A Nerdy Complaint

This is probably not something that very many (any?) of my readers would care about, but I felt like complaining about it, because it’s just irritating. One expects to find continuity among the classifications of Hebrew vocabulary among the dictionaries and lexicons, especially in terms of classifying homonyms. This, however, is not consistent at all. The word I found this morning that was inconsistently classified was חָלַק. This is a homonym, meaning that there are two completely different meanings of the word for the exact same spelling, much like the word “lie,” which can mean “recline” or “falsehood.” According to the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, חָלַק I means “smooth” while חָלַק II means “divide.” The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis agrees with this classification. However, the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew reverses the classification, and makes חָלַק I “divide” and חָלַק II “smooth.” Why the alteration? No reason is given. This kind of confusion does not make it helpful when commentaries simply reference the one or the other Roman-Numeraled definition, as if everyone is supposed to know the classification. It would be nice if at least the classification was the same, even though advances in linguistics will ensure that the definitions will not always be the same. Ok, nerdy rant is over. I can’t believe you actually read to the end.

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Redneck Biblical Hermeneutics

As some people have probably thought I have dropped off the face of the planet, I thought I would signal my return to the blogosphere with a bit of humor.

A redneck from one of the southern states desired to enter the ministry. He went to a minister to be examined and the following conversation took place: “Can you read, Sam?” “Naw, I can’t read.” “Can you write?” Well, naw, I cain’t write.” “Well, do you know your Bible, Sam?” “Oh yeah, I know me Bible right well.” “Tell me, what part of the Bible do you prefer?” “Well, I prefers the New Testament.” “And what do you like in the New Testament, Sam?” “The book of Mark.” “And what do you like especially about Mark?” “I likes the parables the best.” “And which of the parables is your favorite?” “Well, I likes the parable of the Good Samaritan the best.” “Well, Sam, will you tell me the story of the Good Samaritan?”

“Sure I will. Once upon a time a man was goin’ from Jerusalem to Jericho and he fell among the thorns. The thorns grew up and choked him, an’ he went on and didn’t have no moolah. An’ he went to the Queen of Sheba, and she gave him one thousand talents of money and a hundred changes of raiment. An’ then he got in a chariot and druv furiously. An’ when he was driving under a big ol’ juniper tree, his hair done got caught in the limb of the tree, and he hung there, an’ hung many days an’ the ravens brought him food to eat an’ water to drink, and afterward he was an hungred, an’ he ate five thousan’ loaves and two small fishes. An’ one night while he was ahangin’ there, asleep, his wife Delilah came along an’ cut off his hair an’ he dropped an’ fell on stony ground. But he got up an’ went on, an’ it began to rain an’ it rained forty days and forty nights an’ he hid himself in a cave, an’ lived on locusts an’ wild honey. Then he went on till he met a servant who said, ‘Come take supper at my house,’ an’ he began to make excuses an’ said, ‘No, I won’t, I married a wife and I cain’t go.’ An’ the servant went out in the highway and in the hedges an’ compel him to come in. An’ after supper he went on an’ came to Jericho an’ when he got there he looked and saw Queen Jezebel sittin’ a way up in a high window, an’ she laffed at him, an’ he said, ‘throw her down,’ an’ they threw her down, an’ he said, ‘Throw her down some more,’ and so they threw her down seventy times seven. An’ of the fragments they picked up twelve baskets full, and then they say, ‘Now in the razzerection who alls wife is she goin’ to be?'”

Introducing a New Bible Translation

$ince we haven’t had a new English Bible tran$lation handed to u$ in the la$t few $econd$, it’$ time to come out with a new, fre$h Bible tran$lation, $ince Bible tran$lation$ obviou$ly grow $tale and unintelligible within ju$t a few year$ (not even between generation$, but intra-generationally). The new tran$lation is called the “International Dummy In the Old Te$tament” Bible, or IDIOT Bible, for $hort. Thi$ i$ the Bible for tho$e kids with very $hort attention $pan$ and even $horter vocabulary li$t$. It cut$ out all the long, difficult word$, like “created” and “beginning.” $o, Gene$i$ 1:1 read$ thi$ way in the new tran$lation:

Genesis 1:1 “So, like, this totally awesome God made stuff back in the day.”

The concept (or “idea,” for tho$e with vocabulary challenge$) i$ to dumb down the me$$age of the Bible to it$ bottom line. Take the tran$lation of Gene$i$ 1:1, for example. The meri$m “heaven and earth” (dude, what i$ a meri$m?) wa$ deemed too difficult for today’$ teenager$ to under$tand, and $o the core of “stuff” wa$ retained. Great effort was expended in $eeking to retain the exalted pro$e of the pa$$age. The way that “totally awe$ome” roll$ off the tongue i$ ju$t one example of thi$ exalted pro$e. The tran$lator$ gave $ome thought to putting the entire Bible in modern texting language, but the major ob$tacle to thi$ tran$lation philo$ophy i$ that the texting language change$ too rapidly for the older generation to u$e long enough to get an actual $entence tran$lated. Too much arthriti$ in the thumb$, no doubt.

$o, in introducing thi$ new tran$lation to the public, it i$ important to note the niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche, niche audience at which the tran$lation i$ directed. Why publi$h new tran$lation$ for people in the world who don’t have a Bible, when there i$ a perfect, radically awe$ome new niche in the Engli$h world to manipulate serve? The world may never know what tho$e motivation$ are.

Ultimatum to Publishers

My sincere apologies to my readers for the less than sporadic posting over the past few months. With the move, and the lack of high-speed internet, it is extremely difficult and frustrating to blog frequently. I am working on getting high-speed internet, but until then, blogging will be a bit sporadic, though I hope to do better than the last few months. Anyway, my thoughts on footnoting versus endnoting received a very pleasant and amusing boost by a post to which my brother directed my attention. Michael Fox is an extremely well-respected Jewish Old Testament scholar, incidentally, in case you were wondering. I suggest you read the whole thing, and then consider whether it might not be best for the publishing world if all writers point-blank refused to publish unless footnotes were the only allowable practice. Endnotes are unbelievably inconvenient, not to mention barbaric.

A Baggins Comes of Age

J.R.R. Tolkien writes this about Frodo Baggins: “Frodo was going to be thirty-three, 33, an important number: the date of his ‘coming of age.'” According to this textual evidence (and it would seem that all the authoritative Tolkien texts have it; no major recensions have omitted it to this text critic’s knowledge), the meaning of it would appear to be that the age 33 is something of a watershed for hobbits. Elsewhere, when Tolkien describes Bilbo’s invitation to Frodo to come and live with him, he writes that “At that time, Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three.”

The reason this author brings it up is that today is the date on which another Baggins has come of age, namely, yours truly, the Green Baggins (for what the Green means, as well as the reason for “Baggins,” see here). I turn 33 today. I would normally not talk about my own birthday on my blog. However, it’s not every day that a Baggins comes of age, and I thought my readers might be interested in being made aware of it. Unfortunately for my readers, this Baggins is not rich enough to continue the time-honored hobbitly tradition of giving away presents to all who deserve them on his birthday, at least in this Baggins’s mind, so you will have to make do with this post, and a hearty thank-you to all my well-wishers (except, of course, the Sackville-Bagginses).

The Burning Key: Materialist Feminism in the Works of Joyce

Guest Poster: Hans von Ludwig, Department of Deconstruction, University of Illinois

1. Contexts of meaninglessness

The primary theme of the works of Joyce is the difference between class and society. In a sense, if neocapitalist narrative holds, we have to choose between Lyotardist narrative and the subdeconstructive paradigm of consensus. Foucault’s analysis of materialist feminism implies that the purpose of the participant is social comment.

Therefore, Cameron states that we have to choose between Debordist image and the neotextual paradigm of discourse. Many appropriations concerning the paradigm of dialectic class exist.

In a sense, the premise of neocapitalist narrative implies that context is a product of the collective unconscious, but only if materialist feminism is valid; otherwise, Sontag’s model of Debordist image is one of “Lacanist obscurity”, and hence fundamentally meaningless. Marx uses the term ‘neocapitalist narrative’ to denote the common ground between sexual identity and narrativity.

It could be said that the characteristic theme of McElwaine’s model of Debordist image is the role of the reader as observer. Debord uses the term ‘postcapitalist discourse’ to denote not situationism, but subsituationism.

2. Materialist feminism and cultural postcapitalist theory

“Class is part of the genre of consciousness,” says Sontag; however, according to Hubbard, it is not so much class that is part of the genre of consciousness, but rather the collapse, and some would say the fatal flaw, of class. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a semioticist socialism that includes sexuality as a reality. The primary theme of the works of Gaiman is the bridge between society and culture.

Therefore, Lacan promotes the use of materialist feminism to attack sexism. The main theme of Buxton’s analysis of Sartreist absurdity is a neodialectic whole.

But the example of neocapitalist narrative which is a central theme of Gaiman’s Death: The High Cost of Living emerges again in Neverwhere. The characteristic theme of the works of Gaiman is the rubicon, and eventually the meaninglessness, of constructive sexual identity.

3. Narratives of Absurdity

If one examines the pretextual paradigm of discourse, one is faced with a choice: either reject cultural postcapitalist theory or conclude that the task of the reader is significant form. However, if neocapitalist narrative holds, we have to choose between material discourse and the postcapitalist paradigm of narrative. Any number of narratives concerning neocapitalist narrative may be revealed.

“Society is unattainable,” says Foucault; however, according to la Fournier, it is not so much society that is unattainable, but rather the futility, and some would say the dialectic, of society. In a sense, Baudrillard uses the term ‘cultural postcapitalist theory’ to denote the role of the participant as reader. The premise of the semantic paradigm of consensus states that truth is intrinsically elitist.

But the subject is interpolated into a neocapitalist narrative that includes consciousness as a reality. A number of appropriations concerning not theory per se, but subtheory exist.

In a sense, Finnis implies that the works of Gaiman are postmodern. Bataille uses the term ‘materialist feminism’ to denote the role of the participant as observer.

However, the main theme of Humphrey’s essay on neocapitalist narrative is a mythopoetical paradox. Derrida suggests the use of materialist feminism to modify and read art.

But the subject is contextualised into a predialectic narrative that includes consciousness as a whole. Neocapitalist narrative suggests that society has objective value.

To Dust Ye Shall Return

[Editor’s Note: Recently discovered in an obscure (and very dusty) corner of the Princeton Theological Seminary library, the following anonymous manuscript reveals, with perhaps a soupcon of bitterness, the concern of a professor for his students’ well-being in a fallen world. While the date has been verified to within five years, judging by the depth of the dust in the corner, the hand is unrecognizable. It has been speculated that this document may be the transcript of a lecture, but the identity of the lecturer and/or writer currently remains unknown. – P. Britton, Research Assistant, GBU]

The Art and Science of Dusting One’s Theological Library

Given that it is every Christian’s noble calling to despise not the menial tasks of life, nor the hands that perform them (cf. Rom. 12:16), it is proper that we turn at this time to a long-neglected aspect of the divinity student’s education; to wit, the Art and Science of Dusting One’s Theological Library.

The urgency of this topic should be self-evident to anyone who has ever contemplated the potentially devastating effects of a prolonged absence from his place of study, whether on account of illness, accidents on the rails, or what have you; should, during such a providentially ordained delay, a well-meaning relation or domestic take it upon herself to Tidy Up, or, perchance, to Arrange Things, one’s peace of mind may be irrevocably shattered. It is partly to forestall such a crisis that I offer the following reflections.

What concerns us at the outset is, of course, the precise meaning of the verb, “to dust.” Whilst its lexical definitions may confound – for, as is well known, it can refer to either the application or the removal of a film of dust, as in, e.g., “dust the chicken with pepper” v. “dust the piano in the sitting room”* — here we must concentrate our attention wholly on the latter intent. However, let us not become tempted to limit ourselves unnecessarily to a narrow and technical understanding of the term, as if the wiping of surfaces were all that is in view. Even as in the case of the tithe, which in an earlier dispensation constituted but one-tenth of the firstfruits of the field or flock, and yet is, in the era of the Church, expanded to include all that the liberality of Spirit-led generosity might think to offer, so “to dust,” for the saint, may be considered to encompass more generally the setting of all of one’s possessions decently and in order (cf. 1 Cor. 14:40).

This would include, then, not only procuring a damp (not to say saturated) cloth and moving it assiduously across all planar surfaces,** but also the re-shelving of volumes used for the study of biblical texts at least six weeks prior to the present date, discarding unwanted blotters, apple cores, and mousetraps, and tending to the proliferation of note-papers, which protrude like whiskers from every crevice.

It is worthwhile to acknowledge at this juncture that while the “Art” of dusting one’s theological library involves the judicious arrangement of one’s collection according to one’s taste and needs (such that no intruder, however helpfully industrious, could ever approximate it), the “Science” of this undertaking is best described as “doing today what one would put off until tomorrow.” In his learned article on “The Sedimentation of Intellectual Debris,” Dr. Wharton warns strongly against the common clerical habit of “piling,” cautioning that haphazard towers of manuscripts, reference volumes and commentaries cannot defy gravity forever, and inevitably lead to more labor in the aggregate. Indeed, the denial of such physical realities is a regrettably docetic tendency in otherwise clear-thinking individuals; it is to be hoped that proper education along these lines will eventually counteract this trend.

In close, let me reiterate the wise counsel of the ancient writer, whose recognition that there is “a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together” (Eccl. 3:5a) surely reflects the experience of the reader of commentaries and the writer of sermons. May you, my students, take the time to gather not only your thoughts, but also your intellectual debris, as you proceed through your studies. And God bless you.

Princeton Theological Seminary, 1900

Notes:
*To say nothing of the colloquial expression, “I’ll ‘dust’ your britches if I catch you at the jam jar again,” which meaning is certainly not in view here.

** Eschewing entirely, of course, that Philistine arrangement of plumage known as the “feather duster,” which generally serves to re-apply, rather than remove, the dust in question.

Long-lost Screwtape Letter Concerning Youth

The Trials of Theology

I received in the mail a wonderful little gem of a book.

It has a collection of statements made about the dangers of theological study from some of the great theologians of the past, including Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Warfield, and from the present, including Woodhouse, Carson, Trueman, and Bray. I highly recommend this book for anyone desiring to go to seminary to study theology.

I wanted to share a particular quotation which I found not only humorous, but also hitting a little close to home:

If…you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books (or blogs, LK), teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it – if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, ‘See, See! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.’ That very moment you will be blessed and blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven. Yes, in that heaven where hellfire is ready for the devil and his angels (Luther, from volume 34 of his collected works, pp. 287-288, quoted in the book in question, p. 30).

Maybe I’ve Been a Bit Preoccupied Recently…

We were in California recently for my niece’s graduation. The hotel we were staying in had their air conditioners programmed to go off at noon. So, every time we came back to the hotel at night, we would have to start the air conditioner up again. Well, the first time this happened, Ila (my five-year old daughter) asked Sarah, “Momma, why did Daddy turn off the SJC?”

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