Friday, October 29, 2010

We'll Know Soon

There really hasn't been much to say since it was announced last year that the TNIV would be discontinued in favor of an updated version of the NIV.  I still regret deeply that decision, and have strong doubts about whether the new version of the NIV will retain the TNIV's commitment to avoid gender exclusive language where it is clear that the original intention of a passage wasn't to speak to males only.

We'll see soon whether or not those fears have been founded.  Zondervan has announced that the new NIV will be available for online viewing on November 1st.  I know I'll be looking with interest.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kicks on 66: Los Güeros

If my wife and I can claim any single restaurant as "our place," this is it.  Like a number of restaurants we discovered when we were dating, we first went to Los Güeros having found a coupon for them in the Entertainment book, but we really got attached to Los Güeros during our premarital counseling in Arcadia, after which we would go just a little further down the street to enjoy dinner at Los Güeros each week.  A year or so later, when we moved to Monrovia, we were thrilled to discover that our new apartment was just around the corner from our favorite restaurant!

It's true enough that Mexican food places are fairly plentiful in Southern California, of varying degrees of quality.  Besides the fact that Los Güeros simply provides "good food," one thing that makes them really stand out is the guacamole cart.  The cart will come right up to your table, and you can tell the server exactly what ingredients you want to include in your guacamole (we add everything except the peppers, since my wife doesn't have a very high tolerance for spicy foods), and you can watch the guacamole prepared right there in front of you.  Guacamole doesn't come any fresher than that!

The prices are quite reasonable, but this is further enhanced if you bring a coupon, which generally isn't at all hard to do.  Besides the one you can get from the Entertainment book, similar "free entree" coupons are easily found in local publications, and the servers will occasionally provide some at the restaurant itself as an incentive to return (not that you're likely to need much arm-twisting!).  If you're going to bring a group, I recommend the coupons you can get at Restaurant.com, but the dinner coupon requires a minimum purchase of $40, so it's not really viable if there are only two of you (but if you reach that minimum, it's totally worth the effort!).

We usually go to the original Los Güeros location on Huntington (that's the Route 66 one), but the restauant has been so successful that they've opened up a second, larger, location on Myrtle in Old Town Monrovia.  Either site is worth checking out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Hebrews 7-11

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Hebrews, chapters 7-11.


Chapter 7

Chapter 8
Chapter 9
  • Verses 1-5 - Scholer points out that the fact that Hebrews references the tabernacle (as opposed to the temple, which would have been more relevant to the era) is a sign that the author is concerned less about religious abuses of his Jewish contemporaries, and more with the tradition itself.
  • Verses 16, 17 - The TNIV uses the word "will" to translate the same Greek word previously translated as "covenant," presumably because "will" connects better to the point the author is making in reference to death (and, indeed, we know of covenants the don't require either of the parties making them to have died, despite what verse 17 would sound like if "covenant" were used there).  But it's probably worth remembering that the same word previously translated "covenant" is being used here, and not some new term.
  • Verse 26 - I imagine that this verse (and parts of Chapter 10 that follow it) is one of the reasons some Protestants have trouble with the idea that of communion as a "sacrifice" (not a term Presbyterians tend to use, anyway) in which the real body and real blood of Christ are present (in the bread and the wine, as in beliefs that argue for transubstantiation).
Chapter 10
  • Verse 1 - Sounds like Plato's Forms....
  • Verse 25 - The author clearly intends that Christians should keep meeting each other regularly.  Today we talk of "going to church" in this vein.  Besides the admonishment to do so, I do feel that people need to be given reasons why continuing to go to church is important.  The author gives at least one such reason right here: so that believers may encourage one another.
  • Verse 26 - This verse must be a source of great anxiety for many.  After all, who among us can claim to have not "deliberately" sinned at some point after becoming Christians?
Chapter 11
  • Why does the author mention the particular people he does, in his litany of "faith"?



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Friday, October 22, 2010

Theological Competence Exam - Passed!

In the past, I've mentioned my attempts to pass the ordination exams for the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Specifically, having passed the other four exams (Bible Content, Polity, Biblical Exegesis, and Worship & Sacraments) more than a decade ago, I struggled to pass the final remaining exam: Theological Competence, with five attempts (the most recent of which in 2001) that ended without success.

I am pleased to report that this is no longer my story.

Yesterday morning, I picked up a small envelope from the Office of Presbyterian Ministries on campus at Fuller.  Inside was the nearly blank sheet of paper you see above with four handwritten words on it: "Mark - Passed Theological Comp!"

After phoning my wife, I put a notice on Facebook to inform my friends, and thank you all for your words of support and congratulations.  My wife soon showed up at my office to put up some appropriate decorations in celebration of completing this more than decade-long journey.

What's next?  My Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) will still require that I complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE, yeah I get them mixed up in my speech all the time, too...), which means that I'll need to sign up at a local hospital to work on weekends for about nine months or so.  I don't know when I'll be starting this next step toward ordination right now, but will do so soon.

For now, I'm just enjoying having completed this step....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Millstones and False Ultimatums

A recent Christianity Today article about Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler has generated quite a lot of discussion.  Long-time readers will already know, especially given my outspoken defense of the rights of women to full access to Christian ministry, that I disagree with Mohler on a number of issues.  However, I'm not writing now to talk about Mohler, per se.

One article responding to Mohler's claims—specifically, the assertion that one cannot believe in evolution yet be an evangelical or biblical Christian (a claim I also dispute)—is especially worth reading.  But the article itself, written by the president of the BioLogos Foundation, caught my attention less than this individual comment responding to it by one "Jon Garvey":
The real danger, it seems to me, is not disagreement but polarisation.

On the one hand, the young people who, torn between fundamentalism and accepting science reject Christianity altogether. Millstones and necks come to mind: to these fundamentalism is a “skandalon”....
Mr. Garvey is, of course, referencing a famous teaching of Jesus.  Here's that teaching as it appears in Matthew 18:5-7 (TNIV):
5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

7"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
Generally, when I hear this passage, I've always heard it as something like "don't teach people that sinful things aren't sinful."  Rather, we should teach them the ways of God.  Indeed, I expect that Mohler would argue that his insistence on creationism and that women should not be ministers would be in keeping with his convictions about this very passage.

Garvey, however, is arguing something rather different on the basis of Jesus' words.  Mohler (as referenced in the BioLogos article) suggests that atheists and he agree that evolutionary theory is incompatible with Christianity.  Thus, a person who cannot believe in creationism has no choice but to be an atheist.  Leaving aside whether this duality actually does represent the only choice available, it is undeniably a fact that many people, having been taught that evolution is indeed incompatible with Christian faith, upon learning more about scientific knowledge from the secular world, do end up abandoning the faith.

Could it be that this tragic turn of events is actually the "millstone" that causes a person to stumble? (Incidentally, "skandalon" refers to a Greek word representing something that causes a person to stumble or fall—in this case into sin—it is the word from which we get "scandal")  Not the "false teaching" of evolution (granting the enormous assumption that it is false simply for the sake of argument), but the false choice that one must believe in creationism in order to be a Christian?

How tragic that, in trying to defend the faith, passionate Christians may well be working against Jesus' intentions.  I guess it wouldn't be the first time....

Monday, October 18, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Hebrews 2-6

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Hebrews, chapters 2-6.


Chapter 2

  • Verses 6-8 - The author seems to be quoting Psalm 8:4-6, but there are alterations significant enough that the footnotes to the TNIV linked here go to the unusual step of quoting the Psalm version rather than simply referencing it.  Are these alterations significant?  (I should note that the shift from singular to plural seems to be present in the TNIV, but not in other translations.  I'll leave this to others to determine what liberties were taken at what level of interpretation.)
  • Verse 12 - References Psalm 22:22, again with changes (although not so significant that the footnotes spell this out so definitively)
  • Verse 13 - Referencing Isaiah 8:17-18, if fragmentarily.  The author of Hebrews references the Hebrew Scriptures quite a lot, and I'll be pulling back from mentioning each example.  However, the question of why these particular Scriptures are use remains important to understanding the book of Hebrews.
  • Verses 14-18 - While I don't think for a minute that the writer of Hebrews wants to ignore Jesus' divinity (see verse 9), he especially wants to emphasize both the fact of Jesus' humanity, and the reason why it was important that Jesus be human.

Chapter 3
  • Verse 1: "our apostle and high priest" - It's interesting to see Jesus called an "apostle" here (usually I hear "apostle" as a person "sent" by Jesus himself.  I assume here it is intended to point to the fact that Jesus was "sent" by God the Father).  The "high priest" association grows in importance as Hebrews continues, and while I am confident that this term had huge significance to the original audience, I fear that some of this is lost on Christians today.  Especially in Protestant denominations (which tend not to have leaders called "priests"), the natural tendency (it seems to me) is to equate "priest" with "pastor" or "minister" (the kind of leader we do recognize).  But "priest" carries connotation specific to acts of sacrifice (especially for repentance) which don't connect so specifically to ministers in our Protestant churches  (This is especially apparent in denominational differences of how the Lord's Supper is observed, but I don't really want to get into those distinctions here).
  • Verses 7-19 - As David Scholer points out, Hebrews seems to be written out of pastoral concerns that believers might fall away from the faith.  Illustrations like this one from Jewish history would have had particularly profound impact in making such a point.
Chapter 4
  • Verse 12 - What does the author of Hebrews mean when writing about “the word of God”? We use that term about Scripture, including this passage, but the person writing Hebrews almost certainly had no idea that this letter would become Scripture when it was being written. What other kinds of “word of God” might have been in the author's mind?
Chapter 5
  • Verses 6, 10 - The first of several references to Melchizedek, who outside of Hebrews only appears in Genesis 14:18-20 (and is referenced in Psalm 110:4, which is what verse 6 here is quoting).  Comments on David Scholer's lecture on the significance of Melchizedek in Hebrews may be found here.
Chapter 6
  • Verse 9 - Having said some fairly pointed things to the Hebrews, the author now turns to words of reassurance that he (and those with him?) "are convinced of better things" for them.  I can't help but wonder how much of this is a rhetorical device, and how much the author really is convinced of such good things.  If he were, why write the letter?
  • Verse 10: "God is not unjust" - When I hear some people talk about God being "good" or "just," in apparent defense against those who might argue that God is not good or just, their defense often comes off as sounding like "if God does something, that makes it good or just, because God is the arbiter of what is good or just."  I find such defenses unsatisfactory.  I also get the impression that this is not the kind of definition of justice that the author of Hebrews is using here.  The author isn't defending apparently unjust actions as being just because God did them, so as to change the definition of justice to "what God wants."  Rather, the author is appealing to God's nature.  God, being the kind of God that God is, cannot do something unjust.  God is a fair God (more than fair, we might argue, but that gets ahead of ourselves), and will reward the good work that God's people are said here to have done.



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Friday, October 15, 2010

Starting the Year Off Right

In addition to my blogging here, I have been asked to contribute a weekly entry to the official Fuller Blogs site.  Check it out, but if you just want to see only my stuff, you can do that, too.  Better yet, if you have Facebook, you can follow the site (and Transforming Seminarian, also!) via the NetworkBlogs app.  I'd really appreciate if folks would confirm that I'm one of the authors on the Fuller site (and if you know one of the other authors, let them know, too), as that will give me greater flexibility in promoting it.

The following is an entry I posted to Fuller Blogs just over a week ago.

Before the Festival of Beginnings. Before Fall classes start. Before new students have started to arrive on campus, Fuller kicks off the new academic year with the annual Faculty/Staff Welcome.

The event has two major components. The first is a breakfast, usually held in the breezeway of the School of Psychology building (officially called the C. Davis and Annette Weyerhaeuser building, but pretty much no one actually uses that name much). The Deans, Vice Presidents and other administrators traditionally act as servers, providing coffee and orange juice for staff while they eat, and President Mouw and his wife, Phyllis, go from table to table to personally welcome the people who work behind the scenes to make sure that Fuller does the work it is called to do.

As people eat and enjoy the fellowship of fellow staff members from all over campus, there is traditionally some kind of game or activity present to get people thinking about some aspect of Fuller that the administrators want to highlight that year. A few years ago, this involved trading cards featuring people who have figured prominently in Fuller’s history. This year, we were given small potted plants, intended to tie in with the theme chosen for the year: “Joyful, Patient, Faithful.” This is (as those who attended the Festival of Beginnings during Week 1 may remember) a reference to Romans 12:12. We were then encouraged to go to one of several tables set up in the breezeway to decorate our paper pot however we saw fit. I made mine look somewhat like a Jack-o-Lantern, considering that Fall was just about to begin.

After breakfast, everyone goes inside Travis Auditorium to enjoy the second major component of the annual welcome event: corporate worship. Again, the theme chosen for the year is highlighted, as everyone sings praise songs and hymns and President Mouw gives a brief welcome sermon discussing ways in which we find joy in the hope of God, patience in times of hardship, and show our faithfulness as a praying community. One would hope that it would go without saying that worship is at the center of everything we do at Fuller, but I find that this is only true if we are intentional about making it so. The Faculty/Staff Welcome event is just one of those intentional times. If it’s not too much of a conflict of interests for me to say so (my wife is Director of Chapel, after all), I’d suggest visiting the Fuller Chapel page on Facebook to find others.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gorillaz Picking on Gleeks

I admit it.  I'm a Gleek.

Full disclosure.  I'm still working my way through the first season of Glee (with the help of Netflix).  I've still got one more disc left to go to finish out the year, and then I'll be able to catch up with Season Two via Hulu.  My wife and I may be latecomers to the fad, but once we finally saw an episode, we were hooked.  I expect that anyone who's ever struggled with issues of identify and acceptance (and I expect that's anyone) can find something to identify with in this show.

One aspect (of many) that we enjoy about Glee is the variety of music used for the show.  It's not all show tunes, but neither is it all pop music (although these are certainly the two most common genres used), and the music has spanned the past several decades, so it's not just stuff that teens and college students enjoy, but includes music for us "older folks," as well.

As with any show that uses music originally created by other people (which means, for Glee, practically all of it), Glee has to get permission from the rights-holders of the original music to use it.  The producers have expressed surprise that so many artists have granted such permission (in fact, Madonna granted them the rights to her entire catalog for the Madonna-based episode they did last year!), but it shouldn't surprise anyone that a few artists have refused to grant it.

One of those holdouts, apparently, is the "virtual band," Gorillaz.  Lead singer Damon Albarn has apparently gone public about this position despite the fact that the folks at Glee haven't even asked for such permission yet:
[N]ot that they've asked us because they haven't, and now they definitely won't.
I'm not sure I understand the point of this "pre-emptive strike."  If you don't want the show to do your stuff, then don't let them, but no need to bother the rest of the world (which predominately likes the show) about it.

And the Glee-griping doesn't stop there.  Albarn also throws in his two cents at the news that Glee covers have now hit the record for the most appearances on Billboard's Top 100 chart for non-solo acts (a record previously held by the Beatles):
"Those songs won't last like the Beatles by any stretch of their imagination," he says. "They'll be forgotten in a few years' time."
I'm sure he's correct, but so what?  Glee has been created for an entirely different purpose than a pop group.  They don't exist to create music.  Rather, they use existing music as a vehicle to tell a story.  If the music wasn't already known, or already popular, Glee's use of it would be meaningless.  Glee couldn't exist without "real" musicians doing their thing, and I think that pretty much everyone involved is fully aware of that fact.

It seems to be an unfortunate fact of life that stirring up controversy is better publicity than just doing what you do, and doing it well.  Glee knows this fact, and I don't think I'm surprising anyone who's watched it when I acknowledge that the show's not for everyone.  I'm sure the "Religious Right" (for example) is furious that it's doing so well.

Gorillaz has obviously figured this out, as well.  I know I'd never heard of them before reading this article.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Titus 1-3, Philemon, and Hebrew 1

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

Now that I'm reaching the end of the New Testament, books come fast and furious.  This is the week in which we'll be looking at parts of three books in a single week, but believe it or not, that won't be the record!  By the end of the year, there will be a week that tackles parts of four different books in the same week!  This week, I am working through Titus, chapters 1-3, the single chapter of Philemon., and the first chapter of Hebrews.


Titus
Chapter 1
  • Verse 6 -  I'm not a preachers' kid (I guess I am an elder's kid, but don't recall when my parents first became elders.  Perhaps not as late as my leaving for college, but certainly not until I was already reasonably grown-up), but knowing the reputation that "PKs" often have today, I wonder if Paul (see my comments two weeks ago for comments about authorship) understood how difficult growing up as the child of a church leader would be.  (I also note that Paul is telling Titus about the selection of church leaders, and it's certainly different for kids to be brought up--in general--than it is for them to be brought up by people who are already leaders) 
  • Verse 10 - I'm not sure if Paul is suggesting that those who advocate for circumcision (I'm assuming Christians who advocate for a return to Jewish practices, rather than non-Christian Jews1) are prone to rebellion because of their views, but that's certainly how this verse comes off....
  • Verse 12 - A footnote in the TNIV attributes this quote to Cretan philosopher Epimenides.  Apparently this attribution is asserted by several writers in antiquity, but the writings from Epimenides himself seem to no longer exist except in these quotations and attributions by others.2
Chapter 2
  • Verse 5 - Paul suggests that wives should be submissive to husbands.  It is important to note that this letter (as with the other Pastoral Epistles) was written to a specific context (made clear by not only this, but other references within the letters) in which "heretics... have concentrated their attention on women."  This directive must be understood within that context, and "[does] not represent at all the full scope of Paul's approach to women in ministry in the Church."3
Chapter 3
  • Verse 9 - With the way some people absolutize certain instructions found in the biblical texts, I'm kind of surprised not to hear routine blanket prohibitions against doing family trees!  I guess people are somehow able to discern that Paul must be complaining about genealogies for some specific reason....
Philemon
  • Verses 10-11 - Paul is having some fun playing off of the literal meaning of the slave Onesimus' (assumed?) name: "useful." 
  • Verse 14 - Paul tells Philemon that he's not trying to force Philemon into anything, and is seeking a "voluntary" response.  Even so, it's hard to ignore the impression that Paul expects a particular response!
  • Verse 22 - "And don't think I'm not going to find out how you responded!"
Hebrews
Chapter 1
  • I count no fewer than seven Old Testament references in this chapter alone (admittedly with the help of the footnotes)!

1See A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (The New Century Bible Commentary), Eerdmans, 1982, p. 175, for a similar view.
2See Hanson, p. 176.
3David M. Scholer, "Male Headship: God's Intention or Man's Invention?" in WATCHword, Vol. 12, No. 1 (February/March 1988), p. 7.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Special Transformers Feature: Freeway (and the Throttlebots)

From 1984 to 1986, the Mini Vehicles line of Transformers served the Transformers line well, offering children fully transformable toys at a low price range.  But by 1987, Hasbro had run through the molds they had inherited from the Japanese Micro Change line, having already retooled many of those molds for the 1986 line.  It was time to try something new, attempting to meet the demand for toys at (about) the same price while recognizing the added expense of paying for new designs and rising prices for raw materials.  The Throttlebots were the first attempt at such new toys for this price point.

Like the Mini Vehicles before them, the Throttlebots were all Autobots (perhaps the team name "Throttlebots" was a clue).  Besides their comparatively small size, the Throttlebots also shared a gimmick: pull-back motors that (like the Mini-Spies that came a couple of years before) allowed them to race for a short distance across a table or the floor.  No doubt the added action feature was an attraction to many children.

The play feature probably also served, at least for a while, to make up for the comparably limited robot modes.  All Throttlebots had exactly the same transformation.  Pull the shell of the car up, push the wheels forward, pull the back of the car down to reveal the head, and swing the side panels out for the arms.  Even for toys of this era, this was sub-par for articulation (that is, there was none!).  But at least the pull-back motor still worked, even in this mode (the Mini-Spies couldn't do that!).

Ultimately, the simplistic (and similar) toys made most of the Throttlebot characters (including Freeway, who's managed to go unnamed through this entire blog entry up until now) pretty forgettable as distinct entities.  In fact, the artists had a tendency to forget who was who pretty often, and seeing panels of miscolored and/or misnamed Throttlebots was not uncommon.  One notable exception to this was Goldbug, who was created to be a new version of the popular character, Bumblebee.  Since Mini Vehicles were no longer being made, Bumblebee's original toy could no longer be sold.  Someone at Hasbro must have really liked him, because the effort to keep the character around in this way was unprecedented for the Transformers line (some wise-aleck's going to tell me that Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod did this first, but I see that as an entirely different phenomenon, so there!).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Remebering the Quantum Leap Comic Book

Fans of Science Fiction over a certain age will remember a television show called Quantum LeapQuantum Leap was a time travel adventure featuring Scott Bakula (later to star as the captain on Star Trek: Enterprise) and Dean Stockwell (a veteran actor who has been in the business since he was a child in the 1940's, but probably most well-known today for the updated Battlestar Galactica).  Bakula played Sam Becket (not the poet!), a super-genius who invented a means of time travel within the span of one's own lifetime (in Becket's case, that meant that periods from 1953 to the then-present were considered fair game), while Stockwell played Al, who remained in Sam's original time but could communicate with Sam through holographic brainwave transmissions. The basic idea was that Sam would trade bodies with someone in the past, living their life for a while.  Sam would "leap" out of that time (and trade places with yet another person) after having changed history for the better.

The show lasted for five seasons on NBC, and a handful of episodes are available for viewing on Hulu.  I invite readers to go check it out, but I'm not looking to talk about the television series itself.  Like many popular television shows, original Quantum Leap stories were also created for other media.  There was a series of paperback books, for example, that ran for several years.  For right now, however, I want to talk about the Quantum Leap comic book.

Published by the now-defunct Innovation Corporation, Quantum Leap was fairly ambitious for a comic book of its time (the early 1990s).  Nearly all of the covers featured fully-painted artwork, a laborious feat that even today tends to be reserved only for special issues.  The stories attempted to play with the fact that Al (being a hologram) couldn't directly interact with (most of) his surroundings in the past, and considered some fairly deep social and philosophical issues that rivaled those posed by the show itself.

Following a convention set by the television show, each story would end with Sam leaping out of one person and directly into the next, creating a teaser for the next story.  While this admittedly made it difficult to reconcile the continuity of the comic with that set by the show, it preserved the feel of the show quite nicely, to say nothing of giving readers a reason to want to pick up the next issue!

That's not to say that that comic was without its faults.  Like many television tie-in media, the tie-in sometimes did things with their story that simply didn't jive with the way the world worked on the original.  For example, the comic book authors were inconsistent about following the rules of time travel as established by the television series.  Put simply, Sam was put in a particular time and place "to put right what once went wrong."  That means that when Al would tell Sam about how history unfolded, Sam was always there to change something.  Yet, in several instances in the comic book, Sam was there to ensure that something would stay the same.  For example, in issue four, Sam becomes a game show contestant during the time of the 1950's quiz show scandals.  Sam is there to make sure that the right contestant wins the show, so that an important $25,000 would be donated to MIT, enabling research to take place that would mean that the hologram portion of the Quantum Leap Project would exist.  If history doesn't unfold correctly, Al can't help Sam through his missions.  But, according to the way time travel works on the show, Sam shouldn't have been there in the first place!  Sam never changes anything to unfold differently than it did without him (or, if the guy who Sam took the place of never won, Quantum Leap as we know it could never have existed).

One noteworthy exception to this takes place in issue 12.  Sam leaps into an old hermit who runs a gas station in the middle of the desert, presumably because it allowed the hermit to avoid dealing with people most of the time.  When an unknown actress drives by, Sam gives her directions (with the help of Al) and gas, and she goes on her way.  It turns out, the guy that Sam leaped into wasn't just a hermit who avoided talking to people, but he couldn't even read, and didn't have any maps.  He could never have given the directions the actress needed to avoid dying lost and alone out in the desert.  Just before Sam leaps out, he learns the actress's name: Norma Jean Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe).

Unfortunately, this high point was immediately followed by a sign of the comic's imminent demise.  The teaser at the end of this issue promised to have Sam leap into person dying of a heart attack (we are told in the letter column that Sam is to assume the role of "Ziggy," the computer that Al uses to tell Sam how history worked out the first time, and to extrapolate what Sam is most likely supposed to change).  This story was never told.  There was one more new story to come out, but this one featured Sam switching places with a telepathic alien!  While this was indeed an interesting story, and certainly beyond the scope of the television show's budget, it just wasn't the same.  That story, also, promised a future for the series, as Sam is seen to leap into a toddler at the zoo.  But then Innovation folded, and the Quantum Leap comic was no more.

Back-issues can be found with a bit of digging.  There were 13 "regular" issues and one "Special Edition" (which just reprinted the first issue with some new--and some corrected--art).  Given the going rate of back-issue comics these days, you'll probably pay as much or more for shipping as for the issues themselves, so I would certainly encourage you to pick them up if you get the chance.  Happy Hunting!

Monday, October 04, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: 1 Timothy 6 and 2 Timothy 1-4

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through 1 Timothy, chapter 6 and 2 Timothy, chapters 1-4.


Chapter 6

  • Verse 2 - The footnote suggests that the phrase translated here as "devoted to the welfare of their slaves" might be translated "benefit from the service of their slaves.'  This is a rather significant difference of opinion.  Hanson notes the difficulty of interpreting this verse, and suggests a possible third option, whereby Paul (see last week for a brief discussion of the authorship question) is intending to suggest that believing masters "share with slaves in Christian service."1 
  • Verses 3-5 - Sadly, I expect that both conservatives and liberals probably see this passage as some kind of a "slam dunk" to be used against the other side....
  • Verse 8 - Although clearly in the context of encouraging Christians not to be greedy, I"m glad to note that a legitimate set of needs is mentioned.  Not all can assume that food and clothing are sufficiently available.
2 Timothy
Chapter 1
  • Verse 5 - Complementarians and Egalitarians alike agree that Paul sees a valuable ministry available to women.  The disagreement is how far such ministry may extend. 
  • Verse 15 - Hanson suggests that Paul is not trying to suggest that all the Christians in Asia had abandoned the faith (and thus, Paul), but rather that, when Paul was arrested to be taken to Rome, Paul was deserted by his Christian friends at that time.2
Chapter 2
  • Verses 1-7 - Hanson suggests that Paul is here trying to say that full-time church workers should be content with the pay they are given by the church, and thus should not seek to supplement that income by some other profession.3  This would be in contrast to what Paul wrote in, say, 1 Corinthians 9, where although he asserts his right to be paid by the church, Paul does not accept such payment, and indeed he makes his living as a tent-maker.  But in both passages, the right of church workers to be paid seems to be asserted.
  • Verses 23-26 - While I affirm the need to use instruction and correction as the need arises, it seems that the ability to do so "gently" is a tremendously difficult task.
Chapter 3
  • Verse 8 - Don't bother doing a word search to figure out where the Bible elsewhere mentions Jannes and Jambres.  You won't find them.  They come from Jewish tradition, and are supposed to be the names of the magicians Pharaoh used in Exodus 8:18-19 to produce gnats such as God had plagued Egypt with.4  (I always wondered why the magicians tried to duplicate the plagues.  Wouldn't that just make things worse?  Surely it would have been better to reverse the effects of the plagues!)
Chapter 4
  • Verse 16: "May it not be held against them" - This comes on the tail end of a litany of comments about various people who had abandoned and/or harmed Paul (with a peppering of the few faithful exceptions).  In that litany and elsewhere in this letter, Paul seems unafraid to call down God's condemnation against those who oppose the faith.  Yet, here, he strikes a very conciliatory tone.  The contrast is striking. 
  • Verses 9, 21 - Paul makes a couple of requests for Timothy to visit, and to do so soon.  It is hard to escape the conclusion that Paul does so because he feels that he will die soon.  It should be noted that in this era where mail had to be hand-delivered, and that a response itself could only come with long-distance travel, it is hard to imagine just how quickly Timothy could possibly respond.  Even so, we have what we have.

1A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (The New Century Bible Commentary), Eerdmans, 1982, p. 105. (emphasis mine)
2Hanson, p. 126.
3Hanson, p. 129.
4See Hanson, p. 147.

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