Language is a many splendored thing

If you’ve at all noticed how often I blog, you can see that I’ve lost a lot of my "mojo" for blogging.  One reason is that I have too much to say!  I just can’t sit down and get all my thoughts out easily.  It takes enough energy that even though I’m excited by something enough that I want to express it, the expression itself matters enough to me that I tend to see it as a mountain that I just don’t have time to climb at the moment.

Anyway, this morning, I was listening to a teaching, as usual, while washing the dishes and I figured, that if I just started typing, I could get some of my excitement out before I thought about how big a task it is! (I’m trying to trick myself! Smile with tongue out )

I was listening to a series of teachings/discussions by a guy named Skip Moen on the book of Matthew.  Skip is a theologian/Bible scholar who, while still teaching various theological courses at a university level, is also endeavoring to reach a broader circle of Christians with the message of what a Hebrew/Old Testament contextualization of the New Testament does to help us better understand Jesus, God, His Kingdom, etc.  I learned about Skip Moen because Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding, CA mentioned him in a sermon about 6 months ago or so. 

The plug from Bill interested me because he made reference to some word/concept in scripture and then what the Hebrew behind all that really means and it really brought it to life.  I’ve experienced that before when I’ve discovered the original language meaning and cultural context of something in the Bible – typically something I thought I already knew/understood.  I’ve also experienced that in a more modern context by simply living in another country where another language is spoken – even though there is no disconnect in the temporal context. 

Language and cultural context are enormous!  I don’t know how I can stress that enough – other than to say that I understand as well that it really has to be experienced to be fully understood (which is, itself a concept taken from a Hebraic world view!) These recordings of this study of Matthew are interesting because you can hear the discussion and the questions of the people in the discussion on the recording.  When he presents something that creates a cognitive dissonance in them that I don’t personally feel, I realize just how far God has brought me these last dozen years or so outside of the American and English context – and how valuable that journey has been.

So, all that to say go have a listen yourself and expand your dimensions of understanding and knowing God and His plan for us and His Creation.

Why you have hope

Have you ever pondered the future, what tomorrow will bring, or perhaps 5 years from now, or the spouses and careers of your kids (or a spouse and kids for you!)? “Sure”, you say, “what’s the big deal about that?” Apparently, this sort of thinking has not always been around, and perhaps is not the way other streams of culture view life.

You have perhaps heard of Thomas Cahill, or his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization . It was fairly popular among different circles in the last 10 years or so. What you may not know is that that book is only one of several books he’s written in a series Cahill calls Hinges of History. This is a series of history books that study various slices of history and the way they have shaped the Western world as we know it. It’s quite interesting to discover that the way you think or things you observe and don’t give a second thought to…thinking that’s just the way things are and have always been…have not always been that way. Additionally, with the series’s specific focus on the Western world, you realize anew that other cultural streams in the world today have some vastly different roots and therefore what’s “normal” to them may seem quite abnormal to us!

I just finished the 2nd book in the Hinges of History series, entitled The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. This was a fabulous book, not the least because of the premise:

  • time as a continuum
  • the idea of destiny
  • the concept of a future
  • progress
  • hope

All these were handed down to us via the Jews.

Without giving too much away, it seems that time simply traveled in circles for many ancient peoples and the Jews were the first to break out of that. What that has unleashed in the annals of history is fairly mind-blowing!

If you’re among those who have read a fair amount of the Bible, this book is also quite interesting in the way it looks historically at the Jews through the lens of the Bible and other historical sources. It’s amazing how much insight this brings to familiar Bible stories.

If you’ve never cracked a Bible in your life, not to worry. This book neither requires a theological degree, nor offers to give one. It does, as the title says, offer an explanation of why we think the way we do.

Thomas Cahill’s writing style is also not “historically dry.” In fact it’s a bit raw and racy at times, but then, as a historian, Cahill doesn’t put anyone on a pedestal. Human greed and lust respect no cultural boundaries, and skeletons rattle in everyone’s closet. It could be regarded as a “thinking man’s” book. Though, if one likes to ponder…as I do…it can be good sometimes to know why one ponders what one does. I commend this book to you as one possible source for an answer to that question.