Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rom. 5 -- access

A parable comes to mind. I showed up late for an organized bike ride one July 4th. Unloaded my bike, and discovered that I had a flat tire. Purchased and installed a new inner tube, and took off, on my own, 45 minutes after the rest of the happy cyclists. An hour after that, I pulled into the first rest stop -- and all the snacks were gone. "Well," says I to myself, says I, "today is a good day for being a Calvinist!" An understanding of God's sovereignty comforts those who believe in God, and assures them that every trial has its purpose. The universe may not be structured for our comfort, but it is filled with meaning.

This perspective has real-world, and even political, implications.

Although America is reputed to be a Christian nation, filled with Christian people, in reality a different faith covertly hijacked our national existence a century ago. This other religion, which "captured the robes," the judiciary, academia, and churches, is called by some "liberalism," by others "modernism," and more recently "secular humanism." J. Gresham Machen was an early alarmist about this tendency. The church he belonged to had been infiltrated by perjured cynics who did not believe their own ordination vows, but did believe that they could use the religious words and institutions of Christianity as a vehicle for advancing their own agendas.

ANYHOW, Machen had this to say about the contrasts between the faith he forthrightly embraced, and the religion of those who were corrupting his church:
Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.
Liberalism is characterized by a grim moralizing, a determination to remake the world for the convenience of the remakers, no matter how much of Europe's young manhood dies in the barb wired trenches, no matter how many millions of Iraqi children starve to death. Liberalism is a messianic hope, that permits the liberals to pretend to the role of messiahs.

The cure begins with awareness: "The emperor has no clothes!" Our would-be saviors are blindly dismantling all that is sweet, noble, wholesome, and good in life. Everything they try to fix, they break. Are they really that stupid? Or just the pawns, the "useful idiots," of malign secret powers? Gotta be careful, here. It's too easy to camp out in this negative mode for decades on end! Some folks study "conspiracy theories" in an attempt to fix the blame for their failures on something other than themselves.

You can't fight something with nothing. Ultimately, the only way to fight a corrupt faith is with a better faith. Let's look at the way Paul expresses this perspective:
Rom 5:1 Böylece imanla aklandığımıza göre, Rabbimiz İsa Mesih sayesinde Tanrı'yla barışmış oluyoruz.
Rom 5:2 İçinde bulunduğumuz bu lütfa Mesih aracılığıyla, imanla kavuştuk ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğine erişmek umuduyla övünüyoruz.
Rom 5:3,4 Yalnız bununla değil, sıkıntılarla da övünüyoruz. Çünkü biliyoruz ki, sıkıntı dayanma gücünü, dayanma gücü Tanrı'nın beğenisini, Tanrı'nın beğenisi de umudu yaratır.
Rom 5:5 Umut düş kırıklığına uğratmaz. Çünkü bize verilen Kutsal Ruh aracılığıyla Tanrı'nın sevgisi yüreklerimize dökülmüştür.
Even our trials make our lives better, by making us better -- as we trust in the One who calibrates each test, each decision point, of our lives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Romans 4 -- the personal universe

I'm reading a rather strange novel now, The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Like the classic anime movie Laputa: The Flying Island, this book fits into the "steam punk" genre. Put yourself in the mindset of a Roaring Twenties lad, when amazing new devices created everyday miracles. Suppose progress really had progressed as anticipated -- what kind of new mechanical marvels could have emerged to environ us?

There are people who view the universe as a vast, impersonal mechanism. A favorite sage of mine, G. K. Chesterton, had this to say about them in his masterpiece Orthodoxy:
Take first the more obvious case of materialism. As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman's argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out. Contemplate some able and sincere materialist, as, for instance, Mr. McCabe, and you will have exactly this unique sensation. He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme
of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. The earth is so very large, and the cosmos is so very small. The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
So what is the appeal of the mechanistic universe? Predictability. Push this button, pull that lever, get the expected result. This is also the attraction of the magical world view -- the notion that everything is within the reach of our will. Perform the correct ritual, say the right words in the right order, and invisible forces will trot up and meekly do your bidding. As some would assert, we should exercise, rather than exorcise, the demons around us. But what says the man of faith? Let's look at a few sentences from Chapter 4 of Paul's letter to the Romans:
Rom 4:13 Çünkü İbrahim'e ve soyuna dünyanın mirasçısı olma vaadi Kutsal Yasa yoluyla değil, imandan gelen aklanma yoluyla verildi.
Rom 4:14 Eğer Yasa'ya bağlı olanlar mirasçı olursa, iman boş ve vaat geçersizdir.
Rom 4:15 Yasa, Tanrı'nın gazabına yol açar. Ama yasanın olmadığı yerde yasaya karşı gelmek de söz konusu değildir.
Rom 4:16 Bu nedenle vaat, Tanrı'nın lütfuna dayanmak ve İbrahim'in bütün soyu için güvence altına alınmak üzere imana bağlı kılınmıştır.
If we can, by our rituals, compel God to make things happen, then we are His masters -- a pleasing idea, but dangerous to one's sanity! In a mechanistic universe, we might be in control -- but there is no room for delight. For surprises. For things beyond our wildest imaginations to happen.

It's time to go back to bed, and rest up for the delights and surprises a loving God has planned for me tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Romans 3 -- escape clause / Santa Claus

"The man who pleads his own case at law has a knave for a lawyer, and a fool for a client." So goes the old proverb. It's a strange thing about us humans -- we can reorganize the world with in our own imaginations so easily -- but making ourselves do the things that need to be done can be a major project.

"Know the right and do the right, and you'll be all right." Sounds good in theory. "Looks good on paper," to quote another proverb. In practice, however, the gap between "knowing" and "doing" can be a real problem.
To be above, with saints we love,
now THAT will be the glory,
But here below, with saints we know,
now THAT'S another story!
I'm a technical writer, with a great deal of faith in written directions. I write them for a living, and do it well. It's fun to tell people what to do, to write in the 2nd person imperative. This optimism lasts until I start ordering myself around -- and soon bump into the limits of the doable. This is an issue Paul will discuss over and over again in this letter to the Christians in Rome. And, over and over again, he will celebrate the escape clause, the solution to this quandary:
Rom 3:20 Bu nedenle Yasa'nın gereklerini yapmakla hiç kimse Tanrı katında aklanmayacaktır. Çünkü Yasa sayesinde günahın bilincine varılır.
Rom 3:21 Ama şimdi Yasa'dan bağımsız olarak Tanrı'nın insanı nasıl aklayacağı açıklandı. Yasa ve peygamberler buna tanıklık ediyor.
Rom 3:22 Tanrı insanları İsa Mesih'e olan imanlarıyla aklar. Bunu, iman eden herkes için yapar. Hiç ayrım yoktur.
Rom 3:23 Çünkü herkes günah işledi ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğinden yoksun kaldı.
Rom 3:24 İnsanlar İsa Mesih'te olan kurtuluşla, Tanrı'nın lütfuyla, karşılıksız olarak aklanırlar.
Rom 3:25,26 Tanrı Mesih'i, kanıyla günahları bağışlatan ve imanla benimsenen kurban olarak sundu. Böylece adaletini gösterdi. Çünkü sabredip daha önce işlenmiş günahları cezasız bıraktı. Bunu, adil kalmak ve İsa'ya iman edeni aklamak için şimdiki zamanda kendi adaletini göstermek amacıyla yaptı.
Let's look at a few key phrases:

Çünkü Yasa sayesinde günahın bilincine varılır.
Because / the Law / by means of / of sin / the knowledge / there is. God's law gives us a beautiful picture of righteous living, for ourselves, our families, our civic lives together. But is that enough? A Steve Martin joke comes to mind, his easy recipe for becoming a millionaire: "First, get a million dollars."

Çünkü herkes günah işledi ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğinden yoksun kaldı. Because / everyone / sin / does / and / of God / his glory / nothing / attains. So what's new? People in Christian circles wrestle with guilt, with the sense of shame because of the ways we offend God and do harm to one another. In Islam, the issue is cleanliness. Before prayer, you need to wash yourself carefully. One can be rendered unclean by certain foods, or by violating any of many prohibitions.

Read on, though, to savor the escape clause, the "Santa Clause." That which we cannot do for ourselves, God is willing to do for us, and has already done for us, through the life and work of Jesus the Messiah, His "graphic user interface" with the created order. A sacrificed Prophet achieves something that no quantity of animal sacrifices could manage. We have a gift, we can receive it by faith ...

and then, we can "follow the directions." Not to earn God's favor, but because God has favored us.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Romans 2 -- those who should know better

An issue that bedevils American Christians is -- the "unchurched." These are the people who have no formal relationship with a religious tradition, who do not attend worship services, who do not "belong." We tend to take statistics seriously in this country, and a number of surveys have studied the question of who the unchurched are, and how they got to be that way.

A disturbingly high percentage of those alienated people used to be ours.

The most common reason given for walking away from Omelas[1] is a discrepancy between the actions of professing Christians, and what their faith claims lead us to expect. Quite often, a person of authority once abused the trust of the dropout. Pedophiles among the Catholic clergy, for example, have done great harm to the reputation of that communion.[2]

This is not a new problem. The Christian community in Rome included people from Jewish and pagan families. The Jews took pride in their "chosen" status before God, but did not always live up to their superior claims:
Rom 2:17 Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
Rom 2:18 Tanrı'nın isteğini biliyorsun. En üstün değerleri ayırt etmeyi Yasa'dan öğrenmişsin.
Rom 2:19, 20 Kutsal Yasa'da bilginin ve gerçeğin özüne kavuşmuş olarak körlerin kılavuzu, karanlıkta kalanların ışığı, akılsızların eğiticisi, çocukların öğretmeni olduğuna inanmışsın.
Rom 2:21 Öyleyse başkasına öğretirken, kendine de öğretmez misin? Çalmamayı öğütlerken, çalar mısın?
Rom 2:22 "Zina etmeyin" derken, zina eder misin? Putlardan tiksinirken, tapınakları yağmalar mısın?
Rom 2:23 Kutsal Yasa'yla övünürken, Yasa'ya karşı gelerek Tanrı'yı aşağılar mısın?
Rom 2:24 Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Let's look at the first and last sentences in this extract:

Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp, Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
And you? Yourself a Jew you call, Holy Law you rely upon, in God you boast.

Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Nonetheless thus it is written: "You because of the nations surrounding God's name revile."

That's an interesting construction, BTW. Sizin = your and yüzünüzden = from your face. yüz (face) + ünüz (2nd person plural possessive) + den (the "from" ending. In this case, indicates the source of the topic of discussion)

It's the behavior of those who should know better that disgraces the truth they claim to revere. May God grant us the grace to claim less for ourselves, and to live more consistently with what we do know.

[1] Those Who Walk Away from Omelas is a disturbing, unforgettable short story by fantasy novelist Ursula K. LeGuin, a native of Salem, Oregon (spell Salem O. backwards ...). The theme is an idyllic, Utopian, community -- and those who reject it, and why.

[2] The first Australian to be formally recognized by the Catholic church as a "saint" was, as Al Jazeera reports, Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun, whose religious order exposed a paedophile priest. The "old boys club" protected its own, and this courageous woman of faith was excommunicated for a while. When the local bishop was on his deathbed, and ready to face the Judge of all, he reversed that decree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Romans 1 -- an urban strategy

Cities are place where people go to get away from the obligations of faith and family. It's easier to find anonymity and scope for debauchery in the teeming masses of an urban center. Wealth also tends to flow towards the cities, as do poor people wanting a chunk of that wealth. The people with the wealth keep the poor people at arm's length by tossing them bribes -- panem et cicusem -- bread and circuses. As the last part of this first chapter vividly describes, urban populations experience in compressed and accelerated form the spiral of decadence. You start by ignoring your Creator, and the duties of gratitude towards Him. Once God is hustled off the stage, you fill the vacuum with miscellaneous idols. Having thus blinded oneself to ultimate realities, the degenerate person loses the character and faithfulness you need to maintain human intimate relationships -- with parents, with spouse.[1] The final step is homosexuality -- the words of Lola, a song by The Kinks, come to mind:
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
You start by ignoring the differences between sacred and profane, between holy and perverted. You end up denying the glorious differences between male and female.

But what did Paul see? A center of influence. A place to take the Gospel, if you wanted to move a province. Time after time, he and his companions headed for provincial capitals. Now, he has his sights set[2] on the capital of the known world, Rome.
Rom 1:14 Grekler'e ve Grek olmayanlara, bilgelere ve bilgisizlere karşı sorumluluğum var.
Rom 1:15 Bu nedenle Roma'da bulunan sizlere de Müjde'yi elimden geldiğince bildirmek için sabırsızlanıyorum.
Paul has news too good to keep to himself, glad tidings to share with every division of humanity, a blessing that transcends these divisions -- between civilized and barbarian (Grekler'e ve Grek olmayanlara), between learned and unschooled (bilgelere ve bilgisizlere).


[1] Sometimes, the process works the other way. As one of Charles Darwin's early defenders frankly admitted, the advocates of the evolutionary worldview had reasons for resenting a meaningful universe. A world with room for God would limit their sexual freedom.

[2] The word sights in this context refers to gun sights, used for aiming at a target. Many American idioms, such as "Lock, stock, and barrel," refer to firearms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Acts 28 -- friendly barbarians and a man of peace

It's easy to define out own kind of people as "the civilized," and others as "the savages." The national languages of modern Europe were developed in the course of forging national identities out of myriad smaller components. A dominant tribe, such as the Tuscans of Italy, would enforce their language as the default standard Italian. As France consolidated, for example, L'Académie française took custody of the language, and worked to suppress les patois, the regional dialects.

In the world of Luke and Paul, civilized people spoke Greek, Latin, or both. Those who were not fluent in one or both of these official languages were, by definition, barbarians (in Greek, οἱ βάρβαροι). This chapter begins with a commendation of kindly barbarians, islanders who came out to help these soaked refugees from the wrecked ship:
Act 28:2 Yerliler bize olağanüstü bir yakınlık gösterdiler.
The local people (yerliler = yer, place + li, characterized by, + ler, plural) to us (bize = biz, us + e, direct object) extraordinary (olağanüstü = olağan, usual. regular. ordinary. normal. common. everyday. commonplace. mediocre. mundane. run-off-the-mill + üstü, above and beyond the ... ) kindness (yakınlık = yakın, closeness, + lık, characterizing) they showed (gösterdiler).

When Jesus gave his disciples directions on carrying the Good News of the Great King to new places, he instructed them to seek out a prominent local citizen, a "man of peace." Work a miracle or two, such as healing the sick. And then, talk about the God who makes all of this possible. Paul soon found himself as a guest of the island's "man of peace," Publius, a landowner and perhaps the governor of the island.
Act 28:7 Bulunduğumuz yerin yakınında adanın baş yetkilisi olan Publius adlı birinin toprakları vardı. Bu adam bizi evine kabul ederek üç gün dostça ağırladı.
Act 28:8 O sırada Publius'un babası kanlı ishale yakalanmış ateşler içinde yatıyordu. Hastanın yanına giren Pavlus dua etti, ellerini üzerine koyup onu iyileştirdi.
Act 28:9 Bu olay üzerine adadaki öbür hastalar da gelip iyileştirildiler.
Act 28:10 Bizi bir sürü armağanla onurlandırdılar; denize açılacağımız zaman gereksindiğimiz malzemeleri gemiye yüklediler.
Paul healed his sick father, then preached, then healed some more sick local people. By the time the three month enforced stay was over, the gospel had taken deep root in Melita, present-day Malta.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Acts 27 -- a man on a mission

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the more colorful figures of the American War Between the States. A pious Presbyterian, he taught a Sunday School for local slaves before the war, affectionately calling them his "colored militia."[0] He was a beloved teacher at Virginia Military Academy, and a demanding leader of his "foot cavalry." Mary Johnston's novel The Long Roll[1] accurately depicts the miseries of the new recruits as they learned to cover incredible distances by forced marches. Jackson defeated armies of aggressors that outnumbered his by several multiples in his beloved Shenandoah Valley by finding, and defeating, one weak spot after another.

General Jackson was a Calvinist, who asserted that this conviction made him a good soldier. Until God's assignment for his life was complete, Jackson said, he was as safe on the battlefield as he was in his own bed.[2]

We see something of this same confident security in today's reading from Acts 27. Paul is on his way to Rome by sea. A violent and prolonged typhoon[3] buffeted the ship, and after nearly two weeks of fighting the elements, people gave themselves up for lost. At this point, Paul has another of his periodic visions, and shares it with his shipmates:
Act 27:22 Şimdi size öğüdüm şu: Cesur olun! Gemi mahvolacak, ama aranızda hiçbir can kaybı olmayacak.
Act 27:23, 24 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.
Cesur olun! (Courageous be!) Tanrı'nın bir meleği (Of God an angel) bu gece yanıma (this night by my side)
gelip dedi ki, (came and said) 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. (fear not Paul, Caesar in front of to go it is necessary.) Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.' (What's more, God, those with you together travelers who are all to you will be spared.)

Paul had a task to achieve, a divine assignment to carry out. The protection God gave him on this errand spilled over to shelter those who were traveling with him.

A word of encouragement to an unemployed scholar, seeking to find a job, finish a dissertation, and prosper in an uncertain economy!


[0] After the war, a Second Presbyterian Church, comprised of people of color, took up a collection for a costly stained glass window. The theme? Stonewall Jackson kneeling in prayer.

[1] Mary was the niece of the General Johnston who negotiated the surrender of more than 90,000 southern patriots at Bennett Springs, in Durham North Carolina, several weeks after General Robert E. Lee's more famous surrender at Appomattox. Mary grew up steeped in the tales of valor, hardship, and chaos from that era. It is profoundly disturbing to read realistic battle scenes, set in familiar bucolic landscapes. Since "the winners write the history books," discriminating readers are well advised to read Mary Johnston's account for "the rest of the story."

[2] In fact, he did not die in battle, but was shot by his own sentries when returning from a scouting expedition. "Let us cross over the river, and rest beneath the trees," he said as he died several days later.

[3] Yep, typhoon. That's literally the word used here: τυφωνικὸς .

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Acts 26 -- a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down ...

Robert A. Heinlein was an influential writer of a half-century ago. He turned his back upon the God of his Baptist family at the age of 13, upon discovering Charles Darwin's alternate reality. The character and discipline of the faith he was raised in continued to influence his thinking and writing until the late 1960s, when the restrained perversion and narcissism were finally unleashed.[1] When he wanted to lecture his readers on the libertarian politics of his current wife,[2] he wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. One of the central characters is full of wise aphorisms. When Heinlein wished to expound at length, he put this character in a classroom, giving a lecture.

Someone has argued that the twin books of Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles comprise a single legal brief, prepared for Paul's trial at Rome. Much of Acts consists of narrative, anecdotes strung together in a carefully chronological order. From time to time, however, Luke inserts a major sermon. This chapter is almost completely taken up with one of those addresses. The stage is set -- visiting dignitaries want to hear this famed and eloquent prisoner. He stands up and delivers his presentation, complete with a challenge to the hearers then, and the readers now:
Act 26:22 Ama bugüne dek Tanrı yardımcım oldu. Bu sayede burada duruyor, büyük küçük herkese tanıklık ediyorum. Benim söylediklerim, peygamberlerin ve Musa'nın önceden haber verdiği olaylardan başka bir şey değildir.
Act 26:23 Onlar, Mesih'in acı çekeceğini ve ölümden dirilenlerin ilki olarak gerek kendi halkına, gerek öteki uluslara ışığın doğuşunu ilan edeceğini bildirmişlerdi."
Act 26:24 Pavlus bu şekilde savunmasını sürdürürken Festus yüksek sesle, "Pavlus, çıldırmışsın sen! Çok okumak seni delirtiyor!" dedi.
Act 26:25 Pavlus, "Sayın Festus" dedi, "Ben çıldırmış değilim. Gerçek ve akla uygun sözler söylüyorum.
Act 26:26 Kral bu konularda bilgili olduğu için kendisiyle çekinmeden konuşuyorum. Bu olaylardan hiçbirinin onun dikkatinden kaçmadığı kanısındayım. Çünkü bunlar ücra bir köşede yapılmış işler değildir.
Act 26:27 Kral Agrippa, sen peygamberlerin sözlerine inanıyor musun? İnandığını biliyorum."
Act 26:28 Agrippa Pavlus'a şöyle dedi: "Bu kadar kısa bir sürede beni ikna edip Mesihçi mi yapacaksın?"
Act 26:29 "İster kısa ister uzun sürede olsun" dedi Pavlus, "Tanrı'dan dilerim ki yalnız sen değil, bugün beni dinleyen herkes, bu zincirler dışında benim gibi olsun!"
Festus, the Roman governor exclaims, "Paul, you're crazy! Too much knowledge has driven you mad!" Paul replies, "Sayın Festus, Ben çıldırmış değilim. Gerçek ve akla uygun sözler söylüyorum. "O noble Festus, I mad am not. True and / conceivable. palatable. reasonable. sensible. (akla uygun) / words I speak."

Paul then turns his attention to the visiting minor king: Kral Agrippa, sen peygamberlerin sözlerine inanıyor musun? King Agrippa, you / of the prophets / the words / believe / do you not?

These events did not, as Paul explained, happen "in a corner." Or, as the Greek has it, ἐν γωνίᾳ: in a corner.[3] The resurrection of Jesus was something everyone in Israel knew about. Most of them tried hard not to think about it. They were a lot like Agrippa. A lot like us.[4]


[1] If that sentence were an equation, or perhaps SQL statement, it would have at least three parenthetical expressions: (character + discipline ) ... (thinking + writing ) ... (perversion + narcissism ). In English, we find it easy and natural to use coordinating conjunctions. Lots of and statements. Other languages, such as Greek, prefer to array phrases in elegant hierarchical structures, using subordinating conjunctions.

[2] It was Isaac Asimov who said that Heinlein's politics depended on who he was married to at the moment.

[3] A triangle has three gonia. A dia-gonal line runs through opposite gonia.

[4] If there was a single button in the universe that fallen man could press to shut out the knowledge of God, that is is the one button he would press continuously. So wrote Cornelius Van Til, a grimly realistic American thinker.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Acts 25 -- without a clue

OK, if you have to explain a joke, it probably isn't very funny -- but at the risk of puzzling my myriad fans, I'm going to start today's essay with a comic SQL[1] dialogue.

SELECT * FROM users WHERE clue > 0;

0 rows returned

How many users have a clue about what's going on? Zero.

Felix kept Paul incarcerated for two years hoping for a bribe. He was a political prisoner, whose captivity served the career goals of a corrupt local politician. When Festus came into office, he tried to please both Jewish prejudice and Roman legalism. As a Roman jurist, he recognized that there was no legal reason for holding Paul captive. So why not give him a Roman show trial -- but have it in Jerusalem, where the restless natives could show and demonstrate to their hearts' content outside the courtroom? Festus, however, did not understand the insane hatred of these restive natives. A Paul sent to Jerusalem would be a Paul sent to his death -- and Paul's reaction was a polite, but firm, "No way Jose!" As a Roman citizen, he appeals to Caesar. And Festus is at a loss. He asks another bureaucrat for advice, someone who is more familiar with Jewish culture. After all, how can I send someone to Caesar's court without an accusation against him?
Act 25:27 Bir tutukluyu İmparator'a gönderirken, kendisine yöneltilen suçlamaları belirtmemek bence anlamsız."
Let's just look at one word (anlamsız), and its variations:
  • anlam -- meaning. sense. point. explanation. acceptation. construction. content. denotation. effect. hang. import. inference. purport. purview. significance. significancy. signification. sound. strain. tenor.
  • anlama -- understanding. knowledge. comprehension. apprehension. appreciation. drift. fathom. grasp. grip. insight. intelligence. prehension. realization. sense. uptake.
  • anlamak -- understand. comprehend. figure out. get a grip. get a grip on. be knowledgeable about. see. get. feel. absorb. accept. appreciate. apprehend. ascertain. catch. catch on. click. compass. conceive. cotton on to. dawn on. deduce. dig. discern. discover.
  • anlamsız -- devoid of all of the above. Without a clue.

[1] SQL = Structured Query Language, a simplified way of talking to a database.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Acts 24 -- a little word play

I use several translations of the İncil. For my first four trips through, I used a loose-leaf version painstakingly downloaded from the web and reformatted, one chapter at a time. I had a special place to sit while I read it, with a footstool, so I could lean back in my chair with the three-ring binder on my lap. A bookshelf with several dictionaries was at my elbow. My library now includes several professionally-printed "real book" versions, which are convenient for taking out on to the front porch and reading while my wife works on a crossword puzzle.

The version I rely upon most heavily, however, is provided free by the marvelous web site One mouse click, and I can read a selected chapter on screen in Turkish, Italian, French, English, or Greek. And, I can copy passages from this electronic version, and paste them in this blog. Such as the following extract:
Act 24:1 Bundan beş gün sonra Başkâhin Hananya, bazı ileri gelenler ve Tertullus adlı bir hatip Sezariye'ye gelip Pavlus'la ilgili şikâyetlerini valiye ilettiler.
Act 24:2, 3 Pavlus çağrılınca Tertullus suçlamalarına başladı. "Ey erdemli Feliks!" dedi. "Senin sayende uzun süredir esenlik içinde yaşamaktayız. Aldığın önlemlerle de bu ulusun yararına olumlu gelişmeler kaydedilmiştir. Yaptıklarını, her zaman ve her yerde büyük bir şükranla anıyoruz.
Act 24:4 Seni fazla yormak istemiyorum; söyleyeceğimiz birkaç sözü hoşgörüyle dinlemeni rica ediyorum.
As Matthew Henry pointed out (yes, e-sword also lets you download and use the complete Bible commentaries from this great scholar), the chief priest Hananya sat as Paul's judge in the previous chapter, and ordered him to be beaten in a court of law. Now, this same "judge" shows up as prosecutor. The trial was rigged, and the verdict given, before Paul even opened his mouth. Paul escaped with his life only by provoking a riot among those who had convened to hear his case.

Today's reading, at least in the on-the-porch translation, provided several opportunities to look at two charming Turkish suffixes:
  • -ca, -ce, -ça, -çe (this is one suffix, in its four possible flavors.)
  • -cı, -ci, -çı, -çi, -cu, -cü, -çu, -çü (this is the other suffix)
As I just learned last week, Turkish has a suffix you tack on to the end of a nationality in order to denote the language spoken by members of that nationality. If you are a Türk, you speak Türkçe. If you are İngiliz, you speak İngilizce. Alman, Almanca. Rus, Rusça.

Or, in today's reading, to speak briefly, you speak kısaca. I was disappointed to see that my e-sword version did not employ that exquisite little word, but had the orator speaking of his desire not to fazla yormak (make excessive) his presentation.

The second suffix given above is the "agent ending." Tack it into the end of a noun, and you have the practitioner associated with the noun. A guy who catches fish (balık) is, obviously, a balıkçı. Or, in the passage above, the hatip ( orator. public speaker. a good speaker. preacher. elocutionist. public orator.) could also be, in the other translation, a man of words: sözcü.

Learning a foreign language is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know when you'll encounter a fresh and fascinating way of packaging a thought.

Acts 23 -- mob psychology

Jesus said, "The time will come when those who kill you will think they are doing God a service." This chapter includes a cameo appearance from the Lord Jesus Christ, and an example of insane fanaticism:
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.
Act 23:13 Bu anlaşmaya katılanların sayısı kırkı aşıyordu.
Act 23:14 Bunlar başkâhinlerle ileri gelenlerin yanına gidip şöyle dediler: "Biz, 'Pavlus'u öldürmeden ağzımıza bir şey koyarsak, bize lanet olsun!' diye ant içtik.
A few key words:
  • O gece -- That night
  • "Cesur ol" -- Brave, courageous / be (imperative)
  • bir şey -- any thing
  • yiyip içersek -- eat or drink if we
  • bize lanet olsun! -- upon us / a curse / be!
  • ant -- covenant
There's an old cliche: to estimate the intelligence of a mob, divide the average I.Q. by the number of members. Can you see a solitary person talking himself into this extreme commitment? Evidently, something about Paul's message threatened them on a very deep level. Imagine investing your whole life in building, adorning, and defending the scaffolding around a magnificent building. Then along comes this guy who says, "OK, this construction project is over. The scaffolding can come down." The Jewish culture, which Paul simply refused to view as normative, as essential, defined the lives of these maddened plotters. Even as the Jesus who called Paul on the road to Damascus, and encouraged him by night here, defined his life.

Quite often, when people around the world resist the Good News that a great King reigns, what they are resisting is the American culture that defines the lives even of Christian people in this country: a culture characterized by hedonism, easy tolerance of immorality, and a glib superficiality before ultimate mysteries. Even "family-values" Christians are mostly silent on the issue of divorce, for example.