Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Vegan Great Commision

"Therefore go and make Vegans of all animal life, baptizing them in the name of the Organic, the Fair Trade, and the Sustainability, and teaching them to obey everything that Environmentalists command you.  And surely the Force will be be with you always, to the very end of the age."

Whiney Christians.  Imagine how much more difficult it is to teach a Great White shark to eat kelp.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In case you were wondering what was lurking in the earlier picture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

G. Maspero: Manual of Egyptian Archaeology, 1895

"The Earth, as they believed, was a flat and shallow plane, longer than its width.  The sky, according to some, extended overhead like an immense iron ceiling, and according to others, like a huge shallow vault.  As it could not remain suspended in space without some support, they imagined it to be held in place by four immense props or pillars.  The floor of the temple naturally represented the earth.  The columns, and if needful the four corners of the chambers, stood for the pillars.  The roof, vaulted at Abydos, flat elsewhere, corresponded exactly with the Egyptian idea of the sky."

I am more interested in the development of atheist theology with the necessity of projecting views onto ancient cultures.  The reader is left with the impression that Egyptian views on cosmology evolved in conformance with the development of architecture.  Maspero's assertions above come with no references or examples of any kind, which isn't like much else that he writes.  Certainly the Ptolemaic period did not include a flat earth belief, but Maspero does not cite any change.  My belief is that no evidence for a flat earth belief exists, but instead the scholarly community projected this interpretation onto the Egyptians in order to be compliant with Ivory Tower theology.  Will keep checking.

As for a contrasting example, there is this comment about a specific inscription:

"Elsewhere, it is not the war which is represented, but the human sacrifices which anciently celebrated the close of each campaign.  The king is seen in the act of seizing his prostrate prisoners by the hair of their heads, and uplifting his mace as if about to shatter their heads at a single blow."

There might be some dispute as to whether or not this qualifies as a human sacrifice or simply the execution of prisoners.  Is there a distinction?  It seems to me that there is depending on whether or not the killing is to propitiate the gods or simply a gruesome way of celebrating a victory.

Maspero has several additional works on Egypt and Mesopotamia that I hope to listen to.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I can see you, but you can't see me!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Preparing for surgery.

This is always quite traumatic.  The suspense.  Will the family respond well?  What if the doctor messes up?  Hopefully the relatives won't worry too much.  But things have been building up and it just has to be done.

The plan is to separate my fingers from my computer keyboard on Saturday morning and continue in this state until the third day.  The occasion is a short camping trip to the Sierras.  This would normally be unthinkable, but my wife requested that I leave the computer at home.  Ouch!  I can't remember the last time that I did not have a keyboard attached to my fingers.  But at least I will still have my iPhone.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Josephus:  Antiquities of the Jews

This is a parallel version of the Bible that Josephus claims he translated from the Hebrew Bible.  Altogether there is about 50 hours of listening for the four volumes, with another 23 hours 25 minutes for the Wars of the Jews.  I am only getting towards the end of Volume 1, so there is still a long journey ahead.  I have an abridged version of Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews that I have read some years ago, but thought it would be good to familiarize myself with the entire set of his writings.

The main thing that stands out to me is the way Biblical stories are embellished.  What had been a simple and straightforward Biblical statement expands into long winded speeches flowing with rhetoric.  Then there are a few anomalous stories like the one where Moses led an Egyptian army to attack Ethiopia, and was having little success with the siege.  But then an Ethiopian princess saw how handsome Moses was and they got married and made peace.  I am wondering how much damage this will do to me since my atrophying brain will potentially scramble up the actual Biblical accounts with the versions from Josephus.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Hebrew language study:  First semester completed.

My brain is definitely looking forward to slowing down for a little while.  This class has chewed up just about all my free time for several months.
Josephus:  Regarding Nimrod and the origin of the social welfare state.

Josephus wrote a "translation" of the Bible from Hebrew to Greek that includes a number of juicy additions.  I won't claim that the differences reflect anything more than a folklore that was present in the 1st century, but this one from Nimrod and regarding the origin of the Tower of Babel (~3,000BC) stands out:

"Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!" - Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 4.2

The Bible provides different data in comparison:

"Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, 'Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.' The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.  From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city." - Genesis 10:8-10

Nimrod's name shows up in a genealogy in Chronicles, and there is one more reference in Micah:

"They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword." - Micah 5:6

This is a prophecy of the conquest of Assyria.

Just to make the comments of Josephus more interesting, there is the Epic of Gilgamesh from Assyria which features the hero Gilgamesh.  The story is contemptuous of all things celestial as Gilgamesh and Enkidu triumph over the gods and revenge themselves by killing the Bull of Heaven.  The Babylonians have a story of the flood, but it talks of building a Ziggarut for salvation, while the god who tries to destroy mankind is tricked.  It would seem that any discussion of these Babylonian myths would need to take into account Josephus, since the Jews were well connected to Babylon.  But a lot of caution is also required in making too many claims.

With all this, the Jews are eventually driven into exile to Babylon - the land of Assyria - and the Bible gives this command:

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'" - Jeremiah 29:7-8

This was mentioned on Sunday at church.  Of course the West is becoming one great Babylon.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Interpreting the Signs ...

I have a couple possibilities I am considering.  One is that India is a state that belongs to California.  Another is that California is a state that belongs to India.  Given that it is "(California)" with parenthesis, this might imply that California is simply another name for India.  There is also the observation that (California) is below India, which would perhaps indicate that California is subordinate to India.  But then again, all this might just imply that the State Bank of India feels more secure having assets in California, which is certainly not a good sign for Indians.  Undoubtedly I have gotten everything wrong, so I would welcome any corrections.

The title I used derives from a Bible verse:

"The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, 'When evening comes, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red," and in the morning, "Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast."  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.'" - Matthew 16:1-4

Sunday, May 06, 2012

"The Joy of the Lord is your Strength" - Nehemiah 8:10

My eisegesis is undoubtedly a bit weak.  I was smacked down last September by what was most likely Whooping Cough.  Since then I have done almost no exercise, but today I did a ten mile bike ride down the Alameda Creek trail heading home.  The occasion was an after church meeting.  My wife certainly did not want to wait around while we talked on and on and on and on.  Thus, I brought my bicycle along and rode home separately.  Clearly the benefit of church meetings is that they get you back onto your bike.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Official Blogger Motto:

"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions." - Proverbs 18:2

Friday, May 04, 2012

Irenaeus (?-202AD), Against Heresies

Yeh!  I reached the end.  The last section is all about the final days and prophecy.  This gives a nice recap of the book of Revelation along with other prophecies from Daniel, Jeremiah, etc.  Irenaeus' is certainly not one who believes that things will get better and better.  It is more like a mix of good and bad that just comes into more and more conflict until the end.  

One of today's questions is whether or not the prophecies of a restoration of Israel represent a literal return of the Jews, or is representing the church only.  Irenaeus seems to believe that the prophecy pertains to the church only.  As for the pre-Trib/post-Trib dispute, Irenaeus is definitely in the post-Trib camp.

The main things to note here is that the book of Revelation is considered to be solidly scriptural.  Irenaeus was born almost certainly after the apostle John had died, yet at the same time he refers to people who had known John, so there is a sense that he had known people who had known John.  

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Irenaeus (?-202AD), Against Heresies

Only 3 hours of listening to go!  The first third of this work is about Gnostic beliefs.  These are a bit mystical with every word re-defined in order to suit some conflicting agenda.  This all sounds so much like modernism.

The remainder of the book has a few barbs directed towards the Gnostics, but is really a theological treatise outlining much of Irenaeus' understanding of Christian theology.  An example is a chapter heading from this translation:


He has a very strong sense of free will. The above might be the translators summary of the chapter.  Need to check the original ...

Regarding the church, he is quite strong on emphasizing the succession based on a laying on of hands as well as honoring Rome and Clement.  The papists should certainly like this last bit.

Some of the interpretations of figures in the Old Testament provide some intellectual stimulation.  I generally like to avoid committing to an interpretation unless the New Testament lists it.  The first set of interpretations that jumps out is with regard to Lot and his daughters.  Irenaeus says that these signify the "two churches", of which I presume he means the Jews and the Christian church.  He says that Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt represents the church that is here on Earth until the end time and the command for us to be the "salt" to the world.  That probably belongs in either the "dubious" or "suspicious" column.

A second interpretation is with regard to clean and unclean animals.  The Old Testament lists animals that chew the cud and have split hooves as being clean.  The reason given by Irenaeus is that the split hooves represent stability, at least as compared to un-split hooves, and the chewing of the cud represents the process of patiently meditating on the Word of God.  I am going to have to chew on this for a bit.