Monday, August 31, 2009

Thought for today

Actually, this might be a thought for a lifetime...I was recently sent a copy of John Oswalt's The Bible Among Other Myths to review (thanks, Emily!). I haven't really started reading it yet; I'm just finishing Augustine and the Jews—a very good book, by the way; watch for more soon :) Anyway, I was looking at the introduction and this hit me:

...the idea that this world is not self-explanatory and that revelation from beyond it is necessary to understand it is profoundly distasteful to us humans. It means that we are not in control of our own destiny or able to make our own disposition of things for our own benefit. This thought, the thought that we cannot supply our ultimate needs for ourselves, that we are dependent on someone or something utterly beyond us, is deeply troublesome.

<idle musing>
</idle musing>

New sale at Eisenbrauns

Hey! There's a new sale at Eisenbrauns! Yep, 10 days of marvelous savings on Hittite, a language dear to my graduate studies :) Details are here

Friday, August 28, 2009

The price of books

Josh bemoans the high price of books, which prompted me to respond. The comments go back and forth. Jim West picked up the post, prompting both Josh and I to respond.

What can I say? As I pointed out in a comment on Josh's post, there are two basic pricing models in the academic publishing business right now. One is aimed at the library market, with a limited number of sales and a high cost per book. The other model prices the books more moderately and aims to sell more books at a lower income per book. The European publishers have generally opted for the first model. The American publishers have generally (but certainly not all!) opted for the latter model.

The part that is frustrating to me is that Oxford, especially, has opted to use the higher price model, but then gone with print-on-demand technology. The advantage is no inventory. The disadvantage is that the hardcover books all look bad and the binding is not signature bound, but rather perfect bound.

Print-on-demand is a higher cost per piece (about 2-3 times traditional printing), but you don't have to carry a large inventory, thus allowing a publisher to keep older, lower demand books in print. Eisenbrauns uses print-on-demand for older books, but only in paperback.

So, vent away about the price of academic books. I agree with you, which is why Eisenbrauns has chosen to price books more moderately. Maybe, if you cry loud enough, the publishers who have chosen the library model will listen. I hope so.

Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Scot McKnight has a good post on Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible today.

I must admit, it is one of my favorite Bonhoeffer books. Do yourself a favor and read, not just the post, but the whole book.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vocation versus job

Very nice little blurb (it's not really a blog, so is it a post?) today at Stone's Fence about how the word vocation has changed its meaning over the years. I'll let Lawson tell it in his own words:

Time was, all Christians regarded their work as a divine calling. Maybe not a calling to the ministry of word, order, and sacrament, but a calling all the same. It’s why we called is a “vocation.” The word means “calling.” We quit a “job” once we don’t need the money it provides. But do we ever “quit” a calling?

I doubt it.

I wonder how many Christians in so-called “secular jobs” seriously subscribe to the old protestant notion that any and all honest work done for God’s glory is, in fact, a sacred calling? Done not only to support ourselves and to have enough to share with others in need, but also done out of a sense that in some very vital way, God has given us this thing to do. However trivial it might seem, however non-religious, however tedious…it is both his burden on us and his gift to us.

<idle musing>
Yes. No matter what you are doing, it is a sacred calling—if you are a Christian, that is. Nothing is a "higher calling." Nothing is a "lower calling." They are simply different callings.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's in a name?

<idle musing>
I've been wondering this for several years now. It just doesn't make sense to me and I don't mean any disrespect to people who do it, but why do some spell God as G-d?

I know it is out of respect and that it is supposed to be a carry-over from not pronouncing the tetragrammaton (YHWH). But, wouldn't it make more sense to write L-RD (small caps)? After all, we don't see in the Hebrew bible:
בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אלִֹהים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם
That is, 'elohim without the vowels. God is just a generic, as is 'elohim. YHWH is the name of God, so maybe we should write JSS for Jesus—at least if you are a trinitarian :)

The Greek LXX translators had various circumlocutions; some used paleo-hebraic letters, others wrote κυριος (KURIOS), others wrote...I've forgotten now, but I'm sure someone will remind me in a comment (or I'll remember at about 2 AM tomorrow). The Vulgate used dominus, and the English Bibles have traditionally rendered YHWH as LORD with small caps. So, why G-d?
</idle musing>

Monday, August 24, 2009

Harvest time

Whew! It was a busy weekend, garden-wise. We froze beans, made more bread & butter pickles (8.5 quarts), dried peaches, made applesauce (1/2 bushel=18 pints), pickled beets (disappointing crop this year), made more rhubarb jam (11 half-pints—I really like this stuff!), stewed tomatoes (only 4 quarts so far) and pulled a good percentage of the onions (we really like onions).

Because of the cool summer, the tomatoes are just getting started. The cherry tomatoes have just started going nuts this last week, with the other ones slowly following. I suspect that this week, if it gets hot like it is supposed to, will cause a large harvest. Watch me fall behind in canning them :)

Oh, I almost forgot, the green peppers are doing well, too. I have been using them in bread & butter pickles, but now we will start to dry those for use this winter.

With all that, we still managed a nice bike ride Sunday evening (about 29 miles). Just don't ask what time we finished with the canning and drying...

Friday, August 21, 2009


There is a very nice interview with Helen Brown of Accordance posted on the Hebrew and Greek Reader blog.

I especially like this one:

17. Any long-term projects in the works you can tell us about?

I could, but I would have to kill you afterwards. ;-) We do not like to market vaporware. We only announce our new features and projects when they are about ready for release.

<idle musing>
I first met Helen in my first year at Eisenbrauns. I was still figuring out what I was doing—keep the comments to yourself!—when I met her at the IOSOT meeting in Leiden, at the reception in the museum. A customer of theirs, a well-known Hebrew professor in England, was having trouble with something. She asked him if he had the computer with him; he did. For the next half-hour she walked him through the whole thing right there off to the side during the reception. Nice customer service, but that is just who Helen is.

Just another one of the reasons I like Accordance.
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coptic, anyone?

I collect grammars. I have mentioned that before. One of the many languages I have a grammar for is Coptic. I have looked at it many times since I got it 3-4 years ago. The thing that scares me about it is that it looks too much like Greek. The alphabet is the Greek alphabet plus some letters; there are lots of Greek loanwords in the vocabulary. But, it isn't Greek syntax or grammar; it is Egyptianish. Now, one set of languages I avoided in graduate school was Egytian, so I get a bit nervous about being serious about Coptic. Besides, I need another dead language like I need another hole in the head or zucchini squash :)

All that to say that Eisenbrauns is offering a new 10-day Back-to-School sale on Coptic. For the next 10 days, you can save 10-40% on some basic resources. Go here to get some goodies. That way they can sit on your shelf while you contemplate learning the language :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spell checkers

I love spell checkers in e-mail—they are great for a laugh sometimes. I should start a list, but this one today was great.

I was sending an e-mail to a customer who is going to be teaching Akkadian using the Hammurapi stela. In the reply, typed Hammurapi also. I expected the spell checker to complain, after all, most popular books spell it Hammurabi, with a -bi instead of a -pi reading on the final sign. Well, it complained, but the suggested substitute was "Samurai" Huh? Wrong area of the world, let alone wrong time period...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We have had a very dry July and August—until yesterday. The creek that runs past our house had shrunk to a mere trickle about 2 inches deep and a foot across—until yesterday.

Yesterday, we received 5.5 inches of rain in about 22 hours. But, the ground was so hungry that there are virtually no puddles. Of course, not all of it soaked in; some of it ran off. I checked the creek last night, before it was done raining, and it had swollen to the tops of its banks. It had become a 5 feet deep, 15-20 foot across, swiftly flowing creek that would be difficult to ford. When we took our walk later, under umbrellas, we crossed the bridge and heard the wonderful sound of water flowing strongly under it. I missed that sound.

Our garden soaked the rain up like a sponge. We had added about 6 inches of composted leaves in the spring; that compost is always thirsty.

Because the temperatures stayed warm, the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. I picked a few Big Girls, two Beefsteak, a couple of Romas and quite a few cherry tomatoes. We have two different kinds of cherry tomatoes this year: the normal small ones, and then some that I call cherry tomatoes with an attitude. They are about twice the size of normal cherry tomatoes; I sliced some of them into thirds and used them on my sandwich—fresh whole wheat bread with homemade pickle relish and a slice of cheddar cheese. Life is good :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preach? Or announce?

A while back, actually way back in December/January, I posted some excerpts and thoughts on the book To Preach or Not to Preach?. Just a week or two ago, Alan Knox did a series on the Greek verb κηρύσσω, commonly translated "preach." His conclusion was that the verb is more accurately translated "announce." I'll let him say it in his own words:

In three posts, I’ve looked at the use of the term κηρύσσω (kērussō – usually translated “preach”) in the Old Testament. I’ve explained why it is important for us to study the meaning of words in the Old Testament, especially in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. I’ve posted all passages in the Old Testament and the non-canonical books which include the term κηρύσσω (kērussō). I’ve concluded that in these passages, the meaning of the term is closer to the English verb “announce” than to any of the definitions of the English word “preach”.

He then proceeds to look at the works of Josephus and Philo, who lived in the same general time period as the New Testament was composed, to see if the word had changed in meaning. His conclusion: Nope.

<idle musing>
Hmmm. Does that line up with the arguments in To Preach or Not to Preach?, or not? I'll give you a hint: Yes! It's always nice to see scholars agree on something :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thought for the day

I'm quite far behind in reading blogs, not just books, so I just saw this nice little snippet on Ted Gossard's blog, from last week:

The narrow gate is not, as so often assumed, doctrinal correctness. The narrow gate is obedience- and the confidence in Jesus necessary to it. We can see that it is not doctrinal correctness because many people who cannot even understand the correct doctrines nevertheless place their full faith in him. Moreover, we find many people who seem to be very correct doctrinally but have hearts full of hatred and unforgiveness. The broad gate, by contrast, is simply doing whatever I want to do.—Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 275.

<idle musing>
Amen! Reminds me of the final toast in C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters wherein Screwtape muses on the irony of extremely evil people being blended with those who thought they were fine to produce a bouquet that delighted him...
</idle musing>


We are growing watermelon this year. I haven't tried to grow it for a long time, but we figured, "Why not?" The vines certainly took off and filled their area and some nice looking watermelons developed. About 1.5 weeks ago, we tried one...bummer, it wasn't ripe.

Last night, we summoned up our courage, along with Jim and Shannon, and tried again. Perfection! It was a delicious 15-20 pound, round, red, tasty, juicy, sugary mess to eat, but definitely worth growing :)

I'm looking forward to the other ones.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

idle musings

<idle musing>
I haven't had much time to read lately; the garden is taking a good bit of time. Last night I canned 18 pints of bread and butter pickles; Monday night 5 quarts of dilly beans. That takes a chunk of your night away :)

Summer finally arrived over the weekend, with temperatures in the high 80's F and humidity to match. Good for the tomatoes; bad for physical labor.

I was hauling wood chips on Saturday to make a trail in the woods. Sunday, I took apart our 8' x 12' sandbox. The cats had turned it into a litter box :( That's a lot of sand to move, especially by hand with a spade and wheelbarrow. The whole thing was complicated by the nearby Maple tree deciding that the sandbox was for its roots. I suppose riding 40+ miles in the morning against a stiff wind didn't help...

On other notes, I saw a flier last Friday that was trying to guilt-trip people into getting their pets neutered/spayed. They claimed that a cat has 12 kittens per year and lives about 9 years, with the result of several thousand offspring. I don't know how they got that number, but you know the old saying about statistics...

My experience is that a cat might have two litters of 6 cats each per year. But, so far we have had 0, 1, and 1 as survivors in the 2 years we have lived here. We started with 2 cats, now we have more, but not the 144 that they claimed after 2 years...

And, speaking of misuse of statistics, did you see the cover of Time Magazine this week? It says that exercise doesn't make you lose weight. Folks, weight isn't the problem; fat is. I weigh more than I have at anytime in my life; I also am in better shape than anytime since high school when I was swimming on the swim team. My resting heart rate is in the low 50's; I can do 50 push-ups, etc. The bottom line is that muscle weighs more than fat.

Of course, the article qualifies stuff, but the bottom line is exercise without diet change won't help much. And, the part that most people still don't get, is that diets don't work! Covert Bailey preached that for years on PBS and in his books, but people still don't get it. Change what you eat to be more vegetables and fruits; cut out the fast food. Drop the corn syrupy soft drinks; add milk and water. As an aside, we drink about 5-6 gallons of milk per week between the two of us; I drink 2 liters of water at work per day.

Boy, what a rambling post...
</idle musing>

Monday, August 10, 2009

New sale 10-day sale

Eisenbrauns continues the back-to-school sale with Aramaic and Syriac. Save from 15-50%; details here.

Honest scrap award

Mike at ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ nominated me for the honest scrap meme. I'm not quite sure why it's scrap, but here we go:

"…supposed to tell you 10 HONEST things about myself and then nominate 7 other blogs that I think deserve to receive the Honest Scrap Award."

1. Seems most start out with the vehicle they drive; I drive a 1995 Geo Metro 4 cylinder. It's the only car I have ever purchased new. It gets between 40 and 57 mpg; try finding a new car that is under $15,000 that matches that in the U.S.

2. Continuing in the "normal sequence:" TV? What's that?

3. Now the diversity begins... I was born on the plains of Minnesota, but was raised in northern Wisconsin.

4. I have been married to the same person for 30 years, 11 months, and 29 days (does that work out to August 12, 1978?).

5. I ride my bicycle to work almost every day—11 miles round trip. Yes, even in the winter, and even when it was -20 F last winter :)

6. I once could read about 8 ancient languages; now I struggle with keeping 3 of them up. But, I never got above a "C" in high school English and barely survived my final year of it. I didn't learn English grammar until I took (and taught) Latin.

7. I am an introvert. Before we got married, I would hide in a corner at family gatherings and read a book. Actually, I did it until quite recently.

8. I love gardening and wish I could have a greenhouse.

9. I used to run IT at a company and had something like 10 or so computers on a home network; I would test things there so I wouldn't crash the network at work. My kid's hated it :) I don't currently own a computer, or have Internet access at home...

10. I strongly dislike cell phones. I didn't have one until I needed to get one for conferences at work. It is a prepaid one, and I don't know the number, so don't ask.

Tag yourself...I can't think of anyone right now. Besides, this is my lunch hour, and I want to go read a book and take a nap :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Another excerpt

I think I am going to have to buy this book. I received another excerpt from it today. Here's some snippets from it:

Manipulation, threats of divine retribution, the micromanaging of people’s lives and morality, judgmentalism, paranoid insecurities, obnoxious self-righteousness: we can lay all these crimes at the feet of many of Christianity’s proponents, from the Roman Curia to the most protesting of Protestants. Yet, all of these are mere symptoms of a deeper illness. As Jesus said, the real sickness is hypocrisy.

Much of Christianity (and its leaders, I might add) is more concerned with protecting its position and power than caring for people. As such, it suffers from a crisis of credibility: it offers a false image of the God it represents. Granted, we can bring our individual and collective beliefs and practices under the lordship of Christ, and we who call ourselves Christians should do exactly that. But we must be quick to accept that even something we label “Christian” or “Christianity,” if it is not submissive to the words and ways of Christ, must be recognized for what it is: a damnable lie. Even Christianity can become idolatry.
Again, Jesus came to reform nothing. He came to set the world on fire. This realization, that following Jesus and practicing Christianity are not always identical, turns up the heat on those of us who have done our religion’s heavy lifting over the years. But when confronted by this Jesus, are we willing to change our conclusions about faith, about what it means to be Christian, about what it means to be “saved,” about most everything we have built our lives around and upon? Are we willing to change our minds? If we cannot change our minds, we cannot change anything.

Change is hard, especially for Christians. We are about as inflexible a species as they come. Certainly, many of the faithful are all too happy with this assessment, equating rigidity with orthodoxy. I’m not so sure about that.
Facing truths that do not fit into the framework of our truth, our “biblical worldview,” is nothing new, not in Jesus’ or Galileo’s day, and not in our own. What do we do when we encounter such truth? Typically, we reject it. We refuse all things that do not suit our perspective, labeling it sacrilege, just as the religious leaders in Jesus’ day did. Do not misunderstand me. I am not one who thinks that one truth is as good as another as long as sincerity is involved. I define truth not as a bullet list of talking points, drafted and adopted statements, or even age-old creeds. Truth is a person, Jesus, and we must pursue him.

Still, most of us in the Jesus camp tend to think that truth is locked in a dusty footlocker and stuffed underneath the church altar. It is a fixed, hard as stone list of propositions without adjustment, no matter what Galileo’s telescope or anybody else’s research says.
Launch into an examination of all that is locked away in that musty church locker and you might get accosted by the establishment. Start assailing the flawless truths of your church and you may find yourself seated next to Galileo at a heresy trial or next to Jesus at a Pharisaic dinner of inquisition. But do not be afraid. Truth can take it, at least those truths worth holding on to. Anything that cannot take it should be discarded anyway.

By the way, after this dual encounter with his nation’s religious leaders, we never find Jesus attending the synagogue services again. Never.

Who could blame him?

<idle musing>
Wow! The guy is too honest, isn't he? I especially like this line: "I define truth not as a bullet list of talking points, drafted and adopted statements, or even age-old creeds. Truth is a person, Jesus, and we must pursue him." That sums up my theology very well; Jesus has to be the center of everything we do.
</idle musing>

Psalm 12

Ran across this the other morning:

Help, LORD;
for there is no longer any that is godly;
for the faithful have vanished from among the sons of men.
Every one utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, "With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us;
who is our master?"
"Because the poor are despoiled,
because the needy groan,
I will now arise," says the LORD;
"I will place him in the safety for which he longs."
The promises of the LORD are promises that are pure,
silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
Do thou, O LORD, protect us,
guard us ever from this generation.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the sons of men.—Psalm 12 (RSV)

<idle musing>
Seems that describes our culture right now, doesn't it? But then, it probably has described every culture at some point; Genesis 3 is definitely all-pervasive :(

Why is it that the poor ("needy" in RSV) are always looked down on, but God holds them in high esteem? It must just be another example of how we get things backwards...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Love is the key

A good post at The Heresy about Majoring on the Majors. Short, but sweet on what we should major on (but don't):

As someone with an affinity for biblical theology I get very excited when I see themes pop up in scripture, especially themes that transcend different authors and types of literature.

Love is a very big deal.

In all my ministry training love isn’t mentioned much. In all the books I’ve read and conferences I’ve attended love isn’t a big theme. Even with the missional movement and organic church movement I don’t believe love is a big theme. I think some people in these movements do love a lot. I believe simpler forms of church make it easier to love.

I wonder if all the tension over missional/attractional is something of a red herring. Maybe our churches aren’t growing (or multiplying) because that is our goal and we know very little of sacrificial love.

<idle musing>
The last sentence says worlds; maybe if our goal weren't to grow and multiply, but instead to love God and others...It is God's church, after all. It seems he should be able to grow it without us getting in the way with our own methods. Maybe we should try letting him love through us.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I get lots of e-mails. Some I even read :) Actually, I get lots of e-mails from other publishers, hoping we will sell their books. Some are a good fit for Eisenbrauns, other aren't. They aren't bad books, in fact some are very good books; they just don't fit our market. Today I received one of those. Here's a brief snippet from the book they were offering me:

Question: Why won’t some people go to church?

Answer: Because they have been to church.

Jesus intentionally broke the rules and customs of the religious establishment of his day, not for the sake of rebellion, but to reveal how preposterous it was to hold to meaningless rules. Strict legalism that misses the point of God’s grace and freedom in Christ is more than preposterous. It is grotesquely sinful...

The practice of following an ordered [synagogue] liturgy is not unlike the average Protestant or Evangelical attending Sunday services at a local church. Even in the free-group churches of my childhood where we did not have written orders of worship, we knew what was appropriate and inappropriate. In those churches, having a preset order of worship, even a sermon title, was an act of heresy that quenched the Holy Spirit’s freedom. Still, we all knew the order of events, even the exact moment when old Mr. Scott would commence to shouting hallelujahs on the third verse of “Amazing Grace.” These traditions were not written down, but they never changed.— Leaving Religion, Following Jesus, Ronnie McBrayer

<idle musing>
Ah yes! Our old friend the legalist coupled with his best friend, tradition. What a straitjacket we make for ourselves. The good news is Christ has set us free!
</idle musing>

Monday, August 03, 2009


More e-reader fun from Unshelved:

Eisenbrauns August sale

Back-to-school—already! As usual, Eisenbrauns is offering a back-to-school sale. For the month of August, it is Akkadian and Sumerian stuff. Over 40 titles at 10-30% off. The complete list is here

Akkadian and Sumerian not your style? How about a sale on Greek stuff for the next week? Try that on for size here

Portable reading devices

Saw this on an e-mail list I'm on:

That's what we do at Eisenbrauns, for more than 34 years now.

The url for the original is which I can't get to embed properly :(