Saturday, December 22, 2007

"No Country for Old Men"

If I had a vote in the academy mine would be for the "No Country for Old Men"

A few reviews: Steve Sailer, Google compilation, IMBD, and Rotten Tomatoes.

The web site and a Wikipedia article.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Great Post on Modern Copperheads Over at Gatewaypudit

This is a good one. Read all of it.

Democrats haven't changed a lick in 143 years as you can tell from this 1864 political cartoon by Thomas Nast

Dave Clark sent this very revealing 1864 campaign poster a while back and described the uncanny comparisons to today's anti-war party:

1.) Showing the enemy soldier stronger and more resilient than our own. Here the southern soldier (enemy) is upright and strong, the northern (US) broken and dejected.
2.) The "useless war" on the tomb. Even then the pessimist couldn't see the righteousness of the conflict.
3.) The flag flown upside down in a distress display; even then they saw little hope and only failure.
4.) The grieving widow....[MORE]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Military Desertion Rates and the Associated Press

From the American Thinker:

"According to this AP story, 9 in every 1,000 soldiers "went AWOL" in fiscal ending September 30, 2007. In the year ended September 30, 2006, nearly 7 per 1,000 were AWOL. The article uses the terms AWOL and desertion interchangeably even though they are not the same."

The A-T web site gives the rate for 97-04:




4.58 per 1,000



5.20 per 1,000



6.13 per 1,000



8.16 per 1,000



9.50 per 1,000



9.26 per 1,000



7.60 per 1,000



4.91 per 1,000

"Look at the above rates of Army desertion in the years just prior to the Iraq war. Years 2000, 2001, and 2002 (8.16, 9.5, 9.26) show higher rates than we have had during this terrible quagmire of an Iraq war, with its multiple tours of duty.

Why doesn't AP correspondent Lolita C. Baldur discuss that?

Powers states that in the fiscal year the Iraq war began (the invasion was March 2003) the desertion rate was 7.6 per 1,000, the same as 2006, a terrible year for the U.S. in Iraq. The AP article seems to be confused as to fiscal years. According to Powers, the desertion rate was quite low, 4.91, for fiscal year 2004 (from October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004), not fiscal 2003 as stated in the AP article"....[more]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christian Courts?

In an interesting exegesis Brian S. Rosner thinks that Paul advocated the establishment of Christian courts in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. He expounds on this idea on page 95 in “Paul, Scripture and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7”. A more standard interpretation would be that Christians should avoid suing each other. The New Bible Commentary offers a historical perspective:

"Among the elite of first-century society it was quite acceptable to institute civil proceedings before a magistrate and jury on trivial matters in order to establish one's social and political superiority over others. In weighing up their decision in such cases the jury had to take into account the status and power of the opposing parties, and the judge had to act likewise in imposing fines. Furthermore, certain persons were excluded from instituting legal proceedings against others; i.e. a son against his father, a slave against his master, a freedman against his patron, a citizen against the magistrate, and an inferior against his social superior. Judges and juries were regularly bribed by participants in a case. Mediation rather than litigation could be used in Jewish and Graeco-Roman courts. This was the preferred option of some because leading citizens feared the damaging effects of litigation on their social standing and public careers. Enmity was also engendered, for those who voted against the defendant automatically became his enemies. Civil litigation for the elite was simply seen as an extension of factions and discord in political life. ... ... ...

"In the light of the way local courts operated it is little wonder that Paul is appalled that some Christians dare to take civil actions before annually elected magistrates and wealthy compatriots. They acted as either judge and jury with great partiality and could also be bribed. (Therefore, Paul reasoned that) If the saints are to judge the world ... then they are surely competent to act as mediators in the civil actions which Paul calls trivial cases. ... ... ...(This is why) Paul asks, `do you appoint as judges men of little account in the church?'... .... While secular judges were people of high status in the community, in the Christian gathering secular status had no place. Paul uses the same term here as he does in 1:28 of those whom secular society despises. ... Some of those who were wise (see 1 Cor. 3:18) might undertake the role of mediator which was an accepted way to resolve matters in secular courts. The third stage of education in the first century trained students in legal studies and therefore there would be some in the church who were legally competent to resolve matters equitably.

... Paul indicates his revulsion at their actions by the words brother ... against another (brother) which signify the fellowship of believers - and this in front of unbelievers! ... The fact that matters could not be resolved when a brother has a dispute against another Christian is a sign of defeat for the Christian community. .... It is better to suffer wrong rather than go to court. Not only was dirty linen being washed in public but a fine was imposed on whoever lost the case - hence his accusation you ... cheat and do wrong - better `defraud.' In Ro 13:1-7 Paul discusses the God-ordained role of the state in criminal cases, but he has no place for the locally elected magistrates and juries who used the civil actions as a political arena. Christians who were legally trained and acting as mediators would resolve issues in a just way in a society where unjust conventions prevailed."

I’m skeptical that Paul advocated a system of Christian courts but he was appalled that we should use a secular court unanswerable to the church (v.4). But, I’ll think more about this.

WMD in Iraq, Saddam's Explanation

There was every reason to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD's. First he used them in Kurdistan. We know that our friends the Germans sold them the technology and set up his chemical plants. (If want to poison people by gas you should go to the pioneers in the field, they have lot's of experience). He denied access to UN inspectors in 1998, thumbing his nose at Clinton administration more interested in stains on a blue dress. Meanwhile the Iraqi people had to endure the UN sanctions, and Saddam's brutality. In a post 9-11 world with the US enforcing the UN sanctions that caused 1.5 million deaths, a wise decision was made to get rid of Saddam. Argue as you will, Iraq is far better off without Saddam and we (the US) are responsible for far fewer deaths in the post-2003 invasion than if we had just kept enforcing the sanctions and allowed Saddam to stay in place. A Fox News story gives a reasonable explanation as to why Saddam led us to believe that his WMD plants were still humming along:

  • George Piro, who told Kessler he befriended Saddam to extract confessions, said, "When we were saying bye, he started to tear up."
  • Saddam also feared Iran and told his American captors he wanted Tehran to believe he possessed nuclear and biological weapons, according to Kessler.
  • "Saddam said that if America thought that he had WMD, then, of course, Iran would, and this would fulfill his goal of making sure that Iran did not want to attack Iraq," Kessler told NBC News...[more]

Monday, November 12, 2007

'Why Don't You Shut Up?' Spain's King Tells Hugo Chavez

Something intelligent from a royal:

( - Spain's king has won widespread praise in his country for telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to "shut up" during an Ibero-American summit, a meeting that underscored the strengthening ties among Latin America's cabal of hard-line leftists....[more]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Instone-Brewer Responds to the Use of Extra-Biblical Literature for Scriptural Exegesis

A blogger critical of Instone-Brewer's use of history from Josephus, Philo, surviving documents and the Talmud for I-B's books and C-T article quotes John Piper:

Piper comments on the article:
Instone-Brewer’s interpretation is an example (common, it seems, in New Testament studies today) of taking extra-biblical observations and using them to silence the fairly plain meaning of biblical texts.
I-B responds:
Thank you for taking my work so seriously.
The method I use is the same as that used by John Piper who argues that the meaning of porneia is not how it is normally translated in the New Testament, but it means instead ‘pre-marital fornication’. This is based on the work of the Qumran scholar Abel Isaksson. It is similar to the well-established theory of the French scholar Bonsirven which was popularised a few decades ago by the Catholic scholar Murphy O’Connor, who found supporting evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This kind of interpretation is important for Catholic scholars because it means that Jesus did not allow any divorce after marriage has occurred – the same teaching that Piper supports.

It is also the same method by which many scholars show Matthew and Luke were not contradicting each other when one says Mary and Joseph were betrothed, and the other says Joseph planned to divorce her. They solve this by means of extra-biblical rabbinic documents which show that a betrothal could only be ended by a divorce certificate (something which is not recorded anywhere in the Bible).

I employ rabbinic documents and marriage & divorce documents from Jesus’ time to discover how to translate the phrase ‘Any Cause’, which was a legal title for a particular type of divorce in Jesus’ day. Anyone reading Matthew in the first century would recognise that legal phrase, and we have to take this into account when we attempt to understand Jesus’ teaching. People outside the first century understand that phrase differently. Does that mean that their interpretation is correct? Jesus spoke first to his audience in the first century, and we have to hear his words through their ears. It is part of the translation process.

See more at

David Instone-Brewer

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Churchill and the Jews


Martin Gilbert vividly shows in "Churchill and the Jews." By chronicling Churchill's warm dealings with English and European Jews throughout his long career, and his heartfelt support of Zionism, Mr. Gilbert conveys Churchill's deep admiration for the Jewish people and captures his crucial role in creating the state of Israel. Churchill offers the powerful example of a Western statesman who--unlike other statesmen in his own time and ours--understood the malignant nature of anti-Semitism and did what he could to oppose its toxic effects....[more]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Explanation of the Subprime Mess from the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, November 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Congress prodded, even strong-armed, banks into making more mortgage loans to low-income and minority families. Washington enacted anti-discrimination and community lending laws with penalties against lenders for failing to issue riskier mortgages to homebuyers living in poor neighborhoods or with low down payments and subpar credit ratings. And so it was that the modern subprime mortgage market was born....[more]

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hillel Vs. Shammai Pharisees, What Jesus May Have Said Regarding Polygamy

In the previous post and many before that the debate between two schools of Pharisees, the Hillel and Shammai was discussed. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus appears to side with the Shammai school for 'adultery only' for 'indecency' in Dt 24:1.

The Shammai school endorsed traditional Judaic values, with the Hillels appearing to adopt Greco-Roman influences. Divorce in G-R law was instantaneous and not require any particular reason, much like our modern No-Fault divorces. The 'Any Cause' divorce mentioned in Mt 19:3 and in Josephus, Philo and the Talmud may have been one of those Hillel adaptations.

What about polygamy? The OT does not forbid polygamy, and the Shammais allowed for it. The G-R world did not practice polygamy and the Hillels took that position. It appears that Jesus took the side of the Hillel Pharisees on this argument. In his book and writings David Instone-Brewer discusses the recent findings in the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran. The Essene sect may have inhabited the Qumran caves. The common scriptural argument against polygamy was Gen. 1:27, 2:24, and Lev 18:18. Jesus quotes Gen. 1:27 and 2:24 in Mt 19:4-5. Another blogger does more justice to I-B's exegesis.

It appears that Jesus rebukes the Shammais for polygamy in Mt. 19:4-5 before agreeing with their exegesis for 'indecency' in Dt 24:1 in Mt 19:8-9.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More on Instone-Brewer's Article in Christianity Today

David Instone-Brewer's article "What God Has Joined" Christianity Today's article has generated a lot of discussion. The CT editor, Jeff Neff and I-B himself responded. In the meanwhile David Instone-Brewer has started a blog. And the blogoshere itself is abuzz with the debate between I-B and John Piper. Piper is of the 'divorce (really separation) but no remarriage' school of thought. As I said before I think that Piper's thinking is flawed and thus ends up being overly harsh. As I-B notes in his C-T response:

  • John Piper’s own interpretation of the divorce passages is based on the view that porneia (Greek for ‘sexual indecency’) had a different meaning in first century Judaism, when it referred mainly to ‘fornication’ (i.e. sexual sin before marriage). This well-established theory was popularized a few decades ago by the Catholic scholar Murphy O’Connor, who found supporting evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This interpretation is important for Catholic scholars because it means that Jesus did not allow any divorce after marriage has occurred – the same teaching that Piper supports.

This evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls was based on only one passage, a particularly difficult one, in the Damascus Document, which relies on the translation of the word zenut (the Hebrew equivalent of porneia) as "sex before marriage". Since O’Connor put forward this theory, however, other scrolls have been studied (especially the Temple Scroll) and most scholars have concluded that the early interpretations of this passage were mistaken, and that it was actually forbidding polygamy.

This does not mean that John Piper’s non-traditional interpretation of porneia is wrong (it is still a possible interpretation that is waiting for more evidence), but it does mean that we do not now have much evidence that it can be translated this way. In fact, most scholars agree that porneia is a general term for sexual sin, as seen in the New Testament itself. It is used for visiting a prostitute (1 Cor.6.13-15, 18), incest (1 Cor.5.1), general sexual sin by a married person (1 Cor.7.2), use of cultic prostitutes (Rev.2.20-21) and the sin of the ‘whore of Babylon’ (Rev.17.2, 4; 18.3; 19.2) - though the most common meaning is ‘sexual sin in general’ (e.g. Acts 15.20; Eph.5.3; Col.3.5).

The main thrust of I-B argument is that Jesus was questioned on the meaning of ‘indecency’ in Dt. 24:1 and no more in Matthew 19:3 (Link 1, 2, 3).

Matthew 19:3. (NASB) Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

Note that the Pharisees were testing Him on for his opinion on the law. To the 1st century Jew that was the OT Law of Moses. The Pharisees were divided into two camps, based on Rabbis Shammai and Hillel. This debate is recorded in the Talmud:

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Gittin 9:10 on the controversy regarding the interpretation of Dt 24:1.

  • The School of Shammai said: Let not a man divorce his wife unless he found in her some matter of indecency [immorality] as it is said, “because he has found an indecency about her” [Dt 24:1]. But the School of Hillel say: Even if she spoiled his food, as it says, “because he has found an indecency of something about her” [Dt 24:1].
  • It has been taught: Beth Hillel said to Beth Shammai: Does not the text distinctly say 'thing'?7 Beth Shammai rejoined: And does it not distinctly say 'unseemliness'? Beth Hillel replied: Had it said only 'unseemliness' without 'thing', I should have concluded that she should be sent away on account of unseemliness, but not of any 'thing'.

The debate was clearly about the interpretation of indecency in Dt. 24:1. The Hillel Pharisees were the proponents of the “Any Cause/Reason/Matter/Thing” divorce. In the 1st Century AD the Hillel Pharisees were clearly winning that debate as evident from passages in Philo and Josephus on Dt. 24:1.

Philo (20 BC – 50AD) Special Laws 30-31(on Dt 24:1-4):

  • If a woman after parting from her husband for any cause whatsoever marries another and then again becomes a widow, whether this second husband is alive or dead, she must not return to her first husband but ally herself with any other man rather than him, because she has broken with the rules that bound her in the past and cast them into oblivion when she chose new love-ties in preference to the old.

Josephus (37AD – 100) Jewish Antiquities 4:253 (on Dt 24:1-4) :

  • He that desires to be divorced from his wife for any cause (25) whatsoever, (and many such causes happen among men,) let him in writing give assurance that he will never use her as his wife any more; for by this means she may be at liberty to marry another husband,

· footnote (25) from above: These words of Josephus are very like those of the Pharisees to our Savior upon this very subject, Matthew 19:3

Key Point - Note that Philo and Josephus use the term “Any Cause” as opposed to indecency in their interpretation of Dt. 24:1. This is a clear indication that the Hillel “Any Cause” divorce was the accepted one in 1st Century Judaism, not the Shammai definition meaning only adultery.

In spite of many blog sites denying so, the ‘Any Cause’ divorce is a 1st century AD Jewish legal term equivalent to our modern No-Fault divorce. Modern Jewish attitudes on divorce still accept this notion.

In upcoming posts, I’ll explore Instone-Brewer’s thoughts on other grounds for divorce, namely:

  • Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today

Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today

David Instone-Brewer has an article in Christianity Today on divorce and remarriage in the Bible. He cites the Hillel vs. Shammai Pharisaical debate over the meaning of “indecency” in Dt. 24:1 and the correspondence of Paul’s 1 Co 7 with Ex. 21:10-11. Instone-Brewer’s thesis is that the discussion outlined in the most detail in Matthew 19 (as opposed to Luke's, and Mark's) is that was a debate on 'indecency' in Dt 24:1 and not about Ex 21:10-11. Historical references, admittedly, extra-biblical back up Instone-Brewer. So a reasonable interpretation is that the liberal “Any Cause” Hillel divorce (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) was condemned by Jesus and the discussion in Mt 19 was not about Ex 21:10-11. The Talmud, Josephus, and Philo all mention this “Any Cause” divorce (also 1). The Talmud records this debate with Josephus and Philo inserting ‘Any Cause’ in place of ‘indecency’ for their interpretation of Dt 24:1. Modern Jewish opinions towards divorce remain the same, i.e. ‘Any Cause’ (equivalent to the modern No-Fault) for Dt. 24:1 and Ex. 21:10-11 being in place also.

So the question remains what was Jesus’ opinion on Ex. 21:10-11? I side with Instone-Brewer as from all reliable historical references; the Pharisees were questioning Him on Mosaic Law and His opinion of ‘indecency’ in Dt.24:1. The rights of slave-wife of Ex 21:10-11 were always accepted as grounds for divorce then as it is now. John Piper whose teachings I respect disagrees, and offers this criticism. The crux of his argument is with I-B’s interpretation of Ex. 21:10-11 in italics:

1) His claim that Jesus didn’t reject the (ostensible) grounds for divorce in Exodus 21:10-11 is an argument from silence. Jesus never alluded to these verses. And when he did speak about Old Testament grounds for divorce, he rejected them as owing to the hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5).

I-B does mention this in his writings. Silence can be a vague method of stating an argument. We know that the 1st century Jews as with the modern ones have accepted grounds for divorce. We know from historical references the debate was over ‘indecency’ in Dt 24:1. Piper also seems to miss the point of Mt 19:8. In the preceding verse the Pharisees asked Jesus as to why “Moses commanded one to give a Certificate of Divorce and to send her away?” There is only one situation where that appears in the Law of Moses, Dt 24:1. That was when the husband found an ‘indecency’ in her.

2) Keil and Deilitzsch have a totally different take on these verses than Instone-Brewer which does not assume that the purchased slave was already married to the purchaser when she is dismissed (Commentaries, Vol. 2, p. 131).

I haven’t read this criticism before. But if read at face value, Ex 21:10-11 seems very straight forward. Enough so that Paul basically re-iterates these values in 1 Co 7.

3) Worst of all, Instone-Brewer infers three grounds for divorce from Exodus 21:10-11, neglect of “food, clothing, and love.” These correspond to “later Jewish and Christian” marriage vows: “love, honor, and keep.” He then concludes—read and weep—“Thus, the vows we make when we marry correspond directly to the biblical grounds for divorce [namely, ‘emotional and physical neglect’].”

This is a valid argument, perhaps Ex. 21 can be abused, I’m sure it is in modern Jewish practices. However, what about cases in which spouses are abandoned? That’s pretty clear cut, yet Piper does not consider this to be valid grounds for divorce. He is of the 'divorce but no remarriage' school of thought.

Piper goes on:

Instone-Brewer’s interpretation is an example (common, it seems, in New Testament studies today) of taking extra-biblical observations and using them to silence the fairly plain meaning of biblical texts. Over against what Instone-Brewer says, Jesus did in fact reject, for his disciples, what Moses commanded (Mark 10:5) or permitted (Matthew 19:8) in Deuteronomy 24:1.

In considering extra-biblical sources one must consider what was Jesus teaching for all in all ages to come or against 1st century AD customs and practices. This is always a fine line. It’s apparent to me that the Mt 19 debate was solely about Dt. 24:1 and not about Ex 21:10-11. Matthew 19:8 was about forgiveness for the offending wife, even when Moses commanded that a Certificate of Divorce was required for the offence in Dt. 24:1.

Piper again:

My aim here is not to persuade people that this understanding of the exception clause is right. My aim is to say that David Instone-Brewer’s argument is not compelling—neither the argument from the “any-cause divorce” in rabbinic literature, nor the argument from Exodus 21:10-11. It is what I caution my students against. Beware of what looks like scholarly rank-pulling. For example, Brewer says, “I likely read every surviving writing of the rabbis of Jesus’ time.

If we do not understand the mindset of the 1st century Jew we won’t understand the message of Jesus. The NT was written for that audience, e.g. consider the situation of the tax collector. Ironically, Jesus and Paul’s messages were against easy divorce and is very applicable to the modern day situation of No-Fault divorces. Also, ad hominen attacks do add to the validity of one’s argument.

In that C-T article I-B takes a round of criticism from readers. He mounts a defense of himself in one of his sermons. Most of the reader comments attack Ex 21:10-11 as any source of teaching. This is unfortunate as rabbinical sources have always used Ex 21. What do Christians find objectionable to Ex. 21:10-11? This reinforces the notion that we as Christians should always keeping learning (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Iraqi Deaths from the UN Sanctions and from the US-led Invasion/Occupation

There is a common belief promulgated by the anti-war left and the MSM that US-led invasion is causing widespread misery and death in Iraq. Over at the anti-war website Iraq Body Count, there is the figure of 75,458-82,203 as of October 22, 2007. That's a large figure but remember that most of these deaths were from sectarian violence.

What were the deaths prior to the US-led invasion? In 1990 the UN sanctions barred the importation of simple chemicals such as chlorine for disinfection. Chlorine can be used in chemical weapons. The result can be summarized in this Wikipedia Article:

  • The sanctions regime was finally ended on May 22, 2003 (with certain arms-related exceptions) by paragraph 10 of UNSC, after approximately 1.5 million people had died.Resolution 1483. [18]

May 22, 2003 marked the beginning of the US-led invasion of Iraq. 80,000 vs. 1.5 million

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Half of New Jersey Wants Out

I lived in one of those red counties in NJ from 1989-93. The type of place where most of the tax revenue for the NJ state government would flow from. Foxnews has a story unlikely to be picked up by other news media. This is a story about those poor devils:

Poll Finds Almost Half of New Jersey Adults Want to Move Out of State

Thursday , October 18, 2007 By Sara Bonisteel


Even New Jerseyans can't stand living in New Jersey, according to a new poll that said nearly half of adults residing in the Garden State want to pull up stakes.


Poll participants cited high property taxes (28 percent), the cost of living (19 percent), state taxes (5 percent) and housing costs (6 percent) as the main reasons they want out. The poll also found that 51 percent of those who expressed a desire to leave planned to do so, with adults under the age of 50 making between $50,000 and $100,000 the most likely to flee....[more]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Modern Jewish Attitudes Towards Divorce

Jewish views of divorce have remained constant over 2500 years. The website below goes as a far as to equate the ancient “Any Cause” (link 1, 2, 3, 4)) with the modern “No-Fault” divorce.

From Judaism 101:

  • Judaism recognized the concept of "no-fault" divorce thousands of years ago.
  • Under Jewish law, a man can divorce a woman for any reason or no reason. The Talmud specifically says that a man can divorce a woman because she spoiled his dinner or simply because he finds another woman more attractive, and the woman's consent to the divorce is not required.

This is a reference to the “Any Cause” divorce to which the Pharisees questioned Jesus in Matthew 19:3. The interpretation of the Hillel Pharisee was that any infraction is grounds for divorce. The Shammai Pharisee held to the stricter formulation of “sexual immorality” grounds only. This debate was one recorded in the Talmud over the meaning of “indecency” in Dt. 24:1.. Jesus preaches against the “Any Cause” divorce in verse 19 by affirming the Shammai position for sexual immorality only position. The Hillel Pharisees prevailed in post 70AD Judaism after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, thus the modern position that reflects the “Any Cause” divorce.

  • In fact, Jewish law requires divorce in some circumstances: when the wife commits a sexual transgression, a man must divorce her, even if he is inclined to forgive her.

In the bullet point above, Jesus rejects required divorce by reminding the Pharisees that forgiveness was and is always an option in verse 8 of Mt 19.

  • According to the Torah, divorce is accomplished simply by writing a bill of divorce, handing it to the wife, and sending her away. To prevent husbands from divorcing their wives recklessly or without proper consideration, the rabbis created complex rules regarding the process of writing the document, delivery, and acceptance. A competent rabbinical authority should be consulted for any divorce.

That bullet point above is in direct reference to Certificate of Divorce in Dt. 24:1.

The next passage taken from Judaism 101 is in reference to Ex. 21:10-11. In this situation a slave wife is set free in the case of neglect/abandonment.

  • a rabbinical court can compel a husband to divorce his wife under certain circumstances: …., when he violates or neglects his marital obligations (food, clothing and sexual intercourse)

Instone-Brewer makes reference to this verse, and further expounds that in 1st century AD many Jews reasoned what is good for the slave wife, is good for the free one, and thus good for the husband. This point was never in debate between the Hillels and Shammais over Dt. 24:1. It is highly unlikely that Jesus was commenting on Ex 21. Further evidence is offered in 1 Corinthians 7, St. Paul makes references to the causes of martial discourse and alludes to Ex 21 in verses 3-5 and 33-34. In verses 10-11 and 15-16 he addresses the issues of abandonment. To the Greco-Roman Corinthians this was a type of "No-Fault" divorce.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ross Jardine = Wade Cook

This guy has been on the radio hawking financial bunk. Sounds very much like this guy who took down a family I once knew very well. Justice delayed.

54th Massachusetts

54th Massachusetts, real Civil War heroes.

Jefferson Davis' Dress

I wonder if he wore makeup and what was his dress size? A heroic last stand.

From the November 22, 1873 NY Times:


Capture of Jefferson Davis, at Irwinsville, GA., wood engraving, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 1865.

Lot's more great images at GMU's web site.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

John Polkinghorne

Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, PhD, ScD, MA, (born October 16, 1930 in Weston-super-Mare, England) is a British particle physicist and theologian. He has written extensively on matters concerning science and faith, and was awarded the Templeton Prize in 2002...[more from Wikipedia]

A website where he answers questions about Science and God.

Stallone on Myanmar

Oct 1, 4:21 PM (ET)


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Sylvester Stallone says he and his "Rambo" sequel movie crew recently witnessed the human toll of unspeakable atrocities while filming along the Myanmar border.

"I witnessed the aftermath - survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land-mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off," Stallone told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. "We hear about Vietnam and Cambodia and this was more horrific."...[more]

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Civics Quiz

Some bragging here:

See the USA Today news story on this quiz.

So 85% may not be all that good given the pool of test takers. Oh well.


The civics literacy test covered American history, government and political thought, plus international affairs and the market economy. Some highlights:
Group Freshman average Senior averge
Havard (top seniors) 63.59% 69.56%
Yale (top freshmen) 68.94% 65.85%
St. Thomas Univ. (Fla.) - 1 (lowest freshmen and seniors) 29.75% 32.50%
Eastern Conn. State - 1 (biggest gain) 31.34% 40.99%
Cornell (biggest loss) 61.90% 56.95%
Combined scores/State non-flagship universities 41.50% 47.40%
Private, secular non-Ivy universities 56.20% 60.10%
State flagship universities 50.70% 54.40%
Catholic universities 45.20% 48.30%
Protestant universities 53.80% 56.60%
Ivy League universities 64.00% 64.10%

Friday, September 28, 2007

As Prices Soar, U.S. Food Aid Buys Less

From the NY Times. Something to think about in this upcoming push for "biofuels." Have you seen the price of milk in the US lately?

By CELIA W. DUGGER Published: September 29, 2007

Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of
food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year.

The United States, the world’s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture....[

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sabians followers of John the Baptist

Are these the followers of Apollos mentioned in Acts as the preacher of the baptism of John? The Wikipedia article on them only traces them back to 900 AD. Apollos later became a Christian through Aquila and Priscilla.

By Zaid Sabah, USA TODAY

BAGHDAD — Dressed in gleaming white robes, a small group of Sabians gathered on a Sunday afternoon to wash away their sins — and to forget about the problems facing Iraq and the followers of their ancient religion.

The Sabians belong to a centuries-old sect that follows the teachings of John the Baptist but is neither Muslim nor Christian. Flowing water plays a symbolic role in their faith, and several people were baptized at the recent ceremony, including three couples who were getting married....[More]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Was the 'Big Bang' Creation?

As a scientist spending most of my life as an agnostic, and cultural Catholic, it always seemed to me that the Big Bang was the beginning of creation. It certainly fits Genesis 1's description. Einstein appeared to pull back from the idea of the Big Bang as it would imply a creator. he preferred to think of constant universe rather than one with a beginning:

  • Albert Einstein's reaction to the consequences of his own general theory of relativity appear to acknowledge the threat of an encounter with God. Through the equations of general relativity, we can trace the origin of the universe backward in time to some sort of a beginning. However, before publishing his cosmological inferences, Einstein introduced a cosmological constant, a "fudge factor," to yield a static model for the universe. Einstein later considered this to be the greatest blunder of his scientific career.
  • Einstein ultimately gave grudging acceptance to what he called "the necessity for a beginning" and eventually to "the presence of a superior reasoning power." But he never did accept the reality of a personal God.

Einstein didn't believe quantum theory either as it would imply God played dice.

I couldn't get to sleep last night and listened to radio, a physicist, Lawrence Krauss was on declaring that the Big Bang was evidence that biblical creation do not happen. Radio host didn't press with more questions, but this is one Christian who wholeheartedly disagrees.

Krauss went on to say intelligent design was bunk and the theory of evolution is the basis of modern drug design. I don't believe as a physicist, Krauss has designed any successful drugs. I know of at least one who has. Phil Skell, a former professor of mine at Penn State and a member of the National Academy of Sciences has this to say:

  • Evolution Theory is a broadly overarching historical theory that pertains to the developmental history of living organisms over the past 3.5 billion years. It is reasonable to examine its credentials and determine its current utility. Does it have a directive impact in the inductive, or experimental, sciences, such as Physics, Chemistry, and Biology? Despite statements in the literature that make it out to be vitally important in modern Microbiology, Neurobiology, Genetics, Plant Biology, Medicine, Surgery, Pharmaceutics, etc., I believe this assignment to evolutionary theory cannot be justified. Nobel Laureate, Francis Crick wrote: "It might be thought that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case." I am mindful of the statement of a professor at a prestigious medical school, that Darwin is not mentioned in the four-year medical program. And, another from a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry, that his company does not have a Division of Darwinian Concepts to help in making more effective their choices for future research.
  • Over A half century ago, during WW II, I was personally associated with an antibiotics research group, engaged in the full range of activities, from finding organisms which inhibited bacterial growth to the isolation and proof of structure of the antibiotics they produced. Since then there has been astounding sophisticated advances in instrumentations and methodologies, but nonetheless persons engaged in current activities make no more use of Darwinian Concepts than in those earlier days; those Concepts do not, and did not, have a determinative impact on the conception and prosecution of the projects.

Militant Darwinists seem to promulgate the idea that all of modern science rests upon the theory of evolution. Everything from microchips to drug design will suffer if evolution isn't taught in grade school without any doubts. Evolution should be taught, but there are holes big enough to fit a truck through with clearance.

I have a good friend, and colleague who invented the glucose detector while we were both graduate students at Penn State. The device is the one you can buy anywhere, and has probably saved 10,000's of lives. He was then and is now a 6-day creationist. I believe in old earth so we differ there. But he and I would agree that the everyday successful functioning of science does not depend on accepting evolution without doubts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Matthew 5:17-20, 12:1-14, 30-32

My reading at Church Yesterday

Jesus speaks on the Law of Moses in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:17-20

  • 17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Christians are not under the Law but rather righteousness. But see how Jesus applies the righteousness that God intended in the Law given to the Jews in the following:


  • 1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." 3 But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 "Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 "But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 "But if you had known what this means, (quotes Hosea OT) `I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." 9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, "What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 "How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." 13 Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

The Pharisees go on to test Jesus again and accuse him of sorcery later, He has this to say:

The Christian is under the Holy Spirit. How then should a Christian who is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit view the Law of Moses? Christ came to fulfill the Law. With the Law there is righteousness that should be apparent to the Christian. In the 613 Commandments for example there is
  • 31. Not to take revenge (Lev. 19:18)
It is good that we not take revenge, but what did Jesus teach us in his Sermon on the Mount? In Mt 5:21-22 it is that just anger is evidence of guilt. It is indeed there in Lev. 19:18. However does Lev 19: 19 & 20 impact a Christian? These are things in which the Holy Spirit guides us. In those Laws there is righteousness intended by the Lord for all ages.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Tax Collector in The Gospels The 1st and 21st Century Contexts

The tax collector earned the scorn of the gentile, common Jew, the Pharisee, and Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus recognizes that the tax collector was a man in need of redemption in Matthew and Luke (another Link). His apostle, Matthew was a tax collector before he sought salvation.

How do we perceive the tax collector in the 21st century? I'm sure there are many Christians working for our IRS. How do they justify the righteousness of working as tax collectors when they are so scorned as sinners in the Gospels? If read without context, the tax collector in modern America is a sinner and should give back half of anything he earned to the poor, and perhaps make severe restitution to others.

Christians working for the IRS should rest easy. The Gospels were written in the 1st Century AD with the Jews and others under the domination of Romans. The Jews suffered under this occupation and tax collectors were part of the Roman apparatus for domination of Judea. In modern America, we have control of the tax collector (in principle) and they are in the service of a government we have elected.

This underscores the importance of reading Scriptures in its historical context. The word of God is made clearer to us when we consider the historical context in which human hands wrote scripture.

Note added Sept. 28 - Wikipedia article on publicans

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Notre Dame and Michigan

As we go in this weekend's battle of the 0-2 giants consider:
  • Such underperformance raises a serious question about whether Notre Dame, and similarly Michigan, can hope to contend regularly for national championships without lowering their rigorous academic standards. ....[more from NY Times]

  • In assessing Penn State’s 31-10 victory over Notre Dame, Joe Paterno said at his weekly news conference: “Notre Dame has got some problems. They didn’t challenge us, really.”
Take advice from Joe Pa, he knows all about lowering standards.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

613 Commandments of Judaism

From Judaism 101:

  • Below is a list of the 613 mitzvot (commandments). It is based primarily on the list compiled by Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, but I have consulted other sources as well. As I said in the page on halakhah, Rambam's list is probably the most widely accepted list, but it is not the only one. The order is my own....[more]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Roman Divorce-by-Separation

David Instone-Brewer makes frequent reference to the unilateral divorce that Paul was trying to prevent among Christians in 1 Corinthians 7. Instone-Brewer calls it a divorce-by-separation. Unlike the legal term used by the Hillel Pharisees for their form of groundless unilateral or the "Any Cause" (1, 2, 3, 4) divorce, there doesn't seem to be one for Roman law. A chapter from a monograph "Marriage Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome" (1991) describes the historical aspects of Roman divorce in the late Republic, early Principate. Divorce Roman Style: How Easy and how Frequent was it? (pp31-47) by Susan Treggiari describes the process.

pp. 33-34
"If the initiation and continuance of a marriage depended on consent, explicit or implies of both spouses ..., then it follows logically that divorce may be produced by the withdraw of that consent by one of parties, or perhaps we should say, more positively, by the decision of one party not to retain the relation"

p. 36
"No ratification from any outside authority (such as Church or State) was necessary for divorce, any more that it was for marriage."

p.37 top
"Just as documentation of the action of the divorcing spouse was not legally necessary, so receipt of the notice by the husband or wife remained inessential."

p. 37 bottom
"As far as the legal system went, by the time of Cicero it appears that both husbands and wives could divorce each other, unilaterally, without seeking outside ratification."

This is the Greco-Roman unilateral divorce that Instone-Brewer describes in his many works. Paul refers to it in verses 10-16 in 1 Corinthians 7.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A gem from Tektonics

An interesting discussion that touches upon David Instone-Brewer's work:

"After addressing Krueger's second (and now third, fourth) reply to this item, it has become more clear than ever that he follows the usual line of what one reader of this site has called "fundamentalist atheism." In essence, the fundamentalist atheist (or agnostic, or Skeptic; we use the term "atheist" for convenience) is a critic who reads the Bible the same way that a fundamentalist Christian would, as though it were something written yesterday and with them in mind, and that it can be easily understood and commented upon in scholarly detail and authoritatively by any yahoo with decent eyesight. Such, as we have shown in various contexts and with reference to various parties, is simply not the case."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Review of Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Contex


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 53, 2005

DAVID INSTONE-BREWER, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). Pp. xi+355. $US26.00.
One of the strengths of this book is the close attention paid to primary sources, and the careful and considered approach to their interpretation. For readers who do not have Instone-Brewer’s expertise in either ancient near eastern texts or Rabbinics, this book is especially helpful. Instone-Brewer insists that, to properly understand the New Testament texts relating to divorce (and remarriage), it is essential that they be read “through the eyes of a first century believer.”


He concludes with the strong statement:
The message of the NT is that divorce is allowed but should be avoided whenever possible. Divorce is allowed only on the grounds of broken mar-riage vows, and the decision to divorce can be made only by the injured party … If divorce does happen, remarriage is permitted. All this would be obvious to a first-century believer, but the meaning of the text was obscured at a very early date due to ignorance about the Jewish background after 70 C.E. … The Church should now be humble and admit that a great mistake has been made. Too many generations of husbands and wives have been forced to remain with their abusing or neglectful partners and have not been allowed to divorce even after suffering repeated unfaithfulness.
Instone-Brewer’s book is a tour de force on this subject, and while it will inevitably raise serious questions and some disagreement, his treatment of the texts upon which debate must focus and the competent and judicious way in which he handles them de-serve the most serious attention......[more]

Explanation of a Hedge Fund


What is the deal with hedge funds?
By John W. Schoen
Senior Producer
Updated: 5:38 a.m. PT Aug 27, 2007

The original ancestors of what we now call hedge funds were a specialized form of investing that placed a very specific kind of bet — looking for opportunities to “hedge” one investment with another. Unlike a mutual fund, which buy stocks and holds onto them hoping they go up, hedge funds also sell stocks short, buy futures contracts to offset risks and use an increasingly complex set of derivatives — a specialized breed of financial instrument, many of which were invented to help investors hedge the basic risks of owning a stock or bond outright....[more]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Review of "The Secret" by a Christian

I sorted through a variety of reviews both pro and con about "The Secret" on Christian blogs. This is one of the better ones:

"Without mentioning Jesus, she quotes Him in Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, claiming that the teaching to ask, believe, and receive in prayer is the way to "create what you want in three simple steps" (p. 47). And of course, it is not God we're to ask, but "the Universe." Thus The Secret is pantheistic, that is, it teaches that God is not a Person; rather He is to be equated with the totality of everything."

"It is no exaggeration to say that this book implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) denies virtually every major doctrine in the Bible. For starters, the authority of Scripture is undermined in The Secret, because the Bible apparently has value only insofar as it (according to Byrne) teaches The Secret....[more]"

Friday, August 24, 2007

"The Secret" Exposed

This appeared on boingboing:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Exposing "The Secret"

Jody Radzik of the always-illuminating Guruphiliac blog says, "Here's an excellent explanation, deconstruction and debunking of that claptrap "The Secret." From "The Wrath of the Secretrons" by Connie L. Schmidt:
f you’re at all familiar with The Secret, you know that the big secret revealed therein is a centuries-old principle called the law of attraction, or LOA. In The Secret LOA is presented as a scientific law akin to the law of gravity. LOA believers maintain that whether we realize it or not, we “attract” everything that happens to us – the good and the bad, the sublime and the silly, the comical and the tragic. Financial success or failure, health or illness, a life of peace or one beset by violent crime or natural disasters, all occur because we somehow attracted them. Proponents of LOA explain that this happens because our vibrations are in sync with the events in question. If we learn to focus on the good and ignore the bad, we will “raise our vibrations” and attract more good things into our lives – including, and some would say especially, material goodies....[more]

Thousands of college students in Washington don't understand simple algebra

Educators tackle a math problem

State plans to raise high school graduation requirement


Thousands of college students in Washington don't understand simple algebra and must take classes to learn what they should have mastered in high school....[more]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Instone-Brewer's Divorce and Remarriage in 1st and 21st Century

David Instone-Brewer's website at Cambridge University contains the complete text of a book that contrast the understanding of divorce in Jesus' and modern times. An excerpt:

"I have used capital letters at the start of 'Any Matter' and 'Indecency' because, as I will show below, they are actually Jewish technical legal terms. Any Jew in the 1st century would be familiar with these terms, just as any 21st century person is familiar with terms like 'no-fault divorce' and 'maintenance'. For example, a 1st century Jew might think that a 'no-fault divorce' was one where the legal paper-work was error-free, or that 'maintenance' referred to maintaining the singleness of a divorcee. As 21st century readers, we are likely to suffer just as much misunderstanding, unless we can understand the legal jargon which Jesus is using, in the way that a 1st century reader would have understood it."

The "Any Matter", "Any Reason" or "Any Cause" divorce was discussed in previous posts. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The first century "Any Cause" divorce is very similar to the modern "No-Fault Divorce."

Matthew 19:3 (NASB)

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"

A modern version might read:

"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife using the No-Fault method?" Or "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for no fault at all?" What will No-Fault mean 2000 years from now?

Monday, August 20, 2007

March up Bald Mt.

Pictures from the first annual All Souls Church men's hike up Bald Mountain (5,334 ft) located in St. Joe's National Forest. Starting from the Giant White Pine campgrounds off Hwy 6 to the lookout tower is about 18 miles RT with about 3800 vertical feet of climbing.

The fellowship of the surly five.