Bookmarked The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies by Marshall D. Johnson (Wipf & Stock Publishers)
with Special Reference to the Setting of the Genealogies of Jesus
Genealogical material occurs frequently in the Old Testament, and in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as in later Jewish literature. What is the purpose of these lists? How do they relate to their historical and literary context, and what is their function in the Hebraic-Christian literary tradition? Dr. Johnson answers these questions in relation to contemporary biblical scholarship, and is concerned to show that such genealogies are not merely appendices to biblical narratives but are closely related to their context in language, structure and theology He attempts to assess the extent to which they reflect the views of the authors of the books or contexts into which they are placed. He also examines the transition of the genealogical form, and shows how its function changed from tribal expressions to the Gospel writers' use of it to illustrate the conviction that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hope of Israel. Concerned as he is more with the literary purpose of this type of biblical literature than with the historical authenticity of various lists, Dr. Johnson examines a subject that is only now beginning to engage the attention of scholars generally.
An interesting find that may have some discussion of early associative memory. Might also give other sociological interesting tidbits if it’s any good.
Read ‘Christianity Will Have Power’ (nytimes.com)
Donald Trump made a promise to white evangelical Christians, whose support can seem mystifying to the outside observer.
I still don’t get the persecution complex part at all. Has Fox News and others really been pushing the “culture wars” bit this far? How do they not understand how these viewpoints clash so heavily with the message of The Bible? Love your neighbor as yourself? 
Read - Finished Reading: Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles Over Authentication by Bart D. Ehrman (Great Courses)
In the first centuries after Christ, there was no "official" New Testament. Instead, early Christians read and fervently followed a wide variety of Scriptures—many more than we have today.
Relying on these writings, Christians held beliefs that today would be considered bizarre. Some believed that there were two, 12, or as many as 30 gods. Some thought that a malicious deity, rather than the true God, created the world. Some maintained that Christ's death and resurrection had nothing to do with salvation while others insisted that Christ never really died at all.
What did these "other" Scriptures say? Do they exist today? How could such outlandish ideas ever be considered Christian? If such beliefs were once common, why do they no longer exist?
Rating: 4
Listened to audiobook version primarily via Libby

Brief review:

Clear concise story with some excellent history and comparison of early Christianities. Unstated, but there are lots of parallels to the diversity of beliefs in Christianity today. There are lots of interesting things within the “lost” sects which still lived on through cultural spread despite the disappearance of the original groups.

Read - Reading: Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles Over Authentication by Bart D. Ehrman (The Great Courses)
Lecture 24: Early Christian Creeds
The final lecture considers the formation of the Christian creeds: statements of faith to determine what was true (orthodox) and what was false (heretical). The well-known creeds of the 4th century, such as the Nicene Creed, developed from earlier formulations known as the "Rule of Faith," and from confessions by converts before baptism.
All that work to create coherent creeds in the 2nd-4th century and yet we again have a crazy diversity centuries later.

Theory on Cultural Changes with Respect to Mnemonics and the Ten Commandments in Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and specifically within Judaism

And God spoke:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.
–Exodus 20:1-4

I have a hypothesis that the admonition in the ten commandments to have no other gods nor to worship idols was the result of a power struggle among early peoples on the border of nomadic lives and settling down into agricultural lifeways. These peoples may likely have been associating their memories not only to standing stones, portable items (the Ark of the Covenant as an example which was historically said to be carried into war), or small idols and graven images.

By removing peoples’ valuable cultural and societal memories over several generations, a ruling priestly class, particularly in a society with not evenly distributed writing and literacy, would have been more easily able to aggregate power within the culture to itself. From a cultural perspective it would also have put an extreme emphasis on writing, literacy, and learning with them. Is this part of an explanation for why Jewish culture still has such an emphasis on these tools thousands of years later?

This obviously needs to be thought out further with supporting evidence from the historical and archaeological record, but on first blush, I feel like the evidence for this hypothesis generally exists.

If I’m right, then these few sentences have had a far more dramatic influence on Western and even human culture than we have previously thought.

Featured Image: The Crusader Bible, MS M.638, fol. 39v, Paris, France, ca. 1244–1254, 390 x 300 mm, via the Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased by J.P. Morgan (1867–1943) in 1916
David’s Greatest Triumph, The Ark Enshrined in Jerusalem, David Blesses Israel
Old Testament Miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
David retrieves the Ark of the Covenant from Obed-Edom’s house, and a jubilant celebration ensues as the triumphant king, playing upon his harp, leads it into Jerusalem. Once the Ark has come six paces into the city, a sacrifice is made of an ox and a ram. No one is more overjoyed than the king himself, who dances and leaps before the procession. David’s wild behavior embarrasses Michal, who points accusingly at him from her window. But the king is unconcerned, wishing only to give thanks and humble himself before God. (2 Kings 6:12–16)

Watched Lecture 4 of 24: Augustine's Pagan and Christian Audience by Charles Mathewes from The City of God (Books That Matter) | The Great Courses
Before delving into the text of The City of God, Professor Mathewes sets the stage with some context about the many audiences that Augustine was writing for, as well as the arguments against Christians that he was confronting. See how Augustine co-opted Roman notions of city" and "glory" and applied them to his divine purpose."
A fascinating lecture about the word City of the title and the first word of the book with a tad about the rest of the first sentence!
Watched Lecture 18: Arguing with Paul? by Dale B. Martin from RLST 152: Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature

Early Christianity presents us with a wide diversity in attitudes towards the law. There were also many different Christologies circulating in different communities. The book of James presents one unique perspective. It seems to be written in the tradition of Jewish wisdom literature in its presentation of sayings and its concern for the poor. James also presents a view of works and faith that seems to oppose Pauline teaching. However, the terms "faith" and "works" function differently in Paul's writings and in the book of James

  • 00:00 - Chapter 1. Diversity in Early Christianity: Attitudes towards the Jewish Law
  • 03:57 - Chapter 2. Diversity in Early Christianity: Christology
  • 21:03 - Chapter 3. James as Jewish Wisdom Literature
  • 27:47 - Chapter 4. Faith and Works in James in Comparison to Paul

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://open.yale.edu/courses

Interesting to think about how much of our culture is built on the writings of the rich and privileged and the compounding effect it has had over the millennia. 
Read Donatism (Wikipedia)
Donatism (Latin: Donatismus, Greek: Δονατισμός Donatismós) was a heresy leading to schism in the Church of Carthage from the fourth to the sixth centuries AD. Donatists argued that Christian clergy must be faultless for their ministry to be effective and their prayers and sacraments to be valid. Donatism had its roots in the long-established Christian community of the Roman Africa province (now Algeria and Tunisia) in the persecutions of Christians under Diocletian. Named after the Berber Christian bishop Donatus Magnus, Donatism flourished during the fourth and fifth centuries.
Watched How a Bible prophecy shapes Trump's foreign policy from Vox | YouTube

For an influential group of American Christians, support for Israel -- and hatred of Iran -- are based in a biblical prophecy.

When President Trump authorized the drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, he wasn't just flexing America's muscle in the Middle East.

He was also acting on the advice of a politically powerful group of evangelical Christians who believe that the US and Israel are part of the Bible's plan to bring about the second coming of Jesus.

Once considered a fringe element of the religious right, evangelical Christian Zionists are playing an increasingly visible role in Republican politics. Today, unprecedented access to the Trump administration has given them an opportunity to reshape the Middle East.

Additional reading:
https://newrepublic.com/article/156166/pence-pompeo-evanglicals-war-iran-christian-zionism

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/05/14/half-of-evangelicals-support-israel-because-they-believe-it-is-important-for-fulfilling-end-times-prophecy/

https://www.vox.com/2018/11/5/18059454/trump-white-evangelicals-christian-nationalism-john-fea

A previous version of this video misstated, at 1:40, the percentage of Americans who are Christian but neither Evangelical nor Catholic. The error has been corrected.

The headline on this piece has also been updated. Previous headline: How the Bible shapes Trump's foreign policy

There’s religion, and then there’s just crazy pants.
Watched Born Again (2007) from Netflix

Born and raised in an Evangelical Christian family, director Markie Hancock struggled through her childhood to find the line between her family and her religion, between her duties to God and Jesus and her responsibilities to her parents and herself. Fervent in her beliefs, she thought she would pursue a religious calling until the true nature of her sexuality and her need to express her own doubts brought her into a final confrontation with her upbringing. This is the story of that confrontation and what was won and what was lost.

movie poster for Born Again featuring a black and white photo of a prototypical white family from the 60's in front of a christmas tree

I’m glad this exists, but would not watch it again.

It is interesting to note that this was made in 2007 and presaged the political turmoil of the 2016 election. It also goes a long way to explore some of the political divisions within the country during the decade or more after it was made.

Rating: ★★½

The importance of bread in society: the etymology of Lord

In listening to The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth Lerer (Lecture 8), I came across an interesting word etymology which foodies and particularly bread fans will appreciate.

Dr. Lerer was talking about the compression of syllables at the border of Old English and Middle English circa 1100 which occurred in such terms as hlaf weard, the warden (or guardian) of the loaf.

Who is the guardian of the loaf? The hlfaf weard << The hlaweard << the laweard << the lord. This is the etymology of the word 'lord'. Lord is the guardian of the bread, the mete-er out of bread in a cereal society.

An interesting linguistic change that tells us a lot about power, structure, religion, and society surrounding bread of the time. I suppose one could also look at Christian traditions of the time which looked at the transubstantiation of the symbolic bread of the Last Supper which is ritually turned into the body of Christ–Christ, our lord.

One can’t help noting the slang use of the word “bread” to mean “money”. Perhaps it’s time to go back and re-visit Jeremy Cherfas’ excellent podcast series Our Daily Bread?

Featured image: Bread flickr photo by adactio shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Replied to a tweet by Ela_HadrunEla_Hadrun (Twitter)

[Raymond] Llull is the first author to use the expression “Immaculate Conception” to designate the Virgin’s exemption from original sin.[19] He appears to have been the first to teach this doctrine publicly at the University of Paris.

–via Wikipedia referencing Mary in the Middle Ages: the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Thought of Medieval Latin Theologians, Fr. Luigi Gambero, S.M., Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2005.

📖 14% done with The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition by Seth Lerer

cover of The History of the English Language by Seth Lerer

Listened to Lecture 5 and the first several minutes of 6 today while cooking in the kitchen.

There’s some interesting history about the ideas of law, ligatures, and links. He also has an interesting history of the words ‘apocalypse’ and ‘revelation’ which ultimately mean the same thing. Apocalypse essentially means to ‘take away the cover’. He doesn’t go into it, but this word also has historical relation to the removal of the curtain within the holy of holies, or in the New Testament the rending of said curtain at the death of Jesus. Subsequently there has obviously been a lot of semantic shift to create our modern day meaning of apocalypse.