Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Storm - Part 2

Well, I made it in to work today. A trip that normally takes 23 minutes took almost 45, which really was not that bad. I pulled right out of Reba's driveway onto Sherlock Road, and had no problems all the way to Highway 279. I took it slower than I needed to, but I never put weight in the back of the pick-up this winter (since in years past it didn't handle all that well when I put weight in it), so I knew it wouldn't take much to get me slipping. Once I start slipping in that truck, despite learning how to drive in Rhode Island winters, I have no way to stop except a ditch.

Highway 279 was only fair from Bella Vista to Hiwasee. Power was out in Hiwasee (a small place name with a general store, bank, churches, and 50 houses), giving an eerie feeling. I turned onto Highway 72, which was a little better than Highway 279. I was able to get up to 35 mph a few times, but the clear parts of the road were few, with it mostly ruts in the slippery stuff. North of Centerton is a 90 degree turn to the left, super-elevated, and it was fully covered with ice. Three of us took that at 5 mph. The next curve, to the right, was dry. The next curve is to the left (all of these curves are at 1/2 section lines, about 1/2 mile apart), and it was sheer ice. An officer was there directing all traffic off the main road, into Centerton. To do so you have to "climb" the super-elevation. I almost didn't make it, but did, and after that roads were not bad.

I don't know why they closed Highway 72 into Bentonville. The road has two major dips on tight curves, and maybe road conditions were so bad they didn't want people attempting it. Or, maybe a bad accident had occurred to block the road. If so, it was far up the road and out of sight. I can believe either, given the conditions I experienced. But, all drivers were taking it slow, being cautious, keeping good separation between cars, and not being impatient with the occasional bumper-to-bumper.

So I'm at work. The strategic planning meetings that were supposed to take place today, with people coming in from other offices, will happen by video conference if at all. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Iced In

Since 5:00 PM Monday, I have barely left the house. As I returned home from work early, the ice storm had already started; driving was already a little slick in Bentonville, but okay in Bella Vista. I parked the truck up the hill, not quite to the brow, thinking maybe I would go to work on Tuesday. All Monday evening and night we heard the roof being lightly pelted, either freezing rain or sleet or ice.

Tuesday I slept in, finally reached the office by phone about 9:00 AM and learned only 5 or 10 people (out of a hundred) had come in. The frozen stuff was still coming down. I walked a couple of tenths of a mile, up to the stop sign to see how the somewhat-major road was. It was sanded and had many tracks, but it was a mess. I didn't bother to clean off the truck. I spent the whole day being tired doing nothing. Well, not really nothing, as I'll explain in a minute.

This morning, Wednesday, I was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:00 AM. I walked to the truck, started it, and began clearing windows. Forty-five minutes later I walked a ways further up the road where my near neighbor I work with had parked his pick-up. I put a note on it saying I would like to ride in with him, worked on clearing his windows, then went back to the house about 7:00 AM. I read for an hour, contacted the office and got my near neighbor's number, and called and left a voice message. I then slept a while.

About 10:00 AM I decided to try to get to work on my own, but couldn't get the pick-up even up the slight hill remaining (should have parked it OVER the brow, I guess), so came inside. Later, about 3:00 this afternoon, they had sanded our road, so I drove the truck down the hill and around the corner and up the next hill with no problem. I then drove a mile or so, out to the highway to judge its condition. Which was not good, but probably passable in my truck in the morning. On return to my neighborhood, I was not able to back the truck into the place I wanted to, so parked it up at the house closest to the main road, the home of a widow. I asked for permission to park in her circle drive overnight, and she said fine. So, in the morning I will have to drive it 30 feet on our side road, then I should be alright for the 15 miles to work.

These two days, which I will charge against accumulated vacation, seemed lazy, but they weren't. I worked on my Harmony of the Gospels. I entered a bunch of footnotes, worked on the chapter notes and appendixes, finished typing the edits for typos, misspellings, etc., and worked on getting the proper white space. I did all that in the Dungeon. Upstairs, I did a few more edits, read in The Powers That Be, which is going incredibly slowly, worked on reading for my next Bible study, and had what seemed a leisurely time. But it was productive.

I'm wondering, could this be a dry run for a time in the future when I might actually be a published author, working on deadlines and galleys and multiple projects? Could be.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sweetest Fruit

I am today continuing to draw nuggets of wisdom from Thomas Carlyle’s 31 March 1829 letter to Henry Inglis. I wish we had Inglis’ letter to Carlyle that spawned this letter, but we have only Carlyle’s response. Inglis must have asked for some advice on writing, for Carlyle responded:

As to writing, for the present, I will neither advise nor dissuade you. If you have any heartfelt interest in any literary matter; any idea that gives you no rest till it be uttered, commit it to paper, and if circumstances favour, to the Press, the sooner the better. Only if you have no such interest, no such idea, do not in any wise regard it as a misfortune (most probably it is a blessing, for the sweetest fruit is longest in ripening) but simply as a sign that your vocation as yet is not to impart but to acquire. Meanwhile tell me always what you project and accomplish in the way of study and reading; and for your own private use, keep plentiful Notebooks, on which let your pen be often occupied.

Ah, Thomas, you write to me! You say you don’t provide any advice, at least you will not “advise nor dissuade” in the matter whether to pursue writing. But you say to commit to paper any idea which seems good to my mind as a potential writing topic. Good, this accords with what I am doing. Just this morning I made a list of the Bible study/small group study guides that have been rolling around in my mind. I have most of these on a capture sheet, somewhere (probably in a certain, unlabeled notebook on my closet shelf; I can picture where that is.

You also say “commit…if circumstances favour, to the Press”, i.e. seek to have that idea published. That’s exactly where I am, writing but not seeking publication. Perhaps this effort in this time will result in sweeter fruit. If not, it should result in my sweeter disposition.

Meanwhile, Thomas, for my own private use, I am keeping plentiful notebooks, on which my pen is frequently occupied.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I continue today with Thomas Carlyle’s letter to Henry Inglis, a young man 11 years his junior. Carlyle continues with the advice he had given earlier in the letter.

My earnest often-repeated advice to you, therefore, is: Persevere! Persevere! In all practical, in all intellectual excellence think no acquirement enough. Throw aside all frivolity; walk not with the world, where it is walking wrong; war ad necem [to the death] with Pride and Vanity and all forms of Self-conceit within you; be diligent in season and out of season! It depends on you, whether we are one day to have another man, or only another money-gaining and money-spending Machine.

So Carlyle tells the young Mr. Inglis not to give up. We find no end of such advice in the world. Persevere. Don’t give up. Keep going. Run the race faster, stronger, longer. Even the Apostle Paul got in on this type of advice.

Yes, in whatever endeavor we undertake, we need to do so having counted the cost, knowing what will be required of us, and persevering to the end. But what happens if the cost is too much? We are also cautioned in scripture, by the Savior himself, against beginning something we don’t have the wherewithal to finish—towers and war and such metaphors applying.

In the matter of writing, that’s where I am. Am I simply not persevering, or have I finally counted the cost and determined that I don’t have the wherewithal to finish? God, please help me to know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Rind Enclosing a Fruit of Wisdom

Once again, I want to draw a lesson out of Thomas Carlyle's 31 March 1829 letter to Henry Inglas. Here is the text I quoted recently:

...I look forward to see how in the future you will unfold and turn to use so fair a talent. For henceforth, it depends nearly altogether on yourself: if you can but learn the lessons which Experience will teach you, it matters little whether these be of a sweet or bitter nature: the bitter as well as the sweet are but the rind enclosing a fruit of Wisdom, which is in itself celestial and perennial. Diligence, unwearied steadfast Endeavour; ‘like the stars, unhasting, unresting’!

I love Carlyle's metaphor of the rind that encloses, encapsulates a fruit of wisdom--actually Wisdom, personified. Metaphor almost always does a good job of explaining concepts, at least metaphors done well do. Carlyle did this well, in my judgment.

So the experiences of life should serve to provide Wisdom, and this Wisdom should then help you in your life. Perhaps what Carlyle wrote next will also be of interest.

This is the sceptre with which man rules his Destiny; and tho' fragile as a reed, removes mountains, spiritual as well as physical. I need not remind you here that such Diligence as will avail is not of book-studies alone; but primarily, and in a far higher degree respects the heart and moral dispositions. He who loves Truth, knows it to be priceless, and cleaves to it thro' all shapes, in thought, word, and deed, as to the life of his soul. Nay I believe the first and infinitely the most important question with regard to any Student of Knowledge is precisely this very question, so often overlooked: what is the state of his moral temper and practice? Does he really love Truth, or only the market-price of Truth, the praise and money it will sell for? Has he conquered his vanity; or, rather since that is impossible, is he faithfully striving against it?

I find that inspiring.

Writers are always looking for ideas for writing. Some writers struggle with this, being at paper with pen and drawing a blank. Others don't. I don't tend to have a problem with writing ideas. Sometimes capturing them and keep them from fleeing before they can be permanently locked down in a manner that will allow future development is a problem, but not the ideas themselves. These ideas typically come from life experiences, as Carlyle suggests.

One such event happened on 17 August 2004, and I wrote this cinquain as a result.

They met
on Tuesday morn,
quite accidentally.
You think it fate that made two one
head on?

What was the incident? A head on collision that I came upon perhaps five minutes after it happened, while on my morning commute. West Bound and East Bound, on that rural highway, found themselves in the same spot on the road, on a curve. The speed of the impact and centrifugal force forced the cars, now fused together, off the road outside the curve. By the time I went by, three or four other cars had stopped. One person was on a cell phone and three others were working car doors. I didn't figure my feeble physical skill would provide any more help than was already at work, so I went on. About seven minutes later emergency vehicles from town came at and passed me. I don't see how anyone could have survived the accident, but I never saw the police report to learn the details.

I decided to write the cinquain about the experience, forcing myself to stay within constraints of the cinquain form, trying disguising the words enough to imply a different meaning--a relationship--without leaving the other meaning out. I think I achieved that aim.

That was one of Experience's bitter lessons, one about driving I hoped I learned, and one about writing ideas.

More about this letter from Carlyle to Inglis in my next post.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It depends nearly all on me

Being between reading projects at work, I have on occasion gone to the Carlyle letters on line and read with great enjoyment. I had in mind to look through some of Carlyle's early letters to see if they had any indication of some of his later extremes in political matters. I'm not sure I have yet found anything concerning my search. What I did find was a wonderful letter from Thomas Carlyle to Henry Inglis, written on 31 March 1829. Carlyle was 33; Inglis eleven years younger.

Although Carlyle was not yet at the point where his writing was providing him with renown or financial success, he was still able to give the younger man some advice about his future work and using his talent. Consider this excerpt.

...I look forward to see how in the future you will unfold and turn to use so fair a talent. For henceforth, it depends nearly altogether on yourself: if you can but learn the lessons which Experience will teach you, it matters little whether these be of a sweet or bitter nature: the bitter as well as the sweet are but the rind enclosing a fruit of Wisdom, which is in itself celestial and perennial. Diligence, unwearied steadfast Endeavour; ‘like the stars, unhasting, unresting’!

"It depends nearly altogether on yourself." That phrase hit me hard when I read it last Friday. I have been bemoaning the difficulties of being published. It seems I have tried to break in to publishing at the wrong time. First I was unhappy to learn that the publisher does almost no marketing of books, except a catalogue entry; the author has to do everything. Then the concept of author's "platform" hit me hard. I have no platform, and so am even less likely to be considered for book publishing. So I thought of my long-thought-of newspaper column as a means of platform building. Then, at the same time when Life was squeezing time from me, I saw what was happening in the newspaper business, the rapid shrinking of markets and failure to compete with the Internet--that and all the marketing time it would take to go that route. And, having little hope that that time would materialize, I put just about everything on hold.

Of course, I should not expect breaking in to a new business, having a second career, to be easy. I don't know why I ever thought otherwise. Carlyle, as remote as he is to today and to me, is saying that success in this new endeavor depends on me. It's not how well I write--because writing better is something that is totally within my power through improving my craft. It's now about whether I have the right ideas--for market research is something I can and should do. It's not about who you know--well, actually it is, but I can figure out how to meet people. Etc., etc., etc.

Okay, TC, back to the drawing board I guess. If you can just help me figure out how to find three or four more hours in the day, that would be a big help.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P. Cecil Warren Cheney, age 93

Another of my wife's dad's cousins, Cecil Warren Cheney, age 93, has died. Cecil left this life on January 10, 2009, exactly a month after his cousin Howard Cheney. These were the two men who we got together in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in October 2006, eighty-eight years after their last having been together. I won't repeat the story here; see the link if you are interested.

Cecil had a good life. Twenty-six years old when the USA entered World War 2, and recently graduated from college and married, Cecil went to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on the Manhattan Project. That was his service to his country during the war rather than armed combat. He remained in technical professions his entire career, but at some point (I'm not clear where) was also a sports coach of children's or teens' teams. He maintained his love of sports to the end, spending his Saturdays and Sundays in the fall glued to his television, eyes quite close due to poor eyesight, watching any football game that was on. He was preceded in death by his wife, Alwilda, who died in 2003 at age 89, from West Nile Virus. Cecil's years after Alwilda's death were not happy, and I'd like to think the reunion was a bright spot for him.

Cecil's father was William Boynton Cheney. Born and raised in Meade County, Kansas, he spent time in New Mexico as a cowboy, then came back to Meade County after his dad's death to help his mother with their 2,040 acre ranch and start a family. By 1916 the ranch had been sold, William had a wife and three children, and had acquired a ranch of his own in Meade County and perhaps extending into Clark County. Adjacent to Will's place was land owned by a large land and cattle company out of Kansas City. In September 1916, a dispute arose between Will and James West, who worked for that company, over the location of a fence. Only the two of them were there at the time of the dispute (or at least only the two of them knew for sure what happened). Will Cheney came away from that dispute dead, shot in the back. West was arrested but acquitted at trial. The family believes, and I'm sure it's true, that the jury was bought off. Some of them were later seen driving fancy new cars (in 1916, remember).

So Cecil was born during the very late days of the old west, in the old west, and had the family background that confirmed it. His grandfather, Seth Boynton Cheney, was a 49er, raised in Vermont, but left home in 1849 at age 16 and never contacted his family again. He spent almost three decades in California--prospecting, homesteading, logging, ranching--then made his way back to the Texas panhandle and eventually to southwest Kansas, where he married a girl thirty years younger and had his family. It's a very interesting story, and I've written a home-published book about Seth. Cecil was one of sixteen grandchildren of Seth; only one is now left alive.

My family? We're a bunch of recent immigrants in comparison. I have to go back to olde England to find characters and skeletons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First week in the weight loss program

Well, all that activity late last week and over the weekend paid off, aided and abetted by proper eating and just a little bit of exercise on two days. With a weight loss goal of 1 pound per week, but with a hope of actually achieving 1 percent a week at least for a few weeks, I weighed in today 2.25 percent lower than last week! So I'm way ahead of expectations.

I know, I know, the first week is always the easiest. And most or all of that was pounds added over Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's the negative way of looking at it. But also this puts me 39 pounds below my highest weight of three years ago. It has come off steadily, an average of just over a pound per month. Now, with concentrated effort, it's dropping faster.

I know I won't be able to maintain that pace, and that a pound a week is more likely a correct long-term expectation. But oh does it feel good!

Fishermen Called: Matthew/Mark vs. Luke

As I said a few days ago, I believe that the calling by Jesus of the fishermen that Luke describes in his Chapter 5 is a different event than the one described by Matthew in his Chapter 4 and Mark in his Chapter 1. In the prior post I dealt with the timeline. Now I'll deal with the specifics of the event(s).

Certainly, when two eyewitnesses see the same event, they will have different recollections. That is especially true when they wait thirty years to write it down. The inspiration of God for them to write probably did not eliminate their foibles and nuances of memory. So, when Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell of the same event, we can expect some differences. So differences alone are probably not enough to be certain of whether these are two events.

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is walking by the sea of Galilee. In Luke, he is more or less stationary. At least Luke does not mention him walking along.

In Luke, he has a crowd with him, waiting to hear him teach, that is so big he decides to use Peter's boat as a platform and get a little distance between him and the crowd so as to be more effective in his teaching. Neither Matthew nor Mark mention any crowd. They lead us to believe Jesus was alone.

In Matthew/Mark, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, and they immediately follow; he then goes on a short distance and sees James and John sons of Zebedee, calls them, and they immediately follow. That's the end of the scene. In Luke, after Jesus finishes teaching, he suggest that Peter put out into deep water to catch some fish. Peter does so, and catches some. When he returns to shore, he worships Jesus, yet at the same time says he is not worthy to follow Jesus.

The difference in the words that Jesus says are also of importance. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus' words are almost identical: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." But in Luke his words are: "Don't be afraid; from now on your will catch men." Could this be different recollections of the same words? Possibly, but the differences lead me to believe these are different events. Matthew and Mark is a calling; Luke is a declaration. And "don't be afraid" appears to be in response to Peter saying he was sinful and Jesus should leave him.

But the really key item in my mind is that in the Luke account Peter calls Jesus, "Master". The Greek word is epistata, a word used in political or military sense to imply chain of command issues. The president of a Greek democratic institution was the epistata. Certain officers, not necessarily the ones in highest command, were epistata. The word may also have the connotation of a school master in authority over his students. Now, if this is the first calling of Peter (and remember that the encounter in John 1:41-42 was not a calling), why would Peter call him epistata? Was Jesus' reputation such by then to warrant that kind of title?

Some say that, since epistata appears several times in Luke's gospel but in no other, this was Luke's way of using a term of authority that his Greek and Roman audiences would understand, rather than rabbi and other Aramaic or Hebrew titles. Still, Peter used a title, of respect and authority. I maintain that he would only use such a title if he had already spent some time with Jesus, and had found him to be one he (Peter) would be willing to have in authority over him. By the time of what is described in Luke 5, Peter must have already spent a significant amount of time with Jesus.

So what kind of calling was this? Did Peter follow Jesus for a while, possibly a couple of months, then leave him to go back to fishing? That's what I suspect happened. Jesus called Peter and his companions (Matthew 4:18-22/Mark 1:16-20); Peter followed immediately; took part of some of those events given in the combined timeline, but then went back to fishing. He was at his trade when Jesus came by again, this time with a crowd, and used another method to convince the inconsistent Peter that people, not fish, were to be his life's pursuit.

So says the layman, dangerously dabbling in theological water he possibly shouldn't be. I'm not dogmatic about this. Others will read these passages and a few before and after and come to another conclusion. So be it. But this is my conclusion, one I have found others to be in agreement with, and I throw it into cyberspace for whatever good it may do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting Things Done, Part ?

I have been in the whirlwind since last Thursday, and am just now taking time to post, in the few minutes before beginning my work week.

This past Friday and Saturday we held a moving sale for my mother-in-law. She moved to her apartment in August, but we have just now gotten our act together for the sale. Thursday night until 10 PM was intense activity of setting up tables, arranging items for sale, and pricing them. Then home to make signs. Up at 6:00 AM to get ready and in to town to place signs and hold the sale. Traffic was steady both days. We sold much, though it still looks like we have a lot left; some of it ours, for we brought some items to sell as well. By Saturday night we were exhausted, physically.

Then, on Thursday as we were setting up for the sale, we received a call from an out-of-state family member who is in the midst of a financial crisis. Dealing with that took much mental energy.

Then, on Saturday during the sale, at least two people showed interest in the house, and one person brought by an offer. While this is good--no great, it also turned out to be part of the mental overload in progress, and we couldn't deal with it right then. So we arrived home Saturday night mentally exhausted as well. I then got another hit as I received a critique on a book proposal that indicated the work was too denominationally slanted to be published. A further mental blow. I tried all Saturday evening to prepare my Life Group lesson for Sunday, with no concentration available and hence little success.

Sunday was a true day of rest. We were to church a little late, then had a good Life Group time afterwards. The lesson turned out okay, as I came back time and again to the basic principle behind the lesson. Sunday afternoon, after nap, I went to work typing the harmony of the gospels, and I finished it about 5:00 PM! I'd say this is the end of several years of off and on work, but the end is not in sight. I now need to print it and proof it and annotate it and decide on a number of up in the air places. And I have to write a dozen or more appendixes with notes about why I made my various decisions.

But still, that main effort, the document itself, is done in first draft. That is always a good feeling.

This morning on the way to work, somewhat recovered both physically and mentally, I made two stops. One at my mother-in-law's house to pick up something left there on Saturday that I need today; one to put some gas in the truck. It's strange, but just getting these two things done has given me much satisfaction to start the day. Well, being down in my weight helped a bunch too. I'll get back to my series on the harmony of the gospels soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Timeline of the Fishermen's Calling

Busyness presses on me today, both at the office and in personal life. After today, I will unlikely to have any time to post until Sunday, and have little enough time to post today. So I’ll get right at it.

Why do I think Luke 5:1-11, where Jesus directs the fishermen to a seemingly miraculous catch of fish then calls them to follow him full time, is different than the calling of the fishermen in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20? Because of 1) the specifics of the encounter(s) between Jesus and the fishermen, and 2) because of the apparent timeline the gospels together seem to create.

Let’s deal with “The Timeline” first. Here are the key events as told by the three synoptic gospels (John doesn’t deal with this period).

Per Matthew
4:12 John the Baptist put in prison
4:12 Jesus goes to Galilee
4:13 Jesus goes from Nazareth to Capernaum
4:14-17 Jesus begins his preaching ministry
4:18-22 Jesus calls the four fishermen, and they follow him
4:23-25 Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry in Galilee
5:1-7:29 The Sermon on the Mount
8:1-4 Jesus heals a man with leprosy
8:5-13 The faith of the centurion
8:14-17 Jesus heals many, including Peter’s mother-in-law

Per Mark
1: 14 John the Baptist put in prison
1:14 Jesus goes to Galilee
1:14-15 Jesus begins his preaching ministry
1:16-20 Jesus calls the four fishermen, and they follow him
1:21-28 Jesus drives out an evil spirit
1:29-33 Jesus heals many, including Peter’s mother-in-law
1:33-37 Jesus prays in a solitary place
1:38-39 Preaching ministry in other villages
1:40-45 Jesus heals a man with leprosy

Per Luke
4:14-30 Jesus rejected at Nazareth
4:31 Jesus goes to Capernaum
4:31-37 Jesus drives out an evil spirit
4:38-41 Jesus heals many, including Simon’s mother-in-law
4:42 Jesus prays in a solitary place
4:43-44 Preaching ministry in other villages
5:1-11 Catch of fish and calling of the fishermen
5:12-16 Jesus heals a man with leprosy

As you can see, none of these are identical, but they are similar. Mark and Luke are closest to each other. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew is a big event the other two don’t mention. Actually, Luke does have much of this material, but it is later in his gospel, in chapters 6, 11, and 12 (maybe others as well). If Luke has his gospel somewhat chronological, it appears that Matthew has grouped this material and put it where he did, not to establish a chronology, but to early on explain the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching. Matthew has done this in other places, grouping miracles of healing together and parables together. Matthew is, perhaps somewhat, being more of a biographer or theologian than a historian.

Blending the timelines of Mark and Luke, with the same events together, gives the following.

John the Baptist put in prison Mk 1:14
Jesus goes to Galilee Mk 1:14
Jesus rejected at Nazareth Lk 4:14-30
Jesus goes to Capernaum Lk 4:31
Jesus begins his preaching ministry Mk 1:14-15
Jesus calls the four fishermen, and they follow him Mk 1:16-20
Jesus drives out an evil spirit Mk 1:21-28, Lk 4:31-37
Jesus heals many, including Peter’s mother-in-law Mk 1:29-33, Lk 4:38-41
Jesus prays in a solitary place Mk 1:33-37, Lk 4:42
Preaching ministry in other villages Mk 1:38-39, Lk 4:43-44
Catch of fish and calling of the fishermen Lk 5:1-11
Jesus heals a man with leprosy Mk 1:40-45, Lk 5:12-16

Adding what Matthew has, leaving out the Sermon on the Mount, results in the following.

John the Baptist put in prison Mk 1:14, Mt 4:12
Jesus goes to Galilee Mk 1:14, Mt 4:12
Jesus rejected at Nazareth Lk 4:14-30
Jesus goes to Capernaum Lk 4:31, Mt 4:13
Jesus begins his preaching ministry Mk 1:14-15, Mt 4:14-17
Jesus calls the four fishermen, and they follow him Mk 1:16-20, Mt 4:18-22
Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry in Galilee Mt 4:23-25
Jesus drives out an evil spirit Mk 1:21-28, Lk 4:31-37
Jesus heals many, including Peter’s mother-in-law Mk 1:29-33, Lk 4:38-41
Jesus prays in a solitary place Mk 1:33-37, Lk 4:42
Preaching ministry in other villages Mk 1:38-39, Lk 4:43-44
Catch of fish and calling of the fishermen Lk 5:1-11
Jesus heals a man with leprosy Mk 1:40-45, Lk 5:12-16, Mt 8:1-4
The faith of the centurion Mt 8:5-13
Jesus heals many, including Peter’s mother-in-law Mt 8:14-17

Thus, only two things are out of place when Matthew is added in: the faith of the centurion, and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Looking ahead in Luke, we find the story of the centurion in Luke 6, immediately after the same material as in the Sermon on the Mount! Thus it looks like Matthew grouped this with S-o-t-M, and it falls within that chronology. As far as the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, is it easier to think there were two such healings, or that one of the authors has it out of sequence, for whatever reason? I think the latter. Therefore, I cross out the last two items of Matthew, only because I believe they are out of sequence in this chronology: Peter's mother-in-law was healed earlier, and the centurion's servant was healed later, after some other things happened.

One other item concerning timeline: Luke does mention John the Baptist being put in prison. He does so right after his discussion of John’s ministry and before the discussion of Jesus’ baptism. Clearly, John couldn’t have baptized Jesus if he had been put in prison. A careful reading of Luke’s mention of John’s imprisonment shows he is not giving that as a chronological event, but merely puts it in at a convenient place.

So, I conclude that the blended chronology of these three gospels implies that the calling of the four fishermen in Matthew/Mark is a different event, in the chronology of things, than the miraculous catch of fish and what must be a second calling of the fishermen. But relying strictly on this chronology could be dangerous, and potentially misleading. Perhaps none of these writers gave us a true chronology. What about the specifics of the encounter(s) in the gospels?

Unfortunately, I’m way out of time and space. I’ll leave that for another day, perhaps Sunday.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Comparing John 1:29-54 to Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20

Last night I typed away on the Harmony, reaching the death of Jesus on the cross. So all I have left is his burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection activities. Based on my typing speed and available hours for it, I should finish this by Sunday next, if not before. I also spent some time last night adding passage headings and footnotes. Much more of that remains.

Yesterday I gave some of my process of analysis on how to judge whether the four gospel accounts of Jesus calling his first disciples are one event, two events, or three events. Why would I write yesterday, "A careful reading of the four gospels together, as an overlapping panorama (as my friend Gary described it) suggests that these are three events" when a have a study Bible that says these are all one event, and another study Bible that says the John event was separate, but the other three accounts are of the same event? Why would I, a layman, dare to challenge someone (either an individual or a scholars committee) who had enough standing to have their opinion published in a study Bible?

I do so because my detailed study of the four passages leads me to that conclusion. How can I remain silent, despite what I see in a published work? Look at the circumstances of the passage in John 1:29-54. John the Baptist is preaching and baptizing somewhere, probably at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:28). The day after some Pharisees question him, he begins to point his disciples to Jesus. The next day, some of those disciples (Andrew among them) begin to follow Jesus. Andrew goes to get Peter. Since Peter was likely in Galilee with the fishing boats, this must have required a couple of days. From there, Jesus goes to Cana (Jn 2:1), to Jerusalem (Jn 2:12), etc. as I described yesterday. In John 3:26-36, we see John questioned about Jesus, and his well-known reply, "He must become greater; I must become less."

Now, in John chapter 4, we see Jesus go from the Judean countryside through Samaria on his way to Galilee. That means, assuming John is giving an accurate chronology--which seems likely, that Jesus was still in Judea when John was baptizing, now at Aenon near Salim. Obviously John the Baptist is a free man; he has not yet been put in prison. Yet, in Matthew 4:12,17 we read, "When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee...[and] began to preach." This is echoed in Mark 1:14. So Jesus began to preach after John the Baptist was imprisoned, and he called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be his disciples after he began to preach. Clearly, the encounter between Jesus and Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel in John chapter 1 was before John the Baptist was imprisoned, and thus must be a separate event than Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. To me this is a no-brainer.

Yet, enough other things are different between the John account and the Matthew/Mark account to show they are different events. John 1:29 etc. takes place at Bethany. Matthew 4/Mark 1 takes place on the Sea of Galilee, probably at Capernaum. In John 1, Jesus doesn't call anyone; they simply come to him based first on the Baptist's testimony then by word of mouth. In Matthew 4/Mark 1 Jesus is the one who does the calling. In John 1 there is no mention of the fishermen leaving their livelihood to follow Jesus. In Matthew 4/Mark 1 they do leave their livelihood. All of this points to two events.

What, then, is my basis for saying Luke 5:1-11 is a separate event from Matthew 4/Mark 1? Unfortunately, I'm running long and I'm out of time. Stay tuned for another post on another day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Analyzing the chronology of gospel events, part 1

Yesterday I wrote of my work at harmonizing the four canonical gospels, a work I began some years ago and completed in manuscript in 2006. I’m typing it now, being within a week of having the basic document typed. After that will come adding passage headings from the NIV, adding the NIV footnotes (I’ve done some of that as I’ve typed, and some even in mss), and adding some chapter headings. Since the Harmony brings together gospels with 28, 16, 24, and 21 chapters, I need to create some kind of chapter designations that works for the whole.

After that I will have to dig into some pesky, troubling areas that I put off when doing the original writing. These are some things where the gospels are so different, or seem to have a different time line, and blending them is impossible. I did not find many situations like that, but there are a few. These will require thought to make final, and will need an appendix to explain my thought process.

Actually, I will have several other appendixes to explain thought processes. An example of one is how to deal with the calling of the first disciples: Andrew, Peter, James, and John. If you have a study Bible that, under the passage headings, lists where the same passage may be found in other gospels, as you read Matthew 4:18-22, you will likely see a reference to Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-50 (or maybe just 35-42). But are these the same event? A careful reading of the four gospels together, as an overlapping panorama (as my friend Gary described it) suggests that these are three events.

It seems John’s event comes first. The correct sequence of events in Jesus’ adult life seems to be as follows. John the Baptist’s ministry is described, Jesus is baptized, Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted, then Jesus returns to where John is baptizing and John points to Him as the one everyone should follow (John 1:29-34). In fact, Jesus did not ask anyone to follow Him at this point. John’s disciples began going over to Him, including Andrew, and Andrew went and fetched Peter. [I may blog on this in a few days.] After this, Jesus: goes to Cana and performs the miracle of the wine (Jn 2:1-11); goes to Capernaum then on to Jerusalem for a Passover where he cleanses the temple (Jn 2:1-17), teaches (Jn 2:18-22), does some miracles (Jn 2:23-25), and teaches Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21); then goes to the Judean countryside and baptizes (Jn 3:22-4:2); then goes through Samaria and has encounters with Samaritans and disciples (Jn 4:3-42); then goes to Cana again, from where he remotely heals an official’s son in Capernaum (Jn 4:43-54); then goes to Nazareth where he is rejected for the first time (Luke 4:14-30); then goes to Capernaum where he begins to preach and teach and heal (Mt 4:12-17, Lk 4:31-44).

At this point he calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him. We find this in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. These two accounts are remarkably similar, having only minor differences in wording and detail. Many people believe what Luke writes about in Chapter 5 is the same event. But I have come to the conclusion it is not. Unfortunately, I’m a bit long already for this post. Let me leave this thought hanging for now, that is why I believe these are different events, and I will address it in the next post, either later today or perhaps tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Can the four gospels be harmonized? I've been working at it for some time, maybe four years or longer. I began and made it a good distance, then put it aside to pursue other writing ventures, then picked it up again and completed it in mid-2006. That was all in manuscript, in three steno notebooks. My method was to take the passage, write in the notebook a verse or two from each gospel that had it, and see how I could blend the language to make one account of the event. I started with the triumphal entry, since this was covered by all four gospels, then went to the end, back to the beginning, and eventually circled round to the triumphal entry.

As I worked on this, my method changed some. The longer I worked the better job I did explaining why I decided to write what I wrote. Some of my early work is now difficult to follow.

My goal is to have one gospel, as seamless as possible. In this my approach differs from most harmonies of the gospels that I see. All of those are merely listing of parallel passages next to each other, with no real attempt to harmonize the accounts. At most they try to figure out a timeline for the events. I have two printed harmonies of this nature, and have found several on-line.

Mine will not be for publication, since I'm using the New International Version as my base, and that is copyrighted. This is for my own study, edification, and enjoyment. It seems a worthwhile project, and I've learned much.

Can the gospels be harmonized? Should the gospels be harmonized? I have talked with some who think not. The gospels are not history, they say, but rather spiritual writings and so should be treated as such, and don't need harmonizing. However, I plug on, now finally typing what I wrote previously. Last night I worked for more than an hour, adding headings and footnotes to the part corresponding to Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4-5. Then I went to the end of where I'd finished typing before Christmas and typed more, completing the Garden of Gethsemane event. I've probably got 10 hours of original typing left, then much time to add footnotes, proof-read, and write appendixes explaining a number of decisions I made along the way.

Can the four gospels be harmonized? What about a life pulled in four (or more) directions? Can it be harmonized? Or must the number of parts be reduced from quartet to trio? These pages must tell.

Friday, January 2, 2009

January Goals

Again this month, my writing goals will be few, and not terribly difficult to achieve. I have much to do in other areas of life, and time for writing is unlikely to materialize this month. Here they are.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times.

2. Complete my review essay of T.B. Macaulay's essay on the History of the Popes.

3. Return to typing the Harmony of the Gospels I wrote in manuscript over a several year period. If I finish the typing this month--and that is easily possible, I can start the editing process next month, including adding a bunch of notes.

4. Come close to finishing my current reading project, The Powers That Be, by David Halberstam. Only 453 pages to go as of last night.

5. Work on Life On A Yo Yo, which I begin teaching this coming Sunday, as a publishable Bible study.

6. Monitor five websites regularly. These are:
- Absolute Write, the Water Cooler
- Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
- The Writing Life, by Terry Whalin, Literary Agent
- Advanced Fiction Writing, by Randy Ingermanson
- So You Want to Be Published, by Mary DeMuth

7. Critique 5-10 poems at various places, both public and private. This is probably an affectation, as poetry is a dead end for publishing and my limited writing time would be better used elsewhere, but it brings enjoyment to me and maybe help to others, so I'll return to it in a small way.

The December Report

December was an extremely busy month, even with ducking one Christmas party and a New Year's Eve party being cancelled. We had company from Dec 23 to Dec 30, in two waves. Lynda was out of town for a while, helping with baby Ephraim in Oklahoma City. So I accomplished little on my writing career, other than keeping up with a few web sites and the few things I'll write below.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times. I did this, blogging 13 times.

2. Finish some more filing/organization of writing material. I thought I had finished this, except for buying file folders and filling them. Last night I bought those and filled them. However, I remembered I had a stack of writing stuff at work that I need to bring home and file. So I guess I'm not done yet. Writing seems to be a kind of paper chase. I did this. I can finally, honestly say that I have no loose papers lying around waiting to be put in their place. This is a very good feeling and, while I don't anticipate generating many more writing papers, I hope I will at least have the habit of filing them immediately, and not let the clutter return.

3. More work on Life on a Yo Yo Life Group lesson series, which I begin teaching January 4. I did NOT do this. The lesson series is well planned, and for each lesson I have notes. I will begin intensive work on the first lesson tonight, only two days before teaching it.

4. See if I can flesh out the brainstorming work on the short Life Group lesson series from the Apocrypha. I looked at it a little last night, and unless I get something down on paper, I'm not sure I'll have a legitimate series. I did some work on this, but am not finished. I did write some things. I'm not sure at this stage if the concept is valid; I need some more development work.

5. Buy one writing magazine, as a Christmas present to myself, and read it. Rather than buy a magazine, I went to Barnes & Noble one evening and read several.

6. Continue to work down my reading list. Since the book I'm currently reading is 736 pages, and I'm only on page 165, this may take all month. I found other things to read than my main book (although last night I reached page 283). I read some in Dickens's Christmas stories.

7. Complete the review I've started of Macaulay's essay on Ranke's History of the Popes. I did nothing on this. It still sits on the computer at home, waiting for me to find an odd hour to complete my last thoughts.

So there you have it; a rather unproductive month overall, but probably as much as I could expect for a holiday season.