Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ghost Sign: South Grand Neighborhood, St. Louis


Landscape: William Giles Munson

William Giles Munson, "View of the New Haven Green in 1800" (c. 1830). New Haven Colony Historical Society. From: https://connecticuthistory.org/a-puritan-landscape-new-haven-town-green/ Copied under fair use principles.




Landscape: Richard Rummell

Richard Rummell, "Yale University, 1906." From:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rummell,_Richard_Yale_University.jpg


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bible in a Year: The Prophets and the New Testament

Childhood Bibles: mine, my wife Beth's,
and her deceased first husband Jim's. 
This calendar year, I’m reading through the Bible and taking informal notes on the readings. Since we so often read verses and passages of the Bible without appreciating context, I’m especially focusing on the overall narrative and connections among passages.

One more post about how the prophets can linked to other Bible passages. Prophetic scriptures became crucial for understanding who Jesus is and how his coming fits within and fulfills God’s plans of salvation. A Bible explorer can spend months and years tracing and delving into the prophetic roots of the New Testament. Here are just a few.

John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3-5, Mal. 4:5-6, Mark 9:1, Luke 1:17)

Jesus’ birth (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-5, Mic. 5:2, Matt. 2:6, Luke 1:30-33.

Jesus’ authority and teaching (Isa. 6:9-12, 9:1-2, Matt. 4:14-16, 13:14-15)

Jesus the shepherd (Ez. 34:11-16, John 10:7-11)

Jesus’ ministry (Isa. 32:3-4, 35:5-6, 33:22, 42:1-4, 61:1-2, Matt. 9:32-35, 12:17-21, Luke 4:17-21)

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9, Matt. 21:4-5)

Jesus’ sufferings, betrayal, and death (Isa. 52:13-53:12, Zech. 11:12-13, 12:10, 13:7, in addition to Ps. 22, 69, and others)

Jesus’ resurrection (Ez. 37:1-14, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:40, and among the psalms Ps. 16:10 and Ps. 110:1)

The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34, Matt. 26:26-29, Rom. 11:26-36, Heb. 8:8-12)

The Temple in relationship to Jesus (Isa. 56:7, Jer. 7:1, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-23, Acts 7:47-51)

“The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

The Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:16-21)

The redemption of all nations (Isa. 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:10)

Related to the redemption of the nations: the metaphor of marriage between God and his people (e.g., Hos. 1-3, Rom. 9:25-26, 1 Pet. 2:10, Eph. 5:25, 32, Rev. 19:7, 21:2, 9)(8)

The end times (Daniel 7:1-12:13, Ez. 38-39, much of the book of Zechariah).

The issue of the covenant becomes a key for Paul as he preaches about Jesus and the law. For Jews today, the prophetic criticism of faithlessness remains a call for contemporary faithfulness; the prophet’s stress upon justice and suitable worship are as timely a Word of God today as in the ancient world. Paul understands faithless as a more basic flaw in both human nature and the law; we cannot keep the law faithfully, and thus we need Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). In New Testament theology, a passage such as Jeremiah 7:21-26 points to the need for new beginnings (Jer. 31:31-34).

The prophet’s concerns for the poor and for justice are not as apparently strong in the New Testament but are certainly there. In both the Torah and the prophets, God is a God of justice. (The Greek word dikaiosunê, corresponding to tzedakah, means “righteousness” and “justice.”) God takes the side of the poor, downtrodden, and powerless. Luke’s gospel and Matthew 25:31-46 very much echo God’s care for the needy.  You could also think this way: in the Old Testament, God demands justice for the poor, outcast, and powerless. In the New Testament, God also takes the side of those who are spiritually impoverished, bringing them into the circle of blessing.

Although Christians are quick to stress that Jesus is “more than a prophet,” he was frequently understood to be a prophet (Matt. 21:11, Mark 6:15, 8:28, Luke 7:16, 24:19, John 4:19, 6:14, et al.) and possessed the Spirit in a way that people considered prophetic (Matt. 12:28, Mark 3:28-29, Luke 4:18-20, et al).

Here is a list of many passages from the prophets, psalms, and Torah, used in the New Testament to demonstrate the necessity of Jesus' suffering and death: http://changingbibles.blogspot.com/2016/03/maundy-thursday-and-good-friday.html

*****

Here are some notes that I took a few years ago:

As we begin on the prophets, it's worth realizing that New Testament eschatology relies very strongly upon the Old Testament, especially the prophets. The book of Revelation cites the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book and is filled with images from the prophets.

I found an interesting article, “The Old Testament and the Book of Revelation” at the StudyJesus.com site. I liked the article because it gave straightforward biblical references without the speculations and polemics that one finds in some analyses of Revelation. Perusing that article as well as my notes in my old RSV and the references in my NRSV, I developed a very incomplete list of references to prophetic passages that one finds in Revelation. That article gives many more references and other research about John's compelling visions and style of writing.  

The prophetic idea of The Day of the Lord is found in Isaiah 2:12, Joel 2:31-32, Amos 5:18-20, Daniel 12:12, and becomes part of New Testament eschatology in Matthew 24:29-31, Acts 2:20, 2 Peter 3:8-10, Rev. 6:12-17.

The image of “the son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14 connects to Rev. 1:7.

The image of “the kingdom of priests” in Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 61:6 connects to Rev. 1:6.

Ezekiel’s vision of four living creatures and four wheels in chapter 1, and also Isaiah 6:1-4, connect with Revelation chapter 4, wherein the living creatures give God honor and glory.

The dwelling of God in the new heaven and earth in Isaiah 65:17ff connects to Rev 21:1-2. Also, Michael the archangel (Dan. 12:1) connects to Rev. 12:7-12.

The condemnation of Deuteronomy 29:19-20, with the image of being blotted out of the book of life, connects to Rev. 21:19. In fact, that article indicates: “Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15, 21:27 are based on Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1,” and also Ps. 56:8 and Malachi 3:16. All these have to do with the them of God writing a book containing the names of the faithful.

The differently colored horses of Zechariah 1:7-17 and 6:1-8 connect to Revelation 6:1-8.

The eating of the scroll in Ezekiel 2:8-3:33 and Jeremiah 15:16 connect to Rev. 10:8-11.

Much of Joel 1-2, with its descriptions of plagues, droughts, and the coming day of the Lord, connects to the various events in Revelation: e.g., the locusts in Rev. 9.

Some of Ezekiel’s images of the restored temple in chapters 40-48, as well as Zechariah chapter 4, connect to Rev. 11:1-6 et al. Also, the restored Jerusalem in Ezekiel 48:30-35 connect to Rev. 21:12-14.

Genesis 49 lists the twelve tribes of Israel, in the context of Jacob’s death: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. Jacob adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and thus they became heads of tribes. Rev. 7:1-8 describes how angels sealed the number of God’s servants out of “every tribe of the people of Israel,” and then lists the twelve tribes. Instead of the tribe of Dan we have the tribe of Manasseh, and the tribe of Joseph rather than that of Ephraim is mentioned.

The cities of refuge are described in Numbers 35:9-34. They were places where a person who had accidentally killed someone could flee and when the high priest died they could return home without fear of being killed out of revenge. The cities were Kedesh, Golan, Ramoth Shechem, Bezer, and Hebron. Although Rev. 12:6 doesn’t mention “cities of refuge” per se, the concept of a safe place prepared by God is there: for instance, the woman with child (representing God’s people) flees to a safe place in the wilderness where she will be nourished for 1260 days.

Daniel has a vision of four beasts in Dan. 7:1-8, which connects to Rev. 13:1-7, where beasts emerge from the sea. As that article indicates, the fourth beast represents Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the terrible Greek ruler of the Maccabean period.

Ezekiel 38-39 describes the prince Gog of the land of Magog. In Rev. 20:7-10, Gog and Magog become nations who are enemies of God’s people.

The famous story of Balaam and his donkey (or Balaam's ass, as we Sunday school kids laughed about) is found in Numbers 25:1-9, as well as 31:16. This story is echoed in Rev. 2: 14 where God scolds the church at Pergamum.

Rev. 14:14-20 tells of the angel reaping a grape harvest with a sickle and putting the harvest into the winepress of God’s wrath, producing copious blood. Of course, this is the reference for a line in “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as well as the title of the novel, The Grapes of Wrath. The image comes from Joel 3:13 and Isaiah 63:1-6.

As that article indicates, Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, refer to the blessings of God upon the exiles who return from captivity in Babylon. These promises connect to a passage near the conclusion of Revelations, 21:1.

With that reference, we return once again to the subject of the Exile. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, the Exile, its connection to the land, and the post exilic hope of future redemption are events and themes that permeate the entire Bible. In this case, the book of Revelation brings together stands of biblical history and theology to show the final consummation of centuries of divine promises.


Landscape: Carl Vilhelm Holsøe

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935), "A Strolling in the Orchard". From Twitter, "@AHistoryofPaint . Copied under fair use principles.
 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Trump is a Consequence"

Here is an excellent article from Billmoyers.com, "Trump is Not Cause, But Consequence: The Post-Cold War Consensus Collapses," by Andrew Bacevich. "If Americans have an ounce of sense, the Trump presidency will cure them once and for all of the illusion that from the White House comes redemption. By now we ought to have had enough of de facto monarchy. By extension, Americans should come to see as intolerable the meanness, corruption and partisan dysfunction so much in evidence at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.....So it’s time to take another stab at an approach to governance worthy of a democratic republic." He offers several ideas.

http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-consequence-trump-era/


An Excellent bell hooks Quotation

A few days before all the racism and hatred became expressed in Charlottesville this weekend, I'd found this quotation while doing a research project. “White folk who mask their denial of white supremacy by mouthing slogans like ‘heritage not hate’ .. fail to see that their refusal to acknowledge what this ‘heritage’ means for black folks is itself an expression of white racist power and privilege… The history of the confederacy will always evoke the memory of white oppression of black folks with rebel flags, guns, fire, and the hanging noose—-all symbols of hate” (bell hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place, Routledge, 2009, pages 10-11).


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bible in a Year: Connecting the Torah and the Prophets

This calendar year, I’m reading through the Bible and taking informal notes on the readings. Since we so often read verses and passages of the Bible without appreciating context, I’m especially focusing on the overall narrative and connections among passages.

When I studied and posted about the Torah earlier this year, I learned that the Torah is read in a yearly cycle in synagogue worship (the weekly portion or parshah), accompanied by a related reading from the Prophets (the haftarah). This week I went back to the lists of those readings to learn their meaningful connections, perhaps unexplored by most Christians. The following is gleaned from W. Gunther Plaut, The Haftarah Commentary (Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1996): first the name of the parshah, then the Torah portion, then the haftarah. I focused on the Ashkenazic readings; in a few cases, Sephardic congregations have different haftarot.

Bereishit
Genesis 1:1-6:8: the creation story
Isaiah 42:5-43:11: the creation of Israel is linked to creation of the universe

Noach
Genesis 6:9-11:32: the punishments and redemption during the time of Noah
Isaiah 54:1-55:5: the redemption from punishment and exile is at hand

Lekh Lekha
Genesis 12:1-17:27: stories of Abraham
Isaiah 40:27-41:16: God remembers and cares for Israel, children of Abraham

Vayeira
Genesis 18:1-22:24: God promises Abraham and Sarah a song
II Kings 4:1-4:37: Elijah’s miraculous help for the Shunammite woman

Chayei Sarah
Genesis 23:1-25:18: Abraham looks for a wife for Isaac
I Kings1:1-1:31: David’’s need for a suitable successor

Toldot
Genesis 25:19-28:9: the struggles of Jacob and Esau
Malachi 1:1-2:7: a reiteration of the primacy of Jacob over Esau

Vayeitzei
Genesis 28:10-32:3: Jacob’s sojourn in Aram
Hosea 12:13-14:10: Hosea’s use of that story

Vayishlach
Genesis 32:4-36:43: Jacob and the angel
Hosea 11:7-12:12: Hosea’s use of that story as a metaphor for his home and for the nation

Vayyeshev
Genesis 37:1-40:23: Joseph is sold into slavery
Amos 2:6-3:8: Amos’ Israelite contemporaries would sell out an innocent person

Miqeitz
Genesis 41:1-44:17: Pharaoh’s dream
I Kings 3:15-4:1: Solomon’s dream

Vayigash
Genesis 44:18-47:27: reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers
Ezekiel 37:15-37:28: the reunited stick

Vayechi
Genesis 47:28-50:26: Jacob gives his last words to his sons
I Kings 2:1-12: David gives his last words to Solomon

Shemot
Exodus 1:1-6:1: Israel’s enslavement in Egypt
Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-29:23: Israel’s sins and troubles

Va'eira
Exodus 6:2-9:35: the plagues of Egypt
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21: the coming humiliation of Egypt, which had forsaken Israel

Bo
Exodus 10:1-13:16: Pharaoh vs. God
Jeremiah 46:13-46:28: Pharaoh Necho, who killed King Josiah, will be defeated

Beshalach (Shabbat Shirah)
Exodus 13:17-17:16: Defeat of the enemy Egypt and the people’s song
Judges 4:4-5:31: Deborah’s song of the defeat of Canaanite enemies

Yitro
Exodus 18:1-20:23: The Sinai revelation
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-9:6: the revelation of God to Isaiah

Mishpatim
Exodus 21:1-24:18: release of the Hebrew slaves
Jeremiah 34:8-34:22; 33:25-33:26: Jeremiah’s response when Judah rulers would not free slaves

Terumah
Exodus 25:1-27:19: construction of the Tabernacle
I Kings 5:26-6:13: construction of the Temple

Tetzaveh
Exodus 27:20-30:10: the Tabernacle altar
Ezekiel 43:10-43:27: the future Temple sanctuary

Ki Tisa
Exodus 30:11-34:35: the Golden Calf
I Kings 18:1-18:39: the priests of Baal

Vayaqhel
Exodus 35:1-38:20: building a sanctuary
I Kings 7:40-7:50: building a sanctuary

Pequdei
Exodus 38:21-40:38: the craftsman Bezalel who worked on the Tabernacle
I Kings 7:51-8:21: the craftsman Hiram who worked on the Temple

Vayiqra
Leviticus 1:1-5:26: sacrifices
Isaiah 43:21-44:23: the proper sacrifices

Tav
Leviticus 6:1-8:36: sacrifices
Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-9:23: sacrifice alone cannot please God, who also demands righteous deeds

Shemini
Leviticus 9:1-11:47: deaths of Aaron’s sons when they approach the Holy Fire improperly
II Samuel 6:1-7:17: the death of Uzzah who touches the holy Ark improperly

Tazria
Leviticus 12:1-13:59: skin diseases
II Kings 4:42-5:19: the story of Elisha and Naaman

Metro
Leviticus 14:1-15:33: skin diseases
II Kings 7:3-7:20: the story of the four lepers

Acharei Mot
Leviticus 16:1-18:30: forbidden sexual relations
Ezekiel 22:1-22:19: denouncing sexual licentiousness

Qedoshim
Leviticus 19:1-20:27: ethical requirements, with warnings
Amos 9:7-9:15: Amos’ warnings to the kingdom

Emor
Leviticus 21:1-24:23: priestly duties
Ezekiel 44:15-44:31: priests of the future Temple

Behar
Leviticus 25:1-26:2: family titles to land
Jeremiah 32:6-32:27: Jersmiah buys a parcel of land

Bechuqotai
Leviticus 26:3-27:34: blessings and curses
Jeremiah 16:19-17:14: Jeremisah’s assurance of blessings

Bamidbar
Numbers 1:1-4:20: census in the wilderness
Hosea 2:1-2:22: the people will be as numerous as sands of the sea

Nasso
Numbers 4:21-7:89: Nazarites
Judges 13:2-13:25: Nazarites

Beha'alotkha
Numbers 8:1-12:16: the Tabernacle candlestick
Zechariah 2:14-4:7: vision of the candelabrum of the Temple

Shelach
Numbers 13:1-15:41; the spies
Joshua 2:1-2:24: the spies

Qorach
Numbers 16:1-18:32: Korah’s attempt to replace Moses
I Samuel 11:14-12:22: the people’s seeming attempt to replace God with a human king

Chuqat
Numbers 19:1-22:1: Moses’ request to the Amorite king
Judges 11:1-11:33: Jephthah’s negotiations with the Amorites

Balaq
Numbers 22:2-25:9: King Balak (Balaq) wants Balaam to curse Israel
Micah 5:6-6:8: Micah remembers this incident.

Pinchas
Numbers 25:10-30:1: Phineas (Pinchas) and his reward
I Kings 18:46-19:21: the heroism of Elijah

Mattot
Numbers 30:2-32:42: God’s punishment
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3: Jeremiah’s call to preach warnings

Masei
Numbers 33:1-36:13: punishments
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4: the prophet’s warnings about idolatry

Devarim
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22: Moses
Isaiah 1:1-1:27: punishments

The next seven haftarah are haftarah of consolation (Shabbat Nachamu) and all come from Second Isaiah. They are all messages of hope for God’s people Israel. The first is read on the Shabbat after Tisha b'Av, which is the fast that commemorates the Temple's destruction in 587 BCE. The others are read on successive Sabbaths until the seventh, which is read on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah. Thus, as Moses urges faithfulness to the Lord and obedience to his Torah, the Isaiah passages express God's promises to liberate and provide for Israel.

Va'etchanan
Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-40:26

Eiqev
Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3

Re'eh
Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5

Shoftim
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:12

Ki Teitzei
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-54:10

Ki Tavo
Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Isaiah 60:1-60:22

Nitzavim
Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20
Isaiah 61:10-63:9

This haftarah is usually read on the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Vayeilekh
Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30
Isaiah 55:6-56:8: seek the Lord when God is near

Ha'azinu
Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52: Moses’ farwell song
II Samuel 22:1-22:51: David’s song

Vezot Haberakhah (read on Simchat Torah, when the year’s Torah readings are concluded, and the new year of readings begins)
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12: death of Moses
Joshua 1:1-1:18: the beginning of Joshua’s leadership

The Judaism 101 site also gives the special Parshiyot and Haftarot for Jewish holidays:
http://www.jewfaq.org/readings.htm

The Judaism 101 author provides this information: “Each week in synagogue, we read (or, more accurately, chant, because it is sung) a passage from the Torah. This passage is referred to as a parshah. The first parshah, for example, is Parshat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah. There are 54 parshahs, one for each week of a leap year, so that in the course of a year, we read the entire Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) in our services. During non-leap years, there are 50 weeks, so some of the shorter portions are doubled up. We read the last portion of the Torah right before a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which occurs in October, a few weeks after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). On Simchat Torah, we read the last portion of the Torah, and proceed immediately to the first paragraph of Genesis, showing that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

“In the synagogue service, the weekly parshah is followed by a passage from the prophets, which is referred to as a haftarah. ... The word comes from the Hebrew root Fei-Teit-Reish and means 'Concluding Portion'. Usually, haftarah portion is no longer than one chapter, and has some relation to the Torah portion of the week.

“The Torah and haftarah readings are performed with great ceremony: the Torah is paraded around the room before it is brought to rest on the bimah (podium). The reading is divided up into portions, and various members of the congregation have the honor of reciting a blessing over a portion of the reading. This honor is referred to as an aliyah (literally, ascension)... ”

Working on this post, I discovered that there are yearly and triennial cycles of readings. A rabbi friend explained that the Masoretes (the 6th-10th century CE scholars who helped established the definitive text of the Hebrew Bible) set up the cycle of yearly readings, and other scholars of the Land of Israel established a three-year cycle. The Wikipedia site reads:

"The Triennial cycle of Torah reading may refer either a) to the historical practice in ancient Israel by which the entire Torah was read in serial fashion over a three-year period, or b) to the practice adopted by many Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal congregations starting in the 19th and 20th Century, in which the traditional weekly Torah portions were divided into thirds, and in which one third of each weekly 'parashah' of the annual system is read during the appropriate week of the calendar.

"There are 54 parashot in the annual cycle, and 141, 154, or 167 parashot in the triennial cycle as practiced in ancient Israel, as evidenced by scriptural references and fragments of recovered text. By the Middle Ages, the annual reading cycle was predominant, although the triennial cycle was still extant at the time, as noted by Jewish figures of the period, such as Benjamin of Tudela and Maimonides. Dating from Maimonides' codification of the parashot in his work Mishneh Torah in the 12th Century CE through the 19th Century, the majority of Jewish communities adhered to the annual cycle.

"In the 19th and 20th Centuries, many synagogues in the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal Jewish movements adopted a triennial system in order to shorten the weekly services and allow additional time for sermons, study, or discussion."

I wonder if we Christians might appreciate the Torah more if we not only delved into the passages themselves but also saw them in relation to Old Testament stories and teachings with which we may be more familiar. It has certainly improved and blessed my knowledge of the books of Scripture that Jews hold especially dear.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ghost Sign: Old Washington, KY


Ghost Sign: St Louis, MO

Near the ballpark. 


Ghost Sign: Maplewood, MO

On Sutton Ave. 


Ghost Sign: Newport, KY


Landscape: Léon Bonvin

Léon Bonvin, "Rose and Grasses" (1863). From Twitter @AHistoryofPaint Copied under fair use principles.


Landscape: Georg Janny

Georg Janny, "Village Road in the Alps". From Twitter @AHistoryofPaint . Copied under fair use principles.


Monday, August 7, 2017

A Darwin Book Among Teachers

I love antique books, and this past year I've been collecting a few notable science books from the
nineteenth century. I like to write about them on this blog, teaching myself many new things in the process.

Last fall I wrote about Darwin's Origin of Species. Then I saw another copy for sale on eBay that had an interesting provenance, so I purchased it in order to pass along the names of some notable persons. The seller, rickl711, gave me permission to quote the auction description:

"The original owner of this book, Peter Frandsen, was a Professor of Biology at the University of Nevada. He graduated from the University Of Nevada in 1895, received a B.A. from Harvard University in 1898 and a Master's degree in 1899.... On April 11, 1959, a University Of Nevada building was renamed the Peter Frandsen Humanities Building in his honor. He was a beloved, long time professor of biology.

"A former owner of this book, Elroy N. Nathan (1916-2007), was a teacher at Chico State University in California. He was born in Gackle, North Dakota on Easter Morning, April 23, 1916 , served in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and stationed at Fort Snelling, New Mexico. By 1945 he was a 2nd Lieutenant, transferred to the Brooklyn Army Base and served on ship duty on Army Troop Transports, crossing the Atlantic 24 times. He later served as transport commander on troop and mortuary ships between North Africa, Europe and the Brooklyn Army Base." He also
served in Korea, Alaska, the Seattle Army Base, and with NATO in La Rochelle, France. "His last military duty was transportation officer at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., where he retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1962."

Nathan later taught in the Geography Department of Chico State College and was there the Director of University Services. He was also "a life member of the Butte County Historical Society, of the California Conference of Historical Societies, and member of several Historical Preservation Societies. He passed away in his home in Chico, California on March 12, 2007, at the age of 90."


The book itself was published by A. L. Burt Company, about 1900.

Most of the time, we don't know who has owned an old book, but how special it is when we do.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bible in a Year: Overview of the Prophets

John Singer Sargent, "Frieze of the Prophets"
Amos, Nahum, Ezekiel, Daniel, Elijah, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk
from: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:sq87dv75b
This calendar year, I’m reading through the Bible and taking informal notes on the readings. Since we so often read verses and passages of the Bible without appreciating context, I’m especially focusing on the overall narrative and connections among passages.

After the Writings (Job through Song of Songs, or Job through Ecclesiasicus in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles), we have the Old Testament prophetic books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and “The Twelve”, which are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

These are not the only prophets in Israel’s history: for instance, Moses himself, Miriam, Deborah, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, and several others. Here is a general-knowledge site that lists them: https://www.gotquestions.org/prophets-in-the-Bible.html

Here (from another of my blogs) is a summary:

Sargent, "Frieze of the Prophets"
Micah, Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah.
Isaiah: The first 39 chapters contain words of judgment about the Northern Kingdom, as well as other nations, and also words of promise. Chapters 40 and following seem to be another prophet, or possibly two, writing during 500s BC, as God, acting through the Persian king, restored the people. Here we find wonderful poetry of assurance concerning God’s redemption.

Jeremiah: The prophet preaches judgment upon the Southern Kingdom, and also promises of a renewed covenant in the future. We find tremendous pathos in Jeremiah, as also reflected in the following book.

Lamentations is a short, poetic book, attributed to Jeremiah and written in sorrowful response to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions add Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah as deuterocanonical/anagignoskomena books.)

Ezekiel: A prophet (also a priest) of the time before and during the exile. Ezekiel has weird visions and prophet actions bordering on, and sometimes crossing over to, the perverse. But the book also has lofty moral theology concerning problems such as human accountability.

Sargent, "Frieze of the Prophets,"
Zephaniah, Joel, Obadiah, and Hosea
Daniel: The book focuses on events in Daniel’s life and also apocalyptic visions of God’s kingdom, the “Son of Man,” and the last days, though many of the visions deal with the time of Antiochus IV, the evil Greek ruler who persecuted Jews. during the 100s BCE. This book is included in the last section of the Jewish canon rather than among the prophets.

Hosea: A Northern Kingdom prophet of the 700s, Hosea used his own family crises to describe the unfaithfulness of Israel and, in
addition to words of judgment, the heartache and tenderness of God. (Hosea and the eleven prophets after this book are called “The Minor Prophets” because the books are short. These are considered one book in the Jewish Bible and, together, have interrelated themes, as I write about at http://changingbibles.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-twelve-minor-prophets.html)

Joel: Joel has aspects of both prophecy and apocalyptic, because he speaks of the Lord’s judgment against sin (in whatever time period he’s writing) as well as the last days. We get the wonderful prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit here (2:28-29).

Amos: A Southern prophet who spoke to the sins of the North; he speaks judgment against the kingdom of Israel: their apostasy, wealth, and oppression of the poor. His classic call for justice and righteousness is well known (5:21-24).

Obadiah:  A short little book, by a prophet about whom we know little. The Edomites were descendants of Esau who were enemies of Judah, and Obadiah’s prophecies are directed at them.

Jonah: Unlike other prophetic books, this one is a story, like a parable. The fish is not the point of the story, but rather God’s patience and forgiveness as well as Jonah’s reluctant prophetic work, which was surprisingly and highly successful.

Micah: A contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea. His two themes are doom and promise, and his statement about Bethlehem (5:2), his lovely depiction of God’s kingdom where swords will become plows (4:1-4), and his requirements of anyone who loves the Lord (6:8) are also well known.

Nahum: A counterpart to Jonah; Nahum pronounces doom upon Nineveh.

Habakkuk: An interesting book in that the prophet “dialogues” with God about the classic question: why do wrongdoers prevail? God may use an evil nation like the Chaldeans to accomplish his purposes, but they, too, will suffer the consequences.  Habakkuk 2:4 is a classic text; Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17 as a beginning of his argument about the primacy of faith.

Zephaniah: The last minor prophet prior to the exile, Zephaniah preaches judgment and wrath, but also hope for the future.

Haggai: His topic is the rebuilding of the Temple following the end of the exile. Not a lofty writer, he straightforwardly urges the Temple’s completion. Interestingly, he praises the great king by name, Zerubbabel, who eventually disappears from the record.

Zechariah: He also discusses the rebuilding of the Temple, but he writes with visions, symbols, and images of the coming messianic age.

Malachi: The last Old Testament prophet, from the 400s, who (with his interesting question-answer format) also posed Habakkuk’s question, why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?  Malachi’s innovation: his announcement that a messenger will herald the last days. From Malachi's announcement, we segue into the New Testament.

It might be good to see a biblical chronology again, to see where these writings fit into the overall text.

- Patriarchs: about 1800-1500 BCE (Genesis)
- Exodus, Wilderness, and Conquest: about 1500-1200s BCE (Exodus-Joshua). Moses: the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.
- Period of the Judges: 1200s-1000 BCE (Judges)
- The monarchy (Saul, David, Solomon): 1000-922 BCE (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 1-9)
- Divided monarchy: 922-722 BCE (1 Kings 12-17, and also Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah)
- Kingdom of Judah: 722-586 BCE (2 Kings 18-25, 2 Chronicles 10-36, and also Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, and Habakkuk)
- Exile: 586-539 BCE (Lamentations, Psalm 139, et al.)
_ Judah under Persian rule: 539-332 BCE (Ezra-Nehemiah covers about the years 539-432 BCE, while Esther is set during the reign of Xerxes I, who reigned 486-465 BCE. Also, the prophets Second Isaiah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi)
- Judah during the Hellenistic rule: 332-165 BCE (3 Maccabees, Daniel)
- The Maccabean/Hasmonean period: 165-63 BCE (1, 2, and 4 Maccabees)
Judea under Roman rule: 63 BCE-135 CE (during which time we have the life of Jesus, the first two generations of the church (30-120 CE), the writings of the New Testament (about 50-100 CE), and the beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism, after the Temple's destruction in 70 CE).

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Some wisdom from Walter Brueggemann (1):

In the Jewish Bible, the Former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings, while the Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve (with Ruth, Lamentations and Daniel placed toward the Bible’s end). The Former and Latter Prophets are placed together. Theologically they belong together, too. Walter Brueggemann points out that, in the case of the Former Prophets, the word prophet “refers to the material itself and not to specific prophetic personalities. What is prophetic is the capacity to reconstrue all of lived reality—-including the history of Israel and the power relations of the known world of the ancient Near East—-according to the equally palpable reality (in this reading) of the rule of YHWH” (p. 131).

Thus, Israel’s history is ready through “the singular unrivaled [monotheistic] reality of YHWH” (p. 131). The Christian tendency (that I’ve followed in these notes) to call the Former Prophets “history” misses not only the question of the material’s historical reliability (not always very strong: for instance, in the case of Joshua) but also its prophetic interpretation of Israel’s history (p. 131). Brueggemann continues: “In the Former Prophets, ‘history’ has been transposed into a massive theological commentary on Israel’s past. In the Latter Prophets what began as personal proclamation has been transposed into a theological conviction around YHWH’s promise for the future. both theological commentary… and theological conviction..became a normative, but at the same time quite practical, resource for a commentary living in and through the deep fissure of deportation and displacement… Seen in this way, the prophetic canon that testifies to YHWH’s governance of past, present, and future is an offer of a counterworld, counter to denial and despair, counterrooted in YHWH’s steadfast purpose for a new Jerusalem, new torah, new covenant, new temple—-all things new [and he quotes Isaiah 43:16-21]” (pp. 136-137).

He goes on to note that current scholarship tends to view the Torah and the Former Prophets as a “Primary Narrative” from Promise to Exile, of “land gift” and “land loss,” with the Jordan River functioning as a geographical as well as literary-canonical -theological marker (p. 296). Then, continuing to the Latter Prophets, that material speaks to “land loss” but now, also, to future hope (p. 298).

Furthermore, he continues, we can link prophetic traditions back to the Torah, with Ezekiel linked to the Torah’s priestly traditions, Jeremiah to the Deuteronomistic tradition, the Isaiah to the Yahwist tradition in the sense that the Abrahamic Yahwist material lead to the David-Zion traditions to which Isaiah holds. The Twelve (the minor prophets) in turn, coming from the entire period of the 700s-300s BCE, take us from judgment through exile to future promise (pp. 300-301).

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The following are notes that I first posted here. The prophets can be difficult reading, with their seemingly random collections of proclamations, oracles, stories, sermons, and sometimes, enacted prophetic signs. Layers of traditions are often challenging to discern.(2) The prophets use metaphors, allusions, and shifts of narration, which makes good commentaries essential for the modern Bible explorer.  The prophets are also difficult in their tone and themes.  The prophets express God’s anger at the Israelites, who have broken the covenant; in chapter after chapter, we find descriptions of wrongs, promises and descriptions of dreadful punishment, but also tender words and promises for the future.

One of the basic literary units of the prophets is the proclamation: God announces judgment or salvation. These proclamations are addressed to God’s people but sometimes also to neighboring nations. The proclamations in turn made use of different kinds of discourse: indictment and verdict, hymns and songs, collections of sayings, and others. Later prophets also use longer kinds of writing like sermons and narratives. The prophets also record visions, and some include descriptions of their own call.(3)

Because the prophets preached during the time of the historical books (Former Prophets), we find familiar themes in the prophets: the land and the covenant, the threatened loss of the land, the failures of the monarchy, the role of the Temple (and, in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, its loss), and others.  The prophets connect back to God’s promises in Abraham and also the exodus, and also to the promise of David and of Jerusalem as they (the prophets) preached about God’s kingship and covenant.(4)

The relationship of the prophets and the law is complex and is debated by scholars. I cited Brueggemann about some of the connections of traditions. We Christians are liable to read prophetic passages like Jeremiah 7, think of Jesus’ criticisms of the religious leaders of his time, and dismiss the law as “Jewish legalism”, a term I hate.

The prophets, however, do not deny the law but sharply warn that religious ritual must go hand in hand with justice, mercy, righteousness, and the repudiation of idols. Deuteronomy defines the role of prophets (13:1-5, 18:15-22) and upholds Moses himself as the greatest of the prophets (34:10).  Even passages that seem very “anti-law” (like Ez. 20:25, Jer. 7:21-26, and Jer. 8:8) do not abrogate the law and the covenant but call for a deeper faithfulness.(6)Within Judaism, the view has prevailed that “the primary role of the prophet was to serve as a vital link in the transmission of the law from Moses down to the present.”(5)  

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One critically important aspect of the Prophets is the concern for social justice. Here is a good site that connects the Prophet's teachings with other biblical narratives. "To speak about God and to think about theology are wonderful pursuits, but the cause of theology is justice for human beings. Loving your neighbor is a sweet sentiment, but doing right by your neighbor will change the world."
http://www.aju.edu/Media/PDF/Walking_With_Justice-The_Prophets_and_Social_Justice.pdf

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In addition to the prophets' messages of warning, grace, and justice, we also find many connections of the prophets and the New Testament.  Prophetic scriptures became crucial for understanding who Jesus is and how his coming fits within and fulfills God’s plans of salvation. A Bible explorer can spend months and years tracing and delving into the prophetic roots of the New Testament.  Here are just a few.(7)

John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3-5, Mal. 4:5-6, Mark 9:1, Luke 1:17)

Jesus’ birth (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-5, Mic. 5:2, Matt. 2:6, Luke 1:30-33.

Jesus’ authority and teaching (Isa. 6:9-12, 9:1-2, Matt. 4:14-16, 13:14-15)

Jesus the shepherd (Ez. 34:11-16, John 10:7-11)

Jesus’ ministry (Isa. 32:3-4, 35:5-6, 33:22, 42:1-4, 61:1-2, Matt. 9:32-35, 12:17-21, Luke 4:17-21)

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9, Matt. 21:4-5)

Jesus’ sufferings, betrayal, and death (Isa. 52:13-53:12, Zech. 11:12-13, 12:10, 13:7, in addition to Ps. 22, 69, and others)

Jesus’ resurrection (Ez. 37:1-14, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:40, and among the psalms Ps. 16:10 and Ps. 110:1)

The New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34, Matt. 26:26-29, Rom. 11:26-36, Heb. 8:8-12)

The Temple in relationship to Jesus (Isa. 56:7, Jer. 7:1, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-23, Acts 7:47-51)

“The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

The Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:16-21)

The redemption of all nations (Isa. 2:1-4, 1 Peter 2:10)

Related to the redemption of the nations: the metaphor of marriage between God and his people (e.g., Hos. 1-3, Rom. 9:25-26, 1 Pet. 2:10, Eph. 5:25, 32, Rev. 19:7, 21:2, 9)(8)

The end times (Daniel 7:1-12:13, much of the book of Zechariah, Ez. 38-39). In fact, in a previous chapter I noted several Old Testament references in Revelation and noted that no other New Testament book quotes or alludes to the Old Testament as often.

The issue of the covenant becomes a key for Paul as he preaches about Jesus and the law. For Jews today, the prophetic criticism of faithlessness remains a call for contemporary faithfulness, as I said above; the prophet’s stress upon justice and suitable worship are as timely a Word of God today as in the ancient world. Paul understands faithless as a more basic flaw in both human nature and the law; we cannot keep the law faithfully, and thus we need Christ (Rom. 3:21-26). A passage such as Jeremiah 7:21-26 points to the need for new beginnings (Jer. 31:31-34).

The prophet’s concerns for the poor and for justice are not as apparently strong in the New Testament but are certainly there. In both the Torah and the prophets, God is a God of justice. (The Greek word dikaiosunê, corresponding to tzedakah, means “righteousness” and “justice.”) God takes the side of the poor, downtrodden, and powerless. Luke’s gospel and Matthew 25:31-46 very much echo God’s care for the needy.  You could also think this way: in the Old Testament, God demands justice for the poor, outcast, and powerless. In the New Testament, God also takes the side of those who are spiritually impoverished, the Gentiles, bringing them into the circle of blessing.

Although Christians are quick to stress that Jesus is “more than a prophet,” he was frequently understood to be a prophet--in fact, the hoped-for prophet referred to by Moses (Matt. 21:11, Mark 6:15, 8:28, Luke 7:16, 24:19, John 4:19, 6:14, et al.). Jesus possessed the Spirit in a way that people considered prophetic (Matt. 12:28, Mark 3:28-29, Luke 4:18-20, et al).

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Notes:

1  Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination  (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003). 

2  James L. Mays, general editor, Harper’s Bible Commentary (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 534-539.

3  Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992),, 178.

4  Childs, Biblical Theology, 177

5  Harper’s Bible Commentary, 540. The Haftarah Commentary (see my next post) has an essay on Micah 5:6-6:8: “In the concluding verse [6:8] Micah defines the essence of religion: God requires not sacrifice but righteous living. Does Micah thereby suggest that sacrifice (and, by implication, all ritual) was unnecessary, and that the real essence of Judaism was expressed by justice toward others, by loving and caring relationships, and by suitable modesty? The answer is ‘no,’ just as it is for the other prophets who inveighed against mere external observance. It istin the nature of oratory and moral harangue to employ extremes of speech in order to make essential points. Micah does not advocate the abolition of the Temple worship; rather, he censures external observance by persons who  lack devotion to social and ethical principles. Judaism has always been an integrated system of form and substance of ritual and spirituality, for neither is viable without the other.” (p. 393).

         The writer continues by citing the famous passage of the Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a, where Rabbi Simla’i taught that the Torah contains 613 mitzvoth, 248 positive and 365 negative. Then, Psalm 15 condenses them to 11, and Isaiah 33:15-17 to 6, Micah to 3, and Habakkuk 2:4 to just 1. Some of the sages insisted that the commandments should be kept, but nevertheless the commandments can be distilled to a few principles. The writer concludes: “Basing ourselves on the verse in Micah, we would say: Observe as much as you can, and do it in the spirit of the threefold objective of justice, mercy, and modesty. It is not one or the other, but rather both: one in the spirit of the other” (p. 393). 

6  Harper’s Bible Commentary, 540.

7  One handy list of biblical messianic prophecies is found at http://www.scripturecatholic.com/messianic_prophecies.html

8. Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 172-173.



Landscape: Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, "Factories at Asnieres Seen from the Quai de Clichy" (1887). The Saint Louis Art Museum. From: http://www.vangoghgallery.com/catalog/Painting/119/Factories-at-Asnieres-Seen-from-the-Quai-de-Clichy.html Copied under fair use principles.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Visit to Rome (II): Vatican City

Beth and I visited Rome in June. These are our photos of Vatican City, including St. Peter's, the grounds, and some of the museums. We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the Sistine Chapel but we did enjoy--and felt awestruck by---that place.