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Bible Golf Balls Promise a Holy Hole in One

12th July 2005

Here is an excerpt from story from the scotsman.com called “Bible text balls promise a holy hole in one“:

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.)

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An Awesome Alberta Weekend

12th July 2005

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.

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Blogging Slowdown

8th July 2005

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.

Shalom!

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Kidman and DiCaprio: Twins Separated at Birth?

2nd July 2005

It’s Saturday night, I’m tired (I helped a friend move all day today), so I thought I would post a light-hearted blog about my visit to the local Rogers Video. As I was looking through the new releases (and being rather uninspired) I couldn’t help by notice the similar DVD covers of a couple movies on adjacent shelves. The movies were The Aviator (2004) staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Birth (2004) starring Nicole Kidman (I wonder how her Old Testament studies are progressing?). I haven’t seen either movie, though I automatically wondered if DiCaprio and Kidman were twins who were separated at birth. I showed one of the workers (are they called associates?) and he too was intrigued. Take a look for yourself — note especially the furled eyebrows:


As it turns out, they are (probably) not twins since Kidman was born in 1967 in Honolulu, while DiCaprio was born in Hollywood in 1974… unless of course there is a conspiracy and the Internet Movie Database is in on it! (As an aside, I think that Kidman should be cast for the next Star Trek movie! She would look rather good as a Vulcan: she has the eyebrows and the ears wouldn’t take much work!)

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War, Qohelet, and Ken Ristau’s Position

27th June 2005

I had written this response to Ken Ristau’s post on “Guns and the Bible,” but his comments do not to appear to be working, so I thought I would post it as an independent blog entry.

First, in regards to Ken’s appeal to Qohelet, I would argue that the list of 14 antitheses in chapter three are not presented as things that are all good or proper. In fact, the list alternates between what is desirable (birth, healing, peace, etc.) and undesirable (death, killing, war, etc.). But the point of the entire list is to show the hebel ‏הֲבֵל or absurdity of human existence “under heaven.” All of these things happen outside of human control and because everything is determined, there is no profit in human toil. Verse 11 is the key to the interpretation of this passage. The first phrase emphasizes the fact that God determines the time for everything, ‏ אֶת־הַכֹּל עָשָׂ֖ה יָפֶה בְעִתּוֹ “He brings everything to pass precisely at his time” (Note that I took referent of the possessive pronoun on “time” as God). The rest of the verse highlights the absurdity of human existence: while there is a time for everything, only God knows the timing: God has “put ‏הָעֹלָם in their hearts, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” The times are set and there is nothing that we can do about it. This unpleasant conclusion is that God has played a trick on all of us. He has implanted in us an awareness that of our inability to know. Our only compensation is that we can enjoy the good time — though note that even here it is a gift controlled by God. I don’t think that this list can be used to justify any human actions, whether the decision to enter into a war or to go dancing.

Second, in regards to Ken’s use of “just, right, and good” to describe killing and war, perhaps here our difference is more of semantics, though I am not sure. I object to ever describing war as “just, right, and/or good.” Sadly, war is a much too frequent reality in this radically fallen world, but that doesn’t mean it is ever good. War is a manifestation of evil and no matter what noble reasons one may have for waging war, the evil of war will pervade all who participate. A prime example of this would be World War II. If any war could be deemed a “justifiable” war, I would think it would be the one. That being said, the war in the Asia-Pacific theatre ended up with the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on civilian targets — which I would find difficult to ever consider “just, right, and good.” Thus, while war is a reality and perhaps even necessary for a nation to engage in once all other options have been exhausted, it is never a “good” option. If this is “quibbling” forgive me; I believe it is an important distinction.

(As a postscript I want to note that Ken and I are good friends, and remain good friends even when we disagree politically. In fact, I have to admit that I quite enjoy a heated debate every once and a while)

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In Memory of Prof. Nahum M. Sarna (1923-2005)

24th June 2005

It was with some sadness that I read the news of Nahum Sarna’s death today (23 June 2005) on the Biblical Studies email list. Professor Sarna was former Chair in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University. He was the author of many excellent scholarly and more popular volumes on the Psalms, Genesis, and Exodus, as well as editor and contributor of the JSP Bible Commentary. In his lifetime he made an amazing contribution to biblical studies and his insightful analysis and commentary will be missed, though will live on in his publications and the many individuals who had the privilege of studying with him.

I personally really appreciated his work on the book of Psalms and Genesis.

Here is a brief bibliography of his more significant books:

  • Sarna, Nahum M. Studies in Biblical Interpretation. JPS Scholars of Distinction Series.
    Jewish Publication Society, 2000. [An excellent collection of nearly thirty essays by Prof. Sarna on Torah, the Psalms, Prophets and Writings, and Biblical History.]

  • Sarna, Nahum M. On the Book of Psalms: Exploring the Prayers of Ancient Israel.
    New Edition. Schocken, 1995. [A sensitive and rigorous exploration of the Psalter.]

  • Sarna, Nahum M. Exodus: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation.
    JPS Torah Commentary. Jewish Publication Society, 1991. [An awesome commentary on the book of Exodus]

  • Sarna, Nahum M. Genesis: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation.
    JPS Torah Commentary. Jewish Publication Society, 1989. [An awesome commentary on the book of Genesis]

  • Sarna, Nahum M. Understanding Genesis.
    New Edition. Schocken, 1970. [A great little volume on the book of Genesis.]

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Jesus in the Spring Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

22nd June 2005

The Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture has now been posted, and is available online here. Of potential interest to Jesus movie buffs is an article by Tammie Kennedy entitled "(Re)Presenting Mary Magdalene: A Feminist Reading of The Last Temptation of Christ." There is also a review of Richard Walsh’s book Reading the Gospels in the Dark: Portrayals of Jesus in Film (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003) by Robert Cooke.

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A Tribute to Professor Hans Peter Ristau

18th June 2005

This last Thursday I had the privilege of attending a retirement party for one of colleagues, Prof. Hans Peter Ristau. What was special about this event is that Prof. Ristau was not only my colleague, but also my former undergraduate professor and a big reason why I followed the career path I did.

Peter Ristau was Professor of Old Testament at North American Baptist College (now Taylor University College) for some 33 years. When I first enrolled at NABC some 20 years ago, I knew little about the Bible, and pretty much nothing about the Old Testament. During my time as a student at NABC I took as many courses from Prof. Ristau as I could. These courses expanded my knowledge of the Old Testament, encouraged me to examine the Hebrew Bible from a number of different perspectives, and — most significantly — instilled in me a deep love of the Old Testament and a desire to make its study my lifelong goal.

I have many fond memories of Prof. Ristau’s courses. His courses were challenging — especially for a generation raised on sound-bites and TV. His tests were fair, though comprehensive (I will forever remember Old Testament personalities such as Shamgar, Abishag, Ehud, Shear-Jashub, and many others). I particularly recall his overheads — they were literally filled with valuable data so there was hardly a space left blank with little or no margins. His courses were definitely not for the faint of heart and they developed quite the reputation. Significantly, in his courses I was introduced to some scholars who would be formative for my early understanding of the Bible such as Brevard S. Childs and John Goldingay.

Outside of the classroom Prof. Ristau was always accessible to students — at least if you came between the hours of 6 am and 3 pm (he was known for his early mornings!). And it seems whenever you came to his office he would be pouring over one of the many books scattered on his desk — but significantly he would put the book down and give you his undivided attention while you were there (see the picture from my 1985-86 yearbook above).

I also appreciated Prof. Ristau’s friendship after I graduated from NABC and moved on to further studies. Whenever I would come back to Edmonton to visit family I would make sure to drop by NABC and visit. It was with some surprise in 1997 when I was contacted by the College and invited to apply for the position of Old Testament professor. It was only then that I heard about Prof. Ristau’s failing health and his decision to go on long-term disability. I ended up getting the position and following in his footsteps as professor of Old Testament at NABC. So for the last eight years we were colleagues and even though Prof. Ristau was not able to teach during those years, we continued to stay in contact. His official retirement occurred this last academic year.

Now that he is retired, Prof. Ristau can actually come back and teach. I am looking forward to this upcoming academic year when he’ll teach an introductory course on the Prophets at Taylor.

I should be quick to add that I am only one of countless students whose lives have been influenced by Peter Ristau. I am also not the only student who Peter has inspired to do further studies in the Old Testament. Dr. Bill Anderson studied with Peter and went on to doctoral studies in Hebrew Bible at University of Glasgow. Dr. John Harvey similarly studied Old Testament at the University of Toronto. I should also mention his son, Ken Ristau, who was one of my students at Taylor and is currently in the midst of doctoral studies in Hebrew Bible at Pennsylvania State University under the supervision of Dr. Gary Knoppers.

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