Saturday, February 28, 2009

"It is said": Scripture and the temptation of Jesus

In the account of Jesus' temptation in Luke 4, I've been pondering why in Jesus' third response to the devil, rather than saying -- as in the first 2 times -- "it is written," he says, "it is said." ("And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.")

Here's Lenski's take on the question. I found it helpful:

"After the devil himself used, "it has been written," in imitation of Jesus who used this formula, Jesus now says pointedly, "it has been said," namely by God himself. His word was, of course, also written, but Jesus stresses the fact that God himself spoke this word, and he is certainly able to speak his meaning so as to make it clear ... Jesus does not set one Scripture passage against another. Jesus places one Scripture passage beside another, each casts light on the other. He thus establishes the great principle of all correct interpretation: Scriptura ex Scriptura explicanda est, Scripture is explained and must be explained by Scripture. We dare not put our own or any other man's ideas into it. Any false conclusions or deductions drawn from any one passage are eliminated by comparing this with other pertinent passages. No man dare force into a passage a thought that contradicts another passage. This condemns all exegesis that operates with contradictions in the Scriptures. In the present case all is clear: Ps. 91:11, 12 dare not be stressed so as to clash with Deut. 6:16, 'Thou shalt not test out the Lord, thy God.'"

David Berlinski: a secular Jew's attack on Darwin

I chanced upon this video series yesterday. Berlinski is a philosopher of mathematics, and his critiques of orthodox Darwinian theory are pungent. As he notes, it's standard to portray criticism of evolutionary theory as coming from a Christian fundamentalist perspective, but he's neither a fundamentalist nor a Christian, so those who dismiss his thoughts will have to find another stereotype to put him in.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Boost Your Memory with Brain-Boosting Supplements

"(NaturalNews) Where did I leave my keys? Who am I supposed to call again? What did I mean by that scribbled note, anyway? Everybody experiences these incidents of forgetfulness.

As we get older, these kinds of memory lapses can become routine, and are casually attributed to "advancing years" by many baby boomers, according to Dr. Heidi White, assistant professor of geriatric medicine at Duke University Medical Center."

Today I will make a difference

"Today I will make a difference. I will begin by controlling my thoughts. A person is the product of his thoughts. I want to be happy and hopeful. Therefore, I will have thoughts that are happy and hopeful. I refuse to be victimized by my circumstances. I will not let petty inconveniences such as stoplights, long lines, and traffic jams be my masters. I will avoid negativism and gossip. Optimism will be my companion, and victory will be my hallmark. Today I will make a difference.

I will be grateful for the twenty-four hours that are before me. Time is a precious commodity. I refuse to allow what little time I have to be contaminated by self-pity, anxiety, or boredom. I will face this day with the joy of a child and the courage of a giant. I will drink each minute as though it is my last. When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever. While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today I will make a difference.

I will not let past failures haunt me. Even though my life is scarred with mistakes, I refuse to rummage through my trash heap of failures. I will admit them. I will correct them. I will press on. Victoriously. No failure is fatal. It's OK to stumble...I will get up. It's OK to fail...I will rise again. Today I will make a difference.

I will spend time with those I love. My spouse, my children, my family. A man can own the world but be poor for the lack of love. A man can own nothing and yet be wealthy in relationships. Today I will spend at least five minutes with the significant people in my world. Five quality minutes of talking or hugging or thanking or listening. Five undiluted minutes with my mate, children, and friends.

Today I will make a difference."

Max Lucado, author

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Blow to Magic Bullet Drugs: Statins Impair Brains

"(NaturalNews) Statin drugs can reduce soaring cholesterol levels, according to countless ads touting these supposed "wonder" drugs, that means they are brimming with health benefits because they lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The problem is a host of side effects from eye problems and muscle pain to heart arrhythmias and liver disorders have been linked to these widely prescribed medications. Now comes research by an Iowa State University scientist that strongly suggests statins also could be robbing brains of thinking power and memory by doing exactly what they are supposed to do -- reduce cholesterol."

Break Out the Coconut Oil: It's Good for You

"(NaturalNews) If you could make one change in your current diet which would positively affect all other areas of your life, would you do it? If you knew that just three tablespoons of a saturated fat would positively benefit your current health condition, would you take those three tablespoons of medicine?

The secret Fountain of Youth, of health and longevity, has been located.
No, it`s not actually water, but the fountain-like tree of the Coconut Palm or Cocos nucifera, which is a member of the Arecaceae family. This family also includes the famous acai fruit, dates, and other drupe fruits which are popular in tropical and subtropical regions."

Giving value to others

"The money I have is in direct proportion to the value I've given to others. The more I give of myself, incredibly, the more economic power comes my way."

Tod Barnhart

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday: On the 3 Tempations of Christ

"When the Lord was tempted by the devil, he answered him with the commands of sacred Scripture. By he Word that he was, he could have easily plunged his tempter into the abyss. But he did not reveal the power of his might, but he only brought forth the precepts of Scripture. This was to give us an example of his patience, so that as often as we suffer something from vicious persons we should be aroused to teach rather than to exact revenge."

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies, 16.2-3

Creationism and the birth of St. John the Baptist

Luke 1.70: "As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began."

Here St. Zacharias praises God at the naming of his son, John.

I think this is a proof-text on several scores. First, there are no prophets without a church. Thus, God has always had His people, and His church has existed since the beginning of time. We're specifically told (Matt. 23.35, and Luke 11.51) that Abel is a martyr, and I'd argue that Adam was likewise a prophet who taught his family the ways of God. This is illustrated especially in Gen. 4.1, when Eve welcomed Cain's birth as a messianic sign.

Second, if there are prophets from the time the world began (the Greek is "eon"), it follows that there are no long periods of time without humanity. This isn't a primary argument for creationism, but it certainly seems like a supporting argument.


"Action makes more fortune than caution."

Luc DeClapiers
1715-1747, Essayist

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vitamins Protect Against Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

"(NaturalNews) According the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss most likely caused by exposure to loud sounds or noise at work, home, or during recreational activities. For example, target shooting and hunting, attending rock concerts, snowmobile riding, woodworking, and operating lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and shop tools are all linked to noise-induced hearing loss.

But research just presented at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology's annual conference in Baltimore by University of Florida scientist Colleen Le Prell, Ph.D., suggests there's a way to protect against noise-induced and perhaps even age-related hearing loss in humans -- take vitamin supplements containing the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral magnesium. When test animals were given the vitamins before they were exposed to loud noises, the supplements prevented both temporary and permanent hearing loss."

Universal Vaccine for the Flu? Look No Further Than Vitamin C and Zinc

"(NaturalNews) The mainstream media is ablaze today with talk of an important new discovery that could lead to a "universal vaccine" that ends all colds for a lifetime. This universal vaccine, researchers say, would target a common configuration of proteins that occurs in virtually all cases of influenza, including H5N1 (bird flu), the Spanish flu strain and even the common cold.

It all sounds promising until you realize the reality of the situation. First, this "universal vaccine" concept is remarkably naive in ignoring the astounding ability of viruses to generate immunity to vaccines due to clever mutations. In fact, the action of influenza in the wild right now demonstrates this quite well: Each year's flu shot vaccine is essentially useless against the current influenza strains actually circulating among the population. They only protect people against last year's flu. And that's not very useful."

B Vitamins Can Prevent Vision Loss

"Taking B vitamins can prevent a common type of vision loss in older women, according to the first rigorous study of its kind. It's a slight redemption for vitamin supplements, which have suffered recent blows from research finding them powerless at preventing disease.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people 65 and older, with nearly 2 million Americans in the advanced stage of the condition. It causes a layer of the eye to deteriorate, blurring the center of the field of vision and making it difficult to recognize faces, read and drive. There's no cure, but treatment, including laser therapy in some cases, can slow it down.

Preventing it has been more elusive.

"Other than avoiding cigarette smoking, this is the first suggestion from a randomized trial of a possible way to reduce early stage AMD," said William Christen of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the research. He said the findings should apply to men as well.

The women in the study who took a combination of B vitamins B-6, folic acid and B-12 reduced their risk of macular degeneration by more than one-third after seven years compared to women taking dummy pills."

Vitamin D Deficiency May Increase Risk Of Colds, Flu

"ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2009) — Vitamin D may be an important way to arm the immune system against disorders like the common cold, report investigators from the University of Colorado Denver (UC Denver) School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Children's Hospital Boston."

The tree of life

"Some have imagined paradise to have been material, while others have imagined it to have been spiritual. However, it seems to me that just as man was created both sensitive and intellectual, so did this most sacred domain of him have the twofold aspect of being perceptible both to the senses and to the mind. For while in his body he dwelled in this most sacred superbly beautiful place, as we have related, spiritually he resided in a better and more beautiful place. There he had the indwelling God as a dwelling place."

St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, 2.11

Justification by Works and Faith

"In this whole passage it seems that the apostle wants to show that there are two justifications, one by works and the other by faith. He says that justification by works has its glory in and of itself, not before God. Justification by faith, on the other hand, has glory before God, who sees our hearts and knows those who believe in secret and those who do not believe. Thus it is right to say that it has glory only before God, who sees the hidden power of faith. But the one who looks for justification by works may expect honor mainly from other persons who see and approve of them."

Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, on Romans 4

Discipline -- and devotion

"People think I'm disciplined. It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference."

Luciano Pavarotti
1935-2007, Opera Singer

Will this novel approach to adding healthy fats to your diet help you maintain your weight?

"Omega-3 fats are thought to play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and other serious diseases. However, humans are unable to synthesize omega-3 for themselves and must obtain it from meat, fish and dairy products.

Studies have indicated that animal feeds enriched with omega-3 improves the health and fertility of animals, and the nutritional quality of their meat and dairy products.

Obese volunteers eating a diet comprising meat and dairy products derived from animals fed with omega-3-enriched linseed (flaxseed) lost 3 kg in three months, and sustained the weight loss five months later."


"Winning is not a sometime thing; It's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time."

Vince Lombardi
1913-1970, Hall of Fame Football Coach

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another music video: Ian Mason's 'Gotta Lotta Love,' 1978

I'm intrigued by an art form that has come into existence in my adult lifetime: music videos. Here's a cute example of another early one, Australian Ian Mason's Gotta Lotta Love, from 1978. I distinguish music videos which has an element of visual storytelling from simple concert footage. Like most early work, this one combines both, including some simple graphics. But still a good piece from an artist I'd never heard of before.

Another one I've posted before is Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue, from 1982. Another good example of early work:

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Vogues: Magic Town

This is an oldie from my childhood. I wasn't that crazy about all of The Vogues' music, but this one soars: great harmonies, haunting lyrics (courtesy of husband and wife songwriters Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann), and a great piano.

The Thread of a Dream

"When I was researching the history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge as a major illustration for the ideas of success and motivation, I became engrossed with the story of how the first bridge was built over Niagara Falls. You see, to build a bridge over a giant gorge, first you have to get a line over the canyon, from one side to the other. Easier said than done at Niagara Falls.

The engineers couldn't cross the falls in a boat to take the line from one side to the other because the boat would go over the falls. And the airplane hadn't been invented yet. The distance was also way beyond the bow-and-arrow range, which had been a common method at the time of getting the first line across to build a bridge.

The designing engineer, Charles Ellet, pondered the question until he came up with a revolutionary idea. He decided that, while solving the problem, he would also have some fun and generate some publicity for the project. Ellet sponsored a kite flying contest and offered five dollars to the first person who could fly a kite across the gorge and let it go low enough to the ground for someone to be able to grab the string. In 1849, five dollars was a prize similar to a small lottery today. The boy who won the prize relished his accomplishment until his death, nearly 80 years later.

It all began with an idea and one thin kite string. The kite string was used to pull a cord across, then a line, then a rope. Next came an iron-wire cable and then steel cables, until a structure strong enough to build a suspension bridge was in place.

I'm struck by how that string is like a single thought. The more vivid and clear the thought, and the more you come back to it, the stronger it becomes - like the string to the rope to a cable. Each time you rethink it, dwell on it, or layer it with other thoughts, you are strengthening the structure on which to build your idea, like building a bridge over Niagara Falls.

But unlike a kite, there is no string attached to how high and how far your goals may take you. They are limited only by the power of your imagination and the strength of your desire."

Denis Waitley

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Low-Dose Aspirin Not Answer for Heart Health

"(NaturalNews) If you listen to the reigning experts from the pharmaceutical world, aspirin appears to be the cure-all for everything. Now, a new Yale University study suggests that low-dose aspirin may prevent liver damage caused by side effects of drugs, alcohol, and obesity. Specifically, aspirin reduced mortality caused by Tylenol overdose in mice. Given together with Tylenol, it offered significant protection, increasing survival from 22 to 43%. Other drugs that block inflammation were also shown to protect the liver (Imaeda et al., 2009). As usual, no mention was made of anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals in this study.

A number of pharmaceutical industry-sponsored studies support the use of aspirin for prevention. Low-dose aspirin is positioned as a widely available, inexpensive, and relatively safe drug regimen. Its anti-clotting effect is used widely to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clot formation. Given immediately after a heart attack, aspirin is said to reduce heart damage and the risk of another heart attack. Now, low dose aspirin may be promoted to inhibit liver inflammation from drug use. Consider, however, that higher doses may increase liver toxicity."

Red Grapes "Wonder Cure" for High Cholesterol, Blood Pressure

"(NaturalNews) An extract made from components of red grapes that are regularly discarded by vineyards may dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, above and beyond the well-known health benefits of red wine, researchers have found."

Victims and visions

"People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives."

Stedman Graham
Speaker, Author and Educator

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Super Spice Secrets: Can This Miracle Spice Stop Cancer, Alzheimer's and Arthritis?

"For more than 5,000 years, turmeric has been an important part of Eastern cultural traditions, including traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Valued for its medicinal properties and warm, peppery flavor, this yellow-orange spice has more recently earned a name for itself in Western medicine as well.

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which is native to Indonesia and southern India, and is widely used as an ingredient in curry dishes and yellow mustard. As research into this powerful spice has increased, it has emerged as one of nature’s most powerful potential healers."

Sprints May Be Best for Diabetes Prevention

"A few minutes of intense exercise a week is just as good as a half-hour of moderate physical activity a day for reducing a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes -- and may actually be even more effective, new research hints.

"It is possible to gain significant health benefits from only 7.5 minutes of exercise each week -- if that is all that you find the time to do," Dr. James A. Timmons of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, one of the researchers on the study, told Reuters Health."

Great people and others

"The difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next. The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing."

Michael E. Gerber

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Praying always

"Jesus prayed and did not pray in vain, since he received what he asked for in prayer when he might have done so without prayer. If so, who among us would neglect to pray? Mark says that 'in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.' And Luke says, 'He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray,' and elsewhere, 'And all night he continued in prayer to God.' And John records his prayer, saying, 'When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, 'Father, the house has come, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.' The same Evangelist writes that the Lord said that he knew 'you hear me always.' All this shows that the one who prays always is always heard."

Origen, On Prayer

Key Nutrients Help Maintain Brain Function throughout Lifetime

"(NaturalNews) If you want to stay mentally sharp all your life, new research shows the time to intervene is now. Alzheimer's disease and dementia have complex causes that involve nutritional neglect as well as genetic risk factors and predisposition. Genetic risk factors for cognitive decline may remain dormant and never get switched on unless deficiencies in key nutrients are present. This suggests that nutritional status throughout the lifetime determines cognitive outcome. This is very good news because it means that people willing to make good nutrition a priority may not need to experience cognitive decline and the diseases that go with it."

Doing something about ideas

"Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference."

Nolan Bushnell
Founder of Atari

Monday, February 16, 2009

Getting the attention of the world

"When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way you will command the attention of the world."

George Washington Carver
1864-1943, Scientist

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Prayer for Transfiguration

"O Lord our God, teach us, we ask you, to ask you aright for the right blessings. Steer the vessel of our life toward yourself, you tranquil haven of all storm-tossed souls. Show us the course wherein we should go. Renew a willing spirit within us. Let your Spirit curb our wayward senses, and guide and enable us into that which is our true good, to keep your laws, and in all our works evermore to rejoice in your glorious and gladdening presence. For yours is the glory and praise from all your saints, for ever and eve. Amen."

St. Basil the Great

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Kindle book source

OK, so I'm almost convinced about getting a Kindle. (My wife suggested that I get it for my birthday in April -- non-surprise birthday gifts have a long tradition in this family -- and I'm beginning to think that that's a good idea).

For those who already have one, here's another book source. I'm very fond of Richard Seltzer's approach. I know that the experts tell us that people want glitz, and I certainly can't argue with them. But I like the way Seltzer does a bare-boned, pressed-down website, and find the enormous volume of good information helpful.

A Collect for St. Valentine's Day

"Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

BDNF Prevents and Reverses Alzheimer’s Disease

"Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have provided ground-breaking proof that a natural protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) can prevent and treat Alzheimer’s. The study was carried out in a variety of animal models including mice, rats, and monkeys.

“The effects of BDNF were potent,” said Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, lead researcher. “When we administered BDNF to memory circuits in the brain, we directly stimulated their activity and prevented cell death from the underlying disease.”

The Benefits of Oil Pulling

"(NaturalNews) Oil pulling is said to be a powerful means of maintaining good health as well as an effective cure for a variety of ills. This is an ancient technique, first described in 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic texts. The practice is simple. Soon after waking, before eating or brushing your teeth, swish your mouth with a spoonful of high quality oil in order to "pull" bacteria, parasites and other toxins from your teeth and mucus membranes."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lack of Sunshine Vitamin Linked to Cognitive Decline

"Researchers have for the first time identified a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of older people.

The study looked at almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and over. As levels of vitamin D went down, levels of cognitive impairment went up. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired."

Welfare for the rich

Thursday, February 12, 2009

40 years' worth of thanks

"The firefighter crawled on his stomach through the pitch-black apartment, the smoke so thick he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. Somewhere inside was a baby and he had to find her.

A window broke, light filled the room, and he saw her lying in her crib, dressed only in a diaper, unconscious. Soot covered her tiny nose. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse.

He grabbed her and breathed life into her as he ran from the apartment."

To Have God as a Friend

"If anyone therefore desires to behold this image of God, he must love God so as to be loved by him, no longer as a servant but as a friend who observes his commandments, that he may enter the cloud where God is."

St. Ambrose of Milan, On His Brother Satyrus, 2.110

Without regret

"Make each day useful and cheerful and prove that you know the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be happy, old age without regret and life a beautiful success."

Louisa May Alcott
1832-1888, Author

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Louis Bouyer's 'Eucharist': an Amazon review

"You know, I bought this book probably 20 years ago. And each time I tried to tackle it, I realized it was far beyond me. Until I tried again 2 months ago, and suddenly the book seemed to come alive, and I was rewarded with 6 weeks of learning from this master's pen.

Make no mistake: this is not an easy book. The difficulty is not in the writing or style, but in the density of the writer's knowledge. But it is rewarding in bringing to life the history of the central rite of the catholic faith, the Eucharist, and showing us how that rite has developed into what we are blessed to have today.

Fr. Bouyer's primary contribution in this book is showing meticulously how our rite grew forth from the rites of the synagogue and temple in the time before the incarnation. Also invaluable is his demonstrating how the church's western rite is more likely an example of the earliest rites of the church, and that the eastern (Byzantine) rites are more likely examples of a later, more refined theology and praxis."

Magnesium is Vital for Good Health

"(NaturalNews) Very few people are aware of how vital magnesium is for overall health. After oxygen, water, and basic food, magnesium may be the most important element needed by our bodies, activating over 300 different biochemical reactions necessary for your body to function properly. The U.S. minimum RDA for magnesium is about 320 mg per day for women and more than 400 mg per day for men, while optimum daily amounts are closer to 500 to 700 mg per day - yet studies show that most people regularly take in about half of that and that over 8 out of 10 people do not take enough daily magnesium for even the minimum daily amounts recommended. Recent research has revealed that this lack of magnesium may put your heart - and your health - at significant risk."

Researchers Detail Statin Drug Dangers

"(NaturalNews) With familiar and widely-advertised names like Levacor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lipitor, and Crestor, statin drugs have become some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. In fact, the medications (technically a class of drugs called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) have been so hyped as a pill-popping easy way to quickly lower soaring cholesterol levels, some doctors have advocated they should be sold over-the-counter like aspirin. Others want children as young as two to be on these drugs that block an enzyme in the liver responsible for making cholesterol.

But many physicians and scientists -- as well as countless patients who have experienced side effects from statins ranging from some that are merely annoying to others that are devastatingly painful -- have urged caution and pointed to a host of potential dangers from the drugs. Now scientists from the University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine have published a review paper of nearly 900 research studies on statins to see just what the facts are. The verdict? The drugs may predispose many people to serious muscle and kidney problems, potentially deadly heart arrhythmias and a host of other health problems."

What it takes to accomplish a lot

"All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible."

Orison Swett Marden
1850-1924, Author

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What women hold

"... in Rome, the women hold Plato's Republic in their hands."

from a fragment of Epictetus, cited in Milton S. Terry's Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 117

Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan

"Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Republican Senators are questioning whether President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.

Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health."

Baptism on the Day of Pentecost: The Temple authorities

Let's continue thinking about the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

We've established that there's a maximum 9 hour span of time in order for the baptisms in Acts 2 to occur: between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. I think the time span would be somewhat shorter than that (St. Peter's sermon doesn't begin until around 9 a.m., but I'll allow a possibility of a 9 hour span there).

This would mean that a bare minimum of 333 individuals were baptized per hour. Cut an hour off the time (say, guessing that the baptisms didn't begin until around 10 a.m.) and the number rises to 375 individuals per hour.

We've also established that there's a limited number of water sources in the city. The most probable source of large bodies of water (something that might be suitable for immersion baptisms) were public baths.

I stress again that any discussion of Greco-Roman-type public baths in first century Jerusalem is hypothetical. There's no documentary evidence (biblical or otherwise) and the archeological evidence of public baths dates far later than the first century. But it's always possible that there were some there. However, there probably wouldn't have been a lot of them, given the probable 25,000 population of Jerusalem at that time.

There is one other source of large bodies of water in the city: the Temple pools and other ritual bathing facilities. Here's a picture of what is thought to be the pool of Siloam, mentioned in John 9, as well as pictured above.

Ritual pools are at least a possible source of large bodies of water for immersion. But let's look at the reality there in Jerusalem.

Temple authorities had judged and crucified Jesus just over 40 days before. And we're expected to believe that they would have allowed the Apostles to use the ritual pools on Pentecost for a Trinitarian baptism for 3,000 new believers in the way whose leader they had had killed a little over a month before? This boggles the mind.

What you desire

"Do you realize that your life at this very moment is the result of everything that you have ever thought, done, believed or felt up until now? You can start right now to consciously and deliberately attract whatever you desire in this lifetime."

Jack Canfield

Monday, February 09, 2009

Baptism on the Day of Pentecost, part 2

Jerusalem is a city on a hill. It's subject to numerous water shortages, and even when there's not a water shortage, the city has a limited water supply, the water usually coming from springs in the city.

I'm unable to find a definitive answer, but I'm going to guess that immersing someone under water would require a minimum of 40 gallons of water. Probably more, but let's say that for the sake of argument.

How long would each baptism take? Let's say that the apostles were very speedy, and they could baptize one individual per minute.

At the rate of one per minute, this is roughly 50 hours (all together) of baptizing on that one day, for a period of time that was a maximum of 9 hours. In other words, the 12 apostles would be baptizing just over 333 individuals per hour, and I'm giving the maximum number of hours that (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) can be allowed. I would suggest that the time was considerably shorter, but let's give them 9 hours for the sake of discussion.

First, for there to be immersions, we're requiring several large vats of water. Where would these be found? First century Jerusalem -- like other cities of that time -- would not have had bathtubs. Most would have routinely washed themselves by sponging off, and it's probable that there were some public baths in the city, but this is mere conjecture, as many stricter Jews found the Greek and Roman type of public baths to be offensive, since they found public nudity was a path to immorality. But let's guess that there might have been one or more such baths in the city. First century Jerusalem had a population of about 25,000 at the time of Christ.

In most Greco-Roman cities, the baths were a kind of public utility. They were owned and controlled by city authorities. It was not -- in most situations -- a private company's operation.

Next: The Temple authorities and baptisms

The result of education

"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not."

Thomas Huxley
1825-1895, Biologist and Educator

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Baptism on the Day of Pentecost, part 1

A couple of points of clarification.

First, when I say "immersion" as a mode of baptism, I'm meaning that the candidate's entire body is submerged under the water. In some confessions, this is done once (some Protestants) and in some, it's a three-fold immersion (the eastern and western Orthodox churches). But it's always a case of the entire body under the water.

Secondly, in discussing my assertion (that no recorded New Testament baptism was done by immersion), I'm not asserting anything about the economia of the church: the church can -- in her wisdom -- decree baptism by immersion only. This is not discussing that issue.

But today we're talking about the 3,000 baptisms that occurred on the day of Pentecost. And in my opinion, someone who argues that New Testament baptisms were by immersion is not dealing seriously with what went on that day.

Let's recap: on the day of Pentecost, some 40 days after Jesus' crucifixion, there were 3,000 new Christians who came to faith and were baptized there in the city of Jerusalem through the agency of the preaching of St. Peter. The conversions came some time after around 9 a.m. (Acts 2.15) and presumably the conversions and baptisms were completed prior to the "end" of the day, which they would have thought of as being about 6 p.m., in our reckoning.

Let's assume that each apostle baptized about the same number of individuals. This would have meant that each (there were 12 there, Acts 2.14) would have baptized around 250 individuals.

More tomorrow -- this is a tougher subject than most of us have considered.

Hitler "What luck for rulers that men do not think."

I chanced upon this quote this morning, and it's worth pondering, given the current climate, and especially given what is happening this weekend with the "stimulus" nonsense.

The problem, of course, is that this is being pushed by unscrupulous men and women in very high offices. The bailout last fall did no good, but it wasn't supposed to: it was there to give money to corporations. Same with the current one. Men do think. If this were given a vote to the American people, it would fail miserably. But those in the White House and Congress are not there to serve the people. We all know that. They have corporate welfare to think of, and they are doing their best.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Significance of the River Jordan in St. John's Baptizing

In discussing the modes of baptism in the New Testament, it's good to think about why St. John the Baptist used the river Jordan for baptizing.

It's true that he was out in the wilderness. It's also true that Palestine is a land without a lot of water (then as now) and the river would have provided a ready source of water for the washing of baptism.

Another good thing to remember is that since the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, we can start off with the assumption that the words are significant. God speaks to us in words. Not in pictures, not in dreams, not in visions, but in words.

So there's a reason why the river Jordan is mentioned. The writers (and the Holy Spirit who inspired them) could have simply said, "He baptized them." But we're told that it was in the river Jordan.

The New Testament points backward (calling us to remember and ponder our forefathers in the faith in the Old Testament) as well as forward, when Christ commands that his gospel be preached throughout all the world. The Jordan's especially important because of the story (in the book of Joshua) when the people of Israel pass through the Jordan on dry land when the waters were parted. So the children of Israel were saved through the waters of the Jordan. So Christ makes holy not just the waters of the Jordan, but all waters when he is baptized there.

Others in the New Testament were not baptized in the Jordan -- think about the 3,000 baptized in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the Ethiopian treasurer who was baptized at a Wadi in the desert in Acts 8, and the jailer baptized in the jail itself in Acts 16. (We sometimes think of Jerusalem as being close to the Jordan, but the river's no less than 20 miles away, and there's no indication that the 3,000 went there that day).

We can be thankful that the Holy Spirit chose to specifically indicate that these folks were not baptized in the Jordan. Because if they had, we might think our baptisms less important because we were baptized somewhere else. The tie between St. John's baptizing in the Jordan and the historical ties to the Jordan for the people of Israel are important. But wherever you were baptized -- in a hospital, in a church, in a swimming pool, a river, wherever -- your baptism was and is a washing away of your sins: one that you remember because Christ promised his blessing there, the blessing of union with God and life eternal.

An argument in favor of buying a Kindle

I'm still not a big fan of's Kindle reading device. (I've also never used one, so you can take this as a slightly uninformed opinion). One of my complaints is the cost of the device (currently $359). But something occurred to me this morning that might change my mind.

I was looking at Hauser's Social History of Art . The book sells new for $117, and used copies are from $85 up.

However, the Kindle edition of the same book is $15. So if I wanted the book, I could buy it for $117. Or I could buy Kindle for $359, and the book for $15. Roughly $250 more than "just the book," but then I'd have the Kindle as well.

As the price drops, the Kindle will make more and more sense.

The unspiritual try to see without light

"God gave us a mind in order that we might learn and receive help from him, not in order that the mind should be self-sufficient. Eyes are beautiful and useful, but if they choose to see without light, their beauty is useless and may even be harmful. Likewise, if my soul chooses to see without the Spirit, it becomes a danger to itself."

St. John Chrysostom,

Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 7.9

The death of "hope" in the Obama administration

The lies continue. I had thought the facade might continue for a while, but it only lasted 2 1/2 weeks. The push is on in this, the 3rd term of the Bush administration, for yet another plan to feed the hogs at the Big Money trough.

January 20, 2009: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear"

February 5, 2009: ""An economy that is already in crisis will be faced with catastrophe."

We are being manipulated with fear-mongering by this administration. It will continue until the money interests who brought these individuals into office get what they currently want.

The continuing push for an invasion of Iran

Friday, February 06, 2009

In much fear

"Was Paul really afraid of danger? Yes, he was, for even though he was Paul, he was still a man. This is not to say anything against him but rather about the infirmity of human nature. Indeed it is to the credit of his sense of determination that even when he was afraid of death and beatings, he did nothing wrong because of this fear."

St. John Chrysostom,

Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 6.2

Researchers Document the Dangers of Statins

"A new scientific review of the dangers of statin medications is the first official paper to shed light on what I have been saying for years. It reviews 900 studies on the adverse effects of statins. It shows beyond any doubt that statins are potent disrupters of normal energy production by cells – meaning that the drugs are anti-life. It is technically not possible to have a drug that is anti-energy have any value in long term use. Yet, the statin machine rolls on, killing and injuring countless Americans."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Florida doctor investigated in badly botched abortion

According to the headline above, this is the story of a "badly botched abortion."

Was the abortion really botched? Or was the outcome exactly what an abortion is supposed to produce -- a dead child and an injured mother?

"Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl."

Happy birthday

Yesterday marked a birthday on the internet: Facebook.

Facebook was born 5 years ago, on 2/4/04. Since it began as a college site (registrants were originally limited to student in Harvard College) there are some who deem it inappropriate for others to belong. But that idea is going away, and every day, there are others coming on board.

User-friendly, easy, and fun to use, Facebook has become the spot to connect and re-connect with folks from both past and present.

So happy birthday, Facebook. I'm glad you came along.


"If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."

Rabbi Harold Kushner

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Visions and dreams

"Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul; the blueprints of your ultimate achievements."

Napoleon Hill
1883-1970, Author

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Vitamin D Halts Growth of Breast Cancer Tumors

"(NaturalNews) For the past 18 months, I've been working on building a new research library consisting of over 1200 books on natural health topics. Through some rather advanced technologies that took me far longer to build than I originally anticipated, I'm now able to locate and collect, within minutes, paragraphs on any combination of topics from among these 1200 books.

For example, today I wanted to research "Vitamin D" and "Breast Cancer." This produced a collection of well over 650 quotations on the subject from the various sources in my private library. A small sampling of those results are shown below."

Stepping out

"If you have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone, you will not only be amazed by the marvel and sights of the world, but also with the wonders that lay deep within yourself."

Rosanna Ienco

Monday, February 02, 2009

Falling temperatures

We got spoiled by the (comparatively) warm weather of the last 2 days. It was almost 60, and nice enough that I even got my wife to go for a walk. (She normally only does indoor exercise during the winter months). But we got a walk in yesterday, enjoyed the weak sunshine, and talked. Tonight, it's raining, a cold and bitter rain. And tomorrow the high will be 42 and then 36 on Wednesday. It's still winter. But I can still long for spring.

Who are the meek?

"The meek are those who are gentle, humble and unassuming, simple in faith and patient in the face of every affront."

St. Chromatius of Aquileia

Defeat is a path to success

"Defeat is a state of mind. No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality. To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth."

Bruce Lee
1940-1973, Martial Artist, Actor and Author