What I read in 2016, the short list

I have always been a big reader, but never anything close to my list for 2016. That’s when I began to use the wonderful online group, Goodreads.com, to log the books that I have read, am reading, and want to read. I am up over 1900 books that I have logged as “read” in my lifetime, so far, but I know there are hundreds I cannot remember; I imagine the number should be more like 2500.

“Do you want that reading list Super-Sized?”

Over Christmas break 2015 I decided to join their Reading Challenge for 2016, and set a (as it turns out, too ambitious!) personal goal of 150 books/plays this year, including the complete works of Shakespeare, the Koran, and others, let alone material for class prep. Typically I am reading eight books at a clip; some short documents, some long tomes, some Audible recorded books from Amazon.

Overall, I read a lot more non-fiction this year than I usually do, although I also read some marvelous fiction.

Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order:

Russian themed. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862) was excellent. I am about a third of the way through the fictionalized biography of Trotsky by Leonardo Padura, The Man who Loved Dogs. Dostoyevsky, The Idiot (1868-69) is a Christ-allegory. All are available on Kindle.

George Orwell beyond 1984 and Animal Farm. I have read 1984 a dozen times since Junior High, and decided I should branch out. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel (more…)

Ancient scrap of Mark’s Gospel

This little piece of papyrus is an amazing find, and it looks like it’s now regarded as authentic. It is a scrap of the gospel of Mark, hand-copies in the 80s AD at the very latest. It comes from Egypt and was dated by its handwriting style, by Carbon-14, and by other texts found near it.

I have told my students about early manuscripts of the New Testament and usually I end with, “But they will find even older and more remarkable ones over the next few years, I’m sure of it. From the first century, even.”

Here we are.

It is just a tiny portion of Mark 5:15-18 (the account of the exorcism of Legion), and is about the size of two fingers. On the sixth line you can see part of the word for “demon-possessed” – (δαιμο = …daimo…)

daimo

The short text is letter for letter in agreement with the text of the critical New Testament – the Nestlé-Aland 28th edition – in use around the world today and is the basis for all new Bible versions. Even if you don’t read Greek, the letters are clear as can be.

See the full story and a video here – http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/mummy-mask-may-reveal-oldest-fragment-of-the-gospel-of-mark

mark-manuscript

“From Jerusalem to the Uttermost Parts of the Earth” – Have we Misunderstood Acts 1:8?

map-of-samaria

A missionary comes to your church to speak, and you absentmindedly turn to Matt 28:18 or Acts 1:8. Sure enough, this time he will speak about the Great Commission from Acts:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

His sermon touches upon familiar points:

Jerusalem was their home town, and they were supposed to evangelize there first. Judea was their home area. Now, Samaria was like but not identical with Judea, but next in line since it was a nearby mission field. And of course “the end of the earth” means any foreign country. [1]

In conclusion, the preacher adds:

  • We are all called to be missionaries (I take objection to that, by the way, see below).
  • What is your Jerusalem and Judea?
  • What is your Samaria?
  • What is the uttermost part of your earth? Does God want you to preach his gospel in a foreign land? (more…)

“Four Blood Moons” and a false prophet

Warning: Do not heed this "prophet"

Warning: Do not heed this “prophet” John Hagee

[Additional Note, Aug 6 2014. Of course the Blood Moon teachers are announcing, Aha! I told you that Israel  and Gaza would go to war! Well, of course they predicted no such thing, but when someone says that “something will happen”; and then something, anything happens; one can then claim, See, I told you something would happen!” This is technically called Vaticinium ex eventu, that is, pretending to have given a prior prediction but only after the events take place.]

I love the Lord’s coming and have written much on the topic. Perhaps this is why false predictions get under my skin so badly. Click HERE. Maybe it’s because these authors will sell millions more books than I do – you’ll never go broke predicting the apocalypse.

Just flipped through the Four Blood Moons material by John Hagee, who got all his material from a man named Mark Biltz. It turns out that the world isn’t going to (was not going to?) end in the late 1990s, as Hagee once predicted. (more…)

Can the use of Greek help the preacher? An example

Should a preacher refer to Hebrew or Greek from the pulpit? In all but a few instances, emphatically not, see “But the Greek REALLY says…” Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 1

The study of original languages, like all study of technical background, is to inform the preacher, not to impress the audience. The preacher takes that material and puts it into plain English (or Spanish, in my case). Unless the audience can read the biblical languages, there is no reason to mention them, and plenty of reasons not to. (more…)