Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Oh yeah... nothing says Valentine's Day quite like Marvin Gaye's Let's Get it On. So for a limited time Amazon.com is doing their part to help you celebrate Valentine's Day by giving away downloads of the classic for free.
If are so inclined, swing by Amazon.com and see what a little Marvin Gaye can do for you...
I've been reading Peter Enn's book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, of late. The book a a whole seems to be directed toward a decidedly evangelical audience, dealing with the issues surrounding the nature of what the Scriptures are and what kind of historical context they derive from. While it is nothing too revolutionary in nature, I can see how this book caused quite a stir at Westminster Theological Seminary. I think Enns deals honestly with the problems that arise from a critical study of the Hebrew Scriptures, examining them from a more decidedly evangelical view [although I think in the end Enns feels somewhat uncomfortable with the label].
In any event, I came across this nugget which struck a chord with me. Looking at the difference between Jewish interpretive and "evangelical" interpretive ventures, Enns notes:
A look at the major Jewish texts that engage in biblical interpretation (Mishnah, Talmud, midrashic literature) reveals an approach to biblical interpretation that, among other things, expends tremendous energy in engaging [biblical] tensions and ambiguities. In fact, these ancient interpreters seem to revel in the chance to do so; the Bible itself, precisely because of its inherent ambiguities and tensions, is believed to invite problem solving. And if one were to look closely at some of these Jewish interpretive texts, one would see that these biblical tensions and ambiguities are solved in multiple - even contradictory - ways, and these solutions are allowed to remain side by side in these authoritative canons of Jewish traditions. The stress seems to be not on solving the problems once and for all but on a community upholding a conversation with Scripture with creative energy...
As quite distinct from Jewish interpretation, the history of modern evangelical interpretation exhibits a strong degree of discomfort with the tensions and ambiguities of Scripture. The assumptions often made are that Scripture should have no tensions and that any such tensions are not real but introduced from the outside, namely, by scholarship hostile to evangelical Christianity. Whatever tensions remain are addressed either by posing some direct solution (however ingenious) or by moving the problem to the side ("We know it has to fit somehow; we just aren't sure how.")
I think Enns hit the issues succinctly. Whereas Jewish interpreters felt at home with textual tensions and ambiguities, evangelical interpreters often go through mental contortions in order to harmonize everything into unified whole. This is where the problem lies. The biblical texts we have are not a unified, monolithic whole. They include "diversity," as Enns puts it. Tensions and ambiguities are a part of the very fabric of the texts. To deny such is disingenuous to the texts themselves.
Perhaps this is an issue of faith. Here's a question. Who has a more faith-filled expression of embracing the texts? Would it be interpreters who accept the text as is and wrestle with the implications, allowing the tensions to remain in focus or would it be those who feel the need to "protect" the text by doing mental gymnastics to eliminate all hint of tensions and diversity?
I especially liked Enns' statement, "The stress seems to be not on solving the problems once and for all but on a community upholding a conversation with Scripture with creative energy." I think this is the posture we need to engage the text with - an open-handed wrestling with the text.
Enns has not spent much time on it yet in the book, but I think the metaphor of incarnation is an apt one. The text is a beautifully mysterious mixture of the human and the divine, one that is not fully explainable. As we embrace in the divinty of the incarnated Son, so we must embrace the text. I think there is something here to explore further...
Out of Ur, Leadership's blog, has been following and posting some of the highlights from the National Pastors Convention, going on this week a bit farther south of us in San Diego. So far they have posted some general session highlights with Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne. Enjoy.
With news outlets abuzz with the admission of Alex Rodriguez that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003, I think Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated hits the nail brilliantly.
Rodriguez and [Barry] Bonds are Shakespearean tragedies of the same pharmacology. It isn't that they cheated the game and perverted its history, which Rodriguez finally admitted to doing four days after being questioned by [Selena] Roberts in Miami. It's also that each of them was blessed in abundance with every baseball skill - and that still wasn't enough for them. [from "More Alike Than We Know" in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated]
Sad. Very sad.
[I also concur with Scot McKnight's thoughts here.]
Apparently, today, February 8th, has been deemed International Septuagint Day [not to mention it being my oldest daughter Megan's birthday!] For those of you saying, "The Sept-tu-a-what?" - perhaps a little background might be in order. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible which was believed to created somewhere between the third century BCE [the Pentateuch portions] and late second century/beginning of the first century BCE for the rest of the Hebrew Bible. The term "Septuagint" comes from the Latin Septuaginta, which means "seventy" [thus the shorthand LXX], which refers to the popularized legend that the text was produced by seventy elders.
The Septuagint preserves a number of Jewish-Greek writings from
the pre-Christian era not contained in the Hebrew Bible (known in
Christian circles as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical works)
As such, study of the LXX can provide a glimpse into the thought and theology of diaspora Jews before the common era.
For the majority of the books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the LXX provides us the earliest witness to the biblical text (earlier than
most of Hebrew witnesses found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example)
and is indispensable for textual criticism.
The LXX provides a unique glimpse into the literary and textual development for
some books of the Old Testament (e.g., Jeremiah, Esther, Daniel), as
well as the sometimes fuzzy border between literary development and
Insofar that all translations are interpretations, the LXX provides one of the earliest commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.
The LXX gives us a glimpse of the shape of the OT canon before the common era (at least for Greek-speaking Judaism in the diaspora, perhaps not for Palestinian Jews).
The LXX functioned as the Bible of most of the early Greek-speaking Christians
(and continues to function as such for the Greek Orthodox Church).
In connection with the previous point, the LXX often served as a theological lexicon for the writers of the NT, and as such it provides a fruitful avenue of research into the background of many of the theological terms and concepts in the NT.
The LXX was the preferred Scriptures for many of the early church fathers and
is essential for understanding early theological discussions.
It’s a great conversation starter at parties (Attractive Woman/Man: “Read any good books lately?” Budding LXX student: “Why yes, I was just reading the Septuagint today!” Attractive Woman/Man: “The Sept-tu-a-what?” Budding LXX student: “Let me buy your a drink and tell you more…”)
So there you have it. Let me be perhaps the first to wish you and yours and very happy International Septuagint Day.