Monday 27 May 2013

Monday quote

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Persian king list

The Roman Claudius Ptolemy (90–168) was an astronomer in Egypt. It is his chronology that is frequently followed for the period of the Persians and the number of Persian kings. There are however other king lists that disagree with him

Ptolemy c. 100 AD, Egypt
  • Cyrus (reign length 9 years)
  • Cambyses (8)
  • Darius I (36)
  • Xerxes (21)
  • Artaxerxes I (41)
  • Darius II (19)
  • Artaxerxes II (46)
  • Ochus (21)
  • Arogus (2)
  • Darius III (4) (final king)
Conquest by Alexander the Great

Firdausi c. 1000 AD, Persian
  • [Cyrus]
  • [Cambyses]
  • Darius I
  • Artaxerxes Longimanus
  • Queen Homai, mother of Darius II
  • Darius II
  • Darius III

Seder Olam c. 160 AD, finalised c. 800AD, Jewish
  • Cyrus
  • Cambyses
  • Darius
Josephus c. 70 AD, Jewish
  • Cyrus
  • Cambyses
  • Darius
  • Xerxes
  • Artaxerxes
  • Darius II

Monday 20 May 2013

Monday quote

Should the secular world acknowledge who Jesus is? Well, of course. We don't believe that all Christians need to be ministers. But we do believe that all people should be Christians.

Douglas Wilson

Sunday 19 May 2013

Clergy on the 10 commandments and the Lord's prayer

This is amusing yet concerning. Derek Wilson writes in The People's Bible: The Remarkable History of the King James Version,
As late as 1551, Hooper, the bishop of Gloucester in the process of a visitation of his 311 clergy discovered that 168 could not remember all the Ten Commandments, thirty-three could not locate them in the Bible, ten were unable to recite the Lord’s Prayer, and thirty-four did not know who its author was.
10% of your clergy not knowing who gave the Lord's prayer is a little on the high side, especially when there is a clue in the name. Kind of like not knowing who built Noah's Ark, or what is the colour of greenstone.

Monday 13 May 2013

Monday quote

The classical view of tolerance lends itself much more readily to intelligent argumentation than does the modern view. It teaches that, while we may strongly disagree with dissenting opinions, we still treat the person behind those opinions with respect.

Alex and Brett Harris

Sunday 12 May 2013

Practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word

John Ortberg writes a eulogy for Dallas Willard. He was an intellectual that was big on spiritual formation. It mattered not just what we believe, but our character is major importance. Who we are matters, and winning others not the argument also matters.
In one of his classes a student challenged him with statements that were both offensive and incorrect. Dallas paused and told the class that that was a good place to end their discussion. Somebody asked Dallas afterward why he had not countered the students' argument and put him in his place. "I'm practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.

"This is part of why Dallas would never debate non-believers. He would engage in a mutual conversation where both parties could seek for truth together. He would often say: "I'm sure Jesus is the kind of person who would be the first to say you must ruthlessly follow the truth wherever it leads." Through the last week of his life he was still hoping to help believers engage non-believers by looking together at questions where people get stuck in their actual lives rather than by trying to win arguments.
Hat tip: Wesleyan Arminian

Thursday 9 May 2013

Daughter in exchange for grain

Unplanned pregnancy (possibly in a time of poverty) encouraging people to sell their children. In this case to a childless couple.
My grandfather held his youngest daughter in one arm and his eldest with the crook of the other. When he handed over the baby, swathed in threadbare hand-me-downs, in exchange for the grain, his other daughter asked, “When is it my turn to be sold?” My grandfather, more leathery and grayed than he should have been at fortysomething, looked down at her, and at the twin bushels of grain in his other arm, and laughed. And then he wept.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Is Darius Artaxerxes?

I wrote an (incomplete) series on the Post-exilic chronology (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.) In it I listed the Persian kings mentioned in Ezra-Nehemiah.

Cyrus Ezra 1:1–4:3
Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6
Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7–24
Darius Ezra 4:24–6:22
Artaxerxes Ezra 7:1–Nehemiah 13:9

The series began outlining the common reconstruction then argued for a what I labelled a sequential reconstruction. The sequential construction identifies Darius with the second Artaxerxes above. It is possible that Artaxerxes is a title like king or Pharaoh. Here I would like to consider (but not propose) that the first Artaxerxes above may also be Darius.

Ezra 4 opens with a complaint against the Jews addressed to Ahasuerus. This is followed by a letter to Artaxerxes which results in a decree to stop building the city.
Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes.... The king sent an answer:... make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. (Ezra 4:8, 17, 21)
So the building stopped until the second year of Darius (Ezra 4:24). In response to the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah building recommences on the temple in the second year of Darius (Ezra 4:24; Haggai 1:14-15).

At this Tattenai the governor of the Trans-Euphrates asks the Jews what they are doing. They respond that the rebuilding is in response to Cyrus' earlier decree and Tattenai writes to Darius to confirm this. A search is made of the records and Cyrus' decree is reaffirmed and Darius offers to pay the cost from the royal treasury.

So the temple is completed in Darius' 6th year (Ezra 6:15). Previously I have argued that the temple completion passage should be translated,
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius, that is Artaxerxes, king of Persia. (Ezra 6:14)
There seems little doubt to me that Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 (and Nehemiah) is Darius. But what of the earlier Artaxerxes? If he were an earlier king it would make sense of his letter commanding the building of Jerusalem to stop until a decree otherwise by him. If he were Darius then the subsequent letter to build the temple, and a latter command to Nehemiah to build the walls would seem to be a change of mind.

Yes, but. The first decree was to cease building the city, so building the temple may have been permitted even while the city was halted. Darius would not need to change policy so quickly to allow the temple to be built. Cyrus' decree could have led to a change of heart, but Darius may have just seen it addressing the issue of the temple. By the time of Nehemiah in Artaxerxes 20th year, a change of policy concerning the city, specifically the walls, would be reasonable. The behaviour of Judah towards Persia would be well assessed by that time.

It also seems that the duration the Jews were not engaged in building the temple was brief. They stopped when they received Artaxerxes' letter and restarted in Darius' 2nd year. Depending on how long Artaxerxes reigned (if he is not Darius) this may have been some years. Yet the response of the Jews to Tattenai was that the temple had been built continually (Ezra 5:16) from the time of Cyrus' decree until now (the second year of Darius). Building had stopped for a time as Haggai rebuked them for ceasing work on the temple and building panelled houses instead. If the first Artaxerxes is Darius then the letter from Rehum would be either in Artaxerxes accession year or his first year. If the command to stop came in his first year and building restarted in his second year then the temple could be said to have been being built from Cyrus to now with only several months break. This is especially the case if the Persians (or Ezra and Nehemiah) reckoned years beginning in Tishri, the 7th month (Neh 1:1; 2:1). The rebuilding started in the 9th month of Darius' second year which could mean only a few months break.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Bangladesh factory collapses

This is upsetting and seems unnecessary.
More than 600 bodies have been recovered from the garment-factory building that collapsed well over a week ago, police said today as the grim recovery work continued in one of the worst industrial accidents ever.
The building was structurally designed as a mall, but was used for industrial purposes with 3 extra stories added.
An architect whose firm designed the building said Sunday that it had not been designed to handle heavy industrial equipment, let alone the three floors that were later illegally added. The equipment used by the five garment factories that occupied Rana Plaza included huge generators that were turned on shortly before the building crumbled. Masood Reza, an architect with Vastukalpa Consultants, said the building was designed in 2004 as a shopping mall and not for any industrial purpose.

"We designed the building to have three stories for shops and another two for offices. I don't know how the additional floors were added and how factories were allowed on the top floors," Reza said.
I suspect a Western designed building may perhaps convert from retail to industrial relatively well, though adding 3 stories would require significant modifications as be mandated by consent approval.

Monday 6 May 2013

Monday quote

When someone who supports the slaughter of babies in the wombs of their mothers tells me about humane cattle practices, I am morally obligated to not let them take authority in my life. They are saying, in effect, “Listen to me as I tell you what is evil and what is good.” For me to listen to them is for me to give them an authority in my life that they have no right to.

Rachel Jankovic


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