Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Cyrus Cylinder

It was nice of the British Museum to lend this to me.  Although technically they loaned it to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and the Asian Art Museum let me have a peek and snap the following picture.

What really surprised me was how small the Cyrus Cylinder is.  It is less than a foot long, but contains the famous inscription of Cyrus giving his edict that all the exiles of Babylon could return to their home countries.  Thus, the cylinder dates to about 530 BC.  The same edict is abbreviated and given in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.  Below is the opposite side.

I really wish I could read the Babylonian cuneiform language inscriptions.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bible Quiz.

The fun part of taking classes is getting exposed to new Bible translations.  Is the following familiar?

"Some a da guys Ashpenaz wen pick come from da Judah ohana: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, an Azariah. Ashpenaz give da Judah guys new kine name. He give dem Babylon kine name. To Daniel, he give da name Belteshazzar. He give Hananiah da name Shadrak. He give Mishael da name Meshak. An he give Azariah da name Abednego.
But Daniel, he make up his mind dat he no goin eat da kine food an wine da king like him eat, cuz dass da kine stuff Yahweh make kapu. So Daniel tell da guy in charge fo no make him eat dat kine food. God awready wen make Ashpenaz, da guy in charge, come tight wit Daniel, an he show him pity. But da guy tell Daniel, “I scared a my boss da king, cuz he wen tell me wat kine food you guys gotta eat, an wat fo drink. Bumbye he goin see you look mo worsa den all da odda guys yoa age. Den da king goin chop off my head cuz a dat.
Den Daniel talk to da luna guy dat Ashpenaz wen put in charge a him, Hananiah, Mishael, an Azariah. He tell, “Try fo test me an my friends fo ony ten days. You da boss! Give us guys ony whole wheat an barley kine food fo eat an watta fo drink. Den, afta da ten day, you come see how us guys look, an how da odda young guys look, da guys dat stay eat da king kine food. Den you can make to us guys how you like, from da way you see us.” So da luna guy do how dey tell him, an give um da test fo ten days.:"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

US State Department Office of Religious Engagement?

This is a curious bit of news. I should introduce a definition first:

Ethicist: A high-brow intellectual who is paid to praise insanity, condemn good, and spew forth great quantities of shlock rhetoric.  All this must be done with a maximum amount of grand standing.  They are usually employed as professors who spend the majority of their classroom time trying to eliminate any sense of ethical or moral reasoning from their students.

It is right for the state department to try and engage in dialog with various religious groups.  No doubt the CIA is doing this too along with a few other three letter agencies.  The choice for this position is an Ethicist from Wesley Theological Seminary, Shaun Casey, thus, it is safe to say that the State Department has no intention of "Engagement" with Christians.  Perhaps Muslims?  Or maybe they have some other religion in mind?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Overhead Comment: "This is the tastiest pork I have ever eaten"

Disclaimer:  My camera takes the pictures.  I am just the porter.  Also, the camera does not tolerate staged photos and I endeavor to report things as accurately as I can, without any prejudice.

The above comment was something that I had overhead from a patron at a restaurant.  The rating was affirmed by another.  It would have gone completely unnoticed, except for the unusual circumstances.  First, this was the last day of Ramadan.  Second, we were in Indonesia, which is the country on this planet with the largest Muslim population.  And third, it was a bit before the sun went down.  The mitigating feature was that this happened on Bali.  But then again, there were some Muslims in the restaurant.  The camera took the picture below, and I have faithfully reported what was observed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jakarta: Missing the Train

This was taken on Idul Fitri. A young lady that our family knows was required to work late the night before, and didn't get up in time to catch the train to head to her hometown.  For us, this is a bit like missing the plane the day before Christmas. Our destination was in a similar direction, so we added her into our vehicle and headed off to where there was a major transportation hub.  After about an hour, we reached this point and found a sparsely loaded commercial transport that was headed towards her home.  It was just departing, so off she went for the next stage of her journey.  She did let us know that she arrived home about two hours later.  The wonders of cell phones!  No word on what happened to those who were hanging on the side of the vehicle as it departed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bali: A visit to the country

What very much surprised me was the relatively cool air in Bali compared to Singapore and Jakarta.  There were plenty of mosquitoes, but a bit of repellent seemed to keep them away.  There really wasn't nearly enough time here.  I wish I could come back during the rainy season and kick back and study for a month or two.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Dotting the t's and crossing the i's.

A lot of reading can be done on a cross pacific airplane flight.  Having completed the book, I am pleased to have learned a few new useful things about dissecting psalms and prophetic poetry.  I am also fairly pleased that what they have instructed as good hermeneutics (proper interpretation) is fairly close to what I have been doing.

The conclusion finally acknowledged what I had been thinking:  That the Bible has some guidance for males on how to be men that could use some emphasis, but this sentence has about as many words on the subject as they have included.  Both sides were considered?  I won't let them off the hook:  The authors over and over again made digs at conservatives regarding egalitarianism. With much of America's family structure breaking down due to the contempt for the role of husband and father, we really don't need intellectuals throwing stones at those who don't follow the modernists.  What isn't checked off is any acknowledgment that some conservatives prefer to do their charity so that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing, and that grand standing isn't actually Biblical.

Now I have two more shorter books and a third online book, plus several hours of video lectures to go through.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bali: Temples by the Sea


We are back in Singapore getting reading to head home.  Here are some pictures from the previous pass through.  The location is near a large Casino + hotel + garden complex.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Chasing the Words

This Indonesian sign has been hanging all over in different variants.  "Idul Fitri" is the holiday that occurs at the end of Ramadan.  "Hari Raya" means celebration day.  The most interesting word to me is the common introduction "Selamat" which is usually translated as "blessed" or "peaceful".  This word is believed to have arrived in Indonesian via Arabic and is thus the basic Semitic term SLM, which we know as Shalom in Hebrew: Peace.

There is a family of languages scattered through the south east Asian Islands and some of the mainland with similar linguistic structures.  The settled ones include Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese.  There was a separate dialect that was scattered around through a nomadic sea people that is essentially Malay.  They brought their language to ports throughout the region.  Some decades ago, the Indonesian government chose the Malay dialect with some updates to impose on the general population as the Indonesian national language.  Being sea faring people with interactions with India, Arabic speaking peoples, Dutch, English and Chinese, the words just seem to come from here and there to make a very curious language.  For those traveling around Indonesia, the Indonesian language serves as a convenient vehicle to communicate with the various subgroups, yet there always is a dialect in the background that the natives. use among themselves

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sunda Kelapa

There are many pictures and blogging to do about Bali, but I am in Jakarta now.  This picture is taken at the old port of Jakarta called Sunda Kelapa. This port was first established by the Dutch in 1596 after failing to take another nearby port.  The port eventually grew into the city of Batavia, which was renamed Jakarta.

We talked to the two men closest.  They are both of the Bugi group, which historically were seafaring people known for being tough and piracy.  Our English word, the "Boogy Man", is derived from their exploits.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bali Visit: Introducing The Tour Guide

Our guide for this tour is a Chinese lady raised in Indonesia.  I had originally thought that she was from Taiwan, given the way she spoke, but my non-native Chinese only permits me to correctly identify a few accents.  Her family had immigrated to Indonesia a long time ago and she is the fourth generation.  The Indonesian government for many years had tried to ban the Chinese language and required everyone to learn Indonesian in school.  For a time, it was illegal to bring Chinese printed material into Indonesia, and this foreigner was employed as a smuggler to move Chinese newspapers in.  The immigration officers would never have imagined that I would have been idiot enough to do such a thing.

Anyway, our tour guide was raised without any Chinese training, but she liked to watch Taiwanese soap operas that were dubbed into Indonesian, and it was from them that she told us that she learned Mandarin and Taiwanese.  She doesn't seem to know any English.  

In 1998, there were some riots elsewhere in Indonesia.  In her area there had been some instances of Chinese girls being raped in front of their parents, so she and her mother fled to Bali where the Hindu population was peaceful.  After a time, she decided to seek out an income, and came across an opportunity to be a tour guide for Chinese.  The first group came and she completely lost her ability to speak Chinese in fright.  She explained to those she was giving the tour to that it was her first time.  The one couple spoke kindly and said it was OK, and that we all had to have a first time.  With this, she took heart and continued so that it became her profession.  She said that if the couple had been stern with her, she probably would have given up.  

It has been good to hear her explanations of Bali, with its 3.5 million people and 4,000 temples.  She told us that after the bombings in 2002 and 2005, controls were put on those who come to Bali from elsewhere in Indonesia. Needless to say, the political situation is very complicated in a Muslim majority country with a province that has a very distinct culture.  

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard: Prooftexting

After the introductory portions, this book moves into a discussion of text sources, language and semantics, which is what has been drilled into my head from the Hebrew class.  There are many steps to this process.  One immediate problem is that the authors state that Hebrew was originally written without word separators.  This seems problematic to me since my Ugaritic Text gives examples of word breaks, and this predates any known Hebrew text.

The Big Split in Biblical Scholarship is completely ignored.  For example, the stone made as a witness between Laban and Jacob in Genesis 31: 48 is given in Aramaic, which is basically an assertion that Aramaic and Hebrew existed side-by-side from 1,800BC.  The modernists would contemptuously disagree.  This kind of difference can be quite important as we try to determine the best way to decipher the language.  Where do the authors stand?

Another cute item was a reference to the Biblical authors as "he or she".  Um.  I guess we can deduce that "he or she" is now a semantic unit.  Perhaps we should just contract this to "heorshe" and delete the offensive "he" and "she" from our language.  But then we will face the issues of transgender, exogender, metagender and polygender.  It is a good thing that we have scholars to help us keep all of this straight.

There is a stern warning about anachronistic readings, followed by:  "The First Epistle of John begins with an explicit assertion of the reality of Christ's physical body."  So far so good.  "Attempting to counteract a docetic Gnostic teaching that claimed Jesus only appeared to have a physical body, the author affirms that his message about Jesus is based upon that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes" (1:1, emphasis added)."  This statement screams, "anachronism"!  We generally  assign the Gnostics to the second century, while John likely died in the first century.  Even worse, the whole theme of the First Epistle of John is in a completely different direction.  It is targeted at those who don't think sin matters and encourages us to prepare and look forward to our meeting Christ.  John warns of Antichrists, which would eventually become a large number of false sects and include teachers who deny the deity and work of Christ in one form or another.  There is simply no way to pin one specific group onto John's writing.  Again, the theme of the book is about sin and repentance, which is also something that Antichrists take exception to.  An attempt to make this specific to one sect that has no modern counterpart deserves a stern rebuke.

Monday, August 05, 2013

In Search of the Authentic South East Asia: Off to Bali

The problem with Singapore isn't that there are too many McDonalds.  It is that there are more Prada stores than McDonalds.  Thus, we have headed off to the island of Bali looking for the Real South East Asia.  This is what greeted me as soon as I walked out of the Bali airport:

Now this looks a bit more authentic.  It is a price list for using the toilet.  Maybe someone who knows Indonesian can translate?

A road side shrine.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sea Food

Foot long shrimp

Fresh.  Not Frozen.

Coconut Crab

Chili Crab

Saturday, August 03, 2013

National Day Celebration.

Actually, this was just the warm up.  But we had a very good seat on a boat in the middle of things.

Friday, August 02, 2013

No Room In the Manger

So we have to stay in the Inn.