Wow. It's been a long time.

I see that my last blog post was September 17, 2012, over FOUR MONTHS AGO.  I've been a bad, bad blogger.  For a little while, a long time ago, I was really rolling.  What went wrong?

Anyway, I don't know if anyone is still reading this blog, but I am hoping that I can get back into it.  I think I still have ideas to share, observations to make, etc.

What has happened since my last post?  Barack Obama was reelected, and sworn in for his second term as POTUS.  (I'm really not mentioning that as any sort of political statement; I'm just trying to remember big events as well as I can.)  December 20, 2012, came and went, without any pesky apocalypse, Mayan or otherwise.  My older daughter celebrated her 100th day of kindergarten...awesome!  I'm sure all kinds of other stuff happened, but I don't remember anything huge and earthshaking.

I'm on my fourth Kindle ereader now.  What with one of them getting stepped on, and a replacement Kindle having battery problems, my current device is the fourth one I've owned.  I'm hoping this one will last for a little while longer, because it's kind of a pain re-downloading the books from my Archives.  What have I been reading on my Kindle?  For the past several months, mostly George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I'm taking a little break from that at the moment, as it gets to be a bit much.  I reread Tom Robbins's Still Life With Woodpecker, and enjoyed it almost as much as the first time I read it back in the early 1990s.

For the past week or so, I've been on a bit of a Mormon kick.  Wait, before you think that I've lost my mind and converted, let me explain!  I've long been a bit of a "Mormonophile"; I find the Book of Mormon and LDS culture to be fascinating.  Having read some pretty large chunks of the B of M, though, I can confidently say that I'm not convinced in any way that Joseph Smith was inspired or anything.  In fact, I think he was a con man, albeit a rather brilliant one.  That being said, I have much more respect for Mormons, somehow, than I do for followers of other famous con men (Scientologists, I'm looking in your direction).  They are hard-working, sincerely devout people, at least the ones I've met personally.  And whereas I believe that the LDS movement may have started out as a cult movement, I disagree strongly with those who would call them a cult today.  I would probably label them as a heterodox Christian sect, much like Jehovah's Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals, and probably quite a few other non-denominational Christian churches.  'Nuff said about Mormons for now, I think...

Hmmm, what else?  I think that's enough for the time being.  As I said above, I shall try to be a bit more regular in my blogging from here on out.  Thanks for reading.

Posted via email from CORYBANTER: babble and banter, bypassing banality


Does time just keep going faster?

I was looking at some of my past posts on this blog (which have been few and far between these days), and I can't help but marvel at how quickly the time has gone since Su was just a little older than Lucy is now. She seemed like such a big girl back then, and now I look at the old pics and think, "How tiny she was!"  Meanwhile, Lucy is on the brink of walking, her vocalizing continues to get more complex (lots of "dada" and "mama" these days), and I know in another few years, I'll be thinking how tiny she was, and as always, wondering where the time has gone.

I know people used to say, "Enjoy your kids now...they grow up so fast."  (They still do say it from time to time, I guess.)  I think I used to assume they were exaggerating about how fast time went.  But it really does.  I'm not sure exactly where the past six years or so have gone. I can barely keep track of what year it is any more.  I'm sure I will reflect on this over and over again on this blog.  Looking back, I see that the vast majority of posts have been of the "wow, my girls have grown" variety, and I'm sure that will continue to be the case.

Meanwhile, here's another pic of me and my girls that I can look back on in a few years, and say again, "Were they ever really that small?!?"

Posted via email from Daddy's Little Girls


I've been remiss, I know...

It turns out, having two children is not simply twice the work; it's more like 4 or 5 times the work!  With Su in school, and Lucy on the verge of walking, it seems like things are always moving.  Su just lost her first tooth, and Lucy just got her first tooth.  My last post on this blog was 6 months ago, and both of my girls are growing faster than ever.  I can barely keep up, even when I'm not blogging.  There just aren't enough hours in the day!

Anyway, I'll try to be a little more conscientious (and hopefully more prolific) in blogging about some of the things my girls do as they grow.  Meanwhile, here is a picture of Su with a new gap in her mouth...

Oh, and just as I was downloading the pic above, Su was looking over my shoulder and reading phrases like "Su in school" and "Create a post."  Her reading ability is accelerating at quite a pace!

Posted via email from Daddy's Little Girls


October 2012 CBA Bible Bestsellers

Once again, I'm checking in on the Bible Bestsellers list compiled by the Christian Booksellers' Association.  I notice with interest that the CEB is gaining more ground these days, unseating the HCSB from the #6 spot it used to occupy.  (I haven't checked in on the list for several months, so this may not be a new development.)  Here is the list...

Bible_Translations.pdf Download this file
Meanwhile, the NIV and the good ol' KJV continue to rule the roost, as they usually do.  I've always wonder why the NKJV is always so high on the list; I suspect it's based mostly on ignorance of the options available.  People want the traditionalism of the KJV, but are afraid of the "thees and thous," so they go with something that is more or less familiar.

Posted via email from Bible Bookshelf


Book Review: The End by Mark Hitchcock

[I received a free copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network, in exchange for posting this review on my blog and on Amazon.com.  See http://www.tyndaleblognetwork.com/ for more information.]

First, the good news: Hitchcock is considerably more organized in the layout of his End Times book than, say, Hal Lindsey (who curiously does not get a single nod in this book).  The bad news: this is the same old End Times nonsense you've read again and again from the likes of Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and a host of other prophecy "experts."  Our loving God is (any day now) going to show his love for humanity by wiping out all life on Earth in a catastrophic battle royale.  And, although Mark Hitchcock is less likely than most of the End Times writers to set any sort of date, he strongly hints that we could be living very close to the Rapture right now.  If you believe all that crap, then you will love this book.  If you don't, you might as well not even bother.  One other down side I should mention is that this book is considerably longer than most of Hal Lindsey's End Times books.  It may even be a bit longer than most of LaHaye's eschatological works.  

What really gets me about Hitchcock (and all of his ilk) is how he never realizes the absurdity of some of his statements.  He repeats again and again that Biblical prophets had 100% accuracy, but then proceeds to tell the reader that this book will focus on the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible.  My question, which I think is a natural one, is: how do we know that the prophets are 100% accurate, if hundreds of their prophecies have not been fulfilled?  (I know, I know...most readers of this stuff will say that we believe that they will all be fulfilled because the Bible is perfect in every way.  Whatever.)  Hitchcock also does what almost all prophecy writers do: he presents the rule that prophecies should be read literally, and then proceeds to present all kinds of figurative interpretations of prophecy.  He cautions the reader that date setting is wrong, but constantly refers to all kinds of signs of the times that we can see every day that indicate the end could be near.  Right at the beginning (p. 4) he presents the "Law of Proportion," which states that you can tell how important something in the Bible is by how many times it's mentioned.  Therefore, since prophecies make up nearly a third of the text of scripture, it must be just about the most important thing in the Bible, right?  But then he fails to apply that same principle to the title "antichrist," which he admits only occurs five times in the Bible, and only once as a reference to a single person.  Contradiction after contradiction after contradiction...

But, as I said above, if you love End Times stuff, this is going to be the book for you.  It's organized, comprehensive, and he's got the same chatty, popular style that previous authors like Lindsey and LaHaye have made so famous.  So, by all means, enjoy the ride, and have fun being raptured and watching all the unbelievers suffer down on Earth.

Posted via email from CORYBANTER: babble and banter, bypassing banality


Updated Bible Bookshelf spreadsheet

I've run out of shelf space, that's all there is to it.  You should see the piles of books all over the office, all over the house!  So I decided it was time to get rid of a few Bibles (duplicates, versions I don't use, etc.).  So this is my updated spreadsheet of my personal Bible collection.  It still comes to well over 200 books, so I've still got a bit of a storage problem.  Oh well...

Bible_Bookshelf_-_Sheet1.pdf Download this file

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Book Review: The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield

I received a free copy of Stephen Mansfield's book The Mormonizing of America from the publisher of the book, Worthy Publishing, in return for posting this review on my blog and on Amazon.com.

I was interested in reading and reviewing Mansfield's book because I have long been interested in Mormonism, its history and its impact on society.  I have several copies of the Book of Mormon in my collection, as well as several publications by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have talked to missionaries on my front doorstep, and although I was unimpressed by their theology, I was impressed by their sincerity and their kind nature.  So the opportunity to read and review a book that handled Mormonism in a fair and balanced way was one that I jumped at.  This book did not disappoint.  

Mansfield makes it quite clear from the beginning that he admires Mormons for many of their qualities, but he makes it equally clear that he finds large parts of their history suspect.  He covers the founding of the LDS Church in the early part of the 19th century, and presents many of the facts surrounding Joseph Smith's background in treasure hunting, divining and dowsing.  He gives a brief overview of how Mormonism progressed from a reviled and persecuted sect, to the respectable, all-American image they possess today.  

As I have done my fair share of reading about the Mormons, from viewpoints that have been positive, negative and neutral, there wasn't actually a whole lot in Mansfield's book that surprised me.  However, I think the strength of the book lies in the balanced way in which the author approaches his subject.  While he freely admits that many of the LDS Church's positions and acts over their history have been controversial, he prefers to view the sect as what they are today.  In general, Mormonism today tends to be a very positive force in its adherents' lives.  Is there cause for alarm that so many Mormons seem to be in positions of power in America?  Perhaps.  But the "Mormon moment" is happening, whether we (or the LDS church) like it or not.

If readers are hoping to get any "dirt" on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (who is a devout Mormon), they will be sorely disappointed. Romney is certainly mentioned a couple times, as are Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, and Orrin Hatch.  And who could write a book about Mormon culture without mentioning Donny and Marie Osmond?  But The Mormonizing of America is not the kind of book that is interested in "dishing the dirt."  I can't help thinking that Romney's candidacy will greatly affect the popularity of Mansfield's book, and if Romney were to somehow be elected president, then I imagine the book would do very well indeed.  Meanwhile, if a reader is interested in learning about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by reading a book that is neither an apologetic for Mormonism nor a campaign to smear the Latter-day Saints, this book is a good place to begin.

Posted via email from CORYBANTER: babble and banter, bypassing banality


Book Review: The Voice Bible

(This is take #2 on this post, as our power went out when I was right in the middle of typing it!  Grrr.)

I've been meaning to do this review for quite some time now, but I wanted to "get comfortable" with The Voice Bible for a little while before I reviewed it.  This would be a good time to mention that I received my free electronic copy of The Voice Bible from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze blogger program.  Check 'em out...it's a good way to get some free books in exchange for writing a relatively brief review online.

I've done a few reviews of The Voice New Testament on this blog a little while back; you can read my thoughts here and here and here.  Many (perhaps most) of my initial impressions still stand, but I would like to consider the Old Testament in this review, as I have reviewed the New Testament pretty thoroughly on older posts.

The main problem I have with The Voice is not really a problem with the book itself; rather, my difficulty is with the way in which the book is marketed.  If you look at the book's official website, you will find the term "translation" all over the place.  But is The Voice really a translation?  I think not; I see it as more of a "creative engagement" with the text of Scripture.  As such, it can be a marvelous tool for unpacking Scripture, for digging into some of the possible meanings of Scripture, but it should probably be used in conjunction with a "real" translation.  A few examples will demonstrate what I mean.

Let's begin at the beginning, with the first few verses of Genesis:

In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here's what happened: At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God's spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters.  Then there was the voice of God. [italics in original]

This is not too bad--pretty traditional, in fact.  But, right away, we see how the writers insist on adding whole phrases, not necessarily to clarify, but to set the scene in a creative way.  "Then there was the voice of God" almost seems like "product placement."  They have to include the title of the book in that first verse.  I realize the good ol' King James Bible added italicized words into the text as well, but generally, the italicized words in the KJV simply make the grammar readable, rather than trying to "enhance" the text.  

Let's take a look at a poetic text, from the Psalms.  This is Psalm 8:3-4...

When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation--on the moon, stars, and all You have made, I can't help but wonder why You care about mortals--sons and daughters of men--specks of dust floating about the cosmos. [italics in original]

This is quite beautiful, but is the extra poetic enhancement really part of a translation?  "Specks of dust floating about the cosmos" is a whole line of poetry added to the text, as a sort of meditation on the meaning of human life in a huge universe.  The line conjures up images of the Hubble telescope, images that are most likely quite foreign to the worldview of the psalmist.  Once again, the added material goes well beyond clarification, into the realm of poetic expansion.

I would like to present a more extended passage from Job, to examine what I find to be one of the more interesting features of The Voice's page layout.  This is Job 1:9-12.

The Accuser: I won't argue with You that he is pious, but is all of this believing in You and honoring You for no reason?  Haven't You encircled him with Your very own protection, and not only him but his entire household and all that he has?  Not only this, but Your blessing accompanies whatever his hand touches, and see how his possessions have grown.  It is easy to be so pious in the face of such prosperity.  So now extend Your hand!  Destroy all of these possessions of his, and he will certainly curse You, right to Your face.

Eternal One:  I delegate this task to you.  His possessions are now in your hand. One thing, though: you are not to lay a finger on the man himself. Job must not be touched. [italics and boldface in original]

I won't belabor the point about the material in italics, altough my earlier comments apply to some of the added lines in this passage as well.  I do like the easy-to-read layout of the "script" format, although I don't know if it would work all that well when reading the text out loud (unless you wanted to act it out).  I also find it interesting how the writers use the capitalized "You" when addressing God. That very old-fashioned convention is rarely used in modernn translations, except for the NKJV (and perhaps the NASB).  I'm not sure what the reasoning behind that traditional touch is.

I have been surprised by the kerfuffle on some of the more conservative reviews of The Voice I have read, that so many people have problems with the writers' use of titles for God and Jesus: the Eternal One, the Anointed One, and the Liberating King, for example.  "The Eternal One" is a pretty decent way of engaging with God's proper name.  "Anointed One" is a very accurate rendering of Christos.  "Liberating King" is a bit too interpretive for my taste, but I find it significant that the writers are trying hard to get away from the word Christ as Jesus' last name.

Overall, I find The Voice Bible to be a very engaging and creative way of interacting with Scripture.  I simply feel that it should be used in conjunction with a more "standard" translation (for lack of a better term).  It can be a great tool for unpacking the text, but it shouldn't be seen as a translation as such.

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Taking a break from blogging

I haven't really been  very active with my blogging for the past few months.  Thing is, I'm just too busy at the moment: having two kids is way more time consuming than having one.  There's a lot to do, and I simply don't have time.  Eventually, I hope to return to the blogosphere, but it may be a little while before it's convenient to do so.  Lord knows, I'm already wasting enough time on the internet...

Posted via email from CORYBANTER: babble and banter, bypassing banality


The C-word

No, this post is not about what you may be thinking.  The word I had in mind was...CHURCH.  This word, which has been in the English language for a very long time, has also had times of unpopularity among people who consider themselves followers of Christ. I've been involved lately in a discussion on Facebook about what the Greek word εκκλεσια (ekklesia) meant in its New Testament context: was it another word for "synagogue," or did it refer specifically to a group of people?  And where did this English word "church" come from?

Well, it turns out that εκκλεσια has a rather complex history.  In the Septuagint, it was often used interchangeably with συναγογη (synagoge) to translate the Hebrew word qahal, which is often translated "assembly."  In the New Testament, εκκλεσια seems to be used mainly to describe the group of people who recognized Jesus as Messiah, whereas συναγογη seems to describe the place where Jews gathered for prayer and Scripture study.  And how about the word "church"?  It was derived from a Greek phrase κυριακον δομα (kyriakon doma), which meant "the Lord's house."  So we're back to a word that describes the building instead of the people.  Where it gets confusing is that the English word "church" is used in the vast majority of English translations to translate εκκλεσια.  You can see how the whole thing got a bit confusing.

During the Protestant Reformation, reaction against the institutional Church (with a capital C) caused many of the reformers to use words that emphasized the congregational aspect of εκκλεσια.  Luther's Bible uses "Gemeinde" (congregation), rather than "Kirche" (church).  And the original printing of the Geneva Bible, favored by the Puritans, used "congregation" instead of "church," as Tyndale had done before that.

Which brings me to today.  Here in Nashville, it's been said that you can't throw a rock without hitting a church.  Indeed, we have lots of churches in Nashville.  Most of them have the word "church" somewhere in their names: Charlotte Pike Church of Christ, St. Ann's Catholic Church, St. John's United Methodist Church, Christ Church Cathedral, etc.  But I have noticed several congregations that have signs that read something like: Abundant Harvest Worship Center, or Bethel World Outreach Center, or Oak Hill Assembly.  My favorite is the sign outside of Westminster Presbyterian Church that reads: "Westminster Presbyterian Church Gathers Here."  That is a neat way of emphasizing that the church itself is not the building, but the people who meet there.  There is certainly a lot of baggage attached to the word "church," and it's no wonder that some churches (or congregations, or assemblies) are attempting to shed some of that baggage.

Should we drop the word "church," especially in our Bible translations?  Or should we do a better job of teaching people what the word actually means?  Can we reclaim the word, so it isn't considered a negative word?  Possibly a worthy goal.

Posted via email from CORYBANTER: babble and banter, bypassing banality