Monthly Archives: October 2014

On the readings for November 2

Bouguereau’s 1859 painting The Day of the Dead (All Souls’ Day)…


In one sense this Sunday November 2 is the 21st Sunday after Pentecost in the church calendar.  But many churches transfer the readings from All Saints Day, November 1.  See All SaintsDay – Wikipedia and All SaintsDay – Catholic Online, which said the day celebrates “those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven,” while the next day – November 2, All Souls’ Day – “commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven.”

The readings for All Saint’s Day are Revelation 7:9-17Psalm 34:1-10, 221st John 3:1-3, and Matthew 5:1-12.  Here’s part of the Collect for All Saints Day:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you…”

(Emphasis added.  For more on how the words “mystic” or “mysticism” can throw a Southern Baptist into apoplexy, see On a dame and a mystic.)  See also Collect – Wikipedia.

For more on Psalm 34 (and David “feigning madness”), see On the Psalms up to November 2.   The full Bible readings are at All Saints, and here are some highlights.

The first reading, Revelation 7:9-17, comes from the “most misunderstood” book of the Bible:

The Book of Revelation is one of the most misunderstood and abused books
of the Bible.  It is easily misunderstood because it is filled with
symbolism whose meaning is often lost on today’s audience.  It is abused
because some people take advantage of the seemingly nebulous meanings of
the symbols in the book and assign their own meanings to them in order
to frighten others into thinking that the end of the world is near.

See e.g., What’s the deal with the book of Revelation?  See also Book of Revelation – Wikipedia, which explained that “Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a letter (epistle) addressed to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.  ‘Apocalypse’ means the revealing of divine mysteries.'”  In this case, Chapter 7:9017 refers to the “Triumph of the Martyrs” according to the International Bible Commentary, at the end of which will come a new age where death will be “swallowed up” (particularly appropriate for this Feast Day):

[T]he one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.  They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;  the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;  for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The second (short) reading, 1st John 3:1-3, continues the theme:  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”  (According to tradition, the “John” who wrote this first-of-three letters is the same person who wrote the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.)

In Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus announced “the Beatitudes,” as part of His Sermon on the Mount:

The Beatitudes are eight blessings in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, “cryptic, precise, and full of meaning…  The term beatitude comes from the Latin noun beātitūdō which means “happiness…”  Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result.  In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation.   Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on a spirit of love and humility different in orientation than the usual force and exaction taken.  They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion.

Did you get that?  A “new interpretation…”  Which reminds us that if Jesus had been a true conservative, we’d all still be Jewish.  (Just like, if the Founding Fathers had been true conservatives we’d all still be British, but hey, we digress!!)   Here’s the full reading:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.   Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.   Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.   Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


The upper image is courtesy of All SoulsDay – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which added that “Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven” and those still living here on earth.  The caption for the painting: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau:

William-Adolphe Bouguereau [1825-1905] was a French academic painter and traditionalist.  In his realistic genre paintings he used mythological themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects, with an emphasis on the female human body…   As the quintessential salon painter … he was reviled by the Impressionist avant-garde [but in] the 1980s, a revival of interest in figure painting led to a rediscovery of Bouguereau and his work.

The lower image is courtesy of Sermon on the Mount – Wikipedia, with the caption, “Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch.”  The article noted that “To most believers in Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount contains the central tenets of Christian discipleship,” and that it “includes some of the best known teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes, and the widely recited Lord’s Prayer.”

On the Psalms up to November 2



General George Patton, who found comfort in Psalm 63 at a low point in his life…

This regular feature focuses on next Sunday’s psalm, and on highlights from the psalms in the Daily Office Readings (DORs) during the week leading up to that upcoming Sunday.

At this point there may be readers who ask, “What, the psalms again?  Why do you pay so much attention to the Psalms?”    The simple answer is:  See the notes below.

For those who already appreciate the psalms (and rightfully so), my usual practice is to review the next Sunday’s readings on the Wednesday before, including the individual Sunday-psalm noted above, and also to review the psalms from the DORs for the week ending on the Tuesday just before that “prior Wednesday.”

The Lectionary  psalm for Sunday, November 2, is Psalm 34, discussed below.  The Daily Office psalms are from the readings for Wednesday October 22 up to Tuesday October 28.

Here are some highlights from last week.

The DORs for Thursday, October 23, included Psalm 37:14, “The Lord laughs at the wicked, because he sees that their day will come,” one of those psalms that shows God has a sense of humor.  (See also Psalm 104:27, “There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you [God] made for the sport of it.”)  The 10/23 readings also included “The little that the righteous has is better than the great riches of the wicked.”

The DORs for Friday, October 24, included Psalm 35:27, “Great is the Lord, who desires the prosperity of his servant.”  That’s a reminder that God does want “His servants” to succeed in life, for reasons including that they are very much a reflection of Him.  (And no, God is not self-righteous and narrow-minded, thank you very much…)

The DORs for Sunday October 26 included Psalm 63, sometimes called “Patton’s Psalm.”  See On “Patton,” Sunday School teacher, which noted that the general was at a low point in his career during World War II, after the so-called “slapping incident” in Sicily.  He was almost sent home in disgrace, and was ordered – among other things – to make a personal apology to the troops involved.  As he went out to apologize he recited Psalm 63, both “humble and defiant.”

The DORs for Monday October 27 included Psalm 41:1, “Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!  The Lord will deliver them in the time of trouble.”  (Something to remember…)

As to Psalm 34:1-10,22, the consensus on this psalm is that it came about when King David had to make another king – Achish, with whom he sought refuge – think he was crazy as a loon:

Were it not for the superscription to this psalm [below], Psalm 34 could be read as a beautiful response of praise and instruction based upon some unknown incident in which David was delivered from danger.  Our difficulty in understanding the psalm arises from its historical setting:   “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed.”

See Psalm 34: The Fear of the Lord | (“Abimelech” is generic Hebrew for “king.”  The king’s proper name in this incident was Achish, which can also be a generic term for king.)

Be that as it may,  the International Bible Commentary (IBC) referred to Psalm 34 as “the voice of experience,” adding that despite the title, “there is nothing in the psalm specific to the events of I Sam. 21:10-15.”  But about that consensus, see Psalms 34 – Matthew Henry Commentary:

The title of this psalm tells us both who penned it and upon what occasion it was penned. David, being forced to flee from his country … sought shelter as near it as he could, in the land of the Philistines…   [H]e was brought before the king … called Achish (his proper name), here Abimelech (his title); and lest he should be treated as a spy, [David] feigned himself to be a madman … that Achish might dismiss him as a contemptible man, rather than take cognizance of him as a dangerous man.

At any rate, if you Google “psalm 34 commentary” you’ll see some competing theories, either that the psalm is not about David “feigning madness,” or that David should have been ashamed of himself for his lack of faith, in acting crazy and/or otherwise showing his “feet of clay.”  But those criticisms may well have been leveled by ivory-tower types who’ve never had a brush with death – or worse – like David did, numerous times.  (General Patton – above – had a memorable quote about writers for the Saturday Evening Post being similarly “out of touch with reality…”)

In closing we can assume that David wrote Psalm 34 long after his miraculous escape – by “feigning madness” – and throughout the psalm he is properly grateful to God for “delivering him from evil:”  Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.”  Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him, and he [the angel] will deliver them.”  And finally Psalm 34:22, “The LORD ransoms the life of his servants, and none will be punished who trust in him.”

David Feigning Madness before Achish, King of Gath Giclee Print
The upper image is courtesy of File: Pattonphoto.jpg – Wikimedia Commons, “George S. Patton signed photo by U.S. Army…   Scanned from a file in Patton’s personnel record avaliable at the Military Personnel Records Center.”   As to Patton’s reciting Psalm 63, see George S. Patton slapping incidents – Wikipedia.
The lower image is courtesy of David Feigning Madness before Achish, King of Gath Giclee, with the full caption, “David feigning madness before Achish, king of Gath…   ‘And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.'”
As to the competing terms Abimilech and Achish, see Abimelech – Wikipedia, and also Achish – Wikipedia, which referred to the man “described as ‘Achish the king of Gath,’ with whom David sought refuge when he fled from Saul. (1 Samuel 21:11-15)   He is called Abimelech (meaning ‘father of the king’) in the superscription of Psalms 34.”
Psalm 34: The Fear of the Lord added this about the incident:  “The more one studies 1 Samuel 21:10-15 in context, the more distressing becomes David’s conduct when he was pursued by Saul.  While I had previously viewed this time in David’s life as one of spiritual vitality and personal piety, a more careful study reveals that he was a man with feet of clay.”

Which seems to be another way of saying that “the Bible is the story of a long-ago people, and we aren’t remotely like those people.  They were heroes and we are not.”  See Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  On the other hand, the point of this blog is that the Bible remains relevant today precisely because it was written by people who were just like us:  “What if those Bible-writers had all the faults and failings that we have, yet somehow managed to personally experience the presence of God, the Force that Created the Universe…”

For a good article discussing the origin of the terms “crazy as a loon,” along with “lunatic” and “looney” (as in “Looney Tunes”), see Origin of Loon, Loony And Lunatic – Hartford Courant.
Note too that Psalm 34 is viewed by scholars as being written in conjunction with Psalm 56, which begins “Have mercy on me, O God, for my enemies are hounding me; all day long they assault and oppress me.”  (David is said to have written both psalms based on his experience “feigning madness” before this particular king.)
As to the reason “we” spend so much time on the Psalms:  “The Church” itself spends a lot of time on the psalms, and aside from that, they are critical to spiritual growth.  See Psalms – Wikipedia, which made the following points:  1)  Psalms are and have been used throughout traditional Jewish worship, for millenia. (See also On “originalism”.)   2)  Many Jews complete the Book of Psalms on a weekly or monthly basis.  3)  The reading of psalms is viewed in Jewish tradition as a vehicle for gaining God’s favor.  4)  The Psalms have remained an important part of worship in most Christian Churches.  5)  In the early centuries of the Church, it was expected that any candidate for bishop would be able to recite the entire Psalter from memory (all 150 psalms).  6)  Several conservative Protestant denominations sing only the Psalms, and do not accept the use of any non-Biblical hymns.  7)  The Psalms have always been an important part of Catholic liturgy as well.
In the Anglican tradition, every set of Sunday Bible readings includes a psalm (or portion thereof), along with readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel.  And in the Daily Office, each day’s set of readings includes three or more psalms.  For more on the Prayer Book’s take, see The Psalter.

See also The Significance of the Psalms |, which noted Psalms is one of two Old Testament books most frequently quoted in the New Testament, along with Isaiah.  Further, “In their preaching and writing, the apostles often quoted from the Psalms as biblical proof of the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Peter quoted Psalm 16:8-11 as proof that Jesus must be raised from the dead (Acts 2:24-36)…   Any book so prominent in the minds of the New Testament writers should also be important to us.”


On Harry Truman and the next election

 Harry Truman, the President made famous by the sign on his desk…



Election Day is a week away.  It’s coming next Tuesday, November 4, and that leads us to the prayer found on page 822 of the Book of Common Prayer, For an Election:

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges:  Guide the people of the United States … in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(Hey, it could happen…)  And speaking of money, power and politics, this post is on the wit and wisdom – quite often Biblical – of the late President Harry Truman:

Harry S. Truman [1884-1972] was the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953).  The final running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died after months of declining health.  Under Truman, the U.S. successfully concluded World War II; in the aftermath of the conflict, tensions with the Soviet Union increased, marking the start of the Cold War.

Simply put, Harry was an uncomplicated shoot from the lip kind of politician with an equally uncomplicated sense of right and wrong.  And so – looking at today’s politicians and to borrow a phrase from 1860 (as the county dissolved into Civil War) – “Oh, for an hour of Truman.”

That is, in view of next week’s election it makes sense to review some of Harry’s thoughts on subjects including but not limited to politics and the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (below).  Unless otherwise noted the Truman quotes that follow are from Plain Speaking[:]  An oral biography of Harry S. Truman, Merle Miller, Berkley Publishing NY (1973).

Aside from being known for his “refreshing candor,” Truman was also noted for being open-minded.   He was always willing to listen to “what the other fella has to say.”  (BTW: a trait this blog promotes.)  And he was known for his avid reading, much of it history:

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know…   [G]o back to old Hammurabi, the Babyonian emperor.   Why, he had laws that covered everything, adultery and murder and divorce, everything…  Those people had the same problems as we have now. Men don’t change.

(Miller, 26)   As updated from 1973, the politically-correct version would read, “People don’t change,” but you get the idea.  See also Code of Hammurabi – Wikipedia.

Another thing that hasn’t changed – either since the time of Hammurabi or when Truman was president – is the number of “religious phonies” around.  (The Scribe googled that term and got 2,720,000 results.)   Truman had something to say about them too:

About this counterfeit business.  My Grandfather [Solomon*] Young felt the same way.  We had a church in the front yard…  And the Baptists and the Methodists and all of them used it.  And Grandfather Young when I was six years old … he told me that whenever the customers in any of those denominations prayed too loud in the Amen corner, you’d better go home and lock your smokehouse…   And I found that to be true.  I’ve never cared much for the loud pray-ers [sic] or for people who do that much going on about religion.

(Miller, 56)  This would seem especially true of politicians today who either “wear their religion on their sleeve,” or attack their opponents’ religion, or claim they’re “better Christians,” or otherwise use religion for their own benefit.  And incidentally, Jesus felt the same way about people who “pray too loud.”  See Matthew 6:5-6, and On praying in public.

I covered Truman’s views on reporters in the movie review, On “Gone Girl” and Lazy Cusses – Part I, and On “Gone Girl” and Lazy Cusses – Part II.   On the other hand, Truman agreed with Thomas Jefferson’s statement, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” See Jefferson on Politics & Government: Freedom of the Press.

As to one of Truman’s best-known statements, on the buck stops here, from passing the buck:

The expression [came] from poker, in which a marker or counter … was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal.  If the player did not wish to deal he could pass [the “buck“] to the next player.   Another [possible source] is to the French expression “bouc émissaire” meaning scapegoat, whereby passing the “bouc” is equivalent to passing the blame or onus.  The terms “bouc émissaire” and scapegoat both originate from an Old Testament reference (Lev. 16:6-10) to an animal that was ritually made to carry the burden of sins, after which the “buck” was sent or “passed” into the wilderness to expiate them.

See Buck passing – Wikipedia.  (For more on the phrase see the notes below.  See also On scapegoating, which noted:  “A whipping boy, ‘fall guy’ or ‘patsy’ is a form of scapegoat…“)

On that note, and since this blog is on the Bible, we end with Truman’s quote on the Gospels:

I’ve always done considerable reading of the Bible…  I liked the New Testament stories best, especially the Gospels.  And when I was older, I was very much interested in the way those fellas saw the same things in a different manner.  A very different manner, and they were all telling the truth.  I think that’s the first time I realized that no two people ever see the same thing in quite the same way, and when they tell it the way they saw it, they aren’t necessarily lying if it’s different…   And that is one of the reasons that when I got into a position of power I always tried to keep in mind that just because I saw something in a certain way didn’t mean that others didn’t see it in a different manner.  That’s why I always hesitated to call a man a liar unless I had the absolute goods on him.

(Miller, 214)  Now that’s the kind of “delightfully retro” we could use today…



The upper image is courtesy of Everyone Is Butchering ‘the Buck Stops Here, which said the phrase did not mean a president can be blamed for everything bad that happens on his watch, as used today.  Instead it was aimed at “Monday morning quarterbacking” (also known as “whining“): 

“You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over.  But when the decision is up before you – and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here’ – the decision has to be made.”

See also Harry S. Truman – Wikipedia, source of the brief biography above.

The lower image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: The Four Evangelists, which noted:  “Rubens portrayed the four evangelists while working together on their texts.  An angel helps them…   Each gospel author can be identified by an attribute.  The attributes were derived from the opening verses of the gospels.  From left to right: Luke (bull), Matthew (man [angel]), Mark (lion), and John (eagle).” See also, Four Evangelists – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: “shooting from the lip.”  See AU theatre presents “Give ’em Hell, Harry”, noting Truman as a man who “wasn’t afraid to ‘shoot from the lip’ and put himself on the line for what he believed in, not for what was necessary to win an election.”  For other views Google “shoot from the lip.” 

Note too that “shooting from the lip” is an ironic twist on the phrase, “shooting from the hip.”  See What Does “Shoot from the Hip” Mean? – wiseGEEK, re:  an American expression referring “to a decision that is reached and implemented without stopping to consider the possible outcomes of the decision.”  The site noted two schools of thought: one that the practice is rash and likely to produce worse consequences.  The second school relies on an individual using instincts drawn on his or her collective experience; “Proponents of this approach note that many opportunities are lost because time is wasted going over the minutiae of how to respond.”

See also the King James Version of Psalm 22:7-8:   “All they that see me laugh me to scorn:  they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him:  let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” (Emphasis added.)


Re:  “Oh, for an hour of Truman.”  See History for Kossacks: Election of 1860 – Daily Kos, which – in speaking of the interlude between Abraham Lincoln’s election and his actually taking office – noted:

Lincoln found himself armed with nothing but words to stop the South from seceding before he could even take office…   President James Buchanan, nearing 70 … looked at the Constitution and saw his hands being tied by a lack of specific instruction.  The cry went up from frustrated members of his own party: “Oh, but for an hour of Jackson!,” but “Old Buck” almost went out of his way to prove he was no “Old Hickory.”

See also AP US History Chapters 17-19 flashcards | Quizlet.

*   According to some sources, “Grandfather Young” provided Truman’s middle name, “Harry Solomon Truman.”  But the consensus is that Mr. and Mrs. Truman couldn’t decide to honor Mr. Young, the maternal grandfather, or the paternal grandfather, Andrew Shippe Truman, and so the parents decided to go with “the letter ‘S’ by itself.”  See Harry Truman’s Middle Name.

The end-quote, on the differences in the Gospels, included this, “edited for content:”

I think I told you, in school we usually only had one man’s point of view of the history of something, and I’d go to the library and read three or four, sometimes as many as half a dozen, versions of the same thing, the same incident, and it was always the differences that interested me.   And you had to keep in mind that they were all telling what for them was the truth. (Emphasis in original.)

In another story Truman talked about a reporter who asked Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “What’s the secret of your success?”  Holmes answered, “Young man, the secret of my success is that at a very early age I discovered that I’m not God.”  (Miller, 297, during an interview in which Truman discussed his firing General Douglas McArthur.)

Another quote came from Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State, as to “why the press did such an abysmally poor job” (emphasis in original) in writing and reporting on Truman as president:

It’s as if the correspondents had made up their minds when Mr. Truman became President that he was a country bumpkin, and I am afraid a great many of them never changed their minds.

(Miller, 376, referring to a problem that seems to plague some reporters “even to this day.”)  See also Dean Acheson – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



On “All Hallows E’en” – Part II

Snap-Apple Night, by Daniel Maclise (1832)



Since the last post was so obtuse, so full of esoteric information and/or so hard to digest  – that would be On Ecclesiasticus (NOT “Ecclesiastes”) – I thought I’d give the Faithful Reader a break with a short and sweet “Part II” to the first post on Halloween, On “All Hallows E’en” – Part I.

As noted earlier, back in the olden days each November 1st was celebrated as All Saints Day, and the Old English word for “saints” was halig, which eventually became “hallow.”  So the Old English “All Haligs’ Day” became “All Hallows,” and the evening before it became “All Hallows Evening,” which got shortened to “All Hallows E’en,” then just plain Halloween.

One thing to point out is that this particular Feast Day started many, many years ago.

A long, long time ago, our ancestors celebrated New Year’s Day on November 1.  That meant that New Year’s Eve came on October 31.  (Which was one excuse for the revelry).  Then about 835 AD, the Church made November 1 a feast day for “all saints,” to honor those practicing Christians (and it does take a lifetime of practice) who had died before them.

Back in those long-ago days, people thought evil spirits were most prevalent during long winter nights, and especially the long winter nights that started at the end of October.  They also believed the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were weakest on All Hallows E’en, and therefore that it was then that the “spirits were most likely to be seen on earth.”  (This time of year was seen “as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.”)

So our ancestors developed a custom designed to frighten away those spirits.  They built bonfires, then feasted and danced around them.  “The fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”  (The idea came from pagan times, when evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.)

In another old-time custom, travelers carried candles from 11:00 p.m. until midnight on All Hallows E’en.  The theory was that if the candles kept burning steadily that was a good omen,  and indicated the candle-holder would be safe during the upcoming “season of darkness.”  But if the candles went out – the thought was that they were blown out by witches – “the omen was bad indeed.”  (Which sounds a bit like the theory behind Groundhog Day…)

On another note, in England Halloween was also called “Snap Apple Night,” from a game with apples tied on a  string, somewhat related to Apple bobbing – Wikipedia:

Apple bobbing, also known as bobbing for apples, is a game often played on Halloween [by] filling a tub or a large basin with water and putting apples in the water.  Because apples are less dense than water, they will float at the surface.  Players … try to catch one with their teeth.  Use of arms is not allowed, and often are tied behind the back to prevent cheating… The current game dates back to when the Romans conquered Britain, bringing with them the apple tree, a representation of the goddess of fruit trees, Pomona.  The combination of Pomona, a fertility goddess, and the Celts‘ belief that the pentagram was a fertility symbol began the origins of bobbing for apples. 

The article indicated that the game developed out of a belief that the apple could be used to “determine marriages during this time of year.”  That is, young unmarried people would try to bite into an apple – floating in water or hanging from a string – and “the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to be allowed to marry.”  Also, unmarried girls who placed “the apple they bobbed under their pillows are said to dream of their future lover.”

Another feature of All Hallow’s E’en was the Jack-o’-lantern.  Today they’re made from pumpkins, but they were originally carved from large turnips.  The term had a common ancestor with “Will-o’-the-wisp,” which used a generic name, Will[iam], and wisp, a bundle of sticks or paper, often used as a torch.  Another term developed, “Jack-o’-the-lantern,” and its application to carved pumpkins started in 19th century America.

Both terms are associated with a strange light that used to flicker over peat bogs, “back in the old country.”  This strange light was called ignis fatuus, Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.” Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes” – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom


The upper image is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption, “Snap-Apple Night, painted by Daniel Maclise in 1833, shows people feasting and playing divination games on Halloween in Ireland.”

The lower image is courtesy of Apple bobbing – Wikipedia, with the caption, “Halloween (Howard Chandler Christy), 1915.”  The article added:  Due to the nature of the game, whereupon a number of individuals each place their entire head into a bowl of water, it is thought to be a somewhat unsanitary game…  A potentially more sanitary variation of the game exists, with the apples hung on string on a line, rather than in a bowl of water,” like the Snap-Apple game above.   Finally, “Agatha Christie‘s mystery novel Hallowe’en Party, is about a girl who is drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.”

The text was gleaned from Allhallowtide – Wikipedia,  Halloween – Wikipedia (and articles therein), as well as History of Halloween – Halloween HistoryHalloween – Library of CongressHallow’s Eve – American Catholic, and/or BBC – Religions – Christianity: All Hallows‘ Eve


One final note:  I just edited On the readings for October 26, post publication, to clarify how Moses finally entered the Promised Land – by appearing to Jesus at the Transfiguration – albeit a Millennium after he expected.  In modern terms, Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan, while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.


On Ecclesiasticus – NOT “Ecclesiastes”

“Solomon” (at upper left) – who did not write Ecclesiasticus – and his “Judgment…” 



Since Friday – 17 October 2014 – the Old Testament readings in the Daily Office have been from the Book of Eccesiasticus, not to be confused with the better-known Book of Ecclesiastes, which inspired the 1965 hit song.  See Turn! Turn! Turn! – Wikipedia and The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn – YouTube.   (See also the readings at Lectionary –  That brings up those old-time “Wisdom Books,” both in and outside the Bible.  See Wisdom literature – Wikipedia:

Wisdom literature is a genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East [using] traditional story-telling [to] offer insight and wisdom about nature and reality…   The most famous examples … are found in the Bible [, including] the Book of JobPsalms, the Book of ProverbsEcclesiastesSong of Songs, the Book of Wisdom (also known as Wisdom of Solomon) and Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus).  (E.A.)

Here’s some wisdom from Ecclesiasticus:  “Do not be so sure of forgiveness that you add sin to sin.(5:5.)  That idea is related to the Unforgivable Sin Jesus noted in Mark 3:28-29; “the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are.  But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven.  That sin will be held against you forever.”

The June 2014 post “Holier than thou” discussed that concept, along with self-righteousness and hypocrisy in general.  The post then asked, “So how do you know if you’re self-righteous???”

The answer?  “That’s the problem, you don’t.   If you’re self-righteous or are ‘holier than thou,’ you won’t realize it.”   But if you’re worried you may have committed this Biggest Sin, “you probably haven’t.”   Just being aware you may have done it “can assure you that you haven’t.”

Which brings us back to Wisdom Books.  One example is the Wisdom of Solomon, “considered deuterocanonical by some churches such as the Roman Catholic Church[, but not to be] confused with the Wisdom of Sirach, a work from the 2nd century BC, originally written in Hebrew.”  See Sirach – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira … is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 175 BCE written by the Jewish scribe Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira of Jerusalem[,] generally considered the earliest witness to a canon of the books of the prophets, and thus the date of the text as we have it is the subject of intense scrutiny.  The book itself is the largest wisdom book to have been preserved from antiquity.

See also Shimon ben Yeshua, about the guy who wrote  Ecclesiasticus.  Wikipedia said he traveled extensively and spoke “of the perils of all sorts from which God had delivered him;” especially the calumnies of an Egyptian king, possibly Ptolemy V Epiphanes (from 203–181 BC and married Cleopatra I), or Ptolemy VI Philometor, from 181 BC for about 30 years.

The only fact known with certainty, drawn from the text itself, is that Ben Sira was a scholar, and a scribe thoroughly versed in the Law…  (E.A.)

Did I mention that I’ve been through the Bible ten times now?  (See THE SCRIBE, above.)  And on this last trip I ran across some “ancient bits of wisdom.”

For example, the DORs for Saturday October 18 included Ecclesiasticus 3:18, “The greater you are, the more humbly you should behave, and then you will find favor with the Lord.”  That day’s readings also had this, from 3:26; “Whoever loves danger will perish by it.”

The readings for Monday October 20 included Ecclesiasticus 5:5 (Do not be so sure of forgiveness…”), and Thursday October 23 had this, from 10:4:  “The government of the earth is in the hands of the Lord, and over it he will raise up the right man for the time.*”  On that note see On dissin’ the Prez, on the Bible mandate, “do not speak evil of a leader of your people.”

The readings for Friday October 24 included this, “Do not find fault before you investigate; first consider, and then reprove.”  As to the media tendency to do precisely the opposite these days, see On “guilty until proven innocent” and also a lengthy movie review,  On “Gone Girl” and Lazy Cusses – Part I, and On “Gone Girl” and Lazy Cusses – Part II.

Getting back to the main point of this Wisdom Book:

Ecclesiasticus deals with the sin of presumption.  Presumption is to be overconfident in oneself and ability, in theology it is to presume on God’s mercy.  Ecclesiasticus states;  Do not be so sure of forgiveness that you add sin to sin.   And do not say[:]  His compassion is great He will forgive me my many sins.  For with Him are both mercy and wrath and His rage bears heavy on sinners.

See Fr. Gabriel Burke: 20/02/11 – 27/02/11.   And finally, here’s the last verse from the reading for Friday October 24, Ecclesiasticus 11:20, “Grow old in your work.

That’s exactly what I hope to do with the blog…

Now, about that “Cleopatra” noted above.  (Cleopatra I, queen of  Ptolemy V Epiphanes who gave Ben Sira such grief.)   She was not the one celebrated in the movie below.  Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra VII (the Seventh), “who, being far better known than all others of that name, is known to history as Cleopatra without qualifications.”  See Cleopatra – Wikipedia.

(Who knew?  Seven different Cleopatras?)



The upper image is courtesy Peter Paul Rubens: The Judgement of Solomon – Statens Museum, which noted, “The painting has a warm and a cold side.  This polarisation concerns both the grouping of the colors and the story itself.  The warm colors – the yellow garments of the true mother, Solomon’s red cloak and golden throne – against the cold hues – the executioner’s blue sash, the false mother’s icily white dress, and the twisted silvery columns behind her.   See also Book of Wisdom – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and the article on Solomon contained therein:  “Although the author’s name is nowhere given in the text, the writer was traditionally believed to be King Solomon because of references such as that found in IX:7-8.”

On the subject at hand, see also What is the “Unforgivable Sin”? | Bible Gateway Blog:  “If you’re worried that you may be guilty of the unforgivable sin, you almost certainly are not,” Rick Cornish aptly points out in his book Five Minute Theologian.  ‘Concern about committing it reveals the opposite attitude of what the sin is.  Those who might be guilty wouldn’t care because they have no distress or remorse over the possibility.’”

As to the asterisk (“*”), some of the translations from Ecclesiasticus came from Ecclesiasticus / Sirach – Chapter 1 – Bible – Catholic Online, which translated Chapter 10 verse 4 as, “The government of the earth is in the hands of the Lord, he sets the right leader over it at the right time.”  

The lower image was courtesy of Cleopatra (1963) – Turner Classic Movies, noting the 50th Anniversary DVD and/or Blu-Ray edition of the original starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. See also Cleopatra – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.




On the readings for October 26

Transfiguration by Lorenzo Lotto

The Transfiguration, where Moses – at left – realized a centuries-old dream…



The readings for Sunday October 26 are Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 90:1-6,13-17, First  Thessalonians 2:1-8, and Matthew 22:34-46.  For more on Psalm 90, see Psalms up to October 26.  The full Bible readings are at Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.  Here are some highlights.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 tells about Moses, climbing to the top of Mount Nebo, to see the “Promised Land” he had struggled so hard to reach but would – apparently – never enter:

Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.  The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan…   According to the final chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mount Nebo to view the Land of Israel, that he would never enter, and to die; he was buried in an unknown valley location in Moab (Deuteronomy 34).

See Mount Nebo – Wikipedia.  As to why God didn’t let Moses enter the Promised Land, there are several theories – some them pretty far-fetched – set out in sites like Why was God so upset with Moses and Why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land.

The best answer seems to come from God’s faithful servant, Moses, which noted that in the fullness of time Moses made a comeback, in Matthew 17:1-8, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain, “and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah:”

Moses’ faith had its ultimate reward and vindication centuries later.  In God’s economy, promises and fulfillment are not measured by our calendars.  Centuries run their course.  Yet some day in the future, the full meaning of our acts and life of faith will become evident.  That was true for Moses, and it will be true for us.

See also Transfiguration of Jesus – Wikipedia, emphasis added.  Note that Mount Nebo is six miles northwest of Madaba in Jordan, some 19 miles southwest of Amman (Jordan’s capital), and just opposite the northern end of the Dead Sea.  On the other hand Mount Tabor – which according to tradition is where the Transfiguration occurred – is located “in Lower GalileeIsrael, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Sea of Galilee.”

In other words – in case I’m being too subtle – Moses eventually did make it to the Promised Land, inside Israel and west of the Sea of Galilee, just not when he expected to.  Which is another way of saying that quite often God has a different timetable than ours.  Put another way, you could say if you wait long enough you will – with God’s help – eventually enter that Promised Land…

(In modern terms, Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan, while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.)

Anyway, the reading ended with the “torch being passed” from Moses to Joshua; “Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

As to 1st Thessalonians 2:1-8, the International Bible Commentary (IBC) noted that the “ancient world was full of wandering ‘philosophers’ and ‘holy men’ who were greedy and unscrupulous,” and that some of Paul’s enemies accused him of just that.  In the reading Paul presented his defense, including his declaring the “gospel of God in spite of great opposition” and that as God was his witness, “we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed.”  Instead “we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.”  (The “we” referred to Paul, Silvanus and Timothy.  See 1st Thessalonians 1:1.)

In Matthew 22:34-46, Jesus listed the Two Great Commandments when the Pharisees tried to trick Him.  See Great Commandments – Wikipedia, “cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:35–40, [and] Mark 12:28–34.  These two … are taken from the Law of Moses in the Old Testament and are commonly seen as important to Christian ethics.”   In turn Jesus foiled the Pharisees by a display of His dazzling knowledge of the Book of Psalms, in this case Psalm 110:1:  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'”  He then asked, “‘If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’  No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.”

All of which was a prelude to “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees…”



The upper image is courtesy of The Transfiguration of Christ – Lorenzo Lotto –  See also The Transfiguration – Images Bible, which added these notes about the painting:

Jesus, surrounded by Moses and Elijah, is “transfigured,” suffused with light coming from Heaven and acknowledged as Son of God by a celestial voice that here takes the shape of a written text.  On the left, Moses recognizable by the tables of the Law and on the right, the prophet Elijah, bend the knee before Christ…   The three men on the ground are the apostles, Peter recognizable by his keys, John always young and beardless and James without any distinguishing sign.  They have been thrown down and they protect their eyes from the light coming from Christ.

For another view of Moses – his entering “the Promised Land” temporarily put on hold – see Tissot Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar.jpg.  For more paintings by Tissot of the Moses saga, see Paintings of Moses and the Exodus featuring watercolors.

The locations of Mount Nebo and Mount Tabor were gleaned from the Wikipedia articles noted, along with Mount Tabor – Wikipedia and Mount Nebo – Jordan – Sacred Destinations, and Google Maps. Note also the Bible said Mount Nebo was at “the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho,” which could cause confusion.  (A mountain on top of a mountain?)  But as Wikipedia explained:

Some translators [list Pisgah] as a name of a mountain, usually referring to Mount Nebo … east of the Jordan River and just northeast of the Dead Sea.  Mount Nebo [] is the highest among a handful of Pisgah summits; an arid cluster of hilltops…

“Pisgah” in Hebrew means “summit” or “peak,” but in translation the term lost its meaning and now has come to refer to a “collection of mountain summits.”  See also Mount Pisgah (Bible)

As to other people sharing the perceived negativity and close-mindedness of many who call themselves Christian, in his article Mooney noted, “While I don’t believe in organized religion, I do believe in God, and I do have faith in the narrative of Jesus…”   See Why I’d Still Believe In God.

As to finally entering “that Promised Land” (if you wait long enough), see also:  “If you wait by the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies floating by.” Quote by Sun Tzu: “If you wait by the river long enough… 

The lower image is courtesy of Woes of the Pharisees – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which noted that the “woes mostly criticise the Pharisees for hypocrisy and perjury.  They illustrate the differences between inner and outer moral states.”   Jesus went on to announce the “woe to you … hypocrites” in the following chapter, Matthew 23:1-39.  For a related image see Brooklyn Museum: European Art: The Pharisees Question Jesus, with the caption, “The Pharisees Question Jesus (Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus),” an opaque water color by French artist James Tissot, 1836-1902.


On the Psalms up to October 26

 Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, “Eli, Eli lama sabactani!!”    (As “seen from the cross…”)



Welcome to DORScribe, a blog about reading the Bible with an open mind…

In other words, this blog is different.  It’s different because it says that you can get more out of the Bible by reading it with an open mind, and that it was written to liberate people, not shackle them into some kind of “spiritual straitjacket.”

Such ideas run contrary to some common perceptions these days.

Money.  Power.  Rules.  Politics.  Those seem to be the reasons why too many Americans are turning away from the Christian religion, along with the general perception that too many Christians are way too negative.  But Jesus was anything but “negative.”

For more on these thoughts and others see About this Blog, which talks instead about the Three Great Promises of Jesus, and about how through those promises we can live full, rich lives of spiritual abundance and do greater miracles than Jesus, if only we open our minds

In the meantime:

This regular feature focuses on next Sunday’s psalm, and on highlights from the psalms in the Daily Office Readings (DORs) during the week leading up to that upcoming Sunday.  Usually I’ll review the next Sunday’s readings on the Wednesday before, and also review the psalms from the DORs for the week ending on the Tuesday just before that “prior Wednesday.”

The Lectionary  psalm for Sunday, October 26, is Psalm 90, discussed below.  The Daily Office psalms are from the readings for Wednesday October 15 up to Tuesday October 21.

Here are some highlights from last week.

The DORs for Wednesday, October 15 included Psalm 119:19, “I am a stranger here on earth.”  That verse goes along with one of the psalms for Tuesday October 21, Psalm 39:14; “For I am but a sojourner with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.”   (Both psalm-verses remind us that that our stay here on Earth is temporary…)

The DORs for Friday, October 17, include Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”   In the original Hebrew or Aramaic (there’s some debate), it’s Eli, Eli lama sabactani:”

It is the only saying that appears in more than one Gospel [Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34], and is a quote from King David in Psalm 22:1.  This saying is taken by some as an abandonment of the Son by the Father.  Other theologians understand the cry as that of one who was truly human and who felt forsaken.  Put to death by his foes, very largely deserted by his friends, he may have felt also deserted by God.

See Sayings of Jesus on the cross – Wikipedia.  See also Sabachthani, which explores the Hermeneutic  meaning of the word, including possible Hebrew and Aramaic variations.  The site further explores whether that key word means “sacrificed” or “forsaken:”

Does it matter whether one interprets sabachthani as forsaken or as sacrificed?  The phrase, “Why have you sacrificed me?” avoids the escape route of explaining Jesus’ vital question by means of rare Aramaic words.  It keeps us tied to Hebrew Scripture, and at the same time gives a deeper meaning to an Old Testament prophecy.  It also changes the nature of Christ’s cry.  It is not the complaint of a desperate victim, David, but the shout of our victorious Savior, Jesus.  When Christ asks with a loud voice, “Why have you sacrificed me?” He wants all believers to shout, “To reconcile us with God, and to give us eternal life!”

Psalm 22:16-18 also applied to Jesus; “they have pierced my hands and feet – they stare and gloat over me;  they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.”

The DORs for Saturday, October 18, included Psalm 110.  For more on that, and especially verses 1 and 4, see On the Psalms up to September 7 (on “Melchiz′edek”).  The DORs for Monday, October 20, included Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord,” and as noted, Tuesday (10/21) includes Psalm 39:14, “For I am but a sojourner with you…”

Getting back to Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (for Sunday October 26), it’s a prayer on “God’s Eternity and Human Frailty.”  This reading leaves out verses 7 through 12, including verse 10 (in the ERV), “We live about 70 years or, if we are strong, 80 years.  But most of them are filled with hard work and pain.  Then, suddenly, the years are gone, and we fly away.”   (Which is of course all too true…)

The International Bible Commentary (IBC) said the psalm is about “life’s either-or” (poor choices), a reflection after a period of calamity and of hoping “prayerfully for better things.”

Verses 1 and 2 are thus an affirmation of faith, while verses 3 to 6 are a “meditation on man’s finiteness[;]  The somber fact of human mortality stands out all the starker against the background of divine infinity.”  That leads to verses 13 to 17, a “prayer for blessed lives” and an appeal to God for mitigation; “God’s servants cannot live aright without God’s gracious help.”

And a BTW:  The IBC noted – about verse 10 – that “In the light of anthropological archaeology seventy years was not the average age but a standard limit that some might reach.”

The psalm begins “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another” and ends, “May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; prosper the work of our hands…”


The upper image is courtesy of Sayings of Jesus on the cross – Wikipedia, with the caption,
Crucifixion, seen from the Cross by James Tissot, c. 1890.”  For another view see My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? – Brooklyn Museum, referring to the work in “Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper,” by the same French artist, James Tissot (1836-1902):

In the ninth hour of the Passion (three o’clock in the afternoon), Jesus “gives utterance to that cry of anguish, the most heartrending which ever resounded upon this earth,” Tissot writes.  In his commentary, Tissot indicates that Christ’s words – the title of this work – are derived from the opening verse of the 22nd Psalm, a text that begins with a lamentation on God’s seeming absence or desertion.

The full “Hermeneutic” citation is Hermeneutics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Note also that Psalm 22 includes verses 7-8, “All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads;  ‘He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!'”  Compare that with Matthew 27:39-43:

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!   If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”    So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.   He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

The lower image is courtesy of Psaltery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption:   “A woman playing a psalterion.  Ancient Greek red-figured pelike from Anzi, Apulia, circa 320–310 BCE.”

On “All Hallows E’en” – Part I

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”


All Saints Day is a major feast in the Christian calendar, and comes each year on November 1.  Note that the Old English word for “saints” was halig, which eventually became “hallow.”  (Possibly because it was easier to say.)

So the Old English “All Haligs’ Day” became “All Hallows,” and in turn the evening before that Feast Day became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that got shortened, to “All Hallows E’en,” then “Hallowe’en,” and then just plain Halloween.

And here’s another note:  There are three days in the Hallowmas triduum.  (A triduum is a “traditional religious observance lasting three days.”)

The main Feast Day of the triduum is All Saints’ Day, which this year falls on a Saturday (10/1/14), which brings up the matter of the early Church absorbing “native practices:”

According to many scholars, All Hallows’ Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain…  On All Hallows’ Eve, Christians traditionally believed that the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned.

See Halloween – Wikipedia, emphasis added.  (Samhain was an age-old Celtic festival “marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year.”)

As originally practiced, on the Eve of All Hallows, people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”   (Hallows being another name for the “souls” or “ghosts” of the dear departed, and especially those recently departed):

The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld.

So to review, Halloween is just one day of the three-day religious observance known as Hallowmas, also known as the Triduum of All Hallows.  And again, that three-day celebration includes:  1) All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en),  2) All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’ Day), and  3) All Soul’s Day, to form the triduum that lasts from October 31 to November 2.

Wikipedia added that “Hallowmas is a time to remember the dead, including martyrs, saints, and all faithful departed Christians.  The dates of Hallowmas were established in the 8th century,” over 1,200 years ago, and the liturgical color of All Saints Day is white, a color which symbolizes “victory and life.”    [Which is, after all, the whole idea…]

Christians who celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant“), and the living (the “Church militant“).

Further, while honoring the “Church Triumphant,” All Hallows Day seeks especially to “honor the blessed who have not been canonized and who have no special feast day.”

As for All Souls’ Day, in Western Christianity the day is also known as “the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.”   It’s the third day of Hallowmas and falls on November 2.

In the Anglican Communion, the intermediate state is known as Hades … and as a result ‘the Church has always held that it is right and proper for us to pray [for] the souls of the departed, that they may go from grace to grace until they are finally received in Heaven,’ which will occur after the Resurrection of the Dead and the General Judgment.

And a word of explanation, as to that intermediate state:

That’s the state of being that “we” are in right now, that is, in our present earthly incarnation while moving toward our “heavenly” goal.  (Which leads to the wisdom stated in Psalm 119:19, “I am a stranger here on earth.“)  As to the practice of “trick or treating,” it’s based on that old Celtic practice of wearing a disguise to keep the hallows or ghosts from recognizing you.  See Trick-or-treating – Wikipedia:

The “trick” is a (usually idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given to them.  In North America, trick-or-treating has been a customary Halloween tradition since the late 1940s…   Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).  It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.

Souling became a regular observance in the country towns of England, where “small companies [went] about from parish to parish at Halloween, begging soul-cakes” and singing a song, “Soul, soul, for a soul-cake:  Pray you, good mistress, a soul-cake!’”   (The rich “gave soul cakes to the poor on Halloween” in return for prayers for “the souls of the givers and their friends…”)

A soul-cake is small round cake “traditionally made for All Saints Day or All Souls’ Day to celebrate the dead.  The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers,” (mainly children and the poor), who went “from door to door on Halloween singing and saying prayers for the dead.  Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory.  The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern trick-or-treating.”

And of images like the one below.



The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows. Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The text was gleaned from that online article and others including Halloween – Wikipedia (and articles therein), as is the lower image, with the caption:  “jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”  See also History of Halloween – Halloween HistoryHalloween – Library of Congress, Hallow’s Eve – American Catholic, and/or BBC – Religions – Christianity: All Hallows’ Eve

“The term jack-o’-lantern is in origin a term for the visual phenomenon ignis fatuus (lit., “foolish fire”) known as a will-o’-the-wisp in English folklore.  Used especially in East Anglia, its earliest known use dates to the 1660s.   The term ‘will-o’-the-wisp’ uses ‘wisp’ (a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch) and the proper name ‘Will:’ thus, ‘Will-of-the-torch.’   The term jack-o’-lantern is of the same construction: ‘Jack of [the] lantern.'”

According to some accounts, jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory,” while others say “they were sometimes set on windowsills to keep the harmful spirits out of one’s home.”


On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist…

 Saint Luke, by El Greco (circa 1607)…

*   *   *   *

Saturday, October 18, is the Feast Day for Saint Luke the Evangelist.  Isaac Asimov noted that Luke wrote the “third and last of the synoptic gospels,” which like the Gospel of Matthew was based on the first-written Gospel, Mark, with additional matter included.

Mark is said to have been written “as early as the mid 50s” – 50 A.D. – while Matthew seems to have been written somewhere between 61 and 70 A.D., and Luke seems to have been written in the following decade, some time between 71 and 80 A.D.   As to the “synoptics:”

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are considered synoptic gospels on the basis of many similarities between them that are not shared by the Gospel of John.  “Synoptic” means here that they can be “seen” or “read together…”  The synoptic gospels are the source of many popular stories, parables, and sermons, such as Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Last Supper, and the Great Commission…   The fourth gospel [John], presents a very different picture of Jesus and his ministry

See Gospel – Wikipedia.  Getting back to Asimov’s commentary, while Mark was written for “the ordinary Christian of Jewish background” – and Matthew was written to fit “the ears of those learned in Old Testament lore” – Luke wrote his Gospel “for the ears of Gentiles who are sympathetic to Christianity and are considering conversion.”  Then too Luke treated Roman authorities “more gently than in the first two gospels, and Jesus Himself is portrayed as far more sympathetic to Gentiles” than in Matthew or Mark.

See also Luke the Evangelist – Wikipedia, which said he “is believed by many scholars to be a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria.”  The article added that – according to the early church fathers – Luke wrote “both the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  (Originally a single work called Luke-Acts.”  Also:

Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that “Luke is a historian of the first rank [and] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”  Professor of Classics at Auckland UniversityE.M. Blaiklock, wrote: “For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides.  The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record… it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth.”  New Testament scholar Colin Hemer [also attested to] the historical nature and accuracy of Luke’s writings.  (E.A.)

But Luke wasn’t just a writer and historian, he was also an artist: “Christian tradition states that he was the first icon painter [and] is said to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child.” Some 600 icons “claiming to have been painted by Luke” include the “Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Vladimir.  He was also said to have painted Saints Peter and Paul, and to have illustrated a gospel book with a full cycle of miniatures.

See also St. Luke – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online, which noted Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons, that he has “been identified with St. Paul’s ‘Luke, the beloved physician'” in Colossians 4:14, and that he was a loyal comrade who stayed with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome.  Further, Luke added some distinctive accounts in his Gospel:

Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears.  Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy…   Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.

And finally, see the Collect for St. Luke’s Feast Day, Saturday October 18:  “Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son:  Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal…

*   *   *   *

File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child… 

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of El_Greco_-_St_Luke_-_WGA10577.jpg, which included the note:   “El Greco portrayed the apostles with a powerfully expressive body language. This St Luke is from a cycle for the Toledo Cathedral…  El Greco included St Luke in several of his [paintings of the Apostles] although Luke was not actually one of the twelve apostles.  Here the artist provided the Western version of a subject he depicted in quite different terms during his period as an icon painter.”

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

The Asimov quotes are from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 912-15.

*   *   *   *

Note especially Luke 21:5-36, which talks of the “Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times,” what is known as the Little Apocalypse, in turn also known as the Olivet Discourse See  Wikipedia and The Son of Man and the Little Apocalypse|Catholic World:

[T]he Olivet Discourse, sometimes called a “little apocalypse” (see Mt 24-25 and Lk 21) because it contains difficult teachings by Jesus about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70 and the final day of judgment.  Like The Apocalypse of John the Revelator, the little apocalypse is filled with strong imagery and a complex web of allusions drawn from the Old Testament, especially from the prophets.  

Mark’s version of the Little Apocalypse is in his Chapter 13, and especially at verse 14-37.  But unlike Mark-and-Matthew’s version, Luke had to assume his Gentile audience didn’t know of the “desolating sacrilege” that Jesus spoke of in those two Gospels, where He alluded to the Book of Daniel (9:27, 11:31, and 12:11).   So Luke changed Jesus’ reference to Daniel  and said instead, in Luke 24: “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  

Jesus then warned the disciples about the Abomination of Desolation “standing where it does not belong.”    The Gospels of Matthew and Mark add “—let the reader understand—.”  This is generally considered to be a reference to two passages from the Book of Daniel.[Dan. 9:27] [11:31]

See also Luke 21:20, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”   These other indicia date Luke’s Gospel as coming after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora.   See The Romans Destroy the Temple at Jerusalem, 70 ADDiaspora – Wikipedia – especially regarding  expulsion of Jews from Judea – and also The Diaspora | Jewish Virtual Library, which noted:  “After 73 AD, Hebrew history would only be the history of the Diaspora as the Jews and their world view spread over Africa, Asia, and Europe.”

On the readings for October 19

Jesus and the “tribute money,” subject of today’s Gospel…



Welcome to DORScribe, a blog about reading the Bible with an open mind…


In other words, this blog is different.  It’s different because it says that you can get more out of the Bible by reading it with an open mind, and that it was written to liberate people, not shackle them into some kind of “spiritual straitjacket.”

Such ideas run contrary to some common perceptions these days.

Money.  Power.  Rules.  Politics.  Those seem to be the reasons why too many Americans are turning away from the Christian religion, along with the general perception that too many Christians are way too negative.  But Jesus was anything but “negative.”

For more on these thoughts and others see About this Blog, which talks instead about the Three Great Promises of Jesus, and about how through those promises we can live full, rich lives of spiritual abundance and do greater miracles than Jesus, if only we open our minds

In the meantime:

The readings for Sunday, October 19, are Exodus 33:12-23, Psalm 99, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, and Matthew 22:15-22.  For more on Psalm 99, see On the Psalms up to October 19.  You can see the full readings at Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, but here are some highlights.

In Exodus 33:12-23, Moses first offered up a “prayer for God’s presence,” then requested a theophany, a “revelation of divine glory” which would assure Moses “that his prayers have been answered,” as noted by the International Bible Commentary (IBC).   As Moses said in verse 16, “For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us?   In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”  God granted the request, after which Moses then asked, “Show me your glory, I pray.” (It seems that Moses could be a tad pushy at times, not knowing when to stop.)

For another commentary on this passage, see  Exodus 33:18-23 – A View of the Glory of God.   And as to Psalm 99, see On the Psalms up to October 19.

The New Testament reading is the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church he established at Thessalonika (in Greece), 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.  Of this it has been written:

The words that you have just heard read in our epistle lesson for today are probably the first words that were ever written that became parts of the New Testament.  Bible scholars tell us that Paul wrote this letter to the Christians at Thessalonica about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Christ and about twenty years before the Gospel According to Mark was written to collect and preserve the early church’s memories of the life of Jesus.  This passage can tell us a lot about the Bible as a whole. 

See What Can We Believe about the Bible?  See also First Epistle to the Thessalonians – Wikipedia, which noted:   “The first letter to the Thessalonians was probably the first of Paul’s letters, [about] the end of AD 52, making it the first written book in the New Testament.”  This first passage from the letter consists of a “salutation and thanksgiving,” in which Paul notes in part that the faith of the Thessalonian church has become well known; “in every place your faith in God has become known … and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven;” that is, Jesus.

In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking whether it was “lawful” to pay taxes – tribute money – to the Roman forces occupying the Hebrew homeland.  His answer, in the best known translation, was “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”  As Wikipedia noted:

This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity and secular authority.  The original message, coming in response to a question of whether it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, gives rise to multiple possible interpretations about the circumstances under which it is desirable for the Christian to submit to earthly authority.

See Render unto Caesar, emphasis added.  Which raises a good question:  How can you strictly, literally or “fundamentally” construe multiple possible interpretations?

(See also On “originalism”, which explored the idea that one of our important national documents could be “evolving, changing over time,” and capable of adapting to new circumstances, as opposed to being rigid, inflexible and/or incapable of adapting.)




Is this a duck or a rabbit?  See below…


The upper image is courtesy of Render unto Caesar – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption, “The Tribute Money by Titian depicts Jesus being shown the tribute penny.”

Also as to Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonika:  “The first thing we discover is that when Paul wrote these words, he had no idea he was writing part of the Bible.  He was writing a personal letter to some friends who were part of a church Paul and his friends Timothy and Silvanus had helped to bring into being during their missionary work.”  What Can We Believe about the Bible?    Located in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, this city is the second-largest in Greece and capital of the region of Macedonia; “An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire.” See Thessaloniki – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of  Ambiguous image – Wikipedia.  See also Define Ambiguous at, which defined the term as being “open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations.”   See also On three suitors (a parable), discussing problems with the “parabolic” method of teaching, as used by Jesus; that is, teaching through the use of parables:

The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing.  Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom [of God] can be revealed.  We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves.

The post noted that in transposing a parable from oral to written form, “it  needed an interpretation added to it.   (In Hebrew the word for such interpretation is nimshal, or the plural, nimshalim.)”