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A Very Ordinary Redemption – Genesis 5:1 – 6:8

Posted on Thursday, April 30, 2015 No comments

Thursday, April 30, 2015

He wasn’t a policeman or a firefighter.  He had once been a Marine.  But on the clear, bright morning of September 11, 2001 Benjamin Keefe Clark was just a chef.

And then a hero.

Natural instincts to lead took over once the plane hit the tower.  Clark helped make sure everyone on the 96th floor offices of the company he cooked for made it safely to the stairs.  On the way down, at the 78th floor, he saw a woman in a wheelchair.  As his colleagues made their way down quickly, he labored slowly to help the wheelchair-bound woman.  His colleagues made it.  Clark did not.

Our popular imagination rightly reveres those who run into burning buildings when the rest of us are running out, or those who run toward the chaos to restore order and safety.  And in our literary imagination we have endowed heroes with superpowers to bring peace and security to the beleaguered citizens of Gotham.

Jewish biblical scholars have observed that the genealogies in Genesis are easily the best example of how different ancient literature is from this modern literature.  We will begin to grapple with that in this passage.  The hardest part is how we as readers expect narrative will move us from scene to scene, building tension in the conflict until Batman stands up to the Joker.  So when we come here and end up with repetitive, formulaic genealogies it is very tempting to just move along until the narrative captures our interest again. There is a sense in which that is actually a good idea.  But we have to have a little patience here so we can know where to pick things up again.

Introducing Ourselves to Ourselves: Genesis 4:1-25

Posted on Friday, April 24, 2015 No comments

Friday, April 24, 2015

In one of those conversations with your kids you never forget, my oldest son – then 10 – asked me at the dinner table: “Dad, did you have email when you were kids?”

“No,” I replied, “Your mom and I used to write love letters to each other and put them in an envelope, lick a stamp and put it on the envelope and send it through the mail.”

I wasn’t quite sure whether the grimace was at the “love letter” part or the thought of licking a stamp.

He chewed on that along with his dinner for a moment and then quipped:

“Well, did you have electricity?”

When I think of my great aunt Marie, who was born in 1890 and died some years back after living well past her 100th birthday, it amazes me to think of the changes she saw in her lifetime.  She would not have taken electricity for granted like my generation does, or as my son’s generation takes e-mail, social media and the web for granted.  From flying for the first time to landing a man on the moon – all in the span of roughly 50 years – mankind has advanced in mind-boggling ways.  If we think of introducing ourselves to ourselves in a story, we might be forgiven for being tempted to tell a story of technology.

Well, it turns out we were – a very long time ago.

Click here to read Chapter 4

Click here for Chapter 3
Click here for Chapter 2
Click here for Chapter 1

We Gave Away Our Innocence – Genesis 2:25 – 3:24

Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 No comments

Monday, April 20, 2015

Click here for Genesis 2:25 – 3:24

From the beginning of recorded history dreams have fascinated us.  There are modern ‘dictionaries’ of common types of dreams, along with proposed explanations (which can end up being so varied one wonders where the benefit from listing and explaining them is).  One kind of dream – walking about along a normal routine only to come to the realization you are completely naked – is categorized all the way back to the Ancient Near East in what is called the ‘Assyrian Dream Book’. (I’ll admit to having this dream myself on occasion.)

I do not necessarily suppose the Assyrian cataloging of dreams informs this part of Genesis – at least not directly.  I raise this, though, because it offers us – especially if this is a dream we have experienced – a way of reading ourselves and our experiences into the story.  Note that I am not suggesting we make this story mean whatever we want it to mean.  I am suggesting, though, that we seek to identify with Adam and Eve as characters.  I will stake out this claim: The writer wants to introduce us to ourselves in the characters of Adam and Eve.

Community Before Politics & Our Money: Join the Discussion!

Posted on Saturday, April 18, 2015 No comments

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Over this weekend I am offering a free download of my latest book Gold, the Dollar and the New American Ruling Class: Whose Money Is It Anyway? from Amazon.  To download the book, click here.  If you do not have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle reader for your Mac, PC, iPad or other tablet.  The free download will end at midnight on Monday (April 20).

I have also reduced the price of my first book Community Conservatives and the Future: the Secret to Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Next Conservative Generation to $0.99.  Click here to purchase.  In this book (written in 2013) I try to articulate a new vision of conservative political philosophy that is grounded in community.  Instead of starting with narrow political ideologies and then polarizing our communities, I argue here we should be starting with our communities and then interpret our politics accordingly.

Please consider joining the discussion.  And reviews on Amazon are always welcome and appreciated.

Stalkers and a Secret Admirer: Genesis 2:4-24

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 No comments

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Click here for Genesis 2:4-24.

It is reported that 20 percent of college aged women are stalked. What starts out as friendly social contact transforms into an obsession for one, and a life of fear for the other.  I certainly do not intend that this trauma be minimized by using it as an example.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  The deep, scarring fear of being stalked is something the people of the Ancient Near East knew well.  Only it was much, much worse for them.

They were being stalked by the gods.

They lived in fear, wondering if something they would do might offend this god or that god.  They often reasoned that a storm which blew over their corn stalks was sent by an offended deity.  So they ran from sacrifice to sacrifice, hoping to appease just the right god at just the right time.

And so ANE religious literature is populated with superheroes who have both human and god-like attributes.  The study of ANE literature and modern superhero comic books (as a form of literature, believe it or not), for example, is fascinating in its parallels.  The same sense of dread among the people of Gotham in the face of the capricious designs of the Joker can be found among the people of the ANE. And they had their ‘Batman’ too.

To read the rest of this chapter, click here.

Click here for Chapter 1

And God Remembered: Genesis as Story - My Next Book

Posted on Saturday, April 11, 2015 No comments

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Click here for Genesis 1:1 - 2:3

I just completed the first chapter of my next book, titled And God Remembered: Genesis as Story.  But I am going to do something different here.  (See below for the link to the first chapter.)  I am going to make each chapter available as I complete it, and post a little summary here to my blog.  Once I finish all of the chapters, I will either release the book as an eBook under my own imprint (Xanesti Creative Solutions) or will see if I can interest a publisher in it.

For those who have followed this blog, you have noted that my topics are usually political or economic.  I have, in the past, written some posts that tackle topics from a biblical point of view.

What I am going to do here will be a bit of a crossover between Bible commentary and what we like to call a 'devotional' in our church circles.

But I am going to expressly avoid all of the technical language you would normally find in a commentary on a book of the Bible.  This kind of book is usually written for the academic community first, and the author is conventionally under an academic obligation to trace her thinking through the work of other academics.

It is certainly not that I have low regard for this kind of thing.  But it does not tend to reach a very wide audience.  So I will expressly not be writing here for the academic community, and I will not assume the obligation to trace my thinking through the thinking of others.  Toward the end, though, I will provide a list of suggested reading.  But my list will be purposefully slanted.  As an Evangelical Christian with a seminary degree I am well-aware of the titles which an Evangelical reader would be likely to encounter when reading on Genesis.  I will present a list of books - mainly by Jewish authors - which a typical Evangelical reader would otherwise be very unlikely to encounter.

Books that we would call 'devotional' are often called 'inspirational' in the broader book market.  These books usually take an upbeat tone and focus on the good.  While I certainly want to be upbeat and there is a lot of 'good' to focus on in Genesis - I want to probe, poke, challenge, and maybe even frustrate my reader a little.  I will offer questions at the end of each chapter that do just this.

When we encounter the Bible today we encounter it in chapter and verse divisions.  But these divisions are actually quite recent compared with the age of the manuscripts themselves.  I will refer the reader to the boundaries of each passage by chapter and verse in the title of the chapter.  But after that I will not refer to them.  I will do this because the divisions tend to interfere with recognizing the proper beginning and ending of the stories - and thus making it more difficult to engage with the story as a reader.

I will thus leave it to the reader to follow the stories from the biblical texts.  Of course you can do this with an actual bound Bible, or with an online resource like Bible Gateway.  If you click on this link, you will see it takes you to Genesis 1, using the New American Standard Bible (NASB).  I recommend following the chapters in this manner because it may be difficult to locate an actual bound copy of the NASB.

The differences between translations is a common topic of conversation and debate in church and the seminary classroom.  Because Hebrew storytelling depends heavily on repetitions which differ slightly in their second instance, and on allusions between passages by the use of a thematic word, I prefer translations which adhere more literally to the Hebrew wording.  This tends to make the stories a bit 'bumpier' in English.  Other version like the New International Version (NIV - which is easily the most popular among American English versions) try to 'smooth' the reading by using various English words for the same Hebrew word.  With stories that depend on repetition and allusion, though, this tends to hide clues which would otherwise have been obvious to the Hebrew reader.

I have a formal background in both biblical Hebrew and Greek, so I feel comfortable pointing these things out.  I'll be doing so in this book, but will spend as little time as possible with this, only raising it when I believe it significantly impacts how we understand the stories.  I especially like Bible Gateway because the reader can sign in via Facebook and then use the web site's tools to actually mark up and highlight the text, much like we like to do with our actual Bibles during a study or sermon.  By signing in, the site will save your markings and notes.  I encourage the reader especially to track these observations in Bible Gateway by highlighting and taking notes.

So please join me in this enterprise by clicking here and downloading the first chapter as a PDF file.  I welcome comments here at this post.
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