Friday, 23 February 2007

Bible Commentaries

Sometimes it can be hard to understand what a particular Bible passage is about. This is where a good commentary can be invaluable. Here are some useful ones. But don't take what they say at face value—always check them against what the King of Books says. Thanks again to Luke Jenner for the initial list.

New Bible CommentaryG Wenham, J Motyer, D Carson, R France (editors)IVP
New Bible DictionaryI H Marshall, A R Millard, J I Packer, D J Wiseman (editors)IVP
Welwyn Commentary Series (especially Romans)Evangelical Press
Bible Speaks Today SeriesIVP
Tyndale Commentaries SeriesIVP
New Testament CommentariesGeoffrey B WilsonBanner of Truth
Focus on the Bible CommentariesChristian Focus Publications
Reading the BibleGeoffrey ThomasBanner of Truth
Exhaustive Concordance of the BibleJames Strong
Expository Thoughts on the GospelsJ C RyleBanner of Truth
New Testament Commentaries (including More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation)William HendriksenBaker

See also: Bible Introduction and Overview, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History, Devotional

Bible Introduction and Overview

Search for "Bible Introduction" in Amazon and you're presented with a list of several hundred titles. How can you sort out the trivial from the profound, the rubbish from the pearls of wisdom? Well, here's a start at least. Here are a few basic reference works that will help you discover something of the background to the King of Books. With grateful thanks to Luke Jenner.

The New Testament: An Introduction to Its Literature and HistoryJ Gresham MachenBanner of Truth
An Introduction to the Old TestamentE J YoungEerdmans
Survey of the BibleWilliam HendriksenEvangelical Press
The Moody Atlas of Bible LandsBarry J BeitzelMoody Press

See also: Bible Commentaries, Systematic Theologies, Contemporary Issues, Biography and History, Devotional

Friday, 16 February 2007

Hand Painting

SwanThis is clever. I originally came across it (and more like it) at Mighty Optical Illusions .

It's one of a number of hand and body paintings by Italian artist Guido Daniele of Milan.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

It Has to Stop

Marks and Spencer killed nearly 6,000 children at 9 stores in the UK during January 2007.

No, it's not true, but imagine the public outcry there would be if it were.

The truth is that Marie Stopes International provided nearly 6,000 (5,992) abortions to women at its nine UK centres last month—the most in its 32-year history, and 13 per cent more than January last year. (See, e.g., the BBC news report)

The silent killing goes on, vulnerable women continue to be traumatized, and society is not perturbed.

The response from the so-called pro-choice lobby is to campaign for greater access to the "morning after pill", to encourage the distribution of condoms, for greater "education", …. The same arguments have been used time and time again in the 40 years since the 1967 Abortion Act, yet the number of abortions keeps rising (in England and Wales: 163,638 in 1995, 185,375 in 2000, 186,400 in 2005). There are even now demands to make access to abortion even easier, for example by removing the "two doctor" rule.

It's time to stop this killing spree. The complacent attitude to human life needs to be challenged. Abortion should not be promoted as a "back-up" method of birth control. More support must be given to women in difficult situations who want to keep their babies. The beauties of sex only within marriage should be extolled and encouraged.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Sea More

An earlier post concerned the Sea in Solomon's temple and the value of pi. That got me thinking about whether we can deduce anything about the shape of the Sea from the further description in 1 Kings 7. This says that the Sea was 5 cubits high and 10 cubits in diameter, and that it held 2000 baths. (Incidentally, 2 Chronicles 4:5 says that it held 3000 baths. This may have been a copyist's error at some point, although there are other possibilities. Perhaps I will post about that another time.)

The immediate problem is that we don't know for sure how cubits and baths map on to the measurements we use today. It seems that there were at least two, possibly more, types of cubit in use in ancient Israel, and different scholars have come up with their own values. A scan of various web sites and the commentaries I have suggests that the length of a cubit could have been anything between about 44.7cm/17.6in and 55.4cm/21.8in. Similarly, various possibilities for the size of a bath have been suggested, ranging from 20.1 litres/4.4 gallons to 48 litres/10.6 gallons.

Assume for the moment that 1 cubit = 48cm. That's about average.

Possible Sea ShapesLet's also assume that the Sea was a cylinder with an internal radius of 4.8 cubits (giving a circumference of about 30.2 cubits) and height 5 cubits. (When these values are rounded to the nearest integer, we obtain the measurements quoted in the text.) The volume of this cylinder is given by the formula πr²h, where r=4.8 and h=5. This comes to about 362 cubits³, which (conveniently!) is about 40.0m³. This would suggest that a bath is about 20 litres, which is at the lower end of the range of possibilities suggested.

Starting from this cylinder, we can generate a couple of other possible shapes with similar volumes. In both cases we have to assume that the writer, rather than rounding to the nearest integer, rounded off at least the circumference to 1 significant digit (i.e. to 30, rather than to 29 or 31, cubits). If we allow the internal radius at the top of the Sea to be 5 cubits, reducing to 4.8 cubits in the middle and 4.5 cubits at the bottom, then we end up with a beaker-shaped vessel with the same volume. The circumference ranges from 31.4 cubits at the top to 28.0 cubits at the bottom.

Finally, it may have been more pot-shaped, with a bulge towards the middle. In the example illustrated, the top and bottom have a radius of 4.83m; this reduces to 4.62 at the neck of the pot and then bulges out to 5.01m in the middle. The circumference of this pot is 29.0 cubits at the narrowest part and 31.5 cubits at the widest.

It seems possible that the Sea could have had any of these three shapes, given the scant knowledge we have of the measurements in use at the time.

In closing, let's consider Josephus's statement that the Sea was a hemisphere: Antiquities of the Jews, 8.3.5. This appears unlikely unless a bath was much smaller than research generally indicates. The volume of a sphere is given by the formula (4/3)πr³. So the volume of a hemisphere with a radius of 4.8 cubits is (2/3)π4.8³, which is about 232 cubic cubits, or about 25.6m³. This would make a bath about 12.8 litres - much smaller than the "minimum" value of 20.1 litres. Indeed Josephus himself said a bath was equal to 72 sextarii (Antiquities of the Jews, 8.2.9) or xestes; this would make it equal to 1 Attic metretes, which is usually taken to be equivalent to 39.4 litres.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Teaser 3

What is the next number in this sequence?

4, 2, 3, 4, 6, 2, 4, ...


What is the next digit in this sequence?

4, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 4, ...




What has 4 letters, is has 2, the has 3, etc.