Research Shows Proper Punctuation Is Essential For Accurate Bible Translation

What do you get when you put an exclamation point and a question mark together? This:

To Interrobang, or not to Interrobang: is that even a question!?
(image from Wikimedia commons)

A very interesting piece of punctuation, the Interrobang.

What if John Wycliffe had one handy? He might have found it useful in Genesis 4:9.

 Y am the kepere of my brothir?!

Or maybe not.

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The Introvert’s Secret to Getting Comfortable with People

If I had my choice, I’d spend my time like this:

Comfy Dog knows how to get comfy

Comfy Puppy knows how to get comfy

Comfy Puppy not only knows how to get comfy, but is doing it introverted-style. A puppy after my own heart. But then I read passages like this and I start to wonder if being an introvert in a comfy bed is all there is to life.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

The word “comfort” in that passage is translated from a Greek word close to the one used to describe the role of the Holy Spirit as our counselor in John 14:26. Our English word paraclete – meaning one who helps, advocates or comforts – is a transliteration from that Greek word too. The sense in both John 14:26 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is of someone coming alongside another person to help them.

A Comfortable Translation

Knowing the root for 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 sometimes leads me to read the passage as:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all coming alongsidedness, who comes alongside us in all our troubles, so that we can come alongside those in any trouble with the coming alongsidedness we ourselves receive from God.”

So if you want to get comfortable, you have to get close. As an introvert, I’m not comfortable with that.

Or I should say I’m not comfortable with it until I actually do it. Then I find that it’s not so uncomfortable after all. I think that’s because it’s God working in me, the Holy Spirit himself in me working to bring comfort not only to me but to those who are around me.

I paraclete* others because God paracletes me.

What a comfort.

***

*The word “paraclete” is not a verb. Until now, because I just used it as one. So now it’s a verb.

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The Guaranteed Way to Live the Christian Life

What does it mean to be a Christian? Some people might tell you the Christian life is acting the right way or believing the right things.

It’s not. It’s much bigger than that.

Being a Christian is Christ living in and through you.

Think on that, rest in that truth, find peace in the Spirit of Christ who lives in you. You are never going to be a failure as a Christian because you’re not the one your life in Christ depends on. It depends on Jesus, and our heavenly Father finds his work completely perfect and pleasing.

So I’ll say it again. Your success at the Christian life does not depend on what you do. It depends on what Jesus has already done.

You are a beloved child of God, and that is a perfect way to live.

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When Leonard Nimoy Met JRR Tolkien – The Legend of Bilbo Baggins

Leonard Nimoy passed away today and there are articles praising him all over the internet right now. That’s as it should be, because I think he’s one of the most talented people I’ve had the pleasure to watch on screen.

I also think he knows how to not take himself too seriously, and I have the proof.

If you’ve never seen him sing The Legend of Bilbo Baggins, you’re in for a treat. If you have seen it, you’re in for a repeat treat. It’s campy and fun and gets Tolkien down right.

Thank you, Leonard.

***

Addenda: Did you know back in the late ’60s/early ’70s there was talk of Leonard Nimoy being cast as Aragorn in a live action Lord of the Rings? In his later years he would have made an excellent Gandalf.

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Sex Sells, Sex Provides

[From the archives.]

***

The mother stood in my courtroom, arguing for custody; the father hadn’t bothered to show up. She had no lawyer but was well dressed, well groomed and well spoken. I’d read through her paperwork and didn’t see her occupation, so I asked her.

“I’m an exotic dancer.”

Exotic dancer? I asked in my head. You mean like a stripper?

Out loud I coughed slightly and said, “And what’s your monthly income?”

She told me, and by the end of the hearing I awarded her custody of her son.

Later back in chambers I had a question for my clerk. “That mom, the exotic dancer. Do you think that means she’s a stripper?”

“Oh come on, Judge,” she said from her desk. “What other kind of exotic dancer is there?”

That led me to other questions.

What kind of society is it that makes young mothers feel that becoming a stripper is the best way to be able to provide for their children, to put a roof over their heads and food on the table?

What kind of society is it that makes young fathers feel that they can leave their children behind, forcing the mother to raise the child all on her own even if it means she has to take a job in a strip club?

A Community Subsisting on the Sex Trade

Here’s an article that broke my heart and brought me hope at the same time.

A village in Gujarat hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution which has for centuries exploited women of a poor, marginalised and once nomadic community in the region.

The article explains that this village’s inhabitants once served warring factions by selling their daughters to warlords as entertainers, dancers, sex slaves. The government has tried to help the village build an economy, but farming isn’t as profitable as prostitution so they continued to sell their daughters. One government official said, “Prostitution is a tradition which this community adopted for ages and it has been very normal for them. They did not think they were doing anything wrong.”

Where did I find hope in this? Working as a prostitute lasts only until the woman is engaged to be married so the government and a group of social activists organized a mass wedding of young women before they entered the sex trade. Eight got married and thirteen more got engaged, ending the possibility of life as a prostitute for those twenty-one young women. In a village of 50,000 people it’s not much, but it’s a start.

Ransoming Slaves

It didn’t come cheap. The activists spent $18,000 to make this happen. In a country where the average annual salary is about $1,300 this is a fortune.

We who belong to Jesus Christ should be able to relate. We’ve been ransomed too. The ransom was high: it cost Jesus his life. But that’s who he is, it’s what he does. He sets captives, slaves, the oppressed free!

Our Neighbors: oppressed, captive, enslaved

It’s easy to look at that village and shake our heads at how a society could go so far down that road, so far that prostitution is not only condoned but depended upon for daily sustenance.

Remember the young mother I spoke of at the beginning of this article? That’s not in some far off village of former nomads. That’s here and now.

She takes her son to school, she goes to PTA meetings and parent/teacher conferences, she drives him to soccer practice, and she goes to court to make sure there is a legal order that says she gets to make the decisions about what’s best for her son.

She works as an exotic dancer to make this all possible.

So I ask:

What kind of society do we live in?

What is the Body of Christ doing about it?

What are you doing? (And what am I doing?)

You may not be able to do much but remember that whatever you do, it’s a start.

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Pastors: Stop Disrespecting Women With Your Chauvinistic Name-Calling

Treat … older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters … . (Paul’s advice to a young pastor, 1 Timothy 5:1-2.)

***

Jen Wilkin wrote a post for The Gospel Coalition on how men pastors can better relate to women in their congregations. I thought she did a good job, even though I don’t agree with the complementarian doctrine she touches upon at some points.

Doug Wilson, a prominent pastor who is decidedly complementarian, felt differently. He thought Wilkin’s “structure” was inadequate and would lead to trouble. Among his criticisms he wrote:

And briefly, the last distinction we must have is the distinction between the wise and intelligent women who understood exactly what Wilkin was getting at, … and the clueless women who blindly liked Wilkin’s article on Facebook, but who are themselves pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes.

I and a couple other people suggested to him that calling women names is disparaging to women, but Mr. Wilson denies that. He instead questioned the intelligence of those who questioned him and said:

All I have to do is pop some particular sin associated with some women, however qualified, and a certain kind of mind reads it as an attack on all women. If I say that one woman can sin with her breasts, I must be saying that all women are sinning with their breasts. If I say that one woman is being pushy, I am arguing that all women are pushy. If I say that one woman plays dumb, then I am supposed to be maintaining that all women are playing dumb.

The examples he laid out in that paragraph bear no resemblance to the way he spoke of women in the original post. Mr. Wilson didn’t say, “This one woman is unintelligent”, and then found himself unfairly accused of saying all women are unintelligent. Likewise, no one said he called one woman a “pushy broad” and then concluded he must think all women are “pushy broads”. Rather, what he did was divide women into two groups and then resorted to name-calling for those in the disfavored category. This is what shows his lack of respect for women in general. After all, if you claim to respect all women but resort to chauvinistic name-calling when you disagree with a group of women, then you don’t respect women.

In other words, Mr. Wilson said he agrees with one group of women: the intelligent and wise. He said he disagrees with the other group of women; but does he merely label them unintelligent and unwise?

No, he labels them “pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes.” And Mr. Wilson thinks this is all right? He thinks it’s appropriate for a pastor to call women names – as long as they deserve it?

That’s not very pastoral.

He should stop.

***

Treat … older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters … . (1 Timothy 5:1-2.)

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Shaming Those Who Deserve It Most

Ever felt like you need to tell someone they should be ashamed of themselves? I know I have. I’ve felt the urge to call someone out for their shameful behavior, and admit that sometimes I’ve not only felt the urge but followed right on through with it and done my level best to shame them.

It’s not a pretty sight, and there’s nothing cute or funny in it like when this guy* does it:

Gomer Pyle

One big problem with calling someone out for their shameful behavior, at least for me personally, is that it opens me up to criticism for all the things I should be ashamed of too.

I’m not a fan of that.

I also don’t think that shaming others is the right way to deal with problems anyway. There might be a reason to tell someone where they’ve gone wrong, but it should never be at the expense of their dignity. After all, every single person who acts shamefully is also a person who has been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:14.)

So when it comes to shameful behavior, I’d rather remember the caution Jesus gave us:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42.)

I don’t want to call out “Shame, shame!” I want to call out words of grace and mercy and kindness. And I want to receive those words as my sisters and brothers reach toward my eye to remove the speck or log or whatever I need help with.

That’s much better than shaming anyone.

***

*10,000 interwebz to anyone who identifies that character, and another 10,000 interwebz for the context in which he’d call out the shame. Multiple prizes will be awarded: every commenter who gives the correct or nearly correct answer, even if they got the answer by reading another comment, will win! Interwebz may be illusory and non-existent, but they certainly are worthless.

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50 Shades of Lent – a movie review

[They’re already working on the script for a sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. I’m not waiting for the next movie to come out. Here’s my review, and I bet it’s spot on for accuracy.]

***

50 Shades of Lent explores the relationship between a man-with-a-religious-sounding-name and a woman-who-refuses-to-use-the-brains-God-gave-her.

As the Lenten season approaches, the man talks the woman into signing a contract that gives him total power over her decisions for the next 6 weeks. She soon discovers that when it comes to deciding what to give up for Lent the only thing she’s given up is the ability to decide what to give up for Lent.

The man acts arbitrarily, capriciously and maliciously. One day he tells her she has to give up all dairy, the next she hears that milk is back on the menu but all non-dairy products are anathema.

He subjects her to ridicule by declaring all her outfits must comprise plaids, stripes and polka dots, all at once. She starts to breathe easy when he relents the next day, only to find that now all colors except mauve are off limits for her clothing choices.

Then comes the worst day of all, the day she’s suspected would arrive but dreaded all along: he tells her she’s not to use any words with the letter Y in them. The fiend has found the perfect way to shut down any attempts she might have dared to ask “whY”.

The man is a master manipulator.

Most movie goers would suspect that the filmmakers made a glaring error in calling this 50 Shades of Lent. After all, Lent isn’t fifty days long.

This is where – Oh the humanity! – this is where the script takes its most devious turn: the contract allows him to change what she’s giving up for Lent more than once per day.

The maximum number of restrictions under the contract is fifty, but she doesn’t know when he’ll hit her with the old switcheroo next. Will it affect her diet, her wardrobe, her vocabulary?

This movie will have you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the opportunity to leave the theater without making too much of a disturbance.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss ten bucks goodbye.

You’ll laugh at yourself for ever buying a ticket, you’ll cry at the thought of never getting back those 90 minutes of your life, and you’ll kiss … well, you’ll still kiss ten bucks goodbye no matter what.

See you at the movies! (But not that one.)

***

[You might think that this isn’t how real faith in God is expressed, that no one would subject themselves to the whims of another person when it comes to as important a matter as exercising faith. I think they might.

After all, is it that much of a stretch from allowing another person to manipulate your feelings and dictate what you wear, where you live, what car you drive and how brutally you have sex? That’s not love; that’s a power trip. Just as some people fall prey to people in relationships, others fall prey to those who seek to manipulate them in their faith, another power trip.

Which do you think is worse?]

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How To Never Get Burned Again

I’ve read these two Bible passages more times than I can count – one about God appearing to Moses in the Burning Bush, and the other concerning Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace. Yet it was only recently I noticed an interesting connection between these two events. See if you can spot it:

Moses and the Burning Bush (Byzantine Mosaic)

Moses and the Burning Bush
(Byzantine Mosaic)

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:2-4.)

and,

King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Simeon Solomon, 1863)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
(Simeon Solomon, 1863)

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. (Daniel 3:24-27.)

The Fiery Connection

Not one twig was burned by the fire of God.

Not one hair was singed in that fire with God.

And our faith will not be destroyed, because fire cannot consume faith no matter how hot it seems to get in our lives. (1 Peter 1:6-7.)

This is what it means to belong to Jesus. We do not need to fear the fire because we are for eternity in the fire of God and with God.

Fire it up.

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The Best Way to Ask the Right Question

[Updated from the archives, this post originally appeared as a guest piece for Aimee Byrd at Housewife Theologian.]

***

There’s an old story about the time a pathologist was cross-examined in court:

“Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?”

“All of my autopsies are performed on dead people.”

Cross examination is an art.

Asking Questions, Getting Answers

Some people who testify in my courtroom don’t want to be there. Others are very nervous about sitting in the witness chair, but know they need to do their best to answer the questions. And then there are the witnesses who are eager, so eager, to tell us everything they know whether they’ve been asked for the information or not.

The attorneys, on the other hand, ask questions in order to get the information out in a certain way. That’s important for a couple of reasons. One is that the witness may be trying to say something that would be improper for the jury to hear. Another is that – under our adversarial system of conducting trials – the attorneys are entitled to put on their case in the light most favorable to their client, and a witness who blurts out information without being asked for it gets in the way of that.

Here’s some insight on the process:

… in the courts, the character of the evidence depends on the shape of the examination, and a good cross-examiner can do wonders. He will not elicit falsehoods from an honest witness. But, in relation to the total truth in the witness’s mind, the structure of the examination is like a stencil. It determines how much of the total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest. (C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image.)

Not quite fair, you might think? What happens if something important is left out? That’s the other lawyer’s job, to fill in the gaps with more questions and answers.

The process works.

Questioning God

The Bible is full of questions and answers, often questions of God himself. There’s that scene in Genesis 18 where Abraham repeatedly asks God if he’s really going to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah even if there are a number of righteous people living there. How about 50? 45? 40? 30? 20? 10? God allows himself to be interrogated and repeatedly answers that he will not destroy the cities if that many righteous people can be found in them.

Jesus had a lot of questions thrown at him as well. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Who’s my neighbor?” “Are you the one?” He never rebuked anyone for asking an honest question.

Our God is not afraid to be questioned. How could he be? He’s God.

Yet in one story the questions seem to border on impertinence.

Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. (Job 31:35.)

Job calls God his accuser? We know that our accuser is not God, but Satan. How will God answer this outrageous charge?

By assuring Job that he is God and there is no other. (Job 38-41.) And then God does something utterly remarkable. He praises Job and blesses him.

Unbelievable. Job tries to take God to task – aiming to sit God down in the witness chair and make him answer up for his actions – and God treats Job with dignity, showering him with favor and praise and blessings.

I think Job knew what God was like all along, because in the midst of his anguish and questioning he could yet praise him. I am glad to join him in saying:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, apart from my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!(Job 19:25-17.)

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