Monday, August 31, 2009

Table manners (I Cor. 11)

Modern businessmen hold meetings. Ancient potentates had feasts. By sitting at the King's table, putting on the King's robes, and eating the King's food, the guests were symbolically incorporated into, and became extensions of, the King's body. These guests then went forth to represent His reign throughout the realm.

Manners are matters of life and death at high-stake dinners. In the Byzantine court, if a servant dropped a dish, he'd be executed for breaking the mood, spoiling the decorum. Now, imagine the shocking impropriety of profaning the Heavenly King's gracious feast.
1Co 11:20 Toplandığınızda Rab'bin Sofrası'na katılmak için toplanmıyorsunuz.
1Co 11:21 Her biriniz ötekini beklemeden kendi yemeğini yiyor. Kimi aç kalıyor, kimi sarhoş oluyor.
1Co 11:22 Yiyip içmek için evleriniz yok mu? Tanrı'nın topluluğunu hor mu görüyorsunuz, yiyeceği olmayanları utandırmak mı istiyorsunuz? Size ne diyeyim? Sizi öveyim mi? Bu konuda övemem!
Let's look at a few words:
  • Yiyip -- To eat. Turkish can load a great deal of information into a single verb. Well, just to make life easier if you have several verbs in the same sentence, you only need to give the full treatment to one of them. Just tack a -ip onto the stem of the other verbs, to indicate that it represents the same person, tense, number, mood, etc.
  • içmek -- To drink.
  • için -- In order to.
  • evleriniz -- your houses
  • yok mu? -- are there not?

I went to the garden party (I Cor. 10)

As I drove from a father/son camp out with my 10 year old son, we discussed the social dynamics of the drug trade. Don't expect pushers to be unshaven old guys hanging playgrounds, I explained to him. If you are offered an illegal drug, it will be a trusted friend, who thinks he'd doing you a favor.

"Yes!" Greg replied. "It's like when an unbeliever invites you to a party, then tells you that the meat was offered to idols!"

That's my boy! He got the point, and used scripture to extend it. And here's the verse:
1Co 10:27 İman etmemiş biri sizi yemeğe çağırır, siz de gitmek isterseniz, önünüze konulan her şeyi vicdan sorunu yapmadan, sorgusuz sualsiz yiyin.
1Co 10:28 Ama biri size, "Bu kurban etidir" derse, hem bunu söyleyen için, hem de vicdan huzuru için yemeyin.
And, a few words:
  • İman -- faith, belief
  • etmemiş -- not doing
  • biri -- one
  • sizi -- you
  • yemeğe -- to eat
  • çağırır -- calls, invites
  • siz de -- and you
  • gitmek -- to go
  • isterseniz -- you should want ...
The Amish have the notion that leading a pure, chaste, and holy Christian life requires them to withdraw completely from the world.[1] In this little case study, however, we see normal social interactions going on between believers and unbelievers. You friend invites you to a party. So go!

Just be alert! The world needs more lerts!


[1] OK, so our family enjoys Weird Al Yankovic. You may also enjoy this satirical Amish Paradise video.

From the heart (I Cor. 9)

What do you find rewarding? In the movie Chariots of Fire, the protagonist tells his sister, "Yes, God made me for China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His approval."

The amazing book What Color is Your Parachute? asserts that each of us is lovingly and carefully designed to fulfill a specific assignment. When we function in accord with our construction, we experience joy, fruitfulness, and productivity. Apparently, just doing one's special task, exercising one's special talent, is its own reward. Let's see how Paul described his motivation:
1Co 9:16 Müjde'yi yayıyorum diye övünmeye hakkım yok. Çünkü bunu yapmakla yükümlüyüm. Müjde'yi yaymazsam vay halime!
1Co 9:17 Eğer Müjde'yi gönülden yayarsam, ödülüm olur; gönülsüzce yayarsam, yalnızca bana emanet edilen görevi yapmış olurum.
1Co 9:18 Peki, ödülüm nedir? Müjde'yi karşılıksız yaymak ve böylece Müjde'yi yaymaktan doğan hakkımı kullanmamaktır.
And, let's look at a few words:
  • Müjde -- the Gospel
  • yaymak -- to disperse, distribute, spread around
  • yaymazsam -- "if I do not spread around" -- 1st person subjunctive mood, present tense
  • gönülden -- from the heart
  • gönülsüzce -- without putting one's heart into something
  • ödülüm -- reward
We will end up, sooner or later, doing what we were meant to do. It makes sense to get with the program as soon as possible, if one desires to get the most out of life.

I only read it for the articles (I Cor. 8)

As you roamed the streets of Corinth in Paul's day, from time to time the fragrance of sizzling meat would entice your nostrils. You would follow your nose, and find fresh barbecue, at a subsidized price. Pagan worshipers would offer up various beasts to their pet deities. The temple would then sell the meat to all comers. Hey, "The earth is the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof!" All good things come from God -- and that steak looks great! But ...
1Co 8:8 Yiyecek bizi Tanrı'ya yaklaştırmaz. Yemezsek bir kaybımız olmaz, yersek de bir kazancımız olmaz.
1Co 8:9 Yalnız dikkat edin, bu özgürlüğünüz vicdanı zayıf olanların sürçmesine neden olmasın.
1Co 8:10 Eğer zayıf vicdanlı biri, bilgili olan seni bir put tapınağında sofraya oturmuş görürse, puta sunulan kurbanın etini yemek için cesaret almaz mı?
Suppose a neighbor who is considering the gospel sees you chowing down at the idol's table? In that case, "this your freedom" (bu özgürlüğünüz) sends the wrong message. Hey, maybe there ARE multiple channels to transcendence!

I would rather have dandruff than use a certain efficacious cure I read about many years ago. The cure was recommended by Edgar Cayce, a demoniac of frightening powers who led many unsuspecting souls to perdition. An itchy scalp is preferable to doing anything in any way to that tool of my ultimate enemy, Satan.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hunker down and sit tight ... (I Cor. 7)

Speaking both as an astute cosmopolitan observer who traveled through much of the Roman empire, and as an inspired prophet of God, Paul had some advice for his readers. He could see that both the Roman and Jewish worlds were self-destructing, and on a collision course with each other. Social unrest was about to erupt on an unprecedented scale. This is, he told his contemporaries, a very good time to brace yourself, protect what you have, an not make dramatic career moves.
1Co 7:20 Herkes ne durumda çağrıldıysa, o durumda kalsın.
1Co 7:21 Köleyken mi çağrıldın, üzülme. Ama özgür olabilirsen, fırsatı kaçırma!
1Co 7:22 Çünkü Rab'bin çağrısını aldığı zaman köle olan kimse, şimdi Rab'bin özgürüdür. Özgürken çağrılan kişi de Mesih'in kölesidir.
1Co 7:23 Bir bedel karşılığı satın alındınız, insanlara köle olmayın.
1Co 7:24 Kardeşler, herkes ne durumda çağrıldıysa, Tanrı önünde o durumda kalsın.
Let's look at a few words:
  • üzmek -- trouble, bother, sadden, worry
  • üzülmek -- to regret, be sorry, be worried
  • üzülme -- do NOT regret, be sorry, or worry! (2nd person imperative)
  • özgür -- free. A popular male name in Turkey.
  • köle -- slave
  • durum -- condition, state
  • durumda -- in the condition, state
There are times when it is wise to aggressively seek to improve your status. Then, there are times to mark time, refuse to worry, and save your resources for a better opportunity. In the current American political climate, for example, many small businessmen are "going Galt." They are curbing growth plans, perhaps even laying off people, and carefully keeping their incomes under the level that trips confiscatory taxation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dispute resolution (I Cor. 6)

As he answered the questions asked by the Corinthians, Paul came to the issue of lawsuits. Like contemporary America, the Roman Empire was a glory day for lawyers. Cases tended to drag on for ridiculous lengths -- there are some lawsuits that lasted more than 70 years. Jesus had little faith in the criminal justice system. If someone sues you to take away your shirt, He said, throw in your coat as well, settle out of court, take a small loss now rather than tie up your days making lawyers richer. Let's take a look at Paul's comments:
1Co 6:1 Sizden birinin öbürüne karşı bir davası varsa kutsallar önünde değil de, imansızlar önünde yargılanmaya cesaret eder mi?
1Co 6:2 Kutsalların dünyayı yargılayacağını bilmiyor musunuz? Madem dünyayı yargılayacaksınız, böyle önemsiz davaları görmeye yeterli değil misiniz?
1Co 6:3 Bu yaşamla ilgili davalar bir yana, melekleri bile yargılayacağımızı bilmiyor musunuz?
1Co 6:4 Bu yaşamla ilgili davalarınız olduğunda, inanlılar topluluğunda en önemsiz sayılanları mı yargıç atıyorsunuz?
1Co 6:5 Sizi utandırmak için söylüyorum bunu. Kardeşler arasındaki davalarda yargıçlık edecek kadar bilge biri yok mu aranızda?
1Co 6:6 Kardeş kardeşe karşı dava açıyor, üstelik imansızlar önünde!
1Co 6:7 Aslında birbirinizden davacı olmanız bile sizin için düpedüz yenilgidir. Haksızlığa uğrasanız daha iyi olmaz mı? Dolandırılsanız daha iyi olmaz mı?
1Co 6:8 Bunun yerine, siz kendiniz haksızlık edip başkasını dolandırıyorsunuz. Üstelik bunu kardeşlerinize yapıyorsunuz.
Let's look at a few words:
  • Sizi utandırmak için söylüyorum bunu. -- To you / to shame / in order to / I am saying / this.
  • Kardeş kardeşe karşı dava açıyor, üstelik imansızlar önünde! -- Brother / at brother / against / lawsuit / opens, / and even to the extreme / unbelievers / before!
Is there no one among the brothers who is wise enough to help you reach a resolution?

As this advice percolated through the Christian community, they did indeed set up their own internal legal system, a Christian sharia, a millet that managed its own affairs. It got to the point that even pagans asked Christian mediators for dispute resolution, since these leaders were famed for their incorruptibility, their honesty, and their common sense. When the first Christian emperor came to the throne, the legal system was in a mess. Constantine the Great summoned the Christian priests, and begged a favor of them. He asked them to put on the uniform of a Roman magistrate, and to resolve disputes on the spot, when accosted on the street. Today, more than 1,500 years later, when a Roman Catholic priest puts on his ceremonial vestments, that's the uniform he's wearing. It's a reminder that, once upon a time, we did something important, and did it right.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who's for dinner? (I Cor. 5)

This chapter develops a theme we'll read discussed at greater length in the next -- we should treat believers and unbelievers differently. Strangely enough, we should be MORE hospitable to those who do not share our faith!
1Co 5:10 Kuşkusuz dünyadaki ahlaksızları, açgözlüleri, soyguncuları ya da putperestleri demek istemedim. Öyle olsaydı, dünyadan ayrılmak zorunda kalırdınız!
1Co 5:11 Ama şimdi size şunu yazıyorum: Kardeş diye bilinirken fuhuş yapan, açgözlü, putperest, sövücü, ayyaş ya da soyguncu olanla arkadaşlık etmeyin, böyle biriyle yemek bile yemeyin.
1Co 5:12 İnanlılar topluluğunun dışındakileri yargılamaya benim ne hakkım var? Sizin de yargılamanız gereken kişiler topluluğun içindekiler değil mi?
A few words to look at:
  • Kuşkusuz -- undoubtedly. Certainly. (Kuşku -- doubt, + suz, without)
  • Kardeş -- brother
  • açgözlü -- Jealous. Envious.
  • putperest -- Idolater.
US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas is an erudite man who prefers to express his opinions in writing. His gullah accent marks him as a child of the poor, black, South Carolina barrier islands. The gullah translation of the word envious is -- "da big eye." The Turkish word açgözlü combines aç- (open) + göz (eye) + lü (with). A frequent element of Turkish folk art is the bavul, a lovely ceramic charm against "the evil eye." Ayn Rand described an element of American culture as "the age of envy" -- the hatred of the beautiful for being beautiful, the hatred of the successful for being successful, of the rich for being rich. Unleashed envy, a beloved mentor wrote, does to a society what an earthquake does to a city. The industrial revolution of the West came only after a thousand years of preaching against the sin that made capital formation impossible, envy.

When we fear our neighbor's envy, we achieve less. Africans with rich crops will sneak into their fields at night and destroy part of the produce, rather than risk being envied, and put to death for being a witch. They "enjoy" subsistance during good times, famine during bad. Some Native American tribes had periodic "potlatches," ceremonies wherein the richest members would publically destroy most of their wealth. American small businessmen who are hearing themselves described as "the evil rich" are beginning to talk about "going Galt." Retrenching. Laying people off. Delaying efforts to expand their businesses, since the folks in power are promising confiscatory levels of taxation if they dare cross a certain threshold.

Well, envy is just one of many sins that we simply have to tolerate in our neighbors -- unless that neighbor professes to share our faith. It's a sin we dare not tolerate in ourselves, or in our fellow believers.

An American writer scathingly and hilariously mocked the socialist impulse in his book Eat the Rich.

Already? / Uncanny valleys ( I Cor. 4 )

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," an old English proverb asserts. The term "sophomore" derives from two Greek words, sophos + moros, and means, literally, "wise fool." The adjective "sophomoric" applies to arguments that seem to have a superficial plausibility, but no depth.

The Corinthians "knew just enough to be dangerous." (another useful idiom!) And it was Paul's unenviable task to give them a "reality check."
1Co 4:8 Zaten tok ve zenginsiniz! Biz olmadan krallar olmuşsunuz! Keşke gerçekten krallar olsaydınız da, biz de sizinle birlikte krallık etseydik!
1Co 4:9 Kanımca Tanrı biz elçileri, en geriden gelen ölüm hükümlüleri gibi gözler önüne serdi. Hem melekler hem insanlar için, bütün evren için seyirlik oyun olduk.
1Co 4:10 Biz Mesih uğruna akılsızız, ama siz Mesih'te akıllısınız! Biz zayıfız, siz güçlüsünüz! Siz saygıdeğer kişilersiniz, bizse değersiziz!
Let's look at a few words:
  • akılsızız -- We are foolish. akıl -- mind, intellect, understanding. -sız- -- minus, without. -ız -- we are.
  • akıllısınız -- You are wise. akıl -- mind, intellect, understanding. -lı- -- with. -sınız -- you are.
The "uncanny valley" is something you encounter in animation, or linguistics. Imagine an animated cartoon character. As the techniques of animation become more sophisticated, it is possible to make the character look more and more realistic. This is fine, up to a point. Then, you reach the "uncanny valley," when the cartoon is more realistic than it has any right to be, but not yet convincing as a substitute for a real actor. Something in us finds that disturbing. When you begin studying a new language, native speakers will humor you, and overlook your many faux pas -- until you reach the uncanny valley. Then, when you sound better than any foreigner has a right to, but still make verbal blunders, those are much less forgivable.

The Corinthians knew a little about the gospel, and thought they knew it all. This is a common error for newcomers to faith -- "Hey, I know the God of the Universe! What can you offer me to top that?" Well, life is complicated, messy, and challenging on every front. A mature faith is more demure in some ways, less willing to apply nostrums and cliches to real-world dilemmas, and more likely to offer real insights to human problems. The Corinthians had not gotten there, at this point. In fact, they hadn't even made it to the uncanny valley.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Division of labor ( I Cor. 3)

Or maybe I should entitle this post with Henry Kissinger's famous quip, "Power is an aphrodisiac!"

You can achieve amazing things with human charisma. "Big ideas" have a power of their own. When articulated by persuasive and attractive spokesmen, these ideas can reshape the destinies for large numbers of people. Hitler seduced a nation that wanted easy answers. Marx and Lenin articulated a vision of a cosmic struggle that inspired people to go to their deaths. Kemal Atatürk redefined a nation -- and more than eight decades after his death, that nation pauses to remember the day, hour and minute of that passing.

Preachers need charisma. Each has his own approach, his own style. For example, we know that Paul attracted devoted followers from all sectors of society. Apollos was a riveting public speaker, fluent with the rhetorical skills. The church at Corinth tended to "choose up sides," and energetically champion one or the other. Paul's remarks bring a note of transcendence to the squabble:
1Co 3:4 Biriniz, "Ben Pavlus yanlısıyım", ötekiniz, "Ben Apollos yanlısıyım" diyorsa, öbür insanlardan ne farkınız kalır?
1Co 3:5 Apollos kim, Pavlus kim? İman etmenize aracı olmuş hizmetkârlardır. Rab her birimize bir görev vermiştir.
1Co 3:6 Tohumu ben ektim, Apollos suladı. Ama Tanrı büyüttü.
1Co 3:7 Önemli olan, eken ya da sulayan değil, ekileni büyüten Tanrı'dır.
1Co 3:8 Ekenle sulayanın değeri birdir. Her biri kendi emeğinin karşılığını alacaktır.
1Co 3:9 Biz Tanrı'nın emektaşlarıyız. Sizler de Tanrı'nın tarlası, Tanrı'nın binasısınız.
Paul presents himself and Apollos as men with complementary callings. But it is God who makes things happen.

Word up:
  • Tohumu ben ektim, -- Seed I sowed,
  • Apollos suladı. -- Apollos watered.
  • Ama Tanrı büyüttü. -- But God made it get big.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I've got a secret ! (I Cor. 2)

By the way -- "herding cats" is an American idiom for managing a group of difficult people.

Let's talk about the "Nine-dot syndrome." You've probably seen it in psychology textbooks. Draw four straight lines that connect nine dots:
* * *
* * *
* * *
It can be done, but only if you extend the lines beyond the confines of the box. "Think outside the box." Shift your perspective, have a paradigm shift. Now, let's consider the ultimate paradigm shift. Suppose you could see your situation from God's point of view?
1Co 2:9 Yazılmış olduğu gibi, "Tanrı'nın kendisini sevenler için hazırladıklarını Hiçbir göz görmedi, Hiçbir kulak duymadı, Hiçbir insan yüreği kavramadı."
1Co 2:10 Oysa Tanrı Ruh aracılığıyla bunları bize açıkladı. Çünkü Ruh her şeyi, Tanrı'nın derin düşüncelerini bile araştırır.
1Co 2:11 İnsanın düşüncelerini, insanın içindeki ruhundan başka kim bilebilir? Bunun gibi, Tanrı'nın düşüncelerini de Tanrı'nın Ruhu'ndan başkası bilemez.
1Co 2:12 Tanrı'nın bize lütfettiklerini bilelim diye, bu dünyanın ruhunu değil, Tanrı'dan gelen Ruh'u aldık.
First of all, you can expect to be surprised, time after time. Written was just as, those things which God has prepared for those who love Him, nobody's eyes have never seen, nobody's ears have never heard, nobody's human understanding has ever grasped.

But God's Spirit has opened them up to us.

We know what to expect, ultimately, because God has made know to us His good character. On the other hand, we do not know exactly how God will reveal His answers to our prayers, since He is God and we are not. The Creator of the universe is not a cin who does our bidding. Prayer is not a matter of placing orders with the Almighty, since we're supposed to be taking orders from Him, not giving them. However, when we do pray (dua etmek), we tell God about the things we need to have to complete our assignments. Then, we expect delightful surprises.

Every day can be Christmas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Herding cats (I Cor. 1)

I had the pleasure of listening to an erudite Egyptian imam preach. He spoke on the need for his people to stand up for one another, protect one another, defend one another. His English was accent-free, and when he sang excerpts from the Koran, his voice resonated. From time to time, he mentioned fitna -- and whatever it was, fitna was something bad, something to avoid. I got the impression he meant strife, conflict, disagreement, schism. When I looked up the term later, I learned that fitna has a technical, specific, meaning as well. Fitna refers to the violent disagreements over succession that happened in the generation after Mohammed's death. When the dust settled, Sunni Muslims followed leaders who'd been selected by due process. The Shi'ites followed leaders who had some form of physical descent from the prophet, through his son-in-law Ali.

The Church today, as always, includes human beings who share both a variety of roots, and a single transcendent reality that brings us together. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses a rather disagreeable batch of folks with a lot of problems. First and foremost, fitna. Let's open a window on a past that is still with us:
1Co 1:12 Şunu demek istiyorum: Her biriniz, "Ben Pavlus yanlısıyım", "Ben Apollos yanlısıyım", "Ben Kefas yanlısıyım" ya da "Ben Mesih yanlısıyım" diyormuş.
1Co 1:13 Mesih bölündü ? Sizin için çarmıha gerilen Pavlus muydu? Pavlus'un adıylavaftiz edildiniz?
Let's look at one word, yanlısıyım. Yan- is a word that, like "gruntled," never stands alone. It indicates something to do with the side. -lı- indicates pertaining to the side. The -- is the 3rd person singular possessive. -ıyım is the first person singular, to be. Everyone is saying, "Me, on Paul's side, I am." And so on.

Some folks claim allegiance to the blended culture Paul represents, a Jewish man with Roman citizenship who is at home in the hellenistic world. Others like Apollos, an erudite Greek guy who bears the name of a Greek deity. Kefas, of course, is the Aramaic name of the man more commonly known as Peter. Some of those Paul is writing to took great pride in their hebraic roots. And then, there were the snobs who claim to be above all cultures, and only belong to Jesus.

And, as Paul explains, the Christian message has something to offend everyone:
1Co 1:22 Yahudiler doğaüstü belirtiler ister, Grekler'se bilgelik arar.
1Co 1:23 Ama biz çarmıha gerilmiş Mesih'i duyuruyoruz. Yahudiler bunu yüzkarası, öteki uluslar da saçmalık sayarlar.
1Co 1:24 Oysa Mesih, çağrılmış olanlar için -ister Yahudi ister Grek olsun- Tanrı'nın gücü ve Tanrı'nın bilgeliğidir.
Let's take apart one more word:
  • doğa -- nature
  • doğal -- natural
  • doğaüstü -- surpassing nature; supernatural
  • doğaötesi -- metaphysical
The Greek elites prided themselves on their rationality, their ability to "see through" the myths and legends. The Hebrews still had a magical world view, a sense that life was surrounded by mystery, and subject to intrusions from the realm of the supernatural. The Gospel, though, preaches something discerned only by faith -- the paradox that a brutally murdered rabbi is God's best gift to the world, the gift that opens the door to the universe.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Own hired house (Acts 28)

We now reach the last chapter of this amazing book. Some scholars believe that this, plus Luke's Gospel, were composed as legal briefs, to provide background information for the Roman magistrate who was hearing Paul's case.

In 1970, a friend opened the Bible at random, asking its Author to provide an encouraging word. The "word" that emerged did indeed encourage:
Act 28:30 Pavlus tam iki yıl kendi kiraladığı evde kaldı ve ziyaretine gelen herkesi kabul etti.
Act 28:31 Hiçbir engelle karşılaşmadan Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'ni tam bir cesaretle duyuruyor, Rab İsa Mesih'le ilgili gerçekleri öğretiyordu.
Paul dwelt tam iki yıl (a whole two years) in his own hired house. People could visit him there, and he could preach, in the heart of Caesar's Rome, the good news of another King.

In 1992, I read that passage again, in Greek, in Vinnitsa, Ukraine -- a shabby land filled with lovely people. I'd love to go back there again someday, perhaps as a teacher, and talk with people who are intrigued by the King.

Oh, well. Some people have natural charisma, an innate ability to attract and hold attention. My son had more at six months of age than I do today. Others of us have to work harder, and make do with credibility, and the external trappings that indicate it. Paul had both -- and even as a prisoner under house arrest, wrote letters, received visitors, and shaped history.

True safety (Acts 27)

We are reading a novel of the American War Between the States, The Long Roll. The primary historical character whom the fictional characters orbit around is General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Old Stonewall displayed total calm in the midst of the hazards of the battlefield. As a Calvinist Christian, he believed that his days were numbered by the Almighty. Until his tasks were finished, he was immortal.

This is something Christians and Muslims can agree on. However, it takes exceptional faith to continue asserting this in the midst of obvious peril. Consider today's inspirational nugget:
Act 27:21 Adamlar uzun zaman yemek yiyemeyince Pavlus ortaya çıkıp şöyle dedi: "Efendiler, beni dinleyip Girit'ten ayrılmamanız, bu zarar ve ziyana uğramamanız gerekirdi.
Act 27:22 Şimdi size öğüdüm şu: Cesur olun! Gemi mahvolacak, ama aranızda hiçbir can kaybı olmayacak.
Act 27:23, 34 Çünkü kendisine ait olduğum, kendisine kulluk ettiğim Tanrı'nın bir meleği bu gece yanıma gelip dedi ki, 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.'
Act 27:25 Bunun için efendiler, cesur olun! Tanrı'ya inanıyorum ki, her şey tıpkı bana bildirildiği gibi olacak.
Act 27:26 Ancak bir adada karaya oturmamız gerekiyor."
Cheer up, Paul, the angel said. You need to stand in front of Caesar. And as a bonus, God will throw in the lives of all those who are traveling with you.

Remembering the big picture, the assignments that I sense yet need to be completed in my life, provides a frame of reference that keeps immediate, and urgent, anxieties in perspective.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The odd couple (Acts 25)

Well, Festus comes to power, replacing Felix, and has a bright idea. Why not hear Paul's case -- in Jerusalem? Please everybody -- Paul gets his Roman justice, in the heart of the Jewish nation! Paul asserts, in no uncertain terms, that the suit is groundless:
Act 25:8 Pavlus, "Ne Yahudiler'in yasasına, ne tapınağa, ne de Sezar'a* karşı hiçbir günah işlemedim" diyerek kendini savundu.
English frowns on multiple negatives. Turkish relishes them. "Not Jewish customs, not the temple, nor even Caesar / contrary to / not one thing / evil / I have not done."

Festus has a bee in his bonnet, though, a fixed idea. In desperation, Paul "appeals to Caesar." A trip to Jerusalem would be a one-way ticket for him. After several years, he's learned that there's not much hope of getting justice from these provincial magnates.

After this turning point, Paul is invited to present his case once again, before Jewish puppet rulers Agrippa and Bernice. History calls her "Berenice of Cilicia," so we see the Turkish connection again. Luke is a meticulous historian, and tactful. For the interesting details, we need to visit Agrippa's friend, the Jewish turncoat / Roman officer / historian Josephus. Bernice, you see, "got around." After several failed marriages, she moved in with her brother, Agrippa -- who never married. Although Bernice later lived as a common-law wife with Titus, the destroyer of Israel, people then, and today, suspect that something incestuous was going on.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The unhappy Felix (Acts 24)

I've gotten terribly behind on this project, so will try to play catchup for a while. Maybe on my next trek through, I'll be able to do this chapter more justice.

Paul is now in the custody of the occupying power, in the person of Felix, governor of the province. The chapter begins when the rulers of Israel "lawyer-up." They show up at the governor's palace, legal talent in tow, to demand that the person (and life) of Paul be handed over to them. Paul uses the trial as an opportunity to challenge the governor with the claims of the Gospel. A new King is on the scene, reigning from heaven, and ultimately judging all mankind in the life to come. This makes Felix nervous:
Act 24:25 Pavlus doğruluk, özdenetim ve gelecek olan yargı gününden söz edince Feliks korkuya kapıldı. "Şimdilik gidebilirsin" dedi, "Fırsat bulunca seni yine çağırtırım."
Act 24:26 Bir yandan da Pavlus'un kendisine rüşvet vereceğini umuyordu. Bu nedenle onu sık sık çağırtır, onunla sohbet ederdi.
Act 24:27 İki yıl dolunca görevini Porkius Festus'a devreden Feliks, Yahudiler'in gönlünü kazanmak amacıyla Pavlus'u hapiste bıraktı.
Let's look at the troubling words:
  • doğruluk -- righteousness. doğru is a wonderful word with a wide range of wholesome connotations, including straight, correct, true. The -luk converts this adjective into a noun -- that which demonstrates or embodies the property of the preceedeing word.
  • özdenetim -- lovely compound word, meaning self-mastery. Self-control.
  • ve -- and
  • gelecek -- the future, the coming
  • olan -- that is
  • yargı -- of judgment
  • gününden -- the day
Felix sees right away that the Jews really don't have a case. However, like so many civil "servants," he is a venal and corrupt little man. Paul apparently is a man of substance, with wealthy friends, so maybe a bribe might make the problems go away? In the end, to avoid stirring up the natives, Felix does nothing. Paul stays imprisoned.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Curses! (Acts 23)

Sometimes, a religious community is a closed system, that defines itself entirely in terms of itself. The guy who coined the term "cognitive dissonance" (Leon Festinger) also wrote a book, When Prophecy Fails, about the power of cultic thinking. He studied a small religious group that predicted the exact date that the world would end -- but it didn't. Strangely enough, their commitment to the group, as measured by their zeal in making new recruits, intensified.

Sometimes, when a zealous community has impermeable barriers between itself and the world at large, pressure builds up as the disconnect between the group and reality becomes ever harder to deny. In extreme cases, a single pin-prick can cause the who system to explode. 900 people killed themselves and their children at Jonestown, for example, when their community became unsustainable. Since then, "drinking the kool-ade" has become an American metaphor for dutifully doing something that is incredibly harmful. American newspapers, for example, mostly function as wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Democrat party. When a new proclamation comes from their Vatican about the wonders that socialism will bring to another area of public life, these unpaid propagandists for the salvific State dutifully check in their common sense, and their common decency, to write as commanded. The "drink the purple kool-ade," and wonder why their newspapers keep losing money and readers, year after year.

Quite often, before a community disintegrates, it looks for scapegoats, people it can "Freeze. Target. Personalize."[1] The hatred heaped up upon the head of the perceived troublemaker can cross the border into insanity.
Act 23:11 O gece Rab Pavlus'a görünüp, "Cesur ol" dedi, "Yeruşalim'de benimle ilgili nasıl tanıklık ettinse, Roma'da da öyle tanıklık etmen gerekir."
Act 23:12 Ertesi sabah Yahudiler aralarında gizli bir anlaşma yaptılar. "Pavlus'u öldürmeden bir şey yiyip içersek, bize lanet olsun!" diye ant içtiler.
Let's look at a few words:
  • O gece Rab Pavlus'a görünüp -- That / night / the Lord / to Paul / appeared.
  • "Cesur ol" dedi, "Yeruşalim'de benimle ilgili nasıl tanıklık ettinse, Roma'da da öyle tanıklık etmen gerekir." -- Courageous / be / He said, /In Jerusalem / with me / concerning / testimony / gave, /at Rome / also / thus / testimony / to give / you will go.
  • Ertesi sabah Yahudiler aralarında gizli bir anlaşma yaptılar -- The next / morning / Jews / among the / secret / a / plot / made.
  • "Pavlus'u öldürmeden bir şey yiyip içersek, -- Paul / unless he be killed / any / thing / if we eat / or if we drink (OK, so you've figured out that the locomotive of a Turkish verb can grow a very long train of suffixes. Well, just to make life easier, if you are using a series of verbs with parallel construction, just add -ip to the root of all but the last of them.)
  • bize lanet olsun!" diye ant içtiler. -- upon us / a curse / let be!" / they said / an oath / they took.
Folks, I rather doubt that it's a good idea to pronounce a curse against oneself. Think, however, of the seething, implacable, hatred these people felt towards the guy who threatened to puncture their over-inflated, sealed, system.


[1] This is from Sol Olinsky's Rules for Radicals. Rather than dealing with ideas, ruin the people who advocate ideas you disagree with. See Whitaker Chambers' incredible book Witness for a detailed account of how that process works.