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.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday quote

It is often the case that when someone says, “Thank God!” they actually mean, “Finally, I’m getting what I deserve.” So instead of humble thankfulness, this phrase indicates bitter entitlement.

Scott Jamieson.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Monday quote

If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.

Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday quote

You don't avoid tyranny by putting a king with no bloodlust on the throne. You avoid it by removing the throne's ability to extract blood.

Hans Fiene

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday quote

The social order always involves trade-offs. Every strategy has pros and cons. For this reason, we can always find some particular problem which remains in, or is exacerbated by, or is even created through any social, economic, or political policy. Thus, driven by my own pet concerns, I am perfectly capable of condemning as a failure (and even as an immoral failure) a system which is wildly successful except for the one thing that concerns me.

Jeff Mirus.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Authors of the New Testament

A significant amount of the New Testament was written by Luke and Paul. This is what I think the best evidence points to concerning authorship, and approximate date.

Author Book Date Comments
The apostle Matthew, also called Levi Matthew 42
(John) Mark, assistant to Barnabas, Paul and Peter Mark 45 Possibly at the behest of Peter
Luke the physician, associate of Paul. Luke 55

Acts 62

Hebrews 67 Possibly the author of Hebrews. If so, likely the scribe. Co-authored, possibly with Paul.
The apostle John John


1 John


2 John


3 John


Revelation
From Patmos
The apostle Peter 1 Peter


2 Peter 64 Jude possibly the amanuensis
The apostle Paul Romans 57 Tertius amanuensis

1 Corinthians 55

2 Corinthians 56

Galatians 48

Ephesians 60

Philippians 60

Colossians 60

1 Thessalonians 50

2 Thessalonians 50

Philemon 60

1 Timothy 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

Titus 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

2 Timothy 60 Luke possibly the amanuensis
James, the brother of Jesus James 44
Jude, the brother of Jesus Jude 64

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday quote

The merit of any dissent is dependent upon what the dissenter is dissenting from—and why.

Jonah Goldberg, (1969–), The Tyranny of Cliches.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday quote

What if I have been a good girl all my life? That doesn’t make me better than anyone else but I am pretty sure it doesn’t make me worse either.

Amy Spiegel

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