Friday, August 26, 2005

New House, Baby...

Things are moving right along in regard to house buying and selling. We are closing on our house on the 8th of September. We just learned this morning that those selling the house we wanted to buy accepted our first offer, and we will be closing on it the 9th. Woohoo!

This weekend I pack. We rented one of those pod moving things ( It is 8 foot wide and tall, and 16 foot in length. Should be able to put lots of stuff in it. Today I'm packing the study, which is a very slow process. You've got to be very meticulous when it comes to packing your books. Otherwise they'll get damaged in transit, and you can't have that!

The best thing about this new house (and you would get a very different answer from my wife) is that my study is going to be about four times as big as my current study, maybe even a little bigger. That, frankly, just rocks. This should give me more than enough bookshelf wall space for quite a while. Now I need to figure out how I'm going to make it a super-cool study room. Thoughts are welcome.

The room itself will be a converted two-car garage. It is about 20'x20' (I thought it was sure looked like it), so that's the size I get to deal with. I'm thinking wood floors of some type. Hopefully I'll have half of the walls covered with bookshelves. That leaves me with two walls. What to do with those? If you think you have a really cool study, and if you don't mind, post your picture on your blog or email it to me. I need inspiration!

This whole process has been incredibly time consuming. Hopefully things will slow down a little soon. And hopefully we won't find something wrong with the house during the option period.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Greek Class Signup

I am still taking applications for the Greek class we'll be having in Parker, a suburb of Dallas, this next year. I have four people signed up now and am expecting at least a few more from the church. That will leave about five slots for anyone who is interested. If you are, send me an email. The first class time will be the monday after labor day.

MPower Systems - New Job

I am happy to announce that I am leaving my current employer, RealPage, to go work for MPower Systems. They do donor management software for non-profit religious organizations. This is another .NET programming job, which is great.

Though this gets me back under the more general umbrella of religious stuff, that actually has zero to do with the job change. If I were going to make a change for that reason, I certainly would not have picked that subject area (no offense). I'm going because my conversations with the programming manager gave me a great deal of confidence in her ability, and my time with the development team made me think that they were both capable and pleasant. I'm looking for a really good programming environment, and it seems that they have it. I will start there the week after labor day weekend, so I've got two weeks to finish out at RealPage.

Jury Duty Over

Wow, that was long. Took an entire 5 days. I finished with a greater confidence in the criminal justice system, despite its flaws. The case turned out to be incredibly complex, and I don't think I'll repeat it all on my blog. That would take a while. The case was one of aggravated sexual assault, so it was pretty serious. This was my first jury experience, and it was an interesting one. Serious crime, insanity defense, stupid lawyers on both sides, having to deal with foreign cultures (both victim and defendant were Indian), conflicting testimonies, DNA, etc. Lots of wierd things in this trial. This really could have been an episode on Law and Order SVU.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jury Duty Rocks!


...from me, anyway, for a few days. I've either been in jury duty or at meetings all day and night this week save one. Though the criminal trial in which I am serving is a weighty duty since our decisions affect a life quite drastically, I am enjoying the experience quite a bit. I am learning our judicial process first hand to a much greater degree, and I'm glad I get the opportunity to participate in a very important function in our government. At the moment I cannot speak of any specifics of the case, so I won't. When it is over and it is a matter of public record I can say more. It is a very unique case...or at least one that I could not have imagined occurring.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Why Learn Greek

As I've said before on the blog, I'm going to be teaching a Greek class this Fall here in the Dallas area. And I'm still open for applications. Of course, the question of "why" has popped up. That's reasonable. Here is why I really think Greek is a very useful thing to know when studying the NT, and some thoughts on what we ought not to be using it for. And I present this in the manner of Paul. Sorry, this is going to be very long...

What shall we say then, that those who don't know Greek cannot understand their New Testament? Certainly not! For there are many things in the New Testament that we don't need to know Greek to deal with. That being said, there are some issues where a knowledge of Greek is very useful, even on a practical level. Say a Jehovah's Witness person comes to your door and wants to talk about John 1:1 and how everyone else has translated the text wrongly. Being able to say "I know it shouldn't be translated that way because of 'x'" is a much better argument than "so and so told me it shouldn't be translated that way". Very useful in debate.

What then? Is the only reason to have a good argument with heretics? Certainly not! Sometimes it is useful in determining the meanings of passages, for many interpretations hinge on rightly understanding the syntax. It is not just a tool for defending your favorite doctrines, whether they are true or not. It is a generally useful interpretive tool. The previous is mentioned because it is a very obvious case for the benefit of Greek knowledge in conversation.

What shall we say then? Shall we learn Greek so we can solve all of our interpretational problems and know all things? May it never be! The understanding of Greek is but one tool in the interpretive arsenal. Knowing Greek but having no knowledge of the historical backdrop of the first century will still leave you high and dry when it comes to some matters of interpretation. It ONE of many useful tools of interpretation. It is not the key to all knowledge. And besides, on the level of Greek studies there are lots of unresolved issues.

So let us learn a little Greek, just enough to use some new tools. Certainly not! Don't you know that lots of people learn just enough Greek to be able to talk over their own heads? In doing so they deceive themselves and others into thinking some thing when in fact it is as faulty as their lack of discipline to learn. Learn it not as a bag of tricks to use in an argument. Most don't know enough Greek to know such a person is an idiot rather than a learned person. This is unfair, untrue, and dishonoring to God. Learn it not just for the ability to say "I know Greek". Learn it, and learn it well. Only when you know it well can you use it with proficiency and accuracy.

So then, if someone does not know Greek well, he will always be unable to understand the Scriptures. No! But his knowledge will be much more limited than those who do know it. It is the same with not understanding the life of a shepherd and understanding Jesus' parables. Or how could we claim that we understand Paul's arguments in Galatians if we don't understand the historical backdrop of the thinking of Judaism at the time? How can we hope to understand Revelation if we do not understand the historical circumstances and theological backdrop behind the symbols. Salvation can come to those who do not have full knowledge, and indeed that is the case for everyone. But understanding the New Testament will always be more difficult for those who do not study the languages, the writings that are contemporaneous to those who lived at the time, and the backdrop of the Old Testament.


Okay, so that may be annoying to you. So here's some simple prose.

Does this greatly benefit the devotional life? Not in the way you might think. You're not going to get through a first year Greek class and be oo-ing and ahh-ing over every word you read because you get so much more nuance or something. I've heard people say that, and I think they're just being wierd or are reading in a bunch more than they should. Greek is not a magical tool to find multiple levels of nuance in every word you read. Devotionally it is valuable, though, because it is an aid in interpretation. And that is definitely valuable devotionally.

It is also useful in light of the insufficient nature of translation. Sometimes there really is more nuance in the Greek than there is in most English translations simply because making readable English means not emphasizing certain aspects of the original and perhaps overemphasizing others. This is the nature of the work. I've read attempts to translate the "full Greek meaning" and they turn out to be absolutely pitiful translations that are only of dubious value when it comes to interpretation. Some study Bibles try to make up for this by using notes, like the NET Bible, but this still has its limits.

I really, truly, completely, utterly, detest attempts to learn Greek just to defend certain points of view, like the Trinity (which I believe in), Calvinism (also believe that), Arminianism (obviously don't believe that), Dispensationalism (really annoyed by that), etc. Don't learn Greek for that. Learn Greek to understand the NT better. Sure, there will be times where it will be useful in a discussion about the nature of God. Sure it will be useful sometimes in understanding passages about predestination. But please, PLEASE, don't learn Greek as something for your bag of tricks when talking to people you don't agree with.

I'll end on two personal notes. I spend a lot of time in the New Testament. Because of that, I personally could not fathom trying to interpret some of this stuff without knowing Greek. Sure, there's lots of passages where the typical English translations are just fine, but there are a number of issues where they are simply not sufficient. So give me some Greek!

And, finally, I just really get some satisfaction over being able to read some great literature in its original language. I know that won't appeal to many, but I like it quite a bit.

So why do I value knowledge of Greek? Because it helps me understand the New Testament better. And I'll take all the help I can get.

Greek Class Update

Today is our first informational meeting about the Greek class that we'll be having at FBC Parker this year. It will occur right after our afternoon service, which ends about 2:00.

Alternatively, there will be one more tomorrow night at the same location, at 6:30.

If you are interested in taking the class, please come to one of the meetings. If you are not able to come to either, let me know. I know this is really short notice for todays, but I figured most who would come to this would be church members.

For directions, go to and use the following address:

5304 East Parker Road
Parker, Texas 75002

If you cannot attend either meeting, send my an email and I'll send you more information.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

CodeSmith 3.1

Well, I finally got my license key from the NDDNUG meeting the other day. Woohoo!

And, if you've heard that 3.1 was about to come out and were waiting for it to be announced, well, don't wait. The website says 3.0, but it is really 3.1.

Digin' it.


Monday, August 08, 2005

More Reading...

There has been lots of book lists recently by some bloggers that I read (Scot McKnight has several, Primal Subversion, Euangelion, and some who talked about them like Stuff of Earth, and others which I am sure I missed.). Just reading these lists make me realize how much more I need to read. Over the last couple of years most of my reading has been tech related, as I've inundated myself in that arena and have gotten myself to where I am at least moderately proficient in programming. But now I'm needing to spend more time in the biblical studies reading world once more.

So I'm moving on to new reading again. Right now I'm back to my reading in Bultmann, and I'm still working my way through Coupland's microserfs. After I finish Bultmann I'll either move on to Hays' Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul or Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God. Haven't decided yet. When I finish microserfs I'll probably move on to my new Indigo book by Pallmann.

As for Greek, right now I'm working through the beginning of the Testament of Abraham. I've decided to put myself on a regimen (as much as possible, given my activities) that includes as much non-familiar Greek as possible. Its just too easy to translate the NT, or even the LXX, when you have English translations burned into your subconcious. I was hoping to get away from that in the LXX by working in Conybeare and Stock's Grammar of Septuagint Greek, but I don't think that is unfamiliar enough territory.

I like reading.

NDDNUG - Rob Howard on CodeSmith 3.0

Last Wednesday we had a real treat at the North Dallas .NET User Group. Rob Howard did a how-to and tips and tricks presentation on CodeSmith 3.0. There were about 250 people there, probably because of the fact that they were giving away free license keys. They said they were going to mail them out. I hope I get mine soon...

Anyway, the presentation was great. Rob's a good speaker. And the software is phenomenal. I've been using it since 2.x and it has been a tremendous help to me. If you're a .net coder, I highly recommend checking it out.

Mystic River

I heard the movie was great, so now I finally got a chance to watch it. And it was a great movie. The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, got a number of Oscar nominations, and deserved them. The writing and acting was phenomenal.

If you like a good cop and bad guy movie, this may be a good one for you. There is a good bit of language, so if that offends, do not watch it. Otherwise, take a look.

I still need to see Eastwood's more recent movie, "Million Dollar Baby". Maybe I'll get to see that soon.

Zadig. Short but Sweet.

After hearing numerous positive comments by my pastor over the last few years about Voltaire's writings, I decided to actually read some. A few months ago I picked up a small volume in the Konemann classics series that had Voltaire's Zadig and Candide. So, I pulled it out and read Zadig (only because it came first in the book before Candide).

The book is set back in ancient Babylonia. It is fiction about a very wise fellow named Zadig, who experience a great deal of misfortune but some blessing. I won't say any more so as not to spoil the plot.

Perhaps the strangest thing is how it is laid out. The entire story is done in very short chunks. The 21 chapters of this less than 100 page book average about 3-4 a chapter, with each chapter being its own discrete little unit. I wonder if Voltaire did this to give it the air of ancient literature, since the chapters of most ancient literature seem to be chopped up fairly small by modern editors. I'm interested in any other theories about this that anyone has to offer.

All in all, I very much enjoyed it. It was a very fast read, or it seemed to be. This might be because of all the little chapters. Anyway, I recommend it.

Pure Design

I'm a coder. There's no way you could mistake my work with that of a real designer. I don't mix and match colors easily. I don't create awesome layouts that make people ooh and ah. Sometimes I make something and it just looks crummy. But, hey, if you want me to build something that does something, whether or not it looks good...that I can do.

Nevertheless, I do occassionally try to work on this design deficiency. One such attempt was the purchase of pure design by Mario Garcia. Mario has been involved in the redesign of multiple newspapers, and seems to have done well for himself in this design arena. So, I decided to buy the book on a whim.

It wasn't too expensive, only $24.95, but I'm not sure if I would recommend buying it. It's not that it was worthless. It just didn't seem incredibly helpful, though I really found some things he said useful. Of course, this is a review coming from someone who isn't particularly graphically talented. Instead of buying it, try to find it at a local library or something. It is a quick read, so it won't take up too much of your time.

Epic of Gilgamesh

A couple months back I talked to Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers and they were nice enough to give me a copy of a book they published if I reviewed it. I gladly accepted, and this book was no mistake to read.

The book is a translation of the "Epic of Gilgamesh", translated by Danny P. Jackson. There are a number of things about the book that I found appealing:

1. Most of all, the translation was very well done. Not in the sense of accuracy, because I cannot judge that, but in the case of style. It was very readable and read more like ancient poetry than literal translation. Best feature.
2. Short but informative introduction covering issues such as translation practice, historical background, and literary sources.
3. Photographs of various archaeological bits like statues, carvings, tablets, etc.
4. Also included were illustrations of various bits of the story. Not necessary, but a nice feature.

This is not an extensive critical edition of the work, but if you want to have a copy to peruse, this is a very good volume. The only thing I would have liked to see is it in hardcover. But who cares. Good volume. Good book. I recommend it for those interested in early literature.

Don't know what it is? It is an ancient near eastern tale of a mighty man named Gilgamesh. It is mostly known for its connection/relationship to the biblical flood narrative. Though there are some serious differences between the flood stories in both works, there are a few clear parallels (the most striking I found to be the sending out of the birds after the rain stopped) between the two that make it obvious one was depending on the other, or at least both had a common source. I'll leave it up to the reader how to handle that issue :)


Wow, I haven't blogged since July. It's because I've been too busy reading! Or coding, or whatever. Today I'll put up three book reviews, one lecture review, and one for a movie. It's reviewing time!