Doggy Social Skills; Strong Introvert; Covenants; Ancient Academia; Projecting the Christ of Faith onto the Historical Jesus; Peace through War; Bipartisan Earth Day

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, pages 57-69:

The lesson for today is that we should be genuinely interested in people.  We should also give the impression that we are happy to see them.  Carnegie refers to dogs as fine examples of this: they’re happy to see you!

That’s the way my Teddy and Penny dogs were with me and the rest of my family.  When I came home for a break from college, they welcomed me, even though they didn’t know me that well.  Mom said it was because I had the family scent.  Every morning that I got out of bed and came to the living room, both of them came up too me and jumped on me, like they were happy to see me.

I think that the rule of being genuinely interested in people is valid.  My therapist says that people like it when we remember something about them, for that conveys to them that they are important enough to remember.  But I think that the rule needs to be nuanced a bit.  It’s possible for me to go up to a person and ask a bunch of questions, coming across as an FBI informant in the process!  Social skills books of today—such as Deb Fine’s The Fine Art of Small Talk and Alan Garner’s Conversationally Speaking—discourage coming across as an FBI informant, and they provide examples of open-ended questions that we can ask people. 

Also, while there’s a place for being thoughtful of others, there should probably be a degree of intimacy before you do certain things.  For example, an acquaintance of mine once told me that she likes Messianic praise music, so I got her a tape with some songs on it.  In retrospect, I don’t think that I knew her well enough to give her a gift.  I would have probably done better to have shown her some of my CDs and tapes, or to tell her where she could buy some.  When it comes to helping people with their schoolwork by referring them to books, however, that’s appropriate when you’re a student, for all of you are in the same boat.  Sometimes, people appreciate my suggestions; sometimes not. 

Dale Carnegie states that an editor told him that, if an author doesn’t like people, then people won’t like his stories.  I don’t know how true this is, for I’ve heard of plenty of writers who were messed-up recluses!  But I wonder how this editor’s principle can relate to my blog.  My readers can probably tell that I dislike certain people.  But there are also people I like, though: family, friends, the characters on Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Brothers and Sisters, etc.  I hope that my readers feel liked here.  One thing I appreciate about Nick Norelli’s blog, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (www.rdtwot.wordpress.com), is that he takes the time to respond to almost everybody’s comments.  I feel liked whenever I visit there!

2.  My sponsor suggested that I read Robert Heinlein’s Sixth Column, a science fiction work.  So far in the book, a disaster has wiped out much of America.  The line that stuck out to me today is on page 6:

There was Dr. Randall Brooks, biologist and bio-chemist, with a special commission of major.  Ardmore liked his looks; he was quiet and mild, but gave the impression of an untroubled strength of character superior to that of a more extroverted man—he would do, and his advice would be useful.

3.  Rolf Rendtorff, The Covenant Formula, page 59:

[At Sinai,] Israel’s relationship with God as it is defined in the terminology of the covenant formula is related to the covenant in such a way that the requirement to Abraham ‘to keep’ the covenant is now extended to Israel as a whole.  In addition, the ‘keeping of the covenant’ is not now concentrated on one particular point, as it was in the case of Abraham, with the circumcision; it is extended to ‘listening to my voice’.  This formulation proleptically denotes the commandments and precepts which God is going to proclaim in what follows.

Covenants.  I can’t say that the issue ever made a whole lot of sense to me.  There’s God’s covenant with Noah, God’s covenant with Abraham, the Sinai covenant, the Davidic covenant, the everlasting covenant, and the new covenant.  An Armstrongite pastor once said that the Sinai covenant was a sub-section of the Abrahamic one.  That’s pretty much how I see the issue.  God made a promise to Abraham that God would be the God of his offspring, and that Abraham’s offspring would possess the Promised Land.  What were the conditions for Israel’s possession of that land?  They had to keep the law given to them at Sinai.

In Genesis 17, circumcision was the way to become and remain in the covenant people.  Those who were not circumcised were cut off from them.  Eventually, Rendtorff states, the requirement was expanded to encompass the entire Torah.

And so circumcision and the Torah are a sub-section of God’s covenant with Abraham.  And yet Paul acts as if circumcision and the Torah are separate from it.  In Romans 4, Paul makes the point that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised, so right standing with God occurs through faith, not circumcision.  In Galatians 3:17, Paul affirms that the law cannot annul God’s promise to Abraham 430 years earlier. 

In a sense, when one looks at the Hebrew Bible, there does appear to be some truth in what Paul is saying: the Israelite’s failure to obey the Torah did not annul God’s covenant with them.  God forgave them over and over.  When they were exiled, God promised to restore them to their land.  There was an unconditional element to God’s covenant with Israel: God would stick with her, no matter what.

4.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, pages 96-97:

On the “men of letters” and scientists at the museum instituted by Ptolemy I (fourth-third centuries B.C.E.) in Egypt, Pfeiffer states: They had a carefree life: free meals, high salaries, no taxes to pay, very pleasant surroundings, good lodgings and servants.  There was plenty of opportunity for quarelling with each other.

Sounds good, but I could do without the quarreling about nothing.

5.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, page 275-276:

All [Origen] means is that where the evangelists give apparently contradictory accounts of Jesus those details which are inconsistent with the rest of the narrative are not descriptions of the historical Jesus actually teaching or healing in Palestine but are parabolic ways of describing different significances of Jesus, allegories of his ultimate significance for different sorts of human souls…Origen was not devoted to the humanity of Jesus…he was devoted to the Logos whose activity as Logos (not as human individual) was illustrated or enacted in parable or charade by Jesus incarnate as an individual. 

I take this to mean that, according to Origen, the Gospels are not totally about what Jesus did on earth.  They are also about how the risen Christ relates to human beings, and insights about that have been projected onto the historical Jesus in the Gospels.  This helps me to remain a Christian while acknowledging New Testament criticism.  The Gospels convey different facets about what Jesus is like, even if they may differ from one another in their details.  But what happens when the observant Jewish Jesus of Luke and Matthew (sort of) differs from the freer Jesus of Mark and John?  Maybe, at that point, we should learn from both portrayals: Jesus stood in the Jewish tradition and respected it, and yet he chose the well-being of people over the technicalities of the Torah whenever the two came into conflict.  Or perhaps Jesus related to Jewish-Christians and Gentile-Christians differently, according to their backgrounds.

6.  N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 312:

The warrior god in Ex. 15:3 and Is. 42:13…becomes a God who destroys wars…

The Hebrew versions emphasize that God will kick some serious rear-end as a warrior.  In Exodus 15, God does that when God throws the Egyptians’ chariots and horses into the sea.  The LXX points out, however, that God in defeating his enemies is actually putting an end to war.  God is creating peace by getting rid of the war-mongers.  That’s a message that appears throughout Scripture.  The neo-cons support this conception of peace, only they ascribe to the United States the function that the LXX gives to God.  Pacifists, however, define peace as non-resistance to evil, in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount.

7.  Today is Earth Day.  In my public school in Brazil, Indiana, the idea of taking care of our environment was as American as apple pie, and so we celebrated Earth Day.  And this was in an area that was politically and religiously conservative.  Granted, on a field trip, a park ranger (or whatever he was) advocated “conservation” rather than “preservation”, but we were continually told that we should respect our environment.  I tended to rebel against this by ranting against environmentalism, as the right-wing firebrand that I was.  But, nowadays, I find it interesting that—then and now—respect for the environment crosses party lines, at least when it comes to voters.  A liberal professor of mine once said that the National Rifle Association is actually pro-environment.  This one woman I know who criticizes Obama on Facebook once challenged a company that was polluting in her town.  I know a professor who has a “Ron Paul for President” bumper sticker on the back of his truck, and yet he’s written on the need to care for our environment, for, as the Bible says, the very land can vomit us out!

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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