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3/19/2014

INTRODUCING BIBLE RESOURCES

Introducing Bible Resources
A brief definition and list of some common titles for that type

1. INTRODUCTION TO EXEGESIS
 
EXEGESIS is “to explain or interpret.”  A critical interpretation of a text or a portion of Biblical scripture involves exegesis and brings together your own reflection and thought with a thorough examination of a text in context (historical, linguistically, etc.).  The first step is to thoroughly read and understand the text and then to branch out to look at the history, word meanings, and other topics.

 
2. BASIC TOOLS FOR STUDYING THE BIBLE

CONCORDANCES
Concordances help to locate specific words or phrases in the Bible, to survey how many times a term is used and some provide additional helps in articles and indices.  

Strong’s Concordance
  • Corresponds to the King James Version
  • Identifies Strong’s numbers (every word was given a unique number and this number can be used in some other resources)
  • An “exhaustive” concordance – small words “the” are included.
Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible
  • Corresponds to the KJV
  • It has a simple dictionary of Greek & Hebrew words; pronunciation guide
  • Two articles on “The Canon of Scripture” may be useful
Nelson’s Complete Concordance to the Bible: Revised Standard Version
  • Cross references words and names
Word Study Concordance: a modern, improved, and enlarged version of both.

 
LEXICONS AND DICTIONARIES
These works define the meaning of specific words in the Biblical resources and translations to provide grammatical forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, syntax, context in their original language, etc.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), Kittel.
A listing of the meaning, roots, and contextual use of words in the Greek language in the N.T.  A working knowledge of Greek is needed.

Genesius’s Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament: coded to Strongs….  Genesius.
Similar to the above – Hebrew essential.

Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT)
This work is a guide to the forms, meaning, and usage the words in the Greek New Testament  (3rd ed. , or to the 23rd ed. Of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testament Graece.   Each heading supplies information as to the gender of common nouns, the transliteration of the word, and one or more English word translations.  The index is significant in this work for locating words.

WORD STUDIES
Vine’s Vincent’s , Expository Dictionary of Bible Words ,Mounce’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words , etc.

3. TOOLS FOR UNDERSTANDING HISTORY AND CULTURE

BIBLE INTRODUCTIONS
Understanding the Bible. Harris 
An Introduction to the Bible. Hauer 
A survey of the Old Testament. Archer 

BIBLE DICTIONARIES / ENCYCLOPEDIAS
Dictionaries and encyclopedias are always the best way to get started in any research project.  These provide a quick overview of historical, cultural, archaeological, and theological topics.  Basic information about people, places, and events are quickly grasped and applied to your understanding and writing.

Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible
  • Stands as a major work of scholarship, though it is a bit dated and does not reflect the most recent archaeological discoveries.
  • Major Biblical words are given extensive treatment
 HarperCollins Bible Dictionary
  • Handy one-volume work summarizes recent scholarship
  • Emphasizes sociological & cultural interpretation
  • Avoids technical jargon and also does not give the original terms for the original Hebrew or Greek biblical words
  • Well illustrated
 Holman’s Bible Dictionary

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Manners and Customs in the Bible

ATLASES
This type of resources provides many additional helps in understanding the context and history of a portion of scripture.   Maps, photos, articles may all contribute to understanding meaning.

Hammond’s Atlas of the Bible Lands
Intervarsity (IVP) Atlas of the Bible
Macmillan Bible Atlas
Baker’s Bible Atlas

 
4. GENERAL TOOLS FOR UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
 
Common COMMENTARY SETS and BOOKS
 
Ancient Christian commentary on scripture [set] - A commentary series utilizing the writings of the Early Church period; useful for gaining appreciation or insight into how some of the earliest Christians understood the texts.

Expositor’s Commentary on the Bible [set] - A moderate work on the Bible using minimal Greek or Hebrew citations.

Word Biblical Commentary [set] - A more indepth commentary with discussions designed for the scholar and the lay individual.

Calvin’s Commentary [set] Does not include all texts of the Bible.

 
FINDING BOOKS ON BIBLICAL SUBJECTS IN A LIBRARY CATALOG OR DATABASE MAY REQUIRE USING CONTROLLED VOCABULARY:
 
  • Search using “Bible. O.T. Judges” or “Bible. N.T. Matthew”

3/16/2014

The Sorrowing Woman

In the mythology of Ireland is the 'Banshee' a spirit being said to foretell the death of a family member.  The Irish common folk had a history of 'keening' by the women as they followed the body to the grave. This wordless crying and wailing expressed the deep sadness felt at this loss of life. It was said this was in imitation of the mournful wail of the banshee, which can mean the mourning woman spirit. 
 
Some others wonder if it was the keening custom that gave birth to the mournful cry and the legend of the Banshee.  The Banshee was most often associated with the large houses or families. These, in Ireland, where often the ones least connected with the common folk and their ways and customs. They were often adopting foreign values and beliefs.  Perhaps, at some time, the earlier emotional form of grief response was deemed inappropriate or uncivilized to some.
 
I was reminded recently of this crying and sorrowing woman at the loss of a loved one.  So often the church (and well meaning Christians) want to distance themselves from grief and especially from emotional displays.  Sometimes, though, grief is a painful, soul stabbing experience where the loss and hurt cannot be soothed my well meaning friends who mouth platitudes and encourage thoughts of joy in the midst of loss.
 
My own tears were soul deep responses to the jagged knife of death severing a familial tie both precious and loved.  The amputation of a family member is not something that a person should stoically accept or quietly endure. If there is a time for weeping, wailing, screaming until throats are raw and the body collapses under the weight of the sorrow, is it not  when a close loved one dies?
 
It does not matter if both are people of strong faith because in such moments we are only, we are merely,  humans.  Christ, as he prayed in the Garden for the cup of his own death to pass by if it were God's will, wept tears of blood.  Can I not tear my clothes and fall to the ground in the searing flood of loss?
 
As a woman, perhaps  I view this differently.  We are born into this world amid high emotion, blood, pain, and struggle and when we leave it is the same.

As a woman, I see things in a more realistic fashion.  I see the ties of family where others see only air.  I sense the call of the blood where others feel nothing. I hear the whisper of the beating angel wings as they lift high the soul to its reward when others hear only weeping.  I feel the touch of departed loved ones reminding me that they are only gone in body.  In memories and spirit they are eternal.  So let me rant, rave, sink into mourning but do not hush me....the loss of a life is worth more than a few cards and flowers, don't you agree? 
 
The writer of Ecclesiastes (3-:1f) noted well that there was a time for everything..." There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--  A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted..."
 
In time, I will move on..."A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.."
 
So right now, I AM the sorrowing woman, I feel deeply the pain and the anguish and that has NOTHING to do with the level of my faith or my loved one...it has everything to do with being the feeling humans we are, those created in the image of God who, like the seasons, must go through winter's chill embrace to find the hope of a spring.  It may not be your response but it is mine.
 
Like that work beneath the surface as a plant struggles to claw its way to the light of day, it may be dirty, dark and a little too raw, but it is a process I need to go through.  What I need are not platitudes or catch phrases, but a shoulder occasionally, a listening ear, expressions of friendship and love.  Most all, I need one who will stay close to the garden of my grief and, as those first hopeful blades of healing burst forth, take my hand.

 
[Another recent article on this topic is here]



3/09/2014

The REAL Challenge: A Year of Living Christian

A few years ago an author, Rachel Held Evans, took up the challenge of seeing just what the life of a "Biblical woman" really was.   As friends responded to a resurgence of traditional views of marriage, home and deserted careers she was moved to act. "What does God truly expect of women, and is there really a prescription for biblical womanhood? "   So, for a year she lived the life of "Biblical Womanhood."  From covering her head to wearing a sign to inform people of the outstanding nature of her husband she lived up to all the expectations many traditional groups maintain the Bible demands of women today.
 
A.J. Jacobs took up a similar quest to explore life lived Biblically.  The Year of Living Biblically explores all the rules and comes up with some interesting - and often funny - observations about how even the most literal minded fundamentalists tend to still 'pick and choose.'
 
I was reminded of her book,  and learned of his, in some recent research related to one of my own projects. I found myself wondering if we - men and women - could take up a similar challenge and actually live out for a year all that we say is demanded of us as Christians?  
 
What does it mean to actually 'love our neighbors', live peacefully with one another, care for others more than ourselves, give ourselves to the work of the Gospel and so much more?
 
We - people in general- seem to function well with lists of 'thou shall not' items but can we think our way out of a paper bag of gray area ethical issues and remain in tune with the mind of Christ?  Can we be of 'one mind', can we be rich in spirit, can we cast all our cares on God? 
 
What would "A Year Living Christian" look like?  What would we learn? Could we recognize and make the necessary corrections or are we just too set in our ways or defensive of our accepted dogmas?

An intriguing question  and , I believe, the far more important challenge.

3/07/2014

Friendship - Jesus Style

People Silhouette VectorsRecently people have begun to question the rights and wrongs of forcing people to serve individuals whose lifestyles they cannot condone on religious grounds.  I cannot serve this gay couple because my religious beliefs tell me they are  [ fill in the blanks].   Sounds strangely similar to the rationale of previous generations of 'Christians' who argued that it was their right to own slaves because the Bible mentioned slavery, it was their right to fight slavery because the Bible said things about treating our neighbors as ourselves, or I can refuse service to this Negro because my religious group or society believes them to be 'other', inferior', or 'different'.
 
We like to stride to that high moral ground and plant flags in grand gestures but we really fail on the small daily, 'rubber meets the road' ground of ordinary life.
 
A writer is struggling to determine how best to develop their skills and is torn between several genres.  They excel at writing insightfully about subjects of a religious nature that demand thought, study and accepting the challenge that they might be wrong.  These works are well-accepted by the few who bother to note and respond or comment.  In evaluating the number of responses the writer decides writing about religious topics is obviously not the choice or there would be more support and response.  The crossroad of decision is made and they walk down a path that allows them to write deeply and significantly inserting their core spiritual values as they go.  Their talent is not added to the discussions of strictly religious themes where it would have challenged, inspired and educated because that group could not bring itself to show they appreciated or valued what the person was doing.
 
A person on Facebook, brought up to believe that Christians will help and support other Christians - always, finds that instead they often become tunnel-like in their vision, seek only people who think or act exactly like they do and hold themselves somewhat superior because of their religious experience. They require daily doses of 'scriptures' that affirm them, they manipulate people "if they really love God to pass this along right away! or post it on their page - unless they are ASHAMED of God."  They know a lot of people but care for none.  They invest their time online but never in people. They care for their profile but not your input.  One person noted that they actually received "more caring and loving support from agnostics and pagans than from my Christian friends."
 
We would do well to remember that on the high morale ground there is also a cross - we can stand there only as we remember the love and mercy represented by that symbol. 
 
So, what does it mean to be a friend - Jesus style?
 
Christians should be accepting of others as human beings who sin.  Jesus dined with those who were outcasts of the religious and righteous of his day. Those people who followed all the religious laws to be found blameless before God and who followed every rule of right living.  They ignored the tax collectors, the fallen women, the sick, and the hurting because these must be curses of God brought down by their lack of religious fervor.  Jesus spoke with the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the outcast and the social inferiors (women, Gentiles, etc.).  Is there any instance where he turned away from anyone?
 
To be a friend like Christ means we love everyone.  We may not like their lifestyle, we may not like them, and we may not want to act like we support a cause that is not reflective of our beliefs but WE MUST LOVE THEM! 
 
To be a friend like Christ means we care for others more than we care for ourselves.   We have one gift that we cannot refill, cannot replace, and that is the gift of time...the gift of ourselves.  The Samaritan on the road did not have time to help the man beaten and left for dead but, unlike the holier-than-thou types who had gone before, he took that time and spent in on the behalf of another. He did not check the pedigree, did not check the theological stance, or look for signs the man was worthy of his help.  He simply rolled up his sleeves, took the time, made the effort and did what was truly reflective of the message of Jesus Christ.
 
Why do we withhold the good word of praise that may affirm someone making a decision of how to use the talents they feel God has given to them?  Why do we want to pick and choose who is worthy of our help, care or love?  Why do we withhold the willingness to sit with sinners, show them love and show them Christ-followers are not all wild-eyed, raving idiots holding up intolerant and hate mongering signs? 
 
Friendship  - as Jesus knew so well - was the giving of oneself to others and for others.
 
So, the next time you march up that high moral hill to plant your flag, look around for the cross and then ask yourself what are the motives stirring you and are you being the type of friend Jesus was when he sat with sinners, walked with skeptics, loved the unloved and upset everyone else's neat little world?

3/04/2014

Reflections on Ash Wednesday


Every year Christians around the globe enter into a season of repentance called Lent.  Often beginning that time is observance of Ash Wednesday.  In this observance, ashes are placed on the forehead as a symbol of repentance and sorrow for sins committed.
 
Ashes, from an early time, have expressed mourning.  In Job 42:3–6. Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (vv. 5–6, KJV)  In the New Testament Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray and this too is incorporated into the understanding of what Ash Wednesday is because Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, self-denial, and focused spiritual growth.
 
Thus from ancient times, has come the connection of repenting and ashes.  During the middle ages, the Christian Church was dealing with a population largely unable to read, and so they developed many rituals and used various visual and auditory means to teach about the faith (banners, carvings, stained glass windows, choirs, etc.).
 
Today, many churches conduct an Ash Wednesday or a Day of Repentance observance.  Palm fronds kept from the previous Palm Sunday are burned and their ashes are used. Alternately, some pass out small cards for people to write down their sins or errors and they are communally burnt and the ashes used.  Some even fast for all or part of the day in order to signify the import of the time in the calendar of the Christian faith.  Just as night is needed to joyfully welcome a new day, the season of self-denial, interior growth and contemplation of God bring added meaning and power to the celebration of the Risen Lord.
 
Even if your congregation or church does not conduct such an event, a person can still take part in setting aside the next forty days until Easter (Resurrection Day).  In that time intentionally add fasting, prayer, Bible study, services of kindness and mercy.  Lent is reflective of that time when the seed is in the ground growing, changing, becoming...  Use Lent as a time to begin to grow in your spiritual life, reach out in Christian service and learn and pray more. 
 
 
 
 

3/01/2014

"Don't Mess with Mama's Baby" by Quintella Davenport

Are we ready to respond when something happens to alter our steps?  Here’s an event that may make you ponder the appropriate approach that should have been taken. 

Once upon a July 4th a lady and her two daughters, being 19 and 17, went to South Plains Mall; however, not any of the three wanted to go because of the crowd they knew would be in the mall.  There was a reason, which was to see if something they needed was available so they made a quick trip to one store and started back out of the mall.
The 19 year-old said, “Oh, let’s get a “Frulati” just as they were passing the booth and so she and mother turned and entered the booth.  The crowd was enormous and mother turned to look for the younger daughter and saw three tall men right behind her and one of the men grabbed her buttocks and squeezed as mom watched.   The younger daughter’s eyes were very large and her mouth fell open as the hand grabbed her.  A normally shy mom reached for the 19-year-old (who had no idea of what just happened) and said, “Come on we are going after these guys”. 
The men were all tall, definitely in their twenties, wearing cowboy hats and boots, which made them easy to follow in the crowded area.  As fate would have it, one of them needed to stop at the restroom outside the Sears store.  Therefore, the group of three was easily caught up to by Mama and her two daughters.  The man that had grabbed the younger daughter’s buttocks was standing there outside Sears waiting for his friend.  Mom said, “Sir?” and he responded, “Yes ma’am?”  Mom was quick to tell him she saw him grad her daughter’s rear end. He quickly started the denial process by saying, “I did not,” very vehemently.  Mom responded, “Maybe you did not hear me, I said I saw you grab my daughters rear end.” Again the man denied it to the point of getting loud and bowing up to Mom as if he was going to hit her.
By this time a crowd had formed watching the action.  There were people sitting on the benches outside of Sears looking on and wondering what was going to happen.  Well, Mom had no intention of giving in because this man had touched her baby inappropriately.  The man said in a hostile manner, “I’m married and I wouldn’t do that.”  The normally shy mother spoke up with, “You’re not helping yourself with me at all.”  The man once again bowed up as if he were going to hurt Mom and the younger daughter stepped up to say, “Sir, my mom has a power that you don’t know anything about so don’t mess with her.”  He mockingly jumped back and replied, “I’m scared.”  Then the man looked at Mom and said, “Well, if I did do this, what are you going to do about it?”  The crowd had increased to see the drama taking place.  Mom said, “Have you ever heard of the law?” 
Precisely, as Mom was asking if he had heard of the law, a plain clothed policeman stood up from the bench exactly beside where this fiasco was happening, and responded with, “Ma’am, I am the law, may I help you” as he was displaying his badge. 
The police handcuffed all three men and shared with us that this grabbing of girls’ buttocks had been happening all over the mall that day and thanked us for helping them catch the men responsible.  The police allowed the mom and daughters to get out of the mall and to their car while they held the men.  Considering this information, could the mother and daughters have been there for a reason?  Ummm…
Realizing this may sound like a part in a movie, this event is true; therefore, did the Mom handle this event appropriately?  Ummm…

 Our guest columnist is a freelance writer from Texas, Quintella Loudon Davenport.
 

Biography

Biography
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Waiting...Renewing...Moving

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