Sunday, April 7, 2024

Superstitious Survivals from the Ancient Past

What is superstition, anyway? According to one dictionary it is “any belief, based on fear or ignorance, that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is generally considered in the particular society as true and rational; esp. such a belief in charms, omens, and the supernatural, etc.”1 Hence superstitions are beliefs or actions that violate rational thought as conceived in a particular society—which makes superstition relative to what passes as critical thinking in a given community.

Since the rise of human reason in the 18th century many of the superstitious survivals of antiquity have generally lost their influence in our scientific based Western culture—particularly with the rise of modern Western secular education. Yet many superstitions still survive in a kind of underground way in the modern Western world—similar to the survival of paganism in the ancient Roman world. Paganism was edged-out by Christian ascendancy around the fifth century. After 440 CE no pagans are listed among the elite of the City of Rome.2 Yet the ancient religions and superstitions of the Greek and Roman worlds survived in the countryside away from the population centers of the cities, where Christianity had established itself.

            I was reminded of the fact that ancient superstitions still survive in modern society upon reading a sentence from Homer’s Iliad. In a speech Achilles made before the assembled Achaean warriors on the occasion of a pandemic caused by the God Phoebus Apollo over a slight by Agamemnon to Apollo’s priest, Chryses. The Achaeans were pondering why Apollo had sent his arrows of pestilence among them. Achilles suggested that they “should consult some seer (mantis), or priest (iereus), or interpreter of dreams (oneriopolos) to discover the cause.3

A seer in the ancient world (and in the Bible) is one who divines the future and answers other questions from various means, such as observing the flights of birds, for example.4 A priest in the ancient world (and in the Bible) is one who was authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as an agent of mediation between people and God.”5 Oneiromancy, the interpretation of dreams, was prevalent throughout the ancient world (and in the Bible). Gods of the ancient world were thought to communicate with people through dreams (Matt 1:20-21; 2:13).

There was a prohibition of such practices in ancient Israel: there should not be found among you “anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deut 18:10-12 RSV), but such figures were consulted anyway (1 Sam 9:9-12, 18-19).

These three supernatural practices still survive in modern Western society in various forms.  A psychic is a spiritual medium who answers questions dealing with matters beyond the physical world (check their availability on the internet). Priests are in the employ of certain modern religions. They are believed to have the power to mediate between God and people, particularly in the more ritualistic religious traditions (ascribing the divine presence to the elements of the Mass/Eucharist, for example). Dream interpretations are offered by psychics or mediums, who are believed to have the power to interface with the spirit world. Dream interpretation, however, has now also gone mainstream, and is a technique used by medically trained psychotherapists (hopefully not through the powers of spirits).6

Is Christianity’s Holy Spirit, perhaps, only another ancient superstition from the ancient past? It would seem, on the surface, that there is little difference between the ancient pagan belief that certain people communicated with and through spirit (not Holy Spirit) and Christianity’s belief that modern Christians communicate with God through Holy Spirit. Both groups access their Gods through the medium of spirit, what they both channel is a spiritual “reality,” and they are both pre-critical survivals from the ancient past.7 In what way is Christianity’s belief in Holy Spirit not also a survival from the ancient past? Why is it not also superstition, if pagan beliefs in spirit are superstition? If there can be one spirit (Holy Spirit), why can there not be more (pagan spirits)? Luke seemed to think so, when he described Paul as exorcising a spirit of the Pythia (Acts 16:16-18).

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th edition, 2002), s. v. “superstition.”

2Charles Hedrick, Jr., History and Silence. Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity (Austin: University of Texas, 2000), 57.

3Homer, The Iliad, Book 1, lines 62-63.

4See Charles W. Hedrick, “Prophecy, Divination and Fate,” The Fourth R 36.2 (March-April 2023), 15-18, 10. For other appearances of a seer in the Bible see 2 Sam 24:11; 2 kgs 17:13; 1 Chron 25:5; 2 Chron 9:29; Isa 29:10; Amos 7:12; Mic 3:7.

5Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1990), s. v. “priest.”

6National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330585/

See also Charles W. Hedrick, “Does God Communicate in Dreams,” Blog: Wry Thoughts about Religion, May 16, 2013: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2013/05/does-god-communicate-in-dreams.html?showComment=1368794635348

7Hedrick, “Laying on Hands, to Pass on the Holy Spirit,” Blog: Wry Thoughts about Religion, July 8, 2021: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/search?q=the+holy+spirit

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Privative Life of God

Can it be true that God has a private life? Folks at my church seem to assume that God is always on duty, 24/7—particularly to receive all prayers. People seem to think God is even available to make spiritual house calls and hospital visits on a moment’s notice. Imagine; going to God in prayer and sensing a message glimmering in your mind: “call back in a week; on vacation!” Yet there are hints in the Bible that God does have something like a private life—moments when he is away from being hands-on (so to speak) running the world. The ancient Graeco-Roman Gods, on the other hand, are regularly depicted as having private lives.1 I grant you that Yahweh’s free moments are all depicted in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (OT). The New Testament (NT) writers are not much-given to reflecting on God anthropomorphically (i.e., depicting God as being human).2 Nevertheless these hints are there in OT.

            One indisputable attestation of God’s private life is revealed at the creation when God “finished his work and rested on the seventh day from all his work” and immediately “hallowed the seventh day” of the week (Gen 2:2-3), presumably as a day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11). What do you do when you are resting? The answer is, anything but work!3

The depiction of God as “walking in the garden [of Eden] in the cool of the day” (Gen 3:8) and making innocuous chit-chat (before the conversation got serious, Gen 3:9-13) with Adam and Eve sounds as if God’s refreshing pause in the heat of the day was spoiled by the coming of age of Adam and Eve.

            For some reason, God attempts to kill Moses as Moses is on his way to Egypt. God meets Moses at a lodging place on the way and tries to kill him (Exodus 4:24). It does not appear that God is acting in the performance of his official duties, however. Apparently, this act is “off the books” (not an official act) but a clandestine act, if you will, for God fails to kill him—Is this kind of thing something God does in his spare time, do you suppose? Perhaps! God’s all too casual “back-room bargain” with Satan (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6) to allow a testing of Job’s piety appears similar to the incident with Moses. No wonder Jesus followers prayed that they not be put to the test (Matt 6:13=Luke 11:4). God’s bargain with Satan to prove Job’s piety to Satan appears pointless and hence a waste of God’s time.

            There is one kind of thing that God is represented as doing quite frequently in the Bible. One finds repeated references to God “changing his mind,” or “repenting” about things he has done or things he intended to do.4 For example, God “was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen 6:6-7). He later changed his mind again, even about his previous change of mind to destroy everything he had created, because Noah subsequently found favor in his eyes (Gen 6:8). God must have spent a great deal of time mulling over his deeds and pondering what his next course of action should be in the circumstances. One mulls and ponders in the spare moments that one has available—not in the busy moments of life. The frequency with which God ponders certain of his actions suggests that he spent a lot of time reflecting, pondering, and being inactive while in self-recriminating thought.

            There is also “evidence” from sherds, pottery, and the Bible that God may have had a wife (or significant other) at some point in the dim past. It has been suggested by an Oxford scholar, who now teaches at Exeter, that at one time the goddess Asherah (Deut 16:21; I Kgs 14:23) was considered a consort (wife, significant other) of the Hebrew God, Yahweh.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to [Francesca] Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th-century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

"The inscription is a petition for a blessing," she shares. "Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."5

This is an interesting development that, if true, certainly support the idea that God at one time was thought to have a private life.

            I think, however, I can hear someone thinking quietly: “But you haven’t proven God has a private life. All you have shown is that an ancient semitic tribe at one time suspected the God they worshipped had odd moments when he might have been doing something other than ‘God-like’ things.” And that someone would be correct! When talk of God commences, we are always at the mercy of human imagination. For all God-talk has little to do with factuality. All words about God, like grass in its season, pass with each generation that coined them, like the dissonance between old and new covenants (Heb 8:1-13). Unless members of the tribe get together and canonize their words about God as an iconic object.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See, for example, Robert Graves, The Greek Myths (2 vols.; George Braziller, 1959), vol. 1. 53-55. This section describes Zeus’ philandering ways, and his home life with Hera, his wife.

2This gap between the OT and NT in God-thought happens between the more primitive anthropomorphic thinking of the OT authors and the slightly-more “philosophically” oriented NT authors. Even one ancient Hebrew prophet recognized the wrong headedness of thinking of God in human terms (1 Sam 15:29).

3Some of the kinds of things God did in his “creation work” are reflected in God’s answer to Job (38-41). Today, God is generally thought-of as doing “religious” work, like answering prayer (or not), rewarding the faithful, and punishing the wicked.

4Repent, means to change one’s mind; sometimes translated as “relented”: Exod 32:14; I Sam 15:11, 35; 2 Sam 24:15-16; 1 Chron 21:15; Jer 8:8; 15:6; 18:10; 26:3, 13, 19; 42:10; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9-10.

5Jennifer Viegas, NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna42154769

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

"A Power came-out from Him": Healing and Exorcisms in Luke

Last Sunday morning as the minister was reading the text I was following along in the Greek and was immediately struck by a statement in Luke 6:19, which only appears in Luke.

The whole crowd sought to touch him because power came-out from him and healed all.

What struck me was that Jesus was not portrayed as the source of the healing of the crowd, rather “a power (dunamis) that came-out from (para) him” brought-about the healing. Jesus was the source for the power but the power itself was the source of the healing. The same phrase appears in Luke 8:46, “a power had come-out from (apo) him,” and that is also the case in Mark’s parallel passage (Mark 5:30), “A power (dunamis) had come-out (ek) from him.” In this latter passage the woman had touched his garment, which triggered the emanation of power from him. Jesus did not know who had touched him and was only aware that power had suddenly emanated from him.1 It seems that the power operated independently of the will of Jesus (Mark 5:30-32).

            It appears that Luke conceived the power in Jesus as the power of God: “And there was a power of the Lord [present] for him to heal” (5:17). Again, it was not his power but the power of the Lord. This sentence is lacking in the parallel passages Mark 2:2 and Matt 9:1. In Luke’s source, Mark (1:25) reads “With authority he commands the unclean spirits,” whereas Luke (4:36) reads “With authority and power he commands the unclean spirits.” One might almost say: Jesus’ authority and God’s power. When Jesus sent out his disciples on a mission, Matthew (10:1) and Mark (6:7) read that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits. Luke (9:1), on the other hand, reads: Jesus “gave them authority and power over the unclean spirts.” In his second volume (the book of Acts) of his two-volume work (Luke-Acts) Luke makes a point of emphasizing the role of the power of God active in the community of Jesus followers (1:8; 10:38; compare Luke 24:49).

            In other healing or exorcism stories in Luke, it is not a power emanating independently of Jesus without his intentionally directing it that heals. Jesus heals by a laying on of his hands (4:40; 13:12-13), by a touch (5:13) by words or a word (5:24-25; 6:10; 7:14-15; 8:54; 9:42). In some cases, there is no description as to how he healed (14:4; 17:14). Once, the healing is at a distance but no description of how the healing occurred is given (7:9-10).

            Luke appears to conceive of this power of the Lord present in Jesus but not totally controlled by Jesus. It acts in a similar way to demons, and unclean or evil spirits, when they are exorcised. Luke describes the emergence of the power of the Lord from Jesus with the same expression that he uses in describing the exorcism of a demon or spirit: “it came/went-out from him” (4:35-36, 41; 8:33; 11:14; 11:24). Luke 9:42 does not contain the phrase: “it came/went-out from him,” but such is suggested by 9:40.

These descriptions of the activities of Jesus are simply another reminder2 to the reader that in Luke’s Gospel we are not reading a historical account of Jesus’ career as it actually happened but rather we read what Luke thought had happened from the disparate bits of oral tradition s/he gathered from oral reports, or that s/he had read in the written reports of others (Luke 1:1-4).3 And that brings me to the rubric “Word of God” used to describe the Bible. At its worst, the expression is a learned religious confession elevating the Bible to an iconic status in the religious community. At its best, it is a metaphor converting the human wisdom of its authors and texts into a divine guide for faith and practice. Nevertheless, calling the Bible the “Word of God” dismisses the human role in the production of the Bible.4

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1See W. L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT; Eerdmans, 1974), 192-93.

2See Charles Hedrick Blog, Wry Thoughts about Religion: “The Challenge of the Proverb”: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2024/02/the-challenge-of-proverb.html

And “Euphemisms in the Bible”: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2024/02/euphemisms-in-bible.html

3Modern scholars have identified three of those written sources as the Gospel of Mark, the hypothetical source Q, and Luke’s special source, dubbed “L” (written or oral is unknown”). See Vincent Taylor about sources in Luke, “Luke, Gospel of” in G. A. Buttrick, et al., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (4 vols.; Abingdon, 1962), vol. 3. 184-85.

4See Charles Hedrick Blog, Wry Thoughts about Religion: “The Bible’s Story: A Brief Summary”; for the part of human beings in making the Bible a book, see: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2023/10/the-bibles-story-brief-summary.html

And “Inspired Writings”: http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2023/11/inspired-writings.html

Monday, February 19, 2024

Euphemisms in the Bible?

Sometimes the biblical writers do not speak plainly and are less than “honest or frank in what they write.”1 Instead they will use a euphemism for certain body parts, acts, or ideas. A euphemism is: “The use of a word or phrase that is less expressive or direct, but considered less distasteful, less offensive than another.”2 The biblical writers, in some cases, tend to avoid the use of disagreeable, or what were considered offensive or “impolite” words or expressions.3 I have been aware of such being the case for the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament since my seminary days, when it was pointed out that the expression “to cover one’s feet” (KJV, 1 Sam 24:3, Judg 3:24) was an euphemism for “relieving one’s self” (as it is translated in the RSV). Candidly, the expression means to urinate or defecate.

It turns out, however, that there are many expressions found to be euphemisms in the both Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament that are used to avoid speaking plainly. “Most of the euphemisms found in the HB/OT relate to three areas of common human experience: (1) death; (2) sexual activity and the organs associated with it; and (3) certain bodily functions,”4 whereas most “euphemisms in the NT have to do with sexual organs, sexual relations, or death.”5

The King James Version (KJV) generally translates the biblical euphemisms literally (what the text says). The New Revised Standard Version (RSV) generally translates biblical euphemisms by expressing the offensive idea concealed in the euphemism, but nevertheless translates them into an English euphemism. Here are examples of euphemisms in the NT for each of the categories: “see a man’s shame” (KJV) is an euphemism for “male genitalia” (NRSV, Rev 16:15), which itself is an English euphemism for penis and testicles; “the fruit of his loins” (KJV) is an euphemism for “put a descendent upon his throne” (NRSV, Acts 2:30), which itself is an English euphemism for seminal ejaculation and impregnation; “I do not know a man” is an euphemism for “I am a virgin” (NRSV, Luke 1:34), which itself is an English euphemism for not having had sexual intercourse; “give a wife due benevolence” (KJV) is an euphemism for “give a wife her conjugal rights” (NRSV, 1 Cor 7:3), which itself is an English euphemism for satisfy a wife sexually; “put off my tabernacle”(KJV) is an euphemism for “death” (NRSV, 2 Pet 1:14); “let your servant depart in peace” (KJV) is an euphemism for “dismiss your servant” (NRSV, Luke 2:29), which is an English euphemism for die (see Luke 2:26).

Euphemisms in the Bible are not exactly lies or untruths but they are clearly a softening of the truth in order to disguise what is considered distasteful, impolite, or offensive. They are not straight-forward, candid, or frank statements, which makes them something less than the “unvarnished” or complete truth. Their use by the writers of the Bible makes the Bible seem a more human product and little less a collection of texts divinely inspired. It hardly seems possible that the Almighty could be involved in a shading of the truth, as John (16:13; 17:17) and the psalmist (119:160) seemed to think—although the authors of First Kings (22:22-23) and Second Chronicles (18:21-22) appear to think differently. Go figure!

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th ed., s. v., “candid.”

2Ibid., s. v., “euphemism.”

3Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, s. v., dysphemism: using “a disagreeable, offensive, or disparaging word or expression.”

4Here is a list of expressions considered to be euphemisms by a jointly authored essay: https://www.degruyter.com/database/EBR/entry/key_20138155-819d-446f-959d-d4e432296e9b/html?lang=en

5Ibid.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Challenge of the Proverb

Proverbs are traditional pithy sayings that briefly and memorably express some general truth about life in the world. Proverbs are distillations of community wisdom whose ideas have been hammered out of common human experience. One might think of it as a bit of homely wisdom that originates around some nameless person’s kitchen table and becomes part of community lore by oral transmission. It is a universal form emerging through the ages in various cultural contexts and languages. The Book of Proverbs in Hebrew Bible is an anthology of many such sayings.

            Here are a few American proverbs that I have learned somewhere along the way: “A stitch in time saves nine”; “The early bird gets the worm”; “Actions speak louder than words”; “Birds of a feather flock together”; “Better late than never.” One I quote to myself all the time is “Haste makes waste.” I am certain that the reader recognizes most, if not all, of these, and can easily add more to my short list.

The New Testament also has a few proverbs, but they are not necessarily traditional oral sayings that emerge out of the life of a people. In some cases, identifiable writers compose proverbs, such as George Bernard Shaw, Robert Frost, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Herman Melville, and others.1 Here are a few of the proverbs in the New Testament: Luke 4:23, Acts 17:28, Acts 26:14, 1 Cor 15:33, Titus 1:12. To these I would add Mark 2:21-22, Gal 6:7 (compare Prov 22:8). One must argue, however, for the position that these proverbs are traditional rather than having a known origin in a given author. Some of them come from ancient Greek poets. Other proverbs in the New Testament come from Hebrew Bible: Prov 11:31=I Pet 4:18; Prov 3:11-12=Heb 12:5-6; Prov 22:8 (Septuagint)=2 Cor 9:7; Prov 25:21=Rom 12:20.

Here are two traditional proverbs preserved in Luke 12:54-55. Luke has narrated them in a prose form: “He said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It’s going to rain’: and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’: and so it happens.”

Notice that both proverbs are not attributed to Jesus, but in the text of Luke’s gospel they are attributed to Luke’s character, Jesus, who in turn attributes the sayings to the crowds. In their present form they are neither pithy nor memorable, however. In a proverbial form they would have been orally repeated, I suppose, as something like: “Clouds in the west, rain comes on apace.” “South winds gust, heat scorches us.” So far as I know, however, these proverbs are not preserved in the literature in memorable forms. They are only preserved in these prose forms.

Matt 16:2-3 is similar to Luke 12:54-55:

[Jesus] answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.”2

Again, in the context Matthew’s Jesus takes it to be a traditional proverb by attributing it to the Pharisees and Sadducees as a group (Matt 16:1).

These verses are, however, a suspected interpolation into the text of Matthew.3 At least three modern translations of the Bible treat the saying as an interpolation and accordingly follow the lead of those ancient manuscripts that do not have the saying in the Gospel of Matthew (The Complete Bible. An American Translation; the translation of James Moffatt; and The Revised English Bible).

If there are traditional proverbs in the Bible (and there appear to be), it poses a problem for those who place such a high value on the biblical text by referring to it as “the Word of God.” Such an idea completely overlooks the human inspiration for proverbs and raises the question: Why should the traditional words of a given people, hammered out of their common sense and human experience, be regarded as divine words? The people that I know who use the expression, “the Bible is the Word of God,” do not regard that expression as metaphorical, rather they seem to regard it as literal.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proverb.

2Compare the modern proverb thought to be derived from Matt 16:2-3: “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight.”

3See Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (Macmillan, 1993), 205, 344. For the reason see Bruce Metzgar, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd ed; United Bible Society, 2000), 33.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Once upon a time, a Man Became God

How in the world did that happen, do you suppose? Well, as with all good stories, there are several different accounts in the New Testament. The best known appears in two different versions (Matt 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-2:20).1 These narratives are blended and celebrated annually every December in Christian church and family settings. The narrative leads the reader to think that the God-Man (or man-God) was born naturally like all human children, as a flesh and blood child through the vaginal canal of his birth mother. The conception of the child by the birth-mother, however, is most unusual. Matthew says that the child’s mother conceived by a holy spirit (Matt 1:20) in fulfilment of Scripture. The child was to be called Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), which Matthew interprets as “God with us” (Matt 1:23). Luke also describes the child’s conception through a holy spirit that “comes upon” the mother and a “power of the Most-High overshadowing her,” suggesting that conception occurs in fashion similar to human conceiving, by a spiritual sperm.2 This child, Luke opines, shall be holy and called a son of God (Luke 1:35).

            In John’s Gospel, there is a third version of the story in the prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) for how a divine figure came to be man. The fragmentary narrative (John 1:1-2, 14) lacks in clarity. A figure, described as logos,3 who was from the primordial beginning alongside God and “what God was, the logos was.”4 Hence, the logos shared God’s essence, while being distinguishable from God (cf. Phil 2:6). In John 1:14 this spiritual figure “was made flesh” (cf. John 1:3).5 I take this to mean an incarnating or “enfleshing” of the logos in the sense of Phil 2:7: “taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in form as man…” How ever the author of the introductory poem to John may have conceived the event, it seems clear that conception and birth in the Matthaean and Lukan sense is not the process being described.

            A fourth version of the story appears in Rom 1:3-4 where God’s son is “born (genomenou) from the sperm (spermatos) of David according to the flesh,” and “appointed (oristhentos) son of God with power according to a spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead.” Jesus was a human being, a descendent of David, born of fleshly sperm, and was appointed, or declared, son of God by the spirit at his resurrection. His historical life was therefore not lived as the son of God. He was only advanced to that status at the end of his life at his resurrection.

            The early period of the Jesus movements was one of speculation about the identity and nature of Jesus. The historical matrix providing the spark that led toward the regarding of Jesus as son of God was plausibly the influx of gentiles into the gatherings of the Jesus followers.6 The cessation of early speculation about the nature of Jesus, which effectively weeded out other views and resulted in the dominance of the stories of Matthew/Luke, was occasioned by the early confessions of the church in the fourth century and at the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth,7 where Jesus was acclaimed as “very God and very man.” That declaration by the council is an uneasy solution, since it is challenged by other views reflected in the early Jesus gatherings and preserved in biblical texts. So, What is your thinking was Jesus a God-man or a man-God?

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

1They are not contradictory narratives but just completely different, but they both agree in the birthing process.

2See Charles W. Hedrick, “Early Christian Confessions and the Language of Faith,” The Fourth R 52.1 (January-February 2019): 15-20; idem, “How Do Divine Beings Procreate,” The Fourth R 36.6 (November-December 2023): 18-19.

3Logos is a central term in classical Greek culture. Its range of meaning in English is generally covered by two different ideas: speech and reason. See the entry logos in Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed. Oxford: University Press, 1999), 882. And the discussion by Ernst Haenchen, John 1. A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 1-6 (Robert W. Funk, trans. and ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 135-40.

4Here is the translation of John 1:1-2 in the Revised English Bible: “In the beginning the Word already was. The Word was in God’s presence, and what God was the Word was.” It is at once as much an interpretation as a translation.

5See Bauer-Danker, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed. revised; Chicago: University, 2000), 196-99, taking ginomai in the sense of Bauer-Danker’s second entry rather than the fifth.

6Hedrick, “Early Christian Confessions,” 13-20.

7Hedrick, “Early Christian Confessions,” 17, 20.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Rhythm, Rhyme, and Religion

A Christmas Miracle?

Christmas Day,

In the roadway,

I found a Lincoln cent

That failed to glint,

because it was chocolate brown,

Not copper red, but color of the ground.

“See,” said I, “It’s a penny.”

My daughter agreed with me.

But on coming home

The penny had metamorphosed;

Not a cent, as we supposed.

It was a dime,

Colored by dirt and grime.

Can it really be,

Like a rock into a tree,

That with a little time,

A red cent became a brown dime?

Why not,

I thought.

It happened once before,

In days of yore.

A man became God.

How odd!

For the last several years on my daily walking route of 2.5 miles, I have been writing a hasty rhyme each time I found a coin in order to commemorate the finding. I recently self-published a modest volume of these rhymes for the family.* They are not serious poetry, but aim at being whimsical. The above rhyme, however, neither made the book nor aims at whimsicality. It falls somewhere between simple rhyme and poem that takes aim at saying something serious about religion in rhythm and rhyme.

            Writing whimsical rhymes is something to do and it keeps my mind active, through what has been a difficult year.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

*For other coin rhymes, see Charles W. Hedrick, Lost Legal Tender in the Streets: Ditties, Rhymes, Whimsical Verse (Storyworth; 2023).