Haley’s Calendar

Two of my students will be helping people and serving the Lord in Ethiopia.  Haley has been in my Hebrew, Greek, and phonetics classes.

Cover Page Ethiopia

Ethiopia Calendar

Here is an excerpt from Haley’s newsletter:

As many of you already know I spent two months in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the summer of 2008.  I was able to teach English to boys who work on the streets of Addis as well as work with a group of kids whose parents have been infected with HIV/AIDS. While I was there I formed many friendships with the nationals and quickly grew to love the culture as well.

Ever since my trip, I have not stopped thinking about going back.  It was an incredible journey that has changed my life in many ways and has not ended with me coming back to the states. Last August when I got back, I was able to share stories and pictures with many people, but I want to share more.


I recently created a calendar with pictures from my time there. It gives you a peek into the country and the city of Addis Ababa and also shows you a little bit of what the transportation and food looks like and of course includes some pictures of the many Ethiopians that captured my heart.

Each month has a verse and a prayer focus to serve as a reminder for you to be praying for the nations and specifically for the people of Ethiopia.

The trip I took last summer would not have been possible without the financial and prayer support that I received from so many of you. And I want you all to know how much I appreciate your support and friendship.

In order to complete the requirements for my degree program in Cross-Cultural Ministry I will need to participate in another 10 week internship overseas. So in prayerful hope of going back to Ethiopia next summer I am selling these 2010 calendars as a way to help raise money. I am selling the calendars for $20 each and part of the money will go to the cost of production, but the rest will go to the trip I take in 2010.

*If you would like to purchase a calendar you can email me your name, address, and the number of calendars you would like to purchase: hmurray@mccks.edu

Next Year’s Conference

Next year’s theology conference, the Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars will be October 8-9, 2010, in Manhattan, Kansas.  We will be issuing a “Call for Papers” in a month or so.

Last Week’s Conference

Last week we hosted the Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars in Manhattan, Kansas.  We had a great time of fellowship and stimulating presentations and conversation.



One of the highlights was a breakfast-conversation on suggestions for research in biblical studies, religious history, and history in general.  Alan Bearman and Robert Linder, professors of history at Washburn University and Kansas Statue University suggested that there is an important place for amateur and local historians.



Professor Linder urged:

Write the history of your local church!

He also compared the work of a historian to that of a detective and a prosecuting attorney.  Linder and Bearman also agreed that historians need to write readable prose.

Hmm . . .

Hmm . . .

Witherington said NT studies is a multi-disciplinary field.  He recommended learning methods of sociology and social science research, along with history, ancient rhetoric, linguistics, and ancient languages–Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac for starters.

Witherington also gave a powerful address on worship at the plenary session Friday night.

There were several great presentations (list here).  Some of the papers have already been posted on the conference web page–others will follow.

I was especially delighted that my former teacher, Dr. Lynn Gardner, was able to attend.


He spoke on Postmodernism, the roots of which he traces back to Kant.

To any of you who are troubled–either emotionally or intellectually–by the problem of suffering, I would recommend Dr. Gardner’s book on the subject.  It’s hard to praise a book on such a difficult subject without sounding flippant–but What the Bible Says about Suffering is a very thoughtful and helpful book.

Circle Oct 8-9 2010 on your calendar for next year’s conference; and Oct 7-8 for 2011.

(Another participants review here)

Dirty Little Secret

I take it that when Paul says, “Those who do such things deserve death,” he is thinking of the punishment appointed to Adam and Eve in Genesis.  Paul is not calling for vigilante justice or state-sponsored execution of those guilty of hate speech, arrogance, and greed.  He is pointing to the fact that we all are under the sentence of death; none of us deserves to live forever.  His point is not that some deserve to die more than others, but that we are all in the same boat.

But I still want to come back to the idea that Paul expects his readers to agree that all those guilty of the vices he catalogs deserve to die.  Paul is not teaching morality here: he is not trying to persuade anyone of the evil of “murder, envy, rivalry, deception, malice” and so forth.  He assumes they all agree, they will all say Amen!

By overhearing Paul, I might learn that hate speech, slander, character assassination, whether whispered or shouted, is seriously evil.  But Paul isn’t teaching, he is appealing to common beliefs in his reader.  The list is organized for rhetorical effect; the words are organized according to alliteration or assonance, words that rhyme or begin with the same letter are linked together.  For example:

adikia poneria pleonexia kakia . . . phthonou, phonou . . .

asynetous, asynthetous, astorgous, aneleemonas

But here’s a puzzle:  If you read any classical literature (from Gilgamesh to the Greek and Roman poets and philosophers) you find that same-sex love was highly praised in the ancient world.  Against this background, Paul’s rejection of same-sex behavior is almost an anomaly.  Is it the influence of his Jewish upbringing?

Well yes.  It is pretty clear that Paul understands marriage to be a life-long commitment between one man and one woman: a partnership in serving the Lord together and in bringing up children dedicated to the Lord.  Any other expression of sexuality he considers a serious aberration.

But is there more than that here?  After all, Paul had a live and let live attitude toward the promiscuous behavior of unbelievers (1 Cor 5:10).

Most of Paul’s readers were either slaves, former slaves, or slave owners.  The dirty little secret that cultured Greeks and Romans never talked about directly–they did wink and hint at it–and the dirty little secret the New Testament writers must have been aware of but never mention directly is the sexual exploitation of slaves.

Slaves had no dignity, honor, or virtue to maintain.  Masters owned the bodies of their slaves and used them as they pleased.  Both male and female slaves were at the disposal of their masters and mistresses.

I know several women who have been raped.  My gut reaction to the perpetrators–Christian discipline tells me I have to overcome it–but my gut reaction is to regard the violators as subhuman monsters who deserve to die.

Many of Paul’s readers, male and female, had experienced subjugation and the repeated violation of their bodies by those with the power to get away with it.  They would have also experienced various forms of belittling and humiliating hate speech.  They might have agreed with Paul that “those who do such things are worthy of death.”

(Some of these thoughts were inspired by Robert Jewett’s Hermeneia commentary on Romans and Carolyn Osiek’s A Woman’s Place).

Peace in an Age of Brutality

That’s the theme of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, as I see it: peace in an age of  brutality.  Of course, for Paul, it was most important that we have “peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We ‘ll come back to that later.   Paul also believed that those who find peace with God find peace with each other.  I’ll have more to say on that later too.  Right now, I want to make one point: Paul lived in an age of brutality.

Paul was born in the early days of the Roman Empire; the empire that began with the reign of Augustus, and was followed by the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, Caligula, and Nero.  It was a time of relative stability and absence of wars, but the Pax Romana was enforced by the use and threat of brutal force.  If you saw the HBO special “Rome” you saw plenty examples of that. As Tacitus put it, “the Romans make a desolation and call it peace.”

But in case you are not convinced, I’ll offer two facts in support of the thesis that the first century was an age of brutality.  The first fact is the popularity of gladiator contests.  Gladiator shows were fights to the death, and no public festival was complete without one.   One historian recently undertook a serious study of this problem:  what did they do with all those bodies?  His conclusion was that they threw them in the Tiber.

The second fact is a statement of Paul’s in Romans chapter one.  It is so subtle that it is easy to miss.  Paul presents a list of sins and vices, and then says those who do the nasty things in the list agree that “those who do such things are worthy of death.”  The vices in the list includes, among others “disobedience to parents” and “slander.”

In our day, we may not like it when children are disobedient or when senators shout out to the president, “You lie!”–but we aren’t in favor of killing the offenders.  And yet, Paul evidently expected none of his readers to blink when he said, “those who do such things deserve to die.”

Was life so cheap in the Roman empire that everyone agreed name callers and rebellious children deserved to die?

Or is that what Paul really means?

Blogging as a Spiritual Discipline?

The title is not original with me–I saw it somewhere else; in fact I think I didn’t get around to reading the post, but it got me thinking.

Many people keep journals as a spiritual discipline.  The ancient genre of the “Confessions” is a form of this.  I am about to begin reading St. Patrick’s “Confessions.”  According to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick is more cheerful than the more famous confessor, St. Augustine.  I’ll see if that comes through.

So, I’m not exactly going to begin confessing all my sins here; but I am going to begin writing a series of meditations on St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans.  It won’t be a commentary–Romans is already the most commented upon book in the world.  It will be reflections on passages that strike me.

I may intersperse some comments on Genesis as well; since I am also studying some of the themes in that book as well.  The fact is, I think Romans in many ways represents Paul’s meditations on Genesis, so may that will work out alright.

Meditation one comes tomorrow.

Was Jesus a Feminist?

perpetuaBen Witherington III will present a lecture on the topic, “Was Jesus the First Feminist?” Thursday evening, 7:30, at Kansas State University in the Alumni Center.

He will also be speaking on the topic, “An Eschatological Vision of Worship” Friday at 7:30 PM in Jollife Hall on the campus of Manhattan Christian College as part of the Western Fellowship of Professors and Scholars.

Both events are open to the public.

End of an Era in Sheffield?

Last year when I was in Buckie, Scotland, I wrote a couple of posts about F.F. Bruce, who grew up in nearby Elgin (here and here).   I noted that he helped establish the department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield and that he adopted a historical, non-sectarian, and “secular” approach to the Bible.  Bruce himself was a devout believer, but he believed he could approach the Bible in the University as a historian and work with other historians apart on a neutral playing field.

Evidently there is a plan underway by the administration of the University to end the undergraduate program in Biblical Studies.  Mark Goodacre at Duke University  and Jim West from Volunteer country are urging concerned colleagues to make their voice known.

One of my colleagues, by the way, Dr. Don Leach, took a course under professor Bruce several years ago.  He presented the professor with a copy of J.W. McGarvey’s commentary on the book of Acts.  McGarvey wrote his famous commentary during the American civil war, and F.F. Bruce tells how he relieved many hours of war time tedium working on his commentary on Acts during the second world war.

More than a Peck

I think I picked quite a bit more than a peck of peppers to pickle and freeze.  Our chili pepper patch was pretty prolific this summer.  They are still coming on strong, but we just missed a hard freeze last night and may have one tonight, so I went out today in the chilly wind to pick chili peppers.  I picked more than three bags full, leaving just a few small ones in case it doesn’t freeze and we have a few more days of warm weather.

It’s satisfying to enjoy the year’s final harvest, but  sad too.  This marks the official end of summer for me.

I would have posted a picture, but Sonja has my camera in Arkansas.

By the way, I’m still buying Iwig milk.  If you live in NE Kansas and drink milk, look for it.  It’s worth it and the dairy needs the help.