Tell the Truth

If only people would tell the truth always, as a matter of principle, the world would be much closer to perfect. Truth is, firstly, a divine qualtiy, a character-trait of God. Truth arises in intelligent consciousness in association with some sense-perception of an object firm and undeniable. Truth is a presence. [Truth is a mental object.]

What a person knows to be true should never be denied. This is so even in circumstance where a person thinks a lie will save another person’s life. Let’s reduce such a situation to its basic elements. These are life, falsehood, truth. What do you suppose is most important or valuable among the three? If your answer is life, that would mean you let yourself and others live falsely, in dishonesty, fallacy, deceit. This is not good, it’s evil and this is the current, past and ongoing state of humankind.

Jesus of Nazareth stood in the tribunal of Pontius Pilate and said, “I have come into the world that I may bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37). Pontius Pilate responded, “what is truth(?)” (Jn 18:38). Pilate’s response is shame on humanity. We have lost truth in ourselves.

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Democracy: Politics and Protest

The U.S.of A. in year 2022 is filled with protest and this is an attempt at theoretical understanding. We’re looking for background that may provide a broad answer to questions of why protest (?) and how come there’s so much protest in American society (?). A basic response to seeing protest by people not directly involved (in that protest) is disquiet and this should not be shrugged off. Protesters should be acknowledged and their message considered.

Democratic Government

There are various types of government possible for a nation. United States of America was constituted a representative democracy, a republic, by the founders. Democracy is rule by the people and the people who founded our country rebelled against British rule after protesting “no taxation without representation.” These residents of the original thirteen colonies defeated the British Army and Navy in a Revolutionary War after declaring independence from British monarchy in 1776. Our nation was established in protest and revolution, political processes filled with human energy directed against injustice.

Politics

Politics, in democracy, is hectic and chaotic because every citizen has a share in government. Needs, wants, ideas, feelings, of hundreds and millions of people play out for satisfaction and sanction in the political order and democratic political order is ruled by law, firstly, the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution determines the structure and relations of federal government and lists the rights of citizens and states in the Amendments, but its basic values are to be found in its Preamble. These are (1) “the people” make law; (2) “union” of the people and states is a prime goal; (3) “justice,” “tranquility,” “common defence,” “general welfare,” and “the blessings of liberty” now and for the future are the purpose of law. Politics, in the U.S., is interrelation of people to achieve these ends.

Protest

Protest follows unrest. Unrest goes against constitutional principle of social tranquility. Individuals and groups who are unhappy because of a social or political problem may demonstrate publicly their woe. At a minimum, protest in the streets tells others of the issue and may draw others to the cause of rectifying it. Protest is an initial step in restoring peace and justice. Unrest because of injustice and subsequent protest are in accord with constitutional principles of the Preamble; our Constitution envisions tranquility, so unrest must be redressed.

Particular Issues

Current issues that engender disaffection in U.S. citizens are many. Here are three, difficult to solve to the satisfaction of a majority of the population.

Racism

Racism is belief that a certain race is superior or inferior. Race is a term that refers to a class of people with shared history and traits. On basis of differences of appearance, antagonism and conflict between peoples has been perpetuated for decades or centuries. Prejudice and stereotypes are involved. Protests and movements to eliminate racism or to support it are ongoing.

Abortion

Abortion, a moral problem and social issue in America since 1700s, has spawned much controversy and protest which continues.

Gender or Sexual Rights

Inequity in treatment of people related to gender and sex identity on the part of private or public institutions has led to civil unrest and protest. Women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are unfinished issues in our society.

Questions

Why protest? People get together to protest injustice. The 1960s were a decade of social transition in America. Since then, more and more people have the “will to try for constructive change.”1

Why so much protest in America in 2022? The human situation is stressed by climate change and the covid19 pandemic. Perhaps more troubles are in store?2 A nation born in protest and revolution may pursue happiness and peace, but should expect social ferment3 along that way.

Notes

  1. Phrase from a speech by New York City Mayor, John Lindsay, ‘The Responsibility of the Rebel’ (1968), excerpted in Frank Kane, Voices of Dissent (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970), p 113
  2. See Mark chap. 13
  3. A good account of social ferment in early twentieth century America in the world of art and music is, Gail Levin & Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America (NY: Watson-Guptill, 2000).

The End

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Experiment in Science and Religion

Science

A recent interview with a biochemist at Duke University in ‘Science News‘ inspired this post. Publisher Maya Ajmera asked Paul Modrich this question.

You’ve described yourself as an experimentalist. What do you mean by this and how does it characterize your approach to research?

Here is part of Professor Modrich’s answer:

The physicist Richard Feynman wrote, “The ultimate test of knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth.’ ”

This quote of Feynman, who is a favorite thinker of mine, struck home as a succinct expression of what the scientific enterprise is all about. Science, which is knowledge of the cosmos and any of its content, has to be verified by peer-reviewed testing. Without scientific method, what is said remains just opinion or speculation and might be true or false.

Religion

Wouldn’t it be great to have experiment in religion research, so that people could have definite knowledge of spiritual matters? Religious studies go on around the world on college campuses, in seminaries, church libraries and religious writing occurs in journals, books, blogs, etcetera. Scientific method indeed has made an impact on religion in form, for example, of textual criticism of Bible or historical criticism of sacred texts and traditions for establishment of facts. Also, sociological studies of churches and religious groups are based on empirical methods. Psychology and neurology examine mental matters and behavior in religious adherents. Yet deeper matters, such as questions about miracles, efficacy of prayer, existence of God, seem impenetrable to methods of science. Things of faith, incapable of scientific confirmation, become more irrelevant with advancement of science and technology in our world. Yet faith persists in many, many people. That religious faith is or is becoming passe does not make it invalid. It means people don’t understand God or have little connection to the sacred or numinous.

Personal Foundation of Western Religion

Though scientific method requires research conclusions to be verified or at least subject to falsification through further study, this isn’t a principle of belief in the three major monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These religions accept testimony to God on an informal, person to person basis. This is seen in traditions and Scriptures concerning Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. These individuals experienced private revelations, Moses at the burning bush, Jesus in the Jordan River and in the desert, Muhammad in mountain caves in the desert vicinity of Mecca. Then, missions of preaching, teaching, begin in a quest for followers. Gathering disciples by the founders is largely a matter of personal persuasion and charisma is a factor.

Charisma is a graceful feature of personality that attracts others. A charismatic person is seen to have a pleasing order in their self-presentation which merits authority. It is a rare gift in persons. Moses for instance, was given miracles to impress fellow Hebrews and Pharaoh as well, and also assistance with speaking. The mission and message of Muhammad, Jesus, Moses has been authenticated by the conversion of followers and the spread of their message to new believers in generation upon generation.

Ritual and Prayer

So experiment is vital in religion too, only the original experiment, the charismatic missions of the founders – Muhammad was a man of “outstanding character” – took place in the past. When scientists invent time-travel, they may go back to these men and return to the present with reports as to their fraudulence or sincerity along with visual evidence of their doings.

In the meantime, religious rituals essentially reenact activities of the prophetic founders and sacred texts are read. These are to remind present-day believers of the basis of their faith. Prayer and other actions of faith are available to provide experiential data of the truth or falsity of religious tenets. With God, each individual is decision-maker, an author of faith. Every person is an experiment.

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The Unknown

What don’t we know? Just what are we looking for? Do you know? Have you heard?

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A Message from the Middle Ages

A 2021 film, ‘The Green Knight,’ directed by David Lowery, is based on the medieval poetic tale, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ (14th century, middle English) by unknown author. Here is a portion, lines 485-490, which ends Part One.

And the day was delight, and was long, and was finally

Done

And now, Gawain: think,

Danger is yours to overcome

And this game brings you

Danger. Can the game be won?1

[Context: King Arthur, Queen Guenevere and their knights are at the Camelot round table amid their Christmas feast. In rides a green knight, unknown to all present, disturbing Christmas dinner, with a challenge. Is King Arthur or any knight present, brave enough to take the green knight’s axe and deal him a blow? Who accepts the challenge must agree to let the green knight strike a return blow in one year. Sir Gawain replaces King Arthur in accepting the challenge and promptly beheads green knight. To astonishment of all, headless green knight takes up his severed head which then speaks the words, “Gawain, be ready to ride as you promised; hunt me well until you find me– … Find the green chapel …” (lines 448 ff.). Green knight then rides off with head in hand and the feast resumes.]

Sir Gawain is bound by his own oath to find green knight in one year and let himself be struck by green knight’s weapon.

Interpretation

What do you think? Is life a game or a sporting challenge? Is life a great test conducted by God? To win the game, must one welcome death?

Bravery, courage, honesty (keeping your promise), how important are these virtues?

Footnote

1. Burton Raffel (tr.), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (NY: Mentor, 1970), p. 62

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Ash Wednesday and Lent (2022)

We are living over 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christian church persists world wide with about 2 billion Christians; how many are sincere followers of Jesus is an issue. Jesus taught love of God and love of neighbor (Mk 12:28-31). How many follow these simple commands? There are also around 2 billion Muslims on planet Earth.

Ash Wednesday is first day of church season of Lent, when churchgoers have ashes placed on forehead. The ashes symbolize abasement (by self) and repentance. Ashes represent sorrow on part of believer, who is conscious of some loss or sin. According to teaching of St. Paul, every human being is a sinner. This teaching is echoed in other Biblical books. Use of ashes comes from Old Testament phrase ‘sackcloth and ashes,’ e.g., book of Esther. As one repents, one asks God for forgiveness.

Lent continues from Ash Wednesday for 40 days. Forty days is the period Jesus spent in the desert at the beginning of his ministry, tested by the Devil. Season of Lent, a period of prayer and fasting, is special, holy, in church calendar, comparable to Advent and Christmas. Lent culminates in Palm Sunday, holy week (remembering Jesus’ Passion, death), Easter Sunday (commemorating Jesus’ resurrection).

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Afterword

Ash Wednesday,’ poem by T.S. Eliot, may be helpful to read and contemplate.

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Two Approaches to Bible Study: Criticism and Faith

Writing, the recording of symbols (shapes) on various media (surfaces), whether paper, rock, clay, tanned animal skin (leather), papyrus or electronic device, to preserve and transmit message and meaning, goes back to ancient Sumer, around 3400 B.C., in Mesopotamia. “The oldest written documents … are mainly concerned with local agricultural and commercial transactions, and not easily interpreted.”1 Also, earlier forms of recording (c. 8000 B.C.), using tokens of sundry shape to keep count of goods, had to do with commerce. Thus ancient writing and proto-writing were involved with economics, accounting for commodities necessary for survival and subsistence. Writing is part of the foundation of human culture and civilization.

By 3000 B.C., as writing changed to reflect spoken language, the names of individuals appear, often incorporating the name of a deity and also references to temple, after-life and prayer. Religious ideas and practices are expressed in extant cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia and in Egyptian hieroglyphics from about 2750 B.C.

Bible

The Bible is first a religious document, a collection of books from different eras, with diverse themes and forms, that concerns theism. It contains traditions extending back to the ancient Near East, around 2000 B.C.

And Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai the wife of Abram, and they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan. But when they arrived in Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran. (Gen 11:31-32)

Realizing the complexity of the Bible, people have used all tools available, historical, linguistic, literary, to name a few, to understand it. This is the function of criticism in Bible study and it has led to a professional corps of academics doing Bible research objectively, with secular purpose of rational discernment.

Synagogue and Church

Judaism and Christianity are two religions existing for millennia, composed of worldwide distribution of believers, that hold Bible as sacred scripture. Believers study Bible from viewpoint of faith, of varying degrees and kinds, to enhance or improve their faith and so better themselves. Between the religious/spiritual goals of Bible study among believers and the scientific objectives of academic Bible study, conflicts arise. Such conflicts, e.g., regarding dating of events, should not be brushed aside, but probed to determine what issues are at stake.

Conclusion

Background of Bible in ancient Near East shows importance of criticism in interpretation, for we would not be able to read Bible without discovery, conservation and comparison of ancient manuscripts, i.e., text criticism, to establish a proper text and language study to understand and translate its writings. Historical criticism, making use of tools from archaeology, anthropology, sociology, shows how Biblical books differ from other writings of olden times and attempts to disclose the facts beneath Biblical claims. “It is therefore no good ignoring the results of criticism; they should be either accepted or challenged.”2 Dialog between critical methods and faith in God is required for fullest understanding.

Footnotes

  1. William Hallo, William Simpson, The Ancient Near East: A History (Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1998), pp. 25-26
  2. Gordon Wenham, ‘History & the Old Testament’ in Colin Brown (ed.), History, Criticism & Faith (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1977), p. 49

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Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964): Writer of Novels, Short Stories, Essays

Mary Flannery O’Connor died at age 39 from Lupus and because of her self-discipline, dedication to writing and her Roman Catholic faith, produced two novels, thirty-two short stories, essays, reviews, letters, prayers, cartoons, that entertain and educate readers in the conflict of good and evil and the operation of divine grace in everyday (common) social situations. A reader will encounter violence, minor and major, in her fiction, in the interaction of characters, and this might shock a character (or reader) to search for God’s grace as a means to survival. O’Connor tries to push people toward God. Says Flannery,

I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace.  Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work.  This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.1   

Said Jesus of Nazareth,

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Mt 11:12 NIV)

Violence, bad language, mistreatment, unfairness, disdain, hatred in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction may repel some readers, but some will recognize reflections of real happenings in society and realize she points to our need for redemption. Her stories don’t have happy endings. They are warnings.

An Issue

Flannery O’Connor has been accused of racism and this charge has been countered.

Footnote

  1. Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (NY: Noonday Press, 1997), p. 112

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Essenes: A Reference Guide

In the fourth century before Christ, Alexander the Great conquered the ancient Near East, from Egypt to India, constructing a vast empire that enriched Greece economically and spread Greek culture throughout. The intermix of Greek (Hellenic) civilization and cultures of the Near East, including Egyptian, Judaic and Persian, continued under Alexander the Great’s (d. 323 B.C.) successors, the Seleucids and Ptolemies, constituting the Hellenistic Age, which lasted until the Roman conquests of the first century B.C. Around 200 B.C., Seleucid ruler, Antiochus III, wrested control of Yehud (Judah) from the Ptolemies and at this time, Essene movement began.

Essenes were a sect of ancient Judaism, an association of like-minded individuals, priests and laity, responding to the influx of Greek culture in their homeland. Greek religion (polytheism), philosophy, mores, institutions (e.g., gymnasia), conflicted with Torah in many ways. Temple, priesthood, kashrut (dietary law), circumcision, calendar, aspects of daily cleanliness or purity were subject to corruption from foreign influence. Essenes were a conservative-reform group in Second Temple Judaism seeking to negate the advances of Hellenistic ideas and practice by reforming religion conservatively, in accord with past writings (i.e., Miqra‘ or TaNaK). Also, Essenes were a prophetic community, conducting themselves as the covenant remnant of Israel in fulfillment of prophecies of renewal and restoration. As the years went by, Essenes became more organized, though quietly, out of touch (i.e., intentionally secret, separate, distinct) with mainstream leaders of Judaism, refining their interpretation of Scripture, adjusting their unique teachings, and gathering adherents through a careful novitiate. Essene movement ended in the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in 66 – 70 A.D.

The Term ‘Essene’

The word Essene(s) is found in three ancient writers, Philo, Josephus, Pliny the Elder, who should be consulted to understand its meaning.

Pliny the Elder (c. 78 A.D.):

On the west side of the Dead Sea, but out of range of the noxious exhalations of the
coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes which is remarkable beyond all the other tribes
of the whole world as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no
money, and has only palm trees for company. Day by day the throng of refugees is
recruited to an equal number by numerous accessions of persons tired of life and driven
there by the waves of fortune to adopt their manners. Thus, through thousands of ages
(incredible to relate) a race in which no one is born lives on forever- so prolific for their
advantage is other men’s weariness of life!  (Nat. Hist. V.15)

Josephus, Jewish historian of first century A.D., has extensive description of Essenes in his work, The Jewish War (II.8).  Josephus said Essenes are a “third philosophical form” in Judaism, along with Pharisees and Sadducees, maintain ascetic discipline (‘shunning pleasure, exercising self-control’), practice purity in daily rite of prayers, meals, work, and allow marriage, but “protect themselves from the wanton ways of women” (8.2.121). Also, Essenes are “trained in holy books” and “sayings of prophets” (8.12.159).  Much else may be found on Essenes in Josephus. 

Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (d. c. 50 A.D.), wrote admiringly of Essenes in two works, That Every Good Man is Free and Hypothetica.  That Every Good Man is Free contains a philological remark on “Essaioi,” (Philo’s version of ‘Essenes’):

 Moreover, Palestine and Syria are not barren of exemplary wisdom and virtue. In
these countries lives no small portion of that most populous nation of the Jews. There is a
portion of those people called Essenes, in number something more than four thousand in
my opinion, who derive their name from their piety, though not according to an accurate
form of the Greek language, because they are above all especially devoted to the
service of God, not sacrificing living animals, but studying rather to preserve their own
minds in a state of holiness and purity.  (XII.75)  

Philo associates “Essenes” with the Greek noun for ‘holiness’ (ὁσιότηϛ), but says it’s not accurate Greek usage.  The defective Greek indicates ‘Essene’ originated in another language, namely, Aramaic or Hebrew.  Philo’s statement that ‘Essenes’ means ‘holy’ or ‘pious ones’ is one possibility among many in the Semitic lexicon.  ‘Essene’ cannot be surely traced without historical documentation.  

Dead Sea Scrolls

First discovered in 1947 in caves west of Dead Sea, the Scrolls represent a sectarian library of biblical and non-biblical writings on parchment and papyrus, some whole, many in fragments, of great value for understanding Judaism prior to 70 A.D.  Except for Esther, copies of all books of Hebrew Bible have been found, which is important for textual criticism.  Non-biblical scrolls include apocrypha, such as Sirach and Tobit, and pseudepigrapha, like Enoch, Jubilees.  Also found were many partisan writings of many genres; rules, hymns, Bible interpretation, apocalyptic, wisdom, calendars, liturgy, prayers.  The partisan writings express ideas and practices relating to an organized group in Judaism of the time and though the term ‘Essene’ is not found, coincidences between them and Josephus, Philo and Pliny on Essenes leads to working hypothesis that Dead Sea/Qumran scrolls are the literary production of Essene party. 

(Essenes did a good job of keeping themselves and their writings separate and secret, but they were known, sub-rosa and did gain new members.  On account of their prolific writing, it seems probable that some scribes of New Testament period were Essenes.)

Essene Writings (selections)

Community Rule 1QS (cave 1, Qumran, Heb. serekh)

[Also called ‘Manual of Discipline,’ similar to Christian monastic orders, e.g., Rule of St. Benedict, dates to c. 100 B.C., many recensions found in other caves]

I  The Master shall teach the saints to live according to the Book of the Community Rule, that they may seek God with a whole heart and soul, and do what is good and right before Him as He commanded by the hand of Moses and all His servants the Prophets; that they may love all that He has chosen and hate all that He has rejected; that they may abstain from all evil and hold fast to all good; that they may practice truth, righteousness, and justice upon earth and no longer stubbornly follow a sinful heart and lustful eyes, committing all manner of evil.  He shall admit into the Covenant of Grace all those who have freely devoted themselves to the observance of God’s precepts, that they may be joined to the counsel of God and may live perfectly before Him in accordance with all that has been revealed concerning their appointed times, and that they may love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God’s design, and hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in God’s vengeance.

All those who freely devote themselves to His truth shall bring all their knowledge, powers and possessions into the Community of God …

On entering the Covenant, the Priests and Levites shall bless the God of salvation and all His faithfulness, and all those entering the Covenant shall say after them, ‘Amen, Amen!’ …

II  … Thus shall they do, year by year, for as long as the dominion of Belial endures. …

III  … He has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of truth and injustice. …

V  … They shall separate from the congregation of the men of injustice and shall unite, with respect to the Law and possessions, under the authority of the sons of Zadok, the priests who keep the Covenant, and of the multitude of the men of the Community who hold fast to the Covenant. …

VI  … If any man has uttered the [most] Venerable Name VII even though frivolously, or as a result of shock or for any other reason whatever, while reading the Book or blessing, he shall be dismissed and shall return to the Council of the Community no more. …

… Whoever has deliberately lied shall do penance for six months. …

… Whoever has spoken foolishly: three months. …                 

…Whoever has spat in an Assembly of the Congregation shall do penance for thirty days. …

IX … These are the precepts in which the Master shall walk …

… He shall conceal the teaching of the Law from men of injustice, but shall impart true knowledge and righteous judgment to those who have chosen the Way. …

… This is the time for the preparation of the way into the wilderness …

… Everlasting hatred in a spirit of secrecy for the men of perdition! …

X … I will sing with knowledge and all my music shall be for the glory of God. …

…Before I move my hands and feet I will bless His Name.

I will praise Him before I go out or enter, or sit or rise, and whilst I lie on the couch of my bed.

A Lamentation 4Q501 (cave 4, Qumran, c. 50 B.C.)

Give not our inheritance to strangers, nor our (hard-earned) property to foreigners.

Remember that we are [the forsaken] of Thy People and the forsaken of Thine inheritance.

Remember the desolate children of Thy covenant …

Account of David’s Poems 11Q5 (cave 11, Qumran, c. 30 A.D.)

XXVII David son of Jesse was wise and brilliant like the light of the sun; (he was) a scribe, intelligent and perfect in all his ways before God and men.  YHWH gave him an intelligent and brilliant spirit, and he wrote 3600 psalms and 364 songs to sing before the altar for the daily perpetual sacrifice, for all the days of the year; and 52 songs for the Sabbath offerings; and 30 songs for the new moons, for Feast-days and for the Day of Atonement. …

… All these he uttered through prophecy which was given him from before the Most High.

Messianic Apocalypse 4Q521 (cave 4, Qumran, c. 95 B.C.; cf. Ps. 146; Isa. 61)

Fragment 2

II … [the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.  Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service!  All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this?  For the Lord will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name.  Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.  And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.  He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent]. … And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been … For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.  He will lead the uprooted …

Commentary on Habakkuk 1QpHab (cave 1, Qumran, pesher, c. 125 B.C.) 

I … [For the wicked encompasses] the righteous (Hab. 1:4c)

[The wicked is the Wicked Priest, and the righteous] is the Teacher of Righteousness

[Behold the nations and see, marvel and be astonished; for I accomplish a deed in your days, but you will not believe it when] II told (Hab. 1:5)

[Interpreted, this concerns] those who were unfaithful together with the Liar, in that they [did] not [listen to the word received by] the Teacher of Righteousness from the mouth of God.  And it concerns the unfaithful of the New [Covenant] in that they have not believed in the Covenant of God [and have profaned] His holy Name.  And likewise, this saying is to be interpreted [as concerning those who] will be unfaithful at the end of days.  They, the men of violence and the breakers of the Covenant, will not believe when they hear all that [is to happen to] the final generation from the Priest [in whose heart] God set [understanding] that he might interpret all the words of His servants the prophets, through whom He foretold all that would happen to His people and [His land].

Heavenly Prince Melchizedek 11Q13 (cave 11, Qumran, c. 50 B.C.; cf. Heb. ch. 7

… And concerning that which He said, In [this] year of Jubilee [each of you shall return to his property (Lev. 25:13), and likewise, And this is the manner of release:] every creditor shall release that which he has lent [to his neighbor.  He shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother], for God’s release [has been proclaimed] (Deut. 15:2).  [And it will be proclaimed at] the end of days concerning the captives as [He said, To proclaim liberty to the captives (Isa. 61:1).  Its interpretation is that He] will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek; f[or He will cast] their [lot] amid the po[rtions of Melchize]dek, who will return from there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them [the wrong-doings] of all their iniquities.

Some Precepts of the Law Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah/MMT 4Q394-399 (cave 4, Qumran, c. 150 B.C.; cf. Gal. 2:16; 3:5; Rom. 3:20)

I [On the sixteenth of it (of the second month): sabbath]

On the twenty-third of it: sabbath

[On] the thir[tie]th [of it: sabbath

On the seventh of the third month: sabbath

On the fourteenth of it: sabbath

On the fifteenth of it: Feast of Weeks

On the twenty-] II [f]irs[t] of it: sabbath …

These are some of our teachings [] which are [] the works which w[e think [] and a]ll of them concern [] and the purity of … [And concerning the offering of the wh]eat of the [Gentiles which they …] and they touch it … and de[ile it … One should not accept anything] from the wheat [of the Gen]tiles [and none of it is] to enter the Sanctuary.  …

… For the sons [of Aaron are to be] …

And furthermore concerning the skins of the cattle [and the sheep … from] their [skin]s vessel[s … [they are] not to bring] them to the Sanctuary …

And furthermore concerning the skin[s and bones of unclean animals, they shall not make from their bones] and from their s[k]i[ns] handles of v[essels and] …

And furthermore concerning the skin of the carcass of a clean [animal], he who carries their carcass shall not touch the [sacred] purity.

…And furthermore concerning the pouring [of liquids], we say that it contains no purity.

… And [dogs] are not to be brought to the sacred camp for they may eat some of the bones from the Sanctua[ry] to which meat is still attached.  For Jerusalem is [the sacred camp] and is the place which He has chosen from all the tribes of Israel, for Jerusalem is the head of the camps of Israel. 

And furthermore con[cerning the pl]anting of fruit trees planted in the land of Israel, they are like [firstfruits] destined for the [priests].  [And the tithe] of the cattle and sheep is for the priests. 

And furthermore concerning the lepers, we s[ay that they shall not c]ome (into contact) with the sacred pure food for [they shall be] separated …

… [And furthermore] it is written [in the Book of Moses that] You shall not bring an abominable thing in[to your house (cf. Deut. 7:26) for] an abominable thing is detestable.

[And you know that] we have separated from the mass of the peop[le] … and from mingling with them in these matters and from being in contact with them in these (matters).  And you k[now that no] treachery or lie or evil is found in our hands …

And furthermore we [have written] to you that you should understand [the Book of Moses] and the Book[s of the Pr]ophets and Da[vid and all the events] of every age.  …

And furthermore it is written that [you will depart] from the w[a]y and that evil will befall you (cf. Deut. 31:29). …

… Remember the kings of Israel and understand their works that each of them who feared [the To]rah was saved from troubles, and to those who were seekers of the Law, their iniquities were [par]doned.  Remember David that he was a man of piety, and that he was also saved from many troubles and pardoned. 

We have also written to you concerning some of the precepts of the Law (miqsat ma’se ha-Torah), which we think are beneficial to you and your people.  For [we have noticed] that prudence and knowledge of the Law are with you. 

Understand all these (matters) and ask Him to straighten your counsel and put you far away from thoughts of evil and the counsel of Belial.  Consequently, you will rejoice at the end of time when you discover that some of our sayings are true.  And it will be reckoned to you as righteousness when you perform what is right and good before Him, for your own good and for that of Israel. 

Bibliography

Source

Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (NY: Penguin, 1997)

Further Reading

Philip R. Davies, Qumran (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983)

Philip R. Davies, George J. Brooke, Phillip R. Callaway, The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls (NY: Thames & Hudson, 2002)

James VanderKam & Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (NY: HarperCollins, 2002)

Jodi Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002)

Older Books

A. Powell Davies, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (NY: Mentor, 1956)

R.K. Harrison, The Dead Sea Scrolls: An Introduction (NY: Harper, 1961)

John Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reappraisal (NY: Penguin, 1977)

Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (Garden City: Anchor, 1976)

Edmund Wilson, Israel and The Dead Sea Scrolls (NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1982) 

 

     

 

       

 

 

 

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‘Ok’ (‘Okay’) Theory

Term ‘ok’ or ‘okay’ in English language means alright, yes, good. Term ‘ok’ has penetrated languages across the world. Watch a foreign language film or listen to foreign speech, European, Asian, African, and one will eventually hear ‘ok.’ Here’s example in Vietnamese language, “ừm. đàng tìm origin của từ Ok .hihi.”

Merriam-Webster online dictionary reports first use of ‘ok’ in year 1839. Where did ‘ok’ come from, what’s its derivation? Did it come from Welsh phrase, “oll korrect?” Was it abbreviation for Greek phrase, “ola kala” (all good)?

It is here proposed that ‘ok’ may go back to Greek noun ‘oikeiosis,’ extension of the root-word ‘oikos,’ family, household or home. ‘Oikeiosis’ is technical term in ancient Stoic philosophy, meaning ‘process of forming or determining relations.’ Relations would include first, constitution of self, i.e., body and mind, next, parents, siblings and so on. ‘Oikeiosis’ is exercise of perception and reason to figure out what is ‘oikeion,’ that is, whatever is ‘of home’ or familiar. Every animal or person naturally seeks to find/know what is his or hers, one’s own hands, one’s own sister, one’s own food, one’s tribe, city and how things close and distant have affinity to an individual. In Stoic thought, oikeiosis is a process based on instinct, what is needed for survival and subsistence.

Stoic school of philosophy started in fourth-century B.C. Athens with Zeno, Cleanthes and Chrysippus and continued into Roman times with Cicero, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. So the concept of oikeiosis goes back some 2300 years in Western thought.

It is admitted that this is a fanciful theory of origin of English ‘ok,’ based on preservation of Greek letters, omikron and kappa in their English equivalents and semantic similarity to oikeiosis, oikeion. When a Stoic rationally grasps something, he has intellectually measured its relation to his own (self). When an American or an Arab says ‘ok,’ it is outcome of same line of reasoning. For example, an Arab might say the Quran is ok because Quran provides him with knowledge of God, while the Bible is ok for Jews, but less so for himself. There are degrees of ‘ok-ness,’ just as there are degrees of oikeion.

[In order to confirm this theory, much philological study would have to be done. Transmission of Stoic doctrine would need to be traced through centuries of writers to see if there were permutations or abbreviations of Greek oikeiosis that led into modern language.]

The End

Some books:

Tad Brennan, The Stoic Life (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)

Brad Inwood, ed., The Cambridge Companion to The Stoics (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003)

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