Sunday, December 25, 2005

No Room in the Inn

The Christmas story, according to Luke 2 begins like this:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Lk 2:1-7). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
No room in the inn. The poor innkeeper has taken it on the chin over the years. What a mean guy! If it had been a Motel 6, they would have left the lights on for Joseph and Mary. But it wasn't a Motel 6, or even a Holiday Inn Express. The "inn" referred to was likely a guest room in a Palestinian home. The Greek word used was κατάλυμα, a word which is only used three times in the NT (Mark 14:4; Luke 22:11; and this verse, Luke 2:7). The other two times it is used (in parallel passages), it clearly means "guest room". J. M. Diener notes, citing Terry Hulbert, who was Seminary/Grad School dean at Columbia International University while I was there, that "it would be strange that Luke would imbibe the same word with two different meanings, especially when he uses a different word (pandocheion) in 10:34 to describe an inn in the Parable of the Good Samaritan." The context of Luke 10:34 shows that πανδοχεῖον clearly is an inn, as verse 35 mentions the innkeeper (πανδοχεύς). Both words are hapax legomena, but the attestation for πανδοχεύς as an innkeeper seems to be strong.

Freeman, in The New Manners and Customs of the Bible says this about the κατάλυμα:

It is doubtful that inns, in the sense of public inns with a building, existed in Old Testament times. By the time of Christ, public inns could be found in Grecian and Roman lands. The Greek word for “inn” in the New Testament implies some type of stopping place for travelers. At times it refers to a public inn. Such an inn of the first century consisted primarily of a walled-in area with a well. A larger inn might have small rooms surrounding the court. People and animals stayed together. The primary services that could be depended upon were water for the family and animals and a place to spread a pallet.

In addition to referring to a public inn or lodging place, the same Greek word, kataluma, used in our text-verse, at times refers simply to a guest room in a private home (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11).

Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible. "Rewritten and updated by Harold J. Chadwick"--Cover.; Includes index. ([Rev. ed.].) (Page 500). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

The stories of a malicious innkeeper make interesting material for Christmas pageants. What indicts Jesus' contemporaries, however, is not so much malicious intent, as it is apathy or disinterest. God incarnate broke into human history (John 1:14) on that lonely night. Most of Bethlehem was clueless as to what was taking place. Only a few rag-tag shepherds even took notice of the event. By and large, the first Christmas came and went, and few had room in their hearts for Messiah. John indicts Jesus' own for not receiving him (John 1:12). What is tragic is that the contemporary response to the reason for this season is still apathy. We would prefer to look at the December 26 store ads, to see how much we can save by spending beyond our means. We have shoved the Christ out of Christmas, by devoting our attentions elsewhere.

This morning, our family went to prepare breakfast for poor people at a local ministry called Watered Gardens. On a Sunday morning, that just happened to be December 25, a group of Joplin residents came out to get a hot breakfast served to them in the name of Jesus. It was a blessing to see those that work regularly in that outreach, loving people in the name of Jesus. My prayer is that they would find room for Christ in their hearts.

Max Lucado wrote from the traditional vantage point of the innkeeper, but ended up with an application that touches our response to the Christ:

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

Lucado, M. (1987). God came near : Chronicles of the Christ (Page 24). Portland, Or.: Multnomah Press.

As I reflect on this Christmas day, I pray that our focus would be on Him, rather than on all the other stuff that grabs our attention. May He richly bless you the Christmas day!

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Dificult Time of the Year to Eat Sensibly

For the last several months, I have been trying to eat much more sensibly. I have been successful, and have shed some serious poundage. For the last couple weeks, with all the Christmas goodies, I have moved into a maintenance mode. Today, our family was at Silver Dollar City, and we had lunch at one of the nice buffet restaurants near the city square. Although I ate more for lunch today than what I normally have had for lunch, I was more sensible than other times. Still, I look forward to the end of the festivities, so I can get back to eating more sensibly, which means eating less. Though I weigh less today than what I have weighed at any time over the past ten years, I still have some poundage to drop before reaching my goal.

A few weeks back, a colleague spoke to me about a movie that he had seen. His commentary made me want to see it some time. Before we left town yesterday, I swung by the Joplin Public Library, and checked it out. It was documentary about the fast food industry, particularly about Mc Donald's. The movie's title was Super Size Me! Watching that movie made my resolve even stronger.
We will return to Joplin tomorrow in time for services at our church tomorrow evening. Mom and the nuclear family in the Joplin area will come to our house for Dinner tomorrow night after the service at church. Kim will work tomorrow (Christmas Eve Day) at Cracker Barrel from 8 AM until 3 PM or so, when they close. Many of the OCC students serve breakfast at Watered Gardens (a ministry that reaches out to poor people in Joplin) on Sunday mornings. Kim usually serves in some capacity at the ministry on Fridays, and coordinates in some way the OCC students that help out there. Since so many of them are gone, she has asked us to go serve breakfast this Sunday. The head of the ministry decided to keep the breakfast going, even though it is Christmas Day. The three of us will go there to serve breakfast to poor people at 7:30 AM. Later in the day then, we will have Christmas with our nuclear family at Charissa's.

Van and Tammy Benson (Stef too) have been in Brownsville with Greg and Emily for the past week. Rose and I will be flying there next Friday afternoon. I will preach for Greg in Spanish on New Year's Day.

Jesus is the reason for the season. Some intolerant persons may not like us to say so, but it is true. Christmas is not about the new PDAs or DVD players, or TIVOs that one might receive or even give, but rather is about the best gift of all times:
The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (The Message)

May the Christ of Christmas be in your thoughts and words, and may He richly bless you. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Grading is almost done!! Woohoo!

I've worked all day grading stray papers that didn't get graded earlier. I now have just a small stack left to grade. If I get up early tomorrow, I may get it done. I also have to assign grades for online workbook exercises my Spanish I class did. I'll use a spreadsheet to average grades for completed assigned online exercises. I use the first year Spanish textbook titled Viva, published by Vista Higher Learning. That textbook has an online component for lab exercises hosted on Quia's website.

Tomorrow Rose and I are going to Branson. We can check into our condo at 12 noon instead of 4 PM. We will go to the Showboat Branson Belle tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM. I think the last time we went was June of 2000.

I started reading a book the Matt Stafford gave me, written by a Cuban ministering in the Kansas City area:
Cabrera, Leonardo (2004). Libre Entre Rejas. Twickenham, UK. Cabrera was unjustly imprisoned in Cuba for preaching the Gospel.

Ricoblog has an interesting post today about Textual Criticism.

Until later!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Musings of a Semester Extinguished

Well, we made it! I have one more final exam to administer tomorrow, then it is grading frenzy time. Grades are due Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 9:00 AM. I should be able to make it just fine.

We will be going to Branson on Saturday. We're considering going to the Branson Belle. We'll return to Joplin on Monday afternoon. I have to translate for the OEP (Offenders Education Program) on Monday and Tuesday night. Rose will work Tuesday through Thursday, then we'll return to Branson. Phil and Susan Casey will use our condo on Monday through Wednesdays nights. When we go back Thursday afternoon, we'll go with them to Silver Dollar City.

I hope to spend more time getting my Moodle site useable for Greek class for next semester. In using the quiz module, I was having difficulty getting the Greek diacriticals just right. If anyone can help me, I would certainly appreciate the help.

My good friend and office colleague, Dr. N. Douglas Marks will be leaving soon, to take his positon of Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dallas Christian College. I will miss him, and pray that he will find fulfillment in that place.

My boss, Mark Scott is now Dr. Mark Scott. Congratulations. Mark went to defend his dissertation/project on Tuesday morning at Denver Seminary. The report that I heard was that they thought he did an excellent job of bringing together excellence in Biblical research with practical application. Those of us who know him would respond, "Duh!"

I was much dismayed the other day, as I found a clear cut case of plagiarism in a paper a student submitted to me for Old Testament History class. Our new college catalog (2005-2007) addresses this issue clearly. We have also put academic integrity statements in all course syllabi. Offenders will be reported to the Academic Dean's office, and to the Student Development Office. Penalties may range from failing the assignment (duh!), to failing the course, to expulsion from college. In this particular case, he will fail the course--actually he will fail all courses, as he was expelled from the college for other disciplinary issues. I'm still saddened, but it is better that this young student learn this tough lesson right now. It may serve him well in the future.

A colleague has suggested that we use the services of Turn it In, as a means of controlling plagiarism on our campus.

Next semester, I am enroled in EDAD 988--Dissertation Proposal. I got an e-mail from Dr. Miles Bryant today. We will be using his text, the Portable Dissertation Advisor as a textbook. Basically, during this upcoming semester, I'll get my proposal ready to go. I imagine I will make a trip to UNL to present it to my committee, and get ready to do the research. Dr. Bryant said in his e-mail that there are three things he wants, to help us get focused:
  1. A purpose statement beginning with "This study will . . ."
  2. A statement about what sorts of research qeustions I will address.
  3. A discussion about why anybody would care ("so what?").
Well, I guess I better sign off now and get some shut-eye.

Here is a great statement to close with:
πιστὸς ὁ λόγος καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος, ὅτι Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι, ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ.
Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993, c1979). The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) (1 Ti 1:15-16). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Books on Afghanistan

I just finished reading my second book in recent months on life in Afghanistan. It is

Åsne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul. During the summer, I had read Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. Both of these books give a glimpse into the reality of life in Afghanistan. Some friends from Chile recommened The Kite Runner to me back in March when their daughter (a close friend of my daughter when they were both growing up in Chile) had a baby in Tulsa, OK. At the time, our son and his family were living in Tulsa. We were in Tulsa visiting them, and we heard the Martha (Woolsey) King had just had a baby, and that her parents were in Tulsa as well. We went to the hospital to see the baby, and Shirley Woolsey recommended the book. I kind of filed that information away in inactive memory. A few months later, we were in Chile, and ended up staying with the Woolsey family for several nights. I had forgotten about the recommendation, but I saw the book at their place. The last night we were there (!!!!) I had a little bit of difficulty sleeping, so I got up and started reading the book (the first 127 pages). It was riveting. I asked permission to take the book with me, promising to mail it right back upon finishing it. They told me no! I forgive them.

When I arrived home, I ordered the book (got a good price by buying it online). Before it came in, I went to Joplin's Books-a-Million, and read two chapters more while I was drinking coffee at Joe Mugg's Coffee. When the book arrived, I finished it. It is an historical novel, written by an Afghani who left Afghanistan for the United States. Get it and read it!

One of my advisees did an extended internship (mission) in Afghanistan during Spring Semester 2005 and into the summer. I was anxious to ask him about The Kite Runner. He had heard about it, but mentioned another book that was a good read, and a glimpse into life there, The Bookseller of Kabul. His fianceé was reading it, but I was assured that I could borrow it. I've had it now for several weeks, but have been buried under other things. I also recommend it.

Life there is certainly hard, but Jesus loves the Afghanis just as much as He loves you or me. If you enjoy a good read, I recommend both of them to you.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

UNL, Penguins and Grandsons

This semester I am enrolled in my last required course for the Ph.D in Educational Studies and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Next semester, I'll actually be enrolled in another course titled Dissertation Proposal, but I don't count that as a required "course", since I will be working on my own dissertation. I worked hard all day yesterday on a final paper/project and got it posted late last night (Saturday). That feels good, because it is actually due by midnight tomorrow night, so I got it done two days early. I woke up early Saturday, however, because I had a bad dream, that I got my final grade for this course, and it was a "D"! Horror! I guess that's not a dream. It's a nightmare!

I did some posting this afternoon to the course website of some journal articles I had found helpful during the semester. Then with my family, I took some down time to watch the movie, The March of the Penguins. My son's family (including two small grandsons) went to a cheap theater in Brownsville, TX where they live a couple weeks ago and watched it. The 3-year old liked it, but the 1+ year old wasn't too excited about it. So . . . as soon as the movie was finished, I got the cell phone out and called Texas. I wanted to talk to Nathan (the 3 year old) about the movie, and he told me that he had already seen it "at the movie theater." Then he went on and on about something in the movie, but though his speech was fluent, I really couldn't understand what he was saying about it.

Since I'm writing about my grandsons, I think I'll post a photo of them:

Nathan is on the left, and Eli is on the right. The other grandparents will be driving to Brownsville this Friday, where they will be spending about a week (we made the 15+ hour drive for Thanksgiving). Those boys make us want to travel there frequently. Rose (my wife) and I will fly down there on Dec. 30, returning Jan. 2. Next Sunday Nathan will sing in the children's choir program at their church. They are putting on a program called Angel Alert, and I think Nathan will sing in two different songs. The children's choir at College Hts. Christian Church in Joplin presented the same musical this evening. We heard them do one song in the morning service.

When we return to Brownsville, I will preach at the Spanish service on New Year's Day. I enjoyed preaching there the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Well, my Greek I class has their semester final exam in the morning. The last sentence I will ask them to translate is pretty clever:

νῦν ἐλεύσομεθα πρὸς τοὺς οἴκους ἡμῶν.

I imagine what they will plan to do when they get there will be to go back to bed!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Here we go . . .

I am intrigued by the whole blogging phenomenon. As a Baby Boomer, those of my generation are generally not as confessional as the younger generation. The candor of today's undergraduate students amazes me.

I began reading blogs seriously last summer. A young man that was a student of mine a year ago is now in Iraq. I performed his wedding ceremony in August, and his wife has been a student of mine this semester. She misses him terribly, but appears to be doing well.

Before he went off to full-time training, he sent me an e-mail in which he gave my his blog site at Reading his Xanga site made it possible for me to keep up on what was happening with him in his training. With the web-like linking together of others' sites (also on Xanga), I found myself reading multiple student blogs. Now, some six months later, there are still six or seven student blogs that I commonly read, just to keep up on what is happening.

I also read more serious stuff. I am getting excited about the capabilities of Libronix Bible Software, especially regarding the study of Biblical Greek. I read the Logos Bible software blog, which has let me to interesting blog sites, like Rich Brannan's blog, and to the OpenText website. I am really excited about the possibility of new syntactical databases in the upcoming Libronix version 3. The other day when I read Daniel Foster's post, I downloaded the Libronix Version 3.0 beta on an office desktop computer that I have (the principal computer I use is a laptop that I carry back and forth from work to home). I am excited about some of this stuff!

I attended a Camp Logos in October, and learned quite a bit of stuff. I'm trying to educate myself in what Libronix can do. A few years ago, when I was regularly teaching a course called Principles of Interpretation, I was still using the pre-Libronix version of Logos software. I was a bit critical of the Logos stuff, primarily because the Logos software was so dependent upon the Strong's Greek and Hebrew numbering system, whereas in the world of print resources, the Goodrick-Kohlenberger system, similar to Strong's seemed to be preferrable. Libronix is still pretty much tied to the Strong's system, but not necessarily to the KJV, as the NASB (1995 update) text is also tagged. The Englishman's Concordance function from within Libronix makes it possible to create as it were an Exhaustive Confcordance based on whatever English version one desires. That is cool! I have not used the English Standard Version all that much, but the addition (next year) of the ESV Reverse-Interlinear (a joint project between Logos and Crossway Books) bodes some good stuff.

I will no doubt want to post some stuff in Greek here at some time, so here goes my first attempt. I hope all of the characters display correctly: ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.
Aland, B., Aland, K., Black, M., Martini, C. M., Metzger, B. M., & Wikgren, A. (1993, c1979). The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) (Mt 20:28). Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies.

Blessings to you all. Until I have more random thoughts . . .