Sunday, February 22, 2009

Humor in the New Testament

I was recently asked in an email why the Bible isn't funny. "Why isn't there any humor in there?" I could think of two instances that I actually find really funny:

1) Luke 11:5-7 : I find this scene funny, whether it's intended to be or not. A friend arriving at midnight, asking for three loaves of bread, is silly. But the excuse the man indoors gives is even funnier. He yells back from inside and tells his neighbor that he can't get up because he and his family are in bed. In other words, the man is yelling from the bed outside, telling his friend to go away lest he wake his family.

2) Acts 12:14-16 : Peter is miraculously released from prison and arrives at John Mark's mother's house. Inside, a group is praying for his release. He knocks on the door and a slave girl (Rhoda) recognizes his voice. Instead of letting him in, she runs back to the others and they debate whether it could actually be Peter. After Peter kept knocking, they finally let him in. This is hilarious to me. One can imagine Peter hearing Rhoda's voice, and then hearing her run away back into the house. The scene inside is a bunch of people debating over whether it could actually be Peter outside or not - the easiest way to resolve the debate, of course, is to just go outside and check.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Battle for the Ark: Price vs. McManaway

You may have heard of this Randall Price fellow from Liberty University going off to Turkey in search for the Ark. In light of all of his publicity, I have decided to disclose my plans for my own search right here on my blog. That's right: I'm going to find Deucalion's Ark!!!

Lucian of Samasota told me I could find it near Hierapolis. The story is recounted in De Dea Syria:

This race, the men of the present time, was not the first. As for the previous race, all in it perished. These current men are of the second race, which multiplied again from Deucalion. Concernnig those earlier men they say the following. They were extremely violent and committed to lawless deeds, for they neither kept oaths nor welcomed strangers nor spared suppliants. As punishment for these offenses the great disaster came upon them. Suddenly the earth poured forth a flood of water. Heavy rains fell, rivers rushed down in torrents, and the sea rose on high, until everything became water, and all the people perished. Decalion alone among men was left for the second race beacause of his prudence and piety...He embarked his wives into a great ark which he possessed and he himself went in.

Can you say jackpot? So...all I need is 100,000 dollars and I'll be on my merry way. Any takers?
Jim West tells us of yet another archaeological find in the works. I'm not discouraged, though. I'm actually a very successful anagramatologist and I will be responding to this work in Peru very soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI and Indulgences

There is a bit of controversy around the blogosphere about a papal decree for the year of St. Paul and the plenary indulgences that Benedict XVI is offering.

I think there's some misunderstanding as to what this is. Pope Benedict isn't reinstating some Medieval relic...Indulgences never left. Pope Benedict XV gave a partial or plenary indulgence for Bible reading with his papal encyclial Spiritus Paraclitus in the 1920's. Trent reaffirms this dogma immediately after Luther's shenanigans, etc. This isn't something that Benedict XVI is digging back up, it has been part of the Church's teaching and life for quite some time.

Secondly, Indulgences do not forgive sins. Indulgences are for the remission of temporal punishment due to sin and are only given after the penitent has received the sacrament of reconciliation. You may not buy an Indulgence, either.

Preparing for graduate work: The GRE

First - I apologize for the lack of New Testament related material here. My academic interests have ventured into the lands of Patristics/Early Christian History and I just can't pull myself away. Paul is exciting, but Paul through the eyes of Chrysostom is even more exciting for me. However, this week I will receive news if I won a grant to do some research - if I receive the grant, you can bet I'll be running some of this research by you out there in bloggerland.

Also, in exciting news - for any of you classicists out there, you may know of Peter Green, an Emeritus Professor at University of Texas Austin and now adjunct at U of Iowa. Every once in awhile he comes to ECU to teach a class or two (this semester is a class on Catullus). After hearing about our Ancient Greek Reading Group that meets every other wednesday, he asked if he could join in. We were going to read the Martyrdom of Polycarp, but since Dr. Green is joining us, we're going to be reading Homer. Half of me is excited about having him there to help us out, the other (sane) half of me is terrified of butchering the Greek language in front of him.

So, on to less good news: On top of stressing about the fact that I feel I don't read enough, I'm worried about the GRE. I will be taking it sometime this summer/early fall. I'm not overly worried about the verbal side of things, but math scares me. Considering most of you Biblioblogger types probably left math classes behind in your freshman or sophomore year of college, how did you prepare for the GRE? I have Barron's book, but are there any others that are great for math?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Confession Stele and Montanism

In Central and Western Anatolia people were noted for their strict morality. Something that was more developed in their religion was the notion of human deeds offending the gods and incurring divine punishment from the gods. An inscription that is particular to this area is something known as a "confession stele" which recounts what a deity has done because of sin. For instance, one inscription reads: "To Zeus Sabazios and Mother Hipta; Diokles son of Trophimos: because I made an attempt on the gods' doves (doves in the sacred temple), I was punished in my eyes and inscribed an account of the gods' power."(1)

Aside from having something in common with the Judeo-Christian notion of sin, this is particularly interesting because this is the area in which Montanism originated and thrived in the 2nd Century CE. One wonders whether this strict morality was a factor in the development of Montanism.

(1)As quoted in Rives, James B. Religion in the Roman Empire, pg. 62.