# Sunday, November 07, 2004

Increasing property valuations cut both ways.

Last year (2003) I was able to get a re-appraisal on my house and remove the dreaded “PMI” (aka “Private Mortgage Insurance”) from my mortgage payment based solely on the newfound equity in the new appraisal value. This was based on some insane (yet welcomed, of course) property sales in my neighborhood.

Well, the taxman finally came along for his share of the pie. After voting “no” on every tax increase on the ballot (I'm of the Milton Friedman “Don't ever vote for a tax increase. Ever.” school), Whatcom county extracted their revenge.

My property in Bellingham is now valued at 133% of what it used to be (that is, it was X, now it is (X * 1.33)). Come January 1, my property taxes will increase by a similar proportion. The scary thing? The assessed “fair market” value is less than I'd get if I put it on the market right now.

So that extra chunk plus the 0.1% sales tax increase for the Whatcom county jail that just passed (I think the plethora of other levy measures that could've meant new tax levies for me — state, county, and city — failed) means Rico will be writin' larger checks to the taxman ... er, taxmen.

It almost makes me want to go libertarian.

Nah, I won't do that. Yet. But daggum, we need folks in all levels of “gummint” who won't spend my money (and the money of other taxpayers) like they just won the lottery and there's no tomorrow.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, November 07, 2004 10:20:19 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, November 06, 2004

Yet another installment in my ongoing look at the Epistle to Diognetus (Notes on §2). If you'd like to read the text first, you can do so here: EpDiog 3.

In EpDiog 2, the author extolled the virtues of Christianity as compared to paganism. In EpDiog 3, the author does a similar comparison of Christianity with Judaism. I should note at the outset that chapters 3 and 4 get a bit anti-semitic (chapter 4 more so than chapter 3). This is unfortunate.

Chapter 3 starts with a comparison of what is similar between the two groups. Here's verse 2:

Now by abstaining from the kind of divine worship just mentioned, the Jews rightly claim to worship the one God who is over all and to consider him Master. But when they worship him like those already mentioned, they go astray. (EpDiog 3.2)

So, the author mentions agreement with monotheism, yet he mentions that the Jewish form of worship (the offering of sacrifices, much like the pagans offer sacrifices to their gods) is errant. The author indicates that since God is in need of nothing, it is futile to sacrifice to Him:

For the one who made heaven and earth and all that is in them, and who supplies all of us with what we need, is himself in need ofnone of the things that he himself provides to those who suppose that they are giving them. But those who suppose they are performing sacrifices of blood and fat and whole burnt offerings, and thereby to be bestowing honor on him by these displays of reverence, seem no different to me from those who show the same hononr to the gods who are deaf — one group giving to gods who cannot receive the honor, the other thinking that it can provide something to the one who needs nothing. (EpDiog 3.4-5)

This, to me, betrays some ignorance on the part of the author who is writing to Diognetus. The Jews don't offer sacrifices to God because they think God needs something. The Jews offered God sacrifice because they needed something: forgiveness. They were working within the scheme set up by God Himself during the days in the desert, at the giving of the law.

Christians need not worry about continual offering of sacrifices because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was once for all, the just for the unjust. Christians have forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ and no longer have need to offer sacrifices. This is the new covenant issued by Jesus; the old covenant no longer applies. This transaction is what the book of Hebrews attempts to explain to the Jews in an effort to bring them into faith.

 

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, November 06, 2004 4:57:14 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, November 01, 2004

I'm not going to go on record and make any predictions regarding the presidential election. If you know me, you know who I'm voting for.

Under the guise of a post dealing with economic issues, I'm just going to point you to Ray Fair's econometric model that has been quite accurate in the past at predicting elections (see the model's 2000 final prediction). The model is updated every quarter, and new predictions are run.

October 29, 2004 Fair Model Prediction

Note that Fair's model predicts percentages of the two-party vote received by each candidate. So these aren't percentage numbers of all votes cast, these are percentage numbers of only the votes cast for either of the two major parties. His margin of error is 2.5%.

Heck, if you want to, you can play with the numbers on Fair's model yourself and see what happens.

If you live in Whatcom County, polls open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM. The Whatcom County Auditor's web page has more info, voting guides, etc. There's also a sample ballot that you should check out; unless you've already voted absentee or something.

 

Post Author: Rico
Monday, November 01, 2004 6:05:38 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Sunday, October 31, 2004

Now, I'm a protestant, and I'm all for celebrating Oct. 31 as Reformation Day. But all Hallow's Eve is, in the Catholic tradition (apparently) a vigil before All Saint's Day (Nov. 1). And traditionally, the works of the martyrs are specially remembered during this vigil.

At least, that's what I've gathered from some brief googlin' on the subject.

I see this as a perfect excuse to read The Martyrdom of Polycarp straight through. So that's what I'm going to do. And you can do it too! Here are links to all 23 chapters!

MPoly 1
MPoly 2
MPoly 3
MPoly 4
MPoly 5
MPoly 6
MPoly 7
MPoly 8
MPoly 9
MPoly 10
MPoly 11
MPoly 12
MPoly 13
MPoly 14
MPoly 15
MPoly 16
MPoly 17
MPoly 18
MPoly 19
MPoly 20
MPoly 21
MPoly 22
MPoly 23 

(apologies to readers who only view via RSS / syndication)

And, lest those who know me think I've gone soft ... after I'm done with Martyrdom of Polycarp I'll be reading the 95 Theses just for the heck of it.

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, October 31, 2004 10:01:38 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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I have an above-average interest in textual criticism of the New Testament. I haven't done any graduate work in the area, but I've become familiar with the NA27 apparatus and with Tischendorf. I find Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament one of the most helpful volumes in my library when it comes to applying textual criticism. I've even read the forwards to the NA27 and UBS3/4 editions to better understand their respective apparatuses. I've studied a little Coptic on my own (Sahidic, though I have a Bohairic grammar I've poked through as well) and have grammars for classical Ethiopic (Ge'ez) and classical Armenian that I want to examine in greater detail, if only to understand the writing systems a bit better. I've read two of the three books that make up what I call Metzger's “trifecta” (Text of the New Testament, Canon of the New Testament, still need to read Early Versions of the New Testament). I've read Aland & Aland's Text of the New Testament. I've read most of Westcott & Hort's Introduction to their 1881 edition of the Greek New Testament. In short, I'm into this stuff.

Lately, I've been spending some time poking at Dr. Swanson's very impressive work, New Testament Greek Manuscripts. He describes this as “variant readings arranged in horizontal lines against Codex Vaticanus”.

Most of my time has been spent examining the preface/apology* for his work, in order to understand both what Dr. Swanson is doing and why he is doing it. It is obvious that Dr. Swanson, while appreciating the work done on the NA/UBS critical editions of the Greek New Testament, doesn't find such information too helpful.

The critical text, of course, is eclectic in that it seeks to provide the most reputable reading in every instance. This results in a text that is essentially a pastiche of manuscript readings that has no real evidence or meaning for the text as a whole; but it also results in a text that has reputable readings at almost every point.

And this seems to be Dr. Swanson's beef with the eclectic texts in their critical editions: While variants are ostensibly cited, gaining a clear picture of these variants and the MSS that contain them is nigh upon impossible.

Much better, says Dr. Swanson, to begin with an early text of high repute (Codex Vaticanus), and show all of the variants in a horizontal view. This gives a better idea of the differences across whole passages instead of selected bits and chunks in selected locations. As well, this has the advantage of showing us how different MSS of different eras witnessed the New Testament to their respective communities of faith.

After all, writes Dr. Swanson, “ ... each manuscript was scripture for a believing and worshipping community.”

I was with him right up to that last part.

I don't think that one must decide which is best between the standard NA27 critical apparatus or Dr. Swanson's presentation. It seems to me they're both geared toward different uses with different goals.

For a standard edition of the Greek New Testament, with evidence inserted for various different witnesses throughout the Greek New Testament, NA27/UBS4 (and their respective apparatuses) do just fine. These are handbooks; they do not claim to be exhaustive. They select the most valuable witnesses for each NT book (as determined by the editors) and consistently reproduce where they vary (or confirm) the eclectic text chosen by the editors. These are items offered in defense for the readings chosen by the editors. They are not (nor do they claim to be) whole presentations of variants across the entire text. This is immensely helpful for study of the Greek New Testament in that it provides a reliable edition that all can use and reference with ease.

Dr. Swanson's work, on the other hand, is different. It is good and useful; but it seems to me that its purpose and use is altogether different than that of the NA27 critical text.

Perhaps a restatement of what I see as the purposes of each edition will help me make my point.

The NA27 is the culmination of textual criticism applied to solve a particular problem: What is the ‘best’ text that can be assembled, based on currently known MS evidence? The NA27 attempts to answer this question, and does so admirably. In all likelihood it answers this question as well as it can be answered, barring new MS discoveries. The work on the Editio Critica Maior proves this. Through massive textual examination and sifting, the text produced for this work (that has thus far been released) is virtually the same text as the NA27.

Dr. Swanson's work, however, is different. He simply presents the text of all MSS, important and unimportant, that he can get his hands on. He arranges them such that the agreements and differences can be easily seen and tracked from MS to MS. Rather than answering the same question answered by the NA27, I see Dr. Swanson's work instead providing a foundation for future questions to be examined. Information that was hard to obtain (e.g., “I'm working on an exegesis of 1 Corinthians. Where do I get my hands on Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and the major papyri and minuscules so I can really establish the text?”) is now available in one spot, and it is even aligned at the word level with variants helpfully distinguished.

Wow.

I recall an article by Eldon Jay Epp (sorry, don't remember where) where he posited that the next great thrust of textual criticism will be in establishing the provenance of the different papyri, uncials, minuscules and early versions that much of New Testament textual criticism is based on today; and in establishing local and regional sorts of critical texts for each of these communities.

This, in turn, will help establish what each text these respective communities used to establish doctrine and practice amongst the fellowships in these regions. In other words, getting at what Dr. Swanson notes in his introduction — that “each manuscript was scripture” for these communities. So, how was scripture transmitted to these different communities, what did it say, and how did they put faith into practice as a result of it? Establishing provenance and tracking distribution helps get at answers to these sorts of questions.

(I'm going to veer off track here for a moment, but it is appropriate. Stick with me, you'll see why.)

In 1948, a group of scholars of the Greek New Testament met at the University of Chicago. This group included luminaries such as Bruce Metzger and Allen Wikgren, among others. The purpose of this meeting was twofold: To honor Edgar J. Goodspeed, and to discuss how to go about preparing a new critical apparatus of the Greek New Testament.

One result of this meeting was an excellent set of essays (delivered at the 1948 meeting) entitled New Testament Manuscript Studies: The Materials and the Making of a Critical Apparatus. If you're into textual criticism, you must find a copy of this book. Head to your local library and request it via interlibrary loan, if necessary. Metzger's essay alone is worth it.

Why do I bring this up? One of the essays (“The Manuscripts of the Greek New Testament” by Kenneth W. Clark) made a very interesting point. One thing he saw as needed was for people to step into the shoes of F.H.A. Scrivener, who did tremendous amounts of work collating and publishing different NT MSS. Such work (and its widespread availability) would provide the foundation for the next generation of text-critical work. Clark writes:

We need many ‘Scriveners.’ Probably no single scholar has collated as many Greek New Testament manuscripts as this man whose labors were curtailed by ‘dimness of sight.’ Three of his volumes offer the witness of eighty separate manuscripts. ... The need for such collations has never been as great as now, since the complex problems of various textual types require far more data than we have at hand.

I think one could make a very strong case that Dr. Swanson's work starts to fill this void.** In presenting NT MSS in the way he has, he has provided the evidence of scads of MSS aligned word-by-word so that consistencies and variants are easy to see. Dr. Swanson's work, widely available, helps disseminate this information and can thus be used by folks who wouldn't have access to facsimiles or collations of the MSS in question.

Dr. Swanson's work alone won't do the job; but it is a valiant thrust in the right direction. Textual criticism has been focused on the question of supplying a reliable, early text of the New Testament. The NA27 is about as good as it's going to get for the forseeable future.

So, what problems will be pursued by textual critics next? Whatever they are, Dr. Swanson's work will surely be a valuable tool in the textual critic's toolbox as he approaches these problems.


* That's "apology" in the classic sense, meaning "a formal justification", according to Merriam-Webster.

** Comfort & Barrett's The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, now in its second edition, provides transcriptions of most of the available papyri, and also is a tremendous help in this respect.

 

Post Author: Rico
Sunday, October 31, 2004 6:32:04 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Saturday, October 30, 2004

For better or worse, I have a strange affection for the Pastoral Epistles. Friends and regular readers already know this.

I've been working through the Pastorals in a slow and somewhat methodical manner for the past year or so, as the scattered work on the afore-referenced web site displays. In the past two months, I've actually started writing, trying to tie this stuff together.

With the insightful review and help of a few friends (thanks, guys!) I've got what I think is a fairly decent rough draft of First Timothy chapter 1 together. I've got a lot to do (even with the first chapter!) but if for some reason you'd like to review what I've written, drop me an email (address on right side of page). I'll send the PDF (which is approx .5 megs) your way. I'd love to know what others think about it.

I'm still working on a basic introduction/preface to explain how the thing is set up; I may pop up a link explaining that later this weekend. It is a little different than other “commentaries” in that, at this point, I'm focused on establishing the meanings of words and phrases using both canonical and secondary literature. As a matter of fact, I'd tend to call this “exegetical notes” or something like that instead of a traditional commentary that focuses on either application or exposition.

Post Author: Rico
Saturday, October 30, 2004 8:27:03 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, October 28, 2004

The word is in quotes because I'm referring to the Greek word βαπτίζω, not the English word “baptize”.

I just noticed that in Josephus, Vita §15, the word βαπτίζω is used. Here's the Whiston translation:

for, as our ship was drowned in the Adriatic Sea, we that were in it, being about six hundred in number, swam for our lives all the night; when, upon the first appearance of the day, and upon our sight of a ship of Cyrene, I and some others, eighty in all, by God’s providence, prevented the rest, and were taken up into the other ship:

The italic is the instance of βαπτισθέντος, an aorist passive participle. Intrigued, I thought I'd search the NT for use of the same exact inflected form. I found one hit, in Lu 9.21:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,

Now, please don't read too much into this. The contexts are completely different; you can't read this as “whoa, Jesus was dunked, not sprinkled! Just like the boat in Josephus!” Why? Well, the ship was destroyed as a result of its “baptizing”. You wouldn't want to apply that little bit of inferred meaning to Jesus, would you? (If you would, we need to talk. Seriously.)

Still, it is always of interest (at least to me) to see how the same word is used in secular context vs. religious context.

Ok, back to work, people.

Post Author: Rico
Thursday, October 28, 2004 2:49:11 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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I'd seen the Digital South Asia Library perhaps a year ago (?) but it looks to have been updated since then. It is hosted by the University of Chicago.

I know very little about the languages represented by this page, but such things are always helpful to know about. They've got some dictionaries on the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia page, but an unfortunate design decision means that one needs to actually search a dictionary for something before one can simply browse pages. Unicode fonts are used, though they don't remember your preference and you have to continually state it when doing searches. My guess is that the primary user is the guy who coded the thing and perhaps one or two others involved in its production.

There's also a Books & Journals page that has some grammars and readers. Ever wanted to learn Bengali? Take an introductory look at Urdu? Then you've found your spot. Most of the stuff with complex scripts in this section are simple page scans, but at least they're legible and you don't have to worry about fonts. The navigation is page based from a TOC.

Enjoy!

Post Author: Rico
Thursday, October 28, 2004 8:15:57 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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