Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Truth About Da Vinci

I just got an email from Westminster Theological Seminary (see side link) introducing a wonderful new site they have just launched: It is impressive, a good resource for anyone who wants answers to questions like "Is the Bible true?" "Did Jesus Marry?" etc., etc. There are video and audio clips, and all sorts of resources. They even have fancy mystical background music... It looks like it could be the website for the novel itself! Except, this debunks Dan Brown's ridiculous claims.


Aww, She's Growing up...

I'd like to extend my congratulations to the government of Canada who has seen the error of their ways, repented, and is now in the process of abandoning Kyoto and adopting the far more efficient and successful American method of reducing greenhouse gas emission.

Read story here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Conspiracy I Tell You: Trip to Quebec Exposes Lies on All Fronts

So we went to Montreal yesterday. We had a wondeful time visiting Emily's sister and her husband in their new home. Angela (my sister-in-law) had recently worked as the main researcher for a book published by her pastor, Claude Houde, of L'Église Nouvelle Vie (The Church of the New Life). The book is called Les Mensonges du Code Da Vinci, or "The Lies of the Da Vinci Code." Houde wanted to write a book countering the CODE in French, while there are so many English out there. Although I cannot read it, I'm sure it's sound. Congratulations Angela Fay on her hard work! The church is the Montreal French cousin to David Wilkerson's New York church, of "Cross and the Switchblade" fame.

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to DUNKIN' DONUTS!! After four years in New Brunswick with nothing but Tim Horton's, which can't hold a candle, or, cruller, to DD, and with virtually none in Ontario, I enjoyed a stop at a Dunkin' Donuts in Quebec. My noisette coffee was delicious, and I got a vanille francais for Emily. Oh the memories of America. However, one thing was found askew...

Amidst all the standard donuts in the display case, plain, chocolate, jelly, etc. (all in French of course), there was one that seemed familiar but was called something else. It was a Boston Cream, yes, the ancient traditional donut, one of the patriarchs of donutia. Everyone knows the Boston Cream, most like Boston Creams, it's a safe donut choice. Being from the Boston area I'm proud that I can walk into a donut shop anywhere in the world and see a neat arrangement of Boston Cream donuts, paired up in parallel rows like a militia; minutemen training on the Boston Common.

Not in Quebec.

Big surprise...

No no no, it is not a Boston Cream in Quebec! Boston is far too English for the Quebecois, let's call it something else, something...more...cultured...more European... Yes... let us call it a...Costarde Parisienne!

You've gotta be kidding me.


Somewhere in Massachusetts, the dark boardroom at the Dunkin' Donuts Head Office. A dim light illumines chubby faces on either side of a conference table, two Quebecers sit across from the executives, who are pondering what was just suggested. "Trust us," repeat the two men with thick redneck-French accents, "No one will by dem if dey are called da Boston Crem. Do you want more riot blood on your hands like you had before you change da London Loop-d'-Loop to da French Cruller? Parisian Custard is what we must say. Costarde Parisienne, Parisienne... Parisienne... (echoes)
The execs sip their coffee.
(Fade to black)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Carrying the Botticelli Torch

No, I haven't actually attempted oil painting yet. But there's more than just great Renaissance masterpieces to be passed down through the Botticelli family lineage. My Nana (Botticelli) has carried a heritage of Italian holiday delicacies, which we only have one day a year (i.e. Easter has its own dishes and Christmas likewise). Being removed from my family for a time, and in Canada with my own new family, I felt the need to call Nana and inscribe a few of her recipes for myself, so I could enjoy Easter the way I had for over two decades.

After being quite nervous in attempting these traditions on my own, and venturing to Ottawa's "Little Italy" to find some necessary ingredients, I successfully made two Botticelli Easter favorites.

The first were my Nana's Anise Cookies which, ironically, she didn't bake this year, so I made everyone jealous on Easter Sunday when I emailed a picture to the family gathering! Although there is some anise in the cookie itself, most of it is in the icing. Anise is the flavor of Sambuca and black licorice.

The other dish is a real family favorite, called Pizza Pastare, or Pastare (pa-STA-ray, but with the Italian rolled "r" it sounds kind of like pa-STA-day). Pizza just means pie contrary to the North American assumption. It's made with 2 lbs. of Ricotta, 1 lb. orzo pasta, a dozen eggs, a stick of pepperoni, and lots of Pecorino Romano cheese. It bakes all together and its texture is like that of a very firm cheesecake, but not creamy, more crumbly.

Mille Grazie Nana! (Not that she has, or would know how to use, a computer.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You Say You Want A Revolution

On this day, 231 years ago, the American colonists began their War of Independence with the shot heard 'round the world, at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, just down the road from where I was born and raised. And the rest, as they say, is providence.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Buona Pasqua!

He is risen indeed!

Friday, April 14, 2006


"In Russia, before the days of Communism, Christians greeted one another at Easter time with the words, 'Christ is risen,' and the person being addressed would respond, 'Christ has risen indeed!' As everyone knows, religion in Russia was forbidden during the years of Communism. To atheistic Communists there was no God and they replaced Christian Easter Sunrise Services with Sunrise Communist Rallies, to which all people of the community were requested to attend.

I read about one such meeting where, as the sunrise rally was drawing to a close, the Communist leader asked the large gathering of some ten thousand people if there was anything anybody wanted to say. A long silence followed. Nobody moved. Finally a teenage boy came forward. As he approached the podium, the leader warned the boy saying, 'You must tell only the truth,' meaning Communist 'truth.' 'If you don't, you will be shot.'

All eyes were fixed on this lad as he stood at the podium about to speak. He was flanked by soldiers, rifles pointed at his head. For several brief moments he remained silent. Then standing tall and taking a deep breath, he called into the microphone: 'Christ is risen!'

As the story goes, the explodingrifles shattered the silence of the early morning. Only one sound drowned out the crack of the rifles as the teenage boy collapsed to the floor in death. It was the resounding response of ten thousand voices shouting: 'Christ has risen indeed!'"

(by Rev. Don Collar, pastor of Bilberry Creek Baptist Church, Ottawa.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't Pass Over Maundy Thursday

"Maundy is from a Latin word meaning "Mandate" or Commandment. It reminds us that on the Thursday before Jesus Christ was crucified he instituted the Holy Communion at the Last Supper. At that Supper he commanded his disciples to continue with this celebration of Holy Communion as a way of remembering what his death accomplished. He also commanded his disciples to serve others by using the image of the washing of the feet of his disciples."
(cited from here)

The following scripture is appropriate for Passover/Maundy Thursday. It's from the Scholars Version (Read my previous post):

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, I certainly won't drink any of them fruit of the vine from now on until God's domain is established!"
And he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it into pieces, offered it to them, and said, "This is my body which is offered for you. Do this as my memorial."
And, in the same manner, the cup after dinner and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Yet look! Here with me at this very table is the one who is going to turn me in. The son of Adam goes to meet his destiny; yet damn the one responsible for turning him in."
And they began to ask one another which of them could possibly attempt such a thing...
..."You are the ones who have stuck by me in my ordeals. And I confer on you the right to rule, just as surely as my Father conferred that right on me, so you may eat and drink at my table in my domain, and be seated on thrones and sit in judgment on the twelve tribes of Israel. "Simon, Simon, look out, Satan is after all of you, to winnow you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your trust may not give out. And once you have recovered, you are to shore up these brothers of yours."
He said to him, "Master, I'm prepared to follow you not only to prison but all the way to death."
He said, "Let me tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow tonight until you disavow three times that you know me."
(Luke 22:17-23, 28-34) .

And the rest, as they say, is Eastery.

Hath Not a Judean Eyes?

As we reflect on this Maundy Thursday on the faithful act of obedience of Saint Judas, I was skimming The Complete Gospels which is a book containing a new translation of the canonicals plus all the other "gospels" yet discovered (except the new Judas), i.e. the gnostic and false gospels. You may already know of this; it's called the Scholars Version. Because it's a project of the Jesus Seminar we may grimace at some of their translation choices which cast aside are traditional doctrine words (I mean, the "Scholars" Version sounds pretty presumptuous, as to distinguish themselves from those whacko evangelical pseudo-scholars). For instance, "kingdom" is changed to "imperial rule", and the "Word" in John's prologue is "the divine word and wisdom", which tries to capture the full implication of the Greek Logos. I personally think that's a good move.
One thing I'm not too sure of is the rest of John 1:1: "In the beginning there was the divine word and wisdom. The divine word and wisdom was there with God, and it was what God was." That sounds like it's trying to pick a fight with an ancient church council...
But what is very interesting is it's choice of words for what we commonly refer to as the Jews. It is very annoying when people talk about the Old Testament practices as "Judaism" and "Jewish". Not even secular scholars say that, and the SV doesn't either. You won't find the word Jew in here. They actually have included a short essay on nomenclature for Israel-ish people. They may have a different agenda in their reasoning, but I believe the divisions are true. They distinguish between three periods of history:

  1. Israel, Israelites and Israelite religion: first temple (ca. 950-560 B.C.)
  2. Judea, Judeans and Judean religion: second temple (ca. 520 B.C.-AD 70)
  3. Jews and Judaism: religion of the rabbis, talmud, and synagogue (ca. 90-continuing)

So then, the placard on the cross reads: "King of the Judeans," and Jesus' opponents in John's gospel are "the Judeans."
This is interesting and, I believe, a necessary distinction, because so many Christians today think that Jesus was disconnected from Israel and the Old Testament system because he was always criticizing it. But he was not. He was critical of the Judeans and their variation of true Israelite religion. Remember, he was never against the Pharisees because they were faithful to the Torah. He only rebuked their hypocrisy in this regard. Therefore, Jesus and John the Baptist were not liberal rebels, but only conservative Israelite puritans. Think about it. When Jesus gave the parable of God's vineyard and the tenants in Matthew 21:33ff, the vineyard is the temple, and the tenants beat and killed God's true servants and son. Then, "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them." Jesus was condemning the tenants of God's vineyard, not God's vinting business itself.

The Scholars Version makes the case for these terms, saying, "The failure to observe crucial transitions in the history of Judaism has contributed to the tragic history of anti-semitism among Christians, which the new terminology will help put to an end. Further, it will set the historical record straight" (p195). I don't know about their former reason, but the latter is good enough. I'm not endorsing this translation as superior to Christian translations, but it's a good reference. Sometimes secular linguists and historians give fresh air to our sometimes stuffy artificial traditions.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Judas According to My Favorite 13th Century Tuscan Theologian (among all the 13th Century Tuscan Theologians)

"...To bring a spirit from the circle of Judas;
That is the lowest region and the darkest,
And farthest from the heaven which encircles all."
Dante's Inferno, Canto IX:27-29
Longfellow's translation
And a word from our Lord regarding his betrayer:
"While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12, ESV).
He ain't sounding like a good guy to me.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Gospel of Arnold Found!

Incredible news from Theosebes.

More Judas Information (2)

When decay has a sense of humor:

"When we got the first translation of the Judas gospel back, we were on the edge of our seats reading about a revelation Judas had where he went into a cloud. It read, “Those standing on the ground heard a voice coming from the cloud, saying. . . ” Then, just as we thought we were going to find out what the voice said, we saw “ . . .Void.” The words were missing because a fragment was missing from the papyrus."

from National Geographic

More Judas Information

There is a thorough overview of the Judas gospel contained in video interviews with its four key interpreters: Craig Evans, Marvin Meyer, Bart Ehrman, and Elaine Pagels (each expert having 6 video clips). They all have good things to say, although some may not be Christians. They all see the value of the document in that it provides a look at the diversity of the early Christian community, i.e. Gnosticism. No one really sees it as an authentic record of Jesus or Judas, but more as a glimpse into 2nd century gnostic theology. Evans gives a good defense of the reliability of the four canonical gospels we have, where they are evidentially the earliest histories and memories of Jesus. The gnostic gospels insert later ideologies into the mouths of Jesus and the disciples. The videos are worth watching.

The Suitcase

A man was on his death bed and he cried out to God, "I haven't finished packing," to which the Lord replied, "You cannot bring anything with you."

"Please, Lord!" replied the man desperately, "Just one suitcase!?" The Lord answered, "I'll tell you what: you may bring one suitcase only and you may fill it with whatever you desire."

The man, now rejuvenated, got an empty suitcase and filled it with gold bars, pure and glistening. There were so many that the zipper didn't quite close all the way. The excited man couldn't even lift it or drag it, so he nestled up next to it and, clutching the handle, died.

The man found himself at the Gates of Heaven, and Peter (the dead man assumed he was Peter based on all the heaven jokes he heard in his life) started waving his hands, "Woah, woah, woah, you can't bring that in here!" The man confidently answered, "The Lord gave me special permission."

A massive angelic being, like nothing the man had ever seen, appeared next to the alleged Peter, "You called, Sir?" the angelic voice rang. "Yes. Please ask the Lord if this man has a right to bring this suitcase with him into Paradise." The angel vanished and immediately appeared again. "He has permission, Sir."

The man gave a proud nod, and started to walk toward the gate. "Wait," the Petrine doorman said, "May I have a look at what you so desire to have with you in Paradise?" The man set down and unzipped his case. The contents shone and glittered in the dead man's eyes and he smiled with satisfaction and joy as a tear rolled down his cheek.

"I can't believe it!!" the gatekeeper exclaimed, "You brought pavement!!?"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"What a Friend We Have in Judas"?

My title is actually taken from a newspaper headline (question mark mine). Tonight, Sunday, at 8:00 there is a feature documentary on the so called Gospel of Judas. I really want to see it but it's on the National Geographic Channel, which I don't have. A lot of it is a reenactment of Jesus and Judas, Church history and fathers (see photo of Christians being persecuted below), and the discovery of the papyrus book. Of course they also show how they've translated it and dated it, as well as interviews with all the scholars involved. I wanted to see it, mainly because Dr. Craig Evans is one of the official interpreters and is on the show. I have had the privilage of many conversations with him over the last few years, not only at ABU, but in Ottawa when he was speaking at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. There is, however, a good preview video of tonight's show, and Craig Evans is on near the end of the clip, saying, "I don't think 'Judas' contains authentic historical Jesus and Judas tradition." Watch it here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

New Gospel Discovered!

Last fall, I spoke on the phone with a certain archaeologist friend who had just gone out to lunch with a couple other biblical scholars and Dr. Craig Evans*, the evangelical Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament scholar/author. Dr. Evans secretly told them, under dim lights and the din of a bistro lunch crowd, that an ancient document has been uncovered in Egypt, a lost document that we have only heard referred to in other sources, namely Josephus, but have never actually found. It's a document that relates to Jesus, and will make a big impact on the archaeological/biblical literature world, according to Evans. But being under a confidentiality agreement, he could not share any detail. He said it would be publicized in the Spring.

Well, it is now Spring, and this morning as I was enjoying my orange juice and whole wheat English muffin with strawberry jam, I picked up the Ottawa Citizen and smack on the front page I saw it: "Ultimate Traitor Redeemed: Judas did as Jesus asked. Ancient document suggests Christ requested 'betrayal'." There it was. A 1,600 year old papyrus manuscript found in the Egyptian desert has been translated and authenticated as the lost Gospel of Judas (click to explore the document).

Now, we have many gnostic gospels out there, all very ancient, but obviously bogus, like the Gospel of Joseph where little Jesus helps his carpenter father fix a measurement mistake by 'stretching' a plank to be the right size. Or the Gospel of Thomas where young Jesus yells at his friend which actually kills him, only to raise him back to life so he wouldn't get in trouble. He also entertains all his playmates by making birds out of clay which then fly away into the sky. Every aspiring writer in the first few centuries wanted to contribute to the Jesus phenomenon. Kind of like the Da Vinci Code. How many rip-offs are there now? 200? A heard a publisher say that they receive numerous Da Vinci Code style manuscript submissions every single day, which they just cast aside. Should it surprise us that there are false gospels? Not at all.

Craig Evans was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen: "The gospel of Judas turns Judas's act of betrayal into an act of obedience," said Craig Evans, professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, N.S., who helped interpret the document. "The sacrifice of Jesus's body of flesh in fact becomes saving. And so for that reason, Judas emerges as the champion and he ends up being envied and even cursed and resented by the other disciples."

Wow. Andrew Lloyd Webber apparently had his own copy of this document because that is exactly the premise of Jesus Christ Superstar! Judas the Hero. I'm not at all surprised by the content of this papyrus. It's nothing new, we've heard it all before. Now what would be really interesting is if archaeologists found Paul's real 1st letter to the Corinthians. In our 1 Cor. he alludes to the other letters he's already written. Imagine finding more instruction from the Apostle? Maybe I should write a false one and make a hit Broadway rock opera out of it!

Anyway, you can read today's breaking news article here.

*Craig Evans has written
  • Jesus and the Ossuaries, of which I have a signed copy
  • The New Internat'l Biblical Commentary of Luke, of which I have signed copy
  • Who was Jesus: a Jewish-Christian Dialogue
  • Jesus and Empire: the Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder
  • Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Christian Beginnings And the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith
  • plus many other commentaries and books, etc., all of which I'd like to have signed copies.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Look Alike?

I saw Kenny Rogers on TV last night and thought he bore a striking resemblance to Sir Derek Jacobi, who played Senator Gracchus on Gladiator. Really, the similarity is unkenny.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Donne and the Atonement

Emily has posted a worthy reflection on the atonement via an incredible poem by her thesis subject, John Donne. The post is right below the beautiful pictures of my daughter on Letters Mingling.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Prayer: Faithful vs. Empirical

Letter to the Editor, Ottawa Citizen
From Andrew Belli
Re: "To Pray or not to pray: study says don't", March 31

Dear Editor,
How interesting it is that in one issue of the Citizen there were two studies "disproving" remedies for heart problems! Firstly, on A4 we are informed that red wine may not be as beneficial for fighting heart disease as we once thought. Secondly, we were enlightened by new advances in science telling us that prayer is ineffective regarding heart bypass surgery.
Are you kidding me? I almost don't have any words for something so ludicrous. The American Heart Journal is actually publishing an "experiment" to test how prayer affects the recovery in patients? I am reading this days after my good friend returned home after a complicated heart surgery where even the doctors doubted his survival. The Boston surgeon told my friend's wife to pray, and to have our church pray. We did incessantly, and my friend is healthy and recovering after being opened up four times. (Incidentally, prior to surgery the surgeon told my friend to drink wine.)
The study reports that people in churches were given written prayers with anonymous prayer objects. Do you think God jumps through our inquisitive hoops? Do you think he's tricked by scientists and insincere prayers? God is not a guinea pig in a cage. Prayer is not a magical incantation. It's a personal conversation with God. Jesus warned not to pray with "vain repetitions" but to "pray in secret" so God will answer you (Matthew 6:5-8). As well, we're warned regarding prayer, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (James 4:3). Scientific data is a wrong motive. The issue here is faith.
Who in this story actually has the "heart problem"? Let's stick to experimenting with the effects of alcohol and aspirin. And if I were one of those scientists, I'd be asking God to turn my watery prayers into wine.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Do Folk Holidays have Under-the-door Policies?

My wife informed me that April Fool's day lasts only until 12:00 noon on April 1. It's a RULE. Well, having written my previous post at 8:30pm last night, I broke the rule. Sorry. I guess I should go to confession.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

After Long Consideration

Some of you have been aware of what I am about to say for a long time. After months and months of inner conflict and converstaion with men I respect, I have made an extremely life-changing decision that may alter many relationships I have before enjoyed. Through much study and prayer, having been convinced of paedobaptism and the imperative of apostolic succession, I am now taking the necessary steps to join the communion most referred to as the Roman Catholic Church. I never thought I would be making such a pilgrimage, but truth is truth, and the church which hails from Rome, founded by Peter and Paul, is the biblical and true Body. Because I was married prior to conversion I will still be allowed to make priestly vows. To all my Baptist and Presbyterian friends who were unaware of this situation, I'll be happy to answer any questions.