Daily Archives: 21 Aug 2019

A Calvin Autograph Returns to Geneva

An original document signed by Protestant reformer John Calvin and dating from 1552 has been returned to the canton of Geneva. The document, signed January 15, 1552, is no revolutionary religious treatise but rather a snapshot of a great reformer’s daily grind: a pay-slip, confirming receipt of quarterly wages.

Calvin, of course, worked as a religious minister, and according to the pay-slip would have received a total salary of some 125 florins in the year 1552. The document, which used to be housed in Geneva’s state archives, was stolen at some point in the 19th century and somehow ended up in the possession of a brotherhood in France, who put it up for sale online for a price between €3,500 and €5,000. Once discovered, the brotherhood agreed to send the document back to its rightful Swiss home without remuneration.

Etc.   How interesting!

Luther Was Horrible at Exegesis… Just Wretched

Take, for instance, his silly and speculative exposition of Genesis 9, where Luther describes what Noah did with his time after the flood… in part-

In the first place, Noah filled the office of bishop; and because he had been plagued by various temptations, it was his foremost concern to oppose the devil and comfort the tempted, to restore the erring, to give confidence to the wavering, to encourage the despairing, to shut out the impenitent from his church, and to receive back the penitent with fatherly joy. These are almost the same duties that must be performed by a bishop through the ministry of the Word.  In the second place, Noah had his civil tasks, because he established the state and formulated laws, without which human lust cannot be kept under control. In addition to this, there was the management of his own home or care for the household. Although reason tells us that after the Deluge Noah was occupied with so many varied tasks, Moses makes mention of none of these.

Nope.  Just nope.  None of this is true.  None of it is even mildly accurate.  It is all rubbish (except the last phrase).   Luther was pretty good at theology but when he left Paul and talked about any other part of Scripture, he stank to high heaven.  I suppose, to be honest, that’s why Luther’s fans only talk about his interpretations of Romans and Galatians.

More Yale Depravity

A Yale Medical School professor sexually assaulted five students at a research facility he operated on the island of St. Kitts, beginning in 1994, and Yale University’s policies and procedures failed to stop the abuse, according to an investigation commissioned by the university.

Dr. D. Eugene Redmond Jr., who retired in 2018 when he learned that he was being investigated, had been a member of Yale’s faculty since 1974. He claimed that he had shut down an internship program on the Caribbean island after three students complained of sexual misconduct and harassment in 1994, but again recruited students between 2001 and 2017, according to the report of the investigation, which was released Tuesday.

Etc. Total depravity knows no elitist institution boundaries.

That One Time Luther Spoke the True Truth

I do not approve of your timidity, since you are stronger in spirit and learning than I.  —  Luther to Melanchthon, 1522.

‘Rebar Bender’…

That has to be the best term to describe the self appointed untrained ‘experts’ that inhabit the internet that I have ever seen.  I expect to be using it rather a lot, interchangeably with dilettante.   Thank you, The Onion.

Signs of the Times

1619 As the Beginning of Slavery in America? Not So Fast…

This essay is extremely interesting:

The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History

The overstated significance of 1619—still a common fixture in American history curriculum—begins with the questions most of us reflexively ask when we consider the first documented arrival of a handful of people from Africa in a place that would one day become the United States of America. First, what was the status of the newly arrived African men and women? Were they slaves? Servants? Something else? And, second, as Winthrop Jordan wondered in the preface to his 1968 classic, White Over Black, what did the white inhabitants of Virginia think when these dark-skinned people were rowed ashore and traded for provisions? Were they shocked? Were they frightened? Did they notice these people were black? If so, did they care?

In truth, these questions fail to approach the subject of Africans in America in a historically responsible way. None of these queries conceive of the newly-arrived Africans as actors in their own right. These questions also assume that the arrival of these people was an exceptional historical moment, and they reflect the worries and concerns of the world we inhabit rather than shedding useful light on the unique challenges of life in the early seventeenth century.

Read the whole. History matters.

It’s a Sickness Unique to America: The Gun Store Running a Half off ‘Back to School Sale’

I’m sure that it hasn’t even occurred to the gun nuts how really awful this all is.

It’s only been a little more than a week since the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which together killed 32 people and injured 51 more. But for some, apparently, those tragedies are already an afterthought.

Earlier this week, Texas outlet KTRK broke some disturbing news: an eastern Texas gun store advertised a back-to-school gun sale.

“BACK TO SCHOOL SALE AUGUST 13TH-18TH UP TO 50% OFF FIREARMS” read the Boyert Shooting Center’s sign in bold black letters. The half-off discount was emphasized in red….

One of the firearms Boyert sells is the Barrett M82-A1 semi-automatic 0.50 caliber rifle. According to the manufacturer’s website, this assault rifle — which the company calls an “American icon” — “has been proven in combat in every environment.” Next to the gun’s description is a series of photos of American soldiers.

Boyert is offering customers a killer deal on this rifle in particular: $999.99 off the list price so that everyday Texans can get their hands on this piece of war machinery.

And there’s more.  America is sick.  And it is a sickness whose only cure will be the death of the country.

Le livre d’Esther: Une exégèse en images

Via the author, who graciously provided a review copy of his new book-

Ouvrage d’histoire de la Perse achéménide, d’exégèse biblique et d’histoire de l’art religieux permettant de mieux comprendre les sens profane, politique et religieux du Livre d’Esther.

Reception history is the cutting edge of biblical scholarship.  And this volume sits on the very edge of that cutting edge.

English readers shouldn’t be fearful of the French title of the volume.  There is a helpful English summary for such persons.  And since the bulk of the book’s 700 pages is images depicting scenes from the book of Esther, any absence of skill in reading French is negligible.

In other words, English readers can benefit from the book almost as much as readers of French.  The author writes

This book is a journey in Jewish, Christian and Islamic works of art illustrating the Bible story. The two versions, the Masoretic, the Hebrew version retained by the Judaic and Reformed canon, as well as the Greek one admitted by the Catholic, Orthodox and Eastern Christian churches are quoted . Christian exegesis and the flourishing two millenia old rabbinic comments and Jewish legends illuminate the meanings of so many representations of the Book of Esther.

The author’s English is a bit shaky in places (but it’s better than any sentence I might hazard writing in French, so I am not criticizing his efforts in any respect).  For instance

Exegesis chapter discuss the origins of the text, its various versions, its reception by the monotheist religions. Old Mesopotamia and Persia history research demonstrate that, if the biblical scripture is a fiction by a Jew of the diaspora living in Persia some time later after the Hebrew people were liberated by Cyrus. The story is not the history but is full of historic references to historic events and persons. In this book we reveal who was the historic personage who inspired Haman. We explain why Mordekaï is named from Mardouk and Esther from Ishtar.

Etc.  It becomes immediately apparent that the author could have benefited from having a native English speaker go through the English summary.  Indeed

More than 700 art works are eBook hypertext (url) linkedto let reader wathch them full page as well as all consult references.

has much in it that needs to be cleaned up.  Nevertheless, English readers will get the gist.  And the purpose of the volume is illustration rather than discourse though, naturally, an ability to read French will make the work more useful than simply following the links to the images.

What follows is a description of the methodology utilized in the work and this is followed by a discussion of the book of Esther by means of exegetical snippets and hyperlinks to works of art illustrating the passage under consideration.

Perhaps the best way to describe this book is as an art exhibition catalog.  As readers ‘walk through’ the book of Esther a guide explains to them the artistic representations of Esther’s various scenes.

As such, it really is quite an interesting work.  It has weaknesses; i.e., the exposition isn’t always ‘critical’ (in the historical-critical sense) but the fact that the author has gone through the laborious process of assembling art connected to text is praiseworthy.

This is a volume worth using.


A New Essay by Konrad Schmid

Religiöse, “heilige” Texte waren in der Antike weit verbreitet. Aber warum lesen wir bis heute die Bibel? Konrad Schmid und Jens Schröter erklären, wie aus alten Erzählungen, Liedern, Weisheitssprüchen und Gesetzen, aus Briefen an frühchristliche Gemeinden und den Erzählungen über Jesus in einem langen Prozess heilige Schriften von Juden und Christen hervorgingen, die heute überall auf der Welt verbreitet sind. Mit diesem Buch liegt nach Jahrzehnten erstmals wieder ein Überblick über die Entstehung der Bibel auf dem neuesten Forschungsstand vor. Die Forschung der letzten Jahrzehnte hat viele gängige Annahmen über die Geschichte Israels und die Entstehung der Bibel revidiert. Ereignisse wie der Auszug aus Ägypten oder der Tempelbau unter König Salomo gelten nicht länger als historisch. Damit verschärft sich die Frage, wie die großen Geschichten des Alten Testaments entstanden sind und wann sie Teil “heiliger Schriften” wurden. Auch gängige Annahmen über die Sammlung der Evangelien oder frühe Apostelbriefe stehen neu auf dem Prüfstand. Das vorliegende Buch beschreibt auf dem aktuellen Forschungsstand den langen Weg von frühen Erzählungen des alten Israel über Schlüsseltexte des jüdischen Monotheismus und des frühen Christentums bis hin zu heiligen Büchern der Weltreligionen Judentum und Christentum. Wer wissen will, wie es zu einem solchen überlieferungsgeschichtlichen Wunder kommen konnte, sollte diese Biographie des berühmtesten Buches der Welt lesen.

Download the whole.

Today With Calvin: Troubles with the Libertines

calv_luther_zwiCalvin and the libertines were frequently at odds.  Indeed,

The two parties became more and more enraged against each other. Calvin’s eloquence gave him a decided superiority in the little republic. On the 24th of July 1547 he wrote to Viret:

—“I continue to employ my usual severity while laboring to correct the prevailing vices, and especially those of the young. The right-thinking tell me of the dangers by which I am surrounded, but I take no heed of this, lest I should seem too careful for my personal safety. The Lord will provide such means of escape for me as He sees good.”

The families which belonged to the libertine party took a very formidable position; but Calvin remained master of the field, and never ceased to avail himself of his office as a preacher to attack his opponents. Somewhat later, that is August 21, 1547, he states in a letter to Farel that

–“letters were daily brought him from Lyons, from which he learned that he had been killed ten times over.” “Amadeus is in France; his wife is with her father, where she plays the Bacchanal according to her usual fashion. We besought the council that, if she showed true repentance, all the past might be forgotten. But this has not occurred, and she is so far gone as to have cut off all hopes of pardon. I will seek Penthesilea, when the season for administering the Lord’s Supper arrives.”*

Sadly Calvin eventually lost the war against the Libertines and so did Luther and Zwingli.  There are more of them than there are the faithful to this very day.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 2, p. 61).

Calvin Wasn’t Bendy

“I continue to employ my usual severity while laboring to correct the prevailing vices, and especially those of the young. The right-thinking tell me of the dangers by which I am surrounded, but I take no heed of this, lest I should seem too careful for my personal safety. The Lord will provide such means of escape for me as He sees good.”  — Calvin to Viret, 1547.

Calvin would never be invited to speak at a PCUSA church nowadays.  Never.