Category Archives: Books

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem…”

By the waters of Babylon,” in exile, where a Hebrew Remnant finalized the Old Testament…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

As noted in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’ll be flying to Jerusalem for a two-week  pilgrimage (As part of a local church group.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to a series of lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

And in the process of doing this post, I stumbled on a Jerusalem Post article that tied in to a point the professor made in Lecture 2, “By the Rivers of Bablyon – Exile.”  The article:  If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which ties in with frequent themes of this post.  (That the “spiritual path” has more to offer than the “literal path.*”)  But the point here is this:  The title of that article is from Psalm 137:5-6:  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version; the Bible God uses.)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel Lecture 2, described further below.

See also Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, which described “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.”  That ended up with the people of Judah being “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon,” in 539 BC:

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile.  In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to “God’s Chosen People.”

According to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history, and also the very middle of Bible itself.*  And Psalm 137 came at precisely the time when the books of the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came about because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

That is, the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., the year many Judeans were taken from their homeland.  (After the horrors of the Babylonian conquest.)  Then they went through a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon, during which many of the Remnant died along the way.  (Those who weren’t executed during the post-siege “mop up.”)  After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – they compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.”  A library that connected them to their homeland.

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.”

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpgThat idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity, at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

The link-article went on to say the period of exile “was a rich one for Hebrew literature.”  For example, the Book of Jeremiah 39–43 saw the exile “as a lost opportunity.”  Also, the “Priestly source, one of the four main sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the Bible, is primarily a product of the post-exilic period,” while also “during this Persian period, the final redaction of the Pentateuch purportedly took place.”

I’ve written before about Moses writing the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – during and right after the 40 years of “wandering in the wilderness.”  (See e.g. On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” and My Lenten meditation.)  Which would mean those first five books of the Bible were written some time before 1,400 B.C., about the time Moses died. (What year did Moses die –  But it was only some 800 years later – and the product of a humiliating national disgrace – that the final version of the Old Testament as we know it came into being.

I’ll be writing more about Psalm 137 and “On to Jerusalem” in a later post.  In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy Easter.  And a reminder that that joyous occasion could only come about after 40 days of Lenten “doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”  Not to mention a humiliating death on the cross.

You know, I’ll bet there’s a lesson that can be gleaned from all this…

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James Tissot, “The Flight of the Prisoners,” from Jerusalem and on into exile…

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “By the Waters of Babylon, painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

About the photo to the right of the paragraph beginning, “As told in ‘On to Jerusalem:'”  From the Wikipedia article on Jerusalem, the caption reads:  “Israeli policemen meet a Jordanian Legionnaire near the Mandelbaum Gate (circa 1950).”

As to the “Great Course,” see also The World of Biblical Israel – English.  Other books I’m reading for the upcoming include Entebbe: A Defining Moment In the War On Terrorism, by Iddo Netanyahu.

As to the “piritual path being better than the literal path.  See John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which noted of God that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”)  And of course 2d Corinthians 3:6, saying the letter of the law kills, “but the Spirit [of God’s law] gives life.”

Re:  Psalm 137:5-6.  See also Psalm 137:5 Commentaries: If I forget you…, and Psalm 137 – Commentary in Easy EnglishAlso, “137” is an Imprecatory Psalm See Wikipedia, on those  invoking “judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”

Re:  “Babylon.”  See Wikipedia:  “The remains of the city are in present-day HillahBabil GovernorateIraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.”  There’s probably a lesson there too…

Re:  Psalm 137 as “the very middle of Bible itself.”  In my Good News Bible, Psalm 137 folds out pretty much right at the middle.  Also, it’s on page 687 of a combined 1,395 pages.  (1,041 for the Old Testament, 354 for the New Testament.)  The precise mid-point page would be “697.5.”

About the image to the right of the paragraph, “That idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity.”  From Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, it’s captioned “Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century).”  

The lower image is courtesy of the Babylonian captivity link at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “James TissotThe Flight of the Prisoners.”  That article added these notes:

In the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a punishment for idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh in a similar way to the presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt followed by deliverance. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and Jewish culture.  For example, the current Hebrew alphabet was adopted during this period, replacing the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.

This period saw the last high-point of biblicalprophecy in the person of Ezekiel, followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had been organized according to tribe.  Afterwards, they were organized by smaller family groups.  Only the tribe of Levi continued in its temple role after the return.  After this time, there were always sizable numbers of Jews living outside Eretz Israel;  thus, it also marks the beginning of the “Jewish diaspora,…”

Also, as to Hebrews killed during the post-siege mop-up, see 2d Kings 25, verses 8-12:

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard … came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.  Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon.  But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

Also verse 18-20, describing the number of prisoners taken, mostly high-ranking officials.  And verses 20-21:  “Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.  

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Announcing a new E-book…

The book cover:  “Jacob wrestling with the angel”  – God – and being “transformed…”

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Remember when Rick Santorum said “there’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian?”  There’s a new e-book out to challenge his claim.  Which is another way of saying I just published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.”  (Subtitle: “And Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”)  Just check out the Amazon Kindle Store (Under the nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Fesoj - Papilio machaon (by).jpgIn one sense it talks about being transformed.  As in, transformed by reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (And maybe faithfully reading this blog?)  In turn, the King James Bible Dictionary says that term means to “change the form of;  to change the shape or appearance;  to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”

(To “metamorphose” means in pertinent part to “change into a different physical form especially by supernatural means.”)

But as the book notes, way too many way-too-conservative Christians don’t want to change.  They don’t like the idea of being “transformed,” as Jacob was.  They prefer staying “caterpillars,” Biblically speaking.  They’d rather stay in their cocoon of literalism.

You can get more juicy details at the Kindle Store site, by typing in the title’s key words.  There too you can read the 600-word “blurb.”  Also – for reference – the chapter titles are listed in the notes below.  For one example the book talks of the difference between Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ.”  That last post – from November 13 – became Chapter 27, the end of the book.  Other chapters include “The Bible’s erotic love song.”  (“From last year.”)

I figured that’d get people’s attention, but the chapter also asks questions like:  Why don’t Bible Literalists interpret the “Songs of Songs” literally?  Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

To compare, some literalists are “snake handlers,” based on a literal translation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.”  (Taken out of context, I’d say.)  But the “love song” chapter says,  “Be consistent.  If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

Moving on – and as noted in the e-book “blurb” – the book’s  title is a twist on Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008, “There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian.” (In a kind of “Bizarro” turnabout-is-fair-play.  Or some well-deserved “busting of conservative chops.”) 

But the journey that led to the book started four years ago.  It just ended, with a realization that there ARE conservative Christians  However, they both definitely short-change themselves and drive away converts “in droves.”  (With their narrow view of the Bible.  Then too, another conclusion the book came to was:  They’re more like “hang around the fort” Christians.*)

But the book – and this blog – gives potential Bible students a more challenging alternative to the “limited Army career options” offered up by conservative Christians.  (That’s a metaphor based on Paul’s saying in 2d Timothy 2:3,  “Join with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”) 

And in the U.S. Army for example, you do – at first – go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.”  But conservative Christians “never go beyond boot camp.”  They never go beyond the fundamentals.  They’d rather stay “career buck privates.”  (See Chapter 16.)

But as the book notes, a true Soldier of Christ WANTS to go beyond the “safety of the fort” – or the cocoon – and wrestle with God.  Of course God will win every ‘match,” but in the process YOU get stronger and stronger – spiritually – as discussed in Chapter 5.  (“On arguing with God,” which includes the idea that your Bible journey calls you “to vigor, not comfort.”)

In the meantime, since publishing the book I found what might be a better metaphor than arguing with God or “wrestling with God.”  Back in the 1970’s I had a book, The Inner Game of Tennis.  As I remember, one passage talked about how a good player should compete with a not-so-good player.  So the better metaphor could be “playing tennis with God.”

I’ll try to develop this theme later on, but the point is pretty simple.  When you “play tennis with God,” He plays you in a way that will help you develop.  He doesn’t just try to beat the tar out of you, to humiliate you, like so many “human” players do.  I put more thoughts on this in the  notes, but the point is that if you challenge God – if you “argue” with Him – you usually end up a stronger person for it.  (Though there will be “disasters” from which spiritual growth comes…)  

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some Christians choose the option for some “Advanced Individual Training” – like the U.S. Army – and go out beyond the fort.  AND have some adventure in their lives.  Or as Jesus promised in John 10:10 to live life “in abundance.”

That’s from the Afterword, which adds that the book “can get you started doing that.”

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“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

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The upper image is courtesy of Jacob wrestling with the angel – Wikipedia.  See also On arguing with God and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

Re:  Santorum on liberal Christianity.  There’s some debate whether he actually said that about “liberal Christians,” but not that some conservative Christians truly believe it.  Some indeed have called liberal Christianity a “heresy,” notwithstanding the warning of Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  See for example The ‘Bizarro Rick Santorum’ says, which became Chapter 21.

Metamorphosis Re:  Butterflies and cocoons.  See also How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies, at left.

The image below the “erotic love song” passage is courtesy of Song of Songs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Song of Songs’ (Cantique des Cantiques) by Gustave Moreau, 1893.”

Re:  “Hang around the fort” Christians.  As the book notes, I’ve used a number of metaphors to describe such too-conservative, too-literal followers-of-Jesus.  Boot camp Christians, carbon-copy Christians, career buck privates – Biblically speaking – and the like.  But after further review, the term “stick in the mud Christians” deserves further exploration.  For example, there’s a lady in my church choir who is conservative, and a Christian, but she does things like “shotgun” competitively and go to Las Vegas on a regular basis to play poker; also “competitively.”  And she drives a racy big-engine sports car, and for all that is definitely not a “stick in the mud” Christian.  See ‘Stick in the mud’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, referring to a “narrow-minded or unprogressive person;  one who lacks initiative.”  The Free Dictionary said the term is based the idea of someone “content to remain in an abject condition.”  Or there’s the generic “person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.”  (Yup, that sounds about right…)

The full title to the “tennis” book:   The Inner Game of Tennis:  The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.  As to the author, see Timothy Gallwey – Wikipedia:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations.  If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Which sounds a bit like the blog-post On sin and cybernetics, which forms Chapter 6 in the book.

The lower image is courtesy of the Kindle Store

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I wrote the following after getting my copy of “Inner Game” from the local library.  The full chapter-title list comes below these “rough notes for possible future use:”

The easiest way – used by most “better players” – is just to beat the tar out of a lesser opponent.  But the worthier – more challenging – way is for the “better” to play just good enough to win.  In that way he challenges the lesser player, and forces his own “self” to stretch and become better.  His primary goal is still to win, but to win in such a way that both players grow.  (E.g., the lesser player feels good because he “hung in there” with a better player.)

So  today I went to the library and got the 2008 Random House paperback edition.  (“Foreward by Pete Carroll, head football coach, USC.”)  I found what I think was the remembered passage.  From page 121, Chapter 9 (The Meaning of Competition), it talked about the way that God – in my remembrance – gives you the chance to “find out to what heights [you] can rise.”  Then the author wrote about concluding that “true competition is identical with true cooperation:”

Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in … true competition no person is defeated.  Both players benefit by their efforts [and] both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other…  You tend to build confidence in your opponent…  Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it.

So from God’s point of view, “He makes it more challenging for His opponent.”  God makes it more challenging for us when we argue with, wrestle with, or play tennis with Him, instead of just meekly accepting a narrow, limited version of how conservatives see the Bible.

So it seems to me that God wants us to “challenge Him,” to ask questions, to go beyond a mere literal acceptance of what somebody else has said the Bible means.  Like Buddha said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations. . .     Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests.  After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

But the Apostle Paul said pretty much the same thing in First Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   And First John 4:1, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.”  And also Philippians 2:12, where Paul added, “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”  (Borrowed from The Christian repertoire…)

I’m not sure how I got to quoting Buddha, but it’s from another e-book I’ll be publishing soon…

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The following is the list of Contents in the “NoCon” book, Chapters 1 through 27.  Also, a Preface and an Afterword.  For some practice using the search engine at the upper right of the main page, just type in the key words.  And as noted above, the last chapter – 27 – comes from the November 13, 2018 post, On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ:” 


Chapter 1:  “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other

Chapter 2:  Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Chapter 3:  On three suitors (a parable)

Chapter 4:  On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Chapter 5:  On “wrestling” with God

Chapter 6:  On sin and cybernetics

Chapter 7:  On reading the Bible

Chapter 8:  On the Bible and mysticism

Chapter 9:  The True Test of Faith

Chapter 10:  On singing a NEW song to God…

Chapter 11:  On WHY we’re getting “less Christian”

Chapter 12:  Was Moses the first to say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Chapter 13:  “Bible basics” revisited

Chapter 14:  On Moses getting stoned…

Chapter 15:  My Lenten meditation…

Chapter 16:  Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

Chapter 17:  On snake-handling “redux”

Chapter 18:  The latest from a “None…”

Chapter 19:  Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Chapter 20: On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

Chapter 21:  The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Chapter 22:  “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Chapter 23:  The Bible’s “erotic love song”

Chapter 24:  Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!

Chapter 25:  Did Jesus interpret the Bible “liberally?”

Chapter 26:  Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

Chapter 27:  On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

What’s a DOR?

You don’t have to become a monk to do the Daily Office

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As noted in The Scribe – above – “DOR” stands for Daily Office Reading.

That’s where the “DOR” in “Dorscribe” comes from.

The Daily Office is a two-year cycle of Bible readings.  (Thus, “Daily Office Readings.”)  That means that if  you follow the full set of readings,  you’ll get through virtually the entire Bible one time in two years.  (And the psalms and Gospels three to four times.)

Then there’s the Revised Common Lectionary.  It’s the one that sets out the Bible readings for Sundays, and it follows a three-year cycle.  That in turn means that if you attend an Episcopal church each Sunday for three years, you’ll hear virtually the whole Bible read to you, “once in three years, and the psalms and Gospels three to four times.”

See also Canonical hours – Wikipedia:

The canonical hours mark the divisions of the day in terms of periods of fixed prayer at regular intervals…   In western Catholicism, canonical hours may also be called offices, since they refer to the official set of prayer of the Roman Catholic Church…   In the Anglican tradition, they are often known as the daily office (or divine office), to distinguish them from the other ‘offices’ of the Church, i.e. holy communion, baptism, etc.

Wikipedia added that the practice of making such daily prayers “grew from the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at set times of the day,” as for example in the Book of Acts, where “Peter and John visit the temple for the afternoon prayers (Acts 3:1).”  (E.A.)

See also Psalm 119:164, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”

This practice came down through the centuries, and began with the Apostles.  Then – later – as monasticism spread, monks – like those seen in the top image – developed standardized hours and liturgical formats for daily prayer.  (And – presumably – for daily Bible study.)

“Already well-established by the ninth century in the West, these canonical offices consisted of eight daily prayer events: lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline, and the night office, sometimes referred to as vigils.”  The canonical hours article added:

By the time of the Roman Empire, the Jews (and eventually early Christians) began to follow the Roman system of conducting the business day in scheduling their times for prayer.  In Roman cities, the bell in the forum rang the beginning of the business day at about six o’clock in the morning (Prime, the “first hour”), noted the day’s progress by striking again at about nine o’clock in the morning (Terce, the “third hour”), tolled for the lunch break at noon (Sext, the “sixth hour”), called the people back to work again at about three o’clock in the afternoon (None, the “ninth hour”), and rang the close of the business day at about six o’clock in the evening (the time for evening prayer).

As a side note, that method of telling and relating time is shown in Mark 15:33 and Matthew 27:45, telling of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.  (An update on that theme is shown at right.)  Those passages referred to the sixth and ninth hours of the day:  “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice … and breathed His last.” 

Thus the “darkness” at issue started at noon and lasted until 3:00 in the afternoon.  “Canonical hours” concluded:

The traditional structure [of the Daily Office today] reflects the intention by the reforming Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, to return to the office’s older roots as the daily prayer of parish churches…   Like many other Reformers, Cranmer sought to restore the daily reading or singing of psalms as the heart of Christian daily prayer.  Since his time, every edition of the Book of Common Prayer has included the complete psalter, usually arranged to be read over the course of a month…   The daily offices have always had an important place in Anglican spirituality.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, over the centuries the practice of daily Bible reading and prayer seven times a day became too onerous for us working-class folk.   So Thomas Cranmer started the present system of studying the Bible at most twice a day.

Or you could do what I do.  For an example, go to NRSV, which shows the daily readings for the week beginning August 30, 2015.  (For a “look back in time.”)

For each day’s readings – in such a Lectionary – you’ll see two sets of psalms, “AM” and “PM.”  (In other words, one set for morning prayer and one for evening prayer.)  But given the difficulty most people have in setting aside two times a day for Bible reading, you could just read both sets of psalms at one time, which for me usually happens first thing in the morning.

See also The Daily Office | From the Diocese of Indianapolis, also known as “”

The Daily Office is an ancient way to pray.  There are many ways to pray, including your own cries to God of joy and sorrow and need.  Such prayers are intensely personal, while the Office gathers up all our prayers so that we can pray together.  From monasteries to churches to private homes, people have been praying the Daily Office for thousands of years.  Why?  Because it brings us closer to God.

(Emphasis added.)    The article noted “a fellow named Thomas Cranmer.”  (Seen at left.)  He’s the one “who compiled the Book of Common Prayer,” in 1549.  He’s also the one who simplified the Bible-based – and long practiced – seven prayer services a day into two.  (Morning and evening prayer.)

That is, “He simplified Christian practice into a discipline ordinary people can keep.  Pray once in the morning and once at night and you’ll invariably draw closer to the Holy One.”

So there you have it.

The Daily Office provides a way for ordinary people to read and study the Bible, and pray as necessary.  The Anglican Daily Office provides a way for ordinary people to read and get through the Bible in as little as two years.  (And not get bogged down somewhere in Leviticus, like what usually happens when you try to read it from beginning to end, like a novel.)

And just for the record, note the changeover from “Year Two, Volume 1.”  That happened back on Pentecost Sunday.  (That is,  May 15, 2016.)  With that changeover I began my 12th trip through the Bible, as well as some 33 to 40 times through the psalms and Gospels.  (For what that’s worth, but at least it means “I’m familiar…”)   See On the changeover to “Y1V1″.”

Unfortunately, it would be impossible to highlight the Daily Office on a regular basis in a blog like this, so I’ll be focusing mainly on the weekly Sunday Bible readings.  That in turn means my Blog-handle probably should be “RCLscribe,” but somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring.

And who knows?  By consulting this blog – and reading the Bible yourself “for clues” – you might end up solving your own life’s fascinating detective story, like Sean Connery.

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The upper image is courtesy of New Parson’s Handbook: Two Ways of Praying: Psalms and Daily Prayer, which added, “the Daily Office or Liturgy of the Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer, for most Anglicans) has itself a rich and varied tradition, and its celebration can take varied forms.”   The article gave even more reasons why the Psalms are essential to daily prayer, and spiritual growth.  

The canonical hours image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Anglican Rosary sitting atop The Anglican Breviary and The Book of Common Prayer.”

The crucifixion image is courtesy of that Wikipedia article.  The caption:  “Poster showing a German soldier nailing a US soldier to a tree, as American soldiers come to his rescue.  Published in Manila by Bureau of Printing (1917).”  In other words it’s an update on the “crucifixion” theme.

The lower image is courtesy of The Name of the Rose (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  See also The Name of the Rose – Wikipedia, which referred to “the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco.  It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327.”  The book revolves around the canonical hours during the visit by “Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melk,” to a “Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy to attend a theological disputation.”

Those canonical hours were:   1. Matins (at sunrise);   2. Prime (first hour of the day);  3. Terce (third hour of the day);   4. Sext (sixth hour of the day or noon);   5. None (ninth hour of day);   6. Vespers (end of day, sunset);  and  7. Compline (before retiring);   8. Vigils (during the night).   As the book also indicated, the monks in a monastery normally went to bed around 6:00 p.m. and got up at 3:00 a.m.  See also Vigiles – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, about the Vigiles Urbani (“watchmen of the City“) or Cohortes Vigilum (“cohorts of the watchmen”), the “firefighters and police of Ancient Rome.”

As to the simplification of that complicated and – for “ordinary” and/or working people – unworkable system of canonical hours, see Intro to Prayer Book | The Daily Office, which once said: 

Cranmer and the English Reformers were committed to:   1. Bringing the complicated and extensive prayer system out of the monasteries and convents to the common people, and   2. Necessarily, simplifying it all and putting it in their common language.  This meant Morning and Evening Prayer and the Eucharist would accessible to all who could read.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, from 1549 on, reading and interpreting the Bible was no longer the exclusive province of the clergy, with “ordinary people” having to depend on such “rehashes.”

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One final note:  To increase your ease in “reading” the Daily Office, Church Publishing Incorporated (formerly known as Church Hymnal Corporation) offers a four-volume set, Daily Office Readings, as shown below.  Each volume includes “Lectionary texts for reading the daily office using the Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible.”  See Welcome to Church Publishing (E.A.).

As noted in the Introductions to each volume, there are two volumes for each year of the Daily Office, “in strict accordance” with the Lectionary set out in the Book of Common Prayer, at pages 936-1000.  (See also Daily Office Lectionary.)  The Introductions add:

Because of the importance of the Daily Office in the Anglican tradition … these volumes will make the Offices easier to recite [sic], aiding the use of the Office for private or public prayers.  [They] eliminate the need to find three readings for each day in the Bible and to track down those readings which skip around within a given passage.   DOR should make it more possible for the laity and clergy alike to develop the habit of reciting [sic] the Offices by eliminating much of the work involved.  They are also invaluable for those who are traveling.

Note the word sic, “inserted immediately after a quoted word or passage, indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.”  Sic – Wikipedia.

In this case the “sic” refers to the word recite, which in turn normally refers to the act ofreciting from memory, or a formal reading of verse before an audience.” See definition of recitation by The Free Dictionary.  But as used in the Divine Offices, “recite” seems to be a term of art:

[T]he canonical hours stemmed from Jewish prayer.  During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services (at fixed hours of the day) of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns began to evolve.  This “sacrifice of praise” began to be substituted for the sacrifices of animals…   When praying the Hours privately it is not a requirement to ‘sing’ a hymn.  You may simply pray
the verses provided.

See How to Pray the Office (emphasis added), and also More on the Divine Office: Private Recitation by the Laity.  Or you could just Google “reciting the daily office” for other sources, the gist of which seems to be that you can simply “read” the Office, as for example from the volume shown below:

For yet another take see How to Pray the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, and also note The Daily Office – Mars Hill Bible Church:  “The Daily Office is a set rhythm of reading the Scriptures, singing, and prayer.  Sometimes called the Liturgy of the Hours, it originally developed when early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers and songs at certain hours.  Priests, monks, and followers of Jesus the world over observe the Daily Office, even today.”

In sum, you don’t have to “sing” or recite; you can just read…

For a book version…

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]




Here’s a news flash:  I just published a new e-book, “’There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:’  and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”

It’s now available at the Amazon Kindle Store (With the cover at left, with my “nom de plume.”)  I’ll be writing more about it in my next post, “Announcing a new book.”  But first a word about that cover:

It shows Jacob wrestling with the angel, from Wikipedia, which is a reminder that’s something that all real Christians are called on to do (they’re not too conservative):

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some of us have the option to go on to some “Advanced Individual Training,” then go out beyond the fort to develop our talents to the full.  (And have some adventure [in our lives].)

And now back to a note from 2015, the last time I published a book (“e” or otherwise):

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On October 29, 2015, I published The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes, a collection of posts from a second blog, Georgia Wasp.  That’s a bit more worldly, but just as entertaining.  (I hope.)  And back on March 3, 2015 – I published Volume 3 of my collection of these blog-posts.

That means the e-book Volumes 1 through 3 are available through Kindle eBooks.  (The image at right shows the “e-cover” for Volume 2.)  Aside from the “Kindle” edition, these three volumes are also available in an old-fashioned paperback version, as seen below.

Volume 1 included 13 blog-posts, up to “Titanic” and suspending disbelief.

The DOR ScribeVolume 2 began with On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

It went on for a total of 12 posts and ended with On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher and On the readings for June 1.   (That last one was subtitled “On liberally interpreting ‘Sabbath day’s journey.’”)

To see more about Volume 3, check the post, Reflections on Volume 3.

In terms of formatting, the goal for the book version “post collections” is now to have about 72 pages, in the paperback format.  Another note:  While the e-book version will feature full-color images – like those in the Blog – the paperback’s images will be in “grayscale,” to save money for both author and reader.

And due to the difference in publishers – Kindle and Lulu – the paperback and e-book versions tend to have different covers.  For example, the paperback version of Volume 2 – seen above left – has a different cover than the dove-on-a-blue-background seen above right, but the contents of the two versions are pretty much the same.

So:  To get an e-book go to Kindle eBooks: Kindle Store and type in “T. D. Scribe” (the Scribe’s nom de plume).    To order a paperback, go to Shop Books – Lulu, and do the same.

Finally, and in the interest of completeness, here’s a “poster for the U.S. release version, Spitfire,” featuring Leslie Howard.  (Aka “Ashley Wilkes.)  Which may have contributed to the Nazis in Germany to think that Howard was a British spy.  And to “his” commercial airliner being shot down over the Bay of Biscay early in World War Two.  (Oops, gave way the ending…)  The image is courtesy of The First of the Few – Wikipedia, referring to the British title of the film.

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On “Job the not patient” – REDUX

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

Job and his friends, by Ilya Repin (1869). . .


I spend a lot of time driving.  A lot of it I spend visiting Mi Dulce, who lives three counties over.

The point is that to help pass the time I’ve gotten the habit of listening to “lectures on CD.”  I’m now listening to Hebrews, Greeks and Romans:  Foundations of Western Civilization, by Professor Timothy Shutt.  The other point is that in this lecture, Professor Shutt gave the best analysis of the Book of Job I’ve ever heard “in all my born days.”

Some think Job is a great book, but not me.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson loved it; “the greatest poem of ancient and modern times.”  But to me it’s always been greatly depressing and impossible to understand.  In that spirit I posted Job, the not-so-patient last August, which ended:

For just that reason, guys like John R. W. Stott took issue with literalists who say the Bible should viewed as “inerrant per se.”  Instead – he said – the Bible should be viewed as inerrant “in all that it affirms.”  As applied to this case, Stott would say that the “plain meaning” of the Book of Job should not be seen as affirming suicide…   But since we’re running out of space and time, Stott’s views will be explored in a future post.

This then is that “future post…”

The point of Job the not-patient was that there are some parts of the Bible you really don’t want to take too literally.  Another case in point is Mark 16:18, part of the Great Commission of Jesus. That’s where He said of His disciples, “they will pick up snakes with their hands.”  But as noted in Snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide, Mark 16:18 is a verse that can definitely be “taken out of context.”  (That would be Part I and Part II, with the  “Stumpy” photo below left.)

But to get back to the depressing part of Job… 

Verses 1-22 of Job, Chapter 3 are a good example of passages from the Bible that should both be approached with great caution, and not taken too literally.  Put another way, Job 3:1-22 itself could definitely be taken out of context:

Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth…   “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb [or] hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day…  Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?”

Emphasis added.  Thus as Wikipedia noted, the Book of Job addresses the ongoing theme of “God’s justice in the face of human suffering – or simply, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?'”  (See also When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a book by Harold S. Kushner.   Or just Google the words “why do bad things happen to good people.”  I got some 170,000,000 hits.)

But getting back to Professor Shutt, he noted that Job was written – or at least came to light – just after The (First) Destruction of the Temple.  (I.e., the first time it was destroyed, around 586 B.C., and not to be confused with the second great destruction of the Temple, in 70 A.D.  See  Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Needless to say, the destruction of their Holy of Holies provoked a crisis of faith in the Jewish people.  (Not unlike the one after the Holocaust, 70 years ago and seen at right.) That in turn led to the question:  How could God let this happen to His Chosen People? 

Or as put above, Why do bad things happen to good people?  To that there are two main answers.  First, God was not who the Hebrews thought He was.  Second: There Is No God at all.  But as Professor Shutt said:

Even in the most hopeless days of the Babylonian exile, though [roughly the 70 years from 605 to 539 B.C.], another answer seems to have been possible, and we find it formulated most powerfully, if not, perhaps, most clearly, in the Book of Job.

That’s the conclusion in Track 7, Disc 1, of Hebrews, Greeks and Romans: Foundations of Western Civilization, and/or pages 24-27 of the Course Guide (“CG”).

But wait, there’s more!

As Professor Shutt put it, God’s covenant started out with the Hebrews as His Chosen People, which carried with it an implied promise.  (If not an “implied contract.”)  That promise – quite simply – was “obey and prosper.”  But the Job examines what happens when good people do “obey God” and don’t prosper.  The short answer – the one given repeatedly by Job’s friends – is that he had to have done something wrong.  (A fallacy that continues “even to this day.”)

Put another way, many a person thinks that if he or she lives a good life, God owes me!   

But as we all know, life doesn’t work that way.  No one has found the magic formula to change God into a “magic genie” who will cater to our every whim.  (See “O Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,” by Janis Joplin, at left.)

The upshot of that is that – for better or worse – we are simply incapable of ever fully understanding God.  As Professor Shutt put it, we can’t “put God in a box.”  But that’s exactly what many people still try to do.

Even though we can’t make sense of it, there’s a presence out there, somewhere.  A presence that we can “feel,” even in our darkest hours.  “We can’t put it in a box, we can’t tie it up in a ribbon,” as Shutt put it, but it’s there.  Yet many people still try to put God “in a box” or “tie Him up in a ribbon.”  We always tend to commit the error of “making a god of our idea of God.”

And that’s the ultimate lesson of the Book of Job:  “We can make a god of our idea of God.”  We keep trying to conceptualize God.  We are always trying to make some sense of “Him” (anthropomorphism), which is of course only right and natural.  But the key to remember – as Shutt noted – is that “we have to sit on the conceptualizations lightly.”

All of which may be why God chose to bring Jesus into the world.  Because without that image of a “finite” human being to focus on, our poor little pea-brains simply couldn’t even begin the process of bringing The Force That Created the Universe into any kind of focus at all.

Shutt noted that in approaching God, it’s all “about contact and experience.”  It’s not about finding persuasive “courtroom evidence.”  It’s not about finding the actual Noah’s Ark in Turkey to prove – once and for all – that God does indeed exist.  And it’s not about finding the one true passage from the Bible that will bowl over all doubt.  The covenant – as Shutt put it – is “the face of our interaction with God.”  In other words, God can’t be “proven,” only “experienced.”

So since it all comes down to personal experience – but mostly just because our minds are so limited – “we cannot ever fully know the nature of God.”  We can never fully either understand or explain “God.”  Yet that’s just what Job’s friends did.  Their solution was to “make a god of their idea of God.”  They tried to put God into a “conceptual box.”

So in Shutt’s final analysis, “God’s answer to Job is, again, no answer.”  Which is just another way of saying that – in that final analysis – we are simply not up to the task of fully understanding God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend an answer than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature.

But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to go on.  Even if we can never fully understand God, we can – from time to time – ” feel His presence.”  We can have that experience of God.

Our view of the tree in the yard is not the result of logical calculation…  So too in a way, and so too surprisingly, our sense of God’s presence, should we feel it.  Even if we obey and don’t prosper, the covenant somehow seems still to hold.  Or so in any case the ancient Hebrews seem to have decided.

Or as Isaac Asimov put it, “At the end of God’s speech, Job realizes divine omnipotence and understands the folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being.” (487)   And that’s a lesson we need to keep on learning…

 “Job and his friends…”


The upper image is courtesy of Job and His Friends – Ilya Repin –  See also Ilya Repin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, on “the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, when his position in the world of art was comparable to that of Leo Tolstoy in literature…  His method was the reverse of impressionism.  He produced works slowly and carefully.  They were the result of close and detailed study.  With some of his paintings, he made one hundred or more preliminary sketches.  He was never satisfied with his works, and often painted multiple versions, years apart.”

As to the “redux” part of the post-title.  It’s an allusion to the 1971 book by John Updike, Rabbit Redux.  This was the second of five “Rabbit” books about an aging high-school basketball star – Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom – as he went through five decades of life.  The series began with Rabbit, Run (1960), when Harry was 26.  The five books feature “recurring themes of guilt, sex, and death.”  See, Wikipedia.  The article added that the word redux means “brought back” or “restored,” and that other works of literature with the title-word include John Dryden‘s Astraea Redux (1662), and Anthony Trollope‘s Phineas Redux (1873).  Wikipedia also noted, “Rabbit Redux led to a redux in popularity of the word redux,” for example, in Rabbit At Rest itself.  Updike had Harry Angstrom notice a story in the local paper, headlined “Circus Redux:”

He hates that word, you see it everywhere, and he doesn’t know how to pronounce it.   Like arbitrageur and perestroika…”

Re: Professor Shutt.  See also Tim Shutt · Kenyon College.

Re: the Great Commission of Jesus.  “According to some critics, in Mark”  –  the first Gospel to be written  –  “Jesus never speaks with his disciples after his resurrection.  They argue that the original Gospel of Mark ends at verse Mark 16:8 with the women leaving the tomb (see Mark 16).”

Re: bad things happening to good people.  See also When Bad Things Happen to Good People – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted: “Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi”  addressed “one of the principal problems of theodicy, the conundrum of why, if the universe was created and is governed by a God who is of a good and loving nature, there is nonetheless so much suffering and pain in it – essentially, the evidential problem of evil.”  Note also that in the NRSV, Job 3:22 speaks of those who are bitter of soul, and “rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they find the grave…”

Re: Professor Shutt’s conclusion on Job.  See pages 24 and 25 of the Course Guide.

The Janis Joplin photo is courtesy of The story behind Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” which noted of the original recording session:  “she begins to sing, exercising soulful control over her enormous, whiskey-soaked voice…  ‘Mercedes Benz’ is a lonely blues tune about the illusory happiness promised (but rarely delivered) by the pursuit of worldly goods…”

The “God in a box” image is courtesy of’t-put-God-in-a-box.  See also Relevant Bible Teaching – Don’t Put God in a Box.

As to Isaac Asimov on Job, see Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), beginning on page 474, up to the “not-so-patient” quote on page 480, on to the “folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being,” at page 487.  

The lower image is courtesy of Bildad – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaBildad, from the Hebrew meaning “Bel has loved, was one of Job‘s three friends who visited him Book of Job:

He was a descendant of Shuah, son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:1), whose family lived in the deserts of Arabia, or a resident of the district.  In speaking with Job, his intent was consolation, but he became an accuser, asking Job what he has done to deserve God’s wrath.

See also Job and his three friends Drawn by Gustave DoreGetty images.

For more on this topic, see When Bad Things Happen to Good People – My Jewish Learning.

Reflections on Volume 3







(I just published Volume 3 of my collection of blog-posts.  It begins like this:)


In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one. (E.A.)

Track 1, Disc 1, The Modern Scholar: Journeys of the Great Explorers.


That’s what this blog is all about.   Finding that entirely new world

I’m not saying that the Bible is just another set of superstitions, or a handbook on methods of social control.  And I’m not saying that after you read the Bible, you’re supposed to shape yourself into another “carbon copy Christian.”  (Or “just another brick in the wall.”)

There are a lot of people who seem to use the Bible for just those reasons, but I’m not one of them.  I see the Bible more as a tool of liberation.  I see the Bible as a “pair of spiritual wings.”  (See Isaiah 40:31.)  It’s a set of spiritual wings that can take you to wonderful places and experiences that you’ve never dreamed of.

So the idea behind this blog is:  Reading the Bible can lead you into that Whole New World.

Or as I said in the Intro page, you might consider the Bible as a vast, unexplored, new continent.   Just like the one Lewis and Clark opened up, starting in May 1804.

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As noted, I just published Volume 3 of my collection.   (To order a copy, see For a book.)

Now, about the image above.  I got it – and the “15th century” text – from The Blog.  That page talked about blogs in general, including a citation to Blogging For Dummies.  “BFD” said that at its most-basic level, “a blog is a chronologically ordered ordered series of website updates, written and organized much like a traditional diary.” (Emphasis added.)

This blog – my own diary – has grown and expanded since May 2014, when I first started.  It’s been a learning experience, but that’s not surprising.  After all, the Bible is “the most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world…”

I published Volume 2 of this book-collection of blog-posts back on August 16, 2014.   Volume 1 included my first 13 posts, up to and including On “Titanic” and suspending disbeliefVolume 2 began with On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?   It went on for a total of 12 posts and ended with On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher and On the readings for June 1, subtitled “On liberally interpreting ‘Sabbath day’s journey’.”

Since publishing Volume 2 last August, a lot has happened.  For one thing I’ve clarified that long-sought “true test of faith” that I’ve been looking for.  Under that true test of faith, even if I get to the end of my life and find out that my faith is based on a hoax, it won’t matter.

Unlike the false Christian, I hope I wouldn’t be outraged.  I wouldn’t say, “You mean I could have spent my life partying?  Boozing it up?  Chasing women?  Boy am I angry…”   I hope to say – if I learn my faith is some kind of cosmic practical joke –  “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”  (See also Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.)

I wrote about that “wouldn’t change a thing” revelation in the post-column, Ash Wednesday and a True Test of Faith, posted on February 20.  In turn, I wrote that column in response to a reader comment on Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130.

One reader – “Harpo” – quoted Oscar Wilde:  “People fashion their God after their own understanding.  They make their God first and worship him afterwards.”  Harpo went on to say there are “thousands and thousands of Gods, and nearly as many religions.”  He then said the fact that “an adult would continue to hold on to this last childhood fable [God] when there is no more evidence [of God’s] existence than the other [fairy tales], bewilders the thoughtful and scientific mind.”    I responded, in pertinent part:

I agree that there are way too many so-called Christians who use the Bible and their faith as an excuse to close their minds…  I’m working on a new post, “The true test of faith” (or some title to that effect).  The punch-line will be how two different Christians might respond if they died and found out – as you say – that there is no God and no after-life.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

*   *   *   *

As noted, I ended Volume 2 with a post on a liberal interpretation of the term “Sabbath day’s journey.”  That is, I noted that “from the time of Joshua to the time of Jesus, the distance a devout Hebrew could travel on the Sabbath was gradually and continually expanded.”  See The readings for June 1.  I wrote that to counter the idea you must read the Bible conservatively.

I began Volume 3 with On Jesus in Hell


Continued in Reflections on Volume 3 – Part II


File:Christ's Descent into Limbo by Dürer .png

The upper image is courtesy of, a blog where the blog-bio notes:  “I am the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon.  I believe that faith should be able to sustain us, not oppress us.”  (Emphasis added.)

The lower image is “Christ’s Descent into Limbo, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer (circa 1510),” courtesy of  Christ’s Descent into Limbo by Dürer – Wikimedia.

A  full citation:  Aladdin – A Whole New World (HQ 1080p HD) – YouTube.

Re: “Social control.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added that the term is defined as “the regulation of individual and group behavior in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group.”

A full cite: Lewis and Clark Expedition – WikipediaSee also National Geographic: Lewis & Clark:

When Thomas Jefferson dispatched Lewis and Clark to find a water route across North America and explore the uncharted West, he expected they’d encounter woolly mammoths, erupting volcanoes, and a mountain of pure salt.  What they found was no less surprising.

Reflections on Volume 3 – Part II

Imagine if Moses had told the whole truth about that “big bright round thing in the sky…”



As noted in “Part I,” I ended Volume 2 with a post on a liberal interpretation of “Sabbath day’s journey.”   I began Volume 3 with a discussion of Jesus in Hell.  (For the rest of the story about the painting above – of Moses getting stoned – see the notes below.)

That column – about Jesus in Hell – discussed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell.   It also spoke of the Bible as a rich source of universal “stories, themes, metaphors, and characterizations.”  That is, the Bible contains a number of “literary forms and genres,” including “poetry, narratives, epistles, proverbs, parables, satire, and visionary writing.”

All of which – I argued – provides yet another reason for studying the Bible.  “To find grist for becoming a better, more-productive and more fascinating artist or member of the “Literati.

Another note:  In reading this blog you need to keep in mind that to most reasonable people the Bible is not a history book in the modern sense.  For one thing, “its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and not significant in history.” (Asimov, 8)

Then too it’s important to keep in mind that the guys who wrote the Bible had to focus on their immediate, primary audience.  For Moses – writing the first five books or Torah – that meant his fellow Hebrews who had far less education than he did.  In turn that meant Moses had to write very carefully, mostly so his main audience would listen to him in the first place.  But he also didn’t want to get burned at the stake for heresy, or tarred and feathered.

Which led to a question: How would those primitive, backward Hebrews have reacted to Moses telling them things we now take for granted?  How would they have reacted to being told:

“You see that big bright round thing in the sky?  The thing that disappears when it gets dark, to be replaced by a smaller not-so-bright round thing?  Well, it looks like it revolves around us, but really, we live on this other big round thing, which is hurtling though space, and our big round thing actually revolves around that other Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky, not the other way around like we’ve been thinking all these years…”

The chances are good that if Moses had said that to his fellow Hebrews – primitive, backward and ignorant as they were at the time – he would have ended up either burned at the stake or tarred and feathered.  (Or maybe both.)

(See for one example, Exodus 17:4, where Moses said to God, “What am I to do with these people?  They are almost ready to stone me.”)

The point is this:  When Moses first told his Story of Creation to his fellow Hebrews, he had to use language and concepts that his “relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience” could understand.  In other words, Moses’ ability to “tell the story he wanted was limited to his audience’s ability to comprehend.”  (See The readings for June 15 – Part I.)

Which is appropriate, because that’s the same problem God has when He tries to communicate with us.  (Or, the problem we have in trying to communicate with Him.)  See e.g. Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

(TLB, emphasis added.)  See also John 3:12, where Jesus said, “if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

All of which is a good reason why I say, “You’re only cheating yourself if you read the Bible in a too-strict, too-narrow, or too-fundamental way.”   You risk creating God in the image of you, not the other way around.  See for example, Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 5:1.   (And by the way, maybe that’s what Oscar Wilde was talking about when he said that people “fashion their God after their own understanding.”  Maybe he just recognized that it’s an ongoing problem…)

And there’s another ongoing problem to keep in mind as you read the Bible, or this blog.  The idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun was never “contrary to Scripture.”   It was only contrary to a too-conservative, too-literal interpretation of that Scripture…



The upper image is courtesy of Stoning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – WikipediaThe “stoning” article said this of the painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raises anew the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?'”

For one possible answer, consider the lower image – Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition” – courtesy of the article, Heresy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture.  He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (E.A.)

Re: Genesis 1:27Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary added that “It is the soul of man that especially bears God’s image.”  (E.A.)  The complete citations: Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, and Genesis 5:1 This is the written account of Adam’s family.

See also Genesis creation narrative – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Isaac Asimov.  The quote – about the Bible not being a history book “in the modern sense” – is from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at page 7.  (The same page that noted the Bible was and is “the most influential, the most published, the most widely read book in the history of the world.”)   Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, the Bible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia.

On donkey travel – and sluts

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February 6, 2015 – I recently learned that one of my all-time favorite travel books – Travels With Charley – was based on an earlier work by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It seems John Steinbeck – who wrote “TWC” – was doubly impressed by Stevenson’s earlier pilgrimage:

In the John Steinbeck novel The Pastures of Heaven, one of the characters regards Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes as one of the single greatest works of English literature and eventually names his infant son Robert Louis.  Later on, Steinbeck and his wife Elain[e] were inspired by Stevenson in choosing the title Travels With Charley.

See Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) – Wikipedia, and also Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing.

That piqued my interest, so I got a copy from the local library and started reading.  (It was the 1923 edition of the book originally published in 1905 by Scribner’s.)

The first part of Travels with a Donkey – preparing for the trip – sounded a lot like the first part  of Travels with Charley.  (Or vice-versa.  Steinbeck “packed up” Rocinante, shown below.)

Incidentally, Travels with a Donkey was preceded by a year-earlier An Inland Voyage.  That earlier book described “a canoe trip through France and Belgium in 1876,” with Stevenson accompanied by Sir Walter Simpson.   (See also On coming home from a pilgrimage, on my own voyage, “eight days to canoe out to some offshore islands in the Gulf of Mexico – 10 or 12 miles offshore – including Half-moon Island, Cat Island and Ship Island(s).”)

Here’s what Stevenson wrote about travel, after the preface by his wife for the 1923 edition:

The journey which this little book is to describe was very agreeable…   After an uncouth beginning, I had the best of luck to the end.  But we are all travelers in what John Bunyan called the wilderness of the world … and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend.  He is a fortunate voyager who finds many.  We travel, indeed, to find them…

*   *   *   *

The first of five chapters is titled Velay, referring to a “township” in south-central France near the Loire river.   (All five chapters are divided further, and the fifth is divided into eight sub-chapters.)  That first chapter discussed Stevenson’s pack donkey (“Modestine”), along with a description of his own pack and the donkey’s pack-saddle.  It also discussed him as “green donkey-driver,” while the third sub-chapter was titled, “I have a goad.”

It seems that Stevenson’s chosen method of travel – with a donkey carrying most of his baggage – posed some problems.  The worst was Modestine’s slow pace.  That pace increased not a whit, even with the frequent application of a switch, cudgel or “bastinado:”

I promise you the stick was not idle;  I think every decent step that Modestine took must have cost me at least two emphatic blows.  There was not another sound in the neighborhood but that of my unwearying bastinado.

(24)*    But eventually he found a solution, after spending the night at a primitive inn.

For starters, the innkeeper was “astonishingly ignorant,” and his wife told him so; “My man knows nothing … he like the beasts.”  At which the husband nodded:  “There was no contempt on her part, and no shame on his.”  So anyway, the solution to Stevenson’s problem with Modestine came next morning when he had breakfast.  He asked the wife where “monsieur” was.  “‘The master of the house is upstairs,’ she answered, ‘making you a goad.”

Leaving aside sarcasm, Stevenson went on to “wax eloquently” on such goads:

Blessed be the man who invented goads!  Blessed the innkeeper of Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas, who introduced me to their use!  This plain wand, with an eighth of an inch of pin, was indeed a sceptre when he put it in my hands.  Thenceforward Modestine was my slave…  A prick, and she broke forth into a gallant little trotlet that devoured the miles.  It was not a remarkable speed…  But what a heavenly change…  No more wielding of the ugly cudgel; no more flailing with an aching arm…

(30-34)  All of which reminded me of Acts 26:14, about the Apostle Paul’s literal and original Damascus road experience.  “When we had all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’”  (Paul was originally named Saul.)  

Bible Hub provided alternate translations, as in “it is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

“It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture.  An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction.  Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh.  In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.

See What does it mean to kick against the pricks? – (E.A.).

Moving on to “Upper Gevaudan – A Camp in the Dark,” Stevenson was trying to get to Cheylard.  Unfortunately there was no direct route, but he left Sagnerousse, “rejoicing in a sure point of departure.”  From there he got lost, just as Steinbeck was prone to do.  See TWC, 54:

“Don’t ever ask directions of a Maine native,” I was told.  “Why ever not?”  “Somehow we think it is funny…”  I wonder if that is true.  I could never test it, because through my own efforts I am lost most of the time without any help from anyone.

Stevenson ended up tacking through a bog when he saw a group of local villagers (location unknown), including children.  But when he moved toward them to ask directions, “children and cattle began to disperse, until only a pair of [12-year-old] girls remained behind.”   The local peasants were “but little disposed to counsel a wayfarer,” and one “old devil simply retired into his house, and barricaded the door.”  That left him only one source of guidance:

As for these two girls, they were a pair of impudent sly sluts, with not a thought but mischief.  One put out her tongue at me, the other bade me follow the cows; and they both giggled and jogged each other’s elbows.

(41-44)  That sounded like a possible anachronism(Did  he mean they were “promiscuous?”)  So I did a little Googling and sure enough, the term had a different meaning in the years from 1375 to 1425 (and apparently up to 1878-79).  From the “late Middle English slutte; compare dial. slut mud, Norwegian (dial.) slutr,” which translated to “sleet” or “impure liquid:”

Slut first appeared in the written language in 1402, according to the Oxford English Dictionary…   At that time, slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl.  It also apparently meant “kitchen maid” (”She is a cheerful slut who keeps the pots scrubbed and the fires hot.”).

Slut at  So Stevenson’s use of the word slut seemed grammatically correct.

Thus endeth the word-lesson of the day…

Which is being interpreted:  Thus far I’ve read to page 50 of the 197 pages.  Unfortunately that seems still to be a part of the “uncouth beginning” that Stevenson noted above.

The next review will begin with Stevenson referring to the infamous Beast of Gévaudan.

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson Trail – Walking in France.

The lower image is courtesy of John Steinbeck – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Rocinante, [the] camper truck in which Steinbeck traveled across the United States in 1960.”

*  The page-citations – as in “(24)” – are to the 1923 “Biographical Edition” of Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (with a preface by Mrs. Stevenson), Charles Scribner’s Sons (NY).  The “being lost” reference came from Travels with Charley, Penguin Books (1980), at page 54.  I discussed Steinbeck’s take on a dead Sinclair Lewis being “good for tourism” in Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130.

Re: “Elain” as the name of John Steinbeck’s third wife.  “In June 1949, Steinbeck met stage-manager Elaine Scott at a restaurant in Carmel, California.  Steinbeck and Scott eventually began a relationship…  This third (and final) marriage for Steinbeck lasted until his death in 1968.” John Steinbeck – Wikipedia.

For further information see also Outdoor literature – Wikipedia.

Re: “wilderness of the world.”  For some interesting reading, type that phrase into your search engine.  That should lead to sites as varied as Historical Baptist Quotes on the Separation of Church and State, and The Wilderness of the World: Thirty-seven Wilderness Areas.

Re: 12-year-old girls.  See On St. Agnes and 12-year-old girls.  The age of the girls is approximate.

Full citations of references “shortened for content and spacing:” 

An Inland Voyage – Wikipedia.

Column (periodical) – Wikipedia:

A column is a recurring piece or article in a newspaper, magazine or other publication. Columns are written by columnistsWhat differentiates a column from other forms of journalism is that is a regular feature in a publication and that it explicitly contains the author’s opinion or point of view.

Personally I prefer the term “column” instead of “post,” as in “blog-post.”  It just sounds better…

Rocinante (disambiguation) – Wikipedia.

What is the Damascus road experience –

Le Cheylard – Wikipedia.  (See also Cheylard-l’Évêque – Wikipedia, as to the location of Sagnerousse.)

“Velay” is actually and fully Le Puy-en-Velay – Wikipedia.

Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas – Wikipedia.

Anachronism – Wikipedia.