Book Notice: Inside the Miracles of Jesus

Jessica LaGrone has a new book out.

Jesus demonstrated the presence and power of God by performing miracles. He turned water into wine, healed the sick, calmed the storm, opened blind eyes, and raised the dead. While these beloved stories draw our attention to divine power, Christ’s miracles signify something deeper—they’re windows into God’s grand story of human desperation and redemption. Every time we see Jesus performing a miracle, we also get a glimpse into the gift of desperation, a gift that opens us to the dramatic power of God through our desperate need for him.

By explaining the meaning and significance of these miracles, Jessica LaGrone shows us their relevance for our lives today. She unpacks how understanding the meaning of Christ’s miracles will help us better grasp the salvation God has brought into the world, see that our weakness is an invitation for God to work powerfully in our lives, and remind us that we need God on our best days just as much as we do on our worst.

Jessica is a UMC clergy woman, speaker, and has served on the COWF and a lot nicer than me on social media. You should pick it up.

Books I’m Reading: Theories of Man and Culture

This is an older book, but given that it is a consideration of some of the giants of pre-WWII anthropology, and that is part of what I want to focus on, I guess it is alright. Given that it has been reprinted without modification since 1974, it must hold up, right?

Anyway, as I am researching my book/tome/thesis on Attachment and the role attachment plays in a variety of human aspects, anthropology must come into play. Somewhat. Attachment is at the heart, an evolutionary tale that has created social bonds preparing us for where we are now. Culture springs up around those bonds and is part of how those bonds are explained naturally. So yeah, I have to check out what anthropologists have to say, and the more so given how families appear to be different across cultures. Further, we need some working theories on where the individual fits into all of this.

My hypothesis right now? The basic unit of humanity is not the one, but the two. We don’t know who we are except by another. Because are becoming increasing individualized and separated from one another, we are losing what it means to be human.

Books I’m Reading: A Guide to the Good Life

I finished the one on Cicero. He died a rather gruesome death, sacrificed to Mark Antony … but it was an easy one for Augustus Caesar who had realized Cicero had tried to manipulate him. How did he realize? Because Cicero thought himself so clever he made a joke. Perhaps, had he liked and appreciated the Stoics a bit more, he would have kept his mouth shut when necessary.

I find that this book provides not just practical ways of living, but is something therapists should use for their clients. I am a big ACT guy. And when reading this book, I notice so much of the tools and viewpoints expressed in that modality in this book. It doesn’t get into the psychodynamics of the client, or the reader, but does give them tools to regain control of their minds. Stoicism is about remembering that the only thing you can really control are your reactions. Stoicism also teaches Acceptance, something that will decrease suffering.

Anyway, this is a great, short book to pick up.

Books I’m Reading: Cicero

Fred Craddock, the great narrative preacher, recommended to his students and preachers that they read a fiction book, co-mingled with their preaching materials. This allowed them to learn to tell a story. This isn’t all that different than recommending someone read outside their career field in order to keep focus on their field as well as to take a break from it.

I love ancient Rome, and the more so the Stoics and those who wrote the imagination of Rome. So far, I’m enjoying it because it is my first real introduction to Cicero, the orator who gave us an anti-Caesar. For me, as a personal note, I find that Cicero is the first one to help give us a divine Cato, something my dear friend would later use in his writings to counter Nero.

I also find myself wondering if, during these times, if we might find a Cicero?

Holy Roar is not a great book part 3

Here are parts 1 and 2.

The third chapter of Holy Roar is dedicated to the BH verb /zamar/. However, the authors have actually printed /ramaz/ in BH, which is not a word in BH (However it is, with metathesis for /razam/, a word in Mandean which means “to wink with the eyes”).

 

This chapter is not as bad as the other chapters in terms of method. Whereas with /yadah/ and /hillel/ the authors incorrectly collapsed all meanings in different stems on to the root word, they have not done so here. /Zamar/ in the Piel stem in BH indeed means “to sing praise” and is most often used in the Psalter. However, it is also used in the Qal and Nifal stems meaning “to prune” or “be pruned”, respectively. There is also a usage in BH that derives from Arabic that in verb form refers to (a gazelle) jumping and in the noun form to the animal (gazelle) itself. It is commendable that the authors did not collapse unrelated meanings on top of the root and then teach something silly like /zamar/ means to sing praise to God while jumping like a gazelle. I’m glad they knew to not do that. But then I wonder, why did they not know to do that with /yadah/ and /hillel/?

 

Whitehead states that /zamar/ is used 41 times in the Hebrew Bible, including both in the Psalms and in narrative. This is incorrect. A simple search on any reliable Bible software (like Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos) shows that /zamar/ occurs 54 times over 50 verses in the Hebrew Bible. The authors show in their Notes that they use Logos Bible Software. However, the only resource they cite is Strong’s Concordance. We are only left to conclude that instead of investigating the usage of /zamar/ for himself, Whitehead simply copied and pasted what he found in Strong’s. This is not a reliable method and it is misleading of him to claim that he “read” things in “Hebrew” (p34), when his claims clearly don’t line up with Hebrew (not even in the way they printed Hebrew words).

 

Chapter 3 gives a handful of examples of the verb /zamar/ being used to symbolize music-making. The authors rightly note that music can be a powerful tool for many purposes: to set a mood (2 Kgs 3:15-16; note: /zamar/ is not in this verse, just the idea of music as important), to relieve stress (Psa 57:7), and to bring people together in worship (Psa 7:17). The only mistake made here is the reversion back to incorrect data on /yadah/ as it is used in Psa 7:17. Psa 7 says nothing about posture or what one should do with their hands. Lifting the hands and /zamar/ are not related in the text as the authors suggest here.

 

I was surprised that the authors did not take this chance to talk about the most frequnelty used word in BH that is built from the root /zmr/. That word is /mizmor/. Can you see the “z”, “m”, and “r” in /mizmor/? That is the root /zmr/ (with vowels, pronounced /zamar/). /Mizmor/ is the technical term in the Bible for a psalm. When we read in the superscriptions “A psalm of David” (as in Psa 3 for example), that word for “psalm” is /mizmor/ in BH.

 

This is vitally important for understanding the role of Psalms throughout history. In fact, the primary way that people have learned their theology has been through singing. People often treat the Psalms as simply the worship songs for ancient Israel. As if the important stuff where elsewhere and Psalms is just the songbook. The evidence from history says something different. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are approximately double the amount of copies of Psalms than the next most copied book of the Bible (Genesis). There are 20-21 copies of Genesis in the Dead Sea Scrolls while there are 36 of Psalms (according to Tov’s book p96-97. Note, some online resources cite 41 scrolls for Psalms) . The evidence shows that people used Psalms more often. Most of the time when ancient people engaged with the Bible, it was with a /mizmor/.

 

This should not be taken by us as a lesson on how we should posture ourselves physically when we sing together. Rather, it should be taken as a lesson by us on how artful and powerful the songs we sing should be. We should have high standards for our songs. When we sing together, we must recognize that we are teaching people what we believe. This is will be the primary way that many people learn. Since it is so important, we should take our songs seriously and encourage our artists to be bold in their music. Song writers can be the world’s most impactful teachers. So make worthy psalms.

 

@dageshforte

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