Friday, January 29, 2010

Izmır to Mıletus to Ephesus

I am on a trıp to Turkey for the fırst tıme. We flew ınto Izmır and today we went to Mıletus ın the mornıng where there ıs a small amphıtheatre and extensıve town buıldıngs. We read the farewell speech of Paul ın Acts as our entry poınt to the town. Nothıng lıke the end of Paul at the begınnıng of the trip!

In the afternoon we went to the house of John ın Ephesus 4 -- the fourth ıncarnatıon of the town of Ephesus. It was quıte movıng to be at a signifıcant place of Chrıstıan tradıtıon. From the ecclesıastıcal structures, one can see the older temple of Artemıs not far away. If John is the beloved dıscıples who takes Mary to hıs house at the command of the dyıng Jesus on the cross, why ıs ıt to Ephesus that John takes Mary? Is ıt so as to brıng Mary there? Was ıt Irenaeus who locates John ın Ephesus? We know the Acts of John locate John in and around Ephesus ın the second century CE.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

National Holocaust Memorial Day

Thought for the Day, 27 January 2010

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

Today is National Holocaust Memorial Day, and this year the focus will be on one small group of people in the Warsaw ghetto and the astonishing task they took on themselves for the sake of future generations.

The Warsaw ghetto into which hundreds of thousands of Jews were herded was not some remote spot far from public gaze. It was near the centre of one of Europe's capital cities. There 100,000 Jews died of starvation and disease. 270,000 were taken in cattle trucks to Treblinka and other camps to be gassed, burned and turned to ash. Eventually in April 1943 the Nazis gave the order that everyone left should be killed and it was there that the ghetto inhabitants mounted an extraordinary act of resistance, keeping the German army at bay for five weeks until they were overcome.

But by then a quite different act of resistance had taken place, and it's this we're going to remember this year. It was the brainchild of a Jewish historian, Emanuel Ringelblum, who realised that the Nazis were unlike any previous group bent on conquest. All others had preserved a record of their victories for posterity. But the Germans were intent on obliterating or falsifying every trace of their mass exterminations, of Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, the mentally and physically disabled, and the Jews. Ringelblum understood that they were preparing a systematic denial of the Holocaust at the very time it was taking place.

So, in the ghetto, he brought together a group of academics, teachers, journalists, religious leaders, artists and the young to gather testimonies from people in the ghetto, so that the world would one day know what happened. Unbelievably they gathered 35,000 documents, stories, letters, poems and records. They hid them in tin boxes and milk churns where they lay for years until the handful of survivors led the way to their location.

What an astonishing act of faith: that evil would ultimately be defeated, that the documents would be found and not destroyed, and that truth would win out in the end. Faith in God after the Holocaust may be hard; but faith in humanity is harder still, knowing the evil people to do one another, and the hate that lies dormant but never dead in the human heart.

Ringelblum and his friends had faith in humanity, and they left us a legacy of hope preserved intact in the very heart of darkness. In our still tense and troubled age, may we be worthy of that faith, that hope.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Workshop on Feb 21st: AUDIO DIVINA-- Jewish & Christian Interpretations and Experience of Scripture


AUDIO DIVINA: Jewish and Christian interpretations and experience of Scripture

In this workshop, biblical scholars and musicians from Jewish and Christian traditions will join together for a multi-sensory experience of Scripture. We will study texts together, considering the history of the ideas in their ancient and modern Jewish contexts. Together with the intellectual examination of words and texts, we will consider ways that Jews and Christians experience these texts within musical liturgical contexts.


When: February 21st 2010

Instructors: Professors Marcie Lenk (above) & Deirdre Good

Musicians: Rabbi Julia Andelman and Ana Hernandez

Workshop Length: 1-5pm

Workshop Location: The Tutu Center, General Theological Seminary, New York, NY

Cost: $10.00 for the public; free for students


Preliminary Workshop schedule:

1. Introduction: Listening to music and texts (15 minutes)

2. Performances of Psalm 23 by Jewish and Christian Musicians (30 minutes) by Rabbi Julia Andelman and Ana Hernandez

3. Written and oral responses to the music from participants using particular questions to address how singing and hearing music affects understanding of the Psalm (45 minutes).

4. Break for tea (West 3: Deirdre Good's apartment) (30 minutes)

5. Performances of Hannah's Prayer and Song and the Magnificat (30 minutes).

6. Interpretation of Hannah's Prayer and the Magnificat (Marcie Lenk and Deirdre Good) (1 hour).

6. Concluding music (30 minutes).


Marcie Lenk is a Visiting Professor at Boston University and a doctoral candidate in the study of Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism at Harvard University. Having lived in Jerusalem from 1988-2000, she has also taught in a number of Jewish and Christian seminaries.


Deirdre Good is a professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary in New York City. She has recently published a book with Bruce Chilton called Starting New Testament Study: Learning and Doing (SPCK, 2009).


The workshop is made possible by a generous grant from the Evangelical Education Society of the Episcopal Church. Register for the event here.

Paul with Helen Bond, John Haldane and John Barclay (In Our Time)

Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time (Radio 4) held a discussion on St Paul and his significance with Helen Bond, John Haldane and John Barclay (May 2009). Included in the discussion are assessments of the reliability of the New Testament epistles and Acts; the role of Paul in the new Jesus movement; Paul's Pharisaic background and education in Tarsus. It's anachronistic to speak of Paul's persecution of early Christians, of course, since all were Jewish, and the growth of churches rather than communities or assemblies. There's a tiny assessment of Paul from a Jewish perspective with an emphasis on the grace of God's spirit falling freely on the most unlikely people. This is not quite enough given recent scholarship.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The real Narnia of C. S. Lewis--the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland (with more snow on the way).
The Mourne Mountains are said to have inspired Belfast-born CS Lewis to create the magical land of Narnia — and yesterday’s scene near Rathfriland recaptured in fairytale fashion the icy Narnian winter from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How memory works

This week's New Yorker has a fascinating article about the popularity of memoirs by Daniel Mendelsohn. The article focuses on Ben Yagoda's Memoirs: A History. Towards the end of the article, there are some insights into how memory works.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book promotion party? From this past Sunday's New York Times Book Review comes the DIY book tour.

The people who showed up for these events had usually never heard of me. They came because it was a party at their friend’s house and the friend promised to make those cupcakes they like or was calling in a favor. Nobody wants to give a bad party, and touring this way ensured there would be at least one person other than myself who would be embarrassed if no one showed up.

Sounds like a good idea. Will mention it to my new publisher in time for this year's promotional push. (In certain circles, we could offer wine and cheese with acceptable alternative beverage.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning (a little) Turkish

For our trip to Turkey, we learnt a little Turkish. Maureen Freely, Orhan Pamuk's translator describes some features of the language:

Turkish has no verb "to be" and no verb "to have." It prefers the passive to the active voice and has one word for "he," "she" and "it." It is an agglutinative language, which means that root nouns often carry a string of 10 or more suffixes. Turkish also likes verbal nouns (the "doing of," the "having been done unto") and because you do not know the verb until the end of the sentence, you often read four, five or six clauses without knowing how they are connected.

Suffixes
A Turkish word starts with a short root (such as git-, 'go'). One or more suffixes are added to modify the root (gitti, 's/he went'). You can make whole sentences in Turkish out of one little word root and a lot of suffixes. Suffixes are sometimes preceded by a 'buffer letter' such as 'y' or 'n' for smooth pronunciation.

Noun Suffixes

Plural: -lar, -ler
Bankalar, banks
Oteller, hotels

To, Toward: -a, -e (or -ya, -ye)
Bankaya, to the bank
Otele, to the hotel

From: -dan, -den
Bankadan, from the bank
Otelden, from the hotel

Possessive: -ın, -in, -nın, or -nin
Bankanın, the bank's
Otelin, the hotel's

With: -lı, -li, -lu, -lü
Et, meat; etli, with meat
Süt, milk; sütlü, with milk

Without: -sız,-siz,-suz, -süz
Et, meat; etsiz, without meat, meatless
Süt, milk; sütsüz, without milk

You may see -ı, -i, -u or -ü, -sı, -si, -su or -sü added to any noun. An ev is a house; but the ev that Mehmet lives in is Mehmet'in evi.

VERB SUFFIXES

Infinitive: -mak, -mek
Almak, to take or buy
Gitmek, to go

Simple present: -ar, -er, -ır, -ir, -ur, -ür
Alır, he/she/it takes or buys
Gider, he/she/it goes

Future: -acak, -ecek, -acağ-, -eceğ-
Alacak, he/she/it will take, buy
Gidecek
, he/she/it will go

Simple past: -dı, -di, -du, -dü
Aldı, he/she/it took, bought
Gitti, he/she/it went

Continuous: -ıyor-, -iyor- (like English '-ing')
Alıyor, he/she/it is taking, buying
Gidiyor, he/she/it is going

Question: -mı, -mi, -mu, -mü
Alıyor mu? Is he/she/it taking (it)?
Gidecek mi? Will he/she/it go?

First Person Singular (I):-ım, -im, -um, -üm
Alırım, I take

Second Person Singular (you-informal): -sın, -sin, -sun, -sün
Alırsın, You take

Third Person Singular (he/she/it): (no suffix)
Alır, he/she/it takes

First Person Plural (we): -ız, -iz, -uz,-üz
Alırız, we take

Second Person Plural (you-formal): -sınız, -siniz, -sunuz,-sünüz
Alırsınız, You (plural) take; or You (singular-formal) take

Third Person Plural (they): -lar, -ler
Alırlar, They take.

WORD ORDER
Nouns and adjectives usually come first, followed by the verb. The subject of the sentence is often the final suffix (unless the sentence is a question):

İstanbul'a gidecegim, I'm going to Istanbul.

Halı almak istiyorum, I want to buy (take) a carpet (literally 'Carpet to buy want I')

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sabbatical Project

Now that it is the New Year, and particularly a new year containing a sabbatical, it's time to plan! Actually, the board approved my sabbatical last fall. Yesterday I finished a grant proposal to convert my foundation course, Introduction to the New Testament: The Synoptic Gospels to an interactive online course. However, since I have only done podcasts for an online Introduction to Koine Greek last summer, I don't really know what's involved. Fortunately lots of other people do know and I have been speaking to them since I got back from the UK.

I'm going to start by applying to take an online course for theological faculty teaching on line offered by the Wabash Center from June 1 to July 26th. If I am accepted, I'll have a good basis on which to proceed. Then I can spend part of my fall sabbatical creating an online course in preparation for teaching it in Easter 2011.

I've begun to look at online courses offered by theological schools in the US listed by the ATS. The variety is apparent. At any rate, all advice will be gratefully received particularly by those who have taken or created online courses.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bishop Munib Younan denounces Coptic killings


Stephen Brown reports for ENI that Jerusalem Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan has denounced the killing of six Coptic Christians in Egypt and he offered support to the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

"The attack is horrifying and puts fear in the hearts of Christians in Egypt," Younan said in an 11 January statement to Ecumenical News International from Beirut, where he is attending the general assembly of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.

"We pray for the victims and their families," Younan stated. "But we also pray that such acts will not be repeated, neither in Egypt nor anywhere else."

There's also an opinion piece from Bikya Masr arguing that the killings are not revenge but rather sectarian.

All Egyptians, Muslims and Copts, should admit there is a problem, and sit down and solve it, instead of waiting for foreign voices to offer their “solutions.” Consider the simple analogy of two school pupils quarreling. If they don’t solve their problems alone, the tattletale who loves to cause trouble will take it to the principal and both will end up being suspended.

Let’s ban sheikhs and priests who continue to incite hatred and division among Egyptians; whether they are in churches, mosques or on satellite TV. Let’s stop focusing on religious studies in schools and instead, incorporate ethics into the curricula. Let’s encourage Egypt’s children to love, respect and accept one another. Egypt belongs to all Egyptians, who are all Egyptians first and foremost. This is the kind of sentiment that must be instilled in the nation’s children.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Coptic Christians killed and updates

The BBC is reporting ongoing clashes between Coptic Christians and security forces as the former went to a hospital to collect six bodies killed earlier after services celebrating Coptic Christmas in Nag Hammadi, 40 miles from Luxor in South Egypt. This is an ongoing story as the killings may have been retaliatory.

Update (4.45pm): this NY Times article by Mona El-Nagar gives a perspective on the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

The general sentiment among Egypt’s Copts is that they are being squeezed into a tighter space, and there are increasing complaints of discrimination. They say, for example, that permits to build churches have become very difficult to obtain.

“There is a prevailing atmosphere of sectarianism and religious incitement which has led to this behavior,” said Gamal Asaad, a Coptic intellectual and former member of Parliament. “People deal with each other now as Muslims or Christians, not as Egyptians.”

And the Guardian has a phone video of the shootings outside the church.

This kind of article otoh is unhelpful. It contains generalizations when a specific situation in the south of Egypt needs to be the focus. Gulfnews has just reported a tolerant situation for Coptic Christians in Abu Dhabi over Christmas. This issue has traction. Yahoo news reports

Rushing to contain the fallout from the Nag Hamadi attack, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, top government officials and the country's top Muslim cleric visited Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Egyptian Coptic church, in a show of solidarity and possible to head off fresh Christian protests.

The official Egyptian news agency quoted Shenouda and Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, grand sheik of al-Azhar — the top learning center for Sunni Muslims — as saying the attack was unlikely to harm what they called the strong bonds between Egypt's Muslims and Christians.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Feast of the Epiphany

Mantegna's Adoration of the Magi is explored here. It's in the Getty collection. From the Bible Archaeology Review comes a helpful article by Robin Jensen, "Witnessing the Divine: the Magi in Art and Literature." She makes several useful points:
  • Neither their names, their number (three), their physical descriptions nor the date of the magi’s arrival appears in the Bible. Over time these cherished traditions were added to the brief gospel narrative, probably first through oral tradition. By the fourth century, the magi’s arrival was celebrated as the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 (12 days after Jesus’ birth on December 25). (Even today, in some parts of the Christian world, January 6, rather than December 25, is a time for exchanging presents, in commemoration of the gifts of the magi.)
  • Their assumed number was undoubtedly derived from the three gifts presented to Jesus in Matthew. The number wasn’t always taken for granted, however. A wall painting in the Roman catacomb of Domitilla shows four magi; one in the catacomb of Peter and Marcellinus depicts two. A variety of Syrian documents name twelve.
  • The names and nationalities of the magi also varied throughout the world, especially in the East. An Armenian infancy gospel from about 500 lists them as Melkon, King of Persia; Gaspar, King of India; and Baldassar, King of Arabia—and is thus closest to the Melchior, Caspar (or Gaspar) and Balthassar of the medieval Latin church.
If Origen is correct that the Magi were the first to recognize Jesus as Messiah, isn't it salutary to remember on the Feast of the Epiphany that those recognized as outsiders have insights into and claims upon Jesus that predate ours?