Welcome to the Third Annual Ralphies — Second Annual Codex Edition. Following the example of Ed Cook (see his posts on music, film and books), traditionally a number of other bloggers follow suit and offer their own “Ralphies.” This year Mark Goodacre and Chris Brady has thus far compiled (or at least started to) some of their favorite music, books, and films of 2006.
What follows is my own list. While I have tried to honour Ed’s template, I find it difficult to narrow lists like these down to one top pick, so I have includes some runner-ups.
Best SONG of the year: Hmmm.. this is a tough one. I, like Ed, quite like Gnarls Barkley‘s Moby-esque song “Crazy” (From St. Elsewhere; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though I’m not sure it is quite “Song of the Year” material. The same goes for the new U2 song (with Greenday), “The Saints Are Coming” (From U218 Singles; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), as well as The Killers song “When You Were Young” (From Sam’s Town; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
While this may surprise some, my best song for 2006 is KT Tunstall‘s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” (From Eye to the Telescope; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a very catchy song, though what makes me pick it as my best of 2006 is my respect for her musical abilities. Make sure to watch the live version.
The best Canadian song of the year is the Barenaked Ladies, “Easy” (From Barenaked Ladies Are Me; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).
Best CD of the year: While all of the songs noted above are on good albums, I would probably have to vote for The Killers, Sam’s Town as my best of 2006 (Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) since there are a number of excellent songs on the CD.
Best MUSIC VIDEOof the year: I really like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers video for “Dani California” (From Stadium Arcadium; Watch on YouTube; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Watching it is a flashback through all the rock and roll fads from the 50′s to today — and the song isn’t half bad as well!
Best MOVIE of the year: This is always tough one for me. Like Ed, there are many movies I enjoyed (e.g., Nacho Libre,Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission Impossible III, Flags of Our Fathers, and even Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was worth watching just for the â€œDear Lord Baby Jesusâ€? scene!), but they’re not really “Film of the Year” material.
In terms of movies released in 2006, my vote for best movie of 2006 would be The Departed (Martin Scorsese; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a great gangster film and all of the actors had great performances, especially Jack Nicholson. Second runner up would be Casino Royale (Martin Campbell; IMDB), which did for Bond what Batman Begins did for the Batman franchise last year.
Honourable mention goes to Thank You for Not Smoking (Jason Reitman, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). In addition, I found Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq (Andrew Berends, 2005 [I watched it in 2006]; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) to be quite interesting for its portrayal of life in Iraq.
Instead of any of those movies, I’m picking Hoodwinked! (Cory and Todd Edwards; IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as my favourite kid’s movie of 2006. I found this deconstruction of Little Red Riding Hood quite amusing. While some have slammed its animation as cheap, I kind of like the minimalist CGI animation — after all, it is supposed to look like a cartoon isn’t it?!
Worst MOVIE of the year: This is an easy one for me this year. I mistakenly rented Black Dahlia (Ulli Lommel; IMDB) thinking it was Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia(IMDB; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). Never before have I appreciated the significance of a definite article! Lommel’s film was a B-film at its worst. Calling it a “B-film” is an insult to other B-Films! This straight -to-DVD movie truly was one of the most vile, disgusting films I have ever (partially) viewed. I didn’t finish watching it and was quite appreciative when the video store let me exchange it for a different video free of charge.
Best TV SHOW of the Year: Since we are talking about the entire year, I have to include 24 (Fox) as one of the best shows on television. I am looking forward to January 14, 2007 when this year’s season begins. That being said, top honours goes to Battlestar Galactica (SciFi). I love science fiction and I find this new series quite well-written.
Best NONFICTION BOOK of the year: This is a tough one since I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year. My top pick is by fellow Canadian, William S. Morrow. His book, Protest Against God: The Eclipse of a Biblical Tradition (Hebrew Bible Monographs 4; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is a fascinating study of why the biblical tradition of lament or protest against God was suppressed and marginalized.
While I can’t say that I have read it cover-to-cover, the top biblical commentary in 2006 is Ralph Klein’s commentary, 1 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). This is a superb commentary on this often neglected biblical book.
If I look outside my primary areas of research, then I would pick U2 by U2 (HarperEntertainment, 2006; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) as one of the best of 2006.
Best FICTION BOOK of the year: I haven’t read a tonne of fiction this year, but I would say that Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005 [I read it in 2006]; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) was one of my favourites (see my post on it here). I also read a number of novels by Dean Koontz, which I found to be guilty pleasures.
Well, that’s about all I can muster right now, so I’ll see you at next year’s Ralphies!
I have inherited my father’s messy desk. When I was in my teens, I actually bought my father a little plaque that read, “A Clean Desk is the Sign of a Sick Mind.” (When my father died, I looked everywhere for the plaque, since I figured that I could use it for my own desk! For those wanting to see a picture of my desk, see my previous post on this subject here)
The New York Times has an article that highlights the benefits of mess. The article, “Saying Yes to Mess,” is written in response to the “National Association of Professional Organizers” (!) dubbing January “Get Organized Month.” Here’s an excerpt:
An anti-anticlutter movement is afoot, one that says yes to mess and urges you to embrace your disorder. Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat â€œoffice landscapesâ€?) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. Itâ€™s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.
This is exactly what I have always believed! Sweet… now I don’t have to bother clearing off my desk!
Just a quick reminder about the upcoming Biblical Studies Carnival that I will host here at Codex in the new year. As you are reading posts around the blogosphere this month, make sure to nominate appropriate posts for the next Carnival, as well as any â€œbest of 2006â€³ posts. You can submit/nominate posts via the submission form at BlogCarnival.com or you may email them to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com.
The latest Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (Vol. 38, 2005) is out (I actually received the volume a while back, but have not had a chance to finish the post). This is an excellent issue, with many excellent articles for those interested in Septuagint studies as well as translation theory and biblical studies. Wevers’s article is worth a read, if only for his engaging account of this work on the GÃ¶ttingen Pentateuch volumes.
In addition, those interested in translation theory will want to read the articles by Aiken and Boyd-Taylor. Aitken has a very good summary of functional translation theory, while Boyd-Taylor has an interesting discussion of Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS). Both of these approaches offer more nuance than the typical discussions of “formal” versus “dynamic” translation theories based on Chomsky’s generative-transformative theory.
At any rate, here is the contents, with brief abstracts:
John William Wevers, â€œThe Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint,â€? pp. 1-24.
Wevers provides a collation of Qumran Pentateuch LXX documents (Rahlfs MSS 805, 801, 802, 803) and then contextualizes his evaluation of their significance in light of current text critical practices, beginning with Lagarde and ending with reflections on his own (fascinating) experience preparing the GÃ¶ttingen Pentateuch volumes. He concludes that while the Qumran Greek texts of the Pentateuch are not significant text-critically, the Hebrew MSS from Qumran are truly significant.
Petra Verwijs, â€œThe Septuagint in the Peshitta and Syr.-Hexpla Translations of Amos 1:3-2:16,â€? pp. 25-40.
Verwijs examines the character and role of the LXX as reflected in the Syriac translations of the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexpla, using Amos 1:3-2:16 as an example. After a thorough study of the texts and their translation technique, Verwijs concludes that the communities that produced the Peshitta and the Syr.-Hexapla employed the LXX, though in the case of the Peshitta the reflection of the LXX may be due to the translatorâ€™s recollection rather than access to an actual text.
Claude Cox, â€œTying It All Together: The Use of Particles in Old Greek Job,â€? pp. 41-54.
Cox describes the use of coordinating conjugations in OG Job. While Hebrew has relatively few sentence or clause connectors, Greek has many, and Cox finds that the OG translator incorporates many more coordinating conjunctions in his translation, particularly Î³Î¬Ï? and Î´Î. This frequent use of coordinating conjunctions brings the text together into brief sections or paragraphs in a way that is not apparent in its Hebrew Vorlage.
James K. Aitken, â€œRhetoric and Poetry in Greek Ecclesiastes,â€? pp. 55-77.
While the OG translation of Ecclesiastes is characterized by a high degree of formal equivalence, Aitken underscores the presence of a number of rhetorical features in the translation, including variatio, polytoton, anaphora, parechesis, assonance, isocola, and homoeoteleuton. Thus, the translator was not â€œslavishly literalâ€? but employed features consistent with Greek rhetorical style in order to produce a text that is both faithful to its Hebrew Vorlage and engaging for its Greek readers. Aitken concludes with a brief discussion of the merit of a functional translation theory that takes into consideration the type of text that is being translated, over against the generative-transformative model. Thus, LXX-Ecclesiastes may be better described as an â€œinformative-expressiveâ€? translation than simply â€œliteral.â€?
Cameron Boyd-Taylor, â€œCalque-culations — Loan Words and the Lexicon,â€? pp. 79-99.
Boyd-Taylor brings the Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) of Gideon Toury to bear on the study of semantic borrowing and calques in the Septuagint. DTS understands the act of translation as a product of and for the target audience in which the some aspects of the source text are invariably retained for a variety of reasons. Seen in this light, stereotyped equivalents are examples of habitual lexical interference or transfer. The calque, on the other hand, â€œpresupposes the institutionalization of a stereotype, such that the transfer of function from the source item to its counterpartâ€¦ becomes itself a convention of the target languageâ€? (pp. 84-85). To illustrate his discussion, Boyd-Taylor examines the usage of ÎºÎ¿Î¯Ï„Î· to refer to sexual relations and concludes that it may plausibly be a calque in some configurations. All in all, he concludes that identifying calques â€œis a precarious businessâ€? (p. 99) and many so-called calques should be reexamined.
Takamitsu Muraoka, â€œGleanings of a Septuagint Lexicographer,â€? pp. 101-108.
Muraoka briefly reflects on the influence of Semitisms and textual criticism on LXX Lexicography. In regards to the former, he discusses three examples of lexical Semitisms in the LXX: á¼€Î³Ï‡Î¹ÏƒÏ„ÎµÏ?Ï‰ â€œto do a kinsmanâ€™s office,â€? Î¸Ï…Î¼ÏŒÏ› â€œbreath, venom,â€? and á½?Î¼Î¿Î¹ÏŒÏ‰ â€œto consent, to concur.â€? In regards to the latter, while it was policy to base A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint on the GÃ¶ttingen LXX editions, Muraoka departed from this policy on occasion (one example he discusses is Num 11:13).
U2 frontman Bono is being awarded an honorary knighthood by the Queen, according to the British Embassy in Dublin. The BBC News article noted, however, that because Paul Hewson (aka Bono) is not a British national, he will not be able to use the title “Sir.”
Well, Christmas Day has come and gone and everything went quite well — if I do say so myself. Christmas morning we spend alone, just my wife and the kids. The first thing we do after the kids wake us up at a reasonable time is read the Christmas Story from Luke and Matthew together and pray. Then we open stockings together. After that we had breakfast (I made French Toast). Then I had to get the turkey in the oven for supper — and it was only after that that we opened presents (yes, we’re cruel parents — we make our kids wait to open presents!).
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had pretty much my entire family over for dinner. The turkey turned out perfect as did the rest of the fixin’s. I made a cranberry apple stuffing out of three types of bread and even included turkey sausage — it was quite nummy. I made fresh cranberry sauce, though I forgot to get the candied ginger this year (Doh!), so it was plain. I whipped my garlic mashed potatoes until they melted in you mouth. Besides the standard cooked carrots, I also made some garlic fried green beans with mushrooms, onions, and slivered almonds. For dessert I had made three types of pie: pumpkin, apple, and cranberry apple.
All in all it was a great time with family. I enjoy putting on a spread like this for family and friends.
I trust you and yours also had a great Christmas and/or Hanukkah.
[Merry Christmas everyone! This is the second part of a Christmas sermon presented here with only minor editing. The first post may be found here]
Johnâ€™s Metaphysical Manger (John 1)
The second passage I want to direct our attention to helps us understand some of the theological implications of the birth of Jesus. The passage I am referring to is chapter one of John’s gospel. In this highly metaphysical and philosophical passage the significance of the birth of Christ is interpreted theologically.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived [tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a fatherâ€™s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, â€œThis was he of whom I said, â€˜He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.â€™ â€?) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Fatherâ€™s heart, who has made him known.
The Mystery of Christmas: The Incarnation
This passage tells us a number of things about that baby in a manger. In particular it tells us something about the divintiy of the Word and the ministry of the Word.
â€œIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.â€? John tells that the baby in the manger is divine; God made human, God incarnate. Johnâ€™s Christmas account revels in the mystery of the incarnation. The word “incarnation” and the adjective “incarnate” come from the Latin in carne â€œin flesh.â€? Note the progression: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. Note that John says not that â€œGod was the wordâ€?, but that â€œthe word was God.â€? John is not saying that the Word is â€œa god,â€? as though the Word was a lesser god alongside the supreme God; nor is John saying that the Word was simply â€œdivine,â€? nor does John say that the Word did god-like things without possessing the divine nature; rather John is saying that the Word is God in his very nature, yet without exhausting the being of God. The baby in a manger was fully human and fully God. He was God incarnate: “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.â€?
The divine nature of the Word is seen in his activity in creation (vv. 1â€“5), revelation (vv. 5, 9â€“12, 18) and redemption (vv. 12â€“14, 16â€“17); in all these God expresses himself through the Word. The baby in the manger, the Word made flesh, was with God at the beginning and all things came into existence through him. The Word also reveals God to us. Paul says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Both the deity and the humanity of Jesus are fundamental to his saving work. Itâ€™s because Jesus is God the Son â€“ the Word made flesh â€“ that we can know God, itâ€™s because Jesus is God made human, that we can understand his death as the supreme evidence of Godâ€™s love for us.
There is more to Christmas than our minds can comprehendâ€¦ when we come to Christmas, when we look upon that baby in a manger we are looking upon God incarnate. We are looking upon a mystery. Thereâ€™s More to Christmas than Meets the Mind.
The Paradox of Divine Condescension
And this is the mystery of Christmas. Here you have the paradox of divine condescension; the mystery of God accommodating Godself, God becoming human.
At root, to save us God came not in his full glory as God but rather as a human; God came as a baby crying in his motherâ€™s arms, a baby that required feeding and changing, a baby that was entirely and hopelessly dependent on others. God hid his glory, he limited himself. Remaining one with and equal to God he took the form of a slave. By becoming one with us, he was able to share our sorrows, bear our burdens, and ultimately die a criminal’s death and atone for our sins and unite us to God.
That is the real meaning of Christmas, and itâ€™s my prayer for all of us — as we get together with friends and family, as we eat turkeys and hams, as we do all these good things — itâ€™s my prayer that we would also realize that there is much more to Christmas than meets the eye and that the miracle of Christmas is not how much turkey you can eat, but it is that God so loved the world that he was willing to take on human flesh and enter this world as a helpless baby… a helpless baby that would one day die a criminalâ€™s death on behalf of us all.
[Since I am going to be quite busy the two days with family, church, and preparing a turkey dinner for twenty people, I thought I would post some more informal Christmas meditations. The next couple posts are made up of one of my Christmas sermons; I reproduce it here in two parts with only minor editing. - TFW]
Sometimes I donâ€™t think we realize the full significance of Christmas because we focus too much on a romantic and idealized version of the Christmas story: Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem and not finding any place to stay the night, end up giving birth to baby Jesus in a manger, etc. This quaint and romantic idea is epitomized in the Christmas carol, â€œAway in a Manger.â€?
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
But there is nothing quaint or romantic about the Christmas story as told in the gospels of Luke and Matthew.
Lukeâ€™s story highlights how when Jesus was born, how he came to the dregs of society â€“ to the poor, to the outcasts. Jesus was born in a peasant home or perhaps even a cave for animals and was placed in a dirty animal feeding trough (for those of you who have dogs… imagine not cleaning your dogâ€™s food dish for a year and then think about whether or not you would want to let a baby play with it!), then to top it off his â€œhealthy beginningsâ€? visit was made by a bunch of filthy lowly shepherds â€“ outcasts of society.
Matthewâ€™s story isnâ€™t a whole lot better! Matthew doesnâ€™t say much about Jesusâ€™ birth, but he does recount how when Jesus is a toddler he was visited by some wise men (astrologers) who recognized him as a future kingâ€¦ while this was nice and while Iâ€™m sure they appreciated the gifts they brought, the astrologers also alerted Herod to the existence of a potential challenge to his power â€“ which made Mary and Joseph and Jesus flee to Egypt (anyone who has ever taken a two-year old on a long driving trip knows what fun they must have had along the way!)
Thus, the Christmas story isnâ€™t quaint or romanticâ€¦ and I think that we have to work hard to o make sure it doesnâ€™t become so familiar that it looses its power for us!
But this morning I want to direct our attention to a couple of Bible passages that may at first glance be unlikely candidates for a Christmas message. Both are attributed to the Apostle John, and both also give accounts of the birth of Jesus, so to speak: The first I have dubbed Johnâ€™s â€œApocalyptic Adventâ€? (Revelation 12) and second is Johnâ€™s â€œMetaphysical Mangerâ€? (the first chapter of John’s Gospel).
Both of these stories will give us a very different perspective on Jesusâ€™ birth, and will teach us a couple things about Christmas that the traditional stories donâ€™t.
Johnâ€™s Apocalyptic Advent (Revelation 12)
The first â€œbirth storyâ€? I want us to take a look at is perhaps the weirdest one in all scripture. It comes from the book of Revelation â€“ a book that also gets the award for being perhaps the weirdest in the Bible. Itâ€™s a book that is notoriously difficult to interpret. Itâ€™s full of symbols and apocalyptic language. It reveals the first lesson that I want us to take home today: Thereâ€™s More to Christmas than Meets the Eye.
When Jesus was born, it was far from a regular everyday birth: it was an event of cosmic and eternal significance. It was an event which had massive implications in the spiritual realm. Now, the traditional Christmas stories also point towards this cosmic significance of Jesusâ€™ birth: Luke has the multitude of angels announcing Jesusâ€™ birth to the shepherds and Matthew recounts how astrologers find a heavenly sign of the birth of a king. But these signs pale in comparison with what was revealed to John:
12:1 A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days. (NRSV)
The passage continues to recount of a great war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragonâ€¦ and how the dragon suffered an initial defeat and then a final defeat and how Godâ€™s kingdom has come the kingdom of God and the messiahâ€¦ etc. So here we have a surrealistic and highly symbolic portrayal of the birth of Christ and its cosmic and spiritual implications: that with the coming of Christ there erupted a great war in the heavens, a war in which God was ultimately victorious.
This sounds more like something Gandalf or Elrond would say in The Lord of the Rings than anything you would think you would find in the Bible! And its something we really donâ€™t know what to do with. From early on we are brought up to trust our senses and be skeptical of anything that canâ€™t be verified by them. Most of us have a hard time believing that the world as we see it is really not the world as it is. And even if we believe it, we donâ€™t seem to live any different because of it!
But the reality is (at least the reality presented in the Scriptures) that the world as we see it is not the world as it is. And Christmas as we typically see it â€“ a cute baby in a manger â€“ is not Christmas as it is.
Itâ€™s kind of like The Matrixâ€¦ when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, when we take the blue pill, so to speak, and a whole new reality opens up to us. We recognize the world that we thought we knew is really only some of the story. (Of course, a major difference between reality and The Matrix is that there is continuity between the world or our senses and the spiritual worldâ€¦ rather than discontinuity as in The Matrix.)
So the first lesson I want us to take home with us today is that Thereâ€™s More to Christmas than Meets the Eye. The birth of Jesus represents an event of such spiritual magnitude that is only surpassed by his death on the cross — and that should amaze us!
The second passage I want to direct out attention to this morning helps us understand some of the theological implications of the birth of Jesusâ€¦ but I will turn to that in tomorrow’s Christmas post.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a great Chrstmas eve.