Brief Note on Rare Old Testament Names for God

This has appeared before, and is mainly posted for easy reference for my OT students as we talk about the book of Job next week. This chart does not show the common names or titles used for God, particularly Yahweh and Elohim. But I note that both terms are strikingly scarce in the body of the book of Job, but not the narrative frame in chs. 1-2 and 42. Instead, the archaic or otherwise scarce names Eloah, El and Shadday dominate in a way that makes this part of Job very distinctive indeed within the OT canon.

Rare OT Names of God Sshot

By the way, many of their other occurrences outside of Job are limited to just a few key chapters of the OT, such as the Balaam narratives in Numbers 22-24 or the (it is argued by some, notably David Noel Freedman and his associates) archaic poetry of Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32. Use of ‘Yahweh’ for God appears to become increasingly common in Judah’s biblical corpus over time, unsurprisingly.

A Footnote to That Sermon on Worship Music

I didn’t really admit this when I prepared and presented that sermon on worship music a couple of months ago:

Worshipping in Song Prezi Sshot

…but I am actually pretty worried about where worship music is in my kind of evangelical Protestant churches such as I see here in Australia. The following video from the US speaks in jest, though not too biting in my view, but it puts its finger on the problem:

That is pretty well the way most worship songs sound to me – very often four-chord pop flavourless enough to avoid offending most musical tastes, in fact, really quite ‘accessible’ even on the first listen, and with words that in themselves are hard to fault. They’re correct enough in some ways as to make me wonder why I usually feel completely unmoved, in fact, disinterested. Is the problem with me? Does my heart not respond because I don’t belong with these people? Because I’m not an authentic Christian? The people around me mostly look carried away in a kind of ecstasy that I don’t feel at any time, and am certainly not feeling at the time. The first song begins, and it’s straight into a kind of euphoric state. How can a person get so high emotionally so instantly? I’m not being sarcastic or cynical. I’m mystified. Whatever train the ecstatic worshippers around me are on, I clearly didn’t catch, or else I fell off the back of it. What is wrong with me?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I hope we aren’t happy to have the show go on when the playwright has left the building. It could, I think. The band can still play even while the ship sinks. For those who relate to weather analogies (that will whittle the readership down!), is it like a cumulonimbus (a thundercloud) whose big, showy head floats on when the big, dark cloud base that generated it has long evaporated away?

Spent desert thunderstom, from

Spent desert thunderstorm, from

Is it all “sound and fury, signifying nothing”? Why does it all feel so empty to me?

It might be partly me, but it isn’t entirely me, I don’t think. On my recent first-time visit to Papua New Guinea with some of our college students, we spent several church services with students and families at Christian Leaders’ Training College in Banz in the highlands. And for the first time in a long time, I felt sure that the worship I was hearing was real. Similar instruments, somewhat different songs, but somehow there was something far more authentic there that I’ve been missing.

That X factor. And it sure can’t be found on X Factor, either.

A Quick Thought on Christian Evidences from the Gospel of John

If I could have one event proven beyond doubt historically, it would be the physical resurrection of Jesus.

So it struck me as funny that, as I read the end of John chapter 19 in the last couple of days, the writer (for me, as I understand it, John the apostle) seemed to want to prove at this point in the story, not simply that Jesus really lived again, though he does spend time in chapter 20 establishing that too, but also, maybe especially, that he in fact really died!

John 19:34-35 in the Greek looks like this (thanks to BibleWorks):

ἀλλ᾽ εἷς τῶν στρατιωτῶν λόγχῃ αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευρὰν ἔνυξεν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εὐθὺς αἷμα καὶ ὕδωρ. καὶ ὁ ἑωρακὼς μεμαρτύρηκεν, καὶ ἀληθινὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία, καὶ ἐκεῖνος οἶδεν ὅτι ἀληθῆ λέγει, ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς πιστεύ[σ]ητε.

And in the NET Bible it looks like this:

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately. And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe.

So the author gives his best assurance at this point that Jesus really died (hence the blood has begun to separate). The temptation for his audience was apparently not to disbelieve the resurrection so much as to disbelieve the death of Jesus. Was John the evangelist to the Gnostics, attracted to the transcendent, pre-existent Christ but reluctant to believe that he was really physical, fleshly and mortal. (I’m reminded of the scene in The Matrix where Agent Smith has captured Morpheus and expresses his revulsion for his, and his real world’s, smell and sweat, its tangible, ‘sensible’ physicality.)

I know this is a world of debate and discussion, including when we can say Gnostics really got going, and when the Gospel of John was written. I’m not a New Testament specialist and showing my ignorance.

But it’s interesting, is it not?

Some Quick Ideas from One of the Better Self-Help Books

“Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. The only relief they have is in escaping to the not important, not urgent activities…” (pp. 160-161)

This quote, though a classic example of a statement where the author doesn’t literally mean literally, unless actual assaults by fellow workers is the issue at hand, is actually still an example of what is worthwhile in this book:

Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (25th anniversary ed.; London: Simon & Schuster, 2004).

This is one of those books that I’m reading decades after everyone else, and self-help is not a genre I am normally drawn to. But my wife left this one lying around, and I thought I’d take a look, motivated by the nagging feeling that I need to work smarter, not harder.

Here are Covey’s seven main points in a nutshell, in case there’s an English language reader on the planet who doesn’t know yet:

  1. You have to be “proactive”. (I wonder if Covey is to be thanked for entrenching this word in the language?) I.e. don’t just let life steer you, but take the initiative a bit. Some things you can’t control, so be a bit self-determining in those areas you can control. Okay, that’s got something to it.
  2. Be sure of your main purpose(s). Don’t let sheer busyness blind you to the fact that you might be busy on a project you don’t really want to do or shouldn’t be doing. Are you barking up the right tree, before you expend all that energy barking? Yep, that matters too.
  3. Once you’re busy around the right tree, so to speak, don’t let the urgent stuff crowd out the important stuff. Be firm about investing effort in those long-term efforts that will pay off in producing something important (e.g. loving your children, your wife or husband, or doing that thing that will make you a more effective worker), though the urgent stuff threatens to crowd it out. Hence the opening quote, which I can identify with!
  4. Where there are competing interests at stake, look for new solutions where both parties can find something they’re after.
  5. Listen to what the other person is saying before trying to get your own opinion across. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Not rocket science, is it, but one of those things that would practically change the world if all of us did it. Covey points out how selfish we tend to be in conversation, and how rarely we really care about truly listening to the other person.
  6. “Synergize.” Well, I’m afraid that’s another of those words. The point is really to work with the different perspectives of others as a positive. But I think Weird Al has spoiled the word for me:
  7. “Sharpen the saw.” I.e. take the time and plan what’s necessary to restore oneself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Again, kinda obvious, but we do need to be told to actually do this. My experience is that we so often just ‘push through’, getting ever staler, ever slower, slowly less happy. More haste, less speed.

So how good is it? There is some wisdom here, and the fact that we already ‘know’ some of it doesn’t mean it is implemented very often. Sometimes we just need someone to shake us a bit so we actually do it. Many of these ideas don’t have a lot of impact until actually implemented. Something else is, it’s pretty clear Covey was (not being around for the 25th anniversary edition) a Christian, and he didn’t try to hide it to preserve his sales, though he tried to keep his appeal broader than the church alone. The caption of his final chapter is an explicitly Christian quote from Ezra Taft, and it isn’t just window dressing. Covey clearly meant it. So despite the extra padding in this edition, which could get its point across in about half the number of pages (330 + various appendices), in the end I thought it was a worthwhile read, and hopefully will make me think twice about my everyday choices and work habits.