The Euphemist

Reflections on Jewish Studies and many other subjects big and little, by a perpetual student who sometimes searches a little too long for just the right word ...

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Location: Minnesota, United States

Christian, truth seeker, husband, son, brother & uncle, Lutheran pastor, musician (cello, etc.), Jewish Studies grad student, intellectual historian, aquarium enthusiast & pet owner, philologist, astronomer, Norwegian-American, Ford pickup driver, buffoon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Last Post for awhile; Book notes; Confessions of a Francis Schaeffer wannabe; Seasons' Greetings

Yesterday my new Big Box came, the one with my new Spertus course materials, for "Modern Judaism." It looks interesting. For the third time out of four courses, the course lectures are delivered by Dr. Byron Sherwin, a learned man who mostly seems very serious, but occasionally reminds me a bit of Rodney Dangerfield. The lectures for "Jewish Theology" and "Medieval Judaism" had been delivered in 1994, but the "Modern Judaism" lectures are more recent, from 2002. It'll be interesting to see how he changes in eight years. The final exam questions are more soberly stated - no more essays in which I pose as a professor at the "Spartacus College of Judaica" or try to create a program of spiritual therapy for the renowned actress "Whoopie Schwartzberg".

So, I'm off. And, as I said a few posts ago, I've decided to curtail blog posting while in progress on a course, blogging only during the two-or-so-month turnaround periods between courses. History will decide whether two months at a time was enough for me to turn the blogosphere upside down.

A few ultra-brief notes on stuff I read during the last two months. Lo and behold, our regional library had a copy of The Gospel of Judas. People who read it should know that the actual Gospel of Judas comprises only pages 19-45 of 169 text pages. The rest of the volume consists of "Commentary", including an essay by Rodolphe Kasser explaining the sordid history of mistreatment of Codex Tchacos, the manuscript which contains Judas (after centuries of preservation, it was nearly destroyed by modern mishandling); a survey of this Gnostic gospel's "alternative vision" by Bart Ehrman, a scholar who is coming to rival the "Jesus Seminar" as the human face of newsy developments concerning early Christianity (which is mostly a step in the right direction); and essays by Gregor Wurst on "Irenaeus of Lyon and the Gospel of Judas" and Marvin Meyer on "Judas and the Gnostic Connection".

All I can say briefly is that, for people who are really wondering what things like the Gospel of Judas and other gnostic writings are really about, there's no substitute for reading the real thing, be it Judas or this volume of Four Gnostic Gospels which I recently acquired, or The Complete Gospels (now they'll have to publish an updated edition which includes Judas). People who aren't well-founded in their faith are being shaken by media-driven doubts about the canonical Gospels. I believe that many people (sadly, not all) who give the "other gospels" a fair read will come to discern that the hoopla is about nothing, and that the reason why these books didn't make it into the canon was that they ranged from elitist to banal to just plain weird. And I invite anyone to explain how the last verse of the Gospel of Thomas can be as liberating to women as Dan Brown wants it to be: "Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, because women are not worthy of life.' Jesus said, 'Behold, I shall guide her so as to make her male, that she too may become a living spirit like you men. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven." (Saying 113)

BTW, as Professor James Davila points out, The Gospel of Judas may not be as pro-Judas as the hoopla would suggest, after all.

I also reread parts of Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code by Bart Ehrman. Overall he's a good influence, compared to some of the other sensationalist influences out there (Jesus Seminar, etc.), but it would be even better if he returned to the Christian faith and a higher opinion of the canonical Scriptures. Very readable - he has a way with words - but occasionally can get a little carried away, as reviewers of his other books note here and here (pdf).

I also reread The Real Jesus : The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels by Luke Timothy Johnson, overall a very good critique of the "Jesus Seminar", but a bit technical and out of reach of some of the people who need to read it the most - people who've been swayed by media hoopla.

In other news, I've been musing for a long time about a post I'd like to post, entitled "Confessions of a Francis Schaeffer Wannabe." I don't have time now to do it the way I want to, but here's the kernel of it:

Francis Schaeffer

1. I grew up wanting to be Francis Schaeffer. That is, I wanted to be an apologist for the Christian faith who combined deep, serious thinking with the heart of a flower child.

2. After nearly three decades of being influenced by him, I think I should be much further ahead than I am as an apologist, as a clear thinker, as a Christian activist, as a Christian who radiates love and embodies what he called the "Two Contents, Two Realities": Sound Doctrine; Honest Answers to Honest Questions; True Spirituality; The Beauty of Human Relationships.

I have so much more to say about all that, but don't have time now to put it together. But please drop comments and ask questions. Maybe we can talk it out a piece at a time.

So, that's it for a few months. I won't be posting until at least after Easter, maybe longer. But I will gladly interact with comments (hint, hint). Meanwhile, here's our beloved dog Pluto wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Blessed Lent, and Joyous Easter on our behalf!


Friday, December 01, 2006

The Euphemist: Emerging World Leader!

At there's a fun, though perhaps only semi-reliable utility with which you can determine who among the world's celebrities resembles you the most. H/T to Lars on this one, and I'm sorry this turned out "better" for me than for you (then again, don't be too sure).

Are you ready? Click for results, including a rare glimpse of "Yours Truly"

IMHO the resemblance to Emperor Akihito & New Zealand PM Helen Clark isn't a bad match! Give either one of them a silvery beard and serious confusion could result. The others, well, they're a bit more remote.

But what I find fascinating is that my celebrity lookalikes include an emperor, a prime minister, and a vice president. Could there be world dominance awaiting me in my future career?