In an instructional talk given to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club, in March 1911, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane coined the phrase “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Contemporary idiomatic use may have modified the phrase ever so slightly, yet Brisbane’s axiom remains universally agreed upon and frequently employed. A little research would suggest that Brisbane’s phrase was ever so slightly derivative and perhaps numerically understated even. For example, a character within Ivan S. Turgenev’s 1862 novel, ‘Father and Sons’, opines “[This] drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book”. Unless, each page of Turgenev’s hypothetical book contained pages of no more than one hundred words, it seems that an element of textual deflation of several degrees had occurred between the scribings of Turgenev and Brisbane. If, in spite of numerical differences, both these learned gentlemen are correct in principle, then the typographically reductive nature of modern day social media, best depicted by the one hundred and forty characters of Twitter, was perhaps therefore inevitable. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the advancement of image technology and the reduction in the number of words needed. Think of Instagram as a perfect almost wordless example of this seemingly immutable law of inverse picture/word relationship. Continue reading
Category Archives: Religion
The Old Testament priest/scribe Ezra was a man of God. His lifestyle provided a model of practical godly leadership to a people in desperate need of hearing God’s word and seeing God’s will lived out practically.
In the ancient Hebrew language, the infinite construct with the preposition לֽ (pronounced ‘le’) often complements the main verb by expressing the purpose, goal or result to which the main verb points. In Ezra 7:10, there are three infinite construct forms that are used in this way in a verse which highlights Ezra’s personal commitments.
Here is a beauty. Job is unsure whether to cry with grief or boil with rage. He shall probably do both. Within the Gallery of Modern Art at Glasgow Museum a group comprising of the Metropolitan Community Church, Quest, Al Jannah Muslim Group and individuals from a range of faiths together with a couple of chaps by the names of Anthony Schrag and David Malone have put together an exhibition entitled ‘Made in God’s image’. Continue reading
An employee at a so called Christian ‘homeless’ charity, has been suspended for answering questions about his faith to a colleague at work. To add insult to injury the patron of this charity is none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, and erstwhile Druid, Dr Rowan Williams. Continue reading
An interesting article appeared in the Daily Mail yesterday discussing the merits or otherwise of the traditional route Jesus took to Calvary. Perhaps we have an apt example that His ways are not just higher than mans’ but also literally different. Anyway, having read the article Job reflected upon his own visit to Jerusalem in 2005, and the various conflicting claims of where specifically Jesus was crucified and buried which he encountered during his visit. Job wrote a short piece following his visit, based upon some simple research into the conflicting claims of the Holy Sepulchre and ‘Gordon’s Calvary’ and reproduces the article below. Hope you enjoy it.
The visitor to Jerusalem is presented with two different sites commemorating the central event of Christian history, namely the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. Clearly there are differing opinions regarding the authenticity of these sites. It is impossible that both sites are authentic, thus the debate continues as to which (if either) is the true site. Long standing tradition will convince many that the Holy Sepulchre is the location of these central events, whilst the natural and aesthetic appeal of the Garden Tomb will appeal to others.
The strongest argument in favour of the Holy Sepulchre has always been its claim to ancient tradition. The present church is essentially a Crusader Church that was built on the site of Constantine’s Basilica. It is held that Constantine’s church will have been built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, as local, reliable and long-standing tradition would have identified the spot as such. Much of Christendom has ever since supported the continued claim that this site is authentic.
History records that Jerusalem was destroyed in AD70. The Romans lay siege to Jerusalem under Titus and eventually storm the Temple area in August AD70. Within a month the upper city had been burnt to the ground and destroyed. The extent of this destruction was almost total. The Jerusalem that grew out of the rubble would be much smaller. Sixty years later history was to repeat itself. Peter Walker states, “This time the Roman Emperor was Hadrian, who having quashed the rebellion, tried to ensure that it could never happen again. In accordance with a scheme that he may have been entertaining before the revolt, Hadrian now refounded Jerusalem as a pagan city. He called it Aelia Capitolina and laid it out on the regular pattern of a Roman camp, divided by two main roads known as the Cardo Maximus and the Decumanus”
We know from the book of Acts that following some immediate success in the proclamation of Jesus as Israel’s messiah; Jerusalem became an increasingly difficult place for the Christian community. Acts 8:1 tells of a persecution that led to “all except the apostles being scattered”. For sometime, the apostles would continue to utilise Jerusalem as their base, however in time they also departed Jerusalem according to their Christ given mandate to preach unto the ends of the earth.
The immediate question that must be raised is that in the light of such physical destruction and rebuilding of Jerusalem together with the dispersion of an entire Christian community, how can any certainty be attached, two hundred years later, to the site of the Holy Sepulchre as the location of Christ’s death and resurrection. When relating to the Christian traditions surrounding the holy sites in the city, one should bear in mind that the Christian community which remained in the city after its destruction in 70CE was small and poor. Furthermore no documentation concerning the sites that were considered holy, or about their precise location has remained. Moreover when Jerusalem became a pagan city in 135CE, the persecution of Christians by the Roman authorities precluded the development and maintenance of the holy places, and thus, many of the authentic sites disappeared leaving no traces. Those who believe therefore, in the sites authenticity are compelled to assume that the tradition was successfully passed on from the first century AD to the fourth century AD.
The traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre has consistently been vulnerable to the charge that it may well have been inside the “second wall” at the time of Jesus. To date, however no archaeological evidence of the line of this wall has yet been found. Should it be proved so, the claim of authenticity would have to be immediately dismissed, as the one fixed point in the debate remains that Jesus was crucified outside the city wall. The main strength of the Garden Tomb’s claim to authenticity is that it was clearly outside the city. This has never been seriously disputed. Most scholars believe that the northernmost point of the ‘second wall’ would have been roughly along the line of the current Turkish wall – at least for the section going eastward from the Damascus gate. The proposed authenticity of Skull Hill and the Garden Tomb as Christ’s place of death and resurrection has however, been subject to immense controversy, particularly in the early years following its discovery and purchase. Some important questions have been raised, which broadly defined fall into two categories.
Firstly, in comparison with the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden Tomb is clearly vulnerable on the issue of tradition. The 300 years between Christ’s death and resurrection and the building of Constantine’s sepulchre may seem like an age, but in comparison with 1800 years which elapsed before the discovery of the garden Tomb, it will appear extremely short. It is of course possible that the memory of the tomb’s location was effectively lost to Christian tradition until the advent of modern archaeology, but we have no way of being certain.
Secondly, many differing dates have been suggested as to the origin of the tomb. Macalister suggested the twelfth century AD, Conder the ninth, reputable scholars such as Petrie, Marston, and, not least Kathleen Kenyon all believed that it could be a Herodian tomb, thus dating it to the era of Jesus. More recently, however, Gabriel Barkay has published an article in which he argues for it being an Iron Age tomb – that is from the eighth or seventh century BC.
And so the debate continues. The result of which is that the authenticity of either site is at best inconclusive. Perhaps therefore, when attempting to make headway amongst the various differing traditions and arguments, perhaps we would be better served placing overriding emphasis on the historic facts and redemptive meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ as opposed to the precise location of the events.
In the opening verse, Matthew strikes a note which seems to resound throughout his gospel. He is concerned, almost with a singular focus, upon portraying Jesus as the Jewish messiah descended directly from the royal house of King David, and of the seed of the patriarch Abraham, unto whom the divine promises were first given [Gen 12]. The primary aim of ‘the book of the genesis‘ [see part 1 below], is to fully demonstrate that Jesus was no arbitrary man of wisdom, no accident of the time but someone who may only be fully understood and appreciated in terms of who and what had preceded him.
‘Meticulous Matthew’ then, fully immersed in rabbinical patterns of thought, portrays a wonderful symmetry of numbers. He divides his genealogy of Jesus into three groups – from Abraham to David; from David to the Babylonian Captivity [ie. the end of the monarchy] and from the period of the Babylonian Captivity to Jesus. Matthew informs his readers that each of these three groups contains 14 generations. [It is interesting to note that the second group omits 3 generations – see 1 Chron 1-2 for details].
What then is the significance of these numbers, the three groups of fourteen? One suggestion is that the name ‘David’ comprises three Hebrew consonants –דוד [dalet, vav, dalet]. The letters of the Hebrew language also function not dissimilarly to Roman Numerals, in that each letter also holds a numerical value. Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet whilst Vav is the sixth. Simple arithmetic will quickly conclude that dalet, vav, dalet may be presented numerically as four, six, four which when added together equals fourteen. Matthew therefore is likely to be using a further allusion here to the ‘Davidic’ nature of Jesus.
There is a further mathematical implication which may be apparent in Matthew’s opening chapter. Jewish sacred arithmetic often calculated the future by reference to Jeremiah’s prophecy of God’s salvation after seventy weeks. In Daniel we find this interpreted as seventy weeks of years [490 years]. Here in Matthew then, these methods are perhaps also utilised. The period from the promise to Abraham to the birth of the Messiah is figured as three times seventy weeks of years, or three times fourteen generations which is the same thing. Thus at the exact fit time of prophecy and moreover of the lineage of David – Jesus who is called Messiah is born.
Such mathematical/rhetorical devices were highly valued in first century Mediterranean societies.
The author of the first of the four canonical gospels has occasionally been referred to as ‘meticulous Matthew’. He regularly displays intentional precision in his account of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. This he does in order to accentuate truths that are both relevant and vital to the believer’s life and doctrine. This precision is very apparent in the genealogy Matthew constructs to present Jesus as the Christ at the beginning of his gospel. Consideration has already been given in part 1 [below] to the punning allusions of a ‘new scripture’ etc. Here then are some further considerations.
When Matthew constructs his genealogy of Jesus he says ‘….and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ’. [Matt 1:16, NIV]. To whom do the italicised words ‘of whom’ refer? Is it to Joseph as father? Mary as mother? Both Joseph & Mary as parents?
Clearly it is possible for the English word ‘whom’ to fit any of the 3 above possible meanings. Behind the English words ‘of whom’ however, stands the Greek relative pronoun h|s. The feminine gender of the relative pronoun points specifically to Mary as the one from whom Jesus was born. The genealogy regularly emphasises the male who fathers a child, but here ‘meticulous Matthew’ delivers a precise statement of the relationship of Jesus Christ to Joseph & Mary. While the genealogy establishes that Joseph is the legal father of Jesus, Matthew emphasises that Mary is the biological parent ‘of whom’ Jesus was born. Further, the passive voice of the verb ‘egennhqh‘ [was born] – the only passive among the forty occurrences of the verb gennaw in the genealogy – prepares for Matthew’s emphasis upon divine action in the conception and birth of Jesus [1:18-25]
The feminine gender of the pronoun then, prepares for the virgin birth by empathically shifting the attention from Joseph to Mary. He intentionally stresses that Mary is the mother of Jesus, and later will clarify that the conception is miraculous, brought about by the Spirit of God. Jesus Christ is indeed the son of David, the son of Abraham [1:1] but he is also the Son of God, Immanuel, ‘God with us’ [1:23]. This is no ordinary man in the line of David. This is our Saviour and Lord – fully man and fully God. Amen.