zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (credo)
Dirt, Greed, and Sex: sexual ethics in the New Testament and their implications for today
by L. William Countryman

I've forgotten who it was who mentioned this book to me, but thank you! It's absolutely awesome to be able to read a book which lays out such a clear, evidence-based, and persuasive account of what the Bible actually tells us about Jesus' teaching and God's will in matters of sexuality.

Countryman divides the book into three parts:

Dirt focuses on the purity code of the Torah - this is "clean", that is "unclean" - - eg all that Leviticus stuff about not wearing clothes made from two kinds of material, or eating pork or shellfish, or men having sex with men. Dirt is matter out of place. )
Greed focuses on the sexual property ethic - with particular reference to women and children as property of the paterfamilias. People not as individuals but as part of a family )
Sex is the final chapter, summing up the author's conclusions on "New Testament sexual ethics and today's world". He sees the Bible as still totally relevant - but we need to understand the cultural differences.The gospel allows no rule against... )

In short: if this is the kind of thing you like, you'll love it. Highly highly recommended.

Cui bono?

Mar. 26th, 2010 10:57 pm
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
The Lord said unto Adam, "Didst thou eat?"
And Adam said, "The woman gave it me."

The Lord said unto Eve, "What then is this?"
And Eve accused the serpent's subtle tricks.

The Lord sought nothing more, but spake a curse.
And so the serpent proudly crawls the earth
while, in the house that Adam hewed and raised,
the spider waits in comfort for fresh prey.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Dear colleague,

You've never managed to get a foot in the door at this event [tomorrow]. When I suggested trying again this year you said they just wouldn't want us. Last Thursday morning you finally said you'd email the head honcho. Then on Friday and Monday you were on leave so I thought I'd better follow up with him in case he'd emailed you back, so I phoned him. It turned out you hadn't emailed him yet, but I managed to get us our 3-minute timeslot in the event anyway.

I admit I screwed up in not showing you yesterday a copy of the powerpoint I threw together. And when, having created a 15-slide show (I go through photos quickly), I suddenly got told by the organiser that we were limited to 4 slides, or could I get it down to 10? I admit I was kind of flippant in just scrunching a bunch of those photos with timelapse onto a single slide so we'd keep the same 3-minute content.

But I was under a time constraint to get it to her, so I did it as quickly as I could. So when you then saw the slides and said it was off-message, and then refused to tell me in what ways it was off-message, only saying that we should talk about it with our manager 'later', that's really not helpful. If you'd told me the problems I could have fixed them and sent it immediately to the organiser, but 'later' is too late. As I told you but it apparently didn't change your mind.

So now, later, I finally know what you meant when you said that. And, duh, it's too late, though I've fiddled with the script as best I can.

And anyway if we don't cover all the things you want to cover, what's the difference? If I hadn't forced things along we'd never have got permission to even come to this event anyway.

<deep breath> It's the crazy time of year, and we're merging two teams together, so culture clash. And delays in construction making everything crazier. So stress. If it weren't Lent I'd go for chocolate about now...

Oh, hah. The thing I worked out about giving up chocolate for Lent last year is that when I want chocolate I remember to think about Lent and stuff. So thinking about chocolate now reminds me that I want to read through the Psalms, and then Psalm 8 comes into my head, and Psalm 8 is just awesome, so now I feel quite an awful lot better.
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This woman (1 Samuel 4:19-21) has had the misfortune to marry into a family of priests so corrupt that God finally says he's going to kill them all and arrange things so that even their descendants die in the prime of their lives.

Thus she's heavily pregnant when the ark of God is captured by Israel's enemies and her husband Phinehas and his brother are killed. The news is brought first to the men's father, who dies when he hears it. When it reaches her, she goes into labour and gives birth.

There are complications. As she's dying, her midwives try to encourage her by telling her she's given birth to a son, but this doesn't really cheer her up: she even names the boy "no glory" because, with the ark captured and the deaths of her family, she says "The glory has departed from Israel."


Aug. 9th, 2009 01:01 pm
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2 - 2:21) is one of her husband's two wives. She has no children and is pretty miserable about it, though her husband does his best to comfort her by giving her extra meat and saying "Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" -- but the other wife, who has a number of children, keeps teasing her about her barrenness, year after year, until she weeps and loses her appetite.

One particularly bitter day, Hannah goes to pray at the temple and promises God that if he'll give her a son, she'll dedicate him to God's service in the temple. The priest notices that she's pretty emotional and she's silent even though her lips are moving, so he scolds her for being drunk; Hannah defends herself as "a woman who is deeply troubled", praying out of "great anguish and grief". He blesses her, and she goes away feeling better and with her appetite restored.

Even better, in due course she gets her long-desired son (Samuel, who the next two books are named for). She tells her husband, "After he's weaned, I'm going to take him to the temple to serve God for the rest of his life." He says, "If you like, dear." (...Well, I guess he's got other sons by his other wife. Or something.) So she does, and tells the priest, "Hi, remember me? I was praying for a son, and now I've got him he's all yours!"

She then gets her own Magnificat, which is actually quite a lot more magnificent than Mary's more famous one. It focuses, predictably, on the general theme of "She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away: HA ha, I win!"

Despite my eye-rolling above, Hannah doesn't completely abandon her son: every year when they visit the temple she makes him a new robe and takes it to him. The priest prays for her to have more children to replace Samuel, and lo, she gets another three sons and daughters. This probably makes her about even with her husband's other wife; one hopes they eventually stop gloating over each other and learn to get along.


Aug. 2nd, 2009 01:02 pm
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:2-7) is the fortunate one of a certain man's two wives: she has children (at least four -- she has both sons and daughters), but her rival has none. She's not a good winner, and takes every opportunity to rub it in until her rival's in tears.

Of course then things change, history's written by the winners, and this book isn't about any of Peninnah's sons -- so who knows? Maybe she isn't as spiteful as is made out, or maybe she's got reason to be: the writer does admit that her husband gives her rival a double portion of meat "because he loved her".
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (NZ)
Since I whined so much about being sick I suppose I ought to let everyone know that I went back to work Monday and didn't fall down. Actually I felt pretty darn good. So I must be better!

Of course I've still got a snuffly nose and occasional empty cough (this is a technical term I invented just now for a cough that erupts despite the fact that there's nothing in your lungs but air, because your diaphragm is manifesting a sudden and intense desire to rupture itself). Also my brother informs me that, statistically speaking, what I had was probably swine flu, and as I was only off work for four working days instead of the recommended five, I may now have infected all my family, colleagues and library users with it, so that's quite exciting.

But, the most exciting thing of all is that last night I could breathe through my nose again! It may have had something to do with drowning my pillow in eucalyptus oil. It was great: I got to sleep and everything. (By "everything" I mean "continue breathing".)

I've decided that there's a mistranslation in the Bible. Apart from all the other ones, I mean. What it should say is that "On the seventh day, God created sleep. And first he tested it out on the cats, and they slept, and God died of teh cuteness. But when he resurrected himself he gave sleep to everything, and there was evening, and there was morning, and everything woke up and agreed that it was good but did it really have to be Monday morning now?"


Jul. 26th, 2009 01:48 pm
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
A family of economic refugees comes into Moab. After the head of the family dies, a local woman called Ruth marries one of the widow's two sons (Ruth 1:4 - 4:15). She lives uneventfully with her husband and in-laws until both her husband and his brother die. Then her mother-in-law Naomi decides to go back to her native land, Bethlehem.

On the way, her mother-in-law warns them that there's no future for them in Bethlehem. Ruth's sister-in-law heeds the warning and returns to her own family in Moab. Ruth stays with an impassioned speech which I would adore if it weren't so overused as an example of feminine virtue. (She was one of the three examples of women used in the sermon that inspired me to start this series.) I will note that, just as her sister-in-law doesn't explain why she's going home, nor does Ruth explain why she's sticking with Naomi. She just says, "Don't try to talk me out of it; I'm going with you and I'm staying with you until one of us dies."

She gets a book named after her.

They reach Bethlehem, but they've got nothing to call their own. Ruth, as a foreigner, has less social standing than a local servant girl. Fortunately it's harvest-time, and there's usually a bit of leftover grain that the men can't be bothered picking up off the ground. She decides to try her luck at gathering some of this from behind any men who'll tolerate her.

Fueled by hunger and spunk, she turns out to be a hard worker: when the owner of the field, Boaz, asks his foreman about this newcomer, the foreman says that she "has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter." Between this and her fame for having left her own parents to come here with Naomi -- and possibly her exotic looks -- Boaz is impressed, and takes her under his protection.

Ruth is suitably grateful, but not too humble to make the most of it. When Boaz invites her to eat lunch with him and the harvesters, she not only eats her fill but fills her pockets with food for her mother-in-law. When he tells his men to leave some extra grain for her, she takes everything she can get -- by the evening of that first day, she takes home about 22 litres of barley.

And, as she had promised, she keeps living with her mother-in-law.

Now her mother-in-law comes up with a plan to get Ruth married to Boaz. Boaz isn't the youngest guy around (he addresses her as "my daughter") but he is a relative of Ruth's late husband and he's been awfully generous to her. So she goes along with the scheme: she washes and perfumes herself, sneaks to the threshing floor (men only, no women allowed), waits while he eats and drinks, and watches where he makes his bed. When he's asleep, she quietly uncovers his feet and lies down there.

Presumably the weather remains clement, because it's a while before he wakes up. It's dark and he asks her who she is. "It's Ruth," she says. "Have sex with me, because you're my late husband's relative." (I paraphrase, but not much.) Boaz is impressed by the fact that she's not out chasing a younger sexier man, and lets her stay the night as long as she sneaks out before anyone wakes up.

(There's a few legal loose ends to tie up before they can marry: it turns out that there's a closer relative who should have first dibs on Ruth. So Boaz goes to have a chat with him, and the other guy decides marrying Ruth isn't worth it financially to him. Originally I was going to skim over this part but then I noticed a parallel between Ruth/Orpah and Boaz/Other Guy: Ruth and Boaz both want above all to do their duty by family, whereas Orpah and the Other Guy are more pragmatic and stick with the life they already know. When you think about it this way, it's less about Ruth 'winning' marriage by being all virtuous and stuff, and more about both of them being a really good match for each other: much more romantic.)

So Ruth marries Boaz and in due course gives birth to a son. The boy becomes the grandfather of King David, the ancestor of Jesus. But the important thing is that her mother-in-law helps raise the boy: Ruth is still keeping her promise to never leave her mother-in-law.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Rainbow)
(To avoid derailment in racism_101, but of course anyone else is welcome to join in.)

Paul has taken a bad rap. And I have a nagging resentment against the anti-Paulites - not those who dislike him due to his bad rap, but those who have twisted what he said.

When I was in Korea I flatted for almost two years with a wonderful sweet woman who had grown up in a church that said "Wives, submit to your husbands" - and stopped there, without going on to the next verses that says that "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her". And remember that Christ didn't just die for the church; he submitted to it: he washed the feet of his disciples.

Paul was writing in a time when saying "Wives and husbands, respect each other and submit to each other" would likely have been met with blank stares if not calls for a straitjacket. I'm not saying he deliberately muted his teaching because of that, but that, like us, he was a product of his own time. For his time, what he said was pretty radical. And I'm confident that if he lived today, he would be one of the most radical in promoting justice for women.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Inspired by musing while composing the previous post: faith vs works is not a dichotomy.

Inside of me, faith is what matters.

Outside of me, works is what matters.

There is no inside without the outside; there is no outside without the inside. There is no faith without works, and there is no works without faith.

Now I have to go read... Corinthians? again and see if this is what Paul meant and I'm just reinventing the wheel.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Just remembered I'd done this one too. Last Christmas Irina taught me the song "Gaudete", and when I wanted a short tune to put this psalm to, this is what sprang to mind. For these purposes I've gone and mutilated it: in the second verse, the tune of the fourth line repeats for the fifth. Squish the syllables in the third line to suit; I say "-dia" as one syllable and tack "et" on where one might normally otherwise take a breath. (Lyrics; music (midi).)

Laudate Dominum,
O-omnes gentes!
Laudate eum, omnes

Quoniam confirmata est
Su-upe-er no-os
Misericordia eium, et
Veritas Domini
Manet in saeculum.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
(I had a reason for choosing this tune, but the logic of it skips a few beats. Anyway. If you don't know it, the tune is here (mp3) from the from official butterfly song site(!); original words and English translation are here; I didn't mess with the words much this time but did mess with the rhythm, so underlining below indicates the main beat. Yes, it did take me a while.)

1. Verba mea auribus percipe
Domine intellige clamorem meum.
Intende voci orationis meae
Rex meus et deus meus
Quoniam ad te orabo domine
Mane exaudies vocem meam
Mane adstabo tibi et videbo.

Quoniam non deus volens iniquitatem tu es
Neque habitabit iuxta te malignus
Neque permanebunt iniusti ante oculos tuos.
and the rest of it... )
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Thanks to a fortuitous conjunction of reading material and iTunes; modified from the version at the Parallel Latin/English Psalter; annotated according to a key below; I present to you:

In finem, in carminibus, Psalmus David; modibus Supercalifragilisticexpialidocii

Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me; / Deus neque in ira tua corripias me.
Miserere mei [] quoniam infirmus sum valde. / Quoniam conturbata sunt ossa mea sana me.

Et anima mea turbata est valde et tu / Domine usquequo? et tu Domine usquequo?
Convertere Deus eripe animam meam. / Salvum me fac propter misericordiam tuam - oh!

Quoniam non est in morte qui memor sit tui. / In inferno autem quis confitebitur tibi?
Laboravi in gemitu []; cubilem [] lavabo / Per singulas noctes lacrimis stratum [] rigabo.

Oculus meus est a furore conturbatus / Iam inveteravi inter [] inimicos meos
Discedite a me omnes qui nefas agetis / Quoniam exaudivit Deus vocem fletus mei - oh!

Exaudivit Deus deprecationem meam; / Deus meus suscepit orationem meam.
Erubescant [] [] inimici mei vehementer; / Turbentur et convertantur [] valde velociter!

Words I added to fit the metre
Words I moved to fit the metre or pseudo-rhyme
Synonym to fit the metre
[] Words I deleted to fit the metre]


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