Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet Bilbo Baggins

I'm sure there are a lot of you out there that are pretty big Tolkien/Lord of the Rings fans. Well, in just the last week or so we've finally heard some proper news about the upcoming "The Hobbit" film.

Yes, it will be directed by Peter Jackson. Yes it will be filmed in New Zealand.

And finally we have some casting confirmations including the key role of Bilbo Baggins!

Bilbo Baggins: Martin Freeman
Thorin Oakenshield: Richard Armitage
Fili: Rob Kazinsky
Kili: Aidan Turner
Dwalin: Graham McTavish
Oin: John Callen
Gloin: Peter Hambleton
Bombur: Stephen Hunter
Dori: Mark Hadlow

It is also rumored that the voice of Smaug will be none other than Bill Nighy.

I hadn't heard of most of these guys before (with the exception of Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy) so if you care you can check out their bios at:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Serpents, Sirens, Scripture, and Starbucks

What is your favourite Starbucks drink?

I've been doing some prep for a study I'm going to be leading through the book of Micah. As part of my prep I was reading through Micah in the Septuagint (LXX). For those of you unfamiliar with the LXX, it is (in simple terms) the Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament.

Why would anyone study the Greek OT when we have the Hebrew OT?

Well, most importantly, it is well documented that the Early Church used the LXX as their scriptures! The LXX was
the "Bible" for the vast majority of Christians during the apostolic era and beyond (in fact, the Greek Orthodox Church still uses the LXX as their OT). So, if we want to understand what the early Christians believed it is obviously very helpful to read and understand the scriptures that they were using. There are other compelling reasons to study the LXX, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Anyway, as I was comparing the LXX to my ESV (based on the Hebrew text) I ran across this:

Micah 1:8 (ESV) 8 For this I will lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make lamentation like the jackals, and mourning like the ostriches.


Micah 1:8 (NETS - LXX) 8 For this she shall lament and wail; she shall go unshod and naked she shall make lamentation like that of dragons, and mourning like that of the daughters of sirens.

For those of you who might care:

wJV drakovntwn (hōs drakontōn: of serpents) ... yes,


/ drakōn, "serpent" is where we get our word “dragon” from!

wJV qugatevrwn seirhvnwn
(hōs thugaterōn seirēnōn: of the daughters of sirens)

Without getting into the details of why the Hebrew and Greek are so different, what struck me (I was quite shocked!) was the appearance of sirens in scripture (and dragons for that matter! Although "serpent" is probably a better translation) .

For those of you who might not be familiar with sirens, they are legendary figures from Greek mythology. Supposedly they were beautiful sea women who would lure men to their deaths with their beautiful voices. They would sing their irresistible songs and sailors would then seek out the source of the music only to crash their ships on the rocks and drown.

Probably the most famous encounter with sirens is in Homer's Odyssey (book 12... portrayed here in this picture) where
Odysseus plugs his men's ears with wax so that they can't hear the voice of the sirens while he straps himself to the mast so that he can hear their beautiful song without the danger of succumbing to it.

So, while this is certainly an extremely loose translation of the original Hebrew text, it definitely portrays a very vivid picture of the mourning prophesied by Micah.

There is very little doubt that "serpents/dragons" and "sirens" were not part of the original text written down by Micah (or his scribe) however, as I already mentioned, this is what the people of the early church would have read and thought of as scripture during the first few centuries of Christianity.

Just imagine! Thousands upon thousands of Christians... for literally centuries had serpents and sirens used as similes in their scriptures! What might the Apostle Paul have said about this text had he been preaching from Micah?

What do you make of pagan, mythological figures showing up in scripture?

Can you think of any other examples of this type of content showing up in scriptures?

Anyway, over the course of history different Greek authors and poets adapted the sirens and eventually they became mermaid-like creatures... always singing their irresistible song and luring people to their demises. Understandably they came to represent indulgence and temptation.

And so I find it appropriate that Starbucks uses a siren as their logo. It's not quite as clear on their newer logo, but their original logo shows the siren quite clearly.

... mmmmm... Starbucks...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another "Dawn Treader" Trailer

Here's the official poster... in Polish

And here's the newest trailer (with Polish subtitles!).

And, for those of you in the Saskatoon area, make sure to pick up those last minute tickets for the David Crowder* Band concert next Wednesday!

I'm not sure what that had to do with anything... other than the fact that clearly the DC*B has way too much time on their hands.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Testament Poetry

All of us who are Bible readers are pretty familiar with poetry in the scriptures. However, for most of us, our experience with Biblical poetry is pretty much limited to the Psalms. We probably also understand that sections of Job, the prophets, etc are also done as Hebraic poems, but honestly, the only way we really get that is 'cause our English translations indent the text in a way that says to us: "THIS IS POETRY."

Without having at least a basic understanding of Hebrew or Greek there's no way we'd know that certain sections are poetry. This is where having a GOOD commentary helps immensely.

Recently I've been walking through Paul's letter to the Colossians with a group of guys.
Colossians just happens to be one of the New Testament books with a strong poetic presence. There isn't a lot of poetry in the New Testament (although there is likely a lot more than we usually make note of; ex. 1Tim3:16; 2Tim2:11-13; etc) and with the language barrier, what poetry is there we often miss.

One of the most amazing, powerful, and beautiful images of who Christ is, is provided for us in the form of the poem in Col. 1:15-20. Maybe in another post I'll break this one down, because I love it and think it's amazing! ...

... but this isn't the kind of poetry/literary device that I'm talking about. With this poem we can see it's structure and form even in English and can, as such, identify it as poetry. There are also sections of Colossians that are chiastic (don't know what a chiasm is? Click: here). These can also be identified in English.

But there's so much more going on within the text that we just can't see without the help of either a good commentary or a knowledge of (in this case) Greek.

Here are a couple of examples:

Colossians 2:1-2 (ESV) 1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ...

It was Ben Witherington's Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Colossians that pointed out to me that the phrase "all the riches of full assurance" is, in fact, an alliteration: pan ploutos tes plerophorias.

Here's where Witherington's emphasis on rhetoric really comes into it's own (speaking of Col. 2:16-19):
"Again, this section can best be appreciated if heard and not read. For example the end rhyme sets the cadence in 2:16 with brosei, posei, and merei and in vv. 18 and 19 with thelon, ton angelon, embateuon, kraton, ton haphon, syndesmon, and then epichoregoumenon and symbibazomenon. The length of the terms goes from two syllables to three to seven and six. By the very sounds of the rhetoric, Paul is building to a conclusion and the most polysyllabic terms, those that make the biggest impression, are served up last" (pg 151).

I know that this might look and sound a little technical, but surely you can see how (even if you don't know a lick of Greek) these groups of words rhyme with each other and that the rhyming words are grouped together by the number of syllables.

Colossians 2:8 (ESV) 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

In N.T. Wright's commentary on Colossians (his IVP/Tyndale commentary, not the "for everyone" commentary) he proposes that the Greek verb for "take captive" (sylagogein) is a pun off of synagogue (synagoge). This makes perfect sense providing you agree with his thesis that the threat to the Colossian church is one with Jewish roots (ie. don't get "taken captive" into a "synagogue").

So, obviously not many of us will ever learn the original languages of the Bible in a way that we would be able to catch these subtle (or not so subtle) poetic/literary devices, but we are all capable of picking up a good quality commentary! Unfortunately, the more accessible the commentary, the less likely it will pick up on stuff like this... it's the more difficult-to-read, scholarly commentaries that will make note of this.

What other literary devices can you think of that show up in the NT?

How important do you think it is that we are able to identify these literary devices?

How do the existence of poetic/literary devices in a text influence how we interpret/translate a passage of scripture?

Do you ever read commentaries? If so, which ones?