Monthly Archives: June 2014

On St. Barnabas

Barnabas curing the sick by Paolo Veronese, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen.

*   *   *   *

Wednesday, June 11, was the Feast Day for Saint Barnabas:

The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church.  Though not one of the 12 apostles . . . he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and [the] most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.

See ST. BARNABAS, APOSTLE :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).  The first mention of Barnabas came in Acts 4, beginning at verse 36:  “Joseph, a Levite, born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.”  The site Barnabas the Apostle – Justus added that even after Paul had his Damascus Road experience, “most of the Christians [in Jersusalem] wanted nothing to do with him. They had known him as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church.  But Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance.”  (Which is pretty much what Jesus is all about. . .)

The “Justus” site above added this, about those “second chances;”

Later, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey together, taking Mark with them.  Part way, Mark turned back and went home.  When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on another such journey, Barnabas proposed to take Mark along, and Paul was against it, saying that Mark had shown himself undependable.  Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance [again] and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by the “son of encouragement,” since we find that Paul later speaks of him as a valuable assistant (2 Tim 4:11; see also Col 4:10 and Phil 24) .

So we might just call Barnabas “the Apostle of Second Chances.”

The Collect for his Feast Day asks God to teach us also to “follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-­being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel.”

The Gospel for the Day is Matthew 10:7-16, which ends with Jesus saying to His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  And since “serpent” is just another name – or metaphor – for Satan, what Jesus seemed to say was that a good Christian needs to be “wise as the Devil,” or perhaps “wise as hell.”

But that’s just common sense.   If you’re to resist something – like “the wiles of the world” – you definitely need to know what you’re trying to resist.  If not, you’re much weaker, to the extent you don’t “know your enemy.”  So even if you’re a Fundamentalist Christian and think those “exotic Eastern meditations” were simply tools of the devil – those exotic Eastern practices that were all the rage back in the 1970s – you still need to know those exotic disciplines, if you plan to fight them.  Which is of course another very good reason to study the Bible.


The ” Archangel Michael slaying Satan. . .”


The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article.

See also What is the Damascus road experience – Wiki Answers.

For the full readings for this Feast Day, see The Lectionary Page.

The Wikipedia article added this about Barnabas:  “Tertullian [one of the early Church Fathers] named him as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but this and other attributions are conjecture.”  Tertullian in turn was famous for saying words to the effect that he believed in the resurrection “because it is absurd.”   See Credo quia absurdum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, referring to “a Latin phrase that means ‘I believe because it is absurd.’  It is a paraphrase of a statement in Tertullian‘s work De Carne Christi, ‘prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est,’ which can be translated: ‘it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd…’    The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called ‘fideism,’ which is the desire to believe against reason.  Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith.'”


The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on “Chaos,” included in the article Serpent (Bible) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted:  “The symbol of a serpent or snake played important roles in religious and cultural life of ancient Egypt, Canaan, Mesopotamia and Greece.  The serpent was a symbol of evil power and chaos from the underworld as well as a symbol of fertility, life and healing.”  (Fertility?)   The image caption in Wikipedia reads: “Depiction of the Christianized Chaoskampf: statue of Archangel Michael slaying Satan, represented as a dragon. Quis ut Deus? is inscribed on his shield.”

“The motif of Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon.”  Quis ut Deus is translated as “who is like God,” a literal translation of the name “Michael.”

On the readings for June 15 – Part II

“Moses lifts up the brass serpent. . .”


On the readings for June 15 – Part I noted that “June 15 is the First Sunday after Pentecost, also known as Trinity Sunday,” and that the readings are Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, Second Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 28:16-20.

The post said June 15 honors “the Trinity” – God in three persons – an idea that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson didn’t understand.  The post added, “Another thing that’s hard for many people to understand is that the ‘Creation Story’ found at the beginning of the book of Genesis must be taken as literally true, or else you go to hell.”

The post theorized that in writing his Creation Story, Moses had to use “language and concepts that his relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience could understand.”  Moses’ ability to get his point across was limited by his audience’s limited powers of comprehension, the same problem God has in talking to us.   (And it doesn’t help if you think you’re a “know it all.”)

Which is why you read the Bible: to expand your ability to comprehend the points God may be trying to get across to you.   One good way to expand your ability is to see how others in the past expanded their ability to comprehend God.

Which brings us back to the readings for June 15.

As noted, in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Moses told the story of the creation of the world and the history of that world, with a special emphasis on events impacting how the Hebrew people came to be wandering in the wilderness, after what seemed like a miraculous escape from slavery in Egypt.  (But even then some people were prone to complain about “the good old days,” and ask why things had to change.  See for example Numbers 14:2-3, and 21:4-5, below.)

A note here:  Possibly because the Genesis reading was so long, the second reading and Gospel are extremely short.  And by the way, to see the full readings check The Lectionary Page.

The International Bible Commentary characterized Psalm 8 as emphasizing “Man’s Place in God’s World.”  The psalm begins and ends with the phrase:  “O LORD our Governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world!”  And verse 2 – “Out of the mouths of infants” – was of special interest to Jesus, as noted in Matthew 21:14-16:

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.  15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?”

Moving along, in 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, the Apostle Paul gave his “Farewell and Benediction,” ending his second letter to the church he founded in Corinth.  In the letter he offered a “polemic defense of his apostleship,” which was being attacked by some, while affirming his affection for the church. (See Second Epistle to the Corinthians – Wikipedia, the free …)

Finally, Matthew 28:16-20, told of The Great Commission, “the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world:”

The eleven disciples went to Galilee. . .    And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.”


The upper image is courtesy of Moses – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption reads: “Moses lifts up the brass serpent, curing the Israelites from poisonous snake bites in a painting by Benjamin West.”     As to some Hebrews whining about “the good old days,” see:

Numbers 14:2-3, “All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?  Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'”

Numbers 21:4-5,  “Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.  The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.'”


And incidentally, that complaining led God to punish the whinersFrustrated and impatient, they complained against Yahweh and Moses (Num. 21:4-5)[,] and God sent ‘fiery serpents’ among them. For the sake of repentant ones, Moses was instructed by God to build a ‘serpent of bronze’ that was used to heal those who looked upon it.”  That “serpent of bronze” was the prototype of the Caduceus, symbol of today’s medical profession.

The lower image is courtesy of Great Commission – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

On boasting


The Scribe just started re-reading his “Centennial edition” of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Steinbeck started the book by describing the Salinas Valley in California where he grew up, and especially the Salinas River.  He wrote that the Salinas River in the summer was all dried out, and so “was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had and so we boasted about it.”  He added, “You can boast about anything if that’s all you have.”

Finally he said, “Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast about it.”

*   *   *   *

Maybe the reverse is true.  Maybe the more you have, the less you should feel the need to boast.

And you would think that would be especially true of Christians, but apparently “boasting” by some was a problem even in St. Paul’s time.  See for example First Corinthians 4:7 (NJB):

Who made you so important?  What have you got that was not given to you?  And if it was given to you, why are you boasting as though it were your own?

Of course some Conservative Christians even today might respond, “I earned everything I have, with hard work and the sweat of my brow.”   But that raises a question: “Who gave you the brow? And who gave you the sweat?”  See also 1st John 1:9-10 (ESV):

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…  If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and his word is not in us.”

In other words, what does a hard-core Christian have that wasn’t ultimately “given?”  It could be said that he or she has done nothing but accept a free gift available to all.  (Not to mention any “talents” he or she may have developed, talents that were also ultimately a gift from God.)

So maybe now is a good time for a bit less of the “us against them” rhetoric that seems to be the focus of so many Christians these days (at least judging by “that darned liberal media”), and more about the ministry of reconciliation Paul mentioned in 2d Corinthians 5:18.

Another example:  Type the words “Christian hypocrite” into your computer search engine and you’ll get “About 3,340,000 results.”   That’s over three million, three hundred thousand results, so something is definitely “wrong with this picture.”  But Paul may have foreseen that as well, when he wrote in Romans 2:24, in the New International Verson, “As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

So maybe this is a good time for a little less bragging and a little more showing. . .


The “East of Eden” book-cover image is courtesy of   The quoted passages are from the John Steinbeck Centennial Edition of East of Eden, Penguin Books, at page 4.

As for the “Christian hypocrite” search-engine type-in, see for example, Why Are Christians So Hypocritical? – Explore God:  “Christians are notorious for being hypocritical…   A recent study found that among the various perceptions of Christians, the third most common is that they’re hypocritical.  Eighty-five percent of respondents between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine voiced this reaction to Christians.”  And notwithstanding the website’s thoughtful analysis, this public perception does present a problem that The Scribe and his Blog are trying to alleviate.

The lower image is courtesy of  As to “what’s wrong with the picture,” the site explained, “for one thing, the members of this track team all have the same face.  Unless we are paying close attention to facial features, hair plays a big part in forming an image of individuals.”

There’s probably some kind of lesson there too…



Christians are notorious for being hypocritical. Why is that?

A recent study found that among the various perceptions of Christians, the third most common is that they’re hypocritical.1 Eighty-five percent of respondents between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine voiced this reaction to Christians.

– See more at:

Christians are notorious for being hypocritical. Why is that?

A recent study found that among the various perceptions of Christians, the third most common is that they’re hypocritical.1 Eighty-five percent of respondents between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine voiced this reaction to Christians.

– See more at:

A recent study found that among the various perceptions of Christians, the third most common is that they’re hypocritical.1 Eighty-five percent of respondents between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine voiced this reaction to Christians.2 – See more at:

On the readings for June 15 – Part I

Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta. . .


June 15 is the First Sunday after Pentecost, also known as Trinity Sunday.  The readings for June 15 are Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 28:16-20.

“Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”   Trinity Sunday – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Sundays following Pentecost, until Advent, are numbered from this day. . .   In the Church of England, following the pre-Reformation Sarum use, the following Sunday is the “First Sunday after Trinity”, while the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) now follows the Catholic usage, calling it the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

All of which is another way of saying that from now to the First Sunday of Advent – this year, November 30 – the readings in the church calendar are numbered as a given Sunday after Pentecost, up to the 23d and the Last Sunday after Pentecost, November 16 and 23, respectively.

As Wikipedia also noted, “The Christian doctrine of the Trinity . . .  defines God as three consubstantial persons, expressions, or hypostases.”  Wikipedia added that according to this “central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three persons.”

If you’re really interested in further information, see Trinity – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  On the other hand, if you don’t understand the whole concept, don’t worry.  Neither did Thomas Jefferson, so you’re in good company.

Jefferson questioned key parts of Christianity including Mary’s virgin birth, Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ teachings of being the messiah long before his death in 1826.  “As early as 1788, we have a letter where he said he didn’t understand the trinity, and if he didn’t understand the trinity, how could he possibly agree to it?”

A note:  Thomas Jefferson was a very smart guy, but he seems to have fallen into the common error of thinking that he could ever really understand everything there is to know about God. See for example Isaiah 55:8-9 (in The Living Bible translation):

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So Jefferson’s saying he wouldn’t believe anything he couldn’t fully comprehend was a bit like me saying The Force That Created The Universe is no greater than my feeble ability to comprehend “Him” (anthropomorphism), but that’s a subject for another post…

Another thing that’s hard for many people to understand is that the “Creation Story” found at the beginning of the book of Genesis must be taken as literally true, or else you go to hell.

But turning back to the idea of “originalism” – see On “originalism”  – it may help to explore what was on Moses’ mind when he wrote this very first book of the Bible.  And one thing that he had to keep in mind was that he didn’t want to get burnt at the stake for heresy.

Which brings up the question:  Who was Moses writing for?   Or the question could be: Who was Moses’ primary audience?   The answer:  Moses was writing mostly for his fellow Hebrews, but those fellow Hebrews didn’t have the level of educational advantage that he did.  (Don’t forget, for the longest time Moses was literally a Prince of Egypt.)

So how would those fellow, primitive, backward Hebrews have reacted to being told things we now take for granted?  How would they have reacted to being told, for example:

“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 point is this:  However Moses described the history of the world – for example in Genesis 1:1-2:4, part of the story the Hebrews from “Creation” up to where they were wandering in the wilderness – he had to tell the story using 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.  One other note: There was a guy named Galileo who did tell that “Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky” story almost 3,000 years after Moses, and he was lucky to avoid getting burnt at the stake as a heretic, but we digress…

For more on next Sunday’s readings, see “On the readings for June 15 – Part II,” coming up.


Cristiano Banti‘s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition.”



The upper image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta, 1738-9 (St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea, Torino).”

“Jefferson questioned key parts…”  See e.g. Controversial Thomas Jefferson book pulled over complaints of …  See also Jefferson Bible – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which said Jefferson’s book titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’s birth “without references to angels (at that time), genealogy, or prophecy.   Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from his collection.”

The “Galileo” image is courtesy of the Wikipedia 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.

So again, imagine how those just-getting-used-to-the-idea-of-fire, desert-cutthroat Hebrews would have reacted if Moses had told that “Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky” story:


A note about timing: Moses was born some 1300 years before Jesus, and Galileo got in trouble for the “Round Thing In The Sky” story about 1600 years after that.  See Moses (1393-1273 BCE) – Jewish History –, and the Wikipedia article on Galileo, attached to the article on heresy.  (The “angry mob” image is courtesy of…


On D-Day and confession

Description of  Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

“Do you realise that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?”
                                                                              – Winston Churchill to his wife the night before D-Day



And speaking of June 6th and D-Day…

In World War II – up to and beyond D-Day – some of our fathers, uncles and other relatives flew in bombers (B-17s and the like), from bases in England, with targets in Germany and other European countries.

The flight over the English Channel, then to their target and back was usually pretty harrowing; flak, enemy fighters, seeing fellow fliers shot down or killed before their eyes.  But when they got back home, their ordeal was far from over.

The first thing they did was de-brief.   They’d been “briefed” before the flight, where they learned their objectives and what they’d be up against.  So  de-briefings were just interviews after the fact – very probing interviews – at which the fliers got questioned to see how close they came to their objectives. How many and how effective were the enemy fighters?  How close to the targets did they come?  What did they do wrong?  How could they have done better?

At the start of the war the de-briefings were “abysmal.”  Fliers were wildly optimistic about how well they’d done, how close to the targets their bombs fell, and how many enemy fighters they’d shot down.  And because they believed in the righteousness of their cause,  at the start of the bomber offensive these fliers tended to downplay anything negative about their missions.

Part of the problem was that at the start the people who conducted the de-briefings weren’t all that experienced. They didn’t know how to ask the kind of skeptical, probing questions that got accurate feedback.  (And at the beginning, such probing questions were no doubt greatly annoying to some fliers).  The interviewers didn’t know how to ask, or felt uncomfortable asking, the kind of questions by which the fliers could learn what they did wrong.

But eventually, “Bomber Command” started using aerial-reconnaissance photos and other sophisticated tools of “feedback.”  Then the fliers started seeing how wildly optimistic, and wildly inaccurate, those first de-briefings were.  So in time. the de-briefings got better, more probing, and so more accurate.  Then the missions themselves got more and more efficient.

*  *  *  *

Maybe that’s what the Bible and/or the church concepts of sin and confession are all about.  (Or should be about.)  When we “sin” we simply fall short of our goals; we “miss the target.” When we “confess,” we simply admit to ourselves how far short of the target we were.  And maybe the purpose of all this is not to make people feel guilty all the time, as some seem to imply.

So maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are tools to help us get closer to the target “next time out,” even if we know we can never become “perfect.”



The upper image is courtesy of the Denver Post “Plog,”DDay in Color, Photographs from the Normandy Invasion.   The caption reads:  “Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #.”

The Churchill quote is courtesy of The Bombing Offensive |

Sources include The Air War in Europe, by Ronald Bailey, Time-Life Books (1979), at pages 35-36, and Max Hastings’ Bomber Command, Dial Press/James Wade (1979), at pages 102-103. 

As a side-bar, there was a similar bomber offensive against Japan, but not as many books or movies about it.  And there were also air bases in Italy, from which the 15th Air Force bombed Germany and its satellites, but that didn’t get much “ink” either.  One exception was the book The Wild Blue, by Stephen Ambrose, about the 15th Air Force and pilots including 22-year-old George McGovern.  He flew 35 missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross, but was later accused by conservatives, in the 1972 presidential election, of being not patriotic or “manly” enough.  (On that note, there was the story of McGovern giving a speech in the 1972 campaign, and being heckled by a Nixon fan.  McGovern called him over and whispered, “Listen, you son-of-a-bitch, why don’t you kiss my ass?”  The remark was widely reported and next night “KMA” buttons appeared at McGovern rallies. Years later, McGovern saw Senator James Eastland (Mississippi) looking across the Senate floor and chuckling. Eastland subsequently approached McGovern and asked, “Did you really tell that guy in ’72 to kiss your ass?”  McGovern smiled and nodded, and Eastland said, “That was the best line in the campaign…”  See George McGovern presidential campaign, 1972 – Wikipedia, the …)


So anyway, pages 35-36 of The Air War in Europe described the beginning of what came to be the “bomber offensive,” to December 1940.   Before then, based on nothing but “rosy reports” from fliers themselves, after-action reports were wildly optimistic.   With the advent of photo-reconnaissance (for example), fliers were “shocked” by negative feedback which showed how short of the mark they were falling.  Early in the war it was discovered that for every ten air crews who claimed to drop their bombs on target, only one (10%) actually dropped the bomb load within five miles of the target.

And finally, pages 102-103 of Bomber Command described how, at the start of the war, the level and accuracy of de-briefings was “abysmal,” conducted by staff members with no idea how to ask the kind of questions that could evoke accurate answers, and who “invariably overstated crews’ claims.”  The passage also noted that with time, both the level of de-briefings and the efficiency of the individual missions improved.

The lower image is courtesy of Combined Bomber Offensive – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption reads:  “8th Air Force B-17 during raid of October 9, 1943 on the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory at Marienburg.”


On “originalism”

File:Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States.jpg

Should our freedoms be limited those available to the Founding Fathers?


Here’s a proposition:  The people who would interpret the United States Constitution strictly, narrowly or “fundamentally” are generally the same type who would do the same thing with the  Bible.   On that note see Originalism – Wikipedia, and how “originalism” might turn out to be a good way to read and explore the Bible.

In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, originalism is a principle of interpretation that tries to discover the original meaning or intent of the Constitution…  The term originated in the 1980s….

Robert Bork.jpgWikipedia also noted that originalism is popular among political conservatives, and is “prominently associated with Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork.”  (The guy at right, who looks like the guy in high school voted “most likely to throw the book at you.”)  Then there is the “original meaning theory,” closely related to “textualism.”

Textualism in turn is a theory of statutory interpretation, “holding that a statute‘s ordinary meaning should govern its interpretation, as opposed to inquiries into non-textual sources such as …   the problem it was intended to remedy, or substantive questions of the justice and rectitude of the law.”  See Textualism – Wikipedia.

Getting back to the idea of originalism, it is the view “the view that interpretation of a written constitution or law should be based on what reasonable persons living at the time of its adoption would have declared the ordinary meaning of the text to be.  It is with this view that most originalists, such as Justice Scalia, are associated.”

So what would “reasonable persons” at the time the Bible was written have thought about – say – writers like Moses, or Jeremiah?  Might not a reasonable Egyptian at the time of Moses think he was merely a felon – and a murderous one at that – who had fled the justice due from the land of his birth?  And might not a reasonable king at the time of Jeremiah think he was merely some upstart trouble-maker – if not a traitor to his country – who deserved to be cast into that well?

Then too, if the Bible can be seen as a “constitution,” could one of the best ways to read and interpret it be to examine the background and motives of the people who wrote it?    Hmmmm…

Then there’s the theory that the “primary alternative to originalism is most commonly described as the Living Constitution;  a view that the Constitution is ‘evolving, changing over time, and adapts to new circumstances.'”

Which raises another question?  Is the Bible – to you – an evolving source of empowerment, capable of “adapting to new circumstances?”   Or is the Bible – to you – dead, “frozen in time,” the source only of a cubbyhole into which you must try to shape and fit yourself?

Put another way:  Is the Bible to you a set of spiritual wings, or is it more like a spiritual straitjacket?  And if to you the Bible is frozen in time, a spiritual straitjacket, how on earth are you supposed to “sing to the Lord a new song?”  (Like it says in Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 144:9, not to mention Isaiah 42:10 and Revelations 5:9.) some answers to these questions see THE BASICS, above.

Or check the blurb at the bottom of the main, featured, and/or lead post, about the Three Great Promises of Jesus:  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   And the third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (John 14:12).   Which brings up this “musical question:”

How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, or limiting manner?   For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

The short answer is:  You can’t.  And another short answer could be that – sometimes – it might be a good idea to just go ahead and “argue with God.”  Like it says in More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella, from last April 22.  And which included the image below:

 *   *   *   *

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpg

 Jacob wrestling with the Angel…”

 *   *   *   *

 The upper image, “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The 1940 painting was by Howard Chandler Christy (1873–1952).

The lower image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.

On the Prayer Book – I

File:Good Morning, Vietnam.jpg


As a very wise person or persons once said (or wrote):

The Book of Common Prayer is unique to Anglicanism.  It contains a collection of worship services that all worshipers in an Anglican church follow.  It also contains the Psalms, prayers and thanksgivings and an Outline of Faith. Essentially it is a guidebook for worship … [for] church on Sundays, as well as in daily relationship with God. It is called “common prayer” because it is used by all Anglicans around the world…   The first Book of Common Prayer was compiled in English by Thomas Cranmer in the 16th Century, and since then has undergone many revisions…  The present prayer book in the Episcopal Church was published in 1979.

So – just in case you missed the subtle clues in the About that “DOR Scribe” guy page – The Scribe is a “card-carrying” member of the Episcopal Church.  In that sense he is just like Robin Williams (seen above), but the star of Good Morning Vietnam is also famous for his list of “Top 10 Reasons for Being an Episcopalian:”

10.       No snake handling.

9.          You can believe in dinosaurs.

8.          Male and female, God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7.          You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6.          Pew aerobics.

5.          Church year is color coded.

4.           Free wine on Sunday.

3.           All of the pageantry, none of the guilt.

2.           You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

And finally, the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:    “No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.”   (See for example Top Ten Episcopal T-Shirt, Red, XX-Large – Episcopal Bookstore.   Then there’s that old saw about whenever you find four Episcopalians, “you’re sure to find a fifth!” See for example whiskeypalian; where you find four Episcopalians, you’ll find …)

 *   *   *   *

But seriously, one of the best reasons to become an Episcopalian is the Prayer Book:

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is part of the very large Anglican Communion…  [It] describes itself as being “Protestant, yet Catholic…  [It] was organized after the American Revolution, when it separated from the Church of England whose clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and became the first Anglican Province outside the British Isles…  The Episcopal Church separated itself from the Church of England in 1789, having been established in the United States in 1607. Its prayer book, published in 1790, had as its sources, the 1662 English book…

See Episcopal Church (United States) – Wikipedia, the free …, and also Book of Common Prayer – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

So the story of our American Book of Common Prayer started way back in Merry Olde England, and specifically at or shortly after the death of Henry VIII (he of the many wives).

Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger - Portrait of Henry VIII - Google Art Project.jpg     In turn the very first Book of Common Prayer was published in England in 1549, and is “one of the underpinnings of modern English:”

Together with the Authorized version [i.e., the King James Version of the Bible] and the works of Shakespeare, the Book of Common Prayer has been one of the three fundamental underpinnings of modern English…   [M]any phrases from its services have passed into the English language, either as deliberate quotations or as unconscious borrowings…   Some examples of well-known phrases from the Book of Common Prayer are[:]  “Speak now or forever hold your peace” from the marriage liturgy…  “Till death us do part”, from the marriage liturgy[, and] “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” from the funeral service.

See the Wikipedia article noted above, which added that a Book of Common Prayer “with local variations is used in churches inside and outside the Anglican Communion in over 50 different countries and in over 150 different languages.”

One of those distant Anglican-Communion churches is on the Falkland Islands, near the very southern tip of South America, as shown below.  (The Diocese of the Falkland Islands is an “extra-provincial church in the Anglican Communion headed by the Bishop of the Falkland Islands.)

The point is that you can go pretty much anywhere in the world and find an Anglican church to worship, and wherever you go they’ll be using that same Prayer Book, subject of course to the local Prayer Book having been “altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of … according to the various exigency of times and occasions.”


Location of the Falkland Islands


 Sources for images and/or text include Good Morning, Vietnam – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and Henry VIII of England – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

As to the quote “Book of Common Prayer is unique to Anglicanism,” see for example The Book of Common Prayer — Episcopal Church in MinnesotaBeliefs and Practices – All Saints – Episcopal Diocese of …, and/or St Andrew’s in the Pines (GA).

As to the “altered, abridged [or] enlarged” quote, see the Preface (under the link “Table of Contents”), at The Online Book of Common Prayer.

On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14)

Pentecost - El Greco

The Pentecost, by El Greco


June 8, 2014, is Pentecost Sunday, and as noted in El Greco | Hear what the Spirit is saying:

In [the book of] Acts of the Apostles an account is given of the day of Pentecost when the twelve apostles, as well as Mary and people of many nationalities were gathered in one place.  All at once the sound of a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the room:  “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) gives several alternatives for Pentecost readings.  (For the full readings see The Lectionary Page.)

The readings for The Scribe’s church are: 1st Corinthians 12:3b-13, Psalm 104:25-35, 37 (page 736 BCP), Acts 2:1-21 (partly noted above), and John 20:19-23, which can lead to this thought:

Pentecost might be considered “Tongue Sunday,” both because of the “tongues of fire” visible in the El Greco painting above, and because of the phenomenon of “speaking in tongues.”

In his Commentary on the Bible, Isaac Asimov wrote about this special day.   He noted that Christians generally regard the Pentecost “speaking in tongues” as a miracle, in that the Apostles weren’t just babbling but rather were speaking in such a way that people from a host of nations and peoples understood them.  He said it was likely the Apostles knew a smattering of Greek – the “universal language” at the time – in addition to their native Aramaic, so that “if, in their ecstasy, they uttered phrases in both languages, then those who listened to them from the various nations listed, would have understood something.” (E.a.)

Nevertheless, it’s not just Christians today who saw the events on this Pentecost as a miracle;  “so did the onlookers … for many were converted to the belief in Jesus as Messiah.”   As noted in Acts 2:41, “the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

Another note:  That sound – “like the rush of a violent wind” from heaven described in the reading above – is widely seen as the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as a whole.  For that reason and for the addition of the 3,000 souls on one day, “Pentecost is sometimes described by some Christians today as the ‘Birthday of the Church.'”

In the first reading – 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – Paul added some of his commentary, beginning with: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”   He then described a number of spiritual gifts – healing, working miracles, prophesy – but said that all were motivated “by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”

Turning to Psalm 104, the International Bible Commentary said the writer “has been called ‘the Wordsworth of the ancients,” and the Psalm itself as “Genesis set to music.”  (Also – and not to be heretical or anything – the IBC said Psalm 104 resembled the “Egyptian Hymn to Aten as the source of all life,” which hymn was written by Akhenaten, “alias Amenhotep IV.”)

Anyway, the psalm-readings for the day – verse 25-45, and 37 – first emphasize the sea, “traditional object of awe and even dread to Israelite landlubbers,” emphasizing God’s power over such a dreadful force of nature.  Verse 27 notes, “There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.”  (Indicating God has a sense of humor.)

After the Acts 2 reading comes the Gospel – John 20:19-23 – in which Jesus first appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection.  At that point in time, “He  breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'”

So you could say that Pentecost is literally a Great Day in the Morning!!

An image gleaned from the search term “speaking in tongues…”


The upper image is courtesy of PentecostEl Greco – – WikiPaintings.

The full citation to Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One) The Old and New Testaments, Avenel Books (NY), 1981 Edition, at pages 999-1003.

As to the origin of the phrase “Great day in the morning,” that’s a tough one, but see for example Southern Slang  “an exclamation. ‘Great day in the morning! That’s the biggest punkin’ I ever did see!'”     The site also added the following examples:

I swanee– An exasperation. Pronounced “swun-ee”. “He failed that test again? I swanee that boy!!”   And that’s not to mention “Fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down…”

See also Have you ever heard this phrase? – Yahoo Answers, which gave two conflicting answers:  First, “It means ‘great day’ in its early stages i.e. a great day in the morning with expectations of a great day for the rest of it.”  But another answer gave this meaning:  “enjoy the morning as u will be doomed by the evening.”


And finally, as to speaking in tongues see Glossolalia – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, referring to the “fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice.   Some consider it as a part of a sacred language. It is a common practice amongst Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity.”

On the other hand, it could be argued this is another example of some people taking isolated Bible passages out of context, like those who handle snakes based on Mark 16:17-18, or those who have a “quiverfull” of children based on a passage from Psalm 127.  (See Snake handling – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and QuiverFull .com :: Psalm 127:3-5.)

You may want to also check out Statutory interpretation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, on  “In pari materia (‘upon the same matter or subject’)[:]  When a statute is ambiguous, its meaning may be determined in light of other statutes on the same subject matter.”

In this case you might want to consider how handling snakes or having a “quiverfull” advances the three main promises of the Bible, to wit:  Jesus promising 1) that He would accept anyone who came to Him, 2) that He came so His followers could have life “in all its abundance,” and 3) that He expected His followers to perform even greater miracles than He did.

And finally consider First Corinthians 14, verse 4:  “Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church.”  Verse 5 adds, “One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues…”  Verse 19:  “I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”  And finally see verse 23:  If a church “comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”  (Emphasis added.)


Snake handling at Pentecostal Church … 1946,” courtesy of Wikipedia, above. 

Note also the guy on the right, whose nickname might well be Stumpy.