The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online has an article entitled, “Christian Video Games Make Old Testament Fun.” It describes a number of “Christian” video games loosely based on the Bible. For instance, “Victory at Hebron” has you playing a very serious game of cards where you are a member of Caleb’s Elite Guard. In the game, you have been sent to the city of Hebron to rescue some comrades who have been captured by your opponents’ evil hordes.
I’m glad that someone is “making the Old Testament fun,” as I was a bit worried! (Sorry Macintosh users, this game is Windows only)
Yesterday’s blog entries on “Glory Golf balls” (see here and here) represent only the tip of the Christian retailing iceberg. There is a tonne of “Jesus Junk” available in local Christian book stores and online. Some of it is sincere, while some is obviously tongue-in-cheek. This will be the first in a series of blog entries on “Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch.” In this first one I will highlight some of what I consider some of the “classic” food products.
These are classic “Jesus Junk.” These are available in Wintergreen, Spearmint, Peppermint and sport a Scripture verse on each wrapper. The distributor’s web page suggests that you “place on a desk to surprise a friend or co-worker” among other things. These are meant to be sincere witnessing products. They also sell “Scripture Bars” which are chocolate bars with Bible verses on the wrappers, as well as “Testamints Gum.”
Another classic, these all-natural nutritional bars are made from the list of foods that are called good in Deuteronomy 8:7-8: “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.” According to one distributor,
Each bar is bursting with God-given nutrients: protein, monounsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and fiber. But yet, it is so much more than just a health bar. God obviously had some very important reasons for linking these seven foods to the Promised Land. Therefore, when you eat a Bible Bar, you are consuming seven foods that God called good and in a form that is easy and convenient to use.
Now, not that I want to be picky, but if you are going to base your recipe on God’s word, then I think you should have it right! The main advertised ingredients of these “Bible Bars” are wheat, barley, raisins, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and honey. Taking “vines” as raisins is a bit of a stretch since גֶ֥פֶן typically refers to grapes or grape-bearing vines. Raisins would be referred to as צִמֻּקִ֖ים Moreover, an examination of the ingredients, you will also discover that in addition to these seven foods, they also include brown rice syrup, brown rice, almond butter, raspberry fruit powder, and sea salt! Sounds to me like they are on a slippery slope! Logia, the manufacturer, also makes other tasty snacks by the names of “Abraham’s Bosom Sunflower Bar,” “Rachel’s Delight Sesame Honey Bar,” ” King David’s Treat Cranberry Nut Bar,” among others.
Witness in two languages while blowing bubbles! A pouch of this classic Christian treat consists of two pieces of gum with a small card containing a Bible question on one side and the answer on the other side, as well as where to locate it in the Bible. Cards are printed in English and Spanish. According to its manufacturer,
Bible Gum stimulates, promotes, and reinforces interest in the Bible regardless of religious upbringing. “The Bible is for everyone!” Bible Gum, in it’s non-threatening, non-judgmental format, is a wonderful way to introduce the “scripturally threatened” individual to one of humanity’s most powerful and revered historical and spiritual compiling. Bible Gum “breaks the ice.”
Make sure to get yours today!
What should we make of these examples of Christian kitsch? Well, on the one hand these products appear to be well-meaning attempts to witness to people, akin to Bible tracts. Of course, if you have problems with tracts, then you will have the same problems with this sort of stuff. Perhaps more disturbing how they represent a trivialization and commercialization of the faith. That being said, Christian retailing is big business with sales exceeding three billion dollars annually in the U.S. People are buying this stuff!
By some nimble surfing I discovered that there are two new “Glory Golf Balls”! The new balls have “those who seek me diligently, find me” and “But, seek first His kingdom” on them in bright red ink. Here are some pictures:
The manufacturer produces these as well as “Holy Socks”! Get yours today…
Since my U2 and Africa blog entry, Live 8 has come and gone. A Billboard .com daily music news article (noted by culture blogger Jeffrey Overstreet) reports that its organizer, Bob Geldof, and its main celebrity supporter, U2 lead singer Bono, considered it a success:
[Bono] and Geldof praised the world leaders attending the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, for pledging to double aid to Africa to $50 billion, saying the move will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who would have died of poverty, malaria or AIDS. “The world spoke and the politicians listened,” Bono said.
Not everyone is quite so sure of whether or not Live 8 made much of a difference, though I don’t see how it could have hurt! Any event that raises the profile of issues such as world poverty should be lauded.
If you weren’t able to attend the Live 8 concert in your country (as I wasn’t), QuickTime videos of all the main performances are available for free download here (Thanks again to Jeffrey Overstreet for the link).
GOLFERS feeling below par and in need of divine inspiration could do worse than attend a church exhibition in the Capital. The Scottish Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE), at Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre, will feature a set of three Glory Golf Balls, each inscribed with Bible text. One reads: “. . . but each shall go out straight ahead”, Ezekiel 46: 9; while another says: “Lift up your eyes on high and see . . . not one is missing”, Isaiah 40:26. The third reads: “I have finished the course. I have kept the faith”, 2 Timothy 4:7.
I could have used some of these balls — especially a bunch with the Ezekiel quote — for my round of golf on the weekend!
Update: After publishing my blog entry I noticed that Jim West over at Biblical Theology blog also noted this article, though he didn’t see the humour in it! (Of course, perhaps the sad thing is that many sincere people (including the manufacturers?) don’t see the humour in stuff like this either! This sort of “Jesus Junk” reminds me of an excellent book by Colleen McDannell called Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America (Yale University Press, 1995; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com), in which she examines the role these sort of material artifacts have played in Christianity and Mormonism.)
No this is not a paid advertisement for Travel Alberta! Now that I got that cleared up, I must say my family had a great weekend at Crimson Lake. The weather was great, the lake wasn’t that busy, and everyone had lots of fun. The kids had a great time searching for minnows and leeches off the dock, paddle-boating, kayaking, playing on Splash Island, eating s’mores around the campfire, and just being together with their buddies. Perhaps the highlight of the weekend for them was tubing. They had a blast! My oldest girl received the dubious honour of the only kid being flipped out of the tube — and she loved it. My other younger daughter was almost bounced out of the tube, though her bronco-bucking skills kept her in the tube. My four-year old boy wasn’t quite so adventurous! I got some reading in (though not much), but managed to get in a round of golf at a picturesque course near Rock Mountain House, as well as some cribbage and a game of chess. All in all it was an awesome Alberta weekend.
Here are a few pictures:
Here is a shot of our friend’s cabin from the dock.
Here is a shot from the cabin porch in the morning.
My two daughters are sitting on the outside…
OK, my youngest daughter is barely sitting!
She’s holding on for dear life.
My youngest daughter and her friend enjoying some waves.
I want to wish everyone a great weekend. I won’t be blogging the next few days as my family is heading to Crimson Lake, Alberta, for a long weekend full of tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and putting my feet up and reading on the beach.
Jim West over at Biblical Theology Blog has recently lamented the cost of books here and here, as has Torrey Seland over at the Philo of Alexandria Blog here. I (and especially my wife) would like to join the lament (so now it’s a bona fide communal lament!). I find it very difficult to purchase books from publishers in the U.K. and Europe due to budget constraints, and even if I did have the money, I’m not sure I could honestly justify the price in some cases. As someone who does typesetting and editing on the side, I also have a good sense of what goes into producing a book and the only conclusion I can draw is that materials and labour in the U.K. and Europe must be quite high! (Though I understand why some books, like DJD volumes are so expensive) On the other hand, I don’t think that the classic academic publishers are making money hand over fist on our esoteric academic offerings. That being said, I want to give public kudos to the Society of Biblical Literature for their joint publishing project with E.J. Brill Publishers. This excellent arrangement provides inexpensive volumes into the hands of students and scholars, whilebeautifullyy bound hardcover volumes areavailablee for libraries or independently wealthy scholars! It makes me proud to be a member!
Just as today there are many versions of the Christian Bible — each choosing different words to translate the Scripture for diverse audiences — there were different versions of the Hebrew Bible in the three centuries before Christ, Rydelnick said. However, when Protestant reformers turned away from the Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church to re-translate the Old Testament, Rydelnick noted that they accepted a Masoretic version of the Hebrew Bible that had been influenced for centuries by rabbis who wanted to obscure the Messianic message in the Scripture.
In fact, centuries ago when the Hebrew scriptures were being consolidated, Jewish scholars agreed they would only include a book in their canon if it carried a theme of Messianic hope, Rydelnick said. In the Middle Ages, however, when Jews were being pressured to convert to Christianity, Jewish scholars began to emphasize King David as the fulfillment of prophecy. The Protestant reformers — and subsequent generations of Christian scholars — based their work on Hebrew texts and commentaries that reflected a bias against Christ, Rydelnick said.
There are a number of assertions in this article which I question, though what I want to focus on is his text-critical practice. The article provides a couple of examples where the MT allegedly obscures such messianic readings. The first example is from Numbers 24:7 where the MT reads as follows:
יִֽזַּל־מַ֙יִם֙ מִדָּ֣לְיָ֔ו וְזַרְע֖וֹ בְּמַ֣יִם רַבִּ֑ים וְיָרֹ֤ם מֵֽאֲגַג֙ מַלְכּ֔וֹ וְתִנַּשֵּׂ֖א מַלְכֻתֽוֹ׃
Water shall flow from his buckets,and his seed shall have abundant water, his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted (NRSV).
Rydelnick reportedly argued that the reference to Agag, the Amalekite king from the time of King Saul (1Samuel 15), has no messianic connotations since it has been fulfilled historically by David. “Other versions of the Hebrew Bible” however, have the word “Gog” instead of “Agag,” and that this “Gog” is, according to Rydelnick, “the end-times enemy of the returning Christ (Revelation 20:8) – a prophecy David could not fulfill.”
On one level the report is accurate insofar that the Samaritan Pentateuch (which I assume is on of the “other versions of the Hebrew Bible” he refers to) reads ×žÖ´×’Ö¼×•Ö¹×’ “…than Gog.” In addition, the LXX and its revisers also have Γωγ “Gog.” What other version of the Hebrew Bible he is referring to is not clear. He may be referring to 4QNumb, though while part of the verse is preserved in fragment 24ii, 27-30, the text is not extant at this precise point. (As an aside, I found it interesting that DJD 12 [see pp. 235-237] reconstructed the text with ×ž×’×•×’, presumably because the rest of the scroll contains slightly more secondary readings in agreement with the Samaritan Pentateuch and LXX, than with the MT. The editor, however, did not feel confident enough to include it in his list of reconstructed variants.)
While the reading “Gog,” the future antagonist of Israel referred to in Ezekiel 38-39, does put a more eschatological spin on the text, a glimpse at older and more conservative commentaries illustrate that the Masoretic text as it stands has provided much fodder for messianic interpretations.
To be sure, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has complicated the picture of the textual transmission of the Hebrew Bible to the degree that textual criticism becomes an even more challenging if not impossible task. That being said, it does not give us warrant to pick and choose readings willy-nilly according to our presuppositions and biases. Instead, it is even more important to study the different texts and versions all the more carefully so as to discern their genetic relationships as well as their tendencies before we employ them to text-critical ends. This is a task to which few are called and perhaps even fewer are gifted.