Thursday, December 30, 2021

Reflections on 2021

I typically do an end-of-year post followed by a New Year's resolutions post, so here are my personal and general reflections on 2021. It has not been a bad year by any means. I am far too privileged to have a bad year. But it has been a year of transition, a year of liminality. Although I don't know that I have had COVID, it feels like this time of isolation has finally begun to take its toll on my mentality.

1. I was working at Houghton at year's beginning. By summer I felt that I had played out my role there. Many of my initiatives were reaching their end, and I felt I wouldn't be able to give to Houghton as much as I wanted to give somewhere. The Lord opened a door, and we walked through it.

So I was excited when the chance to work for Campus Edu opened up. It felt like surfing as one wave was going out and another was coming in. I've joked that with Campus I am able to do the things that the structure of IWU wouldn't allow me to do and that Houghton didn't really have the resources to do. I've written a series of blog posts on the Campus blog expressing my sense of what the possibilities of Campus are for Christian colleges.

2. We were forced to buy a house in New York. We moved from the house we were renting into two Houghton College apartments (and 8 storage units) and then into a house that is too small for my books. Perhaps part of my current sense of alienation is that most of my books are in storage and I have no clear office space. I expect we will have moved back to Indiana by the time I do next year's post.

My wife did start raising chickens. They are both an incredible delight and yet we have a taste of a farmer's life. I will not say how many animal "wards" we have but it is no doubt a matter of significant underlying stress, despite the fact that they are all good listeners.

3. My children are on course. Sophie has graduated from Loyola in Chicago in 2.5 years. Tom is graduating from Purdue this year and will do National Guard after ROTC. Stefanie is doing well in Miami and Stacy is still in COVID transition.

4. The situation in America continues to be a matter of concern. The deconstruction of faith is real. The deconstruction of our democracy is real. This is a matter of some despondency for me at times. I am incredibly thankful that the Lord has had mercy on us thus far. I find myself asking what if anything I can do. I may continue a meeting for seekers.

5. I ran a good deal this past year. I ran in the Corning Wineglass Marathon. My training dropped off the last few weeks prior so I only hoped to run the first half without stopping, then to walk/jog the second half. I did play out that way. I must have pulled my Achilles' tendon in the second half. I still have a knot. 

6. I self-published one book this year, a summary of my thoughts on God--God with Ten Words. In this year of liminality, I took five courses with Southern New Hampshire toward a degree in Game Programming and Design. I learned three computer languages--JavaScript, Java, and Python. I don't know if I'll continue. The idea was that courses in the future will likely involve gaming components.

I also decided to work on the chemistry major I started in college. I took Calculus II for Engineers with Arizona State. It was a hardcore course--no punches pulled, as hard as any face-to-face course. I'm proud to say I ended with a 97% in the course, an A+. Don't know if I'll continue. It's a lot of work and money I probably don't need to be spending. It has, however, been very useful to know how these other schools are doing things. I'm currently auditing Calculus I with Outlier. It is perhaps the most innovative approach out there.

I am hoping perhaps that, through Campus, I can help some Christian college or colleges with the insights I think I have gained from these experiences. But most colleges can't see how math and science could be done well online. I've pretty much given up on the Wesleyan schools.

7. I suspect I preached more this year than I have any year since the 80s. I think I preached at least 8 times this year in several different Wesleyan churches in New York.

8. I read some books. Hard to say how many I've dabbled with this year. Let me see if I can jot down some of the ones I've at least dabbled in a little:

  • For the Body by Timothy Tennant (strange book. It seemed to amount to--"Listen to your anatomy")
  • Fault Lines by Voddie Bauckham (he's a hardcore Calvinist who thinks slavery was predestined by God)
  • Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley
  • Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli (liked his summary of quantum stuff, but he goes weird at the end, I thought)
  • Platform Revolution (the "Bible" of Campusedu)
  • After Whiteness by Willie James Jennings
  • I started Jesus and John Wayne by Karen Kobes du Mez
  • Bob Black's How Firm a Foundation, the history of Southern Wesleyan. He is such a good writer.
  • Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning (I've owned but never finished)
  • Some business books. I had started a certificate in business at Houghton and passed courses on Principles of Management and Accounting. 
  • The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols
  • The Lean Startup -- didn't read but got the overview
  • The Women are Up to Something by Ben Lipscomb. not done but very much enjoying
  • Designing for Growth -- the main textbook for a course I'm teaching in January
  • Android Programming for Beginners -- in process as well
I bought dozens of other very good and worthy books as well. Unfortunately, I have not managed to read them. 

8. I don't suppose many would call 2021 a wonderful year. Still, I have learned many very good things from it, and I have a job with spectacular promise. Put me to work, Lord.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sermon Starters: Hidden in Plain Sight

Brookside Wesleyan Church, Wellsville, NY
December 26, 2021

Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Intro: Overview of the Wise Men story
who, where, when

1. Some are seeing but not seeing. (2:1-3)

  • How is it that the wise men are the only ones who see the star?
  • Three Amigos ("look up here"); Downton Abbey (nobody realizes that everyone has a crush on everyone else)
  • The Star surely was visible. They saw it but they didn't see it.
  • Mark 4 -- "Let those who have ears to hear hear." The filtering nature of Jesus' parables 
  • What/who are we not seeing?
  • What is God doing around you that you're not seeing?
  • Especially we don't want to be like the goats in Matthew 25!
2. Some are knowing but not knowing. (2:4-6)

  • Herod surely knows he can't fight God who has power over stars!
  • Why don't the chief priests and scribes run to Bethlehem too? They know the Bible well enough but somehow it hasn't sunk in.
  • Stubborn ignorance -- when we refuse to know what we know deep down
  • Girl who doesn't like you.
  • My easter story of paradigm shifting
  • Matthew 22; Romans 13 are the key. Does it fit with a true love of our neighbor?
3. Some are doing but not doing. (2:7-12)

  • Herod pretends to want to worship.
  • Guy at supper in Crimes and Misdemeanors. He doesn't really believe all that "mumbo jumbo." He just attends and does the ritual.
  • Luther's reaction to Rome and the Protestant Reformation

  • Be like the wise men. See, know, and do.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Deconstruction Novel Excerpt 4

The beginning of chapter 4... Here's the previous excerpt. I hope everyone has a blessed Christ day!


Two big things happened in the fall of 2016 for our little group. One was the election, which is still echoing through history as I record these memories. The second is that Brad got a “call to ministry.” A “call to ministry” means God wanted him to become a pastor.

Brad was clearly a smart guy, at least in a book kind of sense. He was smart enough to wait to the last minute to write a paper and then stay up all night and get an A on it. He seemed horribly unfocused most of the time.

I would typically be in my single room studying in the evening. He would allegedly be studying out in the common space of our suite. Except he wasn’t. He would read a little, then get distracted by some Google search. Then he would go see what was going on in the hall. Sometimes he wouldn’t get back for an hour.

Come ten-thirty he and Matt sometimes would drive off to Huddle House. Allegedly they were going to study there. They’d get a “late key,” since we all had a midnight curfew. But they would have some waffles or a burger and change their plans. “Let’s go back and study at my suite,” Brad might say. (By then I was usually asleep.)

But it wouldn’t happen. By the time they got back, Brad's glucose level was calling him to slumber. Sometimes Matt would stay up, but Brad almost never did. The next day would come and he would start the whole cycle of getting nothing done again.

Meanwhile, Matt’s demon was video games. He often wouldn’t come back and study. He would come back and get involved in Call of Duty or something along those lines. Like Brad, he was somehow smart enough to pull out that paper or test. April and I didn’t know how they managed to get through.

I ran across Brad at 4AM one night by chance in the suite. I had gotten up to use the restroom. “Why do you do this to yourself?” I asked him.

“I know. I know. I always hate myself at about this point,” he said. “It’s really stupid. I never intend to. I just can’t seem to get it done any earlier.”

“How can you even think at this ungodly hour?” I asked.

“Not very well,” he said. “I was really interested in Beowulf three hours ago, but not so much right now.”

He got so far behind his first semester that he tried to pull two all-nighters in a row during finals week. It didn’t go so well. During one of his final classes—a fairly small one in fact—he woke up with the lights out and his face smudged by his desktop, in a puddle of his own drool. Thankfully that class didn't have a final. Apparently the professor and students had very much enjoyed leaving him there after the class time was finished.

He shared at lunch that day that all reality had become one for him at about 5am. He jokingly said he had become a Buddhist monk. He had become one with the Oversoul and he had joined the whole universe in perfect harmony.

Brad was smart, but he probably wasn’t as smart as the college thought he was. They gave him credit for all his first-year courses in math and chemistry on the basis of his AP scores. He took third-semester calculus and second-year chemistry his first semester at college. He was able to make it through the calculus, but the chemistry killed him.

It was a course called inorganic analytical chemistry, with only three students in the class. There were a couple tests but the bulk of the class was a series of ten experiments in which Brad had to figure what mystery substance the professor had given him. The kicker was that these experiments didn’t have to be turned in at any particular time. They just all had to be done before the end of the semester.

This was death for Brad. His skill at procrastination left him with half of the experiments still to go in the final week. He was also supposed to submit to his Old Testament professor how much of the Old Testament he had read that semester. He and Jessica were supposed to read the whole Old Testament. (The rest of us soon realized not to take that professor for Old Testament.)

Jessica more or less lied. Most students did even though it was a Christian college. It was on the honor system. You just said, “Yes. I read it.” A few fudged by telling themselves, “I will finish reading over Christmas,” and then put down 100%.

Not Brad. His conscience wouldn’t let him--at least not to lie that blatantly. The first of his all-nighters was spent desperately trying to read the Old Testament. The odds were against him. He had managed to read maybe half by the time he got back from supper the night before. Then the heaviness of the evening began to settle in. He had two finals the next day to study for as well as a final paper to write for World Literature.

Thankfully, he had read Crime and Punishment in high school. The paper bit the dust by midnight. Not his best work, but it would have to do. He remembered enough from class discussions with his twelfth-grade high school teacher to sound really smart. The teacher actually put the word "Brilliant" in her feedback.

The hours from 12-5am were all reading. He was not a good reader. He had a horrible time focusing. He told me he often read the same sentence over and over and over. Sometimes it went in. Often it didn’t. "I can honestly say, 'I've never read a book I couldn't put down,'" he once told me with a smile.

He would stand and read. He would pace back and forth with book in hand. Sometimes he would read to himself aloud. Every sentence was like a runway to somewhere else.

Eventually, he decided not to worry whether he really didn’t fully comprehend what he was reading. He just moved his eyes across the lines. Maybe he missed a line or two. By the time he diverted to study for biology, he had managed to say he had read 75% of the Old Testament with a slightly shaky conscience...

Explanatory Notes -- Matthew 1

I diverted to Matthew 1 and 2 for Christmas in my weekly podcast and video, Through the Bible in Ten Years. Here is the write-up of my notes on Matthew 1 from yesterday.


1:1 [The] scroll of the genesis of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham.

Is this a heading relating to the entire Gospel of Matthew? It seems like the natural way to take it, given that the word for book/scroll is not used anywhere else in the New Testament for just part of a book or for a family tree. The Gospel of Matthew would thus be about the "beginning of Jesus Christ."

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that Matthew does not have much to say about Jesus in his pre-existence. The Gospel of John is distinctive in this regard because it emphasizes that Jesus existed in heaven before he came to earth. We also believe that Jesus became flesh as the human Jesus only when he was born (John 1:14). The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the Logos all relate to Jesus before he came to earth, but as Jesus the human being, a man with 23 specific pairs of chromosomes, the beginning was with the virgin birth, as Matthew relates. 

God the Son was not yet human prior to the incarnation. So it is not inappropriate to say that the Gospel of Matthew is about the beginning of Jesus Christ even though it was not the beginning of God the Son. These are of course very difficult concepts to get our heads around. The bottom line is that Matthew begins its narration about Jesus with the virgin conception, not with Jesus' pre-existence.

Jesus is the Son of David, a characteristic of Jesus' human genealogy that qualifies him to be king. If Matthew used Mark as a source, as most scholars think, then Matthew has deliberately decided to focus on Jesus as Son of David rather than Son of God, which is what Mark has in its first verse. Son of God was also a royal title, but Son of David might be more immediately meaningful to a Jewish Christian audience.

Matthew is the Gospel most focused on Jesus in his Jewishness. Here we should keep in mind that the earliest Christians were all Jews and none of them saw Christianity as a distinct or new religion. For them, following Jesus was following true Judaism. When a Gentile became a Jesus-follower, they saw themselves as converting to a form of Judaism. They became a sort of Gentile-Jew. It is thus more appropriate to call the audience of Matthew as Christian Jews even more than to call them Jewish Christians.

The audience that Matthew had in mind was almost certainly Jewish in origin. Not so much for the other Gospels. Mark, Luke, and even John seem much more directed toward Gentile than Jewish audiences. Those of us who are Gentile Christians may not notice the difference because we are Gentiles, but the Gospel of Matthew reads much more in line with the concerns of a Jewish audience.

If Son of David qualifies Jesus to be a king of Israel, his descendance from Abraham indicates that he is a child of Israel. He is not a Gentile. He was born into the people of God.  

1:2 Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah and his brothers [and sisters].

In keeping with its universal focus, Luke's genealogy in Luke 3 will start from Jesus and go backward to Adam. Matthew, in keeping with its Jew-centered approach begins with Abraham and moves forward to Jesus. The two genealogies do not fit exactly, leading some to suggest that Luke follows Mary's lineage and Matthew that of Joseph.

The genealogy is divided up into three groups of fourteen because it is the number of David's name, which we will explain further when we get to 1:17. Some names are left out to get to this number, which is symbolic. We should not be bothered by this fact, although Matthew might require us to shift our thinking to the way ancient Jewish interpreters thought rather than the way we might think.

The genealogy begins with the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the twelve sons of Israel. Jesus is part of the Jewish family. His story is the culmination of the promises that were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis.

1:3 And Judah begat Perez and Zerah from Tamar. And Pharez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Aram.

One of the interesting features of the family tree in Matthew 1 is the highlighting of five women. Women were very much marginalized in the ancient world, so the fact that Matthew goes out of his way to feature them is very striking. It suggests a theme that the Gospel of Luke will push even more, namely, that the good news of Jesus includes the empowerment and valuing of women.

What is even more interesting about the women in Jesus' genealogy is that they all have something about them that might have been viewed as somewhat suspect in Matthew's day. In the case of Tamar, she dressed up like a prostitute in order to trick Judah into fulfilling his duty has her father-in-law (Genesis 38). He was supposed to give her his son as a husband but he didn't. So she tricked him into sleeping with her, and that's how the twins Perez and Zerah were born.

A subtle message of the genealogy thus might be that God can take that which is not ideal and use it in the holiest of ways. God can take that which seems suspicious and use it for great good. God can redeem that which seems unholy and make it of the highest honor. God values even women who might seem tainted from a certain perspective and make them greater than the purest of all.

It also should not be lost on us that this selection of women culminates in Mary, who seemed morally suspicious to Joseph when he found out she was pregnant before they came together. But like the other women in the genealogy, she is now thought of as among the most honored of women. She is "highly favored," as Luke 1:28 says.

1:4 And Aram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab began Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon. 5. And Salmon begat Boaz from Rahab. And Boaz begat Obed from Ruth, and Obed begat Jesse. 6a. And Jesse begat David the king.

We find this part of the genealogy in Ruth 4:18-22. Two more women are mentioned, Rahab and Ruth. Both were foreigners, which put them initially outside the people of God. Rahab of course was a prostitute in Jericho, so she was not only involved in an impure, "dirty" trade but she was part of a people that God would destroy for their godlessness. Interestingly, the Bible nowhere else indicates that Rahab was in David's genealogy.

There is nothing suspect about Ruth except again that she is a Moabitess, a member of a people that was often an enemy of Israel. The book of Ruth depicts her of course in a completely positive light. Yet as we see in history repeatedly, it is a human tendency to think of immigrants as dirty and second or third class citizens. Ruth's origins would thus normally have been considered a dishonorable thing.

The number of years involved may suggest that some names are missing. Abraham might be dated to the 1700s BC. Fourteen generations would give us about 50 years before each childbirth--not the typical span today and certainly not then. It is thus generally agreed that the genealogies of the Bible may skip some generations and "hit the highlights," so to speak.

The first fourteen generations culminate in king David. We will see in a moment that the significance of the number fourteen is that it is the number of David's name. The genealogy is thus configured to say, "David, David, David." Jesus is the Son of David. Jesus is the king of Israel, the Messiah.

1:6b. And David begat Solomon from the [wife] of Uriah.

The second group of fourteen thus begins with Solomon, David's son. Now we are in the period of the monarchy. The next stretch will run through the kings of Judah, the southern kingdom. 

Bathsheba is the fourth woman mentioned in Jesus' genealogy, although she is not mentioned by name. Instead, Uriah the Hittite is mentioned. This mention again seems to hint that God cares about the Gentiles as well as that God can redeem sin. Although Solomon was not born of David's affair with Bathsheba, David took her as wife after having her husband killed, in effect.

1:7 And Solomon begat Rehoboam, and Rehoboam began Abijah. And Abijah begat Asaph. 8. And Asaph begat Jehoshaphat, and begat Joram. And Joram begat Uzziah. 9. And Uzziah begat Jotham, and Jotham begat Ahaz. And Ahaz begat Hezekiah, 10. And Hezekiah begat Manasseh, and Manasseh begat Amos, and Amos begat Josiah. 11. And Josiah begat Jeconiah and his brothers [and sisters] at the carrying away of Babylon.

These names, so familiar from the Old Testament books of the Kings, make it clear that Jesus' lineage qualifies him to be king. He is indeed a son of David. From the list in 1 Chronicles 3:11-12, it looks like three names were left out to arrive at fourteen generations. There, Joram begats Ahaziah, who begats Joash, who begats Amaziah, who begats Uzziah. 

But by this reckoning, the symbolism of fourteen generations is maintained to cover the span from David to the exile. It is a natural place to divide up the story of Israel.

1:12 And after the carrying away of Babylon, Jechoniah begat Shealtiel, and Shealtiel began Zerubbabel. 1:13 And Zerubbabel begat Abiud, and Abiud begat Eliakim. And Eliakim begat Azor. 14. And Azor begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Achim. And Achim begat Eliud. 15. And Eliud begat Eleazar, and Eleazar begat Matthan. And Matthan begat Jacob.

The last stretch of names are not ones that we know from the Old Testament. But they stretch us from the exile to the time of Jesus. Zerubbabel was of course a Persian appointed governor who facilitated the reconstruction of the temple in 516BC just after the return from Babylon.

1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, the one called Christ.

Thus we arrive at Jesus. Mary is the fifth of the woman in the genealogy. Like the others, she is honored to be in the family tree of the Christ. Like the others, there is some scandal associated with her story and with Jesus' birth. We should not be bothered that Jesus is not the biological son of Joseph, for "adopted" sons were counted just as much the children of their parents as genetic sons. In fact, because adopted sons were chosen, they were often considered even more significant than the biological ones.

1:17 Therefore, all the generations from Abraham to David [are] fourteen generations and from David to the carrying away of Babylon [are] fourteen generations, and from the carrying away of Babylon until the Christ, fourteen generations. 

As we mentioned above, the number fourteen is the number of David's name. Hebrew and Greek did not have independent symbols for their numbers. Their letters doubled as numbers. The numbers of David's name in Hebrew are thus daleth (4), waw (6), and daleth (4), which add up to fourteen. The genealogy thus embodies David's name three times--"David, David, David." It is a figurative way to reinforce that Jesus is the Son of David, the king.

Jesus' Birth

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was thus. When Mary, his mother, had been pledged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found pregnant of the Holy Spirit. 

The marriage between Joseph and Mary was apparently arranged. She may have been somewhat younger, with Joseph older. We do not know if he had a previous wife or even if she were an additional wife. She is found to be pregnant "from the Holy Spirit." In other words, she becomes pregnant without having sex with anyone.

1:19 And Joseph, her husband, being righteous and not wanting to disgrace her, wanted to release her secretly.

Joseph is called "her husband," indicating how far along the marriage process has gone. The word for divorce might also be translated as "release," but since Joseph is called "her husband," the word divorce seems appropriate. Joseph does not want to disgrace Mary unnecessarily, even though she has potentially disgraced him greatly. He does not want to stigmatize her. He apparently contemplates leaving her in her father's house without drawing attention to her apparent infidelity. The way he approaches the situation shows that he is a righteous man and man of honor.

1:20 And while he was considering these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary, your wife, for that which has been born in her is of the Holy Spirit.

In Luke, the women are visited by angels. In Matthew, they come in dreams to Joseph. The fact that Joseph is the son of David reminds the reader of the genealogy at the beginning of the chapter. Because Jesus is a descendant of David, he is qualified to be king of Israel and to fulfill the prophecies about David's kingdom lasting forever. 

The presumption is that the child has no human male parent but that the Holy Spirit is the sole origin of the child's conception. In general, the ancients did not think of the woman as contributing any substance to the child in the womb. She was rather an incubator for the seed of the male. The Holy Spirit would thus be understood to be entirely responsible for Jesus' substance.

Some translations render the verse, "take Mary [as] your wife," giving the impression that she was not yet his wife at this time. But since Joseph is called her husband in 1:19, we might simply call Mary his wife. The marriage has not been consummated, but the arrangement is apparently complete. If she were younger and the marriage was arranged, it is possible that Joseph was waiting for her to come of age.

1:21 "And she will bear a son and you will call his name 'Jesus,' for he himself will save his people from their sins."

Jesus is of course the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua. Jesus' name was thus pronounced Yeshua while he was on earth. To say that Jesus would save Israel from its sins is shorthand for saving them from the consequences of their sins. 

In general, many Jews were probably expecting any Messiah to free Israel from its enslavement to foreign powers like the Romans. However, since Matthew was written after the destruction of Jerusalem (e.g., Matt. 22:7), perhaps political salvation is not really what he has in mind. For Matthew, the consequences of sin seem rather to focus on eternal torment following the final judgment (e.g., Matt. 25:31, 46).

1:22 And all this has come to be so that might be fulfilled what has been spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, 23. "Behold the virgin will get pregnant and will bear a son and they will call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is 'God with us.'"

This is the first of Matthew's fulfillment texts, a distinctive eemphasis of his gospel. At first, we might think that these are simply prediction-fulfillments. However, a deeper look suggests that Matthew largely interprets these passages in a non-contexual, "spiritual" sense. Some call such interpretations the taking of the Old Testament in a "fuller sense" (sensus plenior).

Of all the New Testament writers, Matthew's interpretive method comes the closest to the "pesher" interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Matthew takes the words of Old Testament verses without much attention to the surrounding words of their context and reads them in the light of events in Jesus' life. In this case, for example, we need know nothing about the context of Isaiah 7:14 to understand Matthew's meaning. 

In context, Isaiah 7:14 refers to a child that was a sign to king Ahaz that he did not need to worry about the two kings to his immediate north. If the sign was only Jesus, it was a very ineffective sign for Ahaz, since he was dead some 700 years before Jesus. A young woman can conceive the first time she has sex. Isaiah 7:15 goes on to say that before that child came of age, the political situation of Ahaz would be resolved. The verse thus originally referred to a child born in the 700's BC. 

This original meaning is not relevant to the "fuller," prophetic meaning in relation to Jesus. Matthew understood these words in the Greek translation of Isaiah to be potent with meaning in relation to Jesus' birth. We should not see this as a problem. It was a perfectly acceptable Jewish way of interpreting Scripture at the time and no argument against inspiration. We cannot accuse a text of error according to our ideology when it is perfectly in keeping with its own. 

And God knew Matthew would take the verse this way when he spoke to Isaiah. God knew Matthew would take the verse this way when Isaiah was translated into Greek well over a century before Christ. The words were pregnant with meaning that could be applied to the conception of Jesus.

The fact that the author draws from the Greek Isaiah is a significant argument that the author of Matthew in its current form was a Greek speaking Jew rather than the Aramaic-speaking Galilean disciple. In general, the "first language" Greek of the gospel argues for the same conclusion. The Greek of Matthew is actually smoother than Mark, one of its likely sources, which involves more Semitisms in its style.

Jesus is "God with us." This characteristic of Jesus occurs here and then again at the end of Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples, "I am with you all the days until the end of the age." The idea of Jesus as God with us thus forms an inclusio that brackets the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew does not explicitly share the inner logic of how Jesus is God with us. But throughout the Gospel, Jesus is sometimes presented in terms normally reserved for God alone. Following the Parables of Enoch, Matthew 25 has Jesus on God's throne in judgment, an extremely rare image in surviving Jewish literature. And while Jesus tells Satan that only the Lord is to be worshipped, Matthew consistently has various individuals bowing before Jesus.

1:24 And Joseph, having been raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife, 25. and he was not knowing her until she born a son and called his name, "Jesus."

If there were any doubt, this statement makes it clear that Joseph is not the father of the child. He does not have sex with Mary until after Jesus is born. He goes through with the marriage, despite her pregnancy. Matthew knows nothing of later Christian traditions in which Mary remains a "perpetual virgin." The assumption of the text is that Joseph does go on to have relations with her after Jesus' birth.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Novel Excerpt 3 -- Deconstruction

I've finished the first draft of chapter 3 of a novel I'm playing with, Deconstruction. I'm posting most of it for patrons on Patreon as a motivation for me to keep writing. Be interesting to see if I keep going. It's not easy to synthesize the reasons so many are deconstructing right now in a narrative form that conveys the swirl of thoughts and feelings involved. Here's the previous excerpt.

Here's the excerpt for today:


Chapter 3
The fall of 2016 was the beginning of a strange time. I didn’t realize it so much until I started looking back. They say that a frog won’t jump out of a boiling kettle if you turn the heat up slowly. It doesn’t notice smaller changes in temperature if you heat it up gradually. And then it dies. Mind you, I’ve never tested the theory.

Everyone at Ebenezer had to take a “Freshman Seminar” about adjusting to college, developing time management skills, budgeting your money, etc. We were required to keep a journal and submit at least one entry a week.

(I heard stories of earlier years when students fabricated a whole semester’s worth of journal entries the last week of class, but those days were gone. We had to submit them electronically now every week.)

For some reason, I didn’t stop journaling at the end of the semester. I didn’t really participate in the daily lunch and supper debates between Matt, Brad, and April. I was a quiet sort. Sometimes I wondered if they even knew I was there.

But I was there. I was paying closer attention to the conversations than they probably were. I started writing them down in my journal. As graduation approached four years later, I went back and read them from start to finish. It was amazing the amount of ground we covered, a virtual encyclopedia of topics.

But what most stood out to me was how we all boiled in the kettle. Matt went from being a somewhat reluctant Trump supporter almost to worshiping him. Brad went from holding his nose for Trump to the brink of socialism with Bernie in 2020.

April remained a moderate Democrat the whole time. From my notes, her positions hardly changed at all during those four years. But Matt could have sworn that she had become a flaming liberal at Ebenezer.

Like a frog in the kettle, we sometimes don’t perceive these changes. But reading my journal entries, they were plain as day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Why Campus 5 -- Softer Landings

The second to last post in this series. Another reason for colleges to utilize Campus is softer landings in the difficult choices that often are facing colleges and universities today.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

Why Campus 4 -- Quantum Leaps

The fourth post in my series on why Campus Edu might be useful to a Christian college. This one has to do with larger projects like adopting us as your LMS or using us for one's entire general education curriculum.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Novel Excerpt 2.2 -- the Cafeteria

Here's the previous excerpt. And now the new one:


It started Day 1. Brad had a required course called, “Introduction to the Old Testament.” It was right before lunch. Jessica was in there too.

“The teacher blew my mind on the first day,” Brad said as he and Jessica caught up with us at lunch. “I felt so stupid.”

He had my curiosity. I had almost fallen asleep at 7:50 in my only class that morning. Art Appreciation. The professor played some classical piece that she found very moving, but it just reminded me that I had been sleeping less than an hour earlier.

“What if we’re not the y-o-u of the Bible?” Brad continued.

“What?” Matt answered, puzzled.

“What if the Bible wasn’t actually written to us?”

“That’s completely wrong!” Matt blurted out. “The Bible is God’s answer book, God’s Word for all time.”

“Yes, but what if it was really more for someone different than me?”

I was pretty confused, and Matt was beginning to get angry. So Jessica stepped in.

“He’s making a big deal out of nothing,” Jessica said. “The teacher was just pointing out that the books of the Bible were written thousands of years ago for a bunch of ancient people.”

“Yeah, here look,” Brad continued, far more excited than seemed normal to me.

“I open up to Deuteronomy 6. What does it say? ‘Hear O Israel.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Hear, O Brad or Matt.’ It wasn’t written to me.”

“It was written for everyone,” Matt said somewhat emphatically.

Yeah, well it doesn’t say that,” Brad rejoined with a fiendish grin on his face.

“Let’s open to the New Testament, say, Romans 1. What does it say? Read it Matt.” Brad was having too much fun. He leaned clear across the table, his shirt almost dangling into my mashed potatoes. He held his finger on the desired verse. “Read it! What does it say, Matt?”

Now he was just being annoying. Matt reluctantly read it. “To all God’s beloved in Rome.”

“See. ‘In Rome.’ It doesn’t say, ‘To all of you at Ebenezer College.’ It wasn’t written to you, Matt.”

“You’re making a big deal of nothing,” April finally said. “Sure, it was first written to them, but God wrote it so that it would apply to all of us in all times and places.”

“Ah, but is that possible, April?” Brad fired back. It was a little too much for me, for someone to enjoy the subject matter of their class so much. But this would become the norm with Matt and Brad. They really got into ideas, while the rest of us pretty much just watched the show.

“The Bible is timeless, absolute truth,” Matt rejoined the argument. He seemed a little less riled up now that he could see what was going on. “It is for everyone, everywhere, all of it.”

“So when are you going to sell all you have and give to the poor?”

“Where does it say to do that?” Jessica asked.

It's something Jesus said to some rich guy once.” April added.

“Yes, I don’t know where the verse is,” Matt continued, “but the words of the Bible say, ‘Go and sell all you have and give to the poor.’”

“That was something Jesus said to one rich young ruler,” Matt finally answered. “It wasn’t a command to me or everyone.”

“Bingo!” Brad said with a grin from ear to ear. “It wasn’t written to you.”

That even brought a smile to Jessica’s face. “He’s got you, Matt,” she said.

“That’s different,” he finally said dismissively. “That was to one guy, one time.”

“So you admit that not everything in the Bible was written directly to you? It's what I've been saying all along” ...