- In one sense, praying for and sending love letters to Britney Spears seems like a waste of time and energy at best and a gross misapplication of what our duties are as Christians at worst. On the other hand, she probably is having a hard time, and what's the harm?
- Nuns: surfin' your internets, usin' your technology.
- The viral spread of independent Christianity.
- Along those same lines, as well as a thing I posted about last week, a great question on the only "fellowship" most churches have.
- Blatant and totally unnecessary bile directed toward Christianity for the week.
What's on my mind?
(disclaimer: formatting all off because i emailed this in)
I was asked to write a response to a question emailed to the professor
I am interning for right now (my, what sytax!), and since I spent this
much time on it, I thought I would post it as well. The question is on
Matt 1:16, for which there is a variant that could be read as denying
the virgin birth and affirming Joseph as Jesus' biological father.
This is what I do in grad school. (The question answering, not the
RE: Virgin Conception Observations & Questions
Dear Mr. C,
I am an intern of Dr. W and he has asked me to answer this
question (or at the very least to try!). First of all, let me
compliment you on the research you have already put into this
question. I know many fellow seminary students who wouldn't have put
in this much time; it is clearly a testament to your faithfulness.
As you noted yourself, there are any number of sources to go to when
trying to understand the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth, and
especially the early church's stance on this miraculous event. In
accordance with your particular question to Dr. W, I will
concentrate on the value of the external evidence presented by the
Syriac witness containing the variant reading (1) 'Jacob begot Joseph;
Joseph, to whom was betrothed Mary the virgin, begot Jesus who is
called the Christ.'
This is, of course, one of three extant readings. The vast majority of
Greek witnesses, regardless of time period or geography, as well as
all the versions (except for two Syriac witnesses and the Old Latin)
go with (2) 'and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus
was born, who is called Christ.' A third possibility is a reading
found in a few Greek witnesses and the Old Latin: (3) 'and Jacob begot
Joseph, to whom being betrothed the virgin Mary bore Jesus, who is
In the first place, let's take up your main question: the validity of
the Syriac witness. As far as antiquity goes, the Syriac translation
generally goes back to about A.D. 200. The witness in question here
(the Sinaitic Syriac) is a palimpsest (that is, a document written
over at some point, but having left enough evidence behind to decipher
despite that) from the late 4th century (putting it later than such
Greek witnesses as Papyrus P1 or Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus). If
it were the case that the Syriac version were uniform in its
representation of this variant, it would be a good bet that the
reading goes back to A.D. 200. However, the Syriac is actually split
in the case of this reading.
The Curetonian Syriac (sy C) goes with possibility (3). The Peshitta
(sy P) and the Harklean (sy H) each confirm possibility (2). The
Sinaitic Syriac (sy S, the manuscript you are asking about explicitly)
appears completely on its own in this case, diluting its value and
making it quite difficult to affirm as containing the original
reading. Let me put it another way. To affirm that the Sinaitic Syriac
has the original reading in this place, we would have to assume three
things: that the Sinaitic Syriac is reliable in replicating its
predecessor translation, that the predecessor translation is a
reliable and literal translation of its Greek witness, and finally
that that particular Greek witness is a reliable representation of the
original. Without even taking into account the unlikelihoods of this
one particular manuscript containing the original against other Syriac
witnesses or of the corruption of such early Greek witnesses as Codex
Sinaiticus or Codex Vaticanus, we can see that holding to the Syriac
witness as the lone container of the original reading is an
intellectual tight rope at best.
In the second place, even if the Syriac did have the original reading
here, the text as a whole still affirms the virgin birth. In the same
verse, the Sinaitic Syriac speaks of the "virgin" Mary. Its next seven
verses relate Luke's account of the virgin birth. More than likely,
the variants arising in this verse are not due to an alternate
tradition denying Christ's virgin birth; they have more probably
arisen due to either unintentional scribal error (reading (1)
reproduces the generic genealogical formula of the previous fourteen
verses) or an intentional attempt to protect Mary's virginity
(removing the word "husband" as both readings (1) and (3) do).
Though there may certainly be reasons to question the early
understanding of the virgin birth, it seems unlikely that any argument
could be made on textual grounds. I am sorry you have lost much of
your previous research and work due to a computer crash (I know that
particular pain), and so I'd like to point you to a few sources that
might be helpful as you attempt to rebuild your notes:
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew
Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (pp. 61-64 particularly for
the Matt 1:16 problem)
J. Gresham Machen, The Virgin Birth of Christ (especially pp. 176-187)
Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (pp.
2-6, under Matt 1:16 reference)
Rich Elliott, A Site Inspired by The Encyclopedia of New Testament
Textual Criticism, http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/
Again, I'd like to compliment you on your work in attempting to answer
this question, and encourage you that as Christians, not only should
we feel free to pursue the truth, it is our duty to do so fervently.
As I wrote above, that you've come this far in attempting to answer
this question is indicative of your strong faith rather than a cynical
skepticism. I hope this answer helps you out as you move along in your
All the best,
i wanted to share a story with you, a story about a man, chicken, and the providence of God.
tonight, i had a photo exhibit (along with a number of other DTS students) for the EIKON group. i've had photos posted online before, but never in a real life display, so that was pretty exciting. unfortunately, i teach an LSAT class tuesday and thursday nights, and so was unsure that i would be able to make it to the showing tonight.
i decided to attempt to end my class a bit early in order to catch the end of the showing. normally this would not be a problem, because in fact many classes end early, depending on the amount of material meant to be covered that night. tonight was a light night anyway, so i went through the class, and when it came time to dismiss everyone, i said the same thing i do every time a class ends early. "well, you all are free to go, but if anyone would like to stay behind to work on some homework, or with any other questions, i'll be staying here as well." in two years of working these classes and giving that speech, i can count on one hand the number of students who've taken me up on it, and never for more than 10 minutes. tonight, of course, was the night i had two students take me up on the offer, for 50 minutes.
when i called shannon, who was running the showing, i was downtrodden, but alright. i had decided that i would comfort myself with some chick-fil-a. i had a coupon in my wallet for a free coke with an 8-piece chicken nugget. i've had that coupon in my wallet for nigh upon two months.
as i called shannon, i envisioned the joy those chicken nuggets would bring me, in lieu of, you know, any actual joy. but, to my pleasant surprise, shannon said i could probably make it just as they were breaking everything down. i raced to the seminary, walked in, saw some friends, and enjoyed the exhibit, and save for missing out on the aforementioned nuggets, which i was now craving, a good night was to be had. but God had other plans. without even asking, God decided to grant me my chicken nuggets.
as i found shannon, i noticed there were little candies on all the tables, reese's peanut butter cups and whatnot, and shannon asked if i would like some food. i said i'd noticed the candies, and was planning on helping myself soon. she asked me, "do you want some chick-fil-a also?" to my great surprise, she pointed me to a table filled to the brim with chicken nuggets. i'd wanted 8 nuggets earlier. God gave me 8-thousand.
as people left, and clean-up began, i was asked if i would like to take the nuggets home. all of them. of course, i said yes. to Abraham, God gave Isaac. to his chosen people, the promised land. to me, he gave 112 chicken nuggets. and i will enjoy every last one of them thinking of him.
i just read a fantastic piece by dan wallace about the funny relationship (or lack of once) between american evangelicalism and liturgy. for quite some time i have been depressed by the dressed-up, but completely heartless nature of worship at my local bible churches (and i currently live in dallas, tx, so there is no shortage in my particular locale). i'm not even talking about the soulless mega-church stadium/auditoriums, which by their utilitarian emphases have managed to garner the loathing of christians and non-christians alike (it's nice to have something to agree on every once in a while). i mean every church service that you walk into and feel like you've gotten mixed up and managed to score pretty good tickets to a rock concert.
i don't wish to be too partisan as i write this, and i know that some people love that kind of "contemporary" worship. i just find it far too impersonal to actually feel like church. i am probably one of the most socially awkward persons, um, ever. and so i dread as much as anyone, if not moreso, that 2-minute small talk and handshake between the "praise" and the sermon (as if those two should be separated anyway). but as much as i dread that time, and look forward to the lights going on and off, and the preacher standing up, i would give anything for someone to ask me to sit with them, or pray with them, or talk with them after the service.
but we are an individualistic society, content with how "i" worship, rather than with how "we" worship, much less with how the church worships properly. as wallace points out in the aforementioned article:
Rather than justifying our lack of liturgy as that which is ‘biblical,’ perhaps we need to think about getting in touch with the stream of tradition that reaches back to the distant past, sometimes even to the apostolic age. Often what passes for ‘biblical’ in evangelicalism is simply ignorance of how God has worked among his people for millennia.indeed.
Lots of links saved up:
- Total depravity? Nuh-uh. Turns out people are 89% good. It looks like at least some of the 11% who are liars and thieves are also Christians. I would just like to say that I have most definitely lied in the last month.
- The Top 31,101 Bible verses. Deal with that, David Letterman!
- The real "big secret" from Harry Potter 7? Dumbledore's gay. Christians (and others) react accordingly.
- Oh, also, Harry Potter is another Christian metaphor.
- I don't like Ann Coulter. She's a bitch. And maybe also a witch. [Via Jim West]
- Speaking of Ann Coulter, here are two pieces by Darrell Bock I've been meaning to post for a while. [Via Bock's Blog]
- I think the work to preserve New Testament manuscripts is not only important, but fun! And not just 'cause I got to work on it this summer.
- More LOLcat love. [Via AKMA's Random Thoughts]
About an hour ago, I got home from a screening at the Angelika of Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited. I am a big fan of Anderson's work, having been first introduced to it through The Royal Tenenbaums and then Rushmore (I know opposite direction). I saw RT with a bunch of friends in a cramped theater somewhere off of Sunset, and I fell in love. It was funny, yes, but poignantly so, and I don't particular care how cliched that is, because it was true. After viewing Rushmore, I decided that Wes Anderson had something to say to my generation, full of disaffected, overprotected youths, searching blithely for what to do with their lives. Of course, classism must become a part of the discussion at this point, not only because of the way that Anderson deals with class, but because it is a particularly middle- to upper-class problem, this dangerous combination of over-abundance of choice and enablers.
Leaving that for another entry, which surely it deserves, I will move into my thoughts on DL. Right now I feel about the same as I did for The Life Aquatic, which is to say, unimpressed. Not because I didn't like it (I did) but because I no longer feel it speaking to me the same way RT or Rushmore do. And I do say do, as they still affect me similarly to the way they did the first time I watched them. Anderson is pitch perfect in those two films, nailing what it's like to grow up with seemingly unlimited potential, only to realize as we grow older that not only was that potential sadly limited even though we may not have known at the time, by the time we realize those limitations, what little potential there actually was has likely been squandered.
LA and DL on the other hand leave me with a sense that I have missed something, or that perhaps these movies are for people other than me. As I said before, I still enjoyed many things about DL and would probably even go see it again before buying the DVD, etc. But its interludes and meanderings and funny asides no longer amount to any more than that.
And perhaps that's ok. More than one review has pointed out that perhaps it's enough to simply be this type of movie, and any higher expectations are unnecessary. That DL is akin to an old slipper. It won't blow anyone's socks off, but it's nice to have, and feels good to put on. Well, I totally disagree. Few people are good at doing what Wes Anderson does, and I'm not so willing to let him off the hook. I have no problem with his extra-cutesieness, or his post-modern aesthetics, or with the way he puts together shots. I love all those things, and in fact I say the more the better. But I want it to mean something. I want it to have a purpose. I want to see a voice crying out, waking us up from our post-collegiate stupor, forcing us to confront our wasted lives.
- Christians + Politics = ????
- A Christian Nation is neither Christian nor a nation: discuss.
- The glorious work of translating the bible into every language and tongue. And we mean every. language.
- A U.S. Court wastes colossal amounts of time.
- Friends with Benefits. Not totally stress-free. Really???!!?!??!
- Christians being sneaky.
- A review of Misquoting Jesus from a bit of a different perspective.
- Some parallels between Abraham Lincoln and...Jesus?
- More support for the idea that all religious people are absolutely crazy (an idea I fully support).
i understand i'm being very dense when i say this, but it is unclear to me why there is a huge debate about homosexuality, whether in the context of the clergy or the laity. come along with me on this line of reasoning, and please feel free to let me know where i've gone wrong. if anyone engages in sex outside of marriage, that person is committing a sin. churches are not accustomed to letting their clergy live in a continual state of sin. for example, a young, unmarried youth minister would not, under any conditions, be allowed to continue ministering were it known that he/she were engaged in a continual sexual relationship with their girl- or boyfriend. so, any minister that was actively engaged in a sexual relationship outside of marriage could not for long remain a minister. regardless of how you feel about the bible's perspective on homosexuality (and i am prepared to recognize there is at least a little flexibility on that matter), the bible's perspective on marriage is fairly clear: it is the union of a man and a woman. please take this moment to note that this is NOT a post on gay marriage. how the state defines marriage is completely immaterial to this discussion. i am interested in how God defines marriage.
my feelings on homosexuality within the laity are similar. though members of a church are not open to the same kind of church discipline or standards that the clergy are, they are held to other standards of behavior and church discipline. a young, unmarried couple would not (or perhaps more accurately should not) be allowed to continually engage in a sexual relationship without some sort of repercussion.
so the part i don't understand is this: what does it mean to be a homosexual minister or even a homosexual christian. does this describe people who are willfully engaging in disobedience on a continual, and who have some sort of imprimatur from the church? why would anyone expect that to be alright, much less to be given a stamp of approval? beyond that, why am i engaging in an attempt to figure out how good someone's thought life is? we all lust, we all sin, the question is what we do with those lusts and sins.
For some reason, gmail thought I would be interested in a dating website...for married women. Datingawife.com! Apparently there are 1267 in Dallas alone who "just need some male companionship." Lest we think the intentions of the website are untoward, they go to lengths to assure us that "DatingAWife.com is a sophisticated dating site geared more towards interaction with a male companion where it is lacking at home." I like a good sophisticated dating site, and I highly recommend Datingawife.com.
5 quizzes, 3 papers, 1 test, ~400 pages of reading. a week in the life of a seminary student. i'll get a few links that have been piling up off my chest, and then start anew tomorrow.
- Lost Tomb of Jesus people and their ilk. [Via Jim West]
- USC alum Troy Polamalu is Eastern Orthodox. Take that, church unity! Also, LSU sucks. [Via GetReligion]
- More for the Christians getting angry over stupid stuff file. Do you think someone should explain to them that Da Vinci's Last Supper wasn't canonized. That it was actually only a representation of the titular dinner? Nah.
- Rational Response Squad to the rescue! I, for one, finally feel safe again. Also, yay, copyright!
- I posted a few weeks ago on the idea that atheism was somehow the rational savior of the world, leading only to utopias, as opposed to religion, which is responsible for all death, destruction, intolerance, and whatnot that plagues the world today. Looks like someone else notices how ridiculous that is.
- Tonight on KERA, I was listening to a segment on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Essayist Richard Rodrigues did a piece on the recent release of Mother Theresa's letters and journals, their doubt, her faith, etc. He began by speaking about the "certitude" of today's religions, especially, of course, the various flavors of Christianity. I took offense at first, because of course I revel in doubt (I suppose that's a purposefully provocative way to say that, but I hate the idea that doubt is somehow indicative of weak faith, and that is an idea held to by too many Christians today, especially those that call themselves American Evangelicals). But I quickly realized that on the whole, it was actually a well-balanced look at faith in an increasingly faithless, yet fundamentally certain world. I suppose in some sense, science has left us with the feeling that the only thing separating us from every answer we could desire is time. What a scary, misguided thought.
- In a related article, Betsy Hart of the Chicago Sun-Times writes about the link between religion and happiness. I'm all for any article or writer that wants to further separate the myth that happy should be our default position, especially for Christians.
- Why, oh why, doesn't McSweeney's have an RSS feed.
let's suppose for the moment that someone was a christian. let's suppose also that they had a high bibliology, but that they attempted to read the bible as it was meant to be read by its original audience, as much as possible in what might have been its original context, and with thought to its original intent, rather than with an eye toward wooden literalism founded from a western, modernist perspective that imposes responsibilities upon the text that it never claimed it was there to fulfill.
now, that christian will have a modicum of freedom to deal with things that might be troubling to someone who doubted that the universe and world we know were brought into existence in seven, 24-hour days...a modicum of freedom to deal with things like a first man and woman, progenitors of the human race.
BUT, then that christian turns to the new testament. the fun part of the bible. and that christian reads through romans 5 and 1 corinthians 15, and thinks about the manner in which paul seems to refer to a literal "first man" within the context of letters meant to instruct early christians about "mysteries" (eph 5) of the faith. what does that christian do?