Quote of the Day

That criticism of Israel’s settlement policy should somehow be seen as controversial in the US only shows how ignorant and morally compromised we are as a country. I have lived in Israel, visited the occupied territories, and seen how the settlements undermine peace and enforce apartheid. Obama’s actions haven’t gone far enough.  — Ryan Thomas

Yes, yes, 10,000 times yes.

Someone Has to Do It

A zealous Mennonite man at the local EMBBM church will be taking time out of his busy schedule of handing out tracts to strangers at the mall, to stop and tell each and every child at the Christmas Eve service tonight that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

“They’ve got to know the truth,” said Elmer B. Barkman. “And the truth is their parents are evil despicable liars! So that’s just what I tell them.”

Barkman uses techniques like pretending to catch their noses or placing his hands over their eyes and asking them to guess who it is, as a segue to explain that “Santa Claus is really Satan.”

“They need to know the horrible awful truth,” said Barkman. “If their parents are going to deceive them like this, then it’s my job to set them on the proper path!”

Barkman plans to ask sweet little Bethany what Santa is bringing her for Christmas tonight. When she answers, “a pony,” Barkman intends to fly into a rage making graphic allusions to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The EMBBM Pastor has tried to curb Barkman’s behaviour in the past by asking him to calm down and mind his own business, but so far Barkman has not been not disuaded.

“Pastor Mike is more or less a heretic anyway,” said Barkman. “It’s time that people learned the real meaning of the season – being a complete jackass to every one you know. Merry Christmas!”

Joseph Fitzmyer has Died

fitzmyerThis is such sad news. He was a wonderful scholar and so generous with his time and learning. Many a letter (back in the day when people mailed letters) to him with this question or that was answered rapidly and thoroughly.  No one, literally no one knew more about the Aramaic background of the New Testament than he.  In 2005 at SBL in Philadelphia I saw him sitting by himself so I snapped a pic and we chatted for a bit about a project he was working on.  He was, indeed, a fixture at both SBL and CBA annual meetings and just such a wonder. This is deeply saddening news to me.

Father Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., died peacefully this morning at Manresa Hall, Merion Station, Pa. He was 96. Father Fitzmyer was a leading Catholic biblical scholar, and we asked several scholars influenced by his life and work to offer their remembrances.

I never studied with Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., but the times I was in the same room with him, at meetings of the Catholic Biblical Association, for instance, his gravitas was palpable. If a question needed answering, you turned to Father Fitzmyer. He was a giant of biblical scholarship. No qualifiers need apply. He was not a giant of Catholic biblical scholarship, not a giant of 20th-century biblical scholarship, just a giant of biblical scholarship.

Father Fitzmyer was, of course, a member of that first wave of Catholic biblical scholars whose scholarship had to be taken seriously by the academy at large because of its rigorous historical critical grounding and his scholarship was read and is read by scholars all over the world today. He was also dedicated to reading the texts as a Catholic biblical scholar, and he never ceased paying attention to the theological concerns of the text or his own place as a scholar within the church.

I first came across his work as an undergraduate at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, and to my professors he already loomed as a legendary figure. You can imagine how he seemed to me. My encounter with his scholarship did not diminish his reputation but grounded it solidly from that day to today. Given my frequent use of The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, it is fair to say that not a day goes by that I do not consult his scholarship. But this is not the end of it. I use his commentaries on Luke and Acts from the Anchor Bible Commentary series regularly.

Indeed, these are only some of his major works, all of which are still in use and respected by current scholars, long after other scholars’ works have fallen out of fashion. One of the reasons has to do with his careful, thorough and judicious scholarship: You know that if Fitzmyer wrote it you might not agree with it, but it is grounded in a careful sifting of the available evidence and a discerning judgment of the data. He was also a master of the ancient languages, and his work remains a goldmine of linguistic nuggets.

Fitzmyer also did work on the Aramaic and the Semitic background of the New Testament, work that has fallen out of favor among New Testament scholars, but which is still worth consulting even today. In addition, he did early work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. In an academic career that spanned almost 50 years, perhaps it is no surprise that he produced so much work, but “much work” does not always lead to “quality work.”

All of Fitzmyer’s work was quality work, which is precisely why he stands as a giant of biblical scholarship. All of his scholarship was dedicated to understanding the Bible more thoroughly and completely. He has gone to his well-deserved rest, may he rest in peace, but his scholarship will live on because of his precision and dedication to making the Bible come alive for all who encounter it.

John W. Martens is a professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn. Twitter: @BibleJunkies.

I Could Only Read the First Two Letters and Then I Couldn’t Stop Laughing at the Presumption and Supposition

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One of my dear Professors in college had the habit of calling most Sunday School classes a ‘pooling of ignorance’.  He was a bit of an elitist I suppose.  But he wasn’t wrong.  When people who oftentimes don’t know anything about the Bible sit around and discuss it, it can be both annoying and amusing.

This series of letters to BAR is a pooling of ignorance too.  To watch the writers ramble on and on, at great length and with such conviction and assurance about a matter for which there is scarcely a gnat’s volume of historical information is both annoying and amusing.

So, to the pool of ignorants, might I just point out one simple truth- we don’t know the year of Herod’s death or Jesus’s birth.  Period.  Your convictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

By the by, honesty is the best policy.  If someone asks when Herod died or when Jesus was born the best you can say is ‘I don’t know’.

The Bee Stings the ‘Suffering American Christian’

Local believer and sales associate Michael Mayhew is known for his constant barrage of political and religious memes, links, and lengthy text posts on Facebook, which he calls “edifying to the body”—but apparently not everyone appreciates his intellect and deep introspection. Mayhew was painfully reminded of Jesus’ prediction that his disciples would experience fiery trials and persecutions in this world Thursday afternoon, when not a single person liked, shared, or commented on a profound post he penned laying out his biblical case for capitalism.

After enduring approximately one hour of scathing ridicule in the form of a total silence from his Facebook friends, Michael humbly commented on his own post: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.—John 15:20.”

“1 Peter 4:13,” he is said to have repeated aloud to himself as he bravely withstood the continuing silent scorn of his acquaintances. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, Michael.”

Mayhew met with reporters after he had fully weathered the intense episode.

“Every time someone ignores or unfriends me, it hurts, sure—but then I remember how many people unfriended Jesus,” said the bold martyr, adding that he’s just trying to focus on the eternal weight of glory God was preparing for him through his trial.

“Romans 8:17 says we’re fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him. Lots of people like to leave that last part off. Not me.”

LOL

The Ideal Gift for the Christian in Your Life: THE Commentary on the Entire Bible

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We’re offering The Commentary from now through Sunday Night at Midnight EST in PDF’s from yours truly for half price- $100 and you can purchase the entire set for yourself or for a friend by clicking my PayPal Link.

The Commentary is comprised of 42 individual volumes.  Now, of course, not everyone is interested in every book of the Bible so after having received a number of requests for individual volumes in the series I’ve decided to offer any single volume for $5.

If you bought each volume individually it would cost $210 for the entire series in electronic form at $5 each, so it still makes sense to buy the whole. But I’m happy to send each volume individually for those who prefer it.

Just paypal me $5 and tell me which you wish. If you want two or three simply multiply each volume by $5.

And, Merry Christmas!

Popery in the SBC

What?  This.

What could possibly go wrong? A communion appoints an officer to represent members’ views within the corridors of the most powerful nation on God’s glowing earth. And all the members — who are Protestants, mind you and not used to submitting to church hierarchy — are going to agree with all that the officer says or the agency he leads? Heck, even in the little old OPC where the stakes are considerably lower than the Southern Baptist Convention, you cannot get church members to agree with the editor of New Horizons magazine.

So why are so many people concerned and surprised that Southern Baptists are challenging Russell Moore at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission? Funny the way president-elect Trump winds people up.

Read it all.

Huldrych, Let Me Tell You About a Christmas Sermon I Just Heard!

Shortly after Christmas in 1526 Johannes Comander wrote Huldrych Zwingli a letter. In it, he briefly describes a sermon he heard on Christmas:

Dem amman von Flymbs hab ich din empfälch geschriben; aber mir ist noch kein antwort worden. Der apt hatt uff den Wienachttag geprediget, Johannes sy der überträffelichest under den euangelisten, von der jungfrowschafft wägen; damit hab er verdient, dz er allerhöchest von der gottheit hab können schriben, und sy im von gott ingesprochen. Aber Petrus hab wol ouch Mathei am 16. [Matth. 16. 16] dem herren uff sin frag geantwurtet: du bist Christus, der sun des lebendigen gottes; er hab aber geredt ex exteriore coniectura, computacione: er hab’s ab usswendigen dingen genommen, dz er in sach vor im ston, das er inn hat sehen uff dem moer wandlen, und anderen wunderzeichen. Also hat er nit uss insprechen gottes, wie Johannes, inn genempt ein sun gottes.

Read the rest if you’re so inclined. I continue to find it fascinating that Zwingli was the go to guy when theological questions came up. He clearly enjoyed quite a reputation.

Zwingli and Luther on Christmas Eve

Remembering days past, when Southeastern Seminary was a place of learning and scholarship- before it was dismantled by the fundamentalist takeover.

And basking in the warm light of mutual respect and admiration (though Luther admires Zwingli more).

There’s nothing like Christmas Eve to bring people together.