Wednesday, January 31, 2024

You still need to define it!

Now there is a tendency among American historical linguists, one to which Semitists are by no means immune, to assume that ordinary German words acquire, by virtue of their importation into English, technical rigor, and that they imbue scholarly discourse into which they are embedded with a corresponding degree of rigor.—Alice Faber in Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew, 191

'Mid all the traffic of the ways

341 St. Agnes. C. M.

1 ’Mid all the traffic of the ways,
   Turmoils without, within,
   Make in my heart a quiet place,
   And come and dwell therein.

2 A little shrine of quietness,
   All sacred to Thyself,
   Where Thou shalt all my soul possess,
   And I may find myself.

3 A little shelter from life’s stress,
   Where I may lay me prone,
   And bare my soul in loneliness,
   And know as I am known.

4 A little place of mystic grace,
   Of self and sin swept bare,
   Where I may look upon Thy face,
   And talk with Thee in prayer.
                         John Oxenham
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, I'm continuing my record of choosing relatively obscure hymns! This one occurs in a mere 33 hymnals. but it certainly is an appropriate one for our hectic culture!

As for the author, his name is a pseudonym for William Arthur Dunkerley. His best-known hymn is "In Christ There Is No East or West." It occurs in 324 hymnals, including this hymnal as number 507.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Why linguistics?

In biblical studies, as in many other areas of learning, language analysis has rarely thrived as an end in itself. For the most part, linguistics has served the needs of philology. Grammar has been formalized in order to read and interpret a text fluently and correctly. Special attention has been paid to irregular patterns and to rare and unexpected forms. The philologist encountering an odd phenomenon can consult a specialized grammar book and find an explanation of a puzzling form or construction, or the thrust of a peculiar idiom. By correctly identifying unusual language forms, the philologist can proceed with the business of interpreting the text. Grammar ministers to meaning, and this is as it should be. Ultimately all disciplines should serve to elucidate the literatures that we study by clearing out the channels of communication, removing the clutter of unknowns that block our understanding.—Edward Greenstein, in Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew, 29

Tozer for Tuesday and the Holy Spirit (or lack of!)

So the Holy Spirit gets into the benediction and verse three of hymn number nine. Further than that, the Holy Spirit is not necessary to the church; we have arranged it so that He is not required. He has been displaced by what we call programming and by social activity.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 55

Jesus, Lover of my soul

338 Martyn. (first tune) 7. 7. 7. 7. D
      Hollingside. (second tune)
      Aberystwyth. (third tune)

1. Jesus, lover of my soul,
   let me to Thy bosom fly,
   While the nearer waters roll,
   while the tempest still is high.
   Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
   till the storm of life is past;
   Safe into the haven guide;
   O receive my soul at last.

2. Other refuge have I none,
   hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
   Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
   still support and comfort me.
   All my trust on Thee is stayed,
   all my help from Thee I bring;
   Cover my defenseless head
   with the shadow of Thy wing.

3. Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
   more than all in Thee I find;
   Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
   heal the sick, and lead the blind.
   Just and holy is Thy name,
   I am all unrighteousness;
   False and full of sin I am;
   Thou art full of truth and grace.

4. Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
   grace to cover all my sin;
   Let the healing streams abound;
   make and keep me pure within.
   Thou of life the fountain art,
   freely let me take of Thee;
   Spring Thou up within my heart;
   rise to all eternity.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
While this isn't my favorite Wesley hymn, it does seem to be one of his most popular ones, appearing in over 3100 hymnals! Cyberhymnal inserts a verse 3, which I wasn't familiar with:

3. Wilt Thou not regard my call?
   Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
   Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—
   Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
   Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
   While I of Thy strength receive,
   Hoping against hope I stand,
   dying, and behold, I live.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 29, 2024

Sacralizing the secular

(Although some historians represent early Protestantism as eliminating the sacred, it is perhaps more accurate to suggest that the movement sacralized the secular.) The basic distinction between the sacramentally ordained priesthood and the universal priesthood of the laity was denied. Furthermore, the cultic aspect of priesthood was replaced by a new emphasis on the priest as one entrusted with the ministry of the word. The Protestant rejection of the hierarchical structure of the priesthood and the jurisdiction derived from it led it to argue that its ministers should be elected by the church community.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 139

<idle musing>
"Sacralized the secular." I like that. It's a different way of looking at things.

That's the end of this book. The next few days will see an assortment of snippets from a couple of books that I've been reading, and then we'll dive into T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, which will take us a while.
</idle musing>

Savior, like a shepherd lead us

337 Bradbury. 8. 7. 8. 7. D.

1 Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
   Much we need Thy tender care;
   In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,
   For our use Thy folds prepare.
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

2 We are Thine; do Thou befriend us,
   Be the Guardian of our way;
   Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,
   Seek us when we go astray.
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Hear Thy children when they pray;
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Hear Thy children when they pray.

3 Thou hast promised to receive us,
   Poor and sinful though we be;
   Thou hast mercy to relieve us,
   Grace to cleanse, and pow'r to free.
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Early let us turn to Thee;
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Early let us turn to Thee.

4 Early let us seek Thy favor;
   Early let us do Thy will;
   Blessed Lord and only Savior,
   With Thy love our bosoms fill.
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Thou hast lov'd us, love us still;
   Blessed Jesus, Blessed Jesus,
   Thou hast lov'd us, love us still.
                         From Hymns for the Young, 1816
                         Attributed to Dorothy A. Thruff
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Jesus, still lead on

336 Seelenbrautigam. 5. 5. 8. 8. 5. 5.

1. Jesus, still lead on,
   till our rest be won,
   And, although the way be cheerless,
   We will follow calm and fearless,
   Guide us by Thy hand
   to our fatherland.

2. If the way be drear,
   if the foe be near,
   Let no faithless fears o’ertake us,
   Let not faith and hope forsake us,
   For through many a woe
   to our home we go.

3. Jesus, still lead on,
   till our rest be won;
   Heavenly Leader, still direct us,
   Still support, control, protect us,
   Till we safely stand
   in our fatherland.
                         Nicolaus L. Zinzendorf
                         Translated by Jane L. Borthwick
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Most of the Zinzendorf hymns that I know of in English were translated by John Wesley, so it was interesting to see that this one was done by the prolific translator Jane Borthwick. Cyberhymnal inserts this verse after verse 2:

3. When we seek relief
   from a long felt grief;
   When temptations come alluring,
   Make us patient and enduring;
   Show us that bright shore
   where we weep no more.
</idle musing>

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Jesus, I live to Thee

335 Lake Enon. S. M.

1 Jesus, I live to Thee,
   The loveliest and best;
   My life in Thee, Thy life in me,
   In Thy blest love I rest.

2 Jesus, I die to Thee,
   Whenever death shall come;
   To die in Thee is life to me,
   In my eternal home.

3 Whether to live or die,
   I know not which is best;
   To live in Thee is bliss to me,
   To die is endless rest.

4 Living or dying, Lord,
   I ask but to be Thine;
   My life in Thee, Thy life in me,
   Makes heaven for ever mine.
                         Henry Hargaugh
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity can be regarded as the outcome of a process of sustained and critical reflection on the pattern of divine activity revealed in scripture, and continued in Christian experience. This is not to say that scripture contains or sets out an explicit doctrine of the Trinity; rather, scripture bears witness to a God who demands to be understood in a Trinitarian manner.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 103

My Lord how full of sweet content

334 Hamburg. L. M.

1. My Lord, how full of sweet content;
   I pass my years of banishment!
   Where’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,
   In Heaven, in earth, or on the sea.

2. To me remains nor place nor time;
   My country is in every clime;
   I can be calm and free from care
   On any shore, since God is there.

3. While place we seek, or place we shun
   The soul finds happiness in none;
   But with a God to guide our way,
   ’Tis equal joy, to go or stay.

4. Could I be cast where Thou are not,
   That were indeed a dreadful lot:
   But regions none remote I call,
   Secure of finding God in all.
                         Madame Guyon
                         Translated by William Cowper
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I didn't realize the Madame Guyon had written any hymns or that they were translated into English, let alone by the great hymnwriter William Cowper! It's not a very popular hymn, only occurring in abour 40 hymnals.

If you aren't familiar with Madame Guyon, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with her. She was a French mystic whose writings were (and still are) very influential.
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hymnbooks as theology

Incidentally, we should note here the importance of Christian hymns and songs as means of making doctrinal statements memorable and accessible to congregations. The hymnbooks of the Christian church are often its most important and most memorable statements of doctrine.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 92

<idle musing>
And that, unfortunately given the lack of theology in most current songs, is still true. Would that more choruses and spiritual songs had more than just a pop theology to them! Or that people would rediscover the hymns.

Actually, I think it would be great if the entertainment version of "singing" would disappear and congregations could rediscover the joy of singing. It's good for the soul.
</idle musing>

Etymology matters sometimes

The word “atonement” can be traced back to 1526, when the English writer William Tyndale (ca. 1494-1536) was confronted with the task of translating the New Testament into English. There was, at that time, no English word which meant “reconciliation.” Tyndale thus had to invent such a word — “at-one-ment.” This word soon came to bear the meaning “the benefits which Jesus Christ brings to believers through his death upon the cross.” This unfamiliar word is rarely used in modern English, and has a distinctively old-fashioned feel to it. Rather than convey the impression that “Christian thought is totally out of date, theologians now generally prefer to speak of this area as “the doctrine of the work of Christ.”—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 87

No, not despairingly come I to thee

333 Kedron. 6. 4. 6. 4. 6. 6. 4.

1 No, not despairingly
   come I to Thee;
   no, not distrustingly
   bend I the knee;
   sin hath gone over me,
   yet is this still my plea,
   Jesus hath died.

2 Ah! Mine iniquity
   crimson has been,
   infinite, infinite,
   sin upon sin;
   sin of not loving Thee,
   sin of not trusting Thee,
   infinite sin.

3 Lord, I confess to Thee
   sadly my sin;
   all I am, tell to Thee,
   all I have been;
   purge Thou my sin away,
   wash Thou my soul this day;
   Lord, make me clean.

4 Faithful and just art Thou,
   forgiving all;
   loving and kind art Thou
   when poor ones call;
   Lord, let the cleansing blood,
   blood of the Lamb of God,
   pass o'er my soul.

5 Then all is peace and light
   this soul within;
   thus shall I walk with Thee,
   the loved Unseen;
   leaning on Thee, my God,
   guided along the road,
   nothing between.
                         Horatius Bonar
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Ransom? The whom is it paid?

The New Testament nowhere suggests that Jesus’ death was the price paid to someone (such as the devil) to achieve our liberation. Some patristic writers, however, assumed that they could press this analogy to its limits, and declared that God had delivered us from the power of the devil by offering him Jesus as the price of our liberation.

Origen (ca. 185–ca. 254), perhaps the most speculative of early patristic writers, was one such writer. If Christ’s death was a ransom, Origen argued, it must have been paid to someone. But to whom? It could not have been paid to God, in that God was not holding sinners to ransom. Therefore, it had to be paid to the devil.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 84

Thou art the way!

332 St. Bernard. C. M.

1 Thou art the Way: to Thee alone
   From sin and death we flee;
   And he who would the Father seek,
   Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.

2 Thou art the Truth: Thy word alone
   True wisdom can impart;
   Thou only canst inform the mind,
   And purify the heart.

3 Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
   Proclaims Thy conquering arm;
   And those who put their trust in Thee
   Nor death nor hell shall harm.

4 Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life;
   Grant us that Way to know,
   That Truth to keep, that Life to win,
   Whose joys eternal flow.
                         George W. Doane
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

On sabbath and sabbaticals

There's a post on Christian Scholar's Network about Sabbath and sabbaticals. Or maybe better: How academics don't take a sabbatical during their sabbaticals.

You should read the whole thing, but here's a smattering. After realizing that they were even more fraught during the "sabbatical" than before, here's her reaction:

At this point, I did what academics do best when lost. I read books on sabbaticals, leisure, and the sabbath.
Can I get a witness? : )

And this is excellent, as well:

If, as humans, we are indeed image-bearers of God, then it follows that we should emulate his example of resting. As someone who considers herself a creator through her words, the Holy Spirit could not flow through what I write if I did not embrace rest as he did. During sabbatical, I learned that academia, and its norms of overwork, had become an idol for me. Soon, I observed a disturbing trend in my mentors and my contemporaries on social media, too, including those who profess to dedicate their studies to the concept of rest. Many would lament, paradoxically, that “studying and advocating for rest is hard work.” Others freely admitted to advising others to rest while struggling to make time for it themselves, maintaining that badge of honor of working too hard even as they claimed to resist the glamour overwork provides. Work, in the academic world, produces accolades. Rest, on the other hand, produces guilt and shame. It challenges the ideals of production our institutions, and our capitalist economy, celebrate. We might tell others rest is needed, but we would rarely admit to enjoying its dividends for ourselves.
Amen and amen!

Most of my Christian life, I've been pretty adamant about taking a day off from regular work. Even in grad school, I would close the books for a day. Yes, even in the midst of my PhD comprehensive exams, which ran Thursday, Friday, Monday, I closed the books Saturday night and didn't open them until Monday AM. (I passed.)

But, once I became self-employed and working from home, that practice collapsed for almost ten years. I've recently reclaimed it and take one day to do nothing related to editing. I'll read some extra Greek and Hebrew and a book. A side benefit is that my to-read pile isn't growing as fast! But, I also come back to work on Monday refreshed and less stressed.

I highly recommend trying it!

The three offices of Christ

Calvin’s stress upon the mediatorial presence of God in Christ leads him to insist upon a close connection between the person and the work of Christ. Drawing on a tradition going back to Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260–ca. 340), Calvin argues that Christ’s work may be summarized under three offices or ministries (the munus triplex Christi) — prophet, priest, and king. The basic argument is that Jesus Christ brings together in his person the three great mediatorial offices of the Old Testament. In his prophetic office, Christ is the herald and witness of God’s grace. He is a teacher endowed with divine wisdom and authority. In his kingly office, Christ has inaugurated a kingship which is heavenly, not earthly; spiritual, not physical. This kingship is exercised over believers through the action of the Holy Spirit. Finally, through his priestly office, Christ is able to reinstate us within the divine favor, through offering his death as a satisfaction for our sin. In all these respects, Christ brings to fulfillment the mediatorial ministries of the Old Covenant, allowing them to be seen in a new and clearer light as they find their fulfillment in his mediatorship.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 78–79

Tozer for Tuesday

I believe in the gifts of the Spirit, and I believe they all ought to be in the church. I not only believe they all ought to be in the church, but I also believe they all are in the true church of Christ. However, there has been this great indignity heaped upon the Holy Spirit. Some say the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the death of, the apostles. Why they fixed on that arbitrary time I do not know, because we do not know the date of the last apostle, and for that reason, we do not know when the Holy Spirit ceased to have any power among us.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 54

I know that my redeemer lives!

329 Truro. L. M.

1 I know that my Redeemer lives;
   what comfort this sweet sentence gives!
   He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
   He lives, my everlasting Head.

2 He lives to bless me with His love,
   He lives to plead for me above,
   He lives my hungry soul to feed,
   He lives to help in time of need.

3 He lives and grants me daily breath;
   He lives and I shall conquer death;
   He lives my mansion to prepare;
   He lives to bring me safely there.

4 He lives, all glory to His name!
   He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
   Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
   "I know that my Redeemer lives!"
                         Samuel Medley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
The first line of this hymn always makes me think of Handel's Messiah and the solo after the resurrection. Or, the rousing chorus "He live, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today, he walks with me…" And, of course, there is the Charles Wesley hymn, I know that my Redeemer lives, / And ever prays for me. But this is a worthy hymn and deserves to be highlighted. adds four more verses, interspersed between verses 1 and 3, making verse 2 above verse 3 in their rendering:

2 He lives triumphant from the grave,
   He lives eternally to save,
   He lives all-glorious in the sky,
   He lives exalted there on high.

4 He lives to grant me rich supply,
   He lives to guide me with His eye,
   He lives to comfort me when faint,
   He live to hear my soul's complaint.

5 He lives to silence all my fears,
   He lives to wipe away my tears,
   He lives to calm my troubled heart,
   He lives all blessings to impart.

6 He lives, my kind, wise, heav'nly Friend,
   He lives and loves me to the end;
   He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
   He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

</idle musing>

Monday, January 22, 2024

Stewardship and creation

The doctrine of creation leads to the idea of human stewardship of the creation, which is to be contrasted with a secular notion of human ownership of the world. The creation is not ours; we hold it in trust for God. We are meant to be the stewards of God’s creation, and are responsible for the manner in which we exercise that stewardship. This insight is of major importance in relation to ecological and environmental concerns, in that it provides a theoretical foundation for the exercise of human responsibility toward the planet.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 45

I worship Thee, most gracious God

328 Abergele. C. M.

1 I worship Thee, most gracious God,
   And all Thy ways adore;
   And every day I live, I seem
   To love Thee more and more.

2 When obstacles and trials seem
   Like prison walls to be,
   I do the little I can do,
   And leave the rest to Thee.

3 I have no cares, O blessed Will,
   For all my cares are Thine;
   I live in triumph, Lord, for Thou
   Hast made Thy triumphs mine.

4 He always wins who sides with God;
   To him no chance is lost;
   God’s will is sweetest to him when
   It triumphs at his cost.

5 Ill that He blesses is our good,
   And unblest good is ill;
   And all is right that seems most wrong,
   If it be His sweet will.
                         Frederick W. Faber
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, I'm continuing on my winning streak of choosing hymns that are not very well known or popular. This one only occurs in thirteen hymnals! I think that's the lowest of any I've seen yet, but given my record, I suspect it's not going to be the lowest!

Nevertheless, even though I don't recall singing it, it has some good theology—maybe popularity isn't everything : )

Just as
</idle musing>

Sunday, January 21, 2024

O Holy Savior, Friend unseen,

327 Flemming. 8. 8. 8. 6.

1 O Holy Savior, Friend unseen,
   Since on Thine arm Thou bid'st me lean,
   Help me, throughout life's changing scene,
   By faith to cling to Thee!

2 What though the world deceitful prove,
   And earthly friends and joys remove?
   With patient, uncomplaining love,
   Still would I cling to Thee.

3 Tho' oft I seem to tread alone
   Life's dreary waste, with thorns o'ergrown,
   Thy voice of love, in gentlest tone,
   Still whispers, "Cling to me!"

4 Though faith and hope awhile be tried,
   I ask not, need not aught beside:
   How safe, how calm, how satisfied,
   The souls that clings to Thee.
                         Charlotte Elliott
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
For a fairly modern hymn, this one seems to suffer from a lot of variation. Cyberhymnal inserts three verses, none of which contain our third verse:

2. Blessed with this fellowship divine,
   Take what Thou wilt, I’ll ne’er repine;
   E’en as the branches to the vine,
   My soul would cling to Thee.

3. Far from her home, fatigued, oppressed,
   Here she has found her place of rest
   An exile still, yet not unblest,
   While she can cling to Thee.

6. Blessed is my lot, whate’er befall;
   What can disturb me, who appall,
   While as my strength, my rock, my all,
   All, Savior, I cling to Thee!

Interesting side note: she was the author of the famous Billy Graham hymn, Just as I am.
</idle musing>

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Children of the heav'nly King

326 Pleyet's Hymn. 7. 7. 7. 7.

1 Children of the heav'nly King,
   As ye Journey sweetly sing:
   Sing your Saviour's worthy Praise,
   Glorious in his Works and Ways!

2 Ye are trav'ling Home to God,
   In the Way the Fathers trod:
   They are happy now, and ye
   Soon their Happiness shall see.

3 Fear not, Brethren, joyful stand,
   On the Borders of your Land;
   Jesus Christ, your Father's Son,
   Bids you undismay'd go on.

4 Lord! obediently we'll go,
   Gladly leaving all below;
   Only thou our Leader be,
   And we still will follow Thee.
                         John Cennick
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing> inserts two verses after verse 2:

3 O ye banish'd Seed be glad!
   Christ your Advocate is made;
   Us to save, our Flesh assumes,
   Brother to our Souls becomes.

4 Shout, ye little Flock, and blest,
   You on Jesu's Throne shall rest;
   There your Seat is now prepar'd
   There your Kingdom and Reward.

Interestingly, he wrote the table grace that I grew up singing, Be present at our table, Lord (#563 in this hymnal):
Be present at our table, Lord,
Be here and ev'rywhere adored,
These mercies bless, and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee.
The interesting thing is, I recall the final line as "May feast in fellowship with Thee," but I can't find any hymnal that lists it that way! Faulty memory? Or local change?
</idle musing>

Friday, January 19, 2024

It's not divine!

Perhaps one of the most significant affirmations which the Old Testament concept of creation makes is that nature is not divine. The Genesis creation account stresses that God created the moon, sun, and stars. The significance of this point is too easily overlooked. Each of these celestial entities was worshipped as divine in the ancient world. Many of these were worshipped as gods by Israel’s neighbors. By asserting that they were created by God, the Old Testament is insisting that they are subordinate to God, and have no intrinsic divine nature.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 41

I look to Thee in every need

325 O Jesu. 8. 6. 8. 6. 8. 8.

1 I look to thee in every need,
   And never look in vain;
   I feel thy strong and tender love,
   And all is well again:
   The thought of thee is mightier far
   Than sin and pain and sorrow are.

2 Discouraged in the work of life,
   Disheartened by its load,
   Shamed by its failures or its fears,
   I sink beside the road;
   But let me only think of thee,
   And then new heart springs up in me.

3 Thy calmness bends serene above,
   My restlessness to still;
   Around me flows thy quickening life,
   To nerve my faltering will:
   Thy presence fills my solitude;
   Thy providence turns all to good.

4 Embosomed deep in thy dear love,
   Held in thy law, I stand;
   Thy hand in all things I behold,
   And all things in thy hand;
   Thou leadest me by unsought ways,
   And turn'st my mourning into praise.
                         Samuel Longfellow
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Not a very popular hymn, only occurring in 101 hymnals. I don't recall ever singing it, but it has an nice upbeat trust to it that I like.

By the way, this Longfellow is the brother of the more famous Longfellow the poet.
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A rabbi and an emperor

The story is told of the pagan emperor who visited the Jewish rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah. The emperor asked to be allowed to see Joshua’s god. The rabbi replied that this was impossible, an answer which failed to satisfy the emperor. So the rabbi took the emperor outside, and asked him to stare at the midday summer sun. “Impossible!” replied the emperor. “If you cannot look at the sun, which God created,” replied the rabbi, “how much less can you behold the glory of God himself!”—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 25

God is my strong salvation

324 Aurelia. 7. 6. 7. 6. D.

1 God is my strong salvation;
   what foe have I to fear?
   In peril and temptation
   my light, my help, is near.
   Though hosts encamp around me,
   firm to the fight I stand;
   what terror can confound me,
   with God at my right hand?

2 Place on the Lord reliance;
   my soul, with courage wait;
   God's truth be thine affiance,
   when faint and desolate.
   God's might thy heart shall strengthen,
   God's love thy joy increase;
   mercy thy days shall lengthen;
   the Lord will give thee peace
                         James Montgomery
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This little tidbit from his biography I find quite amusing:

In common with most poets and hymnwriters, Montgomery strongly objected to any correction or rearrangement of his compositions. At the same time he did not hesitate to alter, rearrange, and amend the productions of others.
Interestingly, The first Methodist hymnal, produced by John Wesley, contained a similar injunction about changing and rearranging the hymns—although John also didn't hesitate to do it to others hymns (including those of his brother, Charles)!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Thought for the day

From Shelf Awareness, a bookseller's daily email:
"Children ask better questions than do adults. 'May I have a cookie?' 'Why is the sky blue?' and 'What does a cow say?' are far more likely to elicit a cheerful response than 'Where's your manuscript?' 'Why haven't you called?' and 'Who's your lawyer?'" —Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader

Bonhoeffer and the suffering of God

For Bonhoeffer, “our God is a suffering God”—one who bears our sin, pain, and anguish. The deepest meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not also borne by God. The church, for Bonhoeffer, is the continuing presence of the suffering Christ in history, a body of persons called to share in the messianic suffering of God by being there for others, carrying their burdens and thus fulfilling the duty laid on them by Christ himself. It is through suffering that Christians learn to turn the final outcome of their actions over to God, who alone can perfect them in glory. And it is in dying that they find true freedom as they meet God face to face. A suffering God, according to Bonhoeffer, has not abandoned his people. Far from it; he stands by them as a fellow-sufferer, and will bring them home to a place from which suffering and pain have been removed.—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 16

Not so in haste my heart!—He never comes too late

323 Dolomite Chant. 6. 6. 6. 6.

1. Not so in haste my heart!
   Have faith in God, and wait;
   Although He linger long,
   He never comes too late.

2. He never cometh late;
   He knoweth what is best;
   Vex not thyself in vain;
   Until He cometh, rest.

3. Until He cometh, rest,
   Nor grudge the hours that roll;
   The feet that wait for God
   Are soonest at the goal.

4. Are soonest at the goal
   That is not gained with speed;
   Then hold thee still, my heart,
   For I shall wait His lead.
                         Bradford Torrey
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this hymn—and it doesn't seem to have ever been very popular, only occurring in 37 hymnals. I do like the emphasis on waiting and abiding, trusting that God will lead in his timing, not ours. A healthy corrective to our hustle-bustle, rush around world.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Moltmann and the suffering of God

Moltmann argues that a God who cannot suffer is a deficient, not a perfect, God. Stressing that God cannot be forced to change or undergo suffering, Moltmann declares that God willed to undergo suffering. The suffering of God is the direct consequence of the divine decision to suffer, and the divine willingness to suffer. “In the passion of the Son, the Father himself suffers the pains of abandonment. In the death of the Son, death comes upon God himself, and the Father suffers the death of his Son in his love for forsaken man.”—Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.), 15

Tozer for Tuesday

Sadly, in some churches, God is no longer necessary. Some churches claim to believe in God but by way of doctrine have it so arranged at their church that God is not necessary to them for success. To the average church, God is desirable and may even be useful, but He is not necessary. Most churches can get on without God; they just give God His place in a nice way, as a guest. They say, “Our honored guest is here tonight,” but He is soon forgotten in the midst of all the claptrap. That is not an apostolic church.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 53

My times are in thy hand

322 Ferguson. S. M.

1 MY times are in Thy hand:
   O God, I wish them there;
   My life, my friends, my soul I leave
   Entirely to Thy care.

2 My times are in Thy hand,
   Whatever they may be,
   Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
   As best may seem to Thee.

3 My times are in Thy hand;
   Why should I doubt or fear?
   My Father's hand will never cause
   His child a needless tear.

4 My times are in Thy hand:
   I'll always trust on Thee,
   And,after death, at Thy right hand
   I shall for ever be.
                         William F. Lloyd
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing> inserts a fourth verse (this particular version has used plural pronouns throughout):

4 Our times are in Thy hand,
   Jesus, the Crucified:
   The hand our many sins have pierced,
   Is now our guard and guide.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 15, 2024

More on things as gods

The conviction of Mesopotamians that material objects such as thrones, harps, and chariots could be living, cognizant divine beings may have its roots in a Mesopotamian understanding of the world in some ways fundamentally different from our own. In her study of visual symbols used in prehistoric Mesopotamia, Beatrice L. Goff proposes that Mesopotamians in prehistoric times and later “saw the world more than we do today as ‘redundant with life’ ” and that in ritual they saw themselves “as handling living things.” [Symbols of Prehistoric Mesopotamia, 169] She cites a letter in which Thorkild Jacobsen argues that while there is “not the slightest evidence they confused animate and inanimate,” nevertheless “in moments of specific religious receptivity . . . objects became a Thou” for the ancient Sumerians (p. 166). Citing Mesopotamian lists of the potent properties of particular semi-precious stones and noting the selection of particular types of stone for use as amulets, Goff concludes, “Everything was potentially charged with power, and recognizably potent objects were sought for every concern. . . . The objects in antiquity were potent because they were animate” (p. 169). Whether or not one accepts Goff ’s essentially animistic characterization of Mesopotamian ideas of the natural world, or Jacobsen’s more nuanced position that in certain situations particular objects were perceived as living beings, the presentation of food offerings to certain selected material objects as well as to anthropomorphically conceived gods indicates that for Mesopotamians, objects were at least sometimes felt to be charged with life. By extension they were in some special circumstances recognized as living divinities.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 189

<idle musing>
Well, that wraps up our rapid run through What Is a God? Pity it's no longer available, but interlibrary loan can be your friend if you want to read more.

Tomorrow, we'll start Alister McGrath, Theology: The Basics (2nd ed.). There is a newer edition available, but this is the one I have on my shelf, so I'm reading through it. I have no idea how substantial the changes between editions are.

I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are too.
</idle musing>

When by fear by heart is daunted

319 Tantum ergo. 8. 7. 8. 7. 8. 7.

1 When by fear my heart is daunted
   Thou dost hold me in Thy hand
   Prayerless, anxious, vainly haunted,
   Thou dost make my courage stand:
   Foolish worries, fretting troubles
   Melt away at Thy command

2 God, Thou art unfailing treasure,
   Refuge Thou, and faithful Friend;
   Thy resources none can measure,
   Naught Thy steadfastness can bend.
   Life and light and love immortal,
   Firmly we on Thee depend.

3 Held by love, to peace I win me,
   Confident what-e'er betide;
   Safe in hope, Thy spirit in me
   With th' eternal power I hide;
   Strength and health are mine, and valor—
   Bravely over care I ride.
                         Percy Dearmer
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, this one is certainly rare, only occurring in four hymnals. And I can't seem to find the lyrics anywhere online, so I'm doing the world a favor by putting them here.
</idle musing>

Sunday, January 14, 2024

From every stormy wind that blows

317 Retreat. L. M.

1 From every stormy wind that blows,
   From every swelling tide of woes,
   There is a calm, a sure retreat:
   'Tis found beneath the mercy seat.

2 There is a place where Jesus sheds
   The oil of gladness on our heads;
   A place than all beside more sweet:
   It is the blood-bought mercy seat.

3 There is a scene where spirits blend,
   Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
   Though sundered far, by faith they meet
   Around one common mercy seat.

4 Ah, there on eagle wings we soar,
   Where sin and sense molest no more;
   For heaven comes down our souls to greet,
   And glory crowns the mercy seat.
                         Hugh Stowell
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Seems there are different versions of this hymn. It occurs in over 1200 hymnals (although I don't remember singing it). Here's some additonal verses from

3 Ah! whither could we fly for aid,
   When tempted, desolate, dismay'd?
   Or how the host of hell defeat,
   Had suff'ring saints no mercy-seat?

5 O let my hand forget her skill,
   My tongue be silent, cold and still,
   This bounding heart forget to beat,
   If I forget the mercy-seat.

</idle musing>

Saturday, January 13, 2024

I sought the Lord

316 Peace. 10. 10. 10. 6.

1 I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
   He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
   it was not I that found, O Savior true;
   no, I was found of Thee.

2 Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold;
   I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
   'twas not so much that I on Thee took hold,
   as Thou, dear Lord, on me.

3 I find, I walk, I love, but O, the whole
   of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee!
   For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
   always Thou lovedst me.
                        The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This isn't a very popular hymn, occurring in only 87 hymnals, but it contains some good theology, concentrating on the fact that God takes the initiative and we respond. Wesleyan/Arminians call this prevenient grace, with prevenient being a fancy term from the Latin. It means simply, that which comes before, so prevenient grace is the grace that come before saving grace. It's the grace that Augustine is referring to when he calls the Holy Spirit the hound of heaven. It chases us and woos us until we either slam the door shut permanently (if that is even possible!), or we surrender and allow him to save us, fill us, and transform us into his image. says that the author is Jean Ingelow. The Methodist Hymnal says the hymn was written "c. 1904." If that date is correct, then the author is indeed unknown, because Ingelow died in 1897.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 12, 2024

Binary thinking and the gods

It is probably significant that it is so often difficult to establish whether a particular entity was imagined as anthropomorphic or not. The shifting forms and the ambiguities in the representation of gods suggest that unlike modern researchers, ancient Mesopotamians were not particularly interested in whether a god was anthropomorphic or not. Indications that there was something significantly different about the gods of non-anthropomorphic form are very rare in Mesopotamian documents. Our own greater interest in the issue probably reflects the importance of largely anthropomorphic deities in the dominant modern Western religious traditions, but may also reflect the apparent preference of modern Western cultures or binary thinking, including categorizing in terms of “either/or,” a preference that is not universally shared. Mesopotamian descriptions of some gods as having many forms or aspects (e.g., Ishtar as a star, love, war, a queen, etc.) suggest that the Mesopotamian model of god was not construed in binary terms, and that Mesopotamians tended instead to envision a particular god as moving fluidly within a set of alternate forms.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 187–88

How firm a foundation

315 Adeste Fideles (Portuguese Hymn). (First tune)
      Foundation. (Second Tune) 11. 11. 11. 11.

1 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
   is laid for your faith in God's excellent Word!
   What more can be said than to you God hath said,
   to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 "Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
   for I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
   I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
   upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 "When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
   the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
   for I will be near thee, thy troubles to bless,
   and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

4 "When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
   my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
   the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
   thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

5 "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
   I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
   that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
   I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."
                         "K" in Rippon's Selection
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I had forgotten this hymn entirely. I didn't recognize it until I was into the second line, then the tune came rushing back into my mind.

For a review of who "K" might be, follow the author link. Upshot: We don't really know.
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 11, 2024

More on those nonanthropomorphic "gods"

For modern readers, it is tempting to see the temple in such instances as simply a pars pro toto reference to the chief god who dwelt in it, but since other material objects such as thrones and crowns belonging to gods or closely associated with them sometimes received food offerings independently from those presented to their divine owners, we cannot dismiss the possibility that the temples named here were similarly considered to be divinely charged from their close association with a god and had thus come to be seen as active, independent deities in their own right. W. G. Lambert takes this position, arguing that “the divinity of the deity was seen to have spread to temple, city and accoutrements . . . in such a way that these things also became gods and received offerings as a mark of the fact” (p. 129) in “Ancient Mesopotamian Gods: Superstition, Philosophy, Theology,” Revue de l’histoire des Religions 207/2 (1990), pp. 115–30.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 163 n. 32

Dear Shepherd of thy people, hear

313 Somerset. C. M.

1 Dear Shepherd of thy people, hear,
   Thy presence now display;
   As thou hast given a place for prayer,
   So give us hearts to pray.

2 Within these walls let holy peace,
   And love, and concord dwell;
   Here give the troubled conscience ease,
   The wounded spirit heal.

3 Shew us some token of thy love,
   Our fainting hope to raise;
   And pour thy blessings from above
   That we may render praise.

4 And may the Gospel’s joyful sound
   Enforc'd by mighty grace,
   Awaken many sinners round,
   To come and fill the place.
                         John Newton
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This hymn by John Newton isn't very popular, only appearing in a little over 200 hymnals.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

What about diseases?

Mesopotamians seem to have been of two (or three?) minds about the nature of diseases; the case of bennu [epilepsy] itself is illustrative of this, since in some cases it is referred to as a demon (itself a type of minor, perhaps supernatural, entity sometimes but not always labeled with a DINGIR determinative), sometimes it is marked as a DINGIR, and sometimes it is not marked or treated as a deity in any way, but discussed as what we might now call an inanimate phenomenon of nature. Although it seems not to have been always understood as a DINGIR, the evidence suggests that it was thought of as a DINGIR at least some of the time, or by some people.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 159 n. 18

Come, ye disconsolate

312 Consolation (Webbe). 11. 10. 11. 10.

1 Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish;
   Come, at the shrine of God fervently kneel!
   Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
   Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

2 Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
   Hope, when all others die, fadeless and pure,
   Here speaks the Comforter, in God’s name saying,
   Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.

3 Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing
   Forth from the throne of God, living and pure;
   Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
   Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.
                         Thomas Moore
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this song, but it appears in over 1500 hmnals. The author of this hymn was an interesting person. You might find his bio linked above interesting—or not…
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Are they anthropomorphic? Or not?

The ancient scribes’ persistent use of the DINGIR determinative to label both the great gods and all these other [nonanthropomorphic] entities suggests instead that the Mesopotamians themselves did not make such a distinction between gods envisioned in anthropomorphic form and gods envisioned as planets, demons, mountains or illnesses, instead including them all in the single category of DINGIR and ilu. Despite the reservations of scholars such as Stol and Bottéro, all of these DINGIRs and ilus appear to have been part of the varied group of entities that constituted, for ancient Mesopotamians, “the gods themselves.”—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 159

Tozer for Tuesday

The church of Jesus Christ in apostolic days had a very high moral elevation. If any church does not have a level of moral elevation comparable to the New Testament church, then it has violated the law of spiritual succession and it may be in doctrinal and lineal descent from the apostles but morally it has broken its succession and pulled out.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 53

Talk with us, Lord

309 Soho. C. M.

1 Talk with us, Lord, Thyself reveal,
   While here o'er earth we rove;
   Speak to our hearts, and let us feel
   The kindling of Thy love.

2 With Thee conversing, we forget
   All time, and toil, and care;
   Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,
   If Thou, my God art here.

3 Here then, my God, vouchsafe to stay,
   And bid my heart rejoice;
   My bounding heart shall own Thy sway,
   And echo to Thy voice.

4 Thou callest me to seek Thy face;
   'Tis all I wish to seek;
   To attend the whispers of Thy grace
   And hear Thee inly speak.

5 Let this my every hour employ,
   Till I Thy glory see;
   Enter into my Master's joy,
   And find my heaven in Thee.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Not one of Charles's more popular hymns; it only appears in about 200 hymnals. I don't recall ever singing it.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 08, 2024

So, What is a god?

Although the idea that Mesopotamian DINGIRs and ilus were gods is by now deeply entrenched in Assyriological thinking, the Mesopotamian evidence, as I hope to demonstrate, suggests that the Mesopotamian and modern Western concepts of deity are only partially equivalent. It is already clear, for example, that our idea of gods as they occur in a Mesopotamian context must be flexible enough to accommodate a goddess like Ishtar, who is described not only as a living person but also as a planet (and labeled and referred to as a DINGIR or ilu in both contexts), and broad enough to encompass the concept of thrones and crowns (not persons at all) as appropriate recipients of divine offerings, as if they too were gods.

One of the dangers in using the word “god” for DINGIRs and ilus is that it leads us to expect of Mesopotamia’s “gods” a degree of uniformity in their form and nature that belies the ancient evidence.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 158

Heavenly Father, bless me now

304 Seymour. 7. 7. 7. 7.

1 Heavenly Father, bless me now;
   At the cross of Christ I bow;
   Take my guilt and grief away,
   Hear and heal me now, I pray.

2 Now, O Lord, this very hour,
   Send Thy grace and show Thy power;
   While I rest upon Thy word;
   Come, and bless me now, O Lord!

3 Mercy now, O Lord, I plead
   In this hour of utter need;
   Turn me not away unblest,
   Calm my anguish into rest.

4 O Thou loving, blessed One,
   Rising o’er me like the sun,
   Light and life art Thou within;
   Saviour, Thou, from every sin!
                         Alexander Clark
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Take a minute to read the bio linked above. Not everyday that a Christian evangelist has so nice a eulogy given on his behalf by a well-known atheist!

As the bio link says, this hymn was originally six verses, with the Methodist hymnal using verses 1, 2, 5, and 6; here are the other two:

3 Now, Jesus now, for Jesus' sake,
   Lift the clouds, and fetters break;
   While I look, and as I cry,
   Touch and cleanse me ere I die.

4 Never did I so adore
   Jesus Christ, thy Son, before!
   Now the time! and the place!
   Gracious Father, show thy grace.

Good theology in there! He converted from Presbyterianism to Methodism, and reading those verses makes it obvious that is was more than just a change of scenery, but a change of theology.
</idle musing>

Sunday, January 07, 2024

And weapons? Are they gods?

Divine weapons belonging to gods are most frequently attested in the Sumerian world, although a few are still mentioned in texts in Neo-Assyrian times. An entity called simply “Saw” is listed in the Fara God Lists with a DINGIR sign, as we have already seen, and seems likely to have been the weapon of a god, like the saw of Šamaš in later times. In Neo-Sumerian Lagash, a weapon presented to Ningirsu by Gudea is labeled with the divine determinative and given the name dLugal-kur-dub ‘the Lord who Smashes the Mountains’ or ‘the Lord who Smashes the (foreign) Lands,’ a name that suggests this object was imagined not just as alive and active, but as energetically violent.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 180

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire

303 Campmeeting. C. M.

1 Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
   uttered or unexpressed;
   the motion of a hidden fire
   that trembles in the breast.

2 Pray'r is the burden of a sigh;
   The falling of a tear;
   The upward glancing of an eye,
   When none but God is near.

3 Prayer is the simplest form of speech
   that infant lips can try,
   prayer the sublimest strains that reach
   the Majesty on high.

4 Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice,
   returning from his ways;
   while angels in their songs rejoice,
   and cry, 'Behold, he prays!

5 Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
   the Christian's native air,
   his watchword at the gates of death:
   he enters heaven with prayer.

6 O Thou by whom we come to God,
   the Life, the Truth, the Way,
   the path of prayer thyself hast trod:
   Lord, teach us how to pray!
                         James Montgomery
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I know I've mentioned Mongomery's bio before, but you really should take a look at it. He was quite the rebel for God. omits verse 2 and adds a couple of verses at the end and also rearranges the order of the verses a bit.

5 The saints in prayer appear as one,
   in word and deed and mind;
   while with the Father and the Son
   sweet fellowship they find.

6 Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
   the Holy Spirit pleads,
   and Jesus on the eternal throne
   for sinners intercedes.

</idle musing>

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Sweet hour of prayer

302 Sweet Hour. L. M. D.

1. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
   that calls me from a world of care,
   and bids me at my Father's throne
   make all my wants and wishes known.
   In seasons of distress and grief,
   my soul has often found relief,
   and oft escaped the tempter's snare
   by thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

2. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
   the joys I feel, the bliss I share
   of those whose anxious spirits burn
   with strong desires for thy return!
   With such I hasten to the place
   where God my Savior shows his face,
   and gladly take my station there,
   and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

3. Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
   thy wings shall my petition bear
   to him whose truth and faithfulness
   engage the waiting soul to bless.
   And since he bids me seek his face,
   believe his word, and trust his grace,
   I'll cast on him my every care,
   and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
                         William W. Walford
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I always liked this hymn. It speaks of the joys of being in the presence of God and letting all your cares go. That makes sense when you read the bio of the author. He was a blind preacher and this is the only hymn known to have been written by him. Actually it doesn't seem he even intended to write it:

Rev. Thomas Salmon, who was settled as the pastor of the Congregational Church at Coleshill in 1838, remained until 1842, and then removed to the United States, is believed to have been the contributor who says of the hymn: "I rapidly copied the lines with my pencil as he uttered them, and send them for insertion in the Observer if you think them worthy of preservation."
They are indeed worthy of preservation! And it seems others agree, as it occurs in over 1100 hymnals.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 05, 2024

The fluid nature of the gods

Although this highly anthropomorphic concept of the divine is particularly apparent in Mesopotamian myths, it is also quite evident in the hymns and prayers in which Mesopotamians directly addressed their gods, as I noted in the introduction. In these genres, however, the images of gods are more fluid and less consistently anthropomorphic. In hymns and prayers, gods may appear at one moment as anthropomorphic beings who control some powerful aspect of the cosmos, and at the next moment they may be described as if they were that powerful phenomenon itself. In one third millennium Sumerian hymn, for example, Inanna is addressed first in anthropomorphic form as a great divine lady who controls the storm (“O destroyer of mountains, you lent the storm wings! . . . O my lady, at your roar you made the countries bow low”). She is next represented as a wild presence in the storm, separate from it yet almost its personification: “With the charging storm, you charge, with the howling storm you howl.” And finally the hymn represents her as the storm itself, “Inanna, the great dread storm of heaven.” In another hymn, Inanna is represented as both the bright planet Venus and a queen, “The pure torch that flares in the sky, the heavenly light, shining bright like the day, the great queen of heaven, Inanna,” who is praised for “her brilliant coming forth in the evening sky.” Similar examples of gods represented as both anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic could be cited in hymns and prayers from every period and for almost every great god of Mesopotamia.—Barbara N. Porter in What Is a God?, 154

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

301 Cwm Rhondda. 8. 7. 8. 7. 8. 7.

1 Guide me, O thou great Jehovah!
   Pilgrim through this barren land;
   I am weak, but thou art mighty,
   Hold me with thy powerful hand:
   Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
   Feed me till I want no more;
   Feed me till I want no more.

2 Open now the crystal fountain,
   Whence the healing stream doth flow,
   Let the fire and cloudy pillar,
   Lead me all my journey through:
   Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
   Be Thou still my Strength and Shield;
   Be Thou still my Strength and Shield.

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
   Bid my anxious fears subside;
   Death of deaths, and hell's Destruction,
   Land me safe on Canaan's side:
   Songs of praises, songs of praises,
   I will ever give to Thee;
   I will ever give to Thee.
                         William Williams, v. 1
                         Peter Williams, vv. 2, 3
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
A grand hymn with a rousing tune. I recall singing it many times growing up. It's fairly popular, occurring in over 1100 hymnals. Interestingly, says that Peter Williams was the translator of the hymn, not the author of two of the verses.

Cyberhymnal inserts a verse after verse 2 and another one as a final verse:

3. Lord, I trust Thy mighty power,
   Wondrous are Thy works of old;
   Thou deliver’st Thine from thralldom,
   Who for naught themselves had sold:
   Thou didst conquer, Thou didst conquer,
   Sin, and Satan and the grave,
   Sin, and Satan and the grave.

5. Musing on my habitation,
   Musing on my heav’nly home,
   Fills my soul with holy longings:
   Come, my Jesus, quickly come;
   Vanity is all I see;
   Lord, I long to be with Thee!
   Lord, I long to be with Thee!

</idle musing>

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Anthropocentric deities?

Indeed, considering that the gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia—the supernatural entities which governed the ancient mind and behavior—were human-made, fantasized products, it is not surprising that basically these uncanny figures mirrored the men and women who created them. The Mesopotamian conception of the divine can, thus, be considered anthropocentric, since it centered on and was constructed after the human model in form and essence.—Tallay Ornan in What Is a God?, 151

<idle musing>
I had a seminary professor who used to say, when you reason from the given to the divine, this is what you get. He would then contrast that with the biblical revelation.
</idle musing>

I want a principle within

299 Gerald. C. M. D.

1. I want a principle within
   of watchful, godly fear,
   a sensibility of sin,
   a pain to feel it near.
   I want the first approach to feel
   of pride or wrong desire,
   to catch the wandering of my will,
   and quench the kindling fire.

2. From thee that I no more may stray,
   no more thy goodness grieve,
   grant me the filial awe, I pray,
   the tender conscience give.
   Quick as the apple of an eye,
   O God, my conscience make;
   awake my soul when sin is nigh,
   and keep it still awake.

3. Almighty God of truth and love,
   to me thy power impart;
   the mountain from my soul remove,
   the hardness from my heart.
   O may the least omission pain
   my reawakened soul,
   and drive me to that blood again,
   which makes the wounded whole.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

The ANE Worldview

Although Mesopotamian theological thinking is manifest in diverse traditions that were probably, at least in their initial phases, independent of one another, it nevertheless betrays a systematic approach, as Lambert postulates. This approach is typified, among other factors, by a theological concept in which no distinction is made between cosmic and natural phenomena and man-made achievements: “The distinction we make between phenomena of nature, such as rivers, and human products, such as canals, was not part of their thinking.” [Lambert, “Ancient Mesopotamian Gods,” 119, 125, 127] In this kind of world-view a separation between a divine entity and its natural or man-made emanations is rather improbable. Consequently, the idea of the classification of deified stars, plants or constellations into a special category not included within the personified divine realm, as postulated by Bottéro, is hardly convincing. Moreover, looking at the systematic religious thinking of Mesopotamia as a holistic world-view, one may suggest that in cases of a deification of objects upon which the human imprint cannot be traced, the conceptual paradigm for such non-anthropomorphic divine agents was also centered in, and fitted to a human model.—Tallay Ornan in What Is a God?, 99

Courage! Trust in God!

298 Courage, Brother. 8. 7. 8. 7. D.

1 Courage, brother! do not stumble,
   Tho' thy path be dark as night;
   There's a star to guide the humble:
   Trust in God, and do the right.
   Let the road be rough and dreary,
   And its end far out of sight,
   Foot it bravely; strong or weary,
   Trust in God, trust in God,
   Trust in God and do the right.

2 Perish policy and cunning,
   Perish all that fears the light.
   Whether losing, whether winning,
   Trust in God, and do the right.
   Trust no party, sect, or faction;
   Trust no leaders in the fight;
   But in ev'ry word or action
   Trust in God, trust in God,
   Trust in God and do the right.

3 Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
   Some will flatter, some will slight;
   Cease from man, and look above thee:
   Trust in God, and do the right.
   Take His word for safest guiding,
   Inward peace, and inward might,
   Star upon our path abiding
   Trust in God, trust in God,
   Trust in God and do the right.
                         Norman Macleod
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Hammurabi's law code

One telling illustration: most popular commentaries on the stela of Hammurapi interpret the relief on top of the stela as depicting the god handing down the law code to the king. In fact, the god is merely handing down the symbols of civil power, which enable the king to enforce justice in his own capacity.—Herman Vanstiphout in What Is a God?, 38 n. 104

<idle musing>
Another important distinction that many miss...
</idle musing>

Tozer for Tuesday

Evangelicals are a little guilty of an error that is not quite so tragically bad as the Pharisees’, but it is an error nonetheless. We assume, and rather proudly, and without any proof, that we are in direct lineal descent from the apostles.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 48


The evangelical Church ought to have a height of moral elevation so great that the sinners look up there. Instead of that, we have edited it down, watered it down and diluted it. We have people showing us that we ought not to be holier than thou, but that we ought to say, “We are the same as you, only we have a Savior.”

This would be like two men dying on hospital beds in the same ward and one saying to the other, “I have what you have but the only difference between us is that I have a physician and you don’t.”—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 52–53


If I go to a sinner and say, “I am exactly the same as you, the only difference is that I have a Savior,” but I do all the same things he does—I tell the same dirty jokes he tells and I waste my time the same way he does and I do everything he does—and then I say, “I have a Savior, you ought to have a Savior,” doesn’t he have the right to ask me what kind of Savior I have? What profit is there for a man to say, “I have a physician” if he is dying on a cot? What does it profit a man to say, “I have a Savior” if he is living in iniquity?—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 53

<idle musing>
This is Tozer at his best: Calling out the hypocrisy of the evangelical church. But unlike some who attacked it and still attack it, he did so from a foundation of deep concern and prayer. He was like a surgeon trying to cut out the cancer and then nurse the body back to health. I pray that any critiques I offer would be in the same spirit.
</idle musing>

Draw Thou my soul, O Christ

297 St. Edmund 6. 4. 6. 4. 6. 6. 6. 4.

1 Draw Thou my soul, O Christ,
   Closer to Thine;
   Breathe into every wish
   Thy will divine;
   Raise my low self above,
   Won by Thy deathless love;
   Ever, O Christ, thro' mine
   Let Thy life shine.

2 Lead forth my soul, O Christ,
   One with Thine own,
   Joyful to follow Thee
   Thro' paths unknown;
   In Thee my strength renew;
   Give me Thy work to do;
   Thro' me Thy truth be shown,
   Thy love made known.

3 Not for myself alone
   May my prayer be;
   Lift Thou Thy world, O Christ,
   Closer to Thee;
   Cleanse it from guilt and wrong;
   Teach it salvation's song,
   Till earth, as heav'n, fulfill
   God's holy will.
                         Lucy Larcom
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Not a very common hymn, occurring in only 76 hymnals. She wrote several other hymns, but none of them are as common even as this one. Interesting tidbit: She went to Wheaton College and later taught there.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 01, 2024

The gods and the MEs (longish—but important)

We start the new year with a very important ANE concept: The role of the MEs with respect to the gods:
Still, there remains a vexing problem in connection with the powers of a god. Is there a limit to these powers? There is, of course, the organisational scheme, in which each god’s competence, and therefore power, is confined or restricted by the competencies of his colleagues. But within their own competencies, are they really omnipotent, and, what is more, completely free in their actions? A basic concept in Sumerian thought, hitherto not discussed, is the concept of ME—which is also, and more simply, the Sumerian verb ‘to be.’ Everything that exists in the world, from the material to the organisational to the social to the performative, etc., has its ME. The concept is hard to circumscribe, let alone define. It is, perhaps, somewhat akin to the Platonic “idea,” but it has also been understood as ‘divine essence,’ although there are some problems with this terminology. It is never made clear whether the divine character of the ME belongs to the ME in its own right, or to the god who at any given moment is in possession of the ME, or simply to the fact that the ME belongs to the divine sphere. Very broadly speaking one might understand ME as the abstract but no less real quintessence of all things, procedures, action, interrelations . . . . Without its ME, nothing can exist. And the point of any kind of existing “thing” is to conform as closely as possible to its ideal, if unreachable, form, which is its ME. Now the relationship between the gods and the MEs is still problematic, and was manifestly equally so to the Babylonian thinkers as well. First there is the troublesome fact that nam—dinir ‘divinity’ is itself one of the MEs. Since a god is, then, a god only by virtue of this ME one can hardly say that the god is independent of the ME, or that he rules the ME. Secondly it is held that the MEs are essentially unchangeable; yet some passages in the City Laments accuse the gods of changing the ME, or at least, of trying to. Finally, there are gods that are more or less in charge of the MEs. The best instance of this is the “myth” Inana and Enki, wherein Inana by a not very subtle trick steals the MEs from Enki, into whose trust they had been given, and takes them home to her own city. The text gives a catalogue of 110 MEs, which is repeated four times. Glassner has suggested that this shortened list (for the MEs may be thought to be infinite in number) stands for those MEs that are Inana’s typical powers and features. This is attractive, but I doubt that it can be upheld, on the whole. Probably related to this motif is the epithet sometimes used for Inana: me u5-a. This is usually translated as “who rides the MEs.” I suggest that it means “who guides/steers the MEs,” in the sense that she, as a goddess is responsible for the correct application of the MEs. It would seem, therefore, that the gods are not completely free agents with respect to the MEs. The MEs are the eternal and unchangeable first principles, or quintessences, of everything that exists. They are also the blueprints for everything that exists, in that they prescribe how it should exist. They do limit the divine powers.—Herman Vanstiphout in What Is a God?, 33–35
<idle musing>
This is an extremely important concept to understand the ANE. It's also common in Greek and Roman religion and culture as well, although by different names (probably other religions/cultures as well, but I can't speak for them). But as he says, it's difficult to explain or understand.
</idle musing>

Rudyard Kipling hymn and footnotes (or how to brainwash in two easy verses)

294 Germany. L. M.

1 Father in heaven, who lovest all,
   O help Thy children when they call;
   That they may build from age to age
   An undefiled heritage.

2 Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
   With steadfastness and careful truth;
   That, in our time, Thy grace may give
   The truth whereby the nations live.

3 Teach us to rule ourselves alway,
   Controlled and cleanly night and day;
   That we may bring, if need arise,
   No maimed or worthless sacrifice.

4 Teach us to look in all our ends
   On Thee for Judge, and not our friends;
   That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
   By fear or favour of the crowd.

5 Teach us the strength that cannot seek,
   By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
   That, under Thee, we may possess
   Man's strength to comfort man's distress.

6 Teach us delight in simple things,
   And mirth that has no bitter springs;
   Forgiveness free of evil done,
   And love to all men 'neath the sun.
                         Rudyard Kipling
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I'm blogging about this hymn not because I like it; I find it mediocre at best. Nor am I posting it because it was written by Rudyard Kipling. The reason is because of the footnoted two verses:

1 Land of our birth, we pledge to thee
   Our love and toil in the years to be,
   When we are grown and take our place
   As men and women with our race.

7 Land of our birth, our faith, our pride,
   For whose dear sake our fathers died;
   O Motherland, we pledge to thee
   Head, heart, and hand through the years to be.

Now, remember this hymnal was originally published in 1939, close to the height of the America First movement and just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Anti-immigrant feelings were running high, if anything higher than they are right now. Racism was rampant, even worse than today. Ever heard of lynchings? They were still happening. (Now we just shoot them—not sure that's an improvement!)

The verses are bad enough in and of themselves, but the footnote is what really burned me:

This may be used as a children's patriotic hymn by use of the following stanzas.
Look, a hymn that pledges allegiance to any earthly authority as ultimate is bad enough. But to endorse it with the suggestion that it would be appropriate for children is just too much like brainwashing for me. I wonder if the irony of the tune title was lost on them: Germany. And the first line of the (real) first verse: "Father in heaven, who lovest all." Of course, that's offset by the last line, with its "undefiled heritage"—a code word in those days for eugenics.

I can somewhat understand that in 1939 the cultural climate was conducive to it, but I own the 1963 reprint—and it's still in there! I guess we didn't learn anything from the pledge to the fatherland and race and what it can do to people, did we?

What a way to start the new year…
</idle musing>