Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shorts from Regent

This has been my first time back in a lecture hall for many years so I have been fascinated by the ubiquity of the laptop, the soft clatter of typing, the software and the mp3 recorders of various kinds. It was also my first time looking at an interlinear New Testament. Lots of firsts. But, Waltke and Fee use the old fashioned overhead and hand out lots of paper.

I was supposed to meet with Dr. Waltke two weeks ago, but it was put off because another women about my age was setting up a camera on a tripod outside his office door when I arrived. I could see that she wanted more than a few spare moments with the great man, so I said that I would wait. I chatted with her for a few minutes and found out that she was health professional researching breastfeeding and motherhood. She said that Dr. Waltke had confided in her that his memory went back to when he was a baby and he could remember breastfeeding, so she was going to interview him on this topic. Go figure!

When I did have my interview with Dr. Waltke a week later, the coffee shop line snaked through the atrium so we retreated to the staff hideout and a private thermos. To his consternation the thermos was empty. At first, I thought - how kind this man is to insist on my having coffee, but it soon became apparent that I wouldn't get a word out of him until he had his cup firmly in front of him. He went in and out a few times, looking either for whoever made coffee or making it himself, I wasn't sure which. This took some time. Finally, he returned with a full thermos and poured me a cup. He then poured himself a half cup and drank it black. He kept the thermos beside him and would only pour in half a cup at a time, so that it was always very hot when he drank it.

When this was all settled he leaned forward on his elbows and looked at me with great concentration and said, "I have a question for you first." I could not quite imagine what. "How do my course assignments compare with Gordon Fee's?" he asked. Well, all professors think alike, I thought. But I am just auditing so I couldn't answer his question.

Actually, I did find out the next day what was going on. In Fee's class, I sat beside a young man who had also been in Waltke's class. He commented, "I really want to take Fee's class -this is so great, I love it so much, I don't know what to do, but I am going to have to quit." Apparently he figured out that if he worked 16 hours a day for 6 days a week for 6 weeks, he would be able to complete the bare minimum of assignments for Waltke's 2 week course. So he was going to ask for a refund for his fees for Fee's class. I guess this trend was not going over well in accounting. It must have gotten back to Waltke.


One afternoon I joined in a small discussion with John Stackhouse, author of Finally Feminist. Most of his books are on other topics, but this one did come up briefly. John described his upbringing in the Plymouth Brethren. He explained what it was like to listen to the ministry of all men, but only men. The Brethren used to depend on only one verse for the silence of women - 1 Cor. 14: 35. "It is a shame for women to speak in the church." In the assembly a woman's voice was never heard, not in testimony, singing or even as a Sunday School teacher. Women were silent. However, every single male had to participate in leading or ministering from the age of 18 on, regardless of gifts, inclination or training. John just rolled his eyes, trying to describe what it was like.

After the discussion with John, a pastor from the south came up to me and asked for a ride back to his car. He had arrived too late for the designated parking and had left his car on the side of a road about one mile away. He asked if I was driving east from the campus. Since I wasn't driving to Japan, I said yes, I was definitely heading east.

I got a little lost in a new campus suburb on the way out, driving around an endless crescent. Finally we emerged, a little disoriented, onto the road where he had left his car and I drove along it a little. He was explaining how he had rented a zippy Japanese vehicle but, for some reason, had had to exchange it for an small American model of mediocre performance just that morning. We drove along chatting when suddenly he looked around startled and started to moan that his car had been stolen. It was not where he had left it!

I quickly calculated the likelihood of a car of the make he had mentioned being picked out by a joyriding teenager - not very high, and had an inspiration. "No worries," I said, "All my girlfriends have had their cars stolen too. But, every time it has turned out that they simply forgot where they had parked. So we will drive around the block and find your car right where you left it." We did, and he was very grateful - as if I had made his car materialize out of thin air."Thank you, sister," he said.

Monday, July 23, 2007

P 46 Index

This is taken directly off the blog of Brandon Wason, Novum Testamentum Blog . He has moved his blog and I can't access this page any more by the usual method, so I have pulled this out of cache and reposted it so it doesn't get lost. I hope that's okay. Thanks for all your work, Brandon.


A New Way to Access Michigan's P46 Images

P46 is without question one of the most important manuscripts for New Testament studies, and arguably the most important text of the Pauline Corpus. The manuscript itself was comprised of 104 leaves strung together into a codex. Today 86 of those original 104 leaves are extant and housed in both Michigan and Dublin. The reason for its importance is that it is the earliest extant collection of Paul's letters. The usual date ascribed to it is 200 C.E., though Aland notes that there is leeway on either side (Text 87). The order of the contents of P46 is as follows: Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. The Pastoral Epistles, in their present form, were not contained in P46 as there was not enough space on the remanding leaves for them to have been included. Most scholars claim that 2 Thessalonians was counted, despite the fact that it has not been preserved over the centuries. Parts of Romans and 1 Thessalonians are also missing. 1 Thessalonians, if I recall correctly, does not contain an alpha in the title, thus some have argued that 2 Thessalonians was never included because the collater of P46 only knew 1 Thessalonians as Paul's only letter to that group. Another issue with P46 is how it handles the doxology in Romans by placing it after Romans 15:33 and before chapter 16. P46 is generally categorized as belonging to (or preceding) the Alexandrian text-type, though there are some Western qualities about it.

As I mentioned above, part of P46 resides in Michigan at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. They possess thirty of the 86 leaves, which they have made availabe on their website (which I blogged about in August). I often refer to the APIS (The Advanced Papyrological Information System at U Michigan) website to look at the very detailed images of P46, yet their system is often very difficult to navigate. I finally took the time to list the contents of each of the leaves (front and back, thus sixty images) and link to them individually, which is what I have below:

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Girls

The Girls is the only novel I have read recently about abundant and fulfilling love. The two girls, twins conjoined on the side of the head, not only negotiate an equitable and loving relationship, in which the stronger one does not dominate or make decisions for the other; but their relationship also serves as a metaphor for successful conjugal love. Romance and tenderness erupt in the most unlikely places and it is an important plot device that no character goes unkissed. Sad and funny but very satisfying. I loved it.

My Name is Red
, War Trash, Kite Runner, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress are books written by men about cultural and political themes. Swallows of Kabul and Half of Man is Woman are novels in which failed conjugal love serves as a metaphor for male impotence under a repressive political regime. They are satisfying to read simply because the authors, writing in a very different cultural and linguistic environment, are able to successfully communicate a universal message using the theme of conjugal love.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story of failed love and the kindness and tenderness of family and community. Memory Keeper's Daughter and Glass Castle are novels of triumph in a dysfunctional family.

At least that's my take.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading Habits

Kite Runner - 2005, US 1912 reviews, 4 1/2 stars; UK 236 reviews, 4 1/2 stars
Swallows of Kabul 2005, US 42 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 3 reviews 5 stars
Memory Keeper's Daughter 2006, US 588 reviews 3 1/2 stars; UK 36 reviews 3 1/2 stars
Glass Castle 2006, US 707 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 3 reviews 5 stars
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan 2006, US 339 customer reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 20 reviews 5 stars
Suite Française 2006, US 203 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 21 reviews, 5 stars
Half of Man is Woman 1991, US 1 review 5 stars; UK no reviews
My Name is Red 2002, US 105 reviews 4 1/2 stars, UK 24 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
The Girls 2007 US 72 reviews 4 1/2 stars, UK 42 reviews 3 1/2 stars
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, 2002, US, 208 reviews, 4 stars; UK 13 reviews, 4 stars
Snow 2005, US 106 reviews, 3 1/2 stars; UK 22 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
Reading Lolita in Tehran 2003, US 317 reviews, 3 1/2 stars; UK 18 reviews , 4 1/2 stars
The Places in Between 2006, US 115 reviews, 4 stars; UK 17 reviews, 4 1/2 stars
Bookseller of Kabul 2004, US 113 reviews, 4 stars; UK 39 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
War Trash 2006, US no reviews; UK 2 reviews, 4 1/2 stars

I have decided to analyse my reading habits. First, novels represent about half of my reading time. I like it that way and I really don't know what to say to people who claim they have eliminated novels from their reading schedule. Some of these same people haven't eliminated watching sports on TV, of course. Oh well. Each to their own.

My favourite books are in this order, My Name is Red, a little long and difficult but if you love books and the history of books, it is wonderful. Next, War Trash, Balzac, Snow Flower, Half of Man is Woman, Swallows of Kabul, Places in Between. And so on.

I found Kite Runner just plain irritating with its formula plot and predictable ending, and the Glass Castle was very enjoyable but surely overrated. There are many books which I am extemely happy to read, and discuss but wouldn't rate as top literature. Memory Keeper's Daughter and The Girls, for example. I wouldn't miss them for anything but they probably will not be enduring tales. I would still recommend all of these books as a good read.

So how did I choose these books? The best books I have read recently, Swallows of Kabul and Snow Flower, were selling for a few bucks in a bin at Safeway. I hadn't heard of them but just from reading the back cover I was able to decide that these were books for me and I wasn't disappointed. Three cheers for Safeway. My Name is Red and War Trash were from the library. The Glass Castle and The Girls were recommended by a sister. I like the variety these books represent. I don't feel that I wasted any time on poorly written books.

So far this seems to me to be an appropriate way to chose books. Notice how poorly Snow, the Nobel prizewinner, fared in the Amazon reviews. I am reading it right now and won't comment yet.

Update: Here are some sites with book reviews.

Booklist online - features a book by Ha Jin
New York Times - Shadow of the Silk Road

Monday, July 09, 2007

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I consider this book by Lisa See to be one of the more powerful and memorable books that I have read this year. This is the intertwined history of footbinding and nu shu, the 'secret' women's writing of China.

It is an emotionally realistic story of a female friendship, with a strong plotline, details of the men's work and study along with intricate descriptions of embroidery and cooking.

The strength of this story is that the author does not tell you what to think about footbinding. You are left to make up your own mind what you would have done in the situations described.

In a tragic reversal of fortune, the young girl from a higher class is fated for a life of poverty and sorrow. In the last few pages we learn of how she has concealed a lifetime of suffering from abuse and violence from her closest friend. The other girl experiences increasing fortune and attributes her own eventual security and dominance to her own moral strength rather than to an indifferent fate. The abuse is not only the physical damage the heroine suffers but the increasing isolation and depression she experiences from the misunderstanding and judgment of her close female friend.

Fortunately we are not left entirely bereft. Each character experiences in others mitigating tenderness and kindness if not love.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Love and Oppression

I have just finished reading The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra,
    Khadra is the nom de plume for Algerian army officer Mohamed Moulessehoul (In the Name of God; Wolf Dreams), who illustrates the effects of repression on a pair of Kabul couples in this slim, harrowing novel of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Gloomy prison guard Atiq Shaukat is tired of his grim duties, keeping watch over prisoners slated for public execution. Life at home, where his wife, Musarrat, is slowly dying of a chronic illness, is no better. Mohsen Ramat, meanwhile, clings to the remains of his middle-class life together with his beautiful, progressive wife, Zunaira, after the Taliban strip them of their livelihood and dignity. Khadra's storytelling style recalls that of Naguib Mahfouz in the early chapters, in which the tense dissatisfaction of both couples is revealed. The pivotal event occurs when Ramat discharges his frustrations by participating in the brutal stoning of a female Taliban prisoner.
This story reminds me of Half of Man is Woman by Zhang Xianliang,
    This more or less autobiographical novel excels by its emotional depth. It shows us the 'human' side of re-education camps and state firms.

    The main character is an intellectual democrat, who sees and knows that the Chinese common man has been terrorized, deceived and used as guinea pigs by the powerful. They were / are the (dead or alive) victims of the power struggle at the top of the Communist Party with all its expulsions and rehabilitations. As the author states coldly: 'The Cultural Revolution established a new world record of criminals'. When the inmates of the camps hear about another round of liquidations, they are happy that they already know their own punishment (at that moment, their work camp is a paradise).

    This book is also an impressive tale about the battle of the sexes with candid treatment of sexual and marital problems. The author is a master in the description of emotional scenes, sometimes as a violent participant and at times as a cold observer. But he always finds the passionate human touch. The dream scenes are equally impressive, while the use of humanized animals is highly original.

    This novel is not less than a masterpiece. Not to be missed.

Both books use tender but sad love stories as a metaphor for political oppression. One is written by an intellectual in a Chinese labour camp and the other written by an Algerian army officer. These deeply emotionally works of fiction deserve to be widely read. I note with despair that reading fiction has gone out of style with some people. They feel they do not have time to spend listening to the artistic expression of the human spirit under oppression.

I would also put in this class of fiction, Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky, a Jewish woman who lived and died in France during WWII.