Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Theology and Hyrule

As you can tell, I am a giant video game nerd. If you are not a gamer or a nerd kind of person, you can skip over this post.
Among my all-time favourite games is Legend of Zelda: The Orcarina of Time. Ever since I first played it almost 11 years ago, I have loved it like no other game. It has excellent re-play value even today. I recently played through it again, dusting off my old N64 and beat it again yesterday. This time around, I have noticed many theological things in this game.

The Triforce, which is an attainable item in past Zelda games is divided into 3 parts: power, wisdom and courage. And are divided among 3 people: the hero Link, Princess Zelda and the main villain of all Zelda games: Gannondorf (aka Ganon in his beast form). Anyways, the three parts also had fairies that created the fantasy land of Hyrule. I can see that the trinity (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Combine to create not only the world but the ability and freewill to be good or evil. The triforce is a coveted jewel that basically makes the wish of anyone come true. Gannon gets a hold of it twice and turns Hyrule into a wasteland. So, we can see spiritual battle here. Ganon=Satan maybe?? 

Anyways, before I go on a nerd spree, for those who know the games can already nod in agreement in what I am saying. Although Link does not die to redeem Hyrule, he saves them from evil like any other game. But from observing how the game plays out, is very theological. A kid is selected to go on a quest, collect things and unite seven sages (who you meet as a kid) to defeat evil. Gannon cannot stand light, making the legendary Light Arrow his main weakness. Ganon is sealed in the sacred realm after being defeated and Link gets to re-live the childhood that was sealed for seven years (okay the seven sound familiar?)


One more reference: Majora's Mask allows Link to collect 25 masks to characterize different species and people much like the masks we wear in life to cover up our realness.

That's all, I'm nerded out! How can I elaborate? :P


Friday, March 18, 2011

The MAN couch

*copied from Craig the Scotsman*

You all know what it is.
Your girlfriend or what-have-you has dragged you along for yet another 17 hours of clothing shopping at the over-air-conditioned super-mall.  Your choice female companion, giddy as a raw-sugar-spiked 5-year-old on Christmas eve, carries another load of outrageously expensive outfits out of the racks and heads toward the changing booths.
"These are so adorable! I want them so badly! I'll only be a minute! Isn't this fun?!!"
Your knees are giving out. Your eyeballs are about to explode. You feel like punching something or dying in a hole.

AND THEN.

The couch.

It's soft, plush, maybe leather, maybe it even reclines. Sometimes, there's a table. And it's located conveniently RIGHT OUTSIDE THE CHANGING BOOTHS. RIGHT where you need it.
A chorus of angels sing out a heavenly chord at this discovery.
Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh Solace! A haven in the giant untamed smorgasborg of shopping!
At times, you are even joined by other equally burnt-out men. Bleary-eyed, texting, napping, or completely zoned out, mouth agape, their arms attempting to not associate with the numerous outrageously stuffed bags from other posh clothing chains that they must carry for their choice female companion(s).
Together, you may exchange glances acknowledgment; that you both share in the suffering of yet another relentless day of shopping, your eyes each forewarning others of the toil of seven-sweater fashion shows and line-ups for hemming; both understanding the sacrifice you must make to keep your woman (and/or her friends) happy.
And it is at moments like these that you gain the strength, and hope, to carry on and see the light of day outside the mall again.

EDIT: Ladies, these couches are good for you, too. You see, it keeps your choice man right where you left them! No longer are you subjected to the immense frustration of man-hunting them out of the magazine aisle, CD store, electronics wicket or fries line in the food court. BONUS you have a guarantee that your purse is safe and you have a second opinion from a qualified expert should you need it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Author of the Epistle to Hebrews

One of the many big debates amongst theologians is the authorship of Hebrews, below is my term paper for Hebrews class last semester, please do not copy it. but read for your enjoyment, it's long but I put a lot into it. I encourage you to debate along with me here:


The book of Hebrews is grammatically different than any other epistle in the New Testament. It is not written to a specific audience like most Pauline epistles are. Hebrews begins like a sermon, proceeds like an essay and ends like a letter. There is much debate among theologians over who wrote the book. Some who come to mind are: Paul, Priscilla, Barnabas, Luke, Clement and Apollos. It is still unknown who exactly wrote it. Some use historical facts and geographical matters to prove one's authorship, but there is very little proof for it's true composition. Only God knows who wrote the book and that is all that should matter. However, the debates and dissertations are interesting as some lean strongly towards another writer.
Characteristics of the Author of Hebrews.
People can research as much as they wish, but coming to a true consensus is too difficult. There is no doubt that the author of the book was a teacher of some sort. He or she may have been a second generation Christian, claiming the gospel was “confirmed to us by those who heard Him [Jesus]” (Hebrews 2:3).1 The author of the book was a dynamic preacher or teacher, knowledgeable of the Old testament and was highly educated.2 Not only was the author well educated in the Old Testament, he or she would also have been familiar with the culture around them.
Omission of the Author's Name.
It is hard to understand why the name of the author was omitted. Critics claim that the omission is based on the argument of the epistle being written in the Hebrew or Greek language. Clement was among ones who supported the Hebrew side. Although, very interestingly he claimed that Paul wrote it in Hebrew with Luke then carefully translating it into Greek. This claim opens up a whole new debate on whether or not Paul wrote it on his own, or that he had an interpreter with him. There is also no evidence of an original copy of the book in Hebrew, which attests to the fact it was written in Greek. All older copies of Hebrews are written in Greek and if there was a Hebrew original that was destroyed or lost , the Greek would have eventually replaced it. If the letter was addressed to Jews in Palestine, it would of led the people to retain it in the Hebrew language.3 Each other epistle in the New Testament indicate the author at the introduction or at some part of the book. Hebrews, strangely does not. Some versions of the bible attribute the epistle to Paul strictly for canonical reasons. However, the 1611 King James Bible indicates that “Timothie” wrote the book. His name was found at the very end of the book: written in Italy by Timothie. There is very little doubt that this person would not be the same as one who has two books bearing his name. Timothy is not among the most popular choices by scholars and theologians, so there is a strong possibility that the name is a pseudonym. Timothy's release from prison was mentioned in Hebrews 13:23, which rules out even the most remote possibility that he wrote it. The author had to be someone that Paul and Timothy came into contact with over their respective missionary journeys.
Possibility #1: The Apostle Paul.
Hebrews was written sometime between 60 and 70 AD either before or after the destruction of the Temple. The date that the book was written depends on who the author was. Paul was considered a candidate but this letter was specifically for a Jewish audience. Paul often wrote to specific churches or geographical locations instead of a general audience. Jerome and St. Augustine of Hippo were influential in attributing the epistle to Paul. He was confirmed as author until the Reformation.
Pauline authorship was not accepted in the Western church (Rome) until late in the fourth century. Although Hebrews was attributed to Paul much earlier in the Eastern church (Alexandria), not everyone could agree. It was the great scholar, Origen who, after surveying the possible authors uttered the famous words “But who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows”. The apparent eagerness of many in the church to ascribe Hebrews to Paul was motivated by the canonical status within developing the New Testament. Without going into the matter in detail, the more reasons why Pauline authorship must be mentioned.4

There is very little doubt that Paul at least had a minor role in the writing or distribution of the epistle. Almost ever candidate for authorship at one time crossed paths with Paul in his missionary journeys. According to Albert Barnes, Clement of Alexandria claimed that Paul wrote Hebrews based on the opinion of Pantaneus who was the head of the celebrated Christian school there established in 180 AD.5
Origen of Alexandria also ascribes Hebrews to Paul by claiming that the sentiments are Paul's but the words and phrases belong to a writer, as if they were commenting while Paul was telling him or her what to write. Barnes continues his strong case for Paul by stating the mention of Timothy in Hebrews 13:23 by promising a visit in the near future. There are several differences based on the date of writing alone, some believe it was before or after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Barnes continues his opinion by stating that 6
Possibility #2: Luke.
Among the more popular candidates is Luke. According to Wilson's New Century Commentary, the possibility of Paul writing the book was ruled out.7 Luke is considered the most likely author because he was not influenced by Alexandrian thoughts. Luke was interested in solid facts rather than cultural surroundings. Luke was heavily influenced by Greek culture which is especially evident in the gospel that bears his name; where headdresses his letter to most excellent Theolophilis. Luke was believed to be a Gentile writing to a Jewish audience and that he wrote under the tutelage of Paul. However, the grammatical dynamic between the two are too different. The belief is that the words and thoughts of the text are Paul's but the language was Luke's. St. Clement is convinced that Luke may also be the author based on the purity of the Greek in the original letter. There are several references and phrases that are also found in Acts, which Luke wrote. Although there are decent grounds for this argument, they are simply speculations based on minor research.
Possibility #3: Apollos.
Many modern scholars have suggested that Apollos is indeed the author of Hebrews. This was first suggested by Martin Luther during the Reformation. He refuted any evidence that Paul wrote the book based on historical evidence. According to Acts 18:24, Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria and was an eloquent man. He was well versed in Scriptures and contradicted Jews in public. Once again, Paul is mentioned to having his hand in to having his hand in this passage because of the fact he interacted with Apollos in Ephesus and Corinth. If Apollos had been the author of Hebrews, it is difficult to think that the Alexandrian Church would not have preserved some knowledge of that fact or that Clement of Rome would not of mentioned him in writing to the Corinthians. There is also little known of a connection between Apollos and Rome.8 Despite such arguments, Apollos is actually considered the very top candidate for authorship of Hebrews, even for people who disagree with Martin Luther. The evidence is both hard and easy to refute.
Possibility #4: Barnabas.
There is little evidence supporting Barnabas but he also seems like a very likely candidate. Barnabas was a Levite, which can elude to the fact the author was well versed in Jewish culture. He was an associate of the apostle Paul, as they met in the latter half of Acts during one of Paul's missionary journey.
Barnabas might of been a decent nominee to be inspired to write the epistle. It does not breach at one time between him and Paul (Acts 25.), or his temporary vacillation at Antioch (Gal.2:13), preclude his having become again the associate of the great apostle and the exponent of his teaching. We have, however, no knowledge of this, or of Barnabas' style and natural powers as a writer, with none of his written or verbal utterances. Thus the only real ground for the supposition of Barnabas is the assertion of Tertullian, which is certainly remarkable as being made positively and not as a conjecture only.9

Based on the lack of evidence on Barnabas, it is safe to assume that he likely did not write Hebrews despite differing opinions by various commentators.
Possibility #5: Priscilla.
Although historical, biblical contexts and culture would not allow it, Priscilla is also very likely to have written Hebrews. She is first mentioned as the wife of Aquila in Acts 18:2, but in verses 18 and 26, her name is mentioned first. Whether this is a grammatical error or intentional based on a status she may of had remains a mystery. The reference led some to believe that she was the dominant partner. It is also suggested that There is no account of Priscilla's verbal or written words, which can certify, to some, that she did not write the book. The same can be said of any possible writers. Interestingly, during this time women in Monasticism were seen as mediators and Gnostic circles provoked suspicions of women in responsibility.10 The main dispute of a woman author is the use of the Greek male pronoun in Hebrews 11:32. Perhaps this was disputed because in early church it was considered shameful for a woman to speak up in church, they were to remain silent. Early believers could possibly of added the male pronoun in order to cover up for Priscilla and possibly save her life. Having a woman write a piece of Scripture that would eventually be canonized could of been considered heresy. This would not be an issue for many today as several women are involved in various ministries within the church and also have equal rights with men. Several scholars and pastors today believe that Priscilla did in fact write Hebrews and used the male pronoun to remain anonymous.
In 1900, Adolph Harnack presented an argument determining that Priscilla indeed wrote the book of Hebrews. This was translated from German into English in 1955 by Emma Runge Peter.11 Her book indicates a summary of Harnack's research. He states that the epistle was written to Rome, not the church but to a smaller group of older Christians because the author tells them to obey their leaders (13:17). Harnack's case for Priscilla is incredible:
The author was highly educated and seems to have held a prominent teaching position. In Acts 18 Priscilla along with Aquila were able to instruct Apollos who was himself an eloquent and learned man (Acts 18:24-26). 2) Both Priscilla and Aquila were among the Pauline circle of friends and were associates with Timothy (13:23).3) Assuming the Roman audience, the author would then have been a part of the Roman church and been familiar with the circumstances of the Christians in Rome. Moreover the author seems to have been a respected leader among the Roman Christians and hoped to be restored to them someday (13:19). We know from Acts 18:1 that Priscilla and Aquila were expelled from Rome due to the Edict of Claudius in 49 A.D.12
Harnack gives a very strong dissertation based on Priscilla's authorship and can potentially lead many to come to the conclusion that she indeed wrote it. He makes int apparent that one person wrote Hebrews based on the first person language used (11:32; 13:19, 22). However, there were some instances where the author was speaking for more than himself or herself. It should be noted that Priscilla and her husband Aquila were mentioned six times in the New Testament (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Aquila is mentioned first two times and Priscilla four times. It is unknown whether Priscilla being mentioned first was accidental or not but perhaps her name sounded more pleasing to the Greek ear before Aquila's. Further speculation indicates that Priscilla was a Roman woman from a prominent and noble family, and her husband was once a slave. This indicates the rarity of a woman's status being higher during the early church. The use of the male pronoun indicates that she is either not the author or used it to gain credibility.
Possibility # 6: St. Clement.
The earliest know allusion to the authorship of the epistle is that of St. Clement of Alexandria, as he quoted much of Hebrews in his writings. His letter 1 Clement also has similar grammatical elements to those found in Hebrews. Hebrews 11:7: By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. 1 Clement 9: Noah, being found faithful, by his ministration preached regeneration unto the world, and through him the Master saved the living creatures that entered into the ark in concord.13 The comparison is hard to ignore because it is so similar. Both books respectively have a similar way of citing Scripture. His letter is among the earliest non-Canonical Christian letters and was addressed to believers in Corinth. The book was never meant to be canonized in the New Testament, but his prominence allowed to become a part of the Apostolic Fathers. Among these early Christians were Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. All of whom were linked to Jesus Christ by personal contact with the Twelve Apostles. Although it seems apparent that he might of wrote it, the possibility looks very bleak. Clement allowed Scripture to influence everything wrote but his influence among Corinth only went so far.
Other Possibilities.
There are various other possible authors, but little is known about them. Silas is among them, according to Acts 16:37, he was a Roman Citizen. Some believe that he even helped write 1 Peter because they are similar in both style and content. Silas was a companion of Timothy as was Paul. Since Silas was a Jew, he could have a decent understanding of Jewish culture. Phillip is also a candidate but very little is known about him.
Conclusion.
It is too difficult to come to a solid consensus on the true authorship of Hebrews. Although evidence supports all of the discussed authors, the evidence is too broad. The least likely author is Paul because he was either imprisoned or dead when the epistle was written. If it had been written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, it would not be feasible. Paul was beheaded in 67 AD, and according to Adolph Harnack's strong evidence supporting Priscilla, Hebrews was written in 70 AD, three years after Paul's death. Most of the potential writers have similar characteristics that Hebrews presents; that the author was a dynamic teacher and highly educated in the Old Testament. The only exception to that would be Paul, despite the fact he was a Pharisee. His familiarity with the Old Testament would not be as strong as the author of Hebrews. Despite evidence supporting over seven different authors, the best possible answer is to think that only God knows. Even though it remains a mystery, those who call Jesus their Lord and Saviour will find out in heaven.


1Evans Jr. , Luke. The Communicators Commentary on Hebrews. Waco,TX. Word Books Publishing. 1985
2Guthrie, George. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998
3Ibid.
4Hagner, Donald. Encountering the Book of Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002, pg.21
5Barnes, Albert. Barnes Notes: Hebrews to Jude. London: Blackie & Son Publishing. 1885
6Ibid
7Wilson, R. McL. New Century Commentary on Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing. 1987. pg.7
8Ibid.
9Gloag, P.J. The Pulpit Commentary Volume XXI. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. Year unknown
10Wilson, R. McL. New Century Commentary on Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing. 1987
11Peter, Emma Runge. The Bible Status of Woman. Zarephath, N.J.: Pillar of Fire, 1955, 392–415
12Is Priscilla the Author of Hebrews? http://polumeros.blogspot.com/2009/01/is-priscilla-author-of-hebrews.html. Accessed 12/06/2010.
13Clement, Of Alexandria, and G.W. Butterworth. Clement of Alexandria, translated by G.W. Butterworth. 1919. Reprint, S.I. Heinemann, 1982.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unplugged

What's the first thing you think when you hear the word Unplugged? Turning out the lights, unplugging all of your gadgets and doing undisturbed work? A few weeks ago, our youth went on a retreat with the theme of Unplgged. We disallowed cellphones and games. Now your thinking "James, banning phones and such? Your on crack?" well, this was not to condemn electronics but to see what life is like outside of them. Plus, that part wasn't totally my idea :P
And that we do not need electronics. Yes, technology allows us even to proclaim to the world that we're on the toilet. Experiencing God in nature, especially in beautiful Bruce County. One of the leaders, Jem asked for people to be in silence for about 2-3 minutes. How fast does our mind go? Pretty crazy living in a city. So being quiet for that long, my brain was thinking "Reading week coming up, what's on TV, who texted me, what smells, did I spill my tea, man I have a lot of papers to do". But when we (try) to quiet our minds, and meditate on God's word. There is an unexplainable peace that comes over us.
When I returned to my dorm, it was going back to regular life. Controlled by technology. Sure, the only way some stay in touch with me is via social networking, there comes a time where we should turn off the cellphone, mute the iPod and unplug the Xbox and be still and know God.
There is a great disconnect between us and God sometimes, re-connect and unplug.
Also: the occasional Podcast is beneficial. If you are a janitor like me, the iPod is on to kill time while cleaning toilets. I recommend: James MacDonald's walk in the word, Mosaic podcast and Hannover Missionary Church (EBC Prof Jason Mills is the pastor, very solid).