So, with all of the hype about the supposedly awesome, Irish-based, "mega search engine" Cuil (pronounced "cool"), I thought I'd give it a try. Well, my review is that it sucks. Nowhere does it pick up my last name (for me) and when I type in my full name or Pisteuomen, a blurb about my site comes up but...with a picture of Michael W. Smith next to it. That's quite funny but my goodness, Cuil needs better algorithims or something. For now, I'll stick with Yahoo or Google.
I don't want to give a thorough synopsis of the movie here but I do want to say a few things. Firstly, if I had to describe this film in one word, it would be "raunchy". Seriously, this is straight-up one of the raunchiest films I've ever seen. At the beginning of the show, there are a few jokes about penises and vaginas. 45 minutes later, more of the same. 45 minutes after that, more of the same. Combine all of the genitalia jokes with the tremendous amount of cursing, forced restroom and underwear humor and anyone with a shred of decency feels like they need absolution via water afterwards...or at least a civil adult conversation.
Secondly, while this film does have some funny parts, I think the trailers were misleading. Commercials made this movie out to seem quite wholesome; nothing could be further from the truth. This movie amounts to nothing more than profanity and a mockery of good parenting. Sadly, the plot of the film probably plays out in too many families today.
Thirdly, I'm sick of seeing Will Ferrell play the same character in almost all of his movies (the same goes for Steve Carrell...whom Ferrell was actually chosen over for a position on SNL). I'm also tired of seeing him move into hokey comedic roles instead of ones that are "actually" really funny. All-in-all, the makers of this film tried too hard to be funny. They went over-the-top and in the process, dropped the ball. I wouldn't reccommend this movie to anyone and it certainly not suitable for youth. Spend your time and money somewhere else!
After offering a definition, I argued that it is important to also have a healthy image of prayer. I listed a number of very flawed images that persons have (and hold to) that ultimately result in an unhealthy view/understanding of God and prayer. For me, a healthy image is one of two persons making vows (as at a wedding ceremony). At that moment, the two people are attempting to be in each other’s presence as “fully” as possible. That’s what prayer is (again, it comes full-circle to the definition): attending to God’s presence as fully as possible.
So, where do we go from here? In my estimation, the next place to go (after having a working, healthy definition and image) is to “questions”. The Gospel verse often cited or thought of when prayer is being discussed, says: “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” I want to hone in on the first portion of that: asking. It is not uncommon for people to approach this part of the verse with the mentality of: It says all I have to do is ask for something and I’ll get it. (Some even mix it with other verses and conclude: If I ask plus have faith, I’ll get it.)
But here’s the thing, there’s another way to think about “asking” here. What if the passage never intended to suggest asking in order to get something? What if the passage never intended to suggest asking for oneself? What if the passage never intended to suggest asking on someone else’s behalf? But what if the passage did intend to suggest that when you ask God something, you’re asking about His desires and wants? In fact, when this thought flashed across my mind one day, my entire theology of prayer was transformed. I was forced to go back and discard some parts of my theology, modify others and adopt some new ideas.
In all reality, asking God questions to find out God’s desires and wants is what prayer should be about. And this goes right back to our definition about attending to God’s presence. Prayer is God-centered not human-centered. Some might say, “Well, if prayer is about finding out God’s wants or desires for us, then it is still human-centered.” Perhaps, but that is not what I’m suggesting. I would argue that God’s desires could focus on nature instead of humanity, that God could focus on Himself instead of humanity, that God could want silence, etc. The point is: It’s all about God and His desires and wants.
This means that when we “ask” in prayer, we’re not “asking” God for things for us. For example, we will not be asking “Will you…” or “Why…” or “Why not…” etc. Instead, we will be asking, “God, what do you desire?” “Where would you have me serve?” “How would you have me love others?” “How can I please you?” “When can I best glorify you?” “Who would you have me serve?” Do you see the difference between the human-centered and God-centered questions? There is a huge difference that makes all the difference between a fruitful and unfruitful prayer life.
When we realize that prayer isn’t about us but rather about attending to God’s presence, asking Him His wants and desires, we also realize that prayer isn’t a means to an end. By the same token, we realize why our prayers may not be getting answered, especially as we want them answered. And here’s the kicker, I think, this answers the age-old question: “Why pray if God already knows what you’re going to say?” First of all, I would contend that since God can do whatever He wants to, it is quite possible for Him to choose to forego knowing what you’re going to say ahead of time. Second of all, even if the axiom I just stated is one you disagree with, if my definition above is correct—prayer is about attending to God’s presence (and to find out His desires and wants)—then the question kind of becomes moot. How? Well, it would make sense to me that God already knows His own wants and desires. Therefore, to come to Him asking Him about those things poses no “foreknowledge” problems. As His child, He has given you the gift of prayer and expects that you will approach Him, asking Him these things.
Of course, there are other questions that could be raised but I’m going to stop there for now. I do want, however, to say a few words about praying for others (or intercessory prayer). As a minister, I’ve had scores of people ask me to pray for them. Generally, when people ask me this, they have the old definition or mentality of prayer. So, my response is generally something like: “Yes, I’ll pray but to be totally honest with you, when I pray, I will go seeking God’s wants and desires, not necessarily mine or yours.” It is best to be up-front with people about this. For one, it reveals to them a healthy theology of prayer and for two, it lets them know you will pray but only in a very specific way.
I suppose I could say a lot more about prayer but at this point, I’m not sure I need to. In my mind, the next logical place to go would be to either show how numerous other exegetical discoveries support my claims or how this theology of prayer influences other aspects of theology (e.g. foreknowledge, divine self-limitation, divine-human relationships, etc.). However, since this was supposed to be, from the start, a mini-series, unless you have some thoughts/requests, I will do one more post on it which will be an audio message/sermon. Anyway, I hope these posts in this series have helped. Blessings to you.
When I talk about an "image" of prayer, I am talking about what one envisions when they pray and/or think about the act/event of prayer. For example, some people have an image of the prayer event as a conversation between a child (themselves) and a white-bearded grandpa (God). Others think of God, when they're praying, as a type of Divine Gumball machine; they drop they prayer in, turn the lever and God dispenses the answer. Still, others treat God like a Cosmic Bellhop; place your order with the Divine and He'll serve it up. There are all sorts of images that go along with prayer and praying.
For quite a while, when I prayed, I would actually envision God's feet (no, I don't have a foot fetish!!!). My thinking was, "Since I don't know what God's face looks like, I'll just try to imagine feet." This actually led me to thinking about sitting a box at God's feet, a box in which I dropped all my worries, thoughts, problems, etc. I thought of myself as laying things at God's feet. Soon, however, I realized that this was a flawed image of prayer. Why? Because it didn't fit with the definition of prayer that I was developing and in all reality, it fit less and less with what I believed praying to be about.
I came to realize that the image I had linked with prayer, actually trumped my definition of prayer. That's how powerful images can be. And since we live in an "image-saturated" culture, I believe it is becoming increasingly important to have a good image to go along with prayer. So, what image do I have now? Well, let's return to my definition of prayer first: Prayer is attending to the presence of God both around us and in us.
I should point out here, that this definition, by default, centers prayer on God and not self; prayer is more about Him and less about me. Prayer is about finding out God's wants and desires, not really my own. In other words, prayer is about seeking God and attending to Him and His wants as much as possible. It is about being "fully" in His presence! And that's critical to having a fruitful prayer life: being "fully" in God's presence. (Now, this is quite different that the traditional understanding and approach to prayer where it is "self" centered. Some would even gripe here, "So, what's the point of prayer if it's not for or about me?" I used to think that way!) But prayer is about God and being in His presence! This leads into what image I employ at the present time. Currently, I am using the image of two persons making vows to one another, like in a wedding.
At my wedding, my wife and I, after writing our own vows, said them to one another. Along with the words said, what made that moment so powerful is that we were attempting to “fully” be in one another’s presence. We were looking into one another’s eyes and connecting with one another’s hearts and souls. That’s what prayer is about and is like. It is about connecting with God. And it is more about meeting His wants and desires than our own. It is connecting with God’s mind, heart and soul. It even takes forgetting self.
As I said above, it is my conviction that a healthy definition and image of prayer, lend themselves to having a fruitful prayer life. In my next post, I will deal with asking healthy questions in prayer and how this, coupled with a good definition and image, really lends itself to a great prayer life. Following that, I plan to show how a good definition, image and good questions ultimately answer many of the questions concerning prayer that people get hung up on. Until then, I hope these posts so far are being blessings to you.
In this post, I simply want to begin by defining prayer. In my view, prayer is: Attending to the presence of God both around us and within us. Let me say a little more about this definition.
First of all, I want to point out that prayer involves at least two parties: God and oneself. This is not to say that more persons cannot be involved, they can. Millions of people can pray together at once. Groups can all pray the same prayer or even different prayers. So, sometimes prayer involves self, others and God. The point is: prayer is relational. Prayer is never a one-sided act or event. Prayer must always involve, at the bare minimum, two people.
Secondly, I need to explain the term “attending”. When we pray, we are attending to the presence of God. To put it differently, when we pray we are attempting to be present in God’s presence. But again, prayer is two-sided. So, prayer involves letting God be present in our presence too. A few years ago, there was a popular Bible study titled “Experiencing God”. The problem with that title and study was that it was one-sided; it focused mainly on us experiencing God but not God experiencing us. When I suddenly realized one day that God desired to experience me, it was a groundbreaking moment in my spiritual journey. So, when we are attending to God’s presence, we should also be open to letting Him attend to our presence as well. An image might help put this in better perspective. When we pray, we are attending to God’s presence and letting Him attend to ours as well.
Thirdly, we can attend to the presence of God in several ways. For instance, we can attend to God’s presence in those around us. We can look for guidance from God as He works through other people. We can also look for God’s presence in creation. Another way to seek God’s presence around us is to read the stories of our faith. We will often times find God’s creation among peacemakers. Still another avenue for attending to God’s presence is looking within. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, each Christian can pay attention to their senses, their heart and the mind to experience God’s presence.
So, to say it again, prayer is “Attending to the presence of God both around us and within us.” If the truth be told, most all of us could do better when it comes to prayer. Some of us find prayer hard, uncomfortable and boring. Others of us find prayer to be a calming, contemplative event. There are many different methods and styles of prayer. Just as well, there are many different types of prayer. In the coming posts, I hope that through some of my words, your prayer life might be strengthened. In the end, the goal is to attend to God’s presence and allow Him to attend to ours as well. In the next post on prayer, I want to move from "defining" prayer to adopting a healthy "image" of it. More to come...
For some reason, I am really feeling the urge lately to put my beliefs into action, to live out my theology. I want to stop talking about things like resurrection and live it out. I want people to experience resurrection in their lives; I want to experience it. I don't want to have a theology that is so "up there" that it is not "down-to-earth". I don't want a clouded theology. Instead, I want to live out my theology among a great cloud of witnesses. (I guess that could be a third meaning for "clouded theology"!) I also want that cloud of witnesses to be salt and light in a stale and dark world.
Eric: Well, my name is Eric Sowell. I'm 32 years old, have a chicka and three children, ages 5, 3, and 5 months old. I was a double major in college (Business and Religion). I hated that first part. Then I went to DTS and got a ThM. My interests are varied. I like programming, Greek, biblical studies, history, Greek, reading, Greek, and many other things. I taught myself how to program my last semester in seminary. Now I am a programmer full time, and have been for almost five years. Currently, I am a Senior Application Engineer for Match.com International. I help people find love. I am generally in the lead on the programming and architecture of their subscription services. My work is entirely C#, ASP.NET, and Sql Server. On side projects I will frequently get into Windows Presentation Foundation, a Windows programming API. But at this point we're just getting really geeky...My main research interests at the moment are a) Greek generally—as in outside of the NT—and b) the thoughts and formation of the early church.
Michael: Before we get to some of the things you just mentioned, let’s talk about the title of your blog, which is “Archaic Christianity”. Tell us the reason/impetus for giving your site this name.
Eric: At the time of when I started the blog, www.earlychristianity.com was taken. I wanted the blog for general purposes of biblical studies and Greek blogging. But, I knew that a large focus of my reading and thus my fodder for blogging, would ultimately end up being around early Christianity. Hence the title.
Michael: Now, you and I have had a number of conversations and at some point, the convo always comes around to talking about Greek. So, let’s go ahead and chat about that for a moment. Tell us about some of your current interests and studies in the field of the Greek language.
Eric: I suppose there are a number of different goals all mashed together in my head in these studies. First, given the number of years I have studied Greek, my "actual" knowledge does not measure up. I'm trying to study harder and differently to figure out why. Current Greek pedagogy is not very good, in my opinion. I'm not the only one who isn't good at Greek despite the time spent with it. Second, and related to the previous, I like teaching Greek. I am interested in figuring out ways of learning better so I can pass that on in my teaching. Third, and this is related to both, I am trying to learn Koine Greek more broadly. I think studying just biblical Greek, even if you only want to read the scriptures, is a terrible way to go. So I'm branching out more broadly to understand the language better and to prepare materials for others to learn as well. I guess that sums up most of it.
Michael: So, in the field of Greek / linguistic studies, where do you think the greatest need lies? Pedagogy? Research? Literary works? Etc.
Eric: Pedagogy, by a long shot. You will have more people working on the latter if you can fix the former. Linguistics and syntax related to Greek are both very important, but that's step two. That information is barely useful for those who can't read the language very well.
Michael: Can you suggest two or three tools for beginners in Greek? What has been most helpful for you?
Eric: The best first year NT Greek book I have used is Mounce, but since I think the pedagogy is all wrong, I can't really recommend it. Athenaze for classical Greek is a better starter, frankly. The differences between classical and Koine Greek are exaggerated to a degree, I think. Sure, classical can definitely be harder, but it is clearly the same language. If someone wanted to learn to read the Greek NT, it would be better for them to start with classical given the nature of the tools for learning biblical Greek (I don't think they are all that good!). The lexicon BDAG is very nice. It is a must have. Wallace's syntax is also great to study after the first year of Greek.
Michael: So, for my readers who may be unfamiliar with Athenaze, could you say a little about that?
Eric: Athenaze is a textbook for learning classical Greek. It uses a very different approach for learning Greek. The typical approach for biblical Greek strikes me as very analytical: Memorize the paradigms and be able to recognize the words you find. Athenaze is a more reading-centric approach. There are still paradigms, but the focus isn't the regurgitation of paradigms but rather the reading (and writing to some extent) of the language. I think that is a better learning model. You wouldn't learn French the former way or German. You could try, but you would be missing out on much that makes learning a language easier. NT Greek classes as a general rule, don’t include much of any speaking or composition. That is a terrible idea. And there isn’t enough reading either. The vocabulary requirements are anemic.
Michael: Okay, on a different but related note, what do you make of the suggestion that the Gospels may have been first written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek?
Eric: I think the idea that all of them were originally written in Aramaic is rather far-fetched. It's possible that one or more were, but I haven't seen much that is compelling. I've only read a little bit about it, though, so I can't be too dogmatic. Since the idea has completely failed to catch on in scholarship I am not taking it seriously at the moment. That's not because scholarship is rarely wrong; the opposite is the case. It's just a combination of a) time and b) there is absolutely no manuscript evidence as far as I know. This is getting a bit off topic, but I suppose it is relevant to this question, so I'll say it: When some topic comes up that would require quite a bit of work and has little to no footing in the scholarly community, I won't generally get into it. I'll wait for people more qualified and interested in the topic to examine it and see where things end up. There are only so many things I can research at a time. Of course there are other examples. That Talpiot tomb and the Gabriel's vision finding are two recent examples. I'm really not going to care at all until a scholarly consensus comes about. On the former it has come about and the consensus is against it, so, not wasting my time on that was a good plan. We'll wait and see on the latter. The Aramaic gospels thing is pretty interesting, but my Aramaic is not good enough at the moment for me to really approach it as intelligently as it should be approached. But if the scholarly world starts taking it more seriously, then I probably would at that point.
Michael: Just as a side note, scholars like Matthew Black and also Craig Evans have done some great work on the Aramaic Gospels. Anyway, sticking with the “Greek” theme from before, do you think that ministers and laypeople should have a working knowledge of Greek or do you think it should be left to scholars?
Eric: I do think they should. Can you imagine a person who bases their life's work off of the work of Homer not knowing Greek? Could you imagine someone basing their life on Poe not knowing English? I cannot. Let's say you are going into the ministry. You plan on spending the next, say, 50-years of your life reading a text, studying it and exegeting it. It is absolutely ludicrous to me that you would be willing to put in that much effort of study and not be willing, on the front end, to learn the actual language in which the documents are written. For the layman, I don't think it is a necessity, but I think it is a good idea if you have the time. You won't be living in the text like a minister would (or should), but you will be studying it for the rest of your life. I think it helps as a study tool. At the very least, it gives you a range of tools that just aren't accessible and critique-able without that kind of knowledge.
Michael: Given that you are a Greek guru who, like me, probably tends to carry around your NA27 (Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek NT, for those who might not know) or something similar, what English translation of the Bible do you occasionally use and what would you recommend (and why)?
Eric: I carry around my NET Bible/NA 27 Diglot for the NT. I have my NET full Bible for my old. If I'm not reading in one of those, I'll either read in a NASB or a KJV. The NET is much more explanatory than the KJV, but the KJV says some things SO much better. If I want to understand the proverbs and psalms, I'll read my NET. If I want to feel them, I'll often read KJV or sometimes NASB. The attachment to the NASB mostly comes from my own history. It was my translation of choice from High School through college and into seminary. Or, if I'm reading out of Jeremiah 31, I'll pick anything other than the NET, because I can't stand their translation of Jer 31:31.
Michael: You’re right, the KJV and its language becomes rather fun at some points. Like when it talks about he who “pisseth on the wall”. Anyway…let’s change gears for a bit here, let’s talk a little about theology. Who, in your estimation, are the leading theologians of our time and why?
Eric: I have not done tons of reading in systematic theology since college. I did some in seminary because it was required, but I stayed away for the most part. The systematic tradition I am most familiar with is the reformed tradition, and I spent a lot of time in it in college. Since then I've moved away from their systematics simply because, in many ways, I feel they are still stuck in the 16th and 17th century. It's not that I don't think theology is important. I just think it needs to come after exegesis and study of history, and I'm not at all convinced they are keeping up with the former, and perhaps not the latter outside of the range of the protestant folks and Augustine.
Michael: Well, let's switch the label to "bible scholars" then. Who, in your estimation, are the leading bible scholars of our time and why?
Eric: One of the most influential books in my thought-life is Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright. He's not always right, but I think he is able to synthesize and explain better than anyone else out there. I do like Dunn and Bauckham quite a bit as well. Richard Hays rocks. Others have written great books, but I guess these are some of the guys I admire the most.
Michael: Other than Wright, are these scholars that have influenced you? If so, how? If not, who has and how?
Eric: Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul by Hays was very helpful for me. I was already going that direction with Paul, but his book really gave me some thinking points. So he didn't really transform my thinking, but his is the best work on Paul that I have read, I think. I have read some of Dunn and Bauckham. I respect them both greatly, but they have not had the impact on me that Wright has had. I haven't been able to read the gospels the same since I read JVG.
Michael: If those, in your view, are the leading biblical scholars, what would you say are the most important conversations in biblical scholarship that are currently taking place and why?
Eric: The “Historical Jesus” discussion will be very important for quite a while. The so-called "New Perspective on Paul" needs to be discussed quite a bit more as well. I also don't want people to drop “The Synoptic Problem”. That needs to be discussed ad infinitum until we can resolve this “Q” thing.
Michael: This is probably one of the areas where you and I would disagree. I am becoming increasingly convinced that when we understand Jesus as a social figure in His own context, theories like “Q” or even documents like “Q” are quite unimportant. But…let’s not go there right now. Instead, let’s switch gears once more. Other than working with the Greek language, you are also a computer guru and work with computer coding languages. What got you into that and what kinds of things are you currently working on?
Eric: I got into it because of a diagramming tutorial I did in Flash (Which they still sell at the DTS bookstore). As for what I'm working on, well, there is a morphology tutorial that has been in the works for too long. I'm also working on a new version of my manuscript digital image reader project I call "Graphe". I released that quite a while ago. In its currently released state it is not very user-friendly at all. I've got some fun things up my sleeve on this one. I also code my blog site. That's all done with ASP.NET, C#, and Sql Server. Some of the features I have planned should be useful to the world, but I won't say any more on that until I'm closer to getting it ready.
Michael: Okay, let me ask the question that I typically close interviews with: If you could only have access to one—and only one—book (other than the Bible) what would it be and why?
Eric: I would say a combined Hebrew/Greek Bible, but I'm not sure if that breaks your rule or not.
Michael: My goodness, you Greek geeks and your analytical minds! Well, let’s say the Bible, each portion in its respective language, is already there for access. Name one other book you’d like to have access to.
Eric: Okay, Holmes' recent edition of The Apostolic Fathers. After two minutes of very intense thought, definitely that work.
Michael: Eric, thanks again for taking the time to chat with me. I enjoyed our conversation.
Eric: Me too. Thanks for interviewing me.
Again, be sure to visit Eric's site at "Archaic Christianity".
(*Note: While there are 10 Steps, there are more than 10 photos. Some steps required a number of illustrative pictures. Thus, some pics may be labeled 1.5, etc. "1.5" is still representative of "Step 1" and so on and so forth! Also, there is no "sound/volume" because this is a pictoral/reading tutorial!)
Click the following link for the tutorial: Creating A Guitar Pedal Board’s "All-In-One" Power Supply Tutorial
Pedal board, power supply, daisy chain, make your own, how to, guitar, amp, etc.
So, with the sale of other (really, really good!!!) music equipment, I thought I'd purchase a new guitar that was easier on my fingers. The Ibanez Artcore AS73, which has recieved great reviews, is just that guitar. I got the Transparent Cherry Red one; as you can see in the photo, it's a good lookin' six string. Because I'm a sucker for acoustic, I had to pick up Boss's AC-3, Acoustic Simulator Pedal. I've found that acoustics just kill/shred my fingers and that electrics are so much easier on them. The AC-3 allows me to make my electric sound just like an acoustic (brilliant, I say, brilliant!). I got a nice case out of the deal too. I talked the guy down about $30-40 on the guitar, case and pedal. That's not bad for a chain retail store. I also purchased the Rocktek "Son of a Pitch" guitar tuner pedal on Ebay. Anyway, I'm excited to play!!! I've missed guitar playing over the last few years.
By: T. Michael W. Halcomb ©
(This review may not be copied, modified or redistributed without the author’s express written or verbal consent.)
Visit: www.michaelhalcomb.blospot.com for more free biblical / scholarly resources. For a .pdf of this article, click the following icon: or click HERE. (This has also been added to the "My Free Bible Resources" Page.
Often times, under-grad and graduate students are either bidden to write a book review or have a desire to do so. The nature of a book review is that it is a critical assessment of the numerous aspects of a particular text (perhaps, even, in a particular context). In this article/post, I want to offer some tips on how to write a book review. Keep in mind, as you read that some of the tips offered here might be more “common-sense” or discernable than others. Enjoy.
Before I get to the actual writing of the review, I want to offer a few thoughts on how to prepare. Firstly, when you’re reading, be sure to have a writing utensil, a highlighter and if possible, page marking tabs. Secondly, as you begin to read, make sure you read the preface and introduction! This sets the book (usually, anyway) in context. Thirdly, be ready to critically engage the book; don’t be afraid to mark, highlight and write in the book. Fourthly, develop a set of markings that you can use repeatedly as you read the text. For example, when I’m engaging a book, I use four symbols: an “X” is placed next to something I disagree with, a “?” is set by something I either am doubtful of or don’t understand, a “check mark” is situated by something I agree with and a “circle” is drawn around a typo. I use a highlighter to mark words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs that stick out to me. Often times, I will write sentences next to my markings to remind me what thoughts or questions I had. I use page tab markers when I have a lot of markings on a particular page. Fifthly, at the end of each section / chapter, go back and review your markings and make a list of your thoughts, questions, etc. Or, if there was a particular quote or thought you liked, write the page number here for memory and reference. At the end of the chapter, engage the chapter by writing 3 or 4 sentences and summary remarks. I promise, if you do this, it will save you hours when you go to write the actual review!!! With concluding remarks at the end of each chapter, you’ll only have to refer to 10-15 pages rather than the entire book. Now, on to the review itself!
To begin, I want to offer a kind of general, skeleton / outline for a review. The rest of this paper will proceed to explain each part of the outline.
1. Bibliographic Content
2. Introductory Remarks
a. State the thesis of the work
b. State the contribution that this work aims to make in its field
3. Critical Engagement
a. State the audience to whom the book is aimed
b. Engage the successes of this book
c. Engage the shortcomings of this book
d. State whether or not the thesis was fulfilled and the contribution made
4. Closing Remarks
a. State whether or not you would recommend the book and why / why not
b. State whether this will be a contribution / liability for its perceived readers
1. When writing a book review, you should begin by including the information of the book in the following format at the top of the article:
Author’s Last Name, First Name, Initial. Title (italicized), edition (if necessary). Book Series (if necessary). City of Publishing House, State Abbr: Name of Publishing House, Year of Publication. # of Pages. Cost of Book.
Here’s an example:
Anderson, Janice Capel. Mark & Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008. Pp. 288. $19.95.
2. In the beginning of the review proper, you want to share with your readers the thesis / theses of the book. This will help readers determine whether or not the book is relevant to them. Sometimes, this may be the only thing readers need when they’re making a decision on whether or not to purchase the literature. At this point, you might also attempt to say a bit about the contribution that this book is attempting to make in its respective field. For instance, you could state the thesis of a work and leave it at that or, if you know the context of the field, you could remark on whether or not this book is making a new contribution, rehashing an old argument, saying something that’s already been said, etc. Here’s an example of an opening paragraph of my review of the book, Mark & Method, mentioned above:
"Honestly, I cannot sing enough praises for the second edition of Mark & Method. Edited by Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore, this work is first rate. A compilation of scholarly essays, this tome makes an excellent textbook for students of Mark’s Gospel. In fact, I would recommend this book before any others when it comes to getting a firm, introductory grasp on Mark."
*Note that I didn't explicitly spell-out the thesis of the book, however, it (among other things) can be discerned, to some degree, in what I did write.
3. At this stage in the review, you will critically engage the text. This means that you will affirm it, argue with it, reject it, ask questions of it, etc. at various points. You will talk about the book’s perceived audience, successes and shortcomings. You will also state whether or not the thesis was fulfilled and a contribution made. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the text and critique it. By the same token, give praise when it is due. Here is another excerpt from the previously mentioned book and my review of it:
"Imbued with a lengthy list of impressive contributors, this work contains 8 chapters that plummet the depths of hermeneutical issues, perspectives and approaches to the Gospel According to Mark. After a nice, concise history of the interpretation of Mk. in the first chapter, the next seven chapters illustrate the ways in which various hermeneutical methods illumine the text in various ways. The chapters’ titles are: Narrative Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Deconstructive Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Social Criticism, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Criticism.
"I found chapters 2 (Elizabeth Struthers Malbon), 5 (Janice Capel Anderson), 6 (David Rhoads) and 7 (Abraham Smith) most illuminating. Then again, I am biased as my interests reside in socio-literary approaches towards the Scriptures. Given the way the book is structured—an individual, un-thematic, essay format—it is difficult, in a short amount of space, to offer any detailed analysis."
In literary publications, the lengths of reviews vary. In most small journals, reviews range from 400-650 words. In larger journals, such as RBL, reviews are typically 5-7 pages in length. (The sample review posted here is formatted for a small journal or an online post, such as on Pisteuomen.)
4. The last thing you want to do in the book review is make some sort of summation and offer some concluding thoughts and remarks. At this juncture you will state whether or not the book has achieved its stated end. If it has or has not, will probably play a large role in your recommending it, or not. Here, you should also state who you will suggest the book to, if anyone. You will also note whether or not you think the book is a liability or contribution to its field. (Here's a good rule of thumb I try to remember: Before you’re too harsh, remember that someone probably put a lot of hours into this book. There’s usually something noteworthy about the work, even if you disagreed with everything it said.) Here’s yet another sample of the end of my brief book review:
"This work makes not only a good introduction to Mk. but also a fine introduction to hermeneutical issues and methods. If you are a professor, I highly recommend using this book. If you are a student, especially in Markan studies, you must own this. And if you are an avid read or someone with an affinity for Mark’s Gospel, it would be a travesty not to have this book on your shelf. Thanks to Fortress Press for sending me this outstanding work on the Gospel According to Mark!"
(Notice that, here, I thanked "Fortress Press" beacuse they sent me the book for free, with the sole purpose of reviewing it online. When writing paper published reviews, do not do this!) In the end, some things that will help you complete a good book review are: knowledge of the field, some expertise in the field, educated wordplay, using language and imagery similar to that which the book itself uses, critical interaction with and engagement of the book, good spelling, a tight format / outline, etc. I’m sure that more could be said on this issue but I will stop here. If I can be of any assistance to you in your review writing endeavors, contact me by leaving a comment on any of the posts at the Pisteuomen website found at: www.michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com.
Hope this helps! For the whole, original review, click HERE. If so, why not drop me a line and let me know.
This is not a debate about origins as much as it is originality. The fact of the matter is, the “dying and rising Messiah-type” figure, even if it did exist in Hebrew thought prior to Jesus, means quite little. In all reality and in my estimation, it has no significant bearing on Christianity. I know when I say this that I am at odds with some prominent scholars but seriously, I think many—including the non-scholarly “Yahoo”—are off-base.
There are a number of reasons as to why I’m saying this. Firstly, let's just assume the claim that Jesus took this idea from Judaism or somewhere else. Just because he adopted the idea or notion of a dying and rising messiah / savior figure from somewhre else, means next to nothing. Jesus borrowed parables, theological principles, scripture, analogies, etc. from the people and culture He lived in. If He “borrowed” or “adapted” the idea, oh well.
Secondly, the “dying and rising” theme was present in ancient Mediterranean astrology and agricultural stories/myths. Some of these are found in Hebrew thought long before Jesus. It has long been known that Jesus did not come up with this idea. This is nothing novel (thus, to make the assumption of the previous claim, is to assume something erroneous). What was novel about Christianity, however, was that where the other stories were mythic narratives or pagan beliefs, the first Christians claimed that Jesus, as a human, was literally killed and raised as “The” Messiah.
Thirdly, and I shall not belabor this point, but some will have a problem with the tablets because they may call their “predicting” Jesus into question. I have written a number of posts concerning this aspect of Jesus and have repeatedly shown that the things Jesus said would happen, before they happened, were not so much predictions (as in telling the future) as the logical consequences and outworkings of what He heard that the religious and political leaders of His day were planning to do to Him. Check those posts out HERE and HERE.
In the end, the tablet does little for Jesus, modern or ancient Christianity and certainly, it does nothing to discredit any of them. Other than affirming what scholarship has already known about “dying and rising” savior figures, this tablet is probably most valuable for recognizing the fact that ancient Hebrews had strong views on this matter—which, again, we’ve known for quite a while. So, while this has really, nothing to do with the origins of Christianity, it does have a few things to say about the originality of Christianity—namely, that some aspects of it weren’t all that original. In the end, though, originality isn’t what made Christianity catch on. What made Christianity spread like wildfire is that Jesus wasn’t simply a mythic figure but rather, an actual human who was killed and raised. He was the “dying and rising” Savior / Messiah, par excellence.
We just moved to Michigan this week and I was wondering if there were any bloggers / readers out there? If so, leave me a comment and let me know. Blessings.
In the spirit of all things (un)patriotic, I thought that I'd make a sequel to my George W. Bush blooper reel. This sequel, however, stars not GW but rather Barack Obama. So, here are some funny clips of the "infallible" Obama. Why was Bush viewed as being so "dumb" or "ignorant" when he did this type of thing and Obama is still hailed? Now, I'm not voting for McCain but the fact is, Obama isn't all he's made out to be!!! Check out the (short) video below. (Click the pic to start the video.)
The problem is the base computer's (the comp you're trying to connect to) "MAC Filters". MAC filters prevent people from using their signal. Even though you can detect their signal, in order to be able to connect to it, the MAC filters either have to be disabled or they have to have the "Physical Address" of your comp (find your "physical address" by going to the "start" menu, clicking "control panel" - make sure, if you're running Vista, you tick the "classic view" in the left column, then select "Network and Sharing Center". After this, click on "Manage Network Connections" and then right-click on "Wireless Network Connection". Once on this screen, select "status". Now, a small screen will pop up. Next to the line that reads "Physical Address" you will find a set of letters and numbers. This is your MAC identity). If you enter your "MAC" info on the "MAC Filter" of the computer you're trying to connect to, once you do, you will be able to connect. Of course, if you opt out of going through all of that, you can always choose to disble the MAC Filters; this allows anyone picking up your signal to connect, however. If you want to be able to monitor that, download "Network Magic" and you'll be able to. On the pc being connected to, a small window will pop up which tells you who has connected to your pc.
Hope that helps. If you have any questions, leave a comment (even if it is much later than the date of this post) and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible to see if I can help you. The other part of this whole equation that I left out was how to access your "MAC Filters". In a nutshell, to do that, open Internet Explorer on the pc with the router and type in the address bar, these numbers: 192.168.1.1 and hit "enter". This should bring you to your router's home page and from there, you need to select "security" and this will allow you to be able to adjust your "MAC Filters". Again, if you need help, I'll do as much as I can. If your problem was solved, let me know. Happy computing!
At this point in time, however, my view of Genesis 1 and 2 is that it is (and I honestly don’t know if this argument has ever been made!) a type of parasodic text. To put it differently, I think the creation narrative (I don’t subscribe to the documentary hypothesis or source critical theories either) was, to the ancient Hebrews, a sort of comical document, something like a parody. While I am aware that the argument that Genesis 1 and 2 are an apology against the Marduk narrative and while I am an advocate of that view, I also want to contend that the commencing chapters of Genesis would have been seen as subversive humor.
The sociologist, Murray Davis has said: “Comics try to discover whether it provokes a laugh to contradict what they hypothesize to be an essential characteristic of a typical social unit. Specifically, they replace this hypothesized essential characteristic with another feature (from a different social unit) they believe so uncharacteristic that imagining it together with the first unit’s other features will be laughable” (Davis, 1993, p. 217). In my estimation, something similar to this is taking place in Genesis 1 and 2. Moses (again, I am not into the DH!), in reaction to the Marduk myth (I do not care which one came first, the oral account of the Israelites or the written/oral accounts of the Mardukians J), composed the creation story in such a way that it made the Marduk account laughable.
Unlike Marduk, who represented chaos and formed the cosmos out of the body parts of other kin gods and goddesses, YHWH created out of “chaos” (e.g. showing His sovereignty over Marduk) and easily spoke things into existence, without war or even His hands. Just as well, whereas Marduk had to earn both his status and his keep, YHWH was already chief and ruler. There are many more things, I am sure, that I could highlight here. In fact, I would love to write a journal article on this very subject sometime. Perhaps I will start (a bit of encouragement could possibly get the motors running!). The point I want to make here, however, is that the humorous elements of the creation account are so often overlooked because the text is approached with modern-day, scientific, religio-political lenses on.
In the end, there are, I think, two main points that Genesis 1 and 2 are attempting to make: 1) God created the world in six days, and 2) YHWH’s orderly creation was a victory over the chaotic monster Marduk. To the author of Genesis and to the audiences, this story would have been viewed as positively parasodic as it made the Mardukian myth seem laughable. Perhaps it is high time to unearth the comical elements of the ancient combat myths, Canaanite chronicles and creation accounts. Just as well, maybe it’s time