Baseball in Air-Conditioning

Let’s begin this with the admission that there are a lot of things that I don’t know. I have a friend who out of college had a job as Madeline Albright’s traveling helper. I had jobs as a chicken outside of a chicken restaurant, the moon-headed “Mac-Tonight” character for McDonalds (don’t worry Ronald is real, only Mac Tonight was fake), and the magician at way too many children’s birthday parties to count. Let’s just say that my mental dinning room set might be missing a chair. Even though I am willing to admit that I don’t know a lot of things, there are few things that I know. One of them is that BASEBALL SHOULD NOT BE PLAYED INSIDE.

Josiah, Charity, and I went to the Marlins-Cubs game today at the new “Miami Marlin’s Stadium.” It reminded me of the times when they were little and we used to go to the minor league West Palm Beach Expos games at least once a week; of the times when they were a little older and we used to ride the EL down to Wrigley in the spring. It was great to see the ivy starting to come back, to feel the slight chill of the spring air, and even to get rained on sometimes. That was all part of the experience; part of the game; part of the tradition.

The new Marlin’s stadium is beautiful inside. There are aquariums behind home plate, though I can imagine what the fish think when a ninety-seven mile an hour fast-ball get fouled off right into their face. That can’t be good for the fish’s heart and I noticed that they were not kissing the glass after than happened. There are wonderful seats, and thanks to my friend, I had some of the best in the ballpark. Even the worst seats seem pretty close to the action and capable of getting a foul ball. The skyline of Miami is nice, if you like that kind of thing, and the home run “congratulatory marlin spinning in a circle while water shoots out” seemed nice, though it was not needed during the game and I wonder how often it will be needed during the season.

The real problem that I had was that we were sitting in air-conditioned comfort. Isn’t part of loving baseball something about suffering? You suffer when your team does poorly (I am a Cubs fan and an expert at this particular skill); you suffer when a great player gets hurt; you suffer when a foul ball glances off you your hand and a girl (a girl) in back of you gets it, although this has never happened to me (as far as you know); and you suffer when you watch the game in South Florida because it’s hot. That’s part of the deal. That’s what the true fan signs up for. That’s what baseball is all about. Just like the Tom Hanks character says in “A League of Their Own,” “There’s no crying in baseball;” I want to say “There’s no air-conditioning in baseball.”

How am I supposed to conjure up memories of Wrigley field on a cold night in October when I am sitting in climate-controlled freshness? How can I remember taking the kids to a warm day game, smelling grass (as well the grass on the field), seeing the fans sitting on top of the apartment building on Sheffield avenue, watching the bleacher bums throwing back home run balls, and slowly viewing the night overtake the city of Chicago?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the Marlin’s have their own stadium. I glad that I no longer have to sit in the “end-zone” trying to see the pitch from a crooked seat, far out in left field. I’m not glad, however, that I have to do it inside. It just doesn’t seem right to me.

Maybe I’m just a grouchy old man, but I want the same experience I had when the kids were little. I guess I’ll never get that. Now that they have jobs they won’t depend on me to buy their snacks and souvenirs. They won’t depend on me to make sure that they don’t get lost in the crowd. They don’t need to depend on me to protect them anymore. Maybe it’s that which I miss more than the outside play. Maybe I just long for the time when I was the dad who would do “anything” if asked by one of my little aliens. Maybe I long for the past instead of the stadium.

But game moves on. We all realize that we will eventually be in the later innings of our life and we know that sooner or later, even if there are extra innings, the game is going to come to an end. Maybe I just want one more game like we had back then.

Like I said, there are lots of things I don’t know. But I do know that I have had some great times at baseball games and that all of them have been outside. But for now I’ll take an inside game and think back to when the ivy was coming back, Harry Caray was still leading “Take Me Out To the Ballgame,” my kids thought going to the game on the EL was a great adventure, and the Cubs flag held up a W. Memories like these are golden trophies that don’t need polishing. Time makes them shine. Maybe time will make today such a memory, because it was still baseball, inside or not.

BLOG AND MAYBLOG: God’s judgment on blogs and Facebook posts

A lie can get around the world twice while the truth is still putting on its pants.
– A. Lincoln

While Abe Lincoln could not have foreseen the Internet, his words could have been spoken with blogs and Facebook posts in mind. Two events happened this morning to remind me of what a terrible thing the Internet can be. No, I don’t speak of porn, political ads, or even the misuse of chimps on YouTube clips. Rather I speak of “Christian” blogs and Facebook posts.

This morning I was made aware of two events the likes of which happen all too frequently on the web. The first was a Facebook post attacking a theologian who not only has forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know, but how is also one of the most Godly men that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The post was unkind, unfair, and worst of all, untrue. It was posted, of course, by another Christian who wanted to “warn others of the error.” The difference between warning others of error and taking potshots at a brother or sister seems to me to be the same line that is used to distinguish between sharing gossip and sharing “prayer request for (insert name here) who was caught doing (insert sin that no one knows you are guilty of here).

To make bad matters even worse the post shared links to blogs that mischaracterized this gracious gentleman in even shoddier terms. I suppose the Facebook poster could claim that he was “simply sharing information for those who desired it.” Unfortunately, this claim does not absolve anyone from the sin of bearing false witness.

After hearing and reading about the Facebook post I learned of another problem. A student at a particular school found negative information about the school and some of its faculty on (need I even say it) blogs. The student, rather than going to his professors, went to some of those named on the blogs and became convinced that he had entered an institution that was not orthodox. Again, the Internet at its finest.

After hearing about these events, I was reading (providentially) Genesis 37. This is the start of the Joseph story. In Genesis 37:2 the text says, “Joseph brought a bad report of them [his brothers] to their father.” The verse here seems to indicate that Joseph was wrong in bringing this report. In fact Wenham, in his Word Biblical Commentary, translates the phrase as “Joseph told tales” and later points out that the Hebrew word used for this action is “always used elsewhere in a negative sense of an untrue report.” Thus Joseph’s “report bringing” is indeed a negative action. A reminder to all of us to be careful about the “tales” that we tell.

The Westminster confession (as well as many other confessions) in speaking about the Ten Commandments, reminds us that while the commands are mostly negative, that they imply positive actions. So, for example, the command not to kill implies that we are also to try to save those who are being killed (in Nazi Germany for example). We are commanded not to lie, but this also implies that we are to do our best to set the truth straight when we can. That is we are commanded to try to protect those who have been lied about, not to pass on unconfirmed attacks and slander.

This sort of slander and hateful speech is a terrible sin. It harms the Church of our Lord, and hurts individuals in ways that we can only imagine. There are those who argue that the great pastor Charles Spurgeon’s life was shortened as a result of his battles with those who were jealous gossips, passing along whatever negative statement they could find, regardless of its truthfulness.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I certainly am not against all blogs or the Internet (it seems unnecessary to state this since you are reading it on a blog, but I wanted to be clear). I only mean to communicate the need for us all to be careful about what we say and be particularly careful (because it lasts so much longer and is so much more public) about what we post, tweet, re-tweet, blog, wall-to-wall, “like,” or even point our browsers toward.

Let us all post with the knowledge that one day we will stand before God and he will ask us “Did you check those facts before you posted that?” What will we say? I used to sing a song in Sunday School that reminded us to “be careful little feet where you go, or be careful little eyes what you see.” In this Internet age we could add another verse to the song, “be careful little fingers what you post.” Let us all strive to “tell the truth” even when it might be inconvenient.

*Blog and Mayblog is the name of Doug Wilson’s blog. I wish that I had thought of it.

N. T. Wright Interview with Logos

This is a great interview with one of my favorite theologians (though I do have my differences with him), N. T. Wright. He speaks of the need for reading the original languages, the importance of reading those with whom we disagree, and the wonder of reading God’s word. It is worth the ten minutes it takes to listen to it.

It comes from Logos Bible Software, my go to source for my own work.

I hope you enjoy it.

SamLam

Good Books for the Summer

As many of you already know, I am on sabbatical. Contrary to some popular ideas, a sabbatical is not a vacation, but a time for uninterrupted research, writing, and planning additions to existing courses as well as creating new courses.

One of the courses that I am creating during this time will be called “New Testament Backgrounds.” This course will deal with the inter-testamental period as well as the time of Christ up to the destruction of the temple. We will read selections from Josephus, the Dead Sea scrolls, the letters of Pliny, Philo, and other literature from the period.

With this course in mind I have been doing a lot of reading in the area of backgrounds and thought that I would recommend a few books that you might find enjoyable as well as educational. The first three are novels, but novels that are informed by good historical scholarship. The newest is called  The Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus and is a wonderful book that anyone who is studying the Gospels, traveling to Israel, or just wants to know more about the background to Jesus studies should read. The second novel is called The Shadow of the Galilean Amazon Link. This is a novel about the time of Jesus and how those living at the time would have reacted to his message. A short letter explaining the historical method for the actions of the characters follows each chapter. The footnotes are great and the novel is well researched. The third novel is The Lost Letters of Pergamum and while the first two books mentioned deal with Jewish history and historical Jesus studies, this book deals more with the Roman history and society. Any or all of these three novels would be great summer reading for the person (like me) who loves stories, but wants to learn more about the New Testament.

A fourth book is not a novel but is very interesting nonetheless. It is called The Reliability of the New Testament. This book is a discussion between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace. Both of these men are well known in the field of textual criticism and the question asked is this “Why would God perfectly inspire a book and then allow copyists errors to creep in?” That is, in what sense can we say that the New Testament that we have today is “inspired and without error?” Ehrman is well known for his skeptical position and calls himself a “happy agnostic.” His book Misquoting Jesus made its way to the New York times bestseller list. Wallace is an evangelical who is well known and respected in the textual critical field. The discussion between the two is enlightening and at times very entertaining. If you would like to know more about textual criticism (and no real background is required to understand the book) this is a valuable resource.

Well that’s about it for the books I have been reading this week, but I’ll try to be more regular in posting things that I am reading and projects that I am working on, just in case they might be of interest to you. For now, I am heading back to the books!

Tolle Lege,

SamLam

Light Summer Reading

I am in the midst of reading completely though all of Josephus’s works this summer. You might find this a great book for the beach, though at about 1500 pages of double columns it can be a little heavy. For those of you who are not familiar with the works of Josephus, he was a historian who wrote from around 60 a.d. until about 95 a.d.

His works are varied, with two of them being very important to the student of the New Testament.  His Antiquities is a history of the Jewish people from the creation of Adam to the Roman Empire’s takeover of Israel.  In this text he is very dependent upon the Hebrew Bible as well as upon other apocryphal works.  It is important because it helps the reader understand how the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was understood during the second temple period.  While much of the information comes from the writings of the OT, a good bit of it also comes from other sources, particularly when he is dealing with the history of the time between the Old and New Testaments.

The second very important work is called The Jewish War and deals with what has been called the Maccabean rebellion, the Roman takeover and the eventual destruction of the temple.  Without this writing, we would know much, much less about what happened during the period between Antiochus IV (Epiphanies) and the destruction of the temple.  It has been said, “all philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato.”  It can just as reliably be said, “The history of the second temple consists of footnotes to Josephus.”

Josephus is available very inexpensively today both in print, on the Internet, and through www.logos.com (my go to Bible study software).  If you want to really understand the history of the time before and during Christ’s time here on earth, there is no substitute for reading Josephus.

This is not to say that he is always accurate, or even always honest.  It is true; nonetheless that much of what Josephus has to say has strong historical backing and can be very helpful in understanding both New Testament backgrounds as well as the times of the New Testament itself.

One of the most controversial items in Josephus is his mention of Jesus Christ (there are about twenty different people named Jesus mentioned in Josephus, one reason that there is no need to get excited when a tomb of Jesus is found, it is much like a tomb of John Smith being found today).  What we have in the current version of Josephus in which he speaks of the Jesus of the New Testament sounds as if Josephus considered him to be the messiah.  In reading the rest of Josephus’s work, it is clear that this is not the case (Jesus Christ is only mentioned twice, once in passing).

This problem has led many to argue that the mention of Christ is an interpolation, that is a Christian insertion.  While this is possible, it is unlikely.  What is more likely is that Christian copyists who preserved these works have altered this passage.  This is a complex issue and I will leave you to your own study, but I hope that I have encouraged you to, at the very least, find a copy of the works of Josephus and do a little reading.  It will help your understanding of the Bible very much.

 

Tolle Lege,

 

DSL

 

Angels in the 2nd Temple Period

Today I have been studying about angels and how they were viewed during the 2nd Temple period. You might notice that the gospels. Particularly the birth narratives, have angels as a very important part of the stories.

When one realizes that angels were quite important in the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocryphal books like Enoch and Tobit, and much of the 2nd Temple period's theology, the understanding of angels is critically important.

One example will suffice in terms of the complexity of understanding angels during this period. In Deuteronomy 32:8 in most English translations (as well as most Hebrew texts) shows the Lord dividing up the world to a group of people. A fragment from the DSS however, has the Lord dividing up the sections of the world to the "sons of God" or the angels. This is one of the areas from which certain theological groups support the idea of a wicked angel who has control over a particular area of the world.

There are other passages in the Hebrew Bible that seem to speak of God gathering together with, and having a council with other supernatural beings (Job 1 being the most obvious).

This leads, of course, to questions like: why are these councils taking place? Who is invited to the councils? Is it fair to call these beings gods of a certain sort (as Satan is called the god of this world)?

For though provoking information on this area see the Dictionary of New Testament Background's article on angels; Anchor Bible Dictionary on angels; the second temple literature mentioned above on angels; Mike Heiser's blog (the Naked Bible) in which he discusses the "divine council;" and of course the text of the Scripture on the function of both evil and good angels. All of these will perhaps cause you to reexamine your view of what angels do and how they should be perceived.

Needless to say, during the second temple period, angels were not seen as friendly little babies who rode on the dashboard of a car, but as incredibly powerful beings who were to be respected and sometimes feared.

Something to think about,
SamLam

Sabbatical

As those few of you who have been reading this blog for  while know, this is the first writing in quite some time.  There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that though the graciousness of the board of Knox Seminary I am on sabbatical for the summer and the fall semester.

For those of you not familiar with a sabbatical, it traces its roots back to the “year of freedom” found in the Hebrew Bible.  Every seventh year, all debts would be forgiven and everyone would start afresh.  The academic sabbatical is slightly different from this.

My sabbatical has several purposes: first it is to allow me, after six (more like twelve) years of teaching to concentrate on renewing my studies, catching up with the latest research, and rekindling my excitement for teaching again; second the purpose is to allow me to write those things (articles and books) that have been on my mind/list for quite some time; third, the very term sabbatical indicates rest and some rest and renewal is expected so that I will come back with renewed vigor, new ideas for teaching, and lots of new ideas to share with my students.

As you might expect, this is not a time of vacation but a time of uninterrupted reading, writing, and creativity for new classes, books, and articles.

With all of this in mind, I hope to be able to blog every couple of days with new ideas about what I am reading, learning, writing, and preparing for my students in the fall.

I have just purchased a new computer.  It is a MacBook Pro and while I have made fun of Mac uses in the past for being “a cult” because of their desire to get others to use the Mac and because of the incredible feeling that one gets in the Mac store, I must say that I have fallen victim to the cult.  Having a Mac is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

I have been using computers since the days when one used cassette tapes for memory.  I remember when I bought the first computer that I ever had with a hard drive.  Ten Megabytes, who would ever be able to use all of that?  My first Modem was 300 baud and I literally could see the letters go across the screen.  We have come a long way.

The thing that I like about the Mac is that it simply does what I want it to do.  I don’t have to download drivers, set up things, etc.  It just does what it is supposed to do.  As a non-geek (disputable by some, ok most) I just want to turn on my machine and have it do what I want.  A second thing about the new Mac-Book pro is that it is super fast.  I open it and it is ready to go.  I click on Logos Bible Software and it does not take minutes to open, but opens right away and is ready to use.  I love that.

The amount of very inexpensive software is incredible.  Right now I am typing on a program called “OmmWriter.”  It not only gives me a beautiful background as well as wonderful background music that is not distracting, but it only cost $5.00.  As an ADD person who constantly wants to check email, look at pictures, run things down on the internet, and a myriad of other things, this is just what I need.

Well, I hope to keep in touch with you every couple of days and tell you what a great thing it is to study all day.

Right now I am reading through Josephus (first-century Jewish historian) as well as the Dictionary of New Testament Background in preparation for a class I plan to teach in the spring called “2nd Temple Jewish History, Leaders, and Literature.”    I also plan to spend a great deal of time reading and studying the nature of the very in Koine Greek literature (that will get your blood going).  If you have any questions just leave a comment and I’ll try to get back to you soon.

Reading and Writing (but no rithmatic),
DrSamLam

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, it has been a while since I updated the blog.  I’ll try to keep that from happening again.  I was at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society last week and heard some really good papers, some pretty good papers, and some that are better left unspoken about.

One of the great things about this meeting is that book publishers are there tempting professors with the newest of the books.  I picked up a few things and I’ll let you know what they were within the next few days in case you are looking for some good theological reading.

I am currently teaching a Sunday School class on James at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and I will be preaching this Sunday (the Sunday after Thanksgiving) at CRPC as well.  I look forward to being privileged to bring the word to God’s people and pray that the Lord will bless.  If you are looking for a place to worship, I would love to see you there.  The sermon will be on the concept of “Thanksgiving” through the difficult times in our lives.

Lately I have been doing a good bit of work on NT Greek and better methods for teaching the language.  I’ll spend some time letting you know how this works out in a few weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  May we look to the Lord of Lords to offer great praise for his grace.

For the Lamb,

DSL