Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 4:16 AM
Marin Cogan thinks that photobombs give us an insight into the culture of Washington. “Photobomb” is “a catch-all term for the act of appearing in a photo intended to capture someone likely much more important than you.” Photobombs can be funny, embarrassing, even slightly scandalous. If you’re caught in a picture with the right person, a photobomb can be a point of pride, a status symbol.
They reflect the basic premises of Washington culture: “1) We are the heart of an obsessive, up-to-the-nanosecond news culture; and 2) that culture is dominated mostly by a generation of iPhone addicted narcissists, accustomed to self-documenting and publishing every photo and banal thought to the Internet. It’s easy to understand why the Washington photobomb is both a source of pride and embarrassment. On the Hill, where photos are likely to be taken in the midst of a frenzy of reporters and staff chasing a fleeing lawmaker, there is a very high likeliness that you will be caught looking like an asshole.”
If there’s anything that is more narcissistic than DC photobombs, surely it’s an article subjecting DC photobombing to analysis.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 3:53 AM
Reviewing some new books about Samuel Johnson, Kate Chisolm notes Johnson’s conclusion concerning the impossibility of lexicography:
“in the preface to his great Dictionary of 1755, in which he confesses that he set out to codify the language only to realize before he was even halfway through that no such thing is possible. Instead of giving up, Johnson persisted, even while recognizing the futility of his ambition, and understanding too well that ‘one enquiry only gave occasion to another, that book referred to book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to pursue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chase the sun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them.’” ”Words,” Johnson wrote, “are hourly shifting their relations, and can no more be ascertained in a dictionary, than a grove, in the agitation of a storm, can be accurately delineated from its picture in the water.”
Had he spoken French, the man who kicked the rock in refutation of Berkeley might well have spouted Francophone nonsense like “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.”
Monday, May 6, 2013, 6:23 AM
One of my students, Donny McNair, offers some fascinating thoughts on the raven and dove released by Noah from the ark. He connects the pair of birds to other pairs in the Bible – Cain and Abel, Elijah and Jonah, John and Jesus.
The last two associations work particularly well. Elijah was fed by ravens, and Jonah’s name means “dove.” Both prophets are associated with “floods” that engulf the northern kingdom of Israel. Elijah announces the doom on the house of Ahab, and by preaching to Nineveh, Jonah ensures Assyria’s survival and later conquest of Israel. John is a new Elijah, a new “raven” prophet, and Jesus is anointed by the dove of the Spirit to become a prophet like Jonah. Both John and Jesus warn of coming floods, and Jesus predicts the coming of a new creation following the flood, the kingdom of God that follows the destructive end of Jerusalem and of this age.
Monday, May 6, 2013, 5:42 AM
Monday, May 6, 2013, 5:33 AM
Not one of Jesus’ bones are broken. That’s a sign that He is the true Passover Lamb whose blood protects us from the angel of death.
It is also a sign of his righteousness. According to Psalm 34, the righteous are afflicted often, but always rescued (v. 19). While the wicked are slain and condemned and slain (v. 21), the righteous survive with all their bones. Not one of them is broken (v. 20). Jesus’ intact bones are a witness to His righteousness, a signal of His ultimate justification.
Behind this is the biblical distinction of flesh and bones. There is no guarantee that the Lord will preserve the flesh of the righteous will be preserved. Flesh is vulnerable, subject to life’s slings. But in the midst of those assaults, the Lord preserves the bones of the righteous, and does not abandon the soul of the righteous to Sheol (Psalm 16).
Monday, May 6, 2013, 5:20 AM
Jesus is tried by three courts – the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Herodian, and the Roman. In imitation of Jesus, Paul too is tried by the same three courts.
So too is the church as a whole. The early chapters of Acts describe the Sanhedrin’s opposition to the early church’s witness and preaching, culminating with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). Christians scatter from Jerusalem to Samaria and eventually to Antioch. Saul the persecutor is changed to Paul the apostle. The pattern is: Persecution, martyrdom, rescue and the death of the persecutor.
During the dispersion, the pattern repeats itself in a Herodian context. Herod persecutes the church, James becomes a martyr, Peter is rescued from prison, and Herod dies (all in the busy chapter 12).
Persecution again opens up a new mission field, now on the wider stage of the empire. In this case the cycle is unfinished. Paul is tried by all three courts, but at the end of Acts Paul is still well alive, preaching freely in Rome. If the pattern holds, though, we are led to anticipate Roman persecution, martyrdom, and eventually the death or conversion of the Roman persecutor. Which is pretty much what happens following the end of Acts.
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 2:24 PM
From what I can tell from the TLS reviewer’s summary of Paula Byrne’s The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, this is a biography that gets Jane right. Byrne knows, for instance, that Austen did not lead the isolated, eventless life that many have suggested: “Austen, as her 160 surviving letters show, lived on a much wider stage, travelled more, lived more than such a stereotype allows for.” She knows that Austen’s “experience of place is remarkable: London, the source of many pleasures, Bath (about which she was more equivocal), seaside resorts, Kent, the Peak district.” Byrne reminds us that “Most of her adult life was lived against the background of war. It was difficult for her to get published, and it is astonishing and sobering to learn that it was only through her brother’s military connections that she got into print. . . . Then there are theatricals, and, contrary to one narrative, she went on relishing these and acting herself well into her thirties, as well as being a devout theatregoer.”
She captures the Christian culture of the Austen family: “Though her father was a ‘faithful but unostentatious middle of the road Anglican,’ like Jane herself, the family home was not a typical parsonage. The Austens valued wit highly, loved private jokes and black humour, and were broad-minded. Her close family circle is painted as ‘a place of quick tongues, laughter and moving fingers, with a novel being read aloud and everyone busy at their needlework.’” She understands that “Her authentic inner life is in the juvenilia: full of exuberance, self-confidence, firm opinions, strong passions. She was a supreme social satirist and no reactionary. She had a low boredom threshold and a wild imagination. She spoke of her novels as her true children, and hoped to write books that ‘relax into laughing at myself and other people.” Contrary to Austen family propaganda, she wanted money and she also loved approbation. And she truly believed that marriage could stifle women’s voices.”
In short, “Byrne evokes a woman who is ‘cheerful, patient, funny, shy, reserved, loving children.’ She adored Cassandra with whom she played the naughty little sister: critical, catty, and making jokes in bad taste to cheer her up and entertain her.”
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 2:17 PM
From the NYTBR review, it seems that Lee Smolin is aiming to stretch the boundaries of the orthodoxy of physics in his latest,Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. He thinks that the present has been left out of a physics that works on the belief that the future is determined by the past. In place of Newtonian and later ideas, he proposes a notion of “real time.” The reviewer summarizes: “He goes on to propose a variety of revolutionary ideas to codify further his notion of ‘real time.’ In one, he suggests that every atom in the universe is causally connected to every other atom in the universe, no matter how many light-years away. According to his notion, the failure of standard quantum mechanics to predict the behavior of individual atoms arises from the fact that it does not take into account the vast numbers of interconnections extending across the universe. Furthermore, this picture of the cosmos requires an absolute time (in violation of relativity), which he calls ‘preferred global time.’” One is tempted to suggest that this picture of the cosmos requires a notion of eternity.
He also suggests something along the lines of Sheldrake’s notion that nature’s laws are “habits”: “the ‘principle of precedence,’ that repeated measurements of a particular phenomenon yield the same outcomes not because the phenomenon is subject to a law of nature but simply because the phenomenon has occurred in the past. ‘Such a principle,’ Smolin writes, ‘would explain all the instances in which determinism by laws work but without forbidding new measurements to yield new outcomes, not predictable from knowledge of the past.’ In Smolin’s view such unconstrained outcomes are necessary for ‘real’ time.”
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 5:49 AM
In her conversion account, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, Rosario Butterfield describes a talk she gave at Geneva College about sexual sin. She concluded that the Christian students who listened to her didn’t realize what sexual sin was all about. Even Christians consider sex recreational, and think of sexual sin as a matter of excess. Not so, she argues:
“What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be ‘healed’ by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death; nothing more and nothing less. I told me audience that I think too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns.. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. . . . Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus Himself can do that” (83).
Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:45 PM
Tyconius adopts a relentlessly ecclesiocentric reading of Revelation. Every positive symbol, it seems, is just one more way of describing the church. Heaven, angels, stars, mountains, and everything else, it seems, means “one and the same thing,” one of his favorite phrases.
It creates some odd interpretations, to say the least. The birds that devour the kings of the earth at the end if chapter 19 are the saints who drink the blood of the wicked brothers who have been slain by the sword from the mouth of Jesus. In all times the church eats the flesh of their enemies, just as their enemies have devoured them. At the end, though, the saints will be fully avenged and visible birds will devour the wicked once and for all.
It is difficult to know what Tyconius is up to here, though perhaps there is a hint of Eucharist: In eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood, the church is perhaps also devouring her enemies.
Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:22 PM
Revelation is supposed to be an apocalypse,” an unveiling. If so, why is it so obscure at so many places?
Good question, and we get a partial answer by following the flow of the book as a whole. Once we get past chapter 17, with its obscure references to kings and mountains and horns and kings, the book becomes remarkably straightforward. Babylon falls in cheaper 18 and different groups lament. Nothing obscure there. Then there’s worship and warfare, and another city comes from heaven. The millennium is controversial, but it’s not a puzzle on the same level as 666. In the final chapters, John clears up every obscurity with a this-is-that interpretation. Foundation stones are apostles, gates are tribe, the river is full of the water of life etc.
The overall effect of the book is one of increasing clarity, and the reader has precisely the experience of unveiling. When e Bride descends, everything suddenly becomes transparent as the gold of the city itself.
Thursday, May 2, 2013, 12:01 PM
In a wide-ranging and pungent critique of the theology of today’s adoption movement, Cumberland Law School’s David Smolin points out the differences between Roman and modern American adoption. Roman adoptions occurred among the upper classes, did not necessarily involve orphans, were usually a way of elevating an already upper class Roman to an even higher position, and did not involve a severance with the family of origin. Smolin writes, “The men ‘adopted’ by the Roman emperors were already related to those emperors through combinations of blood and marriage . . . . The distinctive purpose of adoption within this web of family relationships was to make them heirs to the empire, not to provide them with a family.”
Smolin argues that Paul’s references to adoption fit this Roman pattern: Paul “implicitly invites a comparison between the Roman view of the Emperor as ‘Lord’ and the Christian insistence that God is Lord of lords and King of kings and His Son, Jesus Christ, is Lord. The clear message is that the inheritance the Christian receives from adoption by God would be even greater than the inheritance received by those who are adopted by Roman emperors.”
If we can press the comparison, it seems that the particular inheritance that Pal has in mind is the privilege of sharing with The Lord Jesus in the rule of His empire.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 4:33 AM
Bede offers several explanations of the number 666 in his Bede: Commentary on Revelation. The number is the number of the Greek word “Titan,” a “giant,” because “it is thought that Antichrist will usurp this name, as if he excelled all in power, boasting that he is the one of whom it is written, ‘he rejoiced as a giant to run his course.’”
The name “Antemos,” which means “contrary to honor” is also a 666, and the verb “I deny” has the same numerical value. Both exhibit “the character of the person and the asperity of the work of Antichrist.”
Bede eventually offers a reading that is more firmly rooted in the Bible: “who is ignorant, that the number six, in accordance with which the world was created, signifies the perfection of work? And this, whether simple, or multiplied by ten, or a hundred, demonstrates the fruit of the same perfection to be sixty-fold, or a hundred-fold.” Plus, “The weight of gold also which was brought to Solomon every year was six hundred and sixty-six thousand talents. The seducer, therefore, will presume to exact for himself the offering which is rightfully due and paid to the true king.”
666 means “a counterfeit Adam” and “a false Solomon.”
Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 4:45 PM
The harlot of Revelation 17 is dressed like a priest – robes of blue and scarlet, precious stones, an inscription on her head. So is the bride of Revelation 21: She is a city adorned with precious stones with streets of gold.
Why would a female city be dressed like a priest? Because both cities are priestly cities – the old Jerusalem named Babylon, and the new Jerusalem that comes out of heaven.
But we might, as one of my students, Fraser Martens, suggested, ask the question inside out: Why would a priest be dressed like a bride? And the answer is that the priest represents the bride in her approach to Israel, offering bridal food on the altar, doing the house-cleaning, offering her advice to Yahweh in prayer. Every sacrificial feast is a marriage supper.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 4:40 PM
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In an aside, John informs us that the angel measuring the walls of new Jerusalem measures according to human measurements (measure of man), which are also angelic measurements (Revelation 21:17). One of my students, Kameron Edenfield, suggests that this is another indication late in Revelation that angels and humans have been equalized, or even switched places. Human and angelic measurements are now equivalent.
In addition, the comment might indicate a contrast with the measurements of earlier sanctuaries. Paul tells us that the law came through angels (Galatians 3), and that includes the measurements of the tabernacle and its furniture. Moses ascended into a cloud of angels to receive the blueprints for the tabernacle. But the new Jerusalem is not built according to angels, but according to man. Specifically, it is measured according to measure of Jesus, the man, and then secondarily it is built according to the measure of those who are in Christ.
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