Climactic Climate LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa–I Can’t Hear You!

tarsandschristmas A few things crossed my path this week, in the wake of Copenhagen perhaps, where I was embarrassed by the title of “Colossal Fossil” that was bestowed upon my country. And then a friend of mine said he “got grumpy” and made up his own Christmas greeting card, which I thought was worth sharing.

Then there was this video about climate change, “The Big Ask”.

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According to the video, it’s not all that complicated, but still on MSNBC this week there was this yahoo claiming that global warming was not man-made and was not a serious problem on which we need to act.

The Didache: on Living Together in Community

tonyjones_12.jpg Yesterday I posted an overview of the Didache to introduce what it is and where it came from, but essentially it’s an early Christian document from around the same time that the New Testament itself was still being written. “Didache” means “teaching”, and the document provides a compilation of (probably) oral tradition about what the apostles taught concerning community life. Today I’m blogging on Chapter 6 of Tony Jones‘ newest book, The Teaching of Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. The Didache is not a long document, but it is instructive for the fact that it deals with practical community matters during a time of liminality when the church was just coming to birth. We ought to imagine that it will offer us insight for a time when the church is undergoing a rebirth.

Considering The Didache

didache.pdf Philotheos Bryennios was born in March of 1833 at Constantinople. He was educated at the Theological School in Chalce of the Great Church of Christ and the universities of Leipsic, Berlin, and Munich, and in 1861 became professor of ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and other studies at Chalce. He was appointed master and director at Chalce in 1863, though he soon resigned these two positions. In 1867 he was called to Constantinople to be the head of the “Great School of the Nation” in the Phanar, or Greek quarter of Constantinople. He remained there until 1875 when he was sent by the Most Holy Synod of metropolitans and patriarchs to the Old Catholic conference at Bonn, where he receved a patriarchal letter announcing his appointment as metropolitan of Serrae in Macedonia. In 1877 he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Nicodemia, and in 1880 went to Bucharest on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal and other independent churches to participate in a commission dealing with Greek monastaries that had been plundered in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1882, at the instance of the Holy Synod of Metropolitans in Constantinople and the patriarch Joachim Il., he wrote a reply (published by the Holy Synod) to the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII concerning the Slavic apostles Cyrillus and Methodius. The man was no theological slouch, and despite this list of accomplishments, none of these are the thing for which he is most remembered following his death in 1914 or 1918.

Radio Hymns #4: By the Rivers of Babylon

boney_m_-_rivers_of_babylon_1978_single In our now time-honoured Sunday tradition, we turn to music. This week in my new series Hymns from the Radio Dial, we get political with a call for social justice from Psalm 137. It is most likely that we all remember Rivers of Babylon as a late-70s song by German disco group Boney M. In fact, the song was written and recorded in 1972 by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of The Melodians (1965-73), a Jamaican group in Kingston, the birthplace of reggae.

“Rivers of Babylon” was recorded for reggae record producer Leslie Kong (Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley) and became an anthem of the Rastafarian movement which, among other religious convictions, rejects western society as entirely corrupt, referring to it as “Babylon”, which is considered to have been in rebellion against “Earth’s Rightful Ruler” since the days of the King Nimrod. Rastas avow that “Zion” (to them Africa, especially Ethiopia) is a land promised to them.

Grappling with the Story Arc of Scripture

genesis-scroll.jpg Len Hjalmarson discusses biblical literacy, questioning whether the level attained even by pastors and leaders is typically adequate to interpret the theological significance of the text. He questions this not to disparage the pastors and leaders in our churches or to bemoan some belief that the biblical text is just too difficult for any but the experts to properly handle, but simply to highlight a particular issue before the biblical interpreter. Understanding the issue at hand, one may be better able to address it — or to at least avoid the worst effects of its impact. I haven’t asked Len if this is precisely his approach, but perhaps he’ll step in and clarify if necessary. ;^) He writes,

A Centurion’s-Eye View

centurion.jpg I was fortunate to draw the duty of attending to these three crucifixions. It’s an assignment that every centurion wants to receive. There’s no real difficulty to it, no heavy marching — just standing by and joining the jeering and cheering of the crowd. Friends and neighbours often come by, allowing for a bit of a visit while on duty. You’re there as a guard, but what’s going to happen? Is one of them about to fight his way off his cross? Ha! There’s a certain stature that comes with being seen in this role. People fear you, associating you with the power to put these criminals and insurgents to death. The sight of the crosses from past crucifixions further along the road, with the bones still hanging off them after the birds had taken away the flesh always inform the sight of the men currently being nailed to their crosses with an immediate horror. Not for us centurions of course, but for the condemned men and for the onlookers. Not the kind of horror that makes them turn away, but the kind that makes them call out their support of the death sentence, that makes them go to extra lengths to make it known that they fall in step behind our Roman rule. Everything as it should be. There’s no better deterrent than the specter of a public crucifixion.

The Spoken English New Testament (SENT): An Introduction

sent-logo.gif Webb Mealy contacted me a little while back to ask if I’d be interested in taking a look at a project he has underway — a new translation (SENT) of the entire New Testament. As the title indicates, the translation is undertaken to present the New Testament “in a spoken, not a written or literary style.”

The aim makes sense, and takes it to a new level. Past translations have given a nod to out-loud readability (NLT, The Voice) or to presentation in everyday English, but SENT seems to take this to a new level. The first thing I noticed was the use of contractions in dialogue. This is the way people normally speak, but few translations make liberal use of words like “I’m” or “you’re” or “she’s,” instead spelling out both words. Since our common mode of speech runs these words together, it makes sense to present them this way. Another notable feature that one doesn’t typically see is pronunciation keys set in footnotes where they are needed.

Review & Recommendation: The Voice (Bible Translation)

thevoice.cover.jpg I’ve been using The Voice translation a little bit lately, and am enjoying it. I received a review copy, and want to offer one — but I begin with an excursus on Bible translation generally and dynamic equivalence specifically, since this will frame helpfully what I want to say about The Voice.

I have a confession to make: I’ve never really been a big fan of The Message. There — I’ve said it. Now I know that many (most?) of you are quite in love with it and will tell me that it has enriched their Bible-reading and made the text come alive again. That’s okay… the reasons I’ve never been enamoured of it are a little different. It isn’t the missing verse numbers nor the fact it was done by one man — J.B. Phillips has those in common, and I love his translation. My issue with it is much along the lines of the challenges faced by any dynamic equivalence translation that seeks to bring the language and setting into as contemporary a setting as possible.