I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunspots 446

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware tells us that there is a free Merriam-Webster Dictionary app. I tried it on my Android tablet, and it works. It can even look up spoken words, so you don't have to know how to spell it to find it.
Philosophy: The BioLogos Forum has a two-part post on "Questions on Time and Eternity." A subject with lasting interest. Here's Part 1, and Part 2.
Politics (and Sports): An article on Dean Smith, super-successful coach of the University of North Carolina men's basketball team for many years, who was also a pioneer in race relations, and against the death penalty. Unfortunately, Smith is a victim of dementia.
Science: The sun is losing about 5,000,000 tons of mass to Hydrogen every second. But fear not. At that rate, it won't stop emitting significant amounts of energy for about 5 billion years, and by that time, it will have lost only a tiny fraction of its mass.
From the Greenville (SC) News, an article on a dog which is said to have an amazing vocabulary, and can understand parts of speech.

Sports: (And Christianity!) An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, no less, about the evangelical Christianity that is part of the Clemson University football team.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Does the Bible really say that? excerpt from my book, 11

[Continuing the topic of family headship, as shown in the Bible.] 

Much of the spiritual leadership in the Old Testament was exercised by the husband. Abraham, Jacob, and other fathers and husbands exercised spiritual leadership. Clearly Abraham, and Jonadab, (Jeremiah 35) showed spiritual leadership that lasted even after their death. But there are cases, even in the male-dominated Old Testament, where a wife took a leading role, at least for a short time.

Exodus 2:1 A man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi as his wife. 2 The woman conceived, and bore a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him, and coated it with tar and with pitch. She put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. 4 His sister stood far off, to see what would be done to him. 5 Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe at the river. Her maidens walked along by the riverside. She saw the basket among the reeds, and sent her servant to get it. 6 She opened it, and saw the child, and behold, the baby cried. She had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?”

8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.”

The maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.”

The woman took the child, and nursed it.

Except for “a man” in verse 1, There is no mention of Amram, the father of Moses, in this passage. These verses tell us that it was Jochebed, Amram’s wife, who took action to save Moses from the death that Pharaoh desired for all male Hebrew babies. Perhaps Amram had died. Perhaps he worked so hard all day, serving the Egyptians, that he couldn’t play a role in these events. We don’t know.

There is another passage that tells us that Moses, himself, the man who had recently talked with his God, in the form of a burning bush, didn’t take spiritual leadership, while Zipporah, his wife, who was not even a Hebrew, did so:

Exodus 4:20 Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. Moses took God’s rod in his hand. 21 Yahweh said to Moses, “When you go back into Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go. 22 You shall tell Pharaoh, ‘Yahweh says, Israel is my son, my firstborn, 23 and I have said to you, “Let my son go, that he may serve me”; and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.’”

24 On the way at a lodging place, Yahweh met Moses and wanted to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”

For some reason, Moses hadn’t seen to it that his sons were circumcised. Surely he must have known about this ritual, because it was part of the covenant between Abraham and God, described in Genesis 17. Zipporah, like Jochebed, took action, and there seems to be no doubt that Moses could have, but didn’t. At least in this episode, she took spiritual leadership, when her believing husband did not.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. The next post, God willing, will consider the same topic.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 22, 2013

50th anniversary of his death -- C. S. Lewis

Theres plenty of media discussion about the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. There were, no doubt, millions of people, all over the world, who died on November 22, 1963. One such was C. S. Lewis, who died of a heart attack.

Lewis was a teacher, an author, and one who was charitable to many people, in ways that didn't attract attention to himself. One of his charities was to assume responsibility for the mother of a fellow soldier. Lewis entered World War I before he was 20. He and a foxhole buddy agreed that if one of them survived, and the other did not, the survivor would assume responsibility for the parent of the other one. Lewis did that faithfully.

Lots could be said, and has been said, about the writing of Lewis. I will refer to only three of them. Much more could be said.

In The Silver Chair, one of the Narnia books, Puddleglum tells Eustace and Jill that there are no accidents. Aslan, the Christ-figure in these books, knew the future consequences of all actions. See here for my post on that book. I didnt do the book justice.

There is also a magnificent resurrection scene in that book. King Caspian, dead of old age, receives his glorified body, and is restored to youth and vigor.

While a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I was looking for something to read in the University Library. I stumbled upon the Narnia books, by accident, in the children's fiction section. This was my first contact with Lewis. I am still learning from him. I have an e-book of devotional readings for each day of the year, excerpted from his works. No readings from The Silver Chair, though.

A lesser-known fictional work by Lewis, is Till We Have Faces. Some critics consider that his best work of fiction. So did Lewis. I agree. It is about a fictional kingdom before the time of Christ. The protagonist, Orual, has been fussing at “the gods” over the life she has lived – couldn’t it have been better? But she suddenly realizes that all her questions are answered, just by God, Himself. In His presence, pain, feelings, inconveniences don't matter. See here for my post on that book.

Thanks for reading. Read Lewis!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sunspots 445

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Literature: “But what the best fantasy does, in my opinion, is to transform it into something truer, and more real, than it was to begin with.” Ashlee Willis, Speculative Faith blog.

Politics: A Pennsylvania newspaper, which called Lincoln's Gettysburg Address "silly," 150 years ago, took it all back.

National Public Radio, optimistic as ever, reports that some states are trying to end extreme partisanship (both sides of it) by changing the way primaries are conducted, or changing the way congressional districts are drawn. I hope so.

Science: NBC News, and other news outlets, tell us about the oldest living animal -- now dead, and killed by scientists -- a clam.

Wired reports on yet another theory of what causes consciousness.

NPR reports on gut bacteria again. This time, it's about how they may influence how we think. Possibly some mental illnesses could be treated by infusing bacteria from a "normal" person into the gut of the sufferers. Amazing, but very preliminary.

Sports: Sports Illustrated says that Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, has selected his most memorable dunk.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Does the Bible Really Say That? Excerpt from my book, 10

[Continuing the topic of family headship, as shown in the Bible.]

Priscilla and other New Testament women

There are only two examples of New Testament married couples, whose life together is described at all. One of these is Mary and Joseph, but there’s not much about their interaction together. God did reveal some things to Joseph, namely that he should not reject Mary (Matthew 1:19-24), that they should go to Egypt (Matthew 2:13), and that they should return (Matthew 2:19-23), and he acted on those promptings, and was spiritual leader in those cases. Mary may have been the spiritual leader when she reprimanded Jesus:

Luke 2:43b the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Joseph and his mother didn’t know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.”

But perhaps she was just more vocal.

Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned seven times in the Bible, always as a couple. Here are most of those, from Acts 18:

1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth. 2 He found a certain Jew named Aquila, a man of Pontus by race, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. He came to them, 3 and because he practiced the same trade, he lived with them and worked, for by trade they were tent makers.
11 He lived there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. . . .
18a Paul, having stayed after this many more days, took his leave of the brothers, [text note – may be translated “brothers and sisters”] and sailed from there for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. He shaved his head in Cenchreae, for he had a vow. 19 He came to Ephesus, and he left them there; but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus. He was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Verse 19 uses “Priscilla and Aquila,” rather than “them” in some versions. There are three other references, in Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and 2 Timothy 4:19, all of them greetings to the couple. 1 Corinthians 16:19 does not mention the couple by name in all translations.

If there is significance to the order given, the order puts Priscilla first more often that her husband, in all of the versions that I have checked. Perhaps the most critical verse is Acts 18:26. That is usually, but not always, translated so that Priscilla is named first, indicating that she may have been more important in instructing Apollos spiritually than Aquila was.

Another bit of evidence about spiritual headship in Acts is the matter of Lydia.

Acts 16: 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down, and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Lydia was a businesswoman. Acts 16 reads as if she gave spiritual (and probably other) leadership to her household. However, this case may not be relevant, as there is no mention of a husband. She may have been single, widowed, or perhaps divorced. We don’t know. But at least she did exercise some spiritual leadership. Dorcas is also a woman who showed some spiritual leadership, but there is no mention of a household or a husband. (Acts 9.)

In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul refers to Timothy’s mother and grandmother, as having been spiritual influences on Timothy. But it is not clear what their marital status was, or if Timothy’s father was a believer.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. The next post, God willing, will consider the same topic.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sunspots 444

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Computing: How to make your browsing experience safer, from Gizmo's Freeware.

Science: Jellyfish are becoming much more common in the oceans, and are hurting tourism (and tourists), among other things, according to CNN.

The BBC says that an Indian spacecraft is doing well. It's supposed to head for Mars.

Science News, and other outlets, report that the danger from meteor strikes may be considerably larger than we had thought.
The L.A. Times reports on a very strange asteroid.

(and politics) Wired thinks that the US government needs to do some radical re-thinking to keep up with the way microbes are mutating, and getting harder, almost impossible to treat.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Does the Bible Really say that? Excerpt from my book, 9

Must the husband always be the spiritual leader?

Some Christians believe that the husband must always be the spiritual leader, in a home where both husband and wife are believers. Here’s part of the Biblical evidence for that position:

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body. 24 But as the assembly is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the assembly to himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without defect. 28 Even so husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the assembly

This passage seems to indicate that wives are, indeed, to be subject to their husbands. It also lays some serious responsibility on the husband – Christ-like, sacrificial love. It can’t be taken as justification for male dictatorship. However, it is unfortunately true that sometimes, when this passage is quoted, the previous verse is ignored:

Ephesians 5:21 subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Different translations of the Bible present Ephesians 5:21-22 in different ways. The King James begins a new paragraph with verse 22, thus indicating that a new thought begins there. (There were no paragraph markings in the original Greek manuscripts. Translators have put in paragraphs where they seem to make sense.) But the New King James, and other widely used translations, do not. The New Living Translation ties the two verses together, as follows:

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

This indicates that the verses are part of the same thought.

I am not expert enough to argue that one treatment, or another, is correct, but clearly there is at least some evidence that the submission is not all in one direction. But there is also evidence that the submission is mostly by the wife, to the godly, loving husband. (See Colossians 3:18-21, which is similar to the passage above, but without the “submit to one another.”)

It is possible that culture played a role in this matter. Having the wife as head would most likely have been a strange concept in Biblical times, among the peoples of Bible lands.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. The next post, God willing, will consider the same topic.

Thanks for reading!