Monday, July 31, 2006

The Ziggurat of Ur

This video was added to YouTube 4 months ago. It is of interest to me because we talk about this ziggurat in my OT-1 course in sections on Gen 11 and Gen 28. What may disturb some viewers is how totally vulnerable this video shows these archeological sites in Iraq to be now.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Newsweek Asks: "Are These the End Times?"


Ughh....

Newsweek online has just published an interview by Brian Braiker of Tim LaHaye, one of the authors of the "Left Behind" series, "Are These the End Times?" As you probably know, the LaHaye series has sold more than 60 million copies. By contrast, my book The Apocalyptic Literature has only sold several thousand copies. The interview makes obvious that neither Braiker nor LaHaye has read my book (big surprise, huh? and its only $13 !! Only $13!)

There is much in the interview to frustrate. Take this telling exchange:
Braiker: But my understanding is that current biblical scholarship reads some of the apocalyptic scenes in the Bible as metaphorically addressing events that were taking place as the Bible was being written.
LaHaye: These are usually liberal theologians that don’t believe the Bible literally.
Well, this is a false dichotomy, where neither extreme does justice to the biblical text. Both of the positions mentioned domesticate the Scriptures. I thought I explained this clearly enough in my book, pp. 44 - 53, "Domesticating Apocalyptic Texts through Futuristic Readings or through Historicized Readings." :-)

(Okay, I know this is a shameless plug...)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cartoon from Chuck H.

Just received this OT cartoon from a former VTS student. Thanks Chuck!



You should be able to click to enlarge.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Update: Renk Hebrew Program



Today the Sudan Program is on my mind, since we are waiting to bring Jo's passport in to the Sudan Consulate for their stamp of approval. Meanwhile, she is down at Duke holding the phone trying to work the systems as best she is able.

Earlier this week on Monday, we had Elizabeth and Gary over for a cookout to hear about her experience in Sudan and see some of her pictures. It was a terrific evening. Here are two shots that she took of her boating adventure on the White Nile.

Elizabeth is on the right and Megan is in the middle (you can tell by her Duke t-shirt!). It doesn't look like they were too scared of the crocodiles!

I like this shot because you can see some characteristic homes on the shore of the Nile.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

'Ain Dara Temple

In my July 18 blog entry, I mentioned my student Laura F.'s visit to the Middle East last summer. Here are a few of the photographs that she took of the ancient temple at 'Ain Dara. 'Ain Dara was a city-state of NW Syria, part of a broader "Neo-Hittite" cultural area that stretched from SE Turkey to Damascus. The site is located northwest of Aleppo and the temple dates from the 10th to the 8th century B.C.E. Laura's pictures were of special interest to me, since I had used the temple and its iconography as evidence when I was working on Ezekiel's Hierarchical World.



At the extraordinary temple complex, rows of monstrous lions and sphinxes guard both the entrances and the holy of holies. You can see some of them here at the temple's front right. Processions of animals and some dignitaries formed a sculptural band around the exterior walls of the temple and the platform upon which it stood. Hittite conventions and themes are strongly evident in dress, proportions, and surface finish, particularly in the earliest sculptures. Local influence is, however, also clear in the animal bodies, the treatment of the heads, and the stances of the figures.



Meter-long footprints of the god were carved on the floor between the portico columns and on the door sills. The religious thinking here was obviously rather anthropomorphic. (The god was human in form, but gigantic in size.) Laura uses her foot as a point of comparison for the size of the prints carved into the stone. Interestingly, there are the remains of two columns on the sides of this stone slab, which supported the portico. These seem to parallel the two columns at the front of the first ("Solomonic") temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the 'Ain Dara temple as a whole is quite illuminating of the Jerusalem temple, being of roughly the same architectural plan, although somewhat larger.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Adam and Eve - Testament Series

A few months ago, someone posted this 10-minute animation clip on YouTube. The Testament production, done back in 1998, was a nine-part mini-series produced by the BBC, Channel 4 Wales and Christmas Films of Moscow. Many consider it worthy of attention. Each episode is based on a story from the Old Testament, and most do an admirable job of editing their narratives down to about 30 minutes while fleshing out their characters with all their hopes and doubts. While these shorts are appropriate for children, they do not talk down to the kids in their audience, nor do they spike the works with time-travelling archaeologists and other juvenile North American gimmicks; instead, they exhibit a more mature regard for their subject matter that attempts to appeal to adult animation fans. This clip edits out the "Creation and Fall" sequence from a larger "Creation and Flood" episdode. This particular sequence uses a technique of computer manipulation of paintings, which many find beautiful. What will surely raise eyebrows for biblical scholars is the identification of the serpent with Satan/Lucifer. This is a classical move, but of course is not found explicitely in the Genesis story itself.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Book Review (JHS)


A new review of my latest book on the historical and social roots of the Bible has just come out on the Web:

Katherine M. Hayes, Review of Stephen L. Cook, The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism (SBL Studies in Literature, 8; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004). You can access the review here.

Other recent reviews available on the Web include one by Dr. Victor H. Matthews (click here) and one by Dr. Norman K. Gottwald (click here).

By the way, it's not good form to comment on what one thinks of one's reviews. Let me just say that I'm grateful for the perspectives that each of these reviews offer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Bible on Terrorism?



Does the Bible address the question of terrorism? I found interesting the recent column on this question by Newsweek's Rabbi Marc Gellman. What he says is sure to be misunderstood by many readers, but I think he gives a compelling exposition unpacking how Deut 25:17-19 helps us get our heads around some basic dynamics involved in terrorism. See: Remember Amalek.

One area that Gellman does not address is the complex mindset involved in terrorism. For a timeless religious perspective on the psychological and spiritual dimensions there, one should read Dostoevsky's The Possessed.

Comments on any of this are welcome.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

History of Hebrew at VTS (3)



This third posting on VTS's history takes us up to 1856, and the letters of Phillips Brooks while a student at the seminary. Brooks, who came to VTS from Harvard College, went on to become one of the seminary's most illustrious alumni, composing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," publishing very celebrated sermons and books on sermons, and becoming Bishop of Massachusetts. Brooks had a hard time adjusting to life in the "South," and to his stay at VTS. However, he loved digging into Hebrew studies here. Using Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar he poured himself into reading the book of Genesis in the original.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Exodus (Comedy Cartoon)

New from YouTube (posted 7/20/06): a comedy cartoon about the biblical story of the exodus. Made entirely from construction paper, glue, and a LOT of time, it's sure to make you think, "Man these guys have WAY too much time on their hands."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

History of Hebrew at VTS (2)


Joseph Packard, pictured here, had a tenure at VTS extending over six and a half decades starting in 1837 when he was 25 years old. In 1839, as VTS's new professor of biblical literature, he reported that biblical study in the original languages was central to the seminarians' studies.

The Junior class worked through Moses Stuart's Hebrew and Geek grammars. They also read the book of Genesis in Hebrew, with the aid of Stuart's Chrestomathy, a course of Hebrew study in two volumes (1829-1830). (A chrestomathy is a selection of passages compiled as an aid to learning a language.)

Meanwhile, the Middler class "carefully examined in Hebrew the prophecies relating to Christ in the Old Testament, following the order set down by Hengstenberg."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

History of Hebrew at VTS (1)

For fun, I've been reading the history of our seminary (VTS) in the evenings. I think Dean Horne has been wanting me to do this for a long time. After all, I've only taught here a decade! Naturally, the notes on the history of Old Testament and Hebrew instruction here are especially of interest to me. Hebrew Reading of the Old Testament was a priority, and required, here from the Seminary's beginnings in the period after the Revolutionary War. In 1824, for example, the Junior Class at VTS was studying eighteen chapters of Genesis in the original Hebrew and thirty Psalms in Hebrew. The Senior Class was studying twenty chapters of Isaiah in Hebrew. (Of what the Middler class was up to, we have no record that year!) The professor of sacred literature here at that time was Reuel Keith. Here is a portrait:



[For an update with more information and photos, click here. ---SLC]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ugarit-Cola and "News From the Hill"

The Summer 2006 edition of the Seminary's Newsletter, "News from the Hill," is now posted online. Yours truly is featured on p. 4 in connection with the Suzanne F. Thomas faculty research award. Check it out at:
  • News-From-Hill

  • On an unrelated note, check out this can of "Ugarit Cola"! The photo was taken by my excellent former student and advisee, Laura Fabrycky, on a recent trip to Syria.


    For a quick introduction to ancient Ugarit, see:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugarit

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Prof. Kevin Wilson has mentioned this blog on his own bluecord blog.
    See: http://bluecord.org/biblioblog/2006/07/a-new-biblioblogger/
    Thanks, Kevin!

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    Update: Renk Hebrew Program

    Sunday Update from Megan's Mom:

    Megan called from Khartoum at 7:30 a.m. CDT [about 3:30 p.m. there] to say she’d been to the hospital. They’d declared her over her malaria. Malaria there is like influenza here. She was very anemic again, something she has a problem with. She has her iron pills with her but doesn’t take them unless she has to because they make her sick. Obviously she needs a new method of getting iron! She sounded her usual self—said I should be up out of bed anyway and laughed and said she had no sympathy for me that the air conditioning went out here yesterday. [He’s coming back this morning to finish fixing it]. Love, Mom [Cathi McMurtry]

    Report on Sunday from Gary F.:

    Sunday was a fun tourist day. Megan was apparently all better, according to the hospital tests. Elizabeth, however, reported a bit of intestinal track distress -- but then mentioned eating pizza and Chinese food at back to back meals after 2 weeks of meat & potatoes. Methinks that might have had something to do with it.
    Visits, shopping, etc. went well. Yes, there is a Nordstrom's (of a sort) in Khartoum.
    One cultural note on the local hospital, however, for those who get a bit squeamish about the common communion cup. In at least one Sudanese hospital, the "water fountain" in the walk-in clinic/ER is a large cup shared by all and a pitcher of water. Fortunately, neither Elizabeth or Megan were thirsty and the lab is said to be quite sanitary.

    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Latest Updates: Sudan Hebrew Program


    Friday Update from Gary F.:

    Megan has malaria but the "cure" is to take more of the preventive that she has with her. It's working. The incubation period for malaria is up to a year so who knows when she got bit by an infected mosquito. Incidentally, in Sudan getting Malaria is like getting the flu in the U.S. so the Dr's are very good - some of the best in the world.

    Both Elizabeth & Megan took the boat trip on the White Nile this PM. The boat would not meet U.S. Coast Guard safety standards, there were no lifejackets, and the river was full of crocodiles (that's why they don't carry lifejackets). Nonetheless, a great time was had by all. Unfortunately, the parasail didn't arrive so they could only water ski and take pictures.

    E&M leave for Khartoum in about 9 hours. Sunday is for rest, shopping, church, medical visit for Megan, etc. Elizabeth departs early Monday for London and then on to D.C. She is scheduled to arrive around 8:00 PM. She reports having a great time and was very sad (cried as usual) to say goodbye to the students and staff at the Bible College (but not the insects).



    Friday Update from Jo W.:

    Lauren Stanley has already been in touch with Megan and Elizabeth this morning. The Malarone is working and Megan's fever is receding: she isbeginning to feel a whole lot better. And much of the anxiety is lifted.Hooray!As planned, both Megan and Elizabeth are heading to Khartoum tomorrowwith Fr Joseph and look forward to that. It sounded like their joyexceeds the sorrows again: Elizabeth spoke of this as the bestexperience of her life.

    Saturday update from Gary F.:

    They made it safely to Khartoum although there were some dicey moments on the formerly dirt (now mud) portion of the road out of Renk. The primary risk was getting stuck in mud pit. Elizabeth stayed awake for most of the drive north and saw the wild (we think) camels. It's hard to tell the wild animals from the domesticated ones since they all just wander around wherever they want to go. However, this spot was really isolated so the consensus opinion is that they were wild camels.

    E&M were resting and enjoying hotel life when I called (indoor plumbing, electricity, & A/C - sort of). Megan seems pretty good. They're taking her to another Dr. tomorrow. Assuming that goes well, the plan is to go to a museum, visit Joseph's wife in the hospital (I think), and do some shopping at Nordstrom's. Elizabeth's flight is at 6:50 AM local time on Monday.

    This will probably be my last report. I hope you've enjoyed them. Elizabeth will be able to update everyone on Monday or Tuesday since our computer support person is also expected to be back by then. Gary

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    The Tunnel to Moriah


    Melody Shobe, one of our stellar Bible students, visited Israel/Palestine this past academic year with her husband Casey. One of the neat experiences she shared upon her return was her visit to the ancient tunnel alongside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Walking along this narrow path, you trace the steps that ancient Israelite worshipers took thousands of years ago, and you are actually able to touch the rock of Moriah.

    When it was opened in 1996, the tunnel sparked fierce Palestinian protest, allegedly fueled by the allegation that Jews were conspiring to seek control of the Temple Mount by literally undermining it. Ensuing gun battles in the West Bank and Gaza Strip killed 54 Palestinians and 14 Israeli soldiers.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    July 13th Update: Renk Hebrew Program

    Wednesday's (Yesterday's) Update from Dr. Jo Wells at Duke:

    I've just got through and spoken to Megan. Aside from 150 bites (Megan) and 65 (Elizabeth) and a longing for more calamine lotion, they are fine. In fact, they're in high spirits. Today was the last full teaching day: tomorrow is will be a review session in the morning and a test in the afternoon. Fr Joseph will arrive tomorrow and accompany them back to KRT on Friday. They are already planning their bargaining tactics for avisit to the souks. Megan has some anxieties as to how to fill her time usefully for the next two weeks, after Elizabeth returns [to the US] and the formal Hebrew class is over - a problem exacerbated by Fr Joseph's absence. The main hope is to do more Hebrew tutoring with Fr Abraham. The rain continues at random, as do the mosquitoes (with a vengence). As will, I promised, our prayers...

    Today's Update from Gary F.:
    Megan is pretty sick (fever & weak) and requests that her parents call after talking with a travel Dr. they know in Church. Elizabeth & others were taking Megan to the local medical clinic right after the call.

    Please note, however, that this sickness has NOT been labeled as an emergency. It's clearly somewhat serious but Megan was also talking about going on Friday's boat trip. Elizabeth said it took her a couple of hours to get through on the phone network so it may be a somewhat nerve-racking return phone call.

    In regular news, the tests are complete and all of Elizabeth's 10 students passed, with one getting a 100. Elizabeth was quite pleased.


    Afternoon update from Jo:

    Megan just phoned. At the clinic this afternoon she was diagnosed with malaria. It is a mystery how she has got this - she's on Malarone, she's sleeping under a net (and those 150 bites were apparently not mosquitoes but some other kind of bug). She has fever, headaches and tiredness. She's been advised to double her Malarone dose and rest. Meanwhile Fr Joseph, Elizabeth, and she plan to travel to Khartoum on Saturday - where he will arrange a further medical appointment. (Though Megan was impressed with the local clinic at Renk -in particular the lab examined her blood and came back with the result within half an hour). She needs our prayers. She is anxious, though she wasn't ready to contemplate leaving early at this point. According to the advice she's received, the increased Malarone should control it within the next 48 hours. Let's give thanks at least that this has happened on the day that Fr Joseph has reached Renk - though of course he has quite enough on his plate already. She has great confidence in his support. Let's all keep in touch over this. In Christ, Jo

    From Megan's Mom:

    Greetings from Megan's mother, Cathi McMurtry.7:30 p.m. CDT Megan called today and had just had a blood test taken and they diagnosed malaria. She has been taking her malaria medicine, and they told her todouble or triple her doses. She is planning to go to Khartoum with FatherJoseph tomorrow where they will do more checking. She vomited and had chills Sunday. Since they thought it was a stomach virus, she took medicine for that which only made her dizzy. She has felt incredibly weak and has aheadache--says she feels like her eyes will pop out. Information I got today from somewhere (?) said the high dosage should help her get better in about 48 hours. Please pray for her. The last we knew, she had not planned to leave early. Cathi McMurtry

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    Letter from Lansing Hicks

    Catherine and I just received a lovely note from one of my favorite YDS Old Testament professors, R. Lansing Hicks. I imagine he's been retired from Yale/Berkeley for at least 15 years. He has developed Parkinson's disease now, but still took the trouble to write to us!

    Lansing reminded me of our mutual connections with both Union Seminary in New York and with VTS here in Alexandria. He earned his Th.D. from UTS in 1954 and he served on the VTS faculty from 1953-1954 and again during a sabbatical in 1986. VTS awarded him the D.D. in 1990.

    I found this photo of the two of us together back at my YDS graduation in 1987. That's 19 years ago!

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Recent Brunch with John & Dorothy Gettier



    A few postings ago, I mentioned that Catherine and I had been back at Trinity for a friend's wedding. The following day, we had Sunday brunch with my college mentor and teacher of Old Testament, Dr. John Gettier and his wife Dorothy. It was a wonderful occasion, at Apricots in Farmington, overlooking the Farmington River. I began studying Hebrew with John as a fresh-person at Trinity, and was soon taking more and more biblical-studies courses with him and the other Religion Department faculty. In those days, the department was modeled after a traditional theological seminary curriculum, without the practical ministry courses (John confirmed this to me at our brunch). What a great preparation for my future...

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    July 10th Update: Sudan Hebrew Program

    From Gary F.:

    Elizabeth's sermon went well yesterday. There were about 100 people for the 9:00 AM service - which started at around 10:30. The men and women sit apart in Sudan but Elizabeth & Megan are treated as "honorary men" and get to hang with the leaders. After the service, a woman told Elizabeth (via an interpreter) that it was good to see a woman preaching and in a leadership role. Maybe it will stick eventually.

    Incidentally, Sunday dinner was great -- goat, of course.

    The rain has really lowered the temperature making it much more comfortable, at least by local standards. Elizabeth reports that it's amazing what a person can get used to.

    The exam in the biblical Hebrew class is this Thursday so there is lots of review for the next couple of days. Elizabeth & Megan depart Renk at 2:00 AM on Saturday for another very long trip.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Prof. Doran's Bible Books Song


    Prof. Doran left VTS this year for semi-retirement, but one great thing she did while she was here was compose a song for learning the books of the Hebrew Bible. To access the words and notes of her song, click here (PDF).

    I'm also posting an MP3 (music) file of a student performace of the song at the most recent VTS variety show. Click here (MP3). Enjoy!

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    July 8th Update: Renk Hebrew Program


    It's Saturday, and there were no Hebrew classes today, but I do have some reports from Elizabeth and Megan received via Ellen and Gary to post. Here is the latest from Ellen Davis:

    [Megan and Elizabeth] are over the teaching blues of Wednesday. They had an honest conversation with the students on Thursday, in which some frustration was expressed on both sides, and out of it a new teaching plan emerged. Today they both sounded elated. Elizabeth said she has rarely done anything so exciting, and she is so glad she has another week. On Sunday she will preach on Job at the Cathedral, 9 a.m. (2 a.m. EST). Fr. Abraham, the designated Hebrew teacher for RBC, returned on Wednesday evening (just after I had spoken to Megan), and he is having extra meetings with Megan to catch up--as will Fr. Joseph. So we are ending a very blessed week. I shared with them the good news about Roda's growing strength and the safety of the babies and told them that they are daily wrapped and held in a very active prayer network. Thanks be to God for all of this, and for you. Pax Christi, Ellen

    I have two postings from Gary F. First, Here is Report # 8 from yesterday (Friday):

    It is still very hot in Renk and staying asleep remains difficult. I have a report from one veteran visitor that the sleeping problem is common for the first week.

    The hand puppets I mentioned in my last SITREP must have worked since Elizabeth reported good progress in class. She is really enjoying it - but mentioned that she plans on sleeping for most of August. She also learned that the best weather is in October in case anyone is planning a visit. (Isn't that the best time to visit almost anywhere?)

    They are being treated very well but I was right about the sort of electrical appliances available during the 3 hours of power - lights only. Father Joseph (head of the Renk Bible College) remains in Khartoum with his ill wife. Still, there a lots of people (including 2 security guards at night) keeping a eye on them.

    This may have something to do with the lack of sleep, or the heat, but Elizabeth mentioned that the primary form of entertainment for Elizabeth & Megan was watching the ants do something interesting. I guess that's what passes for a "reality show" during the hottest part of the day. It must be fun because Elizabeth is already talking about going back sometime - maybe some future October.


    And here is today's posting from Gary:

    The rain has arrived making it cooler (low 90s) & much wetter. The mud boots are definitely coming in handy as there are pools of water everywhere. Rain is a mixed blessing because the mosquito population will now increase dramatically. Of course, Elizabeth & Megan have malaria medication, insect repellant, and mosquito netting to sleep under - unlike many of the local residents.

    There were no classes today (Saturday) so they went to the Renk market where the selection is quite eclectic. They are still being followed by crowds of children who call out "Kwaja" which, roughly translated, means crazy white women struggling thru the dung & mud.

    No big sales, unfortunately, to report at the market. However, they found the missing "UNO" card game at the Bible College so Elizabeth & Megan were able to give the ant show the day off.

    Despite the heavy security (previously reported), there was an "incident" at the Bible College sometime yesterday when a goat made it into the classroom. Yes, a goat, and it didn't speak ancient Hebrew, Dinka, English, or Arabic. The goat caused quite a ruckus AND ate the notes from the previous team about what material was supposed to be covered on the next test. A coincidence or an inside job using a well-trained goat? You decide.

    (BTW: I think the goat is Sunday dinner. Either that or it's working the dump this week and will be next Sunday's dinner.)

    Speaking of farm animals. Megan said for her parents to ask for lots of cattle... something about a dowry price....bad connection....cut off. (According to my on-line encyclopedia, Dinka men pay a bride price in cattle so that may have something to do with it.) Congratulations - or an inside family joke?

    Elizabeth is preaching at the "Dinka service" at the Renk cathedral tomorrow. The sermon gets translated as she delivers it so the homiletics class where the professor made them have only one, often repeated, point will come in handy. Hopefully, I'll get a full report on Monday or Tuesday (if the phones are working).

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Student Artwork from OT 33


    This is the Esther panel (one of three panels) from an altar-triptych created by Jessica Hitchcock in my VTS class on Ruth, Jonah, and Esther (OT 33). Jessica's complete frontal piece includes images representing all three short stories.

    To view the complete work, go to: http://old.vts.edu/classes/ot/OT-33/OT33%20Frontal.pdf

    Please feel free to leave a comment.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Latest Update: Renk Hebrew Program


    Ellen Davis' Latest Update:

    Jo and I both just spoke to Megan, who phoned to get some advice about how to proceed with the Hebrew class and to vent some teaching-relatedfrustration. Cross-cultural and cross-language instruction in a third language is not easy, as you can imagine. The main news for all of you is that they both seem to be fine, but the Sudani Hebrew-teacher-in-training (Fr. Abraham) is absent, covering for Fr. Joseph at a conference, while Fr. Joseph attends his wife in the hospital. That is understandable, but it undercuts the point of theprogram, so now I am frustrated, too.

    Latest Update from Gary F.:

    It is hot and raining in Renk today. The power has been coming on from 8 PM - 11 PM local time each night. (Sounds a lot like my last few days in DC.) I talked to Elizabeth right before the power was scheduled to come on in Renk tonight so keep your fingers crossed. Although, now that I think about it, she hasn't mentioned a lot of electrical appliances such as a fan or ice cream machine so maybe they only have lights.

    As it turns out, the 4th of July is NOT a holiday in Sudan so they had class yesterday & today. Elizabeth has the "intermediate" class and Megan the advanced. Most of the better English speakers are in the advanced class so progress has been slow for Elizabeth. I think she's going to try hand puppets tomorrow.

    Before we got cut off, Elizabeth said she was having a really good time and that she's been able to catch up on her sleep a bit. I guess it's all relative since she only stayed asleep until about 2:30 AM last night. They must have really strong coffee there - or something.

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    Hamantaschen Recipe

    My plan is to continue to post items of interest from my students.

    When I was teaching Esther a while back, Bill Murray baked some delicious Hamantaschen pastries for our class. As you may know, they are triangular cookies with sweet fillings traditionally served at Purim. Here is the recipe he shared with our class:

    Ingredients

    1 stick of sweet butter, softened
    2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
    2 egg yolks
    3 tablespoons ice water
    1 ½ cups flour
    jam- apricot, prune, or strawberry
    butter to grease the cookie sheet
    flour to roll the dough on

    Directions

    Cream the butter and sugar together in the large bowl. Add the eggs yolks and continue to mix well.

    Add the ice water. Gradually stir in flour until a ball of dough is formed. Place the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight
    Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.

    Grease the cookie sheet with the butter.

    Divide the dough in half. Wrap the extra half in the plastic and put back in the refrigerator.

    Roll out the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface to a ¼” thickness. Cut into 2” circles (use the top of a glass to “press out” the circles)

    Place 1 teaspoon of the jame in the center of each circle and fold into three-cornered cookies: start by pressing two sides together, then fold the third side over and press the ends together.

    Place the Hamataschen about an inch apart on the greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly rowned along the edges.

    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    OT Pew-Carvings at Trinity College

    Over the weekend, Catherine and I attended a good friend's wedding back at my old college, Trinity in Hartford, CT. We took lots of pictures, including these two of wood-carvings in the college chapel. The first one appears to be of Jonah and the second appears to be Daniel's three friends in the Fiery Furnace:

    Jonah and the "Great Fish":



    Daniel 3,
    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    July 3rd Sudan Update

    Latest Sudan Update from Gary F.:

    Sunday was spent at church, visiting the Bible College, and getting to know people. As you might imagine, Elizabeth and Megan are quite the novelty. In fact, throngs of children follow them around whenever they walk around. (It's only about a block from where they're staying to the Bible College.)

    Yesterday they also had a "security drill" to demonstrate the safety of the cathedral & guest house compound. The "drill" consisted of someone "pretending" to leave the keys for the locked gate inside the compound when all visited the Bible College. Afterward, it took several hours for someone (local) to find the necessary implements to get over the fence. The gate was quite secure and could not be forced!

    Elizabeth reports that it is very hot and looks forward to cooling off in the pleasant August weather in the D.C. and Phoenix metro areas. It is easy to fall asleep (no electricity plus lots of Ambien) but difficult to stay asleep. Apparently, the neighborhood donkeys and chickens make quite the racket at night. Additionally, the local mosque appears to have a generator since the 4:00 AM call to morning prayer is quite loud.

    Today was the first day of class and all went well. The major culture shock event was that it took several minutes to explain the mechanical pencils that Elizabeth & Megan brought for the students. The language barrier is a challenge but everyone is highly motivated and it seems to work - eventually.

    Sunday, July 02, 2006

    Sudan Update: Prayers Requested for Roda



    I mentioned in a previous post that one of our team's hosts, Roda, is ill with maleria. She is in need of continued prayers, as her husband Fr. Joseph has had to drive her to Khartoum where she must remain for the rest of her pregnancy. He reports that she is improving with the IV, and he is looking for a place for her to remain in Khartoum for the remainder of the pregnancy. She is in her first trimester. He thanks you all for your prayers. Concerning our teaching-team, Elizabeth and Megan, Fr. Joseph left Fr. Isaac Chol to care for them. Fr. Isaac is very competent and will take very good care. We don't know if Fr. Joseph knows yet when he'll return to Renk.

    Saturday, July 01, 2006

    Impressions of Isaiah



    Josh Condon, a former student of mine, painted this impression of Isaiah's royal theology as a final project for my Isaiah class. He explained that he had been wanting to try painting for a while, and our class finally gave him the opportunity to put brush to canvas. The class was fascinated by the results, and saw quite a bit of Isaiah's theology in Josh's image. One of the most obvious theological themes in the painting is the idea of king/messiah as God's representative image of God on earth, funneling divine blessings down to us from the beyond.

    Please add a comment to this entry, telling us what you see here!