Tuesday, July 31, 2018

24. Germany's Re-armament Begins

One chapter left after this one. I have almost finished blogging through Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer.

Chapter 27: France is to blame
1.  When Hitler took power, he said that if armament negotiations collapsed again, it would be France's fault. A year and a half later, Germany was rearming, and France was considered to blame. France was considered to blame because, after a year and a half, France decided no longer to negotiate with Germany.

Now it is not clear that negotiations would have led to a different result. Germany seemed to be on a course to rearm no matter what. Hitler was playing nice. He sounded like he wanted to make a deal with everyone. We don't want war, he kept saying. That would be madness. He had a knack of sounding like he was the good guy and making the truly good guys seem like the bad guys.

"It would be a gigantic event for all mankind if both nations, once and for all, should banish force from their mutual relations... Only a madman could conceive the possibility of war between the two countries [of Germany and France]," Hitler said (688). He was of course a madman pretending to be sane.

It is fascinating how people can latch on to the one sane word an obviously imbalanced person can say. They try to steer the madman to the right words. "No, that's not what you mean." "No, that's a little closer but not quite." "You're almost there. Try it again." "Ah, look, he said it! And you were saying he was crazy or evil or a liar. His very words prove you wrong."

2. Heiden suggests that when Schacht, the leader of Germany's finances, made the decision to destroy Germany's currently, he set Germany on a course to win back its place in the world by force rather than by the hard and slow way of growing power by peace and agreement.

To begin with Germany had to make friends with its neighbors. The strategy was to deal with each state individually rather than as a block. At this Hitler proved very adept. One by one he pealed off the old alliances after Versailles until France was totally isolated. As Heiden said in the previous chapter, the modest, official army of 300,000 for which Hitler sought permission could not face the match of a united alliance, but it was great enough to win against any one enemy on its own.

Then again, Hitler had millions in his SA, which he insisted was not an army. If Hitler said it, it must be true, right? Hitler promised everyone almost everything. He told the Italians, for example, that he would expect the independence of Austria (of course, if the Austrian Nazis took over and wanted to join Germany on their own, he wouldn't stop them)

3. Austria had a sizable group of National Socialists. In 1934, they attempted a coup to overthrow the government, but they failed. Fascism was sweeping the continent.

In England, the main opponents to Germany were the English left, which conservatives simply branded as communists whom they said were just as much a threat.

France proposed an 8 year moratorium on arms to Germany. America agreed. Sure, said Hitler. Whatever.

They carried on the mock trial of some communists for the Reichstag fire. Only one of the men was actually found guilty. He was officially pardoned in 2008. "German justice did not have the courage to look for the officially unknown incendiaries" (686).

As part of its "divide the alliance" strategy, Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference that had been working to keep Europe from re-arming and escalating its potential for war. This was in October 1933.

Hitler put this to a vote in Germany under the mantra "Do you want peace?" It one 90% of the vote. What choice did they really have. To the rest of the world, they thought it was "either Hitler or Bolshevikism."

4. The hope had been collective security, like NATO today. If you attack one of us, you attack all of us. A unified Europe could have kept Hitler in check. "But there was no Europe" (690). The memory of WW1 was probably still to fresh in mind. England was not willing to go to war for France. America was not willing to go to war for any of them. Norman Davis stated clearly that the US was "in no way aligned with any European power."

Even Winston Churchill argued that England and France should go it alone, which Prime Minister MacDonald predicted inevitably meant war at some point or another. He was right. Meanwhile, the French had no desire to reinstate mandatory service in the military.

Hitler negotiated one on one with Poland. They abolished their parliament and ceased being a democracy. Autocracy was in the water in Europe, even in France, especially in Italy. Hungary had become somewhat of a dictatorship even before Hitler took power. Democracy was after all none to old in most of Europe.

The Soviet Union under Stalin was initially vocal against the fascists, expecting a Bolshevik revolution to sweep Europe at any moment. Then Stalin began to play the game. As long as everyone stayed within their borders, they were fine.

5. Negotiations, negotiations. What did Hitler care? Time was on his side. He was moving forward, saying all the right things to all the right people. He had successfully divided the coalitions, the allies, the "collective security." The only other real option now was for each country to start building its armies, its air forces. Churchill urged the expansion of British airplanes. Germany would be in a position to threaten England by air in a year and a half, maybe sooner.

Some Lords called for appeasement, which became the official British policy. Others said that England only had two or three years left to stop the danger of Germany.

The Disarmament Conference was no longer meaningful. And the Germans started a careful census of its raw materials.

Previously on Hitler:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sermon Starters: Spot the Prophet

Text: Acts 7:44-8:1
Date: July 29, 2018, Countryside Wesleyan Church

Introduction
  • Background on Saul/Paul--how Stephen must have seemed to him
  • Stephen on trial--he's the bad guy, right?
  • Sermon text
I. Sometimes the bad guy is the good guy (and vice versa)
  • Wow--Stephen sure wasn't trying to "win friends and influence people"
  • These must have been "drips" of truth for Saul, that gnawing God does at our hearts, at our subconscious.
  • Severus Snape in Harry Potter--he's the bad guy, right? (bad guy is actually the good guy, although we were so indignant. We were so sure of ourselves that he was evil.)
  • When pastors/priests fail us (good guy is actually the bad guy, although we were so convinced s/he was a prophet and anointed by God.)
  • Gamaliel in Acts 5 (sometimes we know deep down we're in the wrong, but we continue to fight against God anyway; when we don't know who the good guy is, wait on the Lord; hit the pause button and wait for clarity)
II. Sometimes I'm the bad guy.
  • Paul's story (zeal without knowledge; what were his parents thinking, naming him Saul--a good guy that's a bad guy)
  • Paul immediately makes a course correction--that should be our longing as well. Lord, show me if I am fighting against you.
  • Some individuals--even within the people of God--will never hear that course correction. Take Ahab, the king of Israel, who had the consistent warning of the prophets but never heeded, even though he was an Israelite.
  • David and Nathan--again, David immediately makes course correction.
III. Spotting the prophets with your name on them
  • You'll find them annoying. (Ahab and Micaiah)
  • Be still long enough to hear the dripping of the Holy Spirit, that gnawing on your heart that God does trying to get you to change course.
  • The good gueys will lead you to submit to God more. (a friend who said to pray when I wanted to take Jericho)
  • They'll lead you to love others more. (which doesn't mean you won't get angry--but it's about what you get angry about)
  • Sometimes God lets you hit the wall. (hopefully in this life, unlike Ahab who hit the wall in the next life)
Conclusion
  • Stephen and Paul, the rest of the story
  • Jesus stands at the right hand--indicating who the good guy is. And Stephen gets blessed, even as he is dying.
  • Eventually, "every knee will bow and tongue confess."

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Patrons Only: Stephen and the Book of Hebrews

In 1949, William Manson gave a lecture suggesting that the author of Hebrews was a Hellenist like Stephen. Today's "patrons only" post on Patreon.com explores the basic parallels and gives my thoughts on the question. I also explore different ideological groups in the early church, building off of John Meier and Raymond Brown's, Antioch and Rome.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Science: Susskind 4a: Unitarity

Seventh installment summarizing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum.

Chapter 1: Dirac was much smarter than I (introducing linear algebra).
Chapter 2: Quantum States (a.k.a., more linear algebra)

Chapter 3a: Linear Operators
Chapter 3b: Eigenvectors
Chapter 3c: Hermitians and Fundamental Theorem of QM
Chapter 3d: Principles of Quantum Mechanics
Chapter 3e: 3-Vector Operators
Chapter 3f: Spin Polarization Principle

Now that I'm done reviewing Hawking, I thought I would return to wending my way through Susskind's book. Here beginneth chapter 4.

4.1 Classical Reminder
A state is the way something is at a particular point in time. The main rule for how states change in classical mechanics is deterministic. If you know the formula, you know what the next state is going to be. The second rule is reversibility. If you know the state now and the formula for change, then you know what the previous state was too.

If two identical systems have the same state at some point in time, then their past and future is the same as well. We call this "unitarity."

4.2 Unitarity
So consider a closed system. Let's use the Greek letter psi to indicate the quantum state of something: |ψ⟩ . To say that "the state was |ψ⟩ at time t, we will use the notation |ψ(t)⟩ . In a sense, this notation |ψ(t)⟩ represents the entire history of the system.

Assuming a system has unitarity, we can use the operator U to say this too:

|ψ(t)⟩ = U(t)|ψ(0)⟩ 

The entire history of the states of a system is this "time-development operator" producing a series of states that start at time 0.

4.3 Determinism in Quantum Mechanics
The development of a state vector in quantum mechanics is deterministic just like in classical mechanics but with one very significant difference. In classical mechanics, determinism tells us the result of the next experiment with certainty. In quantum systems, it tells us the probabilities of the outcomes of later experiments.

4.4 Closer look at U(t)
1. This time-development operator in quantum mechanics must be linear. That means that for every time you put in, you get one quantum state out and the relationship between the two develops at a constant ratio.

2. The unitarity operator also implies that if two basis vectors are orthogonal (are distinguishable), then they will always be orthogonal. This is called "the conservation of distinctions." This means that, for example:
⟨ψ(t)|Φ(t)⟩ = 0

if these two functions are orthogonal.

3. Susskind then shows that for unitary operators

UI

where U† is the Hermitian conjugation of U [1] and I is the "unit matrix." The unit matrix is one where, when multiplied by something, results in the same matrix. It is a matrix with all ones down its diagonal and zeros everywhere else.

It has the equivalent result to the Kronecker delta δij, which yields the value 1 when two things with the same basis vector are multiplied but 0 when orthonormal basis vectors are multiplied.

4. This adds a fifth principle to quantum mechanics. The evolution of state-vectors with time is unitary.

[1] As a reminder, an operator is Hermitian if the matrix version and its transposed version (where you interchange the rows for the columns) yield an equivalent result.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wittgenstein 6: Story's End

Here is the final installment of my reading through Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein, chapters 24-27.

Previously,

1. Childhood and Engineer
2. Student at Cambridge
3. World War I and Teaching
4. Between the Wars
5. During the War

Chapter 24: A Change of Aspect
The end of WW2 merely confirmed Wittgenstein's sense that humanity was headed for disaster. His resistance to the rule of science confirmed that science and industry decide wars. "Wisdom is cold and to that extent stupid" (490). "Faith by contrast is what Kierkegaard calls a passion."

In 1946, he fell in love with Ben Richards, although it is not clear that Richards ever knew it. His infatuation now was a little less solipsist. He wrote Fouracre alot, whom he had met in London during the war.

On October 26, 1946 there was the famous clash between W and Karl Popper at the Moral Science Club at Cambridge. There are legends that they came to blows or that W tried to hit Popper with a poker. Popper denied it. W was holding a poker and held it up, demanding an example of a moral rule. Then he stormed out.

By the way, W apparently boasted of never having read a word of Aristotle.

In May 1947 he addressed the Jowett society at Oxford, the only time he addressed philosophers at Oxford. He was responding to a paper evaluating Descartes' cogito. Predictably, he didn't answer the question, driving Joseph Pritchard crazy. He died about a week later.

Elisabeth Anscombe had been the catalyst for him coming. She would help translate the Philosophical Investigations and would for a time let him stay at her home near the end. By the way, she was the one that so critiqued C. S. Lewis that he went for novels rather than pure philosophy. W, who was somewhat sexist, considered her an "honorary male."

Iris Murdoch, who attended a few of W's last series of lectures, found his direct and unrelenting style unnerving. His lectures this year covered the material in the first part of the last third of PI. He would always redirect a question like "What is thinking?" to what the meaning of the word thinking is in this sentence.

The lectures W gave his last term in 1947 would become Part II of PI. This includes his duck picture that also looks like a rabbit. W argues that we change the aspect under which certain things are seen.

Some of his work from this final time at Cambridge was published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1.

Chapter 25: Ireland
In early 1948, W was not feeling well physically or mentally. He initially spent time in Dublin, but eventually went to a cottage in Rosro on the sea. The locals thought him mad. He had birds eating out of his hand. He tamed them, which resulted in them being eaten by cats after he left.

Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. A lot of his scattered comments on such things were published as Culture and Value.

W said that philosophy leaves everything as it is. What it changes is the way we look at things.

He did return to Cambridge in late 1948 to dictate some of the notes he had written. These are published as Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology. He was done by October and returned to Ross' Hotel in Dublin for the winter.

The work W wrote that winter is called, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. It was not his last, however. Anscombe and Rhees came to visit him in Dublin. Rhees was designated the executor of his will, and Anscombe and Rhees would be his literary executors.

He felt ill again at the beginning of 1949. He read Livy's Punic Wars and Macaulay's Essays.

In April 1949 he visited his dying sister in Vienna. Upon return to Dublin, he was diagnosed with anemia. He did gradually improve with iron and liver extract.

During this time he probably finished material for PI, Part II. The part he was mostly satisfied with was Section X on "Moore's Paradox." Moore's Paradox was stating a proposition and then saying someone did not believe it. "There is a fire in this room and I don't believe there is."

He and Drury listened to a discussion on the existence of God between Ayer and Copleston. W thought Copleston missed the point. The existence of God is not something to be proved. It is a way of looking at the world. No surprises there.

W felt his mind was completely dull. He went to America to visit Norman Malcolm at Harvard, took a boat in the summer of 1949.

Chapter 26: A Citizen of No Community
Trump mostly lived with friends and former students for the last two years of his life. W suspected that his teaching had done more harm than good. He had made people drunk.

Malcolm took W to a meeting of the graduate students of philosophy at Cornell. Just before the meeting, Malcolm entered with W leaning on his arm. No one realized it was Wittgenstein until after a student gave his paper. Then the convener asked if Wittgenstein wanted to say anything. The crowd gasped.

The first 65 remarks of On Certainty come from W's discussions with Malcolm.

W fell ill again. He managed to come back to England in October, though fell ill in London. In November he finally made it to Cambridge where a friend of Drury's finally diagnosed him with prostate cancer. He flew to Vienna the day before Christmas, 1949, his last visit.

During this time he wrote what would become Part II of On Color. Anscombe happened to be in Vienna, where A was meeting with Feyerabend, who was then a student. W was convinced to come speak to their group, the Kraft Circle.

In On Certainty W argues that, "if the contrary of a proposition makes sense, then that proposition can be regarded as an empirical hypothesis; its truth or falsity being dependent on the way things stand in the world. But if the contrary to the proposition does not make sense, then the proposition is not descriptive of the world but of our conceptual framework; it is then a part of logic" (563). Framework propositions describe the way in which we understand the world.

In March 1950, he returned to London. Then he lived with his successor in Cambridge. There he wrote Part III of On Color. He also refused to give the John Locke lectures in Oxford. Then in April he lived with Anscombe in Oxford. Some of his remarks on Shakespeare in Culture and Value come from this time.

Late summer he completed paragraphs 65-299 of On Certainty.

Chapter 27: Storey's End
Although he had hoped to go again to Norway, he became too ill in January 1951, and would live out the rest of his life in the home of the doctor who had diagnosed him (Bevan). During the last two months of his life he wrote paragraphs 300-676 of On Certainty. He wrote the last remark of the book on April 27, the day before he lost consciousness.

Before he lost consciousness he told Mrs. Bevan to tell his friends he'd had a wonderful life. He died the next day.

He was not Catholic, but Anscombe and Smythies were. He was given a Catholic burial, based on Drury's interpretation of something he had once said about Tolstoy.

Appendix: Bartley's Wittgenstein
In this appendix, Monk addresses the claims of a work by Bartley claiming that W had wild sex when he was a teacher in Austria. Monk plausibly argues both that Bartley probably did have some unknown source material but that he likely misunderstood what the notes he was reading meant. Monk suggests that W probably did have very lustful thoughts that he recorded. However, given W's pattern throughout his life, probably the people he was lusting at had no idea.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

23. Other People's Money (Hitler cont)

Not long after the election of 2016, I started reading Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer. I continued my way through chapter 25 of the book and then the fall semester of 2017 effectively stopped me. See the bottom for all those posts. Now I'd like to finish the book over these next three Tuesdays, since I only have three chapters left.

Chapter 26: Other People's Money
1. In the summer of 1933, after Hitler took power in January, a British journalist toured Germany and concluded that Germany did not want war. Given this chapter, it was a fair conclusion. Hitler was far too concerned with rebuilding a impoverished, unemployed, and demoralized country to think about war. He had no great weapons. He had no great army.

This is an important observation. Germany would not annex Austria for another five years (March 12, 1938), and it would not take over parts of Czechoslovakia until September 30 of that year (leading to Neville Chamberlain's claim that allowing him would bring "peace in our time"). People get used to extremes. The frog doesn't realize the temperature is rising. The extremes that Germans would not have stood for in 1932 became normal over time. They got used to a new normal.

2. So Hitler and his government did indeed work on the economy at first, not a war machine. Indeed, this chapter clarifies some misconceptions. They did not waste money on building war equipment immediately because their technology at the time was inferior. First design better weapons and then build them. Instead, they used the trade deficit to accrue raw materials.

Another misconception Heiden clears is that the Nazi's favored free love and illegitimate births. Not so. Young couples received 1000 marks when they married, and they did not have to repay if they had a certain number of children in a certain number of years. In the first five years of the regime, 880,000 marriages took the offer.

Another misrepresented fact is the role of women in the work place. While the share of women in the work place shrunk, the fact that employment grew so well hides the fact that the absolute number of women in the work place rose by a quarter.

There was no one plan for building the army. 300,000 well trained Germans would be enough against any single foe in their environment. Gliding clubs, which had thrived under the ban on Germany's military would soon enough yield a Luftwaffe that new wind currents better than any enemy. "Obstacles produce great accomplishments" (660).

There were millions of men in SA uniforms, but it was assured that they were more a "new religion" than an army (664).

3. Meanwhile, they put the people to work. Hitler began a number of building projects to put people to work, just as FDR was doing in the US. Palatial buildings were erected in Munich. All over, theaters, museums, monuments, "merely to find employment for jobless hands" (657).

Every German of nineteen was to enter the labor service for at least a half a year. The chief implement was a shovel. The construction of the Autobahns began in September 1933. A law was issued that prohibited the use of a machine when a man could do the job.

So unemployment did indeed go down significantly.

4. Here Heiden asks, "This progress had been bought with the loss of free suffrage, the renunciation of free speech, with a press dominated by lies, with concentration camps for a minority and atrocities that could not be concealed" (665). The answer of course is "no." A better economy is not worth the loss of human freedom and dignity.

Indeed, Heiden goes on to question how much of this was truly a "National Socialist Miracle." Unemployment was already going down as part of the world recovery. According to one estimate, of all Hitler's actions to bring employment, only 300,000 of the 3.4 million newly employed were likely do uniquely to Hitler.

5. The tariffs that America had stupidly imposed in 1929 (with economists begging Hoover not to do it) had intensified the Depression and Germany now used them to their advantage. Germany created two kinds of Deutschmark, one relating to the outside world (the "blocked mark"), one relating to the inside world. Her goods weren't selling very well around the world, but the tariff war caused the prices of goods around the world to fall even more sharply.

This created conditions under which Germany could buy the raw materials she needed for rebuilding at cheap rates. Indeed, she insisted that she would pay half her reduced interest on debts to the rest of the world by giving them scripts to purchase things in Germany. If you calculate how much Germany spent in the world and the weight of her imports by what they would have been valued in 1928, you can see that Germany was actually at an advantage over many other countries.

Previously on Hitler:

Monday, July 23, 2018

My New Hebrews Devotional/Commentary Is Out!

I was grateful to be asked to write the Seedbed "OneBook" volume on Hebrews. It has just been published and can be purchased at Seedbed.com. It is the only devotional and commentary I have published on Hebrews.

Here is an excerpt from the book and one of the videos I did for the project. It is obviously designed for Bible studies.

So if you are wanting to lead a Bible study on Hebrews, this is a good option.

P.S. Can you tell from the video that I got up very early in the morning to drive to Wilmore to do the recording? :-)


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Wittgenstein 5: During the War

I've finished Wittgenstein's biography. It will annoy me if I don't finish blogging on it in some way. So here's the first installment, chapters 19-23.

Previously,

1. Childhood and Engineer
2. Student at Cambridge
3. World War I and Teaching
4. Between the Wars

Chapter 19: Finis Austriae
It was completely predictable at the end of 1937 that Hitler would annex Austria. In December Wittgenstein made a visit in the calm just before the storm. The Jewish population in Vienna was slow to realize or admit to themselves the consequences of annexation. This was true of W's sisters, apparently.

On March 10, 1938, Austria was an independent state. On March 11, it was an independent state under Nazi rule. On March 12 it was part of Nazi Germany. In one day, Wittgenstein had gone from being an Austrian citizen to a German Jew.

W was in Dublin at the time. One of his students, Drury was finishing his work to become a psychiatrist at the time. W had chosen Drury over Francis. In general, W saw love as something dirtied by actual sexual relations.

Another former student, Straffa, helped give W good personal advice in light of the situation. Wittgenstein would secure an academic job at Cambridge and then apply for British citizenship. W asked for Keynes' help, and W was given a lectureship for the following term. It was quite difficult to see Neville Chamberlain return from Germany proclaiming "peace in our time."

As for his family in Vienna, their tactic was to argue that one of their grandfathers had been a bastard rather than a Jew. This would make them of mixed blood. They had some significant assets in Switzerland that the Nazi's wanted. In the end, their grandfather would be declared an Aryan, and even though they were of mixed Jewish blood, the regulations concerning Mischlinge were not applicable to the descendants of Hermann Christian Wittgenstein (the supposed bastard).

In June 1939, Wittgenstein became a British citizen.

Chapter 20: The Reluctant Professor
Wittgenstein found a new generation of disciples. Three of the most important were Rush Rhees, James Taylor, and Yorick Smythies. Repeatedly, W continued to try to talk his students out of becoming professional philosophers.

W didn't want notes taken on his lectures. Thankfully, taken they were. They were posthumously published as Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. They are a great source for Wittgenstein's Weltanschauung. W does not like theory. "What I do is describe different things..."

Here we find his idea of family resemblances. He also was somewhat enamored with Freud.

In the summer of 1938, W had a typescript of the earliest version of Philosophical Investigations. Rhees worked on the translation. The second half was supposed to be on the philosophy of mathematics (didn't end up being). In the three terms of 1939 he gave lectures on mathematics.

He was particularly critical of Georg Cantor and his sense of infinity. in Easter term of 1939, Alan Turing sat in on many of his lectures. "A proof in mathematics does not establish the truth of a conclusion; it fixes, rather, the meaning of certain signs" (418). The class was basically them discussing. Turing was also teaching a course in the Foundations of Mathematics at the time.

He was taking a different path than logicism, formalism, and intuitionism. He disagreed with the Law of Contradiction. Most of the students didn't really understand what was going on, except for Alister Watson. He tried to convince Norman Malcolm (a Harvard student who had come to study with Moore a little) not to go into philosophy. Then W would go see a Western.

During this time, W's eyes strayed from Francis to Keith Kirk, who had no idea. He would be racked with guilt for the rest of his life after Francis died of polio in October 1941.

Chapter 21: War Work
As with WW1, Wittgenstein found it intolerable to be doing philosophy while a war was being fought. Through Gilbert Ryle (philosopher) at Oxford, he was able to get work at a hospital with John Ryle, a Cambridge Physics professor who worked at Guy's Hospital in London during the war (1942). There was an understanding that no one was to know who he was at the hospital.

He continued his interest in dreams and Freud during this time. During his time at Guy's he filled three notebooks with remarks on mathematics. They were posthumously published as Parts IV, V, VI, VII of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. W rejected the idea that a proof in math established the truth of a conclusion. Rather, it is a set of pictures meant to establish the usefulness of a technique.

One friend from this period was Roy Fouracre.

While there, he came across the work of one Basil Reeve, who was investigating shock. Reeve suggested that the very notion of wound shock should be abandoned as unhelpful. W agreed.

W considered Hertz method of approaching force as a model. Instead of asking about force, he tried to describe phenomena without this theoretical construct. This was W's own approach. "In my way of doing philosophy, its whole aim is to give an expression such a form that certain disquietudes disappear" (446).

Let me say this resonates with me as well when it comes to hermeneutics. Discussions are highly confused because they do not get this simple premise--"The meaning of words is always to be found in a context." There are only two basic contexts: the ones in which words were originally uttered and other contexts against which those words are read. I have deeply drunk from W in this assessment but it removes countless confusions.

Wittgenstein moved to Newcastle when Reeve and Grant went. He thought about Bishop Butler's saying as a motto for the Philosophical Investigations: "Everything is what it is, and not another thing." And understanding can consist in seeing connections.

Also during this time he invented a better apparatus for recording pulse pressure.

He felt like his brain was gone (1943). He was about 54. I felt like my brain was gone earlier this year at 51. I can see what's coming. Reeve left in January 1944. W had no friends. In February he returned to Cambridge. There was an expectation of publishing PI with CUP. It didn't happen.

Chapter 22: Swansea
In March 1944, W was given leave of Cambridge to work on his book. Rees found lodging for him in Swansea. After two months his attention turned from the philosophy of mathematics to the philosophy of psychology. So while the second half of PI was originally going to be the philosophy of mathematics, it ended up being the philosophy of psychology.

During the summer of 1944, he formulated his "private language argument," namely, that there never is one. So W extended what used to be the Part I of PI, about double its previous length, with what are considered its central parts on rule following (paragraphs 189-242) and the private language argument (243-421).

The war was winding down. W anticipated that "the peace after this war will be more horrible than the war itself."

Chapter 23: The Darkness of Time
This chapter begins with a discussion of Bertrand Russell. W appreciated his intellect but thought his work should come in two colors, one for his stuff on ethics and politics (which shouldn't be read) and the other his logic (which should be). W didn't like his popular work, like his History of Western Philosophy. Of course Russell also saw no merit in Wittgenstein's later work.

G. E. Moore was in bad health. His wife only let W visit for 1.5 hours. Soon he would pass.

W's aim for philosophy was to "show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle."

W used Augustine to illustrate the confused picture of language, Russell to illustrate confusions in the philosophy of mathematics, and William James to provide similar ones in the philosophy of psychology.

The final stages of WW2 were darkness for W (e.g., the bombing of Dresden). In the Michaelmas and Lent terms of 1945-46, W finished Part I of PI. So this part was created as follows:
  • Paragraphs 1-188 in 1938 in Norway
  • Paragraphs 189-421 in Swansee
  • Paragraphs 422-693 in Cambridge, from notes in manuscripts from 1931-1945
In May 1946, Straffa no longer wished to have conversations with W. I don't know if I've conveyed the repeated sense in the book of how difficult W was as a person.

Acts 6 Explanatory Notes

We move on to Acts 6 after finishing notes on the first five chapters. You can also follow my daily podcast commentary on Patreon, as well as YouTube videos on the Greek (see at the bottom for links).

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3
Acts 4
Acts 5

3. Move into Hellenistic Judaism (6:1-8:3)
a. The dispute over widows (6:1-7)
  • 6:1. A dispute arises within the earliest church. We have already seen a problem within the church in terms of Ananias and Sapphira. However, this was not a dispute. This was a couple who were (visibly) in the church but not truly (invisibly) in the church. 
  • Now we see the first conflict between individuals who are all truly believers. There will always be conflicts within the church because we are human. The story thus gives us some insights on how to go about our conflicts.
  • As growth takes place in churches and in fact in any collection of people, we should anticipate conflicts arising.
  • The conflict is between Aramaic-speaking Jewish believers ("Hebrews") and Greek-speaking Jewish believers ("Hellenists"). There were far more Greek-speaking Jews in the world at the time of Christ than Aramaic-speaking ones. In fact, there were more (Greek-speaking) Jews in part of the city of Alexandria than in all of Jerusalem.
  • Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman world, much as English is today in the world. Jews had been scattered throughout the world for hundreds of years prior to Christ. "Diaspora Jews" traced to the early 500s BC with the Babylonian captivity, a time when Jews also emigrated to Egypt.
  • The dispute has to do with the distribution of food to widows. First, we are not surprised that the church took care of its widows. There were no safety nets for such individuals if they did not have family to take care of them.
  • Apparently, the Aramaic-speaking community was doing fine taking care of their own widows, but they were not taking care of Greek-speaking widows in the church. We can imagine the kinds of excuses made--1) not our responsibility but yours, 2) latent prejudice--(immigrant) Greek-speaking widows aren't as important as the (native-born) Aramaic-speaking ones, 3) simply oversight (out of sight, out of mind).
  • 6:2. The disciples call a meeting to address the problem. This is good, rather than let things fester below the surface.
  • There does seem to be a bit of defensiveness on the disciples' part. "We have more important things to do than serve tables." It's true that preaching the word of God was their primary responsibility, but there nevertheless seems to be a failure of leadership taking place here.
  • 6:3. The people choose a committee to take care of the problem. There are a number of good insights here. First, the people are empowered. Second, the apostles delegate, which is always good when a leader cannot get it all done. The people will nevertheless be under the authority of the apostles.
  • 6:4. Now the apostles can focus on their primary function--prayer and preaching.
  • 6:5. The people like the proposal and appoint seven men. There are some curious aspects to this event, however. The men chosen are all Hellenistic. That is to say, this is not a committee appointed to take care of all distribution to widows in Jerusalem. It is a group to take care of the Hellenistic widows. In other words, the leaders simply seem to be authorizing the Hellenists to take care of themselves. 
  • They are to be full of faith and the Spirit.
  • We don't have enough details to know whether this simply passes the issue off (not our business) or whether it is truly empowering a community to take care of itself.
  • We don't actually see these individuals serving tables and this passage never calls them deacons. Rather, we see Stephen and Philip as evangelists, which suggests that there was more missing in the Hellenistic church than food distribution.
  • Nicolaus is a proselyte from Antioch, perhaps suggesting that there are already churches in Antioch. Nicolaus represents a step toward the Gentiles.
  • 6:6. The laying on of hands is an ordination of sorts, practiced by the church ever since when individuals are commissioned to serve.
  • 6:7. The number of believers continues to spread and multiply. We had 3000 on the Day of Pentecost (2:41), 5000 after the healing of the lame man (4:4), then a large number (5:14). In this case, the spreading crosses a distinct social barrier--it now multiplies among Greek-speaking Jews.
  • A number of priests believe. These are not likely the higher level priests but lower level priests like the father of John the Baptist had been. One wonders if any of these were Essenes.
b. The ministry of Stephen (6:8-15)
  • 6:8. Stephen shows his evangelistic fervor by preaching boldly among Hellenistic Jews. Since he is full of the Holy Spirit, these include wonders and signs like those Peter and John had done, and Jesus had modeled before them. 
  • Stephen gets in more trouble than Peter had. This could either be a climax of conflict and/or also the possibility that he was more edgy or confrontational in his preaching. Interestingly, it is the Hellenists who seem scattered in 8:1, not the Aramaic-speaking apostles.
  • 6:9. Stephen's audience and opposition come from Hellenistic synagogues, possibly two: 1) one that is the Synagogue of the Freedman, including Alexandrians from Egypt and Cyrenians from Cyrene and 2) one of Jews from Cilicia and Asia. It is perhaps worth noting that Paul was from Cilicia and may have had a connection with the second synagogue (if there are two alluded to here).
  • 6:10-11. Stephen seems to prevail in argument about Jesus, so they shift to underhanded tactics.
  • Their false accusation is that Stephen is speaking against Moses and God. This is a straw man, as often happens. A caricature of his real position is created to raise anger and incite emotional furor.
  • 6:12. They are so successful that they get him before the council. Perhaps the council saw him as an easier target than the apostles had been.
  • 6:13-14. There may be an implicit comparison between Stephen and Jesus here. Luke would know of Mark's indication that false witnesses were brought against Jesus (Mark 14:56-57) and Luke mentions false charges as well (Luke 23:2).
  • The false charge is that Jesus would destroy the temple and change the customs of Moses. Jesus does predict the destruction of the temple in Luke 21, but he does not say he will do it himself. Rather, the Romans would, an irony perhaps not lost on Acts' audience.
  • Acts maintains that Jewish believers continued to keep the Law of Moses (e.g., Acts 21:20-24).
  • 6:15. Stephen has the face of an angel. Acts makes it clear that he is the one in the right here, with heavenly approval.
Podcasts on the English of Acts 6
Acts 6:1-7 podcast
Acts 6:8-15 podcast

Videos on the Greek of Acts 6
Acts 6:1-7 video on Greek
Acts 6:8-15 video on Greek

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Patrons Only: Abraham in the New Testament

My "patrons only" post is now up for this week on Patreon.com. Interesting question on "Abraham's bosom." Does this expression relate in some way to Abraham's womb, as in all of the children of Abraham go to his womb? Probably doesn't work but an interesting thought for me today.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Science: Hawking 10 (Unification)

It always feels good to finish a book. Here is the last review of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.

Chapter 1: Heliocentric
Chapter 2: Spacetime
Chapter 3: Expansion of the Universe
Chapter 4: Uncertainty Principle
Chapter 5: Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature
Chapter 6: Black Holes
Chapter 7: Black Holes Ain't So Black
Chapter 8: The Origin and Fate of the Universe
Chapter 9: The Arrow of Time

Chapter 10: The Unification of Physics
As the title suggests, Hawking in this chapter is looking for a grand unification theory (GUT). He spends a little time on string theory, which is probably where he put his bet at one point. My sense is, however, that enthusiasm for string theory has waned these last few years as some of the particles it predicts have not been discovered during tests that should have produced some.
  • The difficulty is to combine general relativity with quantum mechanics.
  • He mentions old problem of renormalization. The math says "infinity," but we know what it should be from experiment. So you just substitute the experimental value and keep going.
  • String theory: open string, closed string, two strings join. Two strings separate. Graviton's cross. Strings, strings, strings.
  • String theory suggests there may be either ten or twenty-six dimensions. We don't see the others because they're two small.
  • He goes into the anthropic principle again. Life can only exist when three dimensions predominate, so we're just lucky.
  • It would take too much energy to find out what it would have been like near the big bang.
  • Even a GUT would not predict everything about the future--uncertainty principle, some equations are just too hard to solve.
Here endeth Hawking.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Acts 5 Explanatory Notes

Previously on Acts:

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3
Acts 4

Now here are my notes on Acts 5, with the video links at the bottom. You can follow my daily podcasts on Acts on Patreon.

2. Early Church Life (4:32-5:42)
a. All things in common (4:32-37)
b. An exception to the rule (5:1-11)
  • 5:1-11. In contrast to the righteous story of Barnabas, these verses give us the unrighteous story of a husband-wife couple, Ananias and Sapphira.
  • 5:1-2. These verses present the problem. Ananias and Sapphira did as Barnabas did. They sold some land and they gave some to the Jesus-community. But they held some of the value back. As we will see in a moment, they seem to have lied about the amount.
  • 5:3-4. Peter exposes the problem to Ananias. It is not that he only gave part of what he sold. It is that he lied about it. Peter indicates that he has tried to lie to the Holy Spirit... which of course you can't.
  • Peter indicates that Satan had filled Ananias' heart. This can never happen without the cooperation of human will. 
  • 5:5-6. Here is the consequence. Ananias immediately dies and is carried out and buried. Understandably, a great fear comes on all those who hear of this event.
  • The judgment of Ananias and soon his wife suggest that God continues to judge in the New Testament. The Old Testament may emphasize the "wrath of God" a bit more than the New Testament, but the judgment of God is in the New Testament as well.
  • In my theology, God's justice in such cases does not change the eternal destiny of someone. That is to say, God knew that neither Ananias or Sapphira would actually make it into the kingdom. I suppose someone might also argue that they were saved "as it were by fire" (1 Cor. 3:15), a punishment without eternal consequence.
  • God's justice is more often 1) redemptive, to get a person back on track, or 2) protective, to protect people from evil.
  • 5:7-10. The parallel now happens to Sapphira, his wife. About three hours later, she comes in. Peter asks her a question to which he already has the answer. She lies. She dies and is carried out like her husband.
  • 5:9. Ananias and Sapphira are "testing" the Spirit of the Lord." This is not a bet one wants to take. The whole world is "naked and exposed" before God's eyes (Heb. 4:13).
  • 5:11. A great fear comes over the church and anyone who hears. Of course those who are in Christ need not fear (cf. 1 John 4:18). But the holiness of God is fearsome, in the same way that you would take care when you stand next to an elephant. 
c. Signs and wonders (5:12-16)
  • 5:12. The apostles continue to do signs and wonders under the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did, just as Paul will do.
  • The apostles continue to meet in Solomon's Portico in the temple, on the outer east side of the temple complex, in the Court of the Gentiles.
  • 5:13. The awe factor is real. The crowds consider them to be of God and accordingly stand their distance.
  • 5:14. We see more multiplication in the church. On the day of Pentecost there were 3000 (Acts 2:41). After the lame man there were 5000 (Acts 3:4). Now a number isn't given. It is a multitude and it included women as well. 
  • 5:15-16. As with Jesus, those who were sick are brought to Jesus, including those from surrounding villages. Interestingly, they apparently have enough faith that even coming under Peter's shadow led to healing.
  • The mention of unclean spirits indicates that Peter and the apostles also cast out demons as Jesus had.
d. Before Sanhedrin again (5:17-42)
  • 5:17-18. Once again, the Sanhedrin jails the apostles for the night, intending to deal more sternly with them the next day. This verse seems to confirm that the high priest and the priestly leaders of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees. They were jealous of the apostles.
  • 5:19-21a. In what will not be the last time, an angel delivers Peter and the other apostles from prison. They are instructed to go back to the temple and continue preaching "words of this life." At daybreak, they continue.
  • 5:21b-25. The Sanhedrin convenes and realizes that the apostles are not in the common jail any more. The high priest, the Sanhedrin, the council of elders are ready, but the apostles are not there.
  • 5:23. The guards are even present, but the apostles are just gone.
  • 5:25. Then they get word on where the apostles are. They are back in the temple preaching.
  • 5:26. The captain and the guard and his servants now go to get them gingerly. They don't force them because they are afraid of getting stoned by the people, which shows how popular they have become.
  • 5:27-28. The high priest asks the question. Why haven't you obeyed our orders? Why are you continuing to preach in this name? The high priest infers that the apostles are trying to bring guilt for Jesus' death on them. They of course are not trying to do this. In fact, they have already indicated that the leaders of Israel crucified him in ignorance (3:17).
  • 5:29-32. This is Peter and the apostles' response. Of course only one person would speak at a time, so probably we should picture Peter speaking.
  • 5:29. Again, echoing Socrates' answer to the Areopagus (Apology 29d), Peter indicates that they will obey God rather than mortals.
  • This is a clear indication that obedience to authorities is not an absolute. There are exceptional situations. The definition of an absolute is "no exceptions."
  • 5:30. The resurrection is again the key point of all the sermons in Acts, except for Stephen's sermon in Acts 7.
  • The mention of hanging on a tree may be an allusion to Deuteronomy 21:23, which Paul uses in his argument in Galatians 3:13.
  • 5:31. Following the resurrection is the exaltation, which is the enthronement of Jesus as Messiah (2:36), Lord (2:36), and Son of God (13:33). Here he is also called "leader" and "savior." 
  • Notice that at this point Peter is thinking of the corporate restoration of Israel and the forgiveness of its sins. 
  • 5:32. The apostles are witnesses to these things. That is what apostles are--individuals who give witness to the resurrection, which they have personally seen. The Holy Spirit witnesses to it as well through the signs and wonders he empowers.
  • 5:33. The Sanhedrin is predictably enraged. They want to kill them.
  • 5:34-39. Before the Sanhedrin can follow through, one of their members, a Pharisee has the apostles removed from the room and warns the council. 
  • 5:34. The Pharisee in question is Gamaliel, a well-respected teacher of the Jewish Law. 
  • Gamaliel the Elder is well-known from Jewish tradition. There were two schools of Pharisees, the schools of Hillel and Shammai. The School of Hillel tended to be more deterministic, tolerant, and lenient. The School of Shammai was more militant and strident. We see the "fatalistic" flavor of the School of Hillel in this passage (which might have sounded a little Stoic to a Greek audience). Later Jewish tradition would come to suggest that Gamaliel could have been a grandson of Hillel. 
  • Acts says that Paul studied "at the feet of" Gamaliel (22:3). In general, however, the pre-Christian Paul had more the flavor of the School of Shammai than the School of Hillel.
  • 5:35, 38-39. Gamaliel's basic premise is that God can fight his own battles, while it is impossible to fight God and win. If the Jesus movement is of God, they will not be able to stop it no matter how hard they try. But if the Jesus movement is not of God, God will stop it himself. There is of course a flaw in Gamaliel's argument, namely, that God sometimes leads his people to action and stops evil through his people. Nevertheless, this is the right word for the Sanhedrin at that moment, and the book of Acts implicitly endorses it.
  • 5:36-37. Gamaliel gives two examples. The first is Theudas. Interestingly, Josephus places Theudas in the 40s under Cuspius Fadus. This would actually be about ten years after the scene in Acts. Some have suggested this is intentional--Acts is writing for the point not the exact chronology. Others suggest there was another Theudas or that Josephus made a mistake.
  • The second revolutionary mentioned is Judas the Galilean, who was active around AD6. Both movements were defeated by the Romans.
  • 5:40. The Sanhedrin surprisingly listens to Gamaliel. They beat the apostles, command them again to stop preaching in Jesus' name and set them loose.
  • 5:41-42. Meanwhile, the apostles count it a privilege to be dishonored in the name of Jesus. Like the Beatitudes, they are blessed in relation to God's kingdom at the same time that they are dishonored in the world.
  • 5:42. But they continue to preach the word and meet in the temple. They continue to meet in homes and teach. They obey God and disobey the word of mortals.
Patrons Only (now public)
Podcasts on the English of Acts 5
Videos on the Greek of Acts 5

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Acts 4 Explanatory Notes

Previously on Acts:

Acts 1
Acts 2
Acts 3

Now here are my notes on Acts 4, with the video links at the bottom. You can follow my daily podcasts on Acts on Patreon.

b. The Aftermath (4:1-31)
  • 4:1. They prayed. The Spirit came. They received power (cf. 1:8). They then witnessed in other languages with boldness as an expression of that power. In Acts 3 they heal a lame man as an expression of that power.
  • Now come the reactions. One reaction is growth--three thousand on the Day of Pentecost (2:41). Another reaction is opposition, and we see it begin here in Acts 4.
  • The priests, captain of the temple, and the Sadducees check up on them. The Sadducees were a group most known in the New Testament for not believing in resurrection. They tended to be priestly and very upper class. They tended to form the ruling class in Jerusalem, and the high priest seems often to have been Sadducee in this era. The Sadducees thus seem to have been collaborators with the Romans, not least so that they could remain in power.
  • 4:2. The Sadducees would be annoyed at the preaching of resurrection not just because they did not believe in resurrection but because resurrection implied the upheaval of the current world order. Resurrection implied the overthrow of the existing powers by an apocalyptic breaking of God into history. It was a revolutionary doctrine, as N. T. Wright has recognized.
  • Perhaps even more concerning is that they were gaining traction with the people. Insurrection is always something that ancient leaders watched carefully and often feared. The Romans were particularly hard on unapproved public gatherings and so, as in the case of Jesus, the leaders of Jerusalem would have been keen to keep things from escalating to where the Romans would get involved.
  • 4:3. They put them in jail for the night to break up the momentum of their popularity and interrogate them the next day.
  • 4:4. But the movement is growing immensely. Their number is now about 5000. Notice the language of faith. 
  • 4:5-6. We meet the interrogators. It is possibly a smaller subset of the larger Sanhedrin. Annas is called high priest here, but more likely Caiaphas is officially high priest (AD17-36). Annas is his father-in-law who officially held the high priesthood from AD6-15 but continued to hold great influence. John and Alexander seem to be of the same priestly family. Elders and scribes are also there.
  • 4:7. The question they ask is simple. On what authority, by what name have they healed the lame man.
  • 4:8-12. This is Peter's response. The third sermon of sorts although it is rather short. 
  • 4:8. A key observation is that Peter is full of the Holy Spirit, giving him boldness and authority in speech.
  • 4:9-10. The name by which the lame man was healed (in Greek, "has been saved") is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Peter reminds them that this was the man that they put to death. 
  • More importantly, he is the one whom God raised from the dead. This is the key point of all the sermons but Stephen's (who doesn't get to finish the sermon). Note that God is the active agent, Jesus the object.
  • 4:11. An allusion to Psalm 118:22. Also quoted in Matthew 21:42. Jesus is the stone that the leaders of Jerusalem rejected, but God had made him the cornerstone, the Messiah.
  • 4:12. A key verse of Christian soteriology. There is no other path to salvation but Christ. Jesus is the only name under heaven by which one can be saved.
  • 4:13. Peter and John did not have a formal education. They were agrammatoi, unlettered, untrained in Greek. They were idiotes, formally untrained. But they had been with Jesus. Some of course take these words to mean that they did not know Greek and/or were illiterate.
  • The ancient world was an oral world not a literary one. Being illiterate was thus the norm and did not mean one wasn't intelligent. The memory in an oral culture is much greater than that in a literary culture.
  • 4:14-16. There was no plausible deniability of what had happened. So they needed to strategize what to do. They did not want the movement to spread, but couldn't lie about what had happened.
  • 4:17-18. They decided simply to command them not to speak in Jesus' name any more. For many, this tactic might have worked. The high priest and council had great power and no doubt would have normally been fearsome to a common person.
  • 4:19-20. Full of the Holy Spirit and boldness, Peter and John cannot obey. They must obey God. They are apostles, whose very meaning is to witness to the resurrection of Jesus. 
  • There could be an allusion here to the trial of Socrates where he says, "Men of Athens, I respect and love you, but I shall obey god rather than you" (Apology 29d).
  • Notice how often "Peter and John" have been mentioned as speaking. Obviously they are both not talking at the same time saying the same words. Peter is probably the one literally speaking and no doubt John agrees with what he is saying. It may imply, however, that these are not the exact words said. Perhaps more words were said (including words by John). This is the gist of what was said, likely abbreviated.
  • 4:21-22. They release them. The best they can do is threaten them and speak sternly to them. The man was over 40 years old. Everyone knew who he was and who he had been.
  • 4:23-31. These verses give the response of the believers.
  • 4:23. They return to "their own." They are not of the sort of the priests and leaders.
  • 4:24-30. They pray. That is their response. They pray "together."
  • 4:25. They reference Scripture, through which the Holy Spirit speaks to them.
  • 4:25-26. This is a quotation of Psalm 2:1-2. At the time, David was understood to be the author of this psalm, although in terms of the original meaning, this psalm was probably an enthronement psalm, a psalm for the enthronement of a king.
  • The psalm addresses a situation where outside political forces oppose the king anointed by the LORD, in this case Jesus.
  • 4:27-28. Here they apply the Scripture. Herod, Pontius Pilate and other Gentiles gathered against Jesus, God's holy servant (pais again, entailing a likely allusion to Isaiah 53).
  • 4:28. Acts uses deterministic language fairly often, which we have to process theologically in terms of the whole counsel of God in Scripture. However, in this case he is speaking of the overall plan of salvation, which certainly was predetermined by God.
  • 4:29-30. The prayer ends with a petition for boldness and for an empowerment to continue to perform signs and wonders.
  • 4:30. The miracles are authorized by Christ. They are done "in the name of Christ," who is once again called pais, servant, alluding perhaps to Isaiah 53. There could be the implication that the righteous suffering of Jesus authorizes the performance of miracles.
  • 4:31. They are filled with the Holy Spirit again, indicating that being filled with the Spirit is a repeatable event, especially when one is in need of power to face a particular event or challenge. 
  • Signs accompany the filling, and boldness is the chief manifestation here of the power that comes from the Spirit.
2. Early Church Life (4:32-5:42)
a. All things in common (4:32-37)
  • This paragraph again summarizes the nature of the life of the earliest church (cf. also 2:42-47). It is perhaps a somewhat idealized picture. In keeping with the nature of ancient history writing, it is not merely reporting but reporting with a moral. The "evaluative" perspective of Acts wants the reader to see this description as good and as something to be emulated.
  • 4:32. They are of one heart and soul. 
  • The church treats their possessions like a healthy family would. They share their possessions.
  • 4:33. The apostles continue to give witness to the resurrection, which again is what an apostle is in Acts, someone to whom the risen Christ has appeared and commissioned to go as a witness to the resurrection.
  • There is great favor on them all... or perhaps great grace. The first suggests that they were favored by the people. The second suggests that God was giving them great power. Both are probably true.
  • 4:34-35. Acts probably wants us to see this as the way the church would ideally function. There should be no needy in the church when those who have excess help out those who have fallen on hard times. Perhaps Luke wants Theophilus to think this way too, since he is likely someone of some wealth and status.
  • Certainly history has also proved that it does not go well for millennial communities whose persons of means divest themselves of all their property (often because they believe the Lord is immediately going to return). Similarly, it does not well to develop an unnecessary dependence among the needy. It does not contradict Acts for those who can to continue to generate resources for the community, nor to expect the needy to work as part of the community (e.g., 2 Thess. 3:10). Luke does not say that this model must be enacted exactly in every time and place.
  • 4:35. The apostles seem to have served as the roundhouse for the proceeds of sales and distribution. 
  • 4:36-37. Here we are introduced to Barnabas, who gives us a specific example of what was happening in the church. His example is considered entirely positive, and he is depicted entirely positively in the book of Acts and almost entirely positively in Paul's writings.
  • 4:36. Barnabas is apparently a name the apostles have given him, "son of encouragement." He will bear out this name in the story of the early church. 
  • He is a Levite, originally from the island of Cyprus. His point of origin presumably played a role in the itinerary of the first missionary journey in Acts 13.
  • 4:37. He owned a field, sold it, donated it, in keeping with the familial, communal nature of the earliest believers.
Patrons video (now available)
Videos on the English of Acts 4
Videos on the Greek of Acts 4

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Friday Science: General Relativity 1

A little over four years ago, I found a great book on relativity. Peter Collier's A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Toward a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity. I've gone through a little less than half of it.

His concept is to introduce all the math needed for special and general relativity in the first 100 pages or so. He tries not to assume that you've had any of the math beyond algebra. He does pretty well although I think you probably need to have done some of it before to get it.

BTW, I first saw an approach something like this in the summer of 1983 at Rose-Hulman. I was given a physics textbook by Marion and Hornyak that interspersed calculus lessons with the physics. I thought it was brilliant--introduce the background math as you need it. It's something like problem-based learning.

I've basically finished Hawking. So on Fridays I hope more or less to alternate between Susskind's book on quantum mechanics and Collier. I don't entirely have down everything from his 58 pages on special relativity. Maybe I'll go back at some point. But I want to move forward through his 180 or so pages on general relativity.

4.1 Introducing the Manifold
a. Special relativity functions on the basis of what is called "Minkowski" space, which is flat.
  • 3.2.2 Time for a flashback. In chapter 3, he introduces Minkowski space or spacetime. In Newtonian mechanics, we talk about three-dimensional space, Euclidean space. 
  • For special relativity, Einstein drew on the idea of four-dimensional space, with time as the fourth dimension (spacetime). 
  • This is named for the German mathematician, Hermann Minkowski (1864-1909).
  • In Minkowski space, parallel lines never meet, so it is still flat space.
In general relativity, space curves, so we need some new math. Einstein, with the help of David Hilbert, found this math in the work of the German Bernhard Reimann (1826-66).
b. In general relativity, matter and energy curve spacetime. Gravity is not considered a force but a property of the curvature of spacetime. The idea of a "Riemannian manifold" is used to model this. A manifold is a smoothly curved space that is locally flat.

It would be like an ant walking on an apple. The ant thinks it is walking straight, but it is curving around the apple. Such a path on a sphere or curved surface is called a geodesic.

A circle is a one-dimensional manifold. If you walk on the perimeter and the circle is large enough, it just seems like you are walking straight. A sphere is a two-dimensional manifold. We can speak of a manifold as n-dimensional when locally it can be described by n dimensions.


Patrons only: Gamaliel and Revolutionaries

My weekly podcast and video are now available for my patrons on patreon.com (that is, for $5 dollar or more a month donors). This week looks at Gamaliel, Pharisees, and revolutionaries in Acts 5.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

Acts 3 Explanatory Notes

For about 13 weeks now I have been studying Acts. Here are my notes and videos on the previous chapters covered:

Acts 1
Acts 2

[I am changing my format a little starting this week. I will be doing daily podcasts (Monday through Friday) on the English translation of a chapter a week of Acts. These will be available to everyone on my Patreon site. Then the equivalent videos will be available on YouTube for everyone showing the Greek from which I am translating, possibly with a little extra engagement with the Greek at the end. Finally, I will continue my deeper dive material on Saturdays for patrons only (i.e., those who donate at least $5 a month to the cause on Patreon).]

Here are some notes on Acts three, with the video links at the bottom.

B. Manifestations of the Spirit in Jerusalem (3:1-8:3)
     1. The Healing of the Lame Man (3:1-4:31)
          a. The Healing (3:1-26)

1) The Event (3:1-10)
  • Acts 3 is a consequence of the Spirit coming in Acts 2. They have spoken boldly as a result. They received the ability to speak in other languages on the Day of Pentecost. Now the power of the Spirit (cf. 1:8) that leads to witness will show itself in a miraculous sign. Such signs were understood to demonstrate the endorsement of God and entailed an implicit comparison with Jesus (cf. 2:22). Just as Jesus did signs through the power of the Spirit, now Peter and John would perform signs through the power of the Spirit.
  • 3:1. The continued use of the temple by the Jerusalem apostles seems significant. They do not preach against the temple. Acts 21:24 seems to imply that they continued to sacrifice there. In general, it seems unlikely that they as yet understood Christ's death to imply the finality of sacrifices. Christ's death probably at this point was only stood to have the power to reset the spiritual state of contemporary Israel, not to atone for the sins of the whole world as we find finally in Hebrews.
  • Notice again the significance that prayer plays in Luke's theology.
  • 3:2. Those who were unable to fend for themselves, such as this lame man, had to rely on the generosity and grace of others for their survival. This man lives off the "acts of mercy" or alms that are given to him at the temple.
  • There is some debate as to which entrance Luke has in mind by the "Beautiful Gate." Most scholars opt for the Nicanor Gate that separated the Court of Women from the Court of Israel. However, traditionally it is identified with the more outer Shushan Gate.
  • 3:3-5. The normal exchange takes place between a beggar and someone entering. Peter and John are mentioned as a unit, although Peter does all the talking. The fact that Peter speaks to him makes the lame man think they are going to give something to him.
  • 3:6. This verse has often been used as an indictment of a church that has become affluent but lacks spiritual power. A legend is especially told of an exchange between Thomas Aquinas and the Pope in the thirteenth century. The Pope remarks to Thomas that the church no longer need say it lacks silver and gold. Then Thomas responds, "But can we still say rise up and walk?"
  • 3:7-10. The man is healed, a consequence of the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2. 
  • 3:8. The response of the man is appropriately to praise God. They continue into the temple to worship.
  • 3:9-10. The people recognize him and see the sign. They are filled with wonder and amazement. 
2) The Sermon (3:11-26)
  • 3:11. As on the Day of Pentecost, the people come together to see and inquire about the powerful event that has taken place. People come "together," which seems to happen often in this part of Acts.
  • Solomon's Portico seems to be the part of the temple in which the Jesus followers will gather regularly. This was on the eastern side of the Court of the Gentiles.
  • 3:12-26. The rest of the chapter is the second sermon of Acts, also delivered by Peter.
  • 3:12-16. In the first half of the sermon, Peter explains what has happened.
  • 3:12. Peter makes it clear that they have not performed this miracle on the basis of their own power or godliness. 
  • 3:13. God has performed the miracle in order to glorify Jesus. There is a sense of the continued vindication and legitimization of Jesus by God. 
  • Peter and John are addressing Jews, and God is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the fathers of Israel. This comment implies again the continuity of what God has done through Jesus and what he was doing with Israel in the past.
  • The use of the word pais suggests that Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant is in the background here.
  • 3:13-14. By contrast, they handed him over. They denied him, even though Pilate would have released him. They asked for a murderer instead and in effect killed Jesus (3:15).
  • 3:14. Jesus is the "holy and righteous one." Although it is not clear, Richard Hays would like to think that Romans 1:17 is thinking of Jesus as the "righteous one will live because of his faithfulness" in Habakkuk 2:4.
  • 3:15. Jesus is called the "author of life," an implication of his resurrection for Luke.
  • God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the climax of all the sermons of Acts, except for Stephen's sermon, which was ended abruptly.
  • The apostles are witnesses of the resurrection. This is in fact what an apostle is, someone who witnessed the resurrection who is sent to give witness to that event.
  • 3:16. Faith in the name of Jesus is the mechanism that has brought the power of healing to this man. The name is the source of power. Jesus' name authorizes the miracle.
  • 3:17-26. This is the second half of the sermon, in which Peter tells them how they should respond to the event.
  • 3:17. More than once in Acts, the idea is presented that God is willing to overlook the ignorance of the past, as long as the audience responds in repentance (cf. 17:30). Interestingly, Peter even suggests that the rulers of Israel even acted in ignorance.
  • 3:18. The theme that these events were all part of God's foreknowledge and plan is mentioned, a common theme in the sermons of Acts. Isaiah 53 seems to have been a key text for Acts foretelling Jesus' sufferings.
  • 3:19. Here is the course of action the crowd needs to take (cf. 2:38). They need to repent. The "you" is plural, perhaps suggesting especially a corporate repentance of Israel here. 
  • 3:20. The result will be times of refreshing will come. It is quite possible that these words are directed at Israel. If Israel will corporately repent, then God will restore the kingdom to Israel, as the disciples inquired in 1:6. 
  • Intrinsic to this refreshing is the sending of Israel's Messiah, the Christ, back from heaven. If Israel will return to God, God will send Jesus back to reign on earth and Israel will experience a time of restoration and "refreshing" (cf. Rom. 11:26-27). Unfortunately, as the book of Acts moves forward, the Jews increasingly reject the good news.
  • 3:21. The plan is for Jesus to wait in heaven at God's right hand until the appropriate time for this restoration to take place.
  • 3:22-23. Peter understands Deuteronomy 18:18-19 to be a prophecy of Jesus. (It is sometimes speculated that when the Book of the Law/Deuteronomy was discovered during the reign of Josiah in 2 Kings 22:8, this passage could have been understood to be about him.) John 6:14  and 7:14 also seem to identify Jesus with this passage (cf. John 1:21, 25). Did John know Acts?
  • Peter's version of the quote does not follow either the Hebrew or Septuagint text exactly.
  • Peter's sermon seems to connect the verses in Deuteronomy with the later reign of Jesus after he returns from heaven.
  • 3:24. Peter invokes prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament, starting from Samuel. It is not clear whether he means Samuel's anointing of David as king or whether he means the book of Samuel. 2 Samuel 7:14 for example is taken in a spiritual sense to foreshadow Jesus in Hebrews 1:5. Most of the Scripture fulfillments in relation to Jesus are OT passages taken in a "fuller sense."
  • 3:25. As in Paul, Acts 3 sees in Genesis 12:3 a foreshadowing of the good news reaching the Gentiles. Peter perhaps foreshadows that as well in this verse. All the families of the earth will be blessed because of the covenant God made with Israel.
  • 3:26. The good news is "to the Jew first" (cf. Rom. 1:16), and Israel is first to get a chance to turn from its wickedness. God blessed them by sending his "servant" Jesus to them first. 
  • God raised Jesus, his "servant." Once again, the word for servant/son here (pais) evokes the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
Patron videos (now public)
Videos on English of Acts 3
Acts 3:1-13
Acts 3:14-26

Videos on Greek of Acts 3
Acts 3:1-3
Acts 3:4-6
Acts 3:7-8
Acts 3:9-11
Acts 3:12-13
Acts 3:14-15
Acts 3:16-18
Acts 3:19-21
Acts 3:22-24
Acts 3:25-26

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Patrons Only: Barnabas

My patrons only post this week on Patreon was about Barnabas in the New Testament. I did it in both video and podcast form for my patrons:


Starting on Monday (dv), I'm going to do a new format on Patreon:
  • The daily installments on weekdays will be podcasts on the English translation, available to all, covering about a chapter a week. So instead of the weekly overviews on Sundays, I will be be doing podcast commentary on about 10 verses a day.
  • This podcast will also be available daily on YouTube with the Greek text on the screen. These may be a little longer than the podcast if there are some interesting Greek forms or syntax.
  • I will continue to do a deeper dive for patrons only on Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Independence Day 2018

Happy Independence Day!

It is a strange feature of America right now that one segment of the population--almost entirely white, heavily evangelical, older, and middle/south country--thinks that America is finally back on the right path to becoming great again. Probably a majority of the country--those of other ethnicities, younger, coastal and big cities--think our democracy is in serious danger. If it weren't so important, it would be fascinating. I hope I will be able to look back on these days in fascination.

What are the points of disagreement?

Race and Immigration
1. Given many comments made on the campaign trail, the majority of non-whites in America do not feel like the current President has a particularly positive view toward them. Accordingly, racist views that people knew to keep to themselves before (or at selective water coolers) are now said openly. Ironically, refugees fleeing the violent to our borders are painted by the president as being the very people from whom they are fleeing.

Since most whites--especially older whites--are mostly blind to the experiences of non-whites anyway, the promotion of norms that favor a white majority is not experienced as injustice but as "making America great again." In truth, America had actually been on a slow process toward becoming greater. Slavery lasted almost a hundred years into our existence, but was abolished at great cost. Jim Crow laws were a backlash in the south that lasted almost another hundred years, but the civil rights laws of the 60s did make America a greater nation by getting rid of them. America had been moving toward a more level playing field.

Evangelicalism does not have an untainted history here. The Southern Baptist Church was explicitly founded to stand for slavery against the northern baptists. The modern states' rights movement that Jerry Falwell fused with abortion in the early 80s has deeper roots in opposition to the civil rights movement--that is, its roots are in southern racism. The linkage with abortion has only made it seem righteous.

2. The current administration represents a nativism that we have seen before in our history against Irish, Italians, Polish, Catholics, Chinese, etc (remember Polack jokes?). The statements are there from the president, for example, portraying all illegals as rapists or gang members. These things are as plain as day to millennials but somehow play into the fears and/or prejudices of older whites. They do not fit the spirit of the Old Testament toward the stranger in the land or the Parable of the Good Samaritan or the inclusivity of Acts and Paul. There is no biblical ground to stand on here, although the ingenious twist the Scriptures to fit their inklings.

Apt is the phrase, "make America hate again." Ask a person of color. It's not for a white person to say, "No, you're wrong about what you're experiencing." And the church will pay a price for it, regardless of its motives. "I didn't realize" won't cut it then. There will be consequences and already are. It will prove an obstacle to evangelism. Smiling white Trumpists trying to spread the gospel and shocked at the doors slammed in their faces and the steadily declining overall attendance in their churches. "What did I do? I only wanted to share the good news with them?"

As a millennial who isn't attending church told me recently, "I bet only conservatives go to church now."

The Rule of Law
3. The president is under investigation. It is the consensus of those across our government and in the governments of our allies that Putin tampered with our election. This is not surprising as we no doubt have tried to tamper in their business as well. What is at first surprising is that it has been very difficult to get our president to admit it.

Indeed, while our president says bad things about pretty much everyone--probably more about our historic allies than our historic enemies--he has never a negative thing to say about Putin. The Republican platform was altered in this regard. You get the gnawing feeling that he owes something to this guy. And somehow the segment of the American population that was most anti-Russia in the past is not alarmed at our sudden coziness with Putin.

This is not a little bit frightening. Former military generals sound the alarm. Former intelligence leaders sound the alarm. But for some reason these people are dismissed. Indeed, the fever of support for the current president among evangelicals reminds me of end times teaching I grew up with where "even the very elect" are deceived by the antichrist.

The Justice Department, full of Republicans appointed by the president, find themselves the object of his smear campaigns and of previously unknown inquisitors in the House, finding their moment in the sun by becoming attack dogs for the president. It's like the Justice Department is expected to serve like the lawyer of a mob boss, not as an independent balance of power.

4. Republican leaders in Congress say little until they decide to retire and aren't running for re-election. Then they speak more freely in critique. Again, this dynamic is striking. We get the impression that the problematic nature of the situation is known but unspoken. Meanwhile, when a John McCain speaks up, he is smeared. And somehow his own people buy it.

Why don't more Republicans in Congress speak? At first they didn't speak because they were getting things they thought they'd never get, like tax cuts that accelerate the gap between the incredibly rich and the incredibly not. Rules on businesses meant to keep us from another Great Recession or worse are pealed back. The EPA is dismantled and business is booming without the cost of protections to keep things like Flint, Michigan from happening.

But now they don't speak because the shrinking Republican party has become incredibly unified behind the president. This man whose deadly sins were once seen for what they are--lust, greed, pride--has been sanctified as a baby Christian who sins just like we all sin. Meanwhile, formerly staunch Republicans are becoming independents or Democrats, people like Joe Scarborough and Steve Schmidt. Nicole Wallace is just one example of a commentator who was in the Bush administration and is soundly Republican but is so clearly alarmed by the current administration.

Schmidt, a staunch supporter of Republican values, in what no one could have anticipated two years ago, declared that the Republican party was now the party of Trump and had become "corrupt, indecent, and immoral." The zero tolerance policy at the border was the last straw for him. Laura Bush also mourned what was happening at the border. These are not Democrats. These are life-long Republicans. Reason suggests that there is a reality here that can't be dismissed by a conspiracy theory or by blaming Democrats, who have no power whatsoever at this moment in time.

The rule of law is only as strong as the people. And it is only as strong as the people in power are willing to enforce it. With the current Republicans in office, paralyzed by constituencies under the spell of a charismatic leader, the rule of law is teeter-tottering. de Tocqueville foresaw these dangers. The tyranny of the majority is when the majority uses its power to run over the interests of minorities--or to ignore the Constitution.

5. I love the Constitution. I love the Statue of Liberty. I love the ideal of the Republic, a representational democracy with a Bill of Rights. But we are sick right now, and half the country is in denial, including vast portions of the church. We are in a moment of decline because we have lost our sense of the Constitution, the Statue of Liberty, and the Bill of Rights.

Is it to reverse Roe v Wade? Mike Pence would serve as well to do that, so it is no excuse. Indeed, by any standard Mike Pence is the more likely Christian of our two current leaders.

God has used these last two years to try to free me of the idol of America. He hasn't completely succeeded, for I haven't lost all hope yet. But he is telling me we are just another nation in thousands of years of the salvation story. Why should I think he loves us more than the believers in China? He is telling me we aren't always going to be a shining beacon to the world. God can bring justice to the world through Canadians and Germans just as well as through Americans. What right do I have to live in a place where these ideals of equality and freedom prevail? Most Christians in history haven't lived under such circumstances. I've been spoiled by growing up in the era I did.

I have not lost hope for our future, although I have had moments of despair these last two years. I pray the Lord will indeed make America great again. But if he doesn't, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.