2014-04-18

Passover

Last night was the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The remembrance of an ancient tale takes the form of a feast. In the stories that are remembered, the original eaters of that feast were supposed to eat hurriedly and be dressed as if ready for travel. They were also supposed to mark the doors of the houses with blood, so that the messenger of death would not find their family.

A millennium and a half after that story, yet still ages ago, a rabbi celebrated Passover with his 12 closest followers.

Several unique things happened at that Passover. All the stories about that evening tell of a new ceremony with bread and wine. At least one of his followers left the meal before that ceremony began. One story mentions a strange sequence in which the rabbi washed the feet of the other men at the table.

Later that night, while praying in a garden outside the City of Jerusalem, the rabbi was arrested by soldiers of the Temple guard. The man who had left the Passover table before the meal was done had brought the soldiers.

The background for this arrest, and the animosity between the Temple leadership and this rabbi, were rooted in many things.

The rabbi, whose name is often rendered as Jesus, had strong differences with the Temple authorities. He also generated large crowds wherever he went. He didn't call himself "rabbi", he called himself "the Son of man."

There were stories of miracles; outrageous claims about Jesus and His relationship to the God of their ancient religion. There were also the many references to the Kingdom of Heaven in the teachings. (The people had been under foreign, Imperial power for a century or two. But there were memories of priests who had been kings and the leaders of armies. Those priests had driven out a different Imperial power. Doubtless there were rumors about Jesus and his intentions with respect to the Roman Imperium.)

Most troublesome were the parables and teachings that seemed to insist that the Temple leadership were bad stewards of the ancient faith, and would be uprooted and replaced by their God.

So, the man was arrested. The religious leaders of the Temple apparently desired to have Him executed. They hoped it would be the end of Jesus' influence.

But first, they had to convince the entire Religious Council that execution should happen. Then they had to convince the Roman authority that Jesus was a danger to their power.

It was a long night.

2014-04-16

Spring un-Sprung

Not only was there snowfall yesterday, there was a noticeable accumulation.

Noticeable enough to shatter a century-old record.

The list of winter records set this year for Metro Detroit is located here. It's a pretty impressive list.

This morning, the weather outside is colder than yesterday morn. Though it is also much sunnier, oddly. Up until yesterday, I'd been under the impression that the garden could be planted early this year.

I guess I'll wait until the beginning of May to plant the garden.

2014-04-14

Speak of the Devil...

Just as I was thinking that Spring had arrived for good, I saw the news.

Possible snow. (And windstorms over the last night which damaged many electrical-power lines; further damage may happen in tonight's storm.)

The motorcycle will stay away for a few more days.

Springtime, cars, and motorcycles

When Spring came on the calendar, I was wondering how long the weather would feel like Winter.

The Springtime weather is now in full force in my area.
(Though some old acquaintances of mine from Michigan's Upper Peninsula still have deep drifts of snow on the ground. And as of late last week, Lake Superior was still 83% covered with ice. The pictures of ice cover from the end of March are astonishing.)

And that means that it is time to warm up the motorcycle.

I've got a small repair to make on the motorcycle. The drain plug on the oil pan was dripping oil last year. I think I will have to either (a) replace the drain plug, or (b) put silicon on it during my oil change this year.

Replacing it should be easy, but the motorcycle itself is 30 years old. Parts are hard to find, and I'm getting the impression that the problem isn't actually the drain plug, The problem may be that the threads the drain plug screws into are stripped, such that I can't tighten the plug all the way.

There's another, minor irritation. The wire-connection which should be fastened to the positive terminal on the battery has fallen apart. I can fix it, and I have the parts. I just haven't taken the time to do so, yet.

Either Monday or Tuesday this week, I think I'll have the motorcycle started. Then I'll see how Spring-like the weather feels.

2014-04-13

Weekend Reading: step back for an overview

My reading of the Bible is going much faster than these weekend comments. Though I'm looking forward to resuming the story, I've also gathered a list of notes which might be worth mentioning.

  • I was first introduced to the Bible as child. My parents, and the culture they lived in, favored the literal-history treatment of all Scripture.
    Some parts of that treatment made a lot of sense, and others seemed questionable.

    Many years later, I learned of several very intellectual men who were followers of Christ who didn't insist on that interpretation. One of them lived in the 20th Century, the other lived in the 5th Century.

    I'm mildly-agnostic about the historicity of the Bible. But I'm not agnostic about the nature of God as described therein.
  • The ancient tradition of separating the Bible into "books" is due to the fact that these writings were not drafted as a cohesive whole. Most of the books were written separately, and later gathered into a collection of sacred writings.
  • The tradition of referring to Chapter/Verse numbers is much more recent, dating from approximately 700 years ago.
  • Speaking of subdivisions and names...
    As far back as Saint Jerome, the collection of writings known as the Christian canon was titled Biblia Sacra Vulgata. Literally, The Holy Book in the Common Tongue.
    (I've sometimes tried to convince people that this was the "dirty-words" version, but that usage of Vulgata doesn't correspond well with the current English usage of "vulgar".)

    In the English language, the word Biblia has mutated into Bible.
  • I grew up on the Protestant canon. I've since learned of the Catholic canon, which includes some Jewish writings that are not in the Jewish canon. And I think the Ethiopian Orthodox church has a larger canon than the Roman Catholic church.
  • My parents were readers, and they liked reading books to the children.
    Thus, we read sections of the Bible together in the evenings. Until my parents starting home-education, and they shifted to Bible in the morning as part of the regular schedule, while reading other books in the evening.

    I think this gave me an awareness of the types of storytelling in the various sections of Scripture. There are pieces that feel like myth-expressing-deep-truth, other pieces that feel like old family history that's been told and re-told. Then there are biographies, dynastic histories, prophecies, and letters.
  • I sometimes get the impression that I know Scripture better than many of my fellow believers. This knowledge, by itself, was once simply another kind of geekery. (How many people in Scripture fell out of a window to their death? Three that I can remember. How many times did the family tree that leads to Jesus almost die out? Either two or three times, depending on whether the story of Ruth is reckoned as such an event.)
    But when learning about and engaging in communion with the Creator, I find that this knowledge of Scripture is always bubbling up in my mind. By that process I receive encouragement, wisdom, and rebuke from God.
  • More subdivisions: the Jewish scriptures, as used by Christians, are in five big sections.
    • The five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
      The first books begins with a story of Creation, and progresses from there into a history of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob is given the name Israel, though Abraham is once referred to as "the Hebrew".
      The rest tell of Moses, the descendants of Jacob leaving Egypt, and Moses laying out religious rituals and civil laws. They also tell of many of the events between leaving Egypt and the preparation for conquest of the Promised Land.
    • The histories: Joshua, Judges, Ruth1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
      The first two books tell of the taking of the Promised Land, and the span of time between that conquest and the first king who could unite the entire region.
      The book of Ruth gives a short introduction to the woman Ruth, and her place in the lineage of David.
      The two books of Samuel tell of the prophet Samuel, and his interactions with Kings Saul and David.
      The books of Kings tell of the history of David's dynasty, and the split of his kingdom into two pieces. It ends with a deportation of many to Babylon.
      The books of Chronicles is a re-telling of the story from David to the end of his dynasty, largely ignoring the northern half of the split kingdom. It has a different emphasis than the book of Kings, spending much more time talking about the Temple and worship in Jerusalem.
      The books of Ezra and Nehemiah deal with different elements of the return of the people from Babylon, and the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
      The book of Esther tells of a few events in the court of a Persian monarch, and how the people of Israel were almost wiped out under an imperial decree.
    • The poetic writings: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes.
      The tale of Job is a "what-if" study. Chronologically, it is likely as old as the sections of Genesis that deal with the family of Abraham.
      The Psalms are a collection of poetry (or songs), mostly used in worship of God. About half are attributed to David. Many more are attributed to Asaph. However, they range in age from the time of Moses to the time of captivity in Babylon.
      The Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes are attributed to Solomon. One is a book of wisdom, one is a love poem, and one is a metaphysical work questioning of the meaning of life.
    • The writings of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel.
      These are ordered, roughly, by their length. (With Jeremiah's book of Lamentations over Jerusalem being the exception.)
      The two later books, Ezekiel and Daniel, are full of incredible visions. These are sometimes called the apocalyptic prophecies.
      At least one of these vision sequences can be used to sketch the history of Jerusalem from the time of the rebuilding of the the Temple to the time of Roman occupation. I don't know if that was the intended by the author, or was the intention of the inspiration given by God...but I find it very interesting. 
    • The writings of the minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
      These writings are considered a single book in the Jewish canon. They are called "minor" mostly because of their brevity with respect to the major prophets.
      These are ordered roughly-chronologically, but their chronology overlaps with the chronology of the major prophets.
  • Christian writings come in four sections also, though two of these sections contain only one book.
    • Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
      The first three are very similar, and draw from a similar pool of stories about Jesus. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as a Jew and descendant of David, Mark presents Jesus in a very concise way, while Luke is detailed and thorough.
      John focuses much more on a different side of Jesus' ministry.
    • Church history: Acts. Though most Bibles place the gospel of John between Luke and Acts, the book of Luke and Acts ought to be read in sequence. Both were written by the same author, and have the appearance of being intended to be read together.
      Acts tells of the growth of the body of believers, focusing mostly on apostle Peter. Then it focuses on Saul of Tarsus, who later takes the name Paul. 
    • Letters by Apostles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude
      The letters are grouped by author, and then sorted roughly by size.
      Paul is the author of most of the letters (up to Hebrews), though the sort-by-size method put them in almost reverse order.
      The author of Hebrews didn't sign his letter, and tradition offers several candidates for authorship.
      The remaining apostolic letters weren't addressed to specific churches. Thus, these apostolic letters simply bear the names of the authors.
      The letters are on a mix of subjects. Some are warnings about false teachers, some are advice and encouragement to specific churches, some are advice and encouragement to specific church leaders. One is a plea for kindness for an escaped slave.
    • An apocalyptic prophecy, the book of Revelation.
      Much like the Old Testament apocalyptic prophecies, this is full of mind-blowing visions and prophetic proclamations. 

2014-04-09

Vehicle Safety

Normally, when thinking vehicle safety, I'd recommend careful driving, wearing of seatbelts, and other tips.

But sometimes, not even that can help.

While reading local blogs, and related news stories about an intoxicated off-duty police officer (from an area that has seen another very bad case of intoxicated driver who was also a police officer), I saw this photo.

Sometimes, the intersection of car travel and utility pole looks downright frightening. (A copied version of the photo is below the break.)


I have to remind myself that careful driving can increase, but not guarantee, road safety.

Stay safe out there.

2014-04-08

Cars on TV

Over the past month or so, I've spent some time watching old seasons of BBC's Top Gear. I'm not very far, but I'm through the second season and part of the third.

I find the show funny, and enjoyed the ways that cars are described and presented. It took me a little while to get the feel for their "Star in a reasonably-priced car" sequences, but they became very enjoyable as the early seasons went on.

Mostly, I enjoyed the ability of the presenters to talk about how much they love their cars.


It's a little funny sometimes, to see a nearly decade-old "new" car or concept car presented. It's also odd to see discussions of good prices for cars.

I do remember that the Top Gear team started doing competitions and road challenges away from their studio in later seasons. I'm looking forward to those, as well as to more car-related humor.