The person who knows only his side of the argument knows little of that.
― Karl Barth
The person who knows only his side of the argument knows little of that.
After the second world war broke out, he changed his slogan from fighting for “truth and justice” to fighting for “truth, justice and the American way”. That continued during the 1950s, when he became a symbol of muscular American patriotism which could do no wrong.
But as the nation grappled with the turmoil of the 1970s and embraced a more diverse culture, Christopher Reeve gave Superman more human qualities. In Richard Donner’s 1978 film version of the comic book saga, self-sacrifice suddenly became part of Superman’s appeal.
That continued through to the 2006 movie starring Brandon Routh when, with an evangelical Christian in the White House and much talk of the war on terror being a conflict with Islam, Superman was depicted almost as a Christ-like figure. Even as recently as this year, the latest DC Comics story had Superman pack in his newspaper job to start a blog.
“Superman changes with remarkable rapidity and yet manages to paradoxically project an idea of unchanging virtue,” said Professor Benjamin Saunders of the University of Oregon, author of an academic study of superheroes called Do The Gods Wear Capes?
Someone needs to put this illustration in a book on the “historical Jesus” and draw correlations to the many Jesus’ that have been adapted through the centuries. Many of these reconstructions of Jesus have elements of truth, but overemphasize one characteristic over another.
Paul Harris asks, “So what will the Superman of 2013 look like?” He suggests we might get a hint from the trailer where after saving a bus full of schoolmates from drowning, a traumatised teenage Clark confronts his stepfather, who is worried he has revealed his true nature. “What was I supposed to do? Just let them die?” Clark asks. His father replies: “Maybe.”
It is a shocking piece of moral ambiguity in the Superman universe, where what is right and wrong have traditionally been clear.
In the end, perhaps it does not matter how Snyder directs Man of Steel in 2013. He can take Superman in a darker direction, he can bring out a movie more suited to the arthouse cinemas than the multiplexes. He can make him represent the ominous and confusing world of 2013. But in the end the more he changes the more Superman stays the same.
For Superman is not just some sort of unique being flying high above us. In the projection of our desires, hopes and fears, Superman is us.
HT: Lucas Knisely
What is the most persecuted religion of the world today?
According to our media, the last one you would name would be Christianity.
But Kelly James Clark writing for the Huff Post says that the opposite is the case.
As Christians we should not be surprised at this, for Jesus said, “if they persecute me, they will also persecute you.”
However it is frustrating that is not being reported more consistently and that our government is not calling out for social justice.
Over the past year, I have written of the intolerance that Christians have shown to Muslims in the U.S. From Missouri to Murphreesboro, Christians have demonstrated both a lack of charity and a denial of the right to religious liberty by setting fire to old mosques and opposing new ones. But Christians in the U.S. are rank amateurs compared to the Muslim persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
In early November, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion in the world.” Although met with predictable criticism, Rupert Short’s recent research report for Civitas UK confirms Merkel’s claim — we may not want to hear it, but Christianity is in peril, like no other religion. While this is a contest no one wants to win, Short shows that “Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.” Short is the author of the recently published Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack. He is concerned that “200 million Christians (10 percent of the global total) are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
Christianity is facing elimination in its Biblical homeland. Between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have departed or been killed over the past century. Short attributes the intolerance and violence towards Christians to the rising Islamicization of Middle Eastern countries. Some of the oppression is government sanctioned and some government permitted; most is government ignored.
Read the rest of the article here.
Jesus is the the Champion of the Kingdom of God (Mk 3:27), the Initiator of the Kingdom (Mt 11:12), the Instrument of the Kingdom (Mt 12:28), the Representative of the Kingdom (Lk 17:20-21), the Mediator of the Kingdom (Mk 2:18), the Bearer of the Kingdom (Mt 11:5), the Revealer of the Kingdom (Mt 13:16-17).
~ G.R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 145–6.
In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians
~ Karl Barth
Lee Irons has a good article about the phrase “he descended into hell” in the Apostles Creed. He gives a brief history of interpretation, some exegetical remarks about its meaning, and then some practical conclusions.
He says the phrase means:
So when we recite the Creed and say that Christ “descended into hell,” we are not saying that he descended into Gehenna or the Lake of Fire. Instead, we are affirming that he descended to the underworld, the realm of the dead, called “Sheol” in Hebrew and “Hades” in Greek. The Bible teaches that between the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection on the third day, his body was laid in the tomb and his human soul went to Hades, the place where all souls go after death prior to the Day of Judgment.
Irons gives three options for what Jesus did in “Hades.”
- Giving a second chance for repentance.
- Release of the OT saints from Limbo
- Proclamation of victory over Satan.
So the first speculation, that he gave the dead a second chance to repent, can be dismissed out of hand. The second and third speculations cannot be dismissed so quickly, and there are scattered verses here and there in the Bible that provide some hints that when the soul of Jesus entered Hades, something earth-shattering (or Hades-shattering!) happened there.
At the end of the day, it is wise to exercise caution. We should not be dogmatic. But this much we can say. When Jesus descended into Hades, it was the first sign that something historic had happened, the fabric of the universe was fundamentally altered, because he had accomplished the atonement and brought in the everlasting righteousness. This revelation of the accomplishment of redemption was like a thunder bolt that flashed across Hades. To the lost souls and the demons, it was a terrifying signal that Christ was now Lord of the underworld and that the Day of Judgment was coming. But to the Old Testament believers, it was a glorious revelation that Hades was now transformed into Paradise for them and that one day they would be raised again in resurrection bodies to dwell in the renewed creation.
Irons draws the following practical comfort from this truth.
It is comforting to know that Jesus has gone ahead of us as our forerunner and forged the path of eternal life from the dead. He experienced death as we will experience it, and has gone through it to the other side of resurrection life for us.
HT: Ross Shannon
Mark Steyn writes about the joke that just happened in the House and the Senate. According to him $2 billion is what the United States borrows every 10 hours and 38 minutes. I did not check his stats but if this is anywhere close to being true, then celebrities should start making videos about math.
The political class has just spent two months on a down-to-the-wire nail-biting white-knuckle thrill-ride negotiation the result of which is more business as usual. At the end, as always, Dr. Obama and Dr. Boehner emerge in white coats, surgical masks around their necks, bloody scalpels in hand, and announce that it was touch-and-go for awhile but the operation was a complete success – and all they’ve done is applied another temporary Band-Aid that’s peeling off even as they speak. They’re already prepping the OR for the next life-or-death surgery on the debt ceiling, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday or a week on Thursday or the third Sunday after Epiphany.
No epiphanies in Washington: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the latest triumphant deal includes $2 billion of cuts for fiscal year 2013. Wow! That’s what the Government of the United States borrows every 10 hours and 38 minutes. Spending two months negotiating 10 hours of savings is like driving to a supermarket three states away to save a nickel on your grocery bill.
A space alien on Planet Zongo whose cable package includes “Meet The Press” could watch 10 minutes of these pseudo-cliffhangers and figure out how they always end, every time: Spending goes up, and the revenue gap widens.
Glen Davis compiles some of the pre-Christian uses of “Gospel.” It is a good resource for reference if one is every doing a study on this issue. I have reproduced the entire post below.
In English, the word gospel is laden with religious meaning, but when Jesus and the apostles used the word euangelion (good news/gospel) they were using a nonreligious word from their culture.
There’s a good listing of ancient uses of the word at the Perseus Digital Library, and by combining that list with some other resources I’ve created summary useful for those who don’t know Greek. When I could, I’ve put the Greek word in brackets so you can see the form that is used. This is pretty much just a listing of data without interpretation – I’m merely trying to share some of my research to save time for others who are walking down the same road as me.
This is close to every pre-Christian use of the noun euangelion (I did not investigate the verbal form euangelizomai – click the verb to launch your own research). You will note that the word (which looks like εὐαγγέλιον) is relatively rare in ancient Greek, but common in the New Testament. Also of note, the New Testament often talks of the gospel in the singular (to euangelion), but in pre-Christian literature the form used is almost always different (it is usually plural and often does not have the definite article attached). Even though Jesus and the first Christians used a word from their culture, they clearly invested it with new meaning and placed an unprecedented emphasis upon it.
I have arranged the references into two groups: the first group is from the second-century BC through contemporaries of the New Testament authors, and the second group contains older uses which are less important for demonstrating current usage.
One final disclaimer: this post might make me look like some sort of Greek language guru. I am not. I am about as conversant with the Biblical languages as are most seminary graduates ten years out of their programs… which is to say, not nearly as conversant as I should be.
The Most Important Pre-Christian Uses of the Word Euangelion
The Septuagint (LXX) – 2nd century BC
The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the word in 2 Sam 4:10
when a man told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news [εὐαγγέλια], I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag” (view the Greek)
Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) – Library 15.74
[1b] Now Dionysius had produced a tragedy at the Lenaea at Athens and had won the victory, and one of those who sang in the chorus, supposing that he would be rewarded handsomely if he were the first to give news of the victory, set sail to Corinth. There, finding a ship bound for Sicily, he transferred to it, and obtaining favouring winds, speedily landed at Syracuse and gave the tyrant news of the victory.  Dionysius did reward him, and was himself so overjoyed that he sacrificed to the gods for the good tidings [εὐαγγέλια] and instituted a drinking bout and great feasts. (view the Greek)
Cicero (1st century BC)
Cicero (writing in Latin) uses the Greek word twice in his Letters to Atticus. I don’t know if that was considered pretentious or not, but I know that I love seeing the Greek mixed in with the Latin (which tells you just how much of a geek I am).
Letters to Atticus 2.3.1 (around 60 B.C.)
First, a trifle please for good news [εὐαγγέλια]. Valerius has been acquitted with Hortensius as his advocate. (view the Latin)
Letters to Atticus 13.40.1 (around 45 B.C.)
Is that so? Does Brutus really say that Caesar is going over to the right party? That is good news [εὐαγγέλια]. (view the Latin)
The Priene Inscription (9 B.C.)
The most famous pre-Christian use of the word is in The Priene Inscription. This is a letter from the Proconsul Paulus Fabius Maximus engraved in stone (picture) in Priene, a city in modern-day Turkey. Other fragmentary inscriptions of this letter have been found in Apamea, Maeonia, Eumenia, and Dorylaeum. This text is tagged OGIS 458 / SEG IV no 490, which means that you can see more about it in Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae (a 1905 compilation by Wilhelmus Dittenberger usually abbreviated as OGIS, available online) or in Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (SEG) volume 4. The letter is pretty long, but only the part below is relevant to the gospel.
It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: ‘Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior [σωτήρ], both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance…. surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god [τοῦ θεοῦ] Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [εὐαγγέλιον] for the world that came by reason of him…
It’s so famous because it brings the idea of Caesar as a god and savior to the world together with the notion that this was good news to be celebrated.
Josephus (1st century A.D.)
Jewish Wars 2.420
Now this terrible message [that a rebellion was brewing] was good news [εὐαγγέλιον] to Florus; and because his design was to have a war kindled, he gave the ambassadors no answer at all [to their request for assistance in stopping the sedition before it grew]. (see the Greek)
Jewish Wars 4.618
fame carried [the news about Vespatian] abroad more suddenly than one could have thought, that he was emperor over the east, upon which every city kept festivals, and celebrated sacrifices and oblations for such good news [εὐαγγέλια] (see the Greek)
Jewish Wars 4.656
And now, as Vespasian was come to Alexandria, this good news [εὐαγγέλια] came from Rome, and at the same time came embassies from all his own habitable earth, to congratulate him upon his advancement; and though this Alexandria was the greatest of all cities next to Rome, it proved too narrow to contain the multitude that then came to it. (see the Greek)
Plutarch (1st century AD)
even after the battle at Mantinea, which Thucydides has described, the one who first announced the victory had no other reward for his glad tidings [singular] than a piece of meat sent by the magistrates from the public mess. (see the English context)
Accordingly, when [Aristodemus] had come near, he stretched out his hand and cried with a loud voice: “Hail, King Antigonus, we have conquered Ptolemy in a sea-fight, and now hold Cyprus, with twelve thousand eight hundred soldiers as prisoners of war.” To this Antigonus replied: “Hail to thee also, by Heaven! but for torturing us in this way, thou shalt undergo punishment; the reward for thy good tidings [plural] thou shalt be some time in getting. (see the English context)
Moralia (Glory of Athens) 347d (and e)
Why, as we are told, the Spartans merely sent meat from the public commons to the man who brought glad tidings [εὐαγγέλιον] of the victory in Mantineia which Thucydides describes! And indeed the compilers of histories are, as it were, reporters of great exploits who are gifted with the faculty of felicitous speech, and achieve success in their writing through the beauty and force of their narration; and to them those who first encountered and recorded the events [εὐαγγέλιον] are indebted for a pleasing retelling of them. (see the Greek, English)
Other (Older) References
Aristophanes (5th century BC)
You can see the plural of the word used by Aristophanes in The Knights (Equites) lines 647 and 656, both references are plural. This translation is from Translator at Work.
“You! You… Councillors! I’ve got good news [εὐαγγέλια — see the Greek] for you!” I said to them. “News that are so good, I want to make sure that I’m the first to announce them to you. It’s the price of sardines, folks! It’s the best it’s ever been since the outbreak of the war!”
Well, you should have seen their faces then! Turned nice and happy right there and then. They wanted to give me a hero’s garland for telling the good news. So I gave them my advice. I said to them that if they wanted to get their fair share for the price of an obol, they should rush down the market and buy themselves all the plates they can. Corner the market. And keep it all a secret.
They applauded me loudly then and gawked at me awestruck.
But then, that bastard, Paphlagon, who knew how to press the Councillors’ buttons, got up and said, “Men, these auspicious news [εὐαγγέλια — see the Greek] should move us to make a sacrifice to our goddess! I suggest we should slaughter one hundred cows!”
And also in his play Wealth (Plutus) line 765 – (this translation is also from Translator at Work)
So, come on, now, folks! Dance! Come on, all together now: dance and sing and march and be happy because the day will never come again when you come home and find your flour sack empty! Dance!
By the goddess Hekate! What wonderful news! [εὐαγγέλιά — see the Greek] Just for that I’m going to hang a long necklace of bread rolls around your neck!
Aeschines (4th century BC) Against Ctesiphon section 160
But when Philip was dead and Alexander had come to the throne, Demosthenes again put on prodigious airs and caused a shrine to he dedicated to Pausanias and involved the senate in the charge of having offered sacrifice of thanksgiving as for good news [εὐαγγελίων] (namely that Philip of Macedon had been assassinated by Pausanias) (see the Greek)
Isocrates, Areopagiticus (4th Century BC) section 10.
As if this were not enough, we have been compelled to save the friends of the Thebans at the cost of losing our own allies; and yet to celebrate the good news [εὐαγγέλια] of such accomplishments we have twice now offered grateful sacrifices to the gods, and we deliberate about our affairs more complaisantly than men whose actions leave nothing to be desired! (see the Greek)
Xenophon (4th century BC)
This they proceeded to do; and when they were sailing in, Eteonicus began to offer sacrifices for the good news [τὰ εὐαγγέλια], and gave orders that the soldiers should take their dinner, that the traders should put their goods into their boats in silence and sail off to Chios (for the wind was favourable), and that the triremes also should sail thither with all speed. (Glen’s note: this good news was, in this case, fake. Eteonicus was pretending that the dead Callicratidas had instead won a great victory over the Athenians). (see the Greek)
Now Agesilaus, on learning these things, at first was overcome with sorrow; but when he had considered that the most of his troops were the sort of men to share gladly in good fortune if good fortune came, but that if they saw anything unpleasant, they were under no compulsion to share in it,—thereupon, changing the report, he said that word had come that Peisander was dead, but victorious in the naval battle.  And at the moment of saying these things he offered sacrifice as if for good news [εὐαγγέλια], and sent around to many people portions of the victims which had been offered; so that when a skirmish with the enemy took place, the troops of Agesilaus won the day in consequence of the report that the Lacedaemonians were victorious in the naval battle. (see the Greek)
Supposedly the word is used by Menander (Peric. 993), (4th century BC), but I can’t find the Greek text online anywhere to verify that.
Homer used the term twice in The Odyssey (8th century BC) in 14.152 and 14.166, but The Odyssey was so ancient by New Testament times that I don’t think of it as much help in determining contemporary usage. I’m stretching it to include 4th and 5th century references. Homer was as ancient to them as Chaucer is to us. Which, in case you’ve forgotten Chaucer, reads like this: “Whilom, as olde stories tellen us, Ther was a duc that highte Theseus; Of Atthenes he was lord and governour, And in his tyme swich a conquerour…” – not much help to a scholar from the year 4,000 in determining how a word is used in 2010. Bringing in stuff from the 4th century BC is about as ancient as I care to get.
HT: Glen Davis via Euangelion