Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rome: Latin Olympian to Greek Christian (330-620)

In 285 Diocletian, the Roman ruler from 284 to 305, divided the Roman state into two administrative regions to improve its response to multiple external threats. The western region included our geocultural provinces of Britannia, Gallia, Iberia, Carthaginia, Alpinia, and Latinia. The eastern region included Hellenia, Anatolia, central Levantia, and Egypt.

This division of the Roman state into western and eastern halves acknowledged important differences in language, culture, history, and geography that existed between the two. Perhaps unintentionally, it also organized and strengthened these differences.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Contraction of the Roman State (AD 117-486)

Loss of Mesopotamia (117)
The Roman ruler Trajan personally led an army in the conquest of Mesopotamia (114-117). Following his death, Hadrian, the new Roman ruler, immediately abandoned Mesopotomia as too difficult to control because of the resistance of the adjoining state of Parthia. The Parthians intensely challenged Roman control in their area and Hadrian rightly concluded that the cost of meeting their challenge exceeded any likely benefits. So the first contraction of the Roman state, which was abandonment of the last Roman expansion, occurred in 117.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Expansion of the Roman State (753 BC-AD 117)

Taking Control of the Palatine Hill (753-509)
Tradition tell us that the early history of Rome begins with the founding of the city by Romulus on the Palatine Hill near the Tiber River in 753 BC. At that time, and for more than a century, the Etruscans controlled Rome and other cities in northern Latinia. Etruscan control gradually weakened. The small unimportant city of Rome was able to break free of it in 509.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hellenic Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean

1. Struggle for control (323-280 BC)
Alexander, rightly called “the Great” by Olympian tradition, died suddenly, shortly after his return to Babylon from Incognita, in 323 BC. A struggle for power followed. Four of his generals fought one another to define their respective areas of control. Their struggles lasted about 40 years. By 280 BC, four relatively stable states had been created. The first controlled southern Hellenia; the second, northeastern Hellenia and western Anatolia; the third, eastern Anatolia, most of Levantia, and lands to the east in Incognita; the fourth, Egypt and south-central Levantia.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Alexander 3rd of Macedon (356-323 BC)

1. Childhood: surprising education (356-340)
Alexander was born on July 20, 356, in Pella, the capital city of kingdom of Macedon in northern Hellenia. His father was Philip 2nd, its ruler.

Philip trusted the early education of his son to Leonidas. Leonidas believed in simplicity and self-discipline. Leonidas liked Alexander marching at night to build up an appetite for breakfast and eating only a light breakfast to still be hungry for dinner. Once Alexander liberally sprinkled a sacrifice with incense. Leonidas told him to use less until he controlled the region it came from. When he conquered that region, Alexander had tons of incense sent to Leonidas with the encouragement to sprinkle it liberally.

Sermon on the Mount: The Blessed (Matthew 5:3-6)

Being a Christian—a witness to the one unconventional god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality—is the hardest way of living we can choose. To better understand what living as a Christian means, we will reflect today on some words of Jesus taken from the Gospel according to Matthew. In Matthew, chapters 5-7 are referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount” because, before he spoke the words written there, Matthew tells us Jesus went up the mountain (Matthew 5:1, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

In today's passage, Jesus identifies four different ways in which we may be blessed. To be blessed means to be highly favored by God and to be truly joyful in heart. As we shall see, Jesus has some very strange ideas about just who is blessed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

1. Childhood and youth (1812-1827)
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, near Portsmouth, England. From ages 4 to 10 he enjoyed a pleasant childhood in Chatham, Kent (on the eastern coast of England). He especially enjoyed reading novels, like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, with characters who were poor but survived humorous misadventures by being charming and clever.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Narrow Gate and Hard Road (Matthew 7:13-14)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, New Revised Standard Version).

We can take two orientations in life. We can devote ourselves to the six conventional Olympian gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. They open for us a very wide gate with plenty of room for our SUV on both sides. Or we can devote ourselves to Jesus.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, England, about 60 miles (96 km) southwest of London. Her father was the pastor of several churches in this rural area. She had five older brothers, an older sister, and one younger brother. Her sister Cassandra remained her closest friend throughout her life. Apart from learning under the instruction of others in 1783 and 1785-1786, Jane educated herself by reading the books in her father’s large eclectic library and through her own observations and reflections. Her father supported her early and continuous writing by giving her all the paper, ink, emotional support, and time she needed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Brontë Sisters (1816-1855)

1. Triumph and tragedy (1777-1825)
Patrick Brontë was born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1777, into a poor family of farm workers living in northern Ireland. His mother was Roman Catholic but his father was Anglican and raised him that way. Patrick tried work as a blacksmith and weaver before becoming a teacher in 1798. His local priest appreciated his intelligence and helped him get a scholarship to Cambridge University in 1802. He graduated in 1806 and was ordained a priest in the Church of England the following year. While serving as an assistant pastor in 1811, he saw his first book, Cottage Poems, published. In December 1812 he married Maria Branwell (b. 1783). His second book, The Rural Minstrel, was published in 1814.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Holy Spirit, Unholy Flesh (Galatians 5:16-26)

1. Interpretative framework: God and gods, Spirit and Flesh, Christian and Olympian personalities.
There is only one true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality.  This one odd god is Trinitarian: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s third way of being god. She burns brightly in our Christian hearts and she alone enables us to seek the will of the Father and to affirm the truth of the Son.

There are six false gods of power, falsehood, indifference, and death. These are the six conventional gods of Olympianity: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The First Punic War (264-241)

The Romans referred to the Carthaginians as Phoenicians and to things Phoenician as Punic. This is why the series of wars between Rome and Carthage are referred to as the Punic Wars.

In 275, the Romans finally defeated Pyrrhus and his best Hellenian armies in southern Latinia. By 272 they had taken complete control of all the Hellenian cities in Latinia and controlled all of Latinia south of the Arno River.

Being the devout Olympians they were, and understanding the meaning of life in terms of power as they did, the Romans next turned against their most powerful rival in the western Mediterranean, Carthage, because they thought they could beat them.

Demonic Possession and Theories of Personality (Mark 5:1-15): Conclusion

1. Introduction
At one point during his public ministry, Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee by boat and come ashore in the country of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). In the spiritual geography of the time, this land on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee was an unclean land, a Gentile land, an Olympian land, a land wholeheartedly devoted to the six Olympian gods, a region belonging to the Kingdom of Darkness.

Jesus, of course, embodies the Kingdom of Light. Wherever he is present, he brings the light of God’s truth, the warmth of God’s love, and the strength of God’s vitality. Wherever he is present, he frees people from being enthralled, bewitched, even possessed by the gods of darkness and their minions.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Early History of Carthage (814-264)

The ancient Phoenicians were Semitic-speaking Canaanites living along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos. Their greatest period of power and prosperity began around 1200 BC. At that time many powerful rivals, including the Myceneans, Hittites, and Egyptians, suffered serious decline. This allowed Phoenician cities to strengthen and prosper through a brisk maritime trade. This period lasted until about 800.

Power and prosperity first went to Byblos. There the earliest example of the Phoenician alphabet, dating around 1200, was found. That alphabet is the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets. Hellenians adopted it around 750 and both Homer and Hesiod used it to write down their great works. Hellenians then shared it with the Etruscans who then gave it to the Romans.

Demonic Possession and Theories of Personality (Mark 5:1-15): Introduction

1. Olympian worldview and biblical point of view
We live in an intensely Olympian society and culture. Because of this, we all grow up with an intensely Olympian personality with its comprehensively Olympian way of thinking. As we experience each moment of the day, we habitually interpret its meaning in a typically Olympian way. Furthermore, our intensely Olympian society rewards us in big but mostly little ways for doing so. It also punishes us in little but sometimes big ways if we don’t.

This applies to our reading of the Bible. We bring our habitual Olympian ways of thinking, our whole Olympian worldview, to it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-9, 14-20)

Let us begin with Jesus telling us this parable:
“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:3-9, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Early History of Rome (753-264)

Early history (753-509)
According to tradition, Mars fathered twin sons Romulus and Remus. On their mother’s side the twins were descendants of Aeneas a prince of Troy. As infants they were ordered to be drowned but were saved and raised by a female wolf. Later they argued violently about where to start a new city. Romulus murdered his brother, started his new city on April 21, 753 BC, named it Rome after himself, and located it on the southern bank of the Tiber River about 19 miles (30 km) from the Mediterranean Sea.

Our Personalities: Christian and Olympian

Perhaps the most common understanding of human nature is to think of ourselves as having one unified personality. Our personality may be good or evil, it may be more or less integrated, it may be developing or decaying, it certainly has strengths and weaknesses, but it is more or less continuously identifiable as ours over a long period of time.

Let us consider, however, the possibility that each one of us, from cradle to grave, has at least two distinct personalities: one Christian and the other Olympian. Let us consider that we each have these two quite distinct personalities because each one is organized around absolutely different gods.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jesus, Family, Satan, and Freedom (Mark 3:19-35)

In the second gospel, Mark presents us with a very interesting sandwich of passages in the second half of chapter 3. He starts (1) by talking about the family of Jesus coming to him (3:19b-21), (2) interrupts this story with enemies of Jesus accusing him of being in league with Satan (verses 22-27), (3) has Jesus responding creatively to this accusation (vs. 28-30) and then (4) to his family (vs. 31-35).

Plutarch (ca 45-120)

Plutarch (Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus) was born into a wealthy family living in a small town about 20 miles (32 km) east of Delphi. As a twenty-year-old, he studied for a year at Plato’s Academy in Athens. He completed his education by travelling around Hellenia and the western coast of Anatolia and by visiting the great cities of Alexandria and Rome. As an adult he primarily lived in the town of his birth, actively involved himself in its governance, wrote regularly, and interpreted the cryptic prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi as a priest of Apollo.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ovid (43 BC-AD 17)

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) was born on March 20, 43 BC, into an upper-class family living in Sulmo (today’s Sulmona) about 100 miles (160 km) east of Rome. His father sent him to Rome to learn rhetoric and become a lawyer. He then lived in Athens, the Levant, and Sicily before returning to Rome and working as a minor bureaucrat. His heart always in writing poetry, he abandoned civil service, did what he loved most, and gave his first public recital in 25. He socialized with other poets enjoying the financial support of wealthy patrons and, among others, became friends with Horace. Along with Horace and Virgil, Ovid is considered one of the best poets in Latin.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Making Religion Serve Politics (1 Kings 12:25-33)

Before 1095 BC, Yahweh himself served Israel as its king. In that year, however, the people of Israel demanded a human king so that they could be like everyone else. Yahweh told Samuel his prophet to warn the people that a human king would only exploit and enslave them. When they still insisted, Yahweh granted them their wish (see 1 Samuel 8).

Virgil (70-19 BC)

Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) was born on October 15, 70 BC, in the village of Andes, near Mantua, in the geocultural province of Alpinia. Although he was shy and frequently ill as a teenager, his father provided him with the education he needed to practice law. He wrote poetry instead.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Livy (59 BC-AD 17)

Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus) was born in 59 BC into a wealthy family living in the prosperous city of Patavium (today’s Padua near Venice). In the 30s he moved to Rome with enough money to devote himself entirely to writing the great city’s history. Shortly after his arrival he met Octavius, ruler of Rome, and remained a lifelong friend of the family.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Boethius (ca 480-525)

Anicius Manlius Severinus  Boëthius, commonly called Boethius, was born around AD 480 in Rome to one of its leading families. His ancestors included two emperors and several other leading politicians.

His father, however, died when Boethius was perhaps 10 years old. Another leading family adopted him. It was his foster father who inspired his love of philosophy and encouraged his study of Greek. This was unusual: by the end of the 400s knowledge of Greek was dying out it the Latin West.

Monday, July 1, 2013

God’s People Reject God in Favor of a Human Ruler (1 Samuel 8:1-22)

Olympianity is the oldest religion in the world and has always been the most popular. It is the religion of power. Whole societies devote themselves to the six gods of Olympianity--to the gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption--to get more power in each of these essential areas of life.

In 1921 BC, the one odd god of freedom invited Abraham to leave his Olympian society. Yahweh invited Abraham to be his companion and to learn a very different way of living. Abraham accepted this invitation, left his city, and traveled with his family to live with Yahweh in an unknown land.