Some unexpected questions about the Hebew language came up for me today.
While researching Hebrew letter symbolism I came across a reference on Wikipedia which suggested that "In the traditional form, vowels are indicated [in the Hebrew language] by the weak consonants Aleph (א), He (ה), Vav (ו), or Yodh (י) serving as vowel letters ... the letter is combined with a previous vowel and becomes silent, or by imitation of such cases in the spelling of other forms."
Hang on a minute! I immediately recognized that three of those four "weak consonants" are the very same letters which make up the Hebrew name for God, YHWH (יהֹוה). Everything I have read before suggested there were no vowels in YHWH, yet here I read the name is nothing but pseudo vowels.
Being wary of ever taking Wikipedia at face value, I immediately sought external confirmation. Sure enough, I saw the same Hebrew letters being identified as vowel-consonant or semivowels or matres lectionis (mothers of reading) by other sources, including the ancient historian Josephus (Jewish Wars, Chapter 5). I will definitely have to research this further.
Jesus said, "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."
How would Jesus, a Jew, have engaged the Nazi imperialists? Would it have been any different to how he engaged Roman imperialists? This controversial reinterpretation of the Jesus saying by Michael Belk confronts us with that very question.
"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)
And I tell you that interacting with NeoPagans has given me greater appreciation for just how often the messianic Jews of the New Testament encountered and engaged with Greek mythology. Too often we skip over the explicit references to Hades (too many to mention), Tartarus (2 Peter 2), Artemis (Acts 19), Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14) and the more oblique references to Ares (Acts 17) and the Gemini twins (Acts 28) without a second thought to the mythological subtext. Yet they are all worth meditating on.
It makes me wonder, if Jesus had lived in India (now don't start), would he have dropped mythopoetic references to Kali and Shiva instead? If the apostles Barnabas and Paul had journeyed through Scandinavia instead of Lystra, would they have been mistaken for Thor and Odin instead?
Maybe if we let our imaginations run free we may even see ways to engage more sensitively and substantially with the mythologies of our culture!
I would like to draw your attention to a series of articles by Logan Mehl-Laituri, aimed at helping the Christian movement thinking more critically about faith and service in the days surrounding Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is an official United States holiday (coinciding with Remembrance Day) that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Logan himself is a US veteran and author whom I met though his peacemaking efforts as founder of Centurion's Guild. Logan has been at the forefront of campaigns to legalise selective concienscious objection for US Military personel.
Through Centurions Guild, Logan ran a 10 day blog series from All Saints till Veterans Day, each day featuring a soldier saint. Even where Logan's views do not entirely coincide with my own I find him extremely thought provoking and I'm sure you will too. As a peacemaker who has actively served in wartime, his words come with an authenticity and immediacy that few can match. He's the soldier saint I have learned to listen to. Here are the links to the articles: