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Monthly Archives: February 2013

I’ll Take “Book Hunting” For 100!

Unless I’ve miscounted or my blog program is lying to me, this should be my 100th post here at the Old Book Bible Story BookJunkie. 100. Didn’t know if I’d make it that long. Thanks to all of you who have read and/or followed me here. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your “likes” and comments. Hopefully, I can earn your continued patronage in the year ahead. Now, onward.

Once again I have been out among the thrift stores and library sales, and once again I have found some nice books. This past Friday my wife and I were at the Disabled American Veterans Thrift store, one of our favorite places to rummage around in. They have great items at great prices and for a great cause.

For example, I found a nice copy of “Egermeier’s Bible Story Book: A Complete Narration from Genesis to Revelation for Young and Old,” (1955, Warner Press Publication, Gospel Trumpet Company.) These versions of the biblical stories were first written and published in 1923 by Elsie E. Egermeier. The 1955 version I found was revised slightly by Arlene Hall.

Samuel gets a new coatElsie Egermeier’s intent was to “present these stories in such a simple, direct manner that her youthful readers will have no difficulty in comprehending their teaching.” It seems that this type of book, re-telling the key Bible stories in plain language for younger readers, was very popular in the early to mid-20th century. Some of the newer ones I’ve seen today tend to be cartoonish in their approach, particularly the illustrations. As you can see from this picture, that’s not the case with  “The Bible Story Book.” The book is full of wonderful color and black and white lithographs that don’t turn the stories into fairy tales. I have concerns about children seeing cartoon depictions of Moses or Jesus. Do they understand that they were real people and not some cartoon characters?

I also picked up a good, clean copy of “The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Expanded Edition,” (1977, Oxford University Press, Inc.) It is edited by the great Bruce M. Metzger and this expanded edition contains the third and fourth books of the Maccabees and Psalm 151. That’s right, Psalm 151, which is purportedly a psalm of David commemorating his battle with the giant Goliath. Is it true? God knows, but the psalm is great:

I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and removed

reproach from the people of Israel.

Whether you think the Apocrypha should be canonical or not, it is a marvelous enhancement to the Scriptures. I’ve always enjoyed reading it, particularly the Wisdom of Solomon and Tobit. This annotated copy of the Revised Standard Version is a great addition to my library.

Finally, I found a copy of the “Abingdon Bible Handbook,” (1975, Abingdon Press) by Edward P. Blair. This will be a useful reference book since it includes nice, brief summaries and backgrounds on each book of the Bible, as well as chapters on Bible translation, interpretation, history, archaeology and chronology.

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks again for hanging with me and I hope to have a lot more interesting things for all of you in the year ahead!

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Book Hunting, Children's Books

 

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The Circle of Life Is a Grind

That there is a cyclical aspect to existence can’t be denied. Day into night into day. Winter,

English: Botticelli, Scenes from the Life of M...

English: Botticelli, Scenes from the Life of Moses (detail 2) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring,Summer,Fall. Birth, life and death. It’s the “Circle of Life” and it’s been glorified in children’s movies and other places over the years. But a circle is a closed figure, with no beginning and no end and if you’re inside the circle you are basically in a prison.

In Thomas Cahill’s book, “The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels,” ( Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 1998) he shows us how the Western mind escaped from this prison.

The primeval human’s religion and worldview were so different from what we experience today that it’s very difficult for us to imagine how they saw their lives and world. The great wheel of life and death was truly a grinding wheel. There was no past, present or future as we view it, only an endless cycle. Every event has happened, is happening now and will happen again.

Further, there was no sense of the individual for humans at that time. There was only the “world of groups, tribes, and nations, in which all identity and validation comes only from solidarity with a larger entity.” There were no dreams of a better life for you or your family, only the class or archetypal group you were born into.

To the modern mind this is nearly incomprehensible. Haven’t humans always seen the world the way we see it? How could it be viewed any other way? But what is even more amazing is how our modern worldview came into being out of the mind-numbing repetition and the soul-nullifying class systems of the ancient world. According to Cahill, we can thank the Jews for our escape.

After a short course on the ancient Sumerian civilization, Cahill dives into the Old Testament to show us what these “gifts” are and how they came about. In particular, he focuses on the stories of Abraham, Moses and David. I won’t try to detail all the gifts he brings to light, but I will highlight the ones that he emphasizes.

It begins with Abraham, whose life would have been just fine had he remained within the circle of life and his own family group. But he hears the voice of God, promising him “something new, something better, something yet to happen, something – in the future.” Not only will Abraham become a father in his old age, but God will make of him a great nation. All he has to do is “go forth” into the unknown. So he does, right out of cyclical time and into linear time. Time now contains past, present and future and we now have the idea of history.

With Moses came new gifts, one of which changes religion forever. Ancient religions were not about spirituality. Far from it. Cahill describes them as “impersonal manipulation by means of ritual prescriptions.” Christian author Eugene Peterson characterizes these rituals as “impersonal, nonrelational, acquisitive religious technologies.” It was all about using the gods to get what you wanted. The gods really didn’t care that much about man, but they controlled things that man wanted, things like rain to ensure good crops, fertility for large families and plentiful herds, strength and good fortune for war and the blessings of good health. Man initiated his rituals to obtain these things. But the God of Abraham and Moses is different. He is the One who initiates contact with man.

In Moses’ case, God grabbed his attention via a burning bush that wasn’t consumed. When Moses turns aside to see this wonder, God begins speaking to him. Suddenly, religion isn’t only about manipulation anymore. God has initiated a relationship with man and He and Moses enter into an actual conversation. The Holy one invites Moses to take off his shoes and tells Moses His name. Then comes the part Moses wants nothing to do with: God has a job for him. He is to go back into Egypt and lead the people of Israel out of slavery. This endeavor leads to a close, personal relationship between God and man, an amazing and somewhat terrifying gift. It also leads to another gift, one of the greatest of all, the concept of liberation and freedom.

With David comes another gift, one that we moderns think of as self-evident: the sense of self, theof our interior life, our individual identity. This is something not found in ancient literature. But it is abundant in the book of Psalms. According to Cahill, “The Psalms, some of which were undoubtedly written in the tenth century (BC) by David himself, are a treasure trove of personal emotions from poets acutely attuned to their inner states.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. Cahill sums it up this way: “We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact - new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice – are the gifts of the Jews.”

And they are the gifts of God.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Reason Isn’t Everything

Archimedes Thoughtful

Archimedes Thoughtful (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is not such a great gap between mysticism and rationalism as we tend to imagine . . . we have all urged friends to “sleep on” a problem in the hope of finding a solution that has eluded them in their waking hours. When our minds are receptive and relaxed, ideas come from the deeper region of the mind. This has also been the experience of such scientists as Archimedes, who discovered his famous Principle in the bath. A truly creative philosopher or scientist has, like the mystic, to confront the dark world of uncreated reality and the cloud of unknowing in the hope of piercing it. As long as they wrestle  with logic and concepts, they are, necessarily, imprisoned in ideas or forms of thought that have already been established.

- Karen Armstrong, from “A History of God” (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Quotations

 

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Don’t Get Too Close!

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film)

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry I’ve been away from the old keyboard for a bit. About two weeks ago I came down with something like a head cold on steroids. Headache, sinus pressure, a small cough and the usual “Yuck!” By the time my wife and I would get home from work in the afternoons the only thing I would be good for was the couch. It hurt to think much less actually put thoughts to paper (or screen, as the case may be!)

But even when I’m sick, there is one thing I still can do. Read. So here’s a brief recap of what I’ve been reading since the last time I put fingers to plastic.

I finished the fourth book in Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series, “Lost Souls,” in which we meet the third incarnation of Victor Frankenstein, Victor Immaculate. By far the worst of the three, he is even scarier because his views are the same as certain groups of very radical environmentalists today. You might think that there couldn’t be anything funny about this book, but you’d be wrong. Koontz’s pairing of characters and the situations he places them in bring forth some of the best dialog you’ll ever read. Trust me on this. The fifth and final book in the series, ” The Dead Town,” is ready and waiting for me to finish two other books I’m now reading.

One of which is Eugene Peterson”s “Eat This Book.” My Christian friends will recognize Peterson as the author of “The Message.” Some think “The Message” is another paraphrase of the Bible but it describes itself as a “contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.” Now, in “Eat This Book,” Peterson discusses the best ways to read this amazing book called the Bible. He stresses that we should try to avoid “atomizing” it, chopping it down into little factoids or proof texts for our pet positions. He spends a lot of words exploring a type of spiritual reading called “lectio divina” which has come down to us from ancient Christians. It’s a wonderful, encouraging read.

Finally, I’m reading the second in Thomas Cahill’s “The Hinges of History” series, titled “The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels.” I read his first volume “How the Irish Saved Civilization” last year and was completely charmed by it. This volume is equally well-written and fascinating. Even if you’re not a person of faith, you owe much to this bunch of desert dwellers. Without their beliefs and ideas, the way we view ourselves and our world would not be possible.

Well, that’s it for now. There are plenty of other books lined up for this year as well. I need to put together some sort of reading plan, but since organization has never been one of my strong suits I won’t promise anything. But I will promise to try to be better about getting to the keyboard. Once I’m feeling better.

Better spray your screen with Lysol for now.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Authors, Book Review, History, What I'm Reading

 

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