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Playing or Persecuting? Paul’s reading of Genesis 21.9

In my Greek class this semester we are reading through Philo’s On the Cherubim. Before we get started on that, we read through some texts today in Genesis 16, Genesis 21, Galatians 4, and Wisdom 10.

Genesis 16 discusses the birth of Ishmael by Hagar, Sara’s “handmaid” (παιδίσκη). Genesis 21 discusses the birth of Isaac by Sara. In chapter 21, Sara becomes angry about Hagar, Ishmael, and their position within her family. Verse 9 of chapter 21 is interesting:

ἰδοῦσα δὲ Σαρρα τὸν υἱὸν Αγαρ τῆς Αἰγυπτίας, ὅς ἐγένετο τῷ Αβρααμ, παίζοντα μετὰ Ισαακ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς.

But Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, the one whom was (born) to Abraham, playing with Isaac her son.

The participle underlined is pretty interesting. παίζω, the verb from which παίζοντα comes, can mean “to play”, but also can mean to pursue, chase, or even hunt (LSJ A.6). This is somewhat preserved in the Vulgate where Ishmael is described as a filium ludentem, “ludo” having the meaning “to play” as well as to mock or tease (not nearly as harsh as the other meanings of παίζω it seems). Does this “harsh” reading of παίζω show up in Paul’s allegorical reading of this text?

ἡμεῖς δὲ, ἀδελφοὶ, κατὰ ᾿Ισαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐσμέν. ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ τότε ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς ἐδίωκεν τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα, οὕτως καὶ νῦν.

But we, brethren, are children like Isaac according to the promise. But just as then the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the spirit, so it is now.

διώκω has a variety of meanings ranging from “pursue” to “persecute.” διώκω is obviously not παίζω, but it seems that Paul can only come up with this reading of Ishmael and Isaac’s story if he’s reading the παίζοντα as “hunting”. I cannot read Hebrew, but I would be grateful if someone would like to share the Hebrew word here and if it too has a variety of meanings as παίζω and ludo do.

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Eusebius of Caesarea’s “Gospel Problems and Solutions”

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote a great treatise titled “Gospel Problems and Solutions.Roger Pearse has put a lot of his own time and money into bringing this fantastic treatise to English readers. How do I know this translation is a worthwhile one? Well, I helped edit the underlying Greek text, so it has to be good. I recommend going out and buying it and rewarding Roger for his relentless efforts in preserving and making accessible great works from antiquity.

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The Ark and the Assumption

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic belief is that after Mary’s Dormition, God assumed her body into Heaven. The readings today in the Mass reveal the Biblical basis for this celebration. Our first text came from Rev. 11.19-12.10.

Revelation 11:19 is particularly striking:

καὶ ἠνοίγη ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ὤφθη ἡ κιβωτὸς τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ και ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαὶ καὶ φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ σεισμὸς καὶ χάλαζα μεγάλη.

And the Temple of God which is in Heaven was opened and the Ark of the Covenant  was seen in His Temple, and there was lightning and sounds and thunder and an earthquake and great hail.

John writes about an exciting revelation – the Ark in Heaven. It had been hidden since Jeremiah (2 Macc. 2.4-8) and John was saying that he had seen it. Except John goes on to say in the very next verse:

καὶ σημεῖον μέγα ὤφθη ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, γυνὴ περιβεβλημένη τὸν ἥλιον καὶ ἡ σελήνη ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς στέφανος ἀστέρων δώδεκα…

And a great sign appeared in a heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.

Rev. 11.19 and 12.1 are separated only by virtue of a rather modern numbering system. They ought, in my mind, to be read together. John links the Ark with the woman. This would be supported if we could find another instance in the New Testament where this woman who carries the Messiah is also compared with the Ark.

In the Gospel readings today, we read from Luke 1.39-56, Mary’s visitation with Elizabeth. I think Luke here is drawing on Ark typology, particularly the story in 2 Samuel 6 where David recovers the Ark. Like David, Mary rises and goes into the hill country of Judea. David asks, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam. 6.9), while Elizabeth asks, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” David leaps and dances in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6.16), and John the Baptist likewise “leaps” at Mary’s arrival (Lk 1.41). While the Ark stays in the house of Obed-Edom for 3 months and blesses it (2 Sam. 6.11), Mary stays in the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah for 3 months (Lk 1.56).  There is also the fact that like the Ark in Exodus 40 that is “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit (Ex 40.35 – ἐπεσκίαζεν), so too Mary will be ‘overshadowed’ by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1.35 – ἐπισκιάσει).

Considering all the parallels (and more not mentioned here) between Luke 1 and various Ark passages within the OT, particularly the episode where David retrieves the Ark, I think it’s fair to say that Luke has linked Mary in some way with the Ark of the OT. Therefore, when one reads Rev. 11.19-12.1, seeing the “ark” and the “woman” as one sight is entirely justified.

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When posts create more heat than light

Despite my better judgment, I recently got involved in a little ‘debate’ online with a guy on his blog. I then brought the topic to my blog because I felt like this individual wasn’t addressing some of my points. Sadly, the “discussion” (if it ever was one) went downhill quickly and instantly made me regret even getting involved. Plenty of things were said that, instead of addressing my arguments, were simply attacks on my person. This isn’t why I got involved in blogging. I blog because I enjoy fruitful discussions and sharing what’s going on in my own little life. Therefore, I removed my post on my blog because it was a sort of depressing record of a conversation that devolved.

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Joel Watts wants a Protestant Pope?

Joel Watts writes some really interesting stuff. I love reading his blog because I think he’s got some interesting insights. He recently posted this on his blog and I want to see what you think about his ideas.

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Youtube Videos on Accenting Greek

John Schwandt has put up a very helpful series on accenting Biblical and Ancient Greek. If you’re like me, you read over those pages in your first year Greek grammar and thought, “What?!”. I have only watched the first one, but I like the way he explains things. If accents have given you trouble in the past, maybe these videos can help:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSkzOKDnLMM

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CVoqcHTCf4&feature=related

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2JotSYFlGA&feature=related

Also a video on accenting with enclitics:

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Patristics Quiz

After John Chrysostom, to whom in the Corpus Christianorum are the most works ascribed that were not authored by him?

(Click on the picture if you give up).

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Athanasius’ Letter to Marcellinus

For my summer course, “The Patristic and Medieval Interpretation of the Psalter”, we read Athanasius’ Letter to Marcellinus. Marcellinus is probably a monk, perhaps a Deacon in Alexandria, who is undergoing some sort of sickness and wants to use his time to study the Psalms. Like Calvin’s comment that the Psalms are the “anatomy of all parts of the soul”,  Athanasius believes that “within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul.” The individual books of the Bible, says Athanasius, bear their own individual fruit. The Psalter is a garden that contains the fruits of all the other books. Not only this, the benefit of the Psalter is that one can appropriate the words contained therein as their own prayer. He writes that while “in other books of Scripture we read or hear words of holy men belonging only to them”, the Psalter becomes the prayer of the individual who reads it.

This appropriation acts as a mirror for the individual. In my course on St. Ephrem last semester we talked about how Ephrem sees a mirror not just as an object that reflects, but an object that makes visible things that could not be seen otherwise. Athanasius seems to hold a similar view. The Psalter reflects our inner state when we chant the Psalms. The chanting allows for us to see into our soul and to correct the faults found therein. This finding and correcting is the thrust of Athanasius’ letter. While Athanasius groups the Psalms together for Marcellinus’ benefit, he doesn’t engage in in a lot of “exegesis” in the modern sense. Rather, he uses the Psalter as a medicine cabinet or pharmacy from which he can prescribe certain Psalms for certain afflictions of one’s soul. If Marcellinus is struggling with hatred, he can read a certain set of Psalms. If Marcellinus meets individuals who deny the deity of Christ, he can read them other Psalms.

The letter is a great little read and it engages the Psalms in interesting ways. I’m looking forward to the rest of this class knowing that we’re reading such great stuff.

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First Year of Graduate Studies: A Reflection

I turned in my final paper for the semester on a Saturday night (technically Sunday morning, I think) a few weeks ago and thus finished up my first year here at Notre Dame. The last year has flown by and I can’t believe it’s already summer. I’m going to be staying in South Bend, tutoring Latin, taking a class this summer (Patristic and Medieval Interpretation of the Psalter with Ann Astell), and preparing for my own class in the Fall (teaching Latin 1).

Here are some bits of advice I’ve come up with from this year:

1) Don’t take everything personally. You are not your work. You could absolutely fail every exam and paper and your worth wouldn’t reduce a single iota. It is extremely easy to get wrapped up in our work, staking out our identities in what we study. You have value beyond your Eco-Feminist reading of Virgil, I swear.

2) Seek out the professors that you wish to influence you. I may be a bit of a pest, but I darken the doors of my favorite professors’ offices at least once a month. Sometimes it’s a quick hello, sometimes it’s arranging for a coffee or lunch meeting in the near future, and sometimes it works itself out into a wonderful conversation. Professors are of course very busy people, so don’t take up their time if it’s obvious they are working on something important. But spending time with the types of scholars that you desire to be has something of a sacramental effect, I think. You will learn from them a lot in casual conversation that may not come out in the classroom. Plus, it’s probably just a good idea to see if you get along with professor types. If you find yourself put off by academics in general, maybe an academic job after you go through graduate school isn’t the best idea.

3) Seek out peers and be collegial. Yes, you should study, but you will be miserable if you never spend any time with like-minded individuals who can edify you. Burn out is real and it will eat up all the determination you had as a senior in college when graduate school looked like the promise land.

4) Enjoy your classes. Yeah, seriously. Take classes that you find interesting and don’t spend the whole time worrying about a grade. I made the mistake last semester dreading every day of my “Cicero, Augustine and Rhetoric” class because it was darn hard (for me). Looking back over notes and readings, I find that the stuff we learned is really interesting, but I spent the whole class dreading that understanding Latin rhetoric did not come naturally for me.

5) Use knowledge from one class as a complement for other classes, particularly in papers. Although I dreaded my rhetoric class, I ended up writing papers in both of my other classes last semester that incorporated elements from my rhetoric class. That incorporation into my other work helped me to assimilate the information.

6) Aim small on your projects. My paper-writing practice goes something like this:

1 Month Away – Come up with huge paper topic. Plan. Read books and articles Begin writing.

3 Weeks Away – Ditch first paper in frustration. What a stupid idea that was. Start reading other books and articles. Come up with even better idea. This is totally manageable, right? Write, write, write.

2 Weeks Away – That paper is crap. Ditch it. Now I have 2 weeks to write this paper. Oh yeah, I have an exam next week too. Looks like I’ll be camping in the library this weekend. Stress about paper topics. Read books. Wish I could write. Start bartering with God about paper topics. Check out 40 books (because with two weeks to write a paper, what’s more practical than trying to read every book on the subject?). Write, write, write.

1 Week Away – Hate paper topic but keep writing anyway. Realize 3 days before it’s due that this one paragraph on page 10 of your paper is actually really good. It’s really really good. Why am I not writing that paper? Can I write that paper? I have 3 days. People write papers in 3 days, right? Write, write, write.

My issue is that I always aim way too huge. WAY too huge. I propose book topics for 20 page papers. I think that my brain thinks there’s safety in really broad statements, but just as in spirituality, the broad path is never the right one. If I only narrowed down my paper topics from the very beginning, I’d have them done in a few weeks with plenty of time to revise. This actually happened last semester in my Ephrem class. I began thinking about the paper by week 2 of class and had plenty of time to read Ephrem over and over as well as some secondary lit. Soon enough, I had what I thought was a good, manageable paper topic. I presented a version to the class and we talked about it. That discussion helped me refine the paper and from the ideas my classmates gave me, I was able to add another 5-6 pages of good material.

7) Stop reading the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed if you value your sanity. If you are a person who is going to graduate school because you just really enjoy the subject you’re studying and would be perfectly happy bagging groceries while thinking about your successfully-defended dissertation, then read up. If you are a person who worries every day about ever finding a job, just forget both publications and enjoy the ride through grad school.

8 ) Eat healthy, rest enough, and take supplements. As a NC native, I was not prepared for the dismal weather of northwestern Indiana winters. Indiana hates you and wants to freeze you. We have what is called the “perma-cloud” here, a gray abyss that hides the sun for about 4-5 months. The lack of sunlight coupled with freezing temperatures can get you down. If you are used to a gorgeous, sunshiney state like North Carolina, be prepared to take melatonin and vitamin D to help make up for the lack of sun. Also, take walks and eat well. Graduate school is taxing on a lot of levels and McD’s dollar burgers aren’t going to fuel you.

9) Establish schedules. I was never a ‘schedule’ person in my undergrad, but I have become very regimented. I set up an Excel sheet and mapped out my whole day. I scheduled when I would read and how much I would read. Although I am not myself a very organized person, I am a slave to something like a list. If the list exists, I just don’t question it and I do whatever the list tells me to. It also provides some level of accountability.

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Courses for this Summer and next Fall

One of my favorite times in the academic year is when the course listing comes out for the next semester. Since being at Notre Dame, I’ve noticed the problem is always that there are way too many good courses. I have yet to think to myself, “Sheesh, there just aren’t enough good courses. ” (and yeah, I say sheesh.) For this summer and next Fall, I’ll be taking:

Summer

    The Patristic and Medieval Interpretation of the Psalter-

With Dr./Sr. Ann Astell, who is an incredibly nice person as well as being a very serious Medievalist. I am taking a course this semester on Calvin’s interpretation of the Psalms, so it will be fun to jump right into another course on the Psalter from a different perspective.

Fall

    Roman History Seminar

I was going to take this course this Spring, but I changed my schedule around so that I could take a seminar on St. Ephrem the Syrian with Dr. Joseph Amar. I’m taking the course with Dr. Keith Bradley who utilizes sources that are not always read in other Roman history courses. He’s a great historian, so I’m really looking forward to this.

    Advanced Greek

Like last Fall, I’m going to take an advanced Greek course offered through the Theology department this Fall. Last semester’s course was on Christian Greek hymnody and this course will focus on Philo. It’s taught by Dr. Mary D’Angelo. It’s Tuesday afternoons from 3:30-6:00 and that’s a lot of Greek, but I’m pretty excited about actually reading Philo.

    Historical Jesus

This is a course on the historical Jesus with Fr. John Meier. Historical Jesus. John Meier. Enough said.

I’m also fortunate enough to be teaching my own section of Latin I in the Fall here at Notre Dame. I’m teaching the 9:35-10:25 MWF//9:30-10:20 R section. I’m really excited about the opportunity to get to teach a language that I really enjoy.

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