Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Road Trailer

The trailer for The Road is out. It looks like the film will be as difficult to watch as the book was to read. In a good, way of course, but my oh my, I am afraid. I am very afraid. I don’t mean that to sound trite, like in an exhilarated, adrenaline-rush type of fear, or the “fear” evoked by gratuitously violent or psychologically manipulative horror movies (though I do note that I am to a degree succumbing to the shameless emotional manipulation that is at the core of the genre of “movie trailer”), but rather I am afraid in a way that is vivified by a story of love and terror stripped almost to its essence.


A Humorous Anecdote, Plus A Short and Hopefully Not too Preachy Observation About Television, Or, How to Be Counter-Cultural and Completely Baffle People at the Same Time

At work this afternoon, I received the following in an email from Jess:

An AT&T salesman just came to our door:
Salesman: Are you currently with AT&T, ma’am?
Jess: Yes.
Salesman: Phone, TV, Internet?
Jess: Yes. Well, phone and internet. We don’t have TV.
Salesman: Oh. So who do you have your TV service with?
Jess: No one. We don’t have TV at all.
Salesman: You don’t…no TV? No Basic? Did you get the converter box? *looks of bewilderment, astonishment, what-century-are-you-living-in*
Jess: Nope, we don’t watch TV.
Salesman: Well, I’m gonna get you TV.
Jess: I don’t want TV.
Salesman: You don’t wa…?! *shakes head, leaves*

Way to go, my love! The only thing I would have done differently is hand him a copy of Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

This brought to mind another experience/observation I had/made the other day. I saw an advertisement for a Lexus with televisions built into the back of the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat. I have also noticed as of late the near ubiquity of televisions in supermarkets. So now we can watch television at home (usually in almost every room in the house), watch television in the car, and watch television at the supermarket while we shop. Even if we need to stop for gas, there are more and more televisions at the pump.

There is a word for this, I think. It is called addiction.

Hello, My Lovelies


Thes first two volumes—We Believe in One God and We Believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, edited by Gerald Bray and John McGuckin respectively—of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series (five volumes total) just landed on my desk, fresh from the printer.

Here’s copy from the website, explaining the series:

This exciting five-volume series follows up on the acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to provide patristic commentary on the Nicene Creed. The series renders primary Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac source material from the church fathers in lucid English translation (some here for the first time) and gives readers unparalleled insight into the history and substance of what the early church believed. Including biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources as well as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in Greek, Latin and English (ICET version), this series illuminates key theological essentials in the light of classic and consensual Christian faith and makes an excellent resource for preaching and teaching.

The first volume of another exciting series, Ancient Christian Texts, also recently arrived from the printer: Gerald Bray’s translation of Ambrosiaster’s commentaries on Romans and First and Second Corinthians.


Soon to follow are translations of Origen’s homilies on Numbers, and Cyril of Alexandria’s massive commentary on the Gospel of John. These are just the highlights of around thirteen volumes (you can read the whole list at the link to the series page above), many of which are appearing in English for the first time.

Stream Wilco’s New Album


That’s the cover of the new Wilco album, Wilco (The Album). I’m not kidding. That’s the name of the album. It’s coming out on June 30. But you my friends can stream the entire album right here. I am listening to it right now. The title of the opening track is “Wilco (The Song).” Again, not kidding.

(UPDATE: I think that’s Feist on the fourth or fifth track.)

(UPDATE: Confirmation: it is Feist. I seem to be a little behind on this one.)

(UPDATE: Done listening. That was awesome.)

The Torn Curtain in Matthew 27

This morning in our adult education hour we were discussing the resurrection narrative in Matthew. Naturally to discuss resurrection it’s important to go back over the crucifixion narrative. We were specifically talking about Matthew 27:51, the moment just after Jesus dies: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Our teacher (a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College) said that although this is usually taken as implying that people now have direct access to God, he didn’t think so. Rather, he said, the torn curtain indicated that God’s presence had left the temple. We pushed him on this, and he gave three reasons why he thinks this is the case (with some of my extrapolations along the way).

First, the former reading (that the torn curtain represents unmediated access to God), is anti-Jewish in a way that is otherwise foreign to Matthew’s Gosepl. In other words, it implies that God wasn’t active in Jewish religion prior to Christ. Christ fulfilled Israel’s hopes as the Messiah; he didn’t introduce something totally new. It still represents judgment (see third point below) but not in a way that wouldn’t have made sense to Jews, for whom Matthew was writing. Furthermore, mediation is always necessary on some level—even if all you mean by that is that now Christ is our mediator. This would have represented a reinterpretation of the role of Israel’s messiah, but not a clean break. I would add that this makes sense in that the action of Yahweh is now associated with Christ and his people (i.e., the church) and not with temple ritual.

Second, the idea doesn’t fit with Christ’s directionality in the Synoptic tradition (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke). That is, Jesus is presented as coming out or coming into—he comes into the world; he comes out of the tomb. The former reading presents God as passive, but the Synoptics present God as active. Even if you give it a trinitarian gloss, Jesus comes from the Father. He is eternally begotten of the Father.

Third, In the Old Testament and other Jewish literature, murder and sin typically result in God’s abondonment of the temple. Two examples: the exilic literature presents the destruction of the temple as a result of God’s abandonment of his people due to their recalcitrant idolatry. The temple was destroyed in the sixth century B.C. because God had withdrawan his presence from the temple in judgment. Josephus does the same thing when the Romans destroy the temple again in A.D. 70. According to him the zealots had acted wrongly, and God had withdrawn his presence from the temple, allowing it to be destroyed. The  highly apocalyptic imagery of Matthew 27:51-53 (earthquakes, the torn curtain, Old Testament saints rising from the dead and walking around) seems to reinforce this as a passage of judgment rather than of God’s opening up to his people. Of course, it still represents an opening up, just in a different way.

Che Colbert

che colbert

You can buy it here.

Ye Gods and Little Fishes! Why This Vexation? Why This Irksome Torment?

The Road finally gets a release date! October 16! Guess what else comes out that day. Where the Wild Things Are. Arrrgh! I’ve been to the movie theater maybe twice in the past three years. Now I have to go twice in one night!

Dear Scholars

As a proofreader/editor of academic books, I feel compelled to inform you of a few things that you should know, but clearly some of you do not.

First, Your job is to inform, elucidate, clarify. So ending lists with “etc.” and “and so on” generally does not help your readers, whom you are to inform, rather than assume they already know what you would say if you deigned to tell them. While we’re at it, when citing multiple Bible verses, it is not helpful to the reader to write, for example, Rom 8:1ff.  Oh, of course, I know you always use it to mean the following two verses, so that it means the same thing whenever you use it. But your colleague down the hall didn’t get that memo, did he? Because he’s using it to mean Romans 8:1-9:4 or really whatever he wants, but I wouldn’t know the difference, would I? Because instead of doing the work of a real scholar and looking up the reference, you just assumed we would do that work for you, didn’t you? So let’s be done with the obfuscations and actually be a little more careful, shall we? I’m glad we understand one another.

Second, and this is more serious, when you publish a book, you are selling those particular ideas in the form of those words to the publisher. You don’t own them anymore, so you cannot reuse them. Of course, you may need to summarize the same ideas or even say the same things throughout the course of your career, but this is different from cutting and pasting words from one document to another. And let’s face it, despite what I’ve heard a lot of you say, the editors working at the publishing house you sold your manuscript to (remember?) aren’t morons, and even if they were, this is the twenty-first century, old man (or old woman, let’s be fair). There’s a thing called the Internet. And they have this fancy new thing called Google Books. And your book is probably on there. And all somebody has to do is type in a few of the words from your book and the book you plagiarized will be on there too. Do you have students? Don’t you tell them that plagiarizing is wrong? You do, because I was a student too, and your syllabuses all threaten to fail and even possibly expel your lazy excuses for students for doing it. Oh, you’ve got tenure? Well have you ever heard the word lawsuit?

And third, for goodness sakes do not ask your editors whether or not you should include a footnote! Did you come up with the idea? Did it originate in your mind or someone else’s? If you didn’t think of it first then cite it! I don’t care if it’s not a direct quote. And this next thing should be obvious but the fact that I feel the need to write it clearly demonstrates that it is not. Provide page numbers. Do I have your personal library in my office? Can I read your mind? Again, much of this information can be found on the almighty Google Books, but let me remind you one last time. This is your job. Why do I feel like I’m addressing Comp 101 students? You are a scholar. Do the work of a scholar.

Now I feel a little better.