin, etc when they say that God has to talk down to us. God has to use stories, parables, and all that other jazz to get ideas across that are beyond our capabilities. Was Jesus really a door? A light? A vine? Can you imagine the art that would've come out of Europe if people interpreted those sayings literally? I'll grant you that those are different from Genesis 1-3 in a sense, but my point is: If you believe Jesus is God and has always been God, then who's to say His perpensity to use parables began with His earthly life?

So, here's what I believe: God is Creator, He created the world from nothing, He created the creatures that live on the earth, He created man, man turned away from God. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know if the earth is literally 6,000 years old, created in literal 24 hour days. It doesn't really concern me. In fact, I think if you read Genesis 1-3 and the first thing you do is go out and research origins and cosmology and everything've missed the point.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Moving / Meeting Professors

I am extremely sorry for the all-of-a-sudden lack of posting. In the last few weeks I've : Taken exams, started my summer classes, moved from my house to a new townhouse in Wake Forest, etc. Needless to say, I've been quite busy.

I don't particularly care for blogs that are all autobiographical (dear diary and such), but I figure this blog was set up to show you (or remind you) what it's like being an undergraduate who is considering graduate studies. So:

Today I have a meeting with a Professor at UNC to discuss their graduate program. Duke is my top choice now (is there a better faculty for New Testament studies?), but UNC is a great school. One of my concerns is that they don't have an M.A. or Ph.D in "New Testament", but rather you get it in "Ancient Mediterranean Religions" with a concentration on New Testament. I wonder how this differs from receiving a degree in just New Testament.

The professor with whom I'm meeting today has drastically different interests than my own and I really like that. When I visited Southern Seminary in Louisville, I ended up speaking with a professor who was a church historian, specifically focusing on the Reformation (he did his dissertation on Theodore Beza). However, generally when I visit a school, I speak with one of their New Testament professors. This professor is more of a church history type, with an emphasis on 20th Century Catholicism in America. I'm reading a book that he co-wrote with some other professors and it's pretty fascinating. It challenges me to meet people who have completely different research interests than my own, because it challenges me to be somewhat familiar with their field so that I can atleast dialogue with them.