Monday, 17 November 2014

Monday quote

Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that a government that doesn’t “Kiss the Son” isn’t supposed to work.

Mark L. Ward.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Freeze fracking

Despite the benefits of cheap fuel from fracking, it requires a lot of water and the waste water subsequently needs to be treated. Research is looking into using liquid nitrogen which is available on site and does not need treatment or disposal after use.
Researchers at the Colorado School of Mines claim they have developed a method to unlock hydrocarbons trapped in shale with using any water at all. They are seeking to perfect Cryogenic fracturing, which replaces water with searing cold liquid nitrogen (or carbon dioxide). Used at temperatures below minus 321 Fahrenheit, it is pumped underground at high pressure. Once it comes into contact with the heated, pressurized shale, a reaction occurs which caused the shale to crack open and creates fissures through which the hydrocarbons can gush out.
Nitrogen liquefies at –196 °C.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Monday quote

Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations.

Mark Noll (1946–), The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Monday quote

It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

GK Chesterton, The Secret of Father Brown.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Monday quote

Moral rules that have no ground or justification need not be obeyed. An illustration is helpful here. One evening in the middle of a Scrabble game, you notice the phrase "do not go" formed in the random spray of letter tiles on the table. Is this a command that ought to be obeyed? Of course not. It's not a command at all, just a random collection of letters.

Commands are communications between two minds. Chance might conceivably create the appearance of a moral rule, but there can be no command if no one is speaking. Since this phrase is accidental, it can safely be ignored.

Greg Koukl

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Abiathar or Ahimelech

In Matthew we read how Jesus responded to Pharisees about his disciples eating grain.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)
Luke tells us this story though leaves out the comment about the priests profaning the Sabbath.
And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” (Luke 6:3-5)
Mark is similar to Luke but includes a comment concerning Abiathar.
And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)
Jesus is referring to a passage in Samuel when David is on the run from Saul.
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)
This raises the question as to what Jesus means by the time of Abiathar, especially given that the priest mentioned in Samuel was Ahimelech.

In 1950 John Wenham wrote in the Journal of Theological Studies (doi:10.1093/jts/I.2.156-a)
έπι Άβιαθαρ άρχιερεως is usually translated, ‘When Abiathar was high priest’—historically an error. A number of early authorities, e.g. D, W, a, b, e, Sin. Syr. (representing three of the four pre-Byzantine families) and Matthew (12:4) and Luke (6:4), evidently recognize this and omit the phrase. The problem is how to account for the retention of the phrase for so long in the oral tradition when the error was so readily recognized, as the evidence above shows. Might not Mark 12:26 supply the answer? έπι του βατου means ‘at the passage of Scripture concerning (or, entitled) the Bush’. (So also Luke 20:37.) May not έπι Άβιαθαρ άρχιερεως mean ‘at the passage of Scripture concerning (or, entitled) Abiathar the High Priest’, for the passage referred to comes in the chapter (1 Sam. 21) which immediately precedes that recording the first exploits of Abiathar?
What Wenham is saying is that the phrase έπι του βατου appears in Mark
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, at the bush [έπι του βατου], how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” (Mark 12:24-27)
And that this is translated
have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush
Similarly in the parallel passage in Luke
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, at the bush [i.e. the passage of the bush], where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)
If this unusual Greek construction is recognised to refer to a passage or section of Scripture in Mark 12 and Luke 20 when Jesus is referring to the passage in Exodus concerning the burning bush, then the same construction in Mark 2 may indicate a reference to the passage in Samuel that discusses Abiathar. It is referring to a named section of Scripture, it is not referring to the person David was talking to. It seems possible that in the time of Jesus (and earlier) Scripture was referred to (at times) by smaller units than books. Our modern system of chapters and verses was not in effect until centuries after the New Testament was completed.

Thus Mark would translate like this,
And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God—in the passage of Abiathar the high priest—and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Salvation: An Allegory

There once was a king over a large country. An illegitimate slave laid claim to the kingdom and attempted to rule over it. The pretender to the throne deceived many into thinking his claim was legitimate and many followed him.

One day the king made a pronouncement that every man who believed he was the true king was to come to on a certain day to his castle garden. He was to pledge allegiance to the king then his son would give each man a crown and make him a ruler over a district in the kingdom. The invitation was to all and thereafter each man would live under the king's laws and reject the false king.

The king is God, the pledge is faith, and the governorship is salvation.

Let us assume Calvinism. The Calvinist would claim that the king would stir the hearts of every man that the king intended to become a ruler. The desire of these men to receive the crown would ensure that they would come to the garden on the specified day. They would pledge allegiance and the prince would bestow on them a crown. They would not fail to attend nor to pledge because of the desire of their hearts which the king had placed there.

Now let us assume Arminianism. The king would stir the hearts of every man but not all of them would choose to come. Those who came on the wrong day or to the king's gate may be denied entry. Those who came to the garden at the right time because they believed the king was the true king but did not wish to abide by his laws and refused to pledge allegiance are not given a crown. But those who come at the kings request and pledge allegiance are given crowns and a district to rule.

Now Calvinists may claim their interpretation is correct. Arminians claim that theirs is. If we assume the Calvinists are correct the crown is given by the king through the prince and no citizen can rule without the king granting them authority. But if we assume the Arminians are correct it remains the case that no citizen can rule without the king's authority. We can argue whether or not the desire is irresistible but bestowing the crown remains the prince's prerogative and the citizen cannot gain a governorship without it being given to him by the prince.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday quote

Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The benefits of rural roading

Some months back I wrote about how roading encourages economic development. This month National Geographic has a story on the benefits of rural roads that the author noted in Vietnam back in 1968.
While agricultural extension agents urged farmers in my district to plant the new IR8 rice, engineers were upgrading the rutted, largely impassable farm-to-market road that linked the eight villages. They finished the road through half of the villages.

Everywhere the new road went, farmers began using the new rice with amazing, almost overnight, results.

Farmers could now harvest two crops of IR8 rice per year. Each new crop produced a higher yield than the six-month floating varieties that had been planted for hundreds of years and had provided barely enough grain for subsistence. For the first time, smallholder farmers had a surplus crop and surplus income.

Families could now invest in metal sheeting to improve the roofs on their homes and purchase better clothing and more nutritious food for their children. The children stayed in school longer, thanks to the little "taxis" that carried them from hamlet to hamlet over the new road. Child mortality dropped, as mothers with sick children could get them medical attention early enough for effective intervention.

The most amazing change, however, was the impact that the new upgraded road had on security. Villages once beset by insurgents and underground guerrillas now became safe to travel both day and night. As the new road opened the way for commerce, information, and opportunities, young people no longer were enticed to join political military movements and uprisings.

Where the upgraded road ended, however, so did the planting of IR8. Life in the four villages without the improved road remained mired in poverty and malnutrition, unchanged from decades earlier. Houses were ramshackle, and children were thin, poorly dressed, and not in school. Security remained a constant and even worsening problem.
So the roads helped
  1. Increase income
  2. Improve housing
  3. Clothe children
  4. Feed children
  5. Educate children
  6. Medicate children
  7. Increase security
Seems like infrastructure development is more useful than handing aid money to despots to distribute.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Monday quote

That we ought not believe anything which has been shown to be false does not mean that we ought to believe only what has been demonstrated to be true.

F.A. Hayek

Sunday, 12 October 2014

When did John's ministry begin

Jesus' ministry commenced shortly after John's ministry. The dating of John's ministry is given by Luke.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2)
We have several persons occupying various offices mentioned here that can specify this date: Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. They ruled as follows.

NameOfficeRegionBeginEnd
Tiberius CaesarEmperorRome(12 or) 14 AD 37 AD
Pontius PilateGovernor Judea 26 AD36 AD
Herod Tetrarch Galilee 1 BC37 AD
Philip TetrarchIturaea and Trachonitis1 BC34 AD
Lysanias TetrarchAbilene
37 AD
Caiaphas High priestIsrael 18 AD36 AD

Annas was deposed as high priest in 15 AD but continued to have some influence.

The dates above confine the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry to between 26 and 34 AD. Tiberius became the emperor in 14 AD. He may have been co-emperor with Augustus from 12 AD. Depending on whether his reign is considered as starting from 12 or 14 AD and depending on whether Luke was using ascension or non-ascension reckoning, John the Baptist's ministry began between 26 and 29 AD.

If Jesus started his ministry when he was about 30 (or about to turn 30) and he was born between 3 and 1 BC then the dates narrow to 27 to 29 AD.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Monday quote

By no means was the West without sin. But so many of the sins uniquely attributed to the West—slavery, imperialism, racism—are universal sins of humanity.

Jonah Goldberg, The Tyranny of Cliches.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday quote

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Genesis: poetry or prose?

Some weeks back I mentioned a comment that Michael Gungor made in an interview,
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd. Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
So because he is a songwriter and therefore writes poems to music, he claims this authority for recognising poems including in other languages and culture. The problem is that other poets as well as authorities on Hebrew literature disagree with him.

Hebrew poetry is predominantly marked by parallelism: both synonymous and antithetic parallelism. Phrases are repeated or contrasted for emphasis. A synonymous parallelism from Proverbs 9
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,/
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
An antithetical one from Proverbs 20
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;/
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
A more complex parallelism from Psalm 1 using both forms
Blessed is the man/
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,/
nor stands in the way of sinners,/
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;/
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,/
and on his law he meditates day and night.
A second feature is acrostics used in some poems such as Psalms 34, 111, 112, and Lamentations.

A third feature is the predominance of certain verb forms. Stephen Boyd notes that there are 4 finite verbs forms in Hebrew and that narrative uses the preterite verb form as its predominant finite verb form. Classifying narrative and poetry by other features in non-disputed texts shows that on average narrative uses the preterite form for ~50% (range ~20%–80%) of its finite verbs and poetry uses the preterite ~4% (range ~0%–20%).

It is worth mentioning that chiasm is a feature of Hebrew writing. It is an overarching structure somewhat resembling parallelism and is used frequently in narrative.

Genesis as a whole is hardly a poem though it contains poetry. Perhaps Gungor was implying the early chapters of Genesis were poetry (given the context of the interview)? No English translation lays out the whole of Genesis 1–3 as poetry. The New International Version does structure Genesis 1 in list format but it does not use its list format for poetry; rather for inventory in narrative. Other translations use a narrative layout.

Genesis 1–3 does not consist of parallelism thru-out, though it contains short parallelisms in the poetical passages included within, such as
So God created man in his own image,/
in the image of God he created him;/
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1–3 does not use acrostic.

And Genesis 1 uses the preterite form for 66% of its finite verbs.

Lastly, the unstated implication seems to be that poetical statements are not true, or at least that poetry is symbolic or metaphorical and not literal. Even though metaphor is frequently a feature of poetry, poetry can be literal and metaphor can be a feature of prose. The song of Miriam in Exodus 15 relates the delivery of the Israelites from the Egyptians and recounts the earlier narrative; it is supposed to be understood relatively literally. Jotham's fable of the trees in Judges 9 is narrative yet it is supposed to be understood figuratively. The context of the passage and not just the style of writing is important for interpretation.

Genesis 1–3 is historical narrative and is not poetry.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday quote

The fact that the Pharisees did not believe in the face of miraculous evidence does not mean that miracles have no authenticating value. It simply means that there are some people whose hearts are so hardened that no matter what kind of evidence they encounter, they will not believe.

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit.

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