Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Hymns for the Election Season

Yeah. The election season ought to be part of the new four-year church calendar. Yep. No doubt.

Tomorrow I fall off the face of the earth for three months. I'll be on sabbatical. So knowing this, my elders have already started their clandestine attempts radically to change our worship service in my absence. Imagine such a thing. I wrote the book on worship. Me. How dare they? The first thing they want to do is have the children's choir sing these praise songs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

World's Fair?

This is the pavilion/gazebo out in front of the Muny in Forest Park. There are a few of these around the park. Are these leftovers from the 1904 World's Fair? I'm not sure.

I've been posting a lot of images this week. I don't have time for much else. This is the last week before my 3-month sabbatical begins. Come Monday I'll be digging in to finish my commentary on James.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kitty Concert

Daniel: this one is for you. I know how much you love kitties.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Image of the Day

I've been away for a few days. Took a trip to Granbury, Texas. It's a cool little town. This is an old bank on Granbury's town square.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Image of the Day

These are columned gates in St. Louis's Forest Park. They are near the Jewel Box. Apparently, they were relocated to Forest Park from Vandeventer Place (an upscale, gated community in the late 19th and early 20th century).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Liturgical Dance

Oh, and while where on the topic of church music and worship, I think this liturgical sock dance has some potential. After all, if we are not going to use incense (because of it's connections with Rome and Constantinople), then let's at least have some distinctive odors in the church.

Church Music

I really wish we could do this at our church. Please?! All we have are those boring Psalms and hymns. We can't even watch this awesome dancing while we sing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Image of the Day

The Old Courthouse

Lord, Language, & Liturgy - Part III

. . . or why we should use "Yahweh" and not "LORD" when we read the Hebrew scriptures in church.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

11. I ended Part 2 saying that there is little or no evidence suggesting that the Jews substituted 'adonay for YHWH before the intertestimental period of decline. And even then it wasn't universal. Doing a little research on this uncovers the fact that the Jews were still pronouncing YHWH at the end of the OT period. Indeed, there is no solid evidence to suggest that the Jews did not pronounce this name at the time of Jesus. Most evidence points to the conclusion that the development of this superstitious avoidance of vocalizing the name of Yahweh comes after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, which means after the writing of the New Testament. That doesn't mean that nobody was doing it before this time. But the practice doesn’t appear to be the official policy of Judaism until after the destruction of the Temple. The superstitious avoidance of Yahweh is associated with the transformation of Judaism into a new religion after the NT period, an extension and intensification of apostate, Pharisaical Judaism.

And what about the Septuagint (LXX) translators? Well, it appears that the writers of the LXX were not yet under the spell of this dangerous error.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology notes: ""Recent textual discoveries cast doubt on the idea that the compilers of the LXX translated the etragrammaton YHWH by kyrios. The oldest LXX MSS (fragments) now available to us have the tetragrammaton written in Heb. characters in the Gk. text. This custom was retained by later Jewish translators of the OT in the first centuries A.D. One LXX MS from Qumram even represents the tetragrammaton by IAO. These instances have given support to the theory that the thorough-going use of kyrios for the tetragrammaton in the text of the LXX was primarily the work of Christian scribes. . . On the other hand, the Jews would have already replaced the tetragrammaton by kyrios in the oral transmission of the Gk. OT text" (Vol. 2, p. 512).

"In pre-Christian Greek [manuscripts] of the OT, the divine name was not rendered by 'kyrios' as has often been thought. Usually the Tetragram was written out in Aramaic or in paleo-Hebrew letters. . . . At a later time, surrogates such as 'theos' [God] and 'kyrios' replaced the Tetragram . . . There is good reason to believe that a similar pattern evolved in the NT, i.e. the divine name was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the OT, but in the course of time it was replaced by surrogates" (New Testament Abstracts, March 1977, p. 306).

This, then, raises the question of whether the NT writers really were accommodating themselves to the Jews when they translated YHWH as kyrios. They must have had some other reason for doing it. What might that have been?

Notice that the divine name YHWH was given to Israel. The name of God used by non-Israelite believers was most often "God Most High" or the "Most High God." Just do a concordance search and you'll see this, from Melchizedek in Gen. 14 to King Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4. With the exile, however, God does a new thing in the world. He sent the Jews (short for Judahites) into the whole world to be witness for him. They no longer have their own Davidic King. Now they are subject, by God's own decree, to the world emperors of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

This new world order is different than the old tribal and kingdom arrangement of the past. Now God begins a new work of international significance. Of course, this culminates in the work of Jesus and his apostles. I don't have time to go into all the details here. But interestingly, at this time God begins to speak in tongues (non-Hebrew languages), specifically Aramaic. And the name Yahweh is not used in the Aramaic sections of the OT.

It seems best to understand that the name YHWH was given specifically to Israel and the Jews and is particularly associated with the Mosaic and kingdom phases of their history. God is for the Israelites peculiarly Yahweh. The name YHWH is not used in the Aramaic and later in the Greek Scriptures because YHWH is for Israel and the Jews. Yahweh is "the name of the God of Israel" (Ezra 5:1, in Aramaic).

Even if the evidence seems to indicate that the people of God did not use the name Yahweh as much in the exilic and post-exilic period - a time when the kingdom of God expanded to include the world emperors as guardians of his seed people - that does not imply that they refused to say the name Yahweh anymore at all. Writing new things for a new situation is one thing, reading the received Scriptures is something else. In other words, when they read the Torah in their assembly they read Yahweh, but when they wrote and spoke to their Gentile neighbors in the wider world they used more generic titles for the true God.

If the NT writers, continuing the trajectory of the new covenantal arrangement after the exile, did not use the name Yahweh in their translation of OT texts, this does not necessarily imply that they refused to vocalize the world when they read the Hebrew Scriptures publicly in their services. The revelation of God's name corresponded with the increasing revelation of his character and purposes so that finally God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the specific "memorial name" for worship and prayer is now the name of God incarnate, Jesus.

This does not mean, however, that we should just go back and erase all the previous names of God and put Jesus or Lord in their place. Even if we don't use the name of Yahweh in the same way as the Israelites did, we need to be able to read the Scriptures in such a way that we can learn how that name functioned for them. After all, these things were written for our instruction. If hearers of the Scripture cannot discern the difference between God's personal name and the title "Master/Lord," then they will miss an important dimension of instruction concerning how the people relate to their covenant God.

12. The bottom line is the LORD/Lord business in English is confusing, especially when heard/sung in church and not simply in one's private reading. Even by making that distinction (LORD/Lord) the translators are conceding the battle. Why even do this? It just raises questions. When people read this odd translation they will look in the margin or in the explanation in front of their Bibles and see "Yahweh" anyway, so why not go the whole nine yards?

Moreover, the distinction is completely lost when the text is publicly read out loud and not just "studied." You see, for liturgical use the modern way of translation utterly fails. Hearers will have no idea when LORD or Lord is being used. Well, this is just par for the course. Not many in our tradition think about corporate/liturgical use when they do these translations. It's all about private reading and study. If we insist on not vocalizing YHWH, then we must at least do something to make the distinction audible in public reading - maybe if we use "Lord" for Yahweh, then "Master" should be used for adonay. At least the distinction could be heard. But again, why go through such linguistic contortions? Why not rather translate the text faithfully and allow God's people to hear and thereby understand the proper difference between the title Lord and the name Yahweh?

In conclusion, for reading the text in Church and for use in study Yahweh should be used. It is, after all, the unique name God revealed to Israel, and to say "by my name LORD I was not known by them" (Ex. 6:3) is grotesque and dangerously misleading.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lord, Language, & Liturgy

. . . or why we should use "Yahweh" and not "LORD" when we read the Hebrew scriptures in church.

Part 1, Part 2

6. If this is such a big deal, so obvious, why haven't we had Bible translations that translate the name of God as Yahweh? Answer: follow the money. Bible publishers want to make money and making such a widespread change in the way the OT is translated would mean loss of profit because it would be too much of a departure from KJV tradition. It's about money. Always is. Bibles are the most profitable product for publishers. The Bible remains the top seller in America. Above all, publishers want to make money on their new translations. It's not about accuracy but adding up currency.

7. Isn't it fascinating to learn that the KJV translators had the sense to know that YHWH absolutely needed its own translation in at least four places in the OT.
Ex. 6.3 - "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them."

Psa. 83.18 - "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth."

Is. 12.2 - "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation."

Is. 26.4 - "Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength."
Interesting, huh? In Isa. 12:2 and 26:4 they are evidently trying to get the reader to link LORD and JEHOVAH since the Hebrew text has only YHWH and not adonay. Even though that's an odd way to translate these verses, they at least recognized here that one had to alert the reader to the presence of YHWH for a proper understanding of the text.

I would argue the same for just about every occurrence of YHWH in the text. What's the difference between these five passages and all the passages in the Psalms that say, "Praise the name of Yahweh"? If you don't put the actually name of Israel's God where it belongs, you end up with a translation that makes a completely different statement than the original. When the Psalmist is translated as saying, "The Lord is our God," that statement makes no sense at all. What Lord? What Master? The whole point of saying that "Yahweh is our God" is that other nations claim that the true God has another name, another character. Psalm 105:7, "He is Yahweh our God!"

8. Now here's something you may not know. The old Calvinistic Standard, the 1901 American Standard Version (ASV), is the only version to consistently translate YHWH as Jehovah throughout the entire OT. Check it out. I differ, of course, about the vocalization of Yahweh. So does almost every Bible scholar today. It's not "Jehovah," but I would take that any day over the LORD/Lord lunacy we have now. Check out the ASV sometime.

9. The fact that we don't know the precise vocalization of YHWH doesn't matter. How can this be used as an argument? Just as we say "Jesus" in English instead of the Greek "Iesous," there is no reason not to say Jehovah, Yahweh, Jahve, or something else similar. Getting the exact vocalization right is immaterial. The important thing is that we hear and see the personal, covenantal name of God in the text. From Hebrew, it seems clear that it was sometimes vocalized "yeho" or "yehu" from the names of the kings. So I don't think tonal precision to ancient Hebrew usage has any importance.

10. So what do we do with the fact that "the Jews did not pronounce the name YHWH"? When I read statements like that I ask, "Which Jews?" Too often, when these kinds of statements are made people think of the Jews living during the time of the OT. But there is very little evidence to suggest that Isrealites and later Jews living before the inter-Testamental period consistently practiced this superstition. In fact, there's lots of solid evidence to contradict such speculation. I'll get to that in part 3.

Image of the Day

Church of the Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lord, Language, & Liturgy

Part 1

In our liturgy we read "Yahweh" when the Hebrew text uses the Tetragrammaton YHWH to refer to God. Most of our English translations continue to translate YHWH as LORD, distinguishing it from the Hebrew word adonay ("lord") by the use of small or large caps formatting. Actually, substituting LORD for Yahweh is not a translation at all; it's erasing one word and replacing it with another. I am convinced that this perpetuates a very unhealthy tradition and makes for a muddled reading of Scripture. The time has come to break that tradition once and for all and restore the divine covenantal name given to Israel to the public reading of Scripture.

It is better for us to read Yahweh rather than LORD in our translations, Scripture reading, and preaching for these reasons:

1. Yahweh was given to Israel as God's "memorial name" (Exod. 3:15). This personal name of God was revealed to Israel so that they might use it in prayer and thus remind God of his covenant so he would act for them. God's personal name for Israel was not "Lord" but "Yahweh." As Psalm 20 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will memorialize the name of Yahweh our God." The name of the God of Israel was not "Lord" or "LORD" but Yahweh. They were to call on God to remember (that's what "memorialize" means) his covenant by using the name he gave them for that purpose. I should say here also that all the gnostic theologizing about what this name really "means" is a distraction. Yahweh is not a "term" that refers to something else, like God's infinite majesty or whatever. Yahweh is a concrete name given to the Israelites to use, to call out in prayer and praise in their worship.

2. "Lord" is a title not a name. You can make the word "Lord" into all caps, italicize it, bold it, or whatever, but that doesn't change the fact that it means "Master" or "Sir" and is not a name, certainly not God's revealed personal name. So when one translates passages like "Let them praise the name of Yahweh" as "Let them praise the name of the LORD" you muck up the meaning badly. In fact, this is not really a translation at all but an altering of the text for some external purpose. God's revealed name in the Hebrew Scriptures is not "Lord" or "LORD" but Yahweh.

3. The abbreviation YAH is not replaced with LORD in our English translations. We still say and sing "hallelujah," which means "praise Yah[weh]." Why don't we sing "hallelu-LORD"? Silly, you say? Just as silly as replacing YHWH with Lord. If saying the whole name is so spiritually hazardous, why isn't saying part of the name just as dangerous? But YAH was not even replaced by superstitious Jews who refused to say the whole name for fear of judgment. In addition to Hallelujah we still have all the proper names that include Yahweh in them, like Joshua (Heb: Yah-shua - "Yahweh saves"). The best we can say is this is inconsistent; the worst is that it's evidence of how stupid this superstitious avoidance of the name Yahweh really was and is.

4. Later Jews superstitiously refused to vocalize the name. I'll get to when this happened in a moment. But the practice of replacing Yahweh with Lord was an act of rebellion, pure and simple. God gave this name for the Jews to use in memorial prayers, Psalms, and worship. Not using it means that they thought they were wiser than God. This is part and parcel with the Pharisaical "fencing of the law." In order to avoid transgressing the 3rd Word ("taking the name of Yahweh in vain") the wily Pharisaical Jews decided to just avoid the word altogether. And we want to follow that tradition?

5. What modern Jews think about what we do in our translations is irrelevant. This is a red herring anyway because we have enough in our Bibles to madden the Jews as it is. But more importantly, we need to remember that post AD 70 Judaism is a different religion than that practiced by OT believers before Christ. There are no simple "OT believers" around today. Adding Yahweh to our translations wouldn't make a difference at all. The superstitious avoidance of the vocalization of Yahweh didn't become "official" until after the first century AD, probably in response to the Christian argument that Jesus is Yahweh. Even so, why should we coddle them in their superstitious rebellion anyway? It seems to me that the real offense would be to Evangelicals who THINK the Jews would be offended. I doubt very much if most Jews would even bother to sigh.

Go to part 2.

Banning Yahweh

This kind of stuff is maddening to me. The Vatican bans the use of the personal, covenantal name that God himself revealed to his people as his "memorial" name. What? God gave the name Yahweh to his people to use in memorial prayer and sacrifice. They were supposed to speak it to remind God of his covenantal promises. The superstitious avoidance of the name Yahweh by intertestimental Jews was shameful and evidence of their departure from the biblical faith. Substituting LORD or some other title for the name Yahweh renders unintelligible so many key texts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here's the first part of the Christianity Today essay and the link to the rest:
Observant Jews have traditionally not used the name Yahweh, refusing to pronounce the so-called proper name of God out of respect, or to be sure they do not misuse it. Now neither will Roman Catholics, at least in their worship services."In recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name," said a June letter from the Vatican. "As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: Adonai, which means 'Lord.'" In August, U.S. bishops were directed to remove Yahweh from songs and prayers.

Protestants should be following their lead, said Carol Bechtel, professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. "It's always left me baffled and perplexed and embarrassed that we sprinkle our hymns with that name," she said. "Whether or not there are Jewish brothers and sisters in earshot, the most obvious reason to avoid using the proper and more personal name of God in the Old Testament is simply respect for God."

Read the rest of the article here.
I have dealt with this issue at length. Perhaps I should serialize that essay on my blog. I'll do just that and begin another post in few minutes.

At the end of the CT essay Witvliet has some crazy comment: "Some people said using Yahweh emphasized for them the transcendence of God, which you might say is precisely the goal of not saying the term." Whatever people think, Yahweh is not a "term." Yahweh is a name! Yahweh is not "an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God." It's a memorial NAME! It makes no difference what people feel like it's emphasizing "for them." It's about being faithful to the Word of God as revealed to us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

See You All in A Few Billion Years!

By now, of course, everyone knows that the world will end tomorrow. When they flip the switch on the Large Hadron Collider it will suck into itself all the mass in the known universe and begin a new big bang sequence. That will be it. We'll have to wait billions of years again before we will have consciousness and be able to figure out what happened. Oh wait, we won't have access to anything on the other side of that massive singularity, will we? From what I can tell this has happened hundreds or millions of times before. It's a vicious cycle. Man develops to the point where he can make and create a huge particle accelerator complex like the LHC. He fires it up and we start all over again. Sad. There's no way for us to ever learn our lesson. We're doomed to living it over and over again. Nobody can come back from the future to warn us because we destroy the future and start all over again. Bummer. Where's my credit card?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Unbelievably Stupid

This is the new Microsoft commercial. It's supposed to best Apple's Pc vs. Mac ADs. Bwahhhaaaaahaaaaah! Are these people at Microsoft complete morons? Has there ever been a more boneheaded AD in the history of tech TV commercials? I am in awe. Did anyone at MS watch this AD before it was released? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

And it ends with the word "Delicious." What? What is delicious? Microsoft products? Bwahhhaaaaahaaaaah! I can think of other adjectives that would better describe them. More colorful, too. Microsoft has never had any marketing sense. But now it is clear that they are completely brain dead.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Best of Both

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions. I ought to do this more often. What I did was blended the two images (#1 and #2) but masked the "dreamy" effects of #2 so that it would only affect the sky. So we have the creamy, but dramatic sky in #2, but the crisp detail in the church, yard, and trees of #1.

You can see a better quality image here.

Magic Light & Photoshop

At about 6:00 or so yesterday evening, the clouds broke in the west and the sun poked through. The quality of light was very good. These are the kind of lighting situations that photographers crave. The sun was shining low in the west and the east was overcast with dark clouds. When quality light like that happens you need to grab your camera and find something to capture.

Unfortunately, I was sitting in the parking lot at Shop & Save when this was happening. It was so good that even the facade over the front door at the store was looking good. The problem with light like that is that it doesn't last very long. So unless you are where you want to be with your camera, you're pretty much screwed. It would have been perfect to have been out in the country side and just the right location for a nice shot. But no. So I grabbed my camera and caught the tail end of the good light with a few shots of the church.

The image at the top of this post is my best shot of the church. It is pretty good as it stands. But I thought I'd play with it a bit late last night. This second version is removes some of the fine details in selected portions of the image and gives it a kind of dreamy feel. It's not a "soft focus" version because there's plenty of hard lines in it.

The third transformation is designed to dramatize the look.

Which one do you like the best? You may have to click on the images to see the differences. Or you can see all three here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

128 Years

Image of the Day
Zion-Oakfield Church is just west of St. Louis on old Hwy 100.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's Church

My prediction. Look for nasty exposés of the churches that Palin has belonged to. It'll happen soon. It'll be used to neutralize Obama's connection with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I've Been Everywhere

Tell me you wouldn't love to be riding shotgun in this Mirage for this flight.