Monday, December 17, 2012

Saint Barbara (285-303)

Barbara was born in a city of the eastern Roman Empire around AD 285. Her father was a rich Olympian named Dioscorus.

Dioscorus was very controlling. While providing his daughter with every comfort, he forced her to live alone in one tower of his large house. That way he could control all people and information getting to her.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, 11:13)

We might think of each day, from the time we wake up to the time we go back to sleep, as a journey. During this short journey, the only remaining journey we may have, we interact with other people as we encounter challenges. It is these challenges, and our responses to them, that constitute the adventures of our lives.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Olympian Iron Age: Hittites (1400) to Celts (800)

With the Stone Age began agriculture, cities, and war. The Bronze Age saw the growth of widespread trade in many goods based on a need for minerals (especially copper and tin). Oddly enough, with the Iron Age came the development of alphabets or systems of letters representing distinct sounds. This greatly increased the use of writing and, with it, the development of historical records and literature. With that, we humans transitioned from anonymous prehistory into a sustained narrative with named cities and individuals.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Knight-errantry as Prophetic Witness

As persons called by Jesus Christ to live as prophetic witnesses to him, we might think of ourselves as knights-errant.

To err is to make a mistake. To be errant is to make a habit of this. Errantry, however, came to mean wandering as a way of living in the positive sense of actively practicing virtue.

In medieval romances, knights-errant wandered the land in search of adventures. They would do this to test their virtue, help others, and glorify their courts. By wandering around, knights knew they would be confronted by unexpected challenges. Would they be resourceful enough to respond creatively? If so, they would witness with clarity to the lord or lady they served. If not, they could still redeem their failure by learning from it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Ignaz Semmelweis was an early, important, and heroic contributor to the development of the germ theory of disease.

Semmelweis was born in the city of Buda, then part of the Austrian Empire, on July 1, 1818. He was the fifth child of ten. His father was a prosperous merchant.

In 1837 Semmelweis enrolled in the University of Vienna and began to study law. A year later he switched to medicine and earned his doctorate in 1844.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Meaningfully Remembering Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6:4-10a, 12)

Moses impressed upon the people of Israel the importance of meaningfully remembering Yahweh:

Hear, O Israel: [Yahweh] is our God, [Yahweh] alone. You shall love [Yahweh] your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

When [Yahweh] your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you…and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget [Yahweh], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deuteronomy 6:4-10a, 12, New Revised Standard Version).

These days it is very easy to forget about Yahweh. Through their mass media of communication, the six Olympian gods thoroughly dominate the Olympian society and culture in which we live. They control it so thoroughly that even we Christians vividly remember them and callously forget the one true god.

Yet Yahweh is the one and only odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. He demonstrated this by liberating his people, our ancestors, in 1491 BC (Ussher) from the control of Jupiter, god of politics, as exercised by Pharaoh ruler of Egypt.

We express our love for Yahweh—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—by reading the Bible, remembering its words, and keeping them. We remember and keep them by weaving them into our daily lives. We do this by making them a meaningful part of our daily conversation.

Happily, Jesus is speaking anew through those words of Moses to us today. Happily also, Numa (the Holy Spirit) is taking these words of Jesus and is empowering us to hear and do them. As she does so, we will gradually improve in reading, remembering, discussing, and living them—to our good and Yahweh’s glory!

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Why the Trojan War Matters

In the Trojan War, Myceneans attacked the city of Troy and, after ten long years, succeeded in destroying it around 1184 BC (Eratosthenes).

Let us imagine, for a moment, that you and I are looking at a map of Olympia. Let us also imagine for a moment that, as we look at this map, we happily recall its most important people, places, and events of the last 6,000 years. As protracted and painful as it was, the Trojan War was not, in itself, one of those most important events. The Myceneans destroyed Troy but, soon enough, Mycenae itself was destroyed by others.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prophetic Witnesses as Watchmen (Ezekiel 33:1-9)

Jesus Christ invites every person to become a Christian and every Christian, every day, to share Christ's truth, freedom, love, and vitality with others. We serve Jesus as witnesses when we do so.

This invitation to share his truth, however, carries significant responsibility. This is how Ezekiel put it:

Olympia: The Bronze Age

Bronze is an alloy composed of copper and tin. The Stone Age evolved into the Bronze Age as societies gradually replaced stone tools with ones made of bronze. The Bronze Age of Olympia began in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC but it didn’t reach northern Olympia for another thousand years.

Job as Faithful Witness (Job 29:7, 11-17)

Job was a faithful witness to Yahweh. Even so, Yahweh allowed Satan to strip Job of every good thing and leave him scraping his running sores while sitting in ashes. Job’s friends wrongly explained to him that Yahweh was punishing him for his wickedness. Job rightly maintained his integrity.

What I want to emphasize here are the ways in which Job faithfully witnessed to Yahweh:

            “When I went to the gate of the city
                        and took my seat in the public square…
            Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
                        and those who saw me commended me,
            because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
                        and the fatherless who had none to assist him.
            The man who was dying blessed me;
                        I made the widow’s heart sing.
            I put on righteousness as my clothing;
                        justice was my robe and my turban.
            I was eyes to the blind
                        and feet to the lame.
            I was a father to the needy;
                        I took up the case of the stranger.
            I broke the fangs of the wicked
                        and snatched the victims from their teeth” (Job 29:7, 11-17, NIV).

In the times of the prophet Ezekiel, the people of Jerusalem exasperated Yahweh because of their Olympian practice of taking what they wanted from people less powerful, more marginal, than they were. In pleasant contrast, Job committed himself to the well-being of every human being. He especially cared for those who were painfully marginal and needed some help.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Olympia: The Stone Age (4000-2000 BC)

As a storyteller, I try to stay close to the narrative of the Bible. At the same time, I like to maintain at least a nodding acquaintance with the narrative of the Olympian religious tradition. This dominant tradition tells the primary stories of our times and defines which stories are normative for our societies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Olympia: Plains and Mountains

1. Plains. Northern Olympia contains an impressively long, broad, fertile plain. It begins at the foot of the Pyrenees next to the Atlantic Ocean, continues north to the English Channel, then stretches a long way northeast along the seacoast through and beyond Germania. An equally impressive plain lies between the Baltic and Black seas. Two smaller but still vitally important plains lie in the river valleys of the Danube (south of the Carpathian Mountains) and the Tigris and Euphrates.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Mystery of Christian Witness

Witnessing to Jesus Christ means being a meaningful misfit; an intentionally marginal person; someone made unconventional by a commitment to the one odd god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality; a person committed to sharing the light, love, and life of Jesus with others without conditions.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God's People Gone Conventional (Ezekiel 22:23-31)

Yahweh created us in his image. He created us as creatures capable of sharing a relationship of freedom, truth, love, and vitality with him, one another, and the rest of creation.

When Adam and Eve ruptured this relationship with Yahweh, we humans lost that image. We became victims of parasitical powers who forced us to model their image. The six false gods of Olympianity did this by threatening us with insecurity, misery, guilt, insignificance, and meaninglessness. They also did this by falsely promising us security, happiness, justification, importance, and meaning in exchange for our loyalty.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Truth and Life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, New Revised Standard Version).

Truth and Life (Ezekiel 18:1, 21-23, 30-32)

The word of the LORD came to me:
 …if the wicked turn away from all from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live.
…I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise, iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live (New Revised Standard Version).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yahweh Brooding

In this blog, we give the name "Olympia" to a geographical area encompassing Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. About 800 million people live there today.

Yahweh broods over this whole area and all these people. Every moment of each day, Yahweh actively seeks to nurture and protect each one of these 800,000,000 people. He never overlooks a single person for even an instant. He perpetually loves each one of us more than we can ask or even imagine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Olympian Significance of November 11

Olympianity is the religion of power. It is the oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion in the world today.

In the United States and Canada, everyone commonly uses what is called the civic calendar. This calendar is regarded as secular and therefore religiously neutral. It is, however, a religious calendar. Its major holidays are all Olympian holy days. Today we will look briefly at the meaning of November 11 and see how this is so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Olympia: An Early Dark Age (1200-800 BC)

The eastern Mediterranean world entered a dark age, or period of significant decline and collapse, between 1200 and 800 BC. Causes of this decline included drought, famine, class conflict, political disorder, and external invasion. These resulted in widespread destruction of property, collapse of civilizations, and human death.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Yahweh: The Always Unexpectedly New

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Accurate Predictions (Isaiah 43:12-15)

In 612 BC, the Babylonians replaced the despised Assyrians as the imperial power in Mesopotamia. They experienced their greatest power under Nebuchadnezzar 2nd who ruled from 605 to 562 BC.

The Persian Empire (540-330 BC)

The Persians first settled the high hot plain between the Caspian Sea and what became known as the Persian Gulf around the year 1000 BC. In the centuries to come, the bulk of their empire would remain east of Olympia in Incognita.

Around 600 BC the neighboring Medes conquered the Persians. Soon enough, however, a Persian named Cyrus (r. 558-529) regained control of Persia, conquered the Medes, then led his army in conquests of other peoples in Olympia.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Babylon (1900-540 BC)

The geography of Mesopotamia encouraged warfare between rival rulers. Rich cities and fertile land made tempting targets. Flat terrain made them easy targets. Taking control of them meant enjoying impressive wealth but facing constant threats.

Around 1900 BC, a group of people known as Amorites migrated into central Mesopotamia. They built their own city on the Euphrates and called it Babylon. Hammurabi, an early ruler of Babylon, led his army against those of Akkad and Sumer and defeated them. He became ruler of the first Babylonian empire by 1790 BC.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Assyria (1100-600 BC)

About 1100 BC, a people called Assyrians established their control over the people and land surrounding their most important city of Nineveh. In Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers start in the eastern mountains of Anatolia and flow southeast into the Persian Gulf. Assyrians built Nineveh on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in northwestern Mesopotamia.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews (4004-520 BC)

The Old Testament is a remarkable but frustrating collection of books. On one hand, the stories are remarkably historical in detail. On the other, coming up with a simple and clear chronology is challenging. What follows is a summary of the biblical chronology established by James Ussher (Annals of the World, 1658) which is simple, clear, and accurate enough to serve our purposes.

The words Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews have overlapping meanings. The term “Hebrew” applies primarily to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and members of their families and secondarily to their descendants. The term “Israelite” applies primarily to descendants of Jacob, renamed Israel later in life, until the conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 587 BC. After that, the term “Jew” applies to all people loyal to the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or connected in some meaningful way to those who are, until Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Close Identification Brings Fullness of Life (Philippians 2:5-8)

Here’s an interesting passage about Jesus from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:

            Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
            who, though he was in the form of God,
                        did not regard equality with God
                        as something to be exploited,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (3500-1700 BC)

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers both begin in the mountains of Anatolia and flow southeast about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Tradition refers to this area as “Mesopotamia” which simply means “Between Rivers.”

Phoenicia (1200-800 BC)

Early Greeks referred to the people living along the eastern Mediterranean coast of as Phoenicians. By the year 1200 BC, the Phoenicians had organized themselves into municipal states. The most important Phoenician cities were (from south to north) Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mycenean Civilization (2000-1100 BC)

The Minoans of Crete enjoyed their golden age between 1700 and 1500 BC. During this time people in southern Greece adopted Minoan culture. These included the Myceneans who migrated to that area around 2000 BC.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Loving God and Neighbor (Mark 12:28-34)

One day a scribe (lawyer, theologian) asks Jesus which commandment is the most important.

Jesus answers, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater than these” (12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version).

The first commandment, then, is to love God with abandon. Through these words, Jesus invites us, once again, to wholly commit our mind, will, emotions, and body to God.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Europa and Cadmus

Europa was a princess of Tyre. Jupiter tricked her, took her to Crete, then seduced her. She gave birth to Minos. The continent of Europe was named after her. Minoan civilization was named after her son.

All Saints' Day: Witnesses to Christ's Victory

Today we will reflect briefly on the daily lectionary passage from the book of Revelation (12:7-17) for All Saints' Day. All biblical quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The book of Revelation is difficult to understand. The symbolism is so vague that wildly diverse interpretations of it are equally plausible. One rule we may follow is this: no interpretation of vague symbolism in Revelation can contradict the much plainer witness to Jesus in the Gospels and the rest of the Bible.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Minos and Bulls

There once was a Phoenician princess from Tyre named Europa. Everyone knew of her extraordinary beauty.

Jupiter also knew of it and lusted for her. Disguising himself as a white bull, Jupiter acted very tamely and drew close to her. Attracted by the bull, Europa first touched him, then made garlands for his horns, and finally got on his back. With that, Jupiter wandered slowly to the sea then swam with her to Crete. There he seduced her. Eventually she gave birth to a son named Minos who became ruler of Knossos. The Roman poet Ovid tells her story in his book Metamorphoses.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Crowded Is Hell?

God wants every person to enjoy with him a relationship of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. Our enjoyment of that relationship is why Abba created us, Jesus redeemed us, and Spirit promises to glorify us.

In dark contrast, we have that evil parody of the Trinity: Satan, the six Olympian gods he hides behind, and the Flesh--that sinister power which rots us from the inside. Those powers of darkness want all of us to burn in the Hell they’re most certainly headed for.

The question is: whose purpose will win out? God’s or Satan’s? How many of us humans will God allow Satan to drag down?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Bacchus

Allow me to clarify the difference between Pluto, god of money, and Bacchus, god of consumption. Pluto leads us to hoard money and wealth. In the old days, people who did so were called greedy and greed was a sin. In contrast, Bacchus leads us to consume things. Again in the old days, gluttony was the sin of eating too much and intemperance was the sin of drinking too much alcohol. Pluto has us hoard things while Bacchus has us consume them to our harm or simply waste them.

Minoan Civilization (2000-1450 BC)

We may define civilization as any relatively distinct and enduring society and culture as defined by and giving expression to a particular religion. Previously we looked at what we might call Pharaonic civilization. That was the society and culture existing in Egypt from about 3000 BC to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander of Macedonia in 332 BC.

By the year 2000 BC, a historically significant civilization had developed on the large Mediterranean island of Crete. Tradition identifies Minos as the first ruler of Crete and refers to Cretan civilization at this time as Minoan.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Pluto

Pluto is the god of money. He bullies and bribes us into believing that making and hoarding money is the meaning of life. He deceives us into thinking that the amount of money one controls is a measure of one’s virtue. People loyal to Pluto regard the rich as virtuous: smart, hard-working, and blessed. That allows them to regard the poor as vicious: stupid, lazy, and deservedly punished.

Jesus, the Church, and Venus

Like the other Olympian gods, Venus likes to overwhelm our discernment of Jesus’ words with delirium. Delirium is emotional intensity combined with stubborn irrationality.

Biblically, commitment and intimacy, marriage and sexual intercourse, go together. That’s because, biblically, sexual intercourse means the celebration of a relationship that is unconditional, permanent, exclusive, and freely entered into by one man and one woman.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Vulcan

Strange to say, we Christians have persistently overlooked the presence of Vulcan—the false god of technology—in our hearts and in the Church. This, of course, has only made it that much easier for Vulcan to work his will on us and through us.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Mars

God created us humans in his image; that is, as beings able to enjoy relationships of freedom, truth, love, and vitality with him, one another, and the rest of creation.

With Adam and Eve, we humans lost that image and broke those relationships.

Worse, into that break rushed powers of evil that then happily dominated and corrupted us. They bullied us with threats of insecurity, misery, insignificance, meaninglessness, and guilt. They bribed us with deceitful promises of security, happiness, importance, meaning, and justification. In these ways, they compelled us to live as their unwilling victims and unwitting collaborators.

Mars, false god of war, is one of these powers of evil.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Jupiter Today

In the past, we the Church wrongly served Jupiter, false god of politics, rather than Jesus in two major ways. One, we made unholy alliances with either rulers or the revolutionaries attempting to overthrow them. Two, we allowed our churches to become powerful organizations themselves. We may learn from both these mistakes and thereby improve our witness to Jesus today.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jesus, the Church, and Jupiter in History

Jesus, through his crucifixion and resurrection, freed you, me, and all other humans from domination by the six Olympian gods. Today, Jesus shares with you, me, and all other people the words of truth we need to understand how to live as witnesses to that freedom. Numa, his very holy spirit, then gives us the inspiration and determination we need to make those words real in our own lives and to share them with others.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Witnessing to Christ's Victory Today

Not only is Jesus absolutely different from the six false yet conventional gods of Olympianity. He decisively defeated all powers of evil, including these gods, through his crucifixion and resurrection. By doing so, he liberated all human beings from their destructive domination.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yahweh and Jesus vs. Bacchus

Bacchus is traditionally known as the god of wine. We may understand him more accurately as the god of consumption. If Pluto would have us hoard our money, Bacchus would have us spend it wildly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Jesus vs. Pluto

Pluto is the false god of money. Had Jesus been a good son, servant, and model for Pluto, he would have been born into the richest family of the Roman empire. Or at least he would have been the star of an inspiring rags-to-riches story in which he overcomes a thousand disadvantages to become immensely wealthy. Neither occurred.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Yahweh vs. Pluto

Pluto clearly demonstrates the nature of all six Olympian gods. These gods bully us into being loyal to them by threatening us with punishment. They threaten us, each da Yahweh vs. Pluto y, with radical insecurity, misery, insignificance, meaninglessness, and guilt. Conversely, these gods also bribe us into being loyal to them by promising us rewards. They promise us, each day, to bless us with radical security, happiness, importance, meaning, and justification.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Yahweh vs. Venus

The motto of Venus, goddess of sex, is, “If it feels good, do it.” One spring afternoon, David, king of Israel, accidentally saw a woman bathing (1 Samuel 11). Although David learned that she was married to a man named Uriah, David sent for her, had sexual intercourse with her, then sent her home. Venus wholly approved.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Yahweh vs. Vulcan

Yahweh, the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality, differs absolutely from the six conventional gods of Olympianity. Today we will reflect briefly on how he differs from Vulcan the god of technology.

Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez Canal

Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894) was born just outside of Paris in Versailles. His father, Mathieu de Lesseps, was a diplomat. Mathieu was a close friend and strong supporter of Muhammad Ali during the latter's rise to power in Egypt.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yahweh vs. Mars

Mars is the god of war. To be courageous in battle is to win great glory from Mars and from those loyal to him. Saints are the heroes of a religion. Successful warriors are the saints of Olympianity. Alexander 3rd of Macedon is such a hero. He is called “the Great” because he waged victorious battle against everyone from Greece to India. Movies are still made about him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manetho: History of Egypt (ca 250 BC)

In the year 332 BC, Alexander of Macedon led a Greek army in the successful conquest of Egypt. The following year he ordered the construction of a city he named after himself. Then he left Egypt and never returned.

Ptolemy, a leader in Alexander’s army, made himself ruler of Egypt following Alexander’s death in 323. He made Alexandria the capital of Egypt and paid for the construction of a library there. It soon became the largest and most important library in all of Olympia.

Ptolemy 2nd (ruled 285-246 BC) paid as many as fifty scholars to work at the library. One remarkable work made possible by Ptolemy’s patronage was the Septuagint, a translation of Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek, published around 250. Another important work, also written in Greek and published at the same time, was the History of Egypt by a man named Manetho.

Yahweh vs. Jupiter

Jupiter is the god of politics. Ramses 2nd, pharaoh of Egypt, was a most faithful servant of Jupiter and the most powerful ruler of his time. Because Jupiter justifies everything in politics, Ramses felt perfectly justified in making slaves of all the descendants of Abraham living in Egypt during his reign. Ramses lived off their vitality and so did Jupiter through him.

Yahweh, our one true god, revealed himself to be very different from the false god Jupiter. First, Yahweh identified not with the ruler of Egypt but with his slaves. He identified not with the one central person but with hundreds of thousands of marginal ones. Yahweh committed himself to liberating his people from the political control of Ramses.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Names of God in the Old and New Testaments

Through the normative witness of the Bible, we learn that there is only one true god and also that this one true god is Trinitarian in nature. Today we will reflect on the names by which we may rightly invoke and speak about this god.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Powers of Evil: Ends and Means

Ends. Powers of evil—Satan, false gods, the Flesh—hate God and all that God loves. They can’t get at God so they attack all that God created and called very good. They especially enjoy picking on us human beings. By doing so, they hurt those whom God loves most. They also grow in vitality by sucking it from us and from others through us. Nasty!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Powers of Evil: Evil Parody of the Trinity

Today we will be speaking, again, about powers of evil. On one hand, we want to keep such talk to a minimum. Our primary responsibility is to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ. On the other hand, this sidelong glance is good if it helps us to identify and dismiss the deceptions of those powers we so commonly misunderstand as truth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Powers of Evil: Not God, Not Creatures, Just Absurd

In "Our Good Creation and Evil Break with God" (9/15/12), we talked about our good creation. God created us in his image; that is, as creatures capable of sharing relationships of freedom, truth, love, and vitality with him, one another, and the rest of creation.

We also talked about how, with Adam and Eve, we broke those good relationships. Into this rupture in our relationships rushed powers of evil which God had rejected on our behalf. Sadly, while God was able to consider and then reject them, we weren’t. Instead, they overpowered us and we became their inescapable victims and unavoidable collaborators.

Thebes: Valley of the Kings

Thebes was the very wealthy political and religious capital of Egypt from about 1550-1070 BC. During that time, Egyptian rulers had beautiful tombs for themselves carved into limestone hills across the Nile opposite the city. This area is now known now as the Valley of the Kings.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Good Creation and Evil Break with God (Genesis 1 and 3)

In a previous essay, I talked about the Trinity. I did that to emphasis that truth, freedom, love, and life are essential aspects of the core identity of God. In the next essay, I talked about how creation was a special expression of just these essential aspects of God. In this essay, I will talk a little bit about our break with God and its consequences.

Egypt: Thebes and Luxor

Thebes was the wealthy political and religious capital of Egypt from about 1550-1070 BC. Around 664 BC, an Assyrian army attacked Thebes and took much of its wealth back to Nineveh. Thebes never recovered its former glory. Yet the modern city of Luxor both rose from its ruins and prospers primarily from tourists who continue to visit them. Luxor is 314 miles (505 km) south of Cairo and 111 miles (180 km) north of Aswan.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mount Sinai: Monastery of St. Catherine

According to tradition, Catherine was born around AD 280 in Alexandria, Egypt. She became a Christian around 295. In her youth, she became both a brilliant scholar and a radiant witness to Jesus. Hundreds of Olympians became Christians in response to her witness. In 305, when her converts included people close to the emperor, himself a devout Olympian, he had them and her murdered. Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai.

Egypt: Anthony of the Desert (ca 251-356)

The Coptic Monastery of St. Anthony is located in the desert mountains of eastern Egypt about 120 miles (200 km) southeast of Cairo and 30 miles (50 km) west of the Red Sea. It was here that the Christian tradition of monasticism began.

Anthony was born around AD 251 in Herakleopolis, near the oasis of Faiyum, about 84 miles (135 km) south of Cairo. His parents were wealthy landowners. He was 18 when they died. Afterward, he sold the family property, gave the proceeds to the poor, then went to live in the desert about 59 miles (95 km) west of Alexandria.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cairo Geography

In terms of Egyptian history, Cairo is a relatively young city: nearby Memphis was founded in 3000 BC, Alexandria in 331 BC, but Cairo only in AD 970. The modern city now covers a huge area but, in its relatively small historical center, there are three distinct areas of importance. Old Cairo is a small area on the east bank of the Nile. Islamic Cairo is north of Old Cairo and east of Central Cairo. Central Cairo is north of Old Cairo and borders the Nile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nile Geography

Egypt is basically the Sahara and the Nile River. Since little rain falls in Egypt, the Nile River remains virtually the sole source of the region’s fresh water.

Almost all of that fresh water comes from the Blue Nile. Its headwaters lie in the highlands of Ethiopia. There the rain of summer monsoons wash silt off volcanic mountains. Then rain and silt head for the Mediterranean.

Jesus vs. Pluto (James 2:1-7)

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? (James 2:1-7, New Revised Standard Version).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Djoser and Imhotep

Djoser ruled in Egypt for about 30 years beginning around 2670 BC. During that time, he sent soldiers into the Sinai to take control of turquoise and copper mines there.

5,000 with 5 Loaves: God’s Work and Ours (Mark 6:30-44)

Our goal as disciples of Jesus Christ is to witness, with what clarity and consistency we can, to all the freedom, truth, love, and vitality that are ours in Jesus Christ. For this to happen, Jesus must work graciously with us and we must respond gratefully to him. The story of the feeding of 5,000 people illustrates how this happens.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Narmer's Palette

Narmer was the first person to rule over both southern and northern regions of Egypt. He was also the first to make the city of Memphis his capital. Historically, northern Egypt consisted of the Nile Delta. Southern Egypt consisted of the Nile River valley between the southern end of the Delta and the first series of rapids of the Nile at Aswan. Narmer located Memphis at the intersection of both.

Some anonymous sculptor, living around 3,000 BC, portrayed Narmer as the first ruler of a united Egyptian state. He did this using a piece of flat grey silkstone measuring 2 feet (63 cm) long. The sculpture in relief was found in Hierakonopolis, Narmer’s capital in southern Egypt before he ruled all of Egypt from Memphis. The two-sided sculpture was discovered by English Egyptologists James Quibell and Frederick Green in 1898. It is now on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Genesis 1: Creation as an Ordered Good

In the beginning, God the Father freely chose in love to create Heaven and Earth. He did this through words of truth spoken by God the Son. Those words were instantly made real by God the Spirit.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cleopatra (69-30 BC)

Alexander 3rd of Macedon led an army to victory over Egyptian forces in 332 BC. He founded the city of Alexandria the next year before leaving Egypt for further conquests to the east. When he died in Babylon in 323, Ptolemy, one of his generals, became ruler of Egypt. Ptolemy brought the body of Alexander back to Egypt for burial.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ramses 2nd (ca 1303-1213 BC)

Ramses 2nd was the son of Seti 1st, the ruler of Egypt, and his wife Tuya. He was born around 1303 BC, began his rule of Egypt around 1280, and died in 1213 at the impressive age of 90. He was born and raised in Pi-Ramses, a city near the northeast corner of the Nile Delta and close to the old Egyptian capital of Avaris. During his rule, he moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes to Pi-Ramses.


Tutankhaten was born around 1341 BC in the Egyptian capital of Akhetaten. He was the son of the pharaoh Akhenaten and an unknown woman (but not Nefertiti). His father died when he was only seven years old. He became the ruler of Egypt, if only in name, in 1333 at the age of eight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


When the Bible speaks about God, it speaks about one god who nonetheless has three different ways of being god. Speaking rightly about God would be much easier if this one god had only one way of being god.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Early Egypt: Akhenaten

In 1351 BC, Amenhotep 4th (“Amun is Satisfied”) was crowned ruler of Egypt in Thebes. He was a very different ruler and the source of many great changes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Witness: Intentional, Unintentional, and Normative

All of us live in the Global Technological System (GTS). In this GTS, Olympianity is the most important religion. The GTS itself is the fullest embodiment yet of the will of the Olympian gods and of our devotion to them. Worse, the more powerful the GTS grows, the more inescapably Olympian it makes our societies, cultures, and personalities. Even as Christians and churches, we are increasingly expressing our devotion to these Olympian gods without even realizing it.

A witness is a person who tells other people about what they have heard and seen. Even though we all live in the GTS, Jesus still invites every person, each day, to witness to what they hear him saying and see him doing. Sometimes we do.

Amarna, Letters, and Nefertiti

The Amarna Letters are ancient Egyptian letters written on clay tablets. They were written in Akkadian because that was the common international language of the time. Their script is called cuneiform, which means “wedge-shaped,” because that is what the letters look like. In them the Egyptian ruler and regional leaders exchanged ideas.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Witness: Unconventional, Marginal, Mischievous, Radiant

All of us live in the Global Technological System (GTS). In this GTS, Olympianity is the most important religion. The GTS itself is the fullest embodiment yet of the will of the Olympian gods and of our devotion to them. Worse, the more powerful the GTS grows, the more inescapably Olympian it makes our societies, cultures, and Olympian personalities. Even as Christians and churches, we are increasingly expressing our devotion to these Olympian gods without even realizing it.

A witness is a person who tells other people about what they have heard and seen. Dominated though we are by the GTS, Jesus still invites each one of us, every day, to witness to what we hear him saying and see him doing. Sometimes we do.

At the same time, Jesus differs from our favorite six gods of Olympianity. We might call him the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. When we witness to his words and actions, this makes us odd too. We can use different adjectives to qualify our witness to Jesus as the one odd god: unconventional, marginal, mischievous, and radiant.

Unconventional. The six gods of Olympianity are the conventional gods of our world. They are the gods whose existence we all take for granted. So witnessing to them makes us normal or conventional as well.

When we witness to Jesus, we become unconventional. We become different from others in unexpected ways. As we do, we disappoint the expectations which others, remaining normal, have for us.

Marginal. Remaining proud participants in Olympianity, and happily devoting ourselves to its gods, keeps us closer to the center of our society where we normally belong. If we witness with special devotion to the gods, they might even reward us with the most important jobs in our society. Then we might become central leaders or even rulers.

Witnessing to Jesus, our favorite odd god, will have the opposite effect. This is especially true if we witness to him with any consistency and clarity. Since he comes to us from way outside our world, we will end up turning our backs on the center, where the Olympian gods live, and moving toward the edge where he lives.

Mischievous. One thing about witnessing to Jesus is that it is very fun. Talking and walking with him almost always fills one with great joy.

Even so, our Olympian friends will see our joy as wrong. They will find both our witness and joy irritating. So sometimes our witness will be mischievous: both playful (for us) yet irritating (for others).

Radiant. Of course, during those odd moments when we do witness to the one odd god, our goal is not to irritate others. Our goal is to serve as radiant witnesses to Jesus: sharing with others the light of his truth, the warmth of his love, and the strength of his vitality. When we do that, God’s good creation is cared for, our fellow human beings are nurtured and protected, our churches are strengthened, and God is glorified. Let's do that!

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Egypt: Early 18th Dynasty

Hyksos, immigrants from Southwest Asia, eventually took control of the Egyptian government from about 1650-1550 BC. They ruled from their capital city of Avaris located in the northeast corner of the Nile delta.

Ahmose, ruling southern Egypt from his capital in Thebes (now Luxor), led an army to victory over the rulers in Avaris in 1550. With that victory, he became the first ruler of the 18th dynasty of rulers in Egyptian history. Historians also think of his rule as the beginning of a new era in Egyptian history which they refer to as the New Kingdom.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Early Egyptian Capitals: Memphis and Thebes

Memphis. Tradition tells us that Menes was the first ruler of a united northern and southern Egypt. His rule began around the year 3000 BC. Herodotus (ca 484-425 BC), the great Greek historian, says it was Menes who first ordered the construction of the city of Memphis. He chose an excellent location for it: the southern tip of the Nile Delta. The ruins of Memphis now lie 12 miles (20 km) south of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Naaman, Elisha, and Jupiter (2 Kings 5:1-19)

Naaman is the general of the Syrian army. His king is very pleased with him. He has been very successful in battles against Israel. But then this story makes an odd statement. It says that Naaman has only been successful because Israel’s god has enabled him to beat Israel. It says that Israel’s god has given victory to Israel’s enemies. Already we can see the difference between Israel’s god and the Olympian gods Jupiter (god of politics) and Mars (god of war). They would never act so strangely!

Septuagint (ca 250 BC)

Alexander of Macedon led his army to victory in the conquest of Egypt in 332 BC. He ordered the construction of Alexandria the next year. He then left Egypt to battle in other lands and never returned.

Alexandria grew rich through trade in all directions. By 300 BC, it was bigger than Carthage and the largest port on the Mediterranean Sea. By 200 BC, it was the largest city in the whole Mediterranean world.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

King Herod, Wise Men, and Jupiter (Matthew 2:1-18)

Jupiter is the false if conventional god of politics. He justifies all we do to gain and maintain political power. How we might act as people devoted to Jupiter is well illustrated by Herod, a king, in a story found in the Bible.

Eratosthenes (276-194 BC)

In 332 BC, Alexander of Macedon led an army of battle-hardened veterans in the conquest of Egypt. The following year he ordered the construction of a city which he named after himself. Then he left to fight other battles and never returned.

After his death in 323, Ptolemy, one of his generals, became the new ruler of Egypt. Ptolemy ordered the construction of a great library. Under the care of his son, Ptolemy 2nd (ruled 285-246 BC), this library became the best the world had yet known. It held more than 500,000 scrolls. They contained some of the best ideas ever imagined by human beings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Alexandria: The Great Library (ca 285 BC-AD 391)

Alexander 3rd of Macedon, called "the Great" by tradition, used a battle-hardened army to conquer Egypt in 332 BC. The next year he ordered the building of a new city which he named after himself. Alexandria remained the capital of Egypt until the Muslim conquest of AD 641.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Israel ben Eliezer: The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760)

Israel ben Eliezer was born in August 1698 in the village of Okopy. At that time the village was in Poland but, following many shifts in borders, it is now in Ukraine.

His parents, Eliezer and Sara, were Jewish and poor. His father died when he was five years old. Eliezer’s last words to him: fear no one but God and love every Jew unconditionally.

As school, Israel was no doubt taught Torah and Talmud, but he was frequently absent. He preferred to enjoy the beauty of God’s good creation alone in the woods.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pyramids of Giza (2500s BC)

The world’s three most famous pyramids brood silently near the Nile River at Giza. Giza is about 15 miles (25 km) southwest of the center of Cairo, Egypt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Living Hope

Being a faithful witness to Jesus Christ means being meaningfully different from most people. This difference is always a blessing even if it sometimes feels more like a curse. It comes from living as a witness to the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. Most people prefer to witness to the conventional if false gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption.

Rosetta Stone

In July 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in Egyptia with an army of 35,000 soldiers. His goal was take control of Egyptian society.
On July 15, 1799, some French soldiers were digging near the coastal city of Rosetta (today’s Rashid). Rosetta was about 40 miles (65 km) northeast of Alexandria. While working, they accidentally dug up a stone with letters carved on it. A French lieutenant, Pierre-Francois Bouchard, saw the stone, thought it might be important, and was able to escort it to Cairo. There he handed it over to members of Napoleon’s Institute of Egypt for study. Even Napoleon took a look at what became known as the Rosetta Stone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Napoleon's Institute of Egypt

In July 1798 Napoleon landed in Egypt with 35,000 soldiers. His goal was to take control of Egyptian society.

Only a month after his arrival, Napoleon started a cultural organization called the Institute of Egypt. Members of the Institute included over 140 writers, draftsmen, painters, architects, mathematicians, engineers, and interpreters. Their purpose was to master Egyptian culture to improve Egyptian support of Napoleon’s control of Egypt.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jesus Walks with Us Today

Jesus is not stuck in the past: living long ago and far away. Nor is he stuck in Heaven: maybe looking down on us but unable to connect with us. Instead, Jesus is alive and well and walks happily with us even now.

Jesus communicates with each of us and with every human being on Earth whether Christian or not. He does this in two ways: through words and through signs and wonders.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Napoleon out of Egypt (August 1799)

In March 1799, Napoleon led an army north from Cairo to Acre (then in Syria). His goals were to defeat the Ottoman army there and to take control of the city. After two months of intense fighting, Napoleon himself had to admit defeat and leave.

Napoleon in Egypt: Siege of Acre (1799)

Napoleon and his army of 35,000 soldiers arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, on July 1, 1798. After winning the Battle of the Pyramids, they marched into Cairo, the capital of Egypt, on July 22.

But the people of Egypt did not invite Napoleon and his army to take control of their lives. Not liking their rule at all, the people of Cairo revolted against it on October 21. Napoleon used his army and its cannons to crush the revolt without mercy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Napoleon in Egypt: Revolt in Cairo (1798)

On July 21, 1798, Napoleon led his French army to their first big victory against an Egyptian army in what came to be known as the Battle of the Pyramids. This allowed Napoleon to enter Cairo, the capital of Egypt, with his army.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Napoleon in Egypt: Battle of the Nile (1798)

In 1798, the strongest navy in the Mediterranean Sea belonged to England. At that time, rulers in England were at war with rulers in France. Happily for rulers in England, Horatio Nelson was the best leader in the English Navy and better than any leader in the French Navy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Napoleon in Egypt: Battle of the Pyramids (1798)

In 1512 a man named Selim became ruler of the Ottoman Empire. The capital of that empire was the city of Constantinople. Since 1930 that same city has been called Istanbul.

In 1517 Selim and his army conquered Egypt. After that, Egypt remained an Ottoman province for almost 300 years.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Port Said (1859)

Port Said, Egypt, sits in a unique place. It is at the northern end of the Suez Canal, the northeast corner of the Nile Delta, and the northeast point of the continent of Africa.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marie Curie: Later Life

1895-1906: Golden years
In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that strange rays come out of uranium. Marie decided she wanted to learn more about how this was possible.

In 1897 Marie gave birth to her first child, a daughter she named Irene.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Marie Curie: Early Years (1867-1895)

1867-1883: Childhood and youth
Marie Curie was born on November 7, 1867. At birth she was given the name Maria Skłodowska.

She was born in the city of Warsaw. At that time Warsaw was part of the Kingdom of Poland. That kingdom, in turn, was part of the Russian Empire.

Both of her parents were educators. Her father, Władysław, was a teacher of math and physics. Her mother, Bronisława, was the director of an important boarding school for girls.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

His life
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Stratford is about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of London. In Shakespeare’s time, travel between the two took about four days.

Like other boys in England at the time, Shakespeare learned reading and writing in the local elementary school. He also got to enjoy lots of Latin grammar by studying lots of ancient Roman literature.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

Fight for Control of France
English kings fought with French kings over control of much of what is now France starting in 1337. By 1412, when Joan of Arc was born, the English controlled most of northern France with the help of their friends the Burgundians.

Joan’s Birth and Childhood
Joan was born in the rural village of Domremy about 190 km (120 mi) southeast of Reims. Her parents were farmers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Prayer of St. Francis

There is a prayer which tradition tells us was written by Francis of Assisi himself. But it was first published only in 1912 in a small French magazine called The Little Bell.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Francis of Assisi

1181-1205 Conventional Life
Francis was born around 1181 in the city of Assisi in what is now Italy. He was named Giovanni but his father always called him Francis (“Frenchie”). His father was a rich seller of cloth, so Francis grew up having everything he wanted.

As a teenager, Francis loved the songs of troubadours. These were singers who traveled from one place to another and sang about love. He also liked wearing fancy clothes and eating, drinking, and having fun with his friends.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Montmartre is the name of the highest hill in ParisFrance. It is also the name of one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods. Its summit is 420 feet (130 meters) above the rest of the city. The name means “Martyr’s Mountain.” It is called this because Denis, a bishop of Paris and Roman Catholic saint, was murdered on the hill in the year 250.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raoul Wallenberg (1912-?)

In 1938, the Hungarian government created laws similar to those created in Germany in 1935. These laws punished Jews for being Jews. Because of these laws, thousands of Jews lost their jobs. In 1940, the Hungarian government committed itself to supporting the German government. As a result, the Hungarian army joined the German army in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Raoul Wallenberg was born in 1912 near Stockholm, Sweden. After high school, he studied for a year in Paris. Then he went to a university in the United States and studied architecture. He graduated in 1935.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)

Theodor Herzl was born on May 2, 1860 in PestHungary. His family was Jewish and lived in a house next to the Great Synagogue. Even so, he grew up speaking German and not practicing Judaism.

In 1878 Herzl moved with his family to Vienna. In 1884 he graduated from the University of Vienna with a doctoral degree in law. He then worked as a lawyer in Vienna and Salzburg, but only for a year.

In 1891 he became the Paris reporter for the New Free Press of Vienna.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Budapest: Great Synagogue (1859, 1996)

In Budapest, near the center of the city, there is a synagogue on Dohány Street. It is called the Great Synagogue for good reasons. It is the largest synagogue in Europe. Almost 3,000 people can sit comfortably in it. It is also one of the most beautiful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Franz Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (1847)

Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811. He died July 31, 1886 at the age of 74. He was the best pianist of his time. He was also a great teacher, composer, and conductor.

From 1839 to 1847, Liszt performed as a pianist all over Europe. In February 1847, while performing in Kiev, he met a princess named Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. The two fell in love and lived together for many years.

Later in 1847 Liszt wrote his famous Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. This song is one of 19 compositions which he based on Hungarian folk music.

Valentina Lisitsa was born in Kiev in 1973 and first performed as a pianist in public at the age of 4. One of her performances of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 was recorded in 2010.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Franz Liszt: Later Life (1839-1886)

Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811. He died July 31, 1886 at the age of 74. He was the best pianist of his time. He was also a great teacher, composer, and conductor.

In our essay of April 6, we discussed Franz Liszt’s early life. Today we will talk about his later life.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Franz Liszt: Early Life (1811-1839)

Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811. He died July 31, 1886 at the age of 74. He was the best pianist of his time. He was also a great teacher, composer, and conductor.

1. Hungary (1811-1822)
Liszt was born in the German-speaking village of Doborján in the Kingdom of Hungary. His father, Ádám Liszt, played the piano, violin, and guitar. His father also knew the composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Budapest: Hungarian Parliament Building (1904)

The Hungarian Parliament Building is in Budapest, the capital, and sits on the eastern bank of the Danube River. It remains the largest building in the country.

In 1880 the Hungarian parliament held an international competition for the design of the building. This competition was won by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl. Construction began in 1885. The building opened in 1896 as part of celebrations marking the 1000th anniversary of the settlement of Hungarians in the valley of the Danube River. Construction was finished in 1904.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Verdi: La Traviata (1853)

In 1848 a book entitled The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas (the son) was published. It was made into a play and this was first performed in Paris in 1852. People liked the play very much and, under the title of Camille, it has remained popular ever since.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Giuseppe Verdi was born on October 10, 1813, in the village of Le Roncole, about 90 miles (140 km) southeast of Milan. Today this village is in Italy but, when Verdi was born, it was in France and under the control of Napoleon. When Verdi was still a child his parents moved to the nearby town of Busseto.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ruth: Fierce Loyalty

There is a book called the Bible. It is really a collection of lots of little books. One of these little books is called Ruth.

Over 3,100 years ago, there was a man named Elimelech. He lived in the town of Bethlehem in Judah with his wife, Naomi, and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion. At that time, food was not growing well in Judah. Elimelech decided that he and his family would move to a little country nearby called Moab. Soon after the family moved to Moab, Elimelech died.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Theodora (500-548)

Theodora was born around the year 500. No one knows where. Her father worked at the racetrack in Constantinople. Her mother was an actress and prostitute. When her father died, her mother abandoned her and her sisters. To earn money, she worked as an actress and prostitute like her mother.

When she was 16 years old, she was taken to North Africa as the mistress of a Roman governor. He beat her badly. Four years went by before she finally got away from him. After wandering for two years, she made her way back to Constantinople.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Goya: Chapel of Saint Anthony (1798)

In Istanbul, there stands a brick building. It is small, looks very insignificant, and we can only find it by walking far away from anything important. It is called the Chora. But, while it seems so unimportant from the outside, inside it is too beautiful for words.

There is a similar building in MadridSpain. It is small, looks very insignificant, and we can only find it by walking far away from anything important. It is called the Chapel (Little Church) of Saint Anthony. But, while it seems so unimportant from the outside, inside it also is too beautiful for words.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chora Church (1321)

In Turkey there is a city called Istanbul. From 330 to 1930, however, that city was called Constantinople.

In that city, in an unimportant area, there is a brick building that looks very unimportant. It was first called the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora. Chora means “the country.” This church building was first constructed in the early 400s. At that time it was outside the walls of the city.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Muslim Call to Prayer

Muslims worship God together at a place called a mosque. At each mosque a person is chosen to be the muezzin.

The muezzin does many things. One of them is to call Muslims to prayer five times each day. He does this by singing the “Call to Prayer” (“Adhan”).

In English, the words of the call to prayer are something like this:

     Allah is greater [than all else].
     I witness that there is no god except Allah.
     I witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
     Come to prayer.
     Come to success.
     Allah is greater [than all else].
     There is no god except Allah.

One thing that makes Muslim cities distinct is this call to prayer. Everyone can hear it. Hearing it, everyone is reminded of God five times each day.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


In Rome stands a building called the “Pantheon” because it was dedicated to "all gods." The Roman emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138, had it built. It has been used as a Roman Catholic church since 609.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hagia Sophia

Constantine 1st was emperor of Rome from 306 to 337. In 330 he moved the capital of the empire to a new city he had built for the purpose. He called this city New Rome but it was soon known as Constantinople. In 1931 its name was changed to Istanbul.

Justinian 1st was emperor of Rome from 527 to 565. He was also the most powerful emperor since Constantine. Justinian thought that Rome was the most important empire in the world. He thought that Constantinople was the most important city in that empire. He thought that the leader of the church in Constantinople was the most important Christian. So Justinian ordered the construction of the most important church building in the empire. He called it Hagia Sophia which means “Holy Wisdom.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (1874)

Modest Mussorgsky was born on March 9, 1839, in Karevo, Russia, near the very rural town of Toropets, about 250 miles (400 km) south of St. Petersburg. His family was aristocratic, wealthy, and owned lots of land, villages, and peasants. He died on March 28, 1881, in St. Petersburg, at the age of 42.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky was born on March 9, 1839, in Karevo, Russia, near the very rural town of Toropets, about 250 miles (400 km) south of St. Petersburg. His family was aristocratic, wealthy, and owned lots of land, villages, and peasants. He died on March 28, 1881 at the age of 42.

His mother started teaching him piano when he was six years old. He played well and developed great skill. He was sent to private school in St. Petersburg at age ten and then to military school there at age thirteen. He continued his piano lessons. His fellow students liked to hear the songs he made up as he played. He graduated in 1856 and became an officer in the Russian Imperial Guard.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eiffel: Tower

Gustave Eiffel was born on December 15, 1832, in Dijon, France. He died on December 27, 1923, at the age of 91.

As a child Eiffel was smart but lazy. Slowly his habits of study improved. His family had a lot of money. In the end, he was able to go to a famous, important, but hard university in Paris called Central School (École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures). He graduated with a master’s degree in science in 1855. He then went to work leading others in building railway bridges.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Camus: The Plague

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913 in Mondovi, French Algeria (now Dréan, Algeria). His father died ten months later in one of the early battles of World War I. Camus and his mother then moved to a poor area of Algiers. He developed tuberculosis when he was 17.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (1876)

Peter Tchaikovsky remains Russia’s greatest composer. He was born on May 7, 1840 and died on November 6, 1893 at the age of 53.

Music written by Tchaikovsky was first played at a public concert in September 1865. Ten years later he started to write music for a ballet called Swan Lake.

Friday, February 24, 2012

David: Bernini (1624)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born in Naples on December 7, 1598. He died in Rome on November 28, 1680. He finished his first important sculpture in 1615 at the very young age of 16.

Bernini started his sculpture of David in 1623. He finished it a year later. One hundred twenty years earlier, Michelangelo had finished his sculpture of David.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

David: Caravaggio (1599, 1607, 1610)

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born on September 29, 1571 in Milan. The first painting we have of his was completed in 1592. The last was painted in 1610. He died, in Tuscany on his way back to Rome, on July 18, 1610 at the age of 38.

He painted David and Goliath three times. The first time was in 1599. We may see this painting now in the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

David: Michelangelo (1504)

Over 3,000 years ago, a small teenager named David won a fight against a big man named Goliath. Ever since then, David’s victory has been celebrated in stories, paintings, and sculptures.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was one person who celebrated David’s victory in sculpture. He worked on a statue of David between 1501 and 1504. He made a statue of David, but it is 17 feet (over 5 meters) tall: 8 feet taller than the original Goliath.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)

The story of David and Goliath is found in the Bible, in a book called 1 Samuel, in chapter 17 of that book.

Over 3,000 years ago, the people of Israel and the people of Philistia were fighting each other. At one time, the army of Israel camped on one side of a valley and the army of Philistia camped on the other.

The Philistine army had a great hero named Goliath. He was a huge man: 9 feet (3 m) tall. Each day Goliath would walk into the valley. Then he would tell the Israelites to send out their great hero to fight him. If their great hero won the fight, then the Philistines would serve the Israelites. But if he, Goliath, won the fight, then the Israelites would serve the Philistines.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Erik Satie: “Gymnopedie No. 1” (1888)

Eric Satie was born in Honfleur, France. Honfleur is a small port where the Seine River meets the sea.

Satie was born on May 17, 1866. His father Alfred was French and his mother Jane was British. He had a younger brother named Conrad. Satie died on July 1, 1925 at the age of 59.

When Satie was four, he and his family moved to Paris. His father worked there as a translator. When his mother died in 1872, his father sent Satie and his younger brother back to Honfleur to live with their grandmother. Satie learned how to play the organ. When their grandmother died in 1878, he and his brother went back to Paris to live with their father.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Michelangelo: Pieta (1499)

Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 in the village of Caprese, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Florence. He was almost 89 years old when he died on February 18, 1564, in Rome. He was buried in the church of Santa Croce in Florence.

Michelangelo first moved to Rome in June 1496 at the age of 21. Two years later he was hired to sculpt the Pietá. He finished the work a year later. It is made of marble from Carrara, Italy, and measures 68.5 x 76.8 inches (174 x 195 cm).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Icarus: Bruegel, Auden, Devenish

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (Pieter Bruegel, 1558)

Long ago and far away, Greek parents told their children the story of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus told his son Icarus the truth: stay away from the sun. Then, with his son, Daedalus flew to freedom. But only Daedalus got there. His son did not stay away from the sun and died on the way. Daedalus got there, but he never wanted to be there with no son.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bruegel: Auden's Thoughts (1939)

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (Pieter Bruegel, 1558)

Pieter Bruegel painted Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in 1558 while living in Antwerp. It is a small painting, only 29 x 44 inches (74 x 112 cm). We may see it in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

W. H. Auden was a poet. He was born in York, England, in 1907; graduated from Oxford University in 1928; moved to the United States in 1939; and died there in 1973. Just before Auden left Europe for America, he went to Brussels and saw Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Bruegel. In response, he wrote the poem, “Museé des Beaux Arts.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bruegel: Icarus

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (Pieter Bruegel, 1558)

Pieter Bruegel (c. 1525-1569) painted Landscape with the Fall of Icarus in 1558 while living in Antwerp. It is a small painting, only 29 x 44 inches (74 x 112 cm). We may see it in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Daedalus and Icarus

Long ago, Greeks told the story of Daedalus and Icarus to their children. Daedalus was a very clever man from Athens. King Minos of Crete had him do some very clever work.

But then King Minos feared that Daedalus would tell other people about his very clever work. So King Minos told Daedalus that he could not go home to Athens. He had to stay on the island of Crete.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pieter Bruegel (1525-1569)

The exact year and place of Pieter Bruegel’s birth are not known. He was born around the year 1525. He may have been born in the town of Bruegel near Dordrecht (in today's Netherlands).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Da Vinci: Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in the village of Vinci near FlorenceHe died on May 2, 1519, at the age of 67, in Amboise, France.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Early Life (1873-92)

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born on March 20, 1873. His mother, Lubov, was a rich aristocrat; his father, Vasily, was an army officer. The family lived in Semyonovo, Russia, near Novgorod. Novgorod was an old and culturally important city.