Surveying the Wondrous Cross

Centurion at the Cross

Like the prophet in Isaiah 6, the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” vacillates between describing the awe of beholding God and reflecting on our own changed state: When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them through his blood. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did … Continue reading “Surveying the Wondrous Cross”

Chaplaincy: Prophets

Before moving on to an examination of the early history of the chaplaincy, I want to make one more observation. Mr. Daniel Sutkowski and I recently held a conversation comparing the prophets of the Bible with the chaplains we see on television who, say, give a prayer before a national ceremony. As with the Levites discussed in my previous post, prophets often worked in the secular realm, affirming or criticizing the established institutions of their day. The Bible portrays a general cultural expectation for prophets to serve political objectives; certainly rulers (e.g. Balak, Ahab) expect as much, as seen by … Continue reading “Chaplaincy: Prophets”

Critique: “When God Abandoned the Garden of Eden” by Raanan Eichler

In my last article, I summarized Raanan Eichler’s essay, in which he proposes a new reading of Genesis 3:24. Here, I offer a critique of his argument. Eichler uncovers a fascinating textual tradition of Genesis 3:24, one attested by four targumim. God’s presence outside Eden is implied throughout the Torah, but this verse provides an explicit description of God’s exit from the Garden when He drove mankind out. This reading raises many new questions, some of which Eichler hints at in his concluding paragraph: How did man’s fall influence God to leave the Garden? Is the snake likewise banished from … Continue reading “Critique: “When God Abandoned the Garden of Eden” by Raanan Eichler”

“When God Abandoned the Garden of Eden” by Raanan Eichler

Today, I want to offer a summary of an essay by Raanan Eichler, a member of the excellent Bible faculty at Bar-Ilan University. [1] In my next article, I will give my opinion on Eichler’s proposal. Raanan Eichler reconstructs a targumic tradition that attests a pronunciation different from וַיַּשְׁכֵּן (the masoretic niqqudim in Genesis 3:24). He uncovers the variant pronunciation וַיִּשְׁכֹּן, which transforms the clause from “He [Yhwh] caused [the cherubim] to dwell” to “He dwelled.” Eichler compares the reconstructed text with other ancient textual traditions. He then examines the grammatical legitimacy and literary coherence of the targumic reading. He concludes that … Continue reading ““When God Abandoned the Garden of Eden” by Raanan Eichler”

Chaplaincy: Levites

Strictly speaking, chaplaincy began in the pagan world and in all likelihood was brought into Christianity by Roman Christian patrons; this early history shall be explored in a future article. That said, we can examine two analogous examples from the Bible: the unnamed Levite from Judges 17-18 and Pinchas (also known as Phinehas) from Numbers 25. Both Levites ministered to the secular world: the unnamed Levite as a hired minister, and Pinchas by his own conviction. The Levite of Judges 17-18 resembles a chaplain in that he serves as a private minister to his patron, Micah. (Levites served not only … Continue reading “Chaplaincy: Levites”

Chaplaincy: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Holiness in the Secular World

cave with tree

I want to begin my exploration of chaplaincy by recounting a story from the Talmud (Shabbat 33b:5-8). The story tells of the holiness of secular observance.* In a time when devoted Christians rightly contemplate the Benedict Option, this Jewish story may serve as an important reminder not to abandon the world God has placed us in. The Bar Kochba revolt (132-136 AD) against Roman occupiers ended in one of the greatest catastrophes for the Jews of the ancient world. A revered rabbi named Rabbi Akiva had made himself the spiritual leader of this revolt, even declaring Shimon bar Kochba to … Continue reading “Chaplaincy: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Holiness in the Secular World”

Chaplaincy: Intro

When I think of a chaplain, I picture Father Mulcahy, SJ, from M*A*S*H. He’s a pushover whom everyone likes but few respect. He wields no authority as a religious leader. He will perform services from any religion upon request, and he celebrates mass alone on Sundays. Father Mulcahy may represent an accurate stereotype of many real-life chaplains. In spite of this, I have a hunch that chaplaincy may become a growingly impactful medium of ministry, and I want to explore how this might be the case (or see if my hunch is wrong). I want to examine the history of … Continue reading “Chaplaincy: Intro”

躺平 and China’s Recent Video Game Restrictions

Chinese culture generally discourages standing out from the crowd and attracting attention. If you can “pass the days” (过日子) with your head down, swallow the pain, and survive, you have a better fate than a martyr. Although China’s long history has suffered rebellions, modern-day China sees few protests considering the grievances the authorities place upon the people. Of course, this may have a thing or two to do with the Chinese Communist Party’s history of violently shutting down protests. If you read The Art of War, you get the idea that a high-ranking commander cannot rely on lower-ranking officers to … Continue reading “躺平 and China’s Recent Video Game Restrictions”

Parashat Vaetchanan


This is adapted from a drash Z. S. will read this weekend at Devar Emet Messianic Congregation. A drash is a brief takeaway from the weekly cycle of texts. This Week’s Readings: Torah: Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26 Brit Chadashah: 1 Peter 1:18-25 I’m excited for camp, which for us starts tomorrow! I started going to camp when I was ten, and I think every summer since I have been involved either as a camper or as a counselor. I always had a lot of fun at camp with all the high-adrenaline activities. But as I grew older I began to realize that a … Continue reading “Parashat Vaetchanan”

Parashat Balak

This is adapted from a drash Z. S. will read this weekend at Devar Emet Messianic Congregation. A drash is a brief takeaway from the weekly cycle of texts. This Week’s Readings: Torah: Numbers 22:2-25:9 Haftarah: Micah 5:6-6:8 Brit Chadashah: Romans 11:29-12:2 Have any of you had a conflict with someone you loved and cared for? In the course of such a conflict, have you ever had a moment where, unbeknownst to them, you look at that person going about life in their usual manner, and you are able to see them in a positive light? Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof has this … Continue reading “Parashat Balak”