Archive for January, 2012

A portrait of a damned soul

An old college friend died a couple of years ago.  I only found out a week or so ago, when I did something that I never do — I logged into Friends Reunited.  A menu highlighted that someone that I knew at college had a page, and it was him.

The page was written by him.  It discussed his life, and gave his thoughts about it.  And then someone had added a note at the bottom with news of his death.

The page made rather sad reading.  His career evidently never went anywhere, and then he gave it up and took a series of short-term jobs, unsuited to a man of his abilities.

This man was an Oxford graduate.  He was brighter than I am, and was in the year above me at college, doing the same subject.  We were, in some ways, very similar people, and I got on well with him. 

In imagination I can still see his window in the Rose Lane Annex.  It was often lit late at night.  I remember going up to see him, at some late hour, as students do, and finding him playing LP’s of Russian composers — he introduced me to Shostakovich — and drinking strange teas.  The one I remember looked more like logwood chippings than tea!  We would discuss politics, in which we were both active, although he was slightly more right-wing than myself.

He had grown up among Christians.  He owned a number of Graham Kendrick LP’s, which I took care to copy.  His parents were simple folk, delighted to have so intelligent a son. 

But he had rejected Christ at some point before I knew him.  I remember him complaining about the Christian Union at college — made up of the brightest that England could produce, remember — that it was not intellectual enough.  He said that he had been along to a bible study, and that he and another would discuss the Greek of the passage, while everyone else looked blank.

But I also remember learning something else about him.  There was a debate in the Union, and I spoke, somewhat ineptly, against the newly fashionable promotion of unnatural vice.  To my surprise he got up — we were sitting together — and spoke for it.  Later he told me that he had become a homosexual.  I didn’t throw him out — indeed I couldn’t really believe it, and tended to treat the profession as one of his eccentricities — but it was odd.  In time he went down from college, as we all did, and I saw him no more.  I kept in contact for a couple of years, but then lost contact with him, and with others of my time at college.

The page makes clear that he never married.  It contains what is perhaps the saddest phrase I ever saw:

I have no children (that I know of).

What self-inflicted emptiness lies behind those words!  I fear that, before I knew him, he came up to college and Satan drew him into sin, to reject Christ, and then on into unnatural vice, thereby cutting him off from everyone.  I remember him saying that he could no longer relate to his parents, in times of trouble.

Now he is dead.  He died at 48 (I think), alone.  What sort of life did he have?  Not much, from the look of it.  Yet he was a marvellous creation of God’s, a “character” in the best sort of way, one that Dickens would have delighted to draw.

He was a decent chap, I always felt, and yet, on the face of it, he lived a miserable life and died without God.  Who can doubt his damnation?  His life was empty.  He neither made himself happy, nor did what God asked.  Poor soul! 

Let us hope that I am wrong, and that, before he died, he repented and turned back to God. 

It is a sobering warning to us all, to take heed of ourselves.  This is not a rehearsal.  This is not play-acting.  This life … this is it.  Either turn to God, or lose even what we think we choose instead.

CIL to be digitised at last?

Via Ancient World Online I learn of an initiative here to scan in the out-of-copyright volumes of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.  This is very welcome news, so long as we get PDF’s out of the end of it.

It probably takes an initiative to do this.  The CIL is really important, in that it contains all the Latin inscriptions.  It also contains documentary texts. 

But the volumes are huge, rare, and impossible to get access to.  So no ordinary chap is ever going to be able to slap  them on a photocopier and do the necessary.  Indeed merely photocopying a page can be a challenge.

Let’s hope the volumes will be available in PDF.  The site seems to make access to this complex, if it is possible; but that is what we want, first and foremost.

From my diary

I went to Cambridge today to take a look at Roger Cowley, Ethiopian biblical interpretation, Cambridge 1989.  There is supposed to be a reference to a possible Ethiopic version of some of the Eusebius, Gospel Problems and Solutions material.  Unfortunately I was quite unable to find it.  I’ll have to order up the book by ILL and look then.

Another update has come through on the Origen book.  With luck the main bulk of the work will be done by Friday, I am advised.  That will be very good news.

The modern way of death is cruel

They are an embarassment, the dead, in our modern society.  Our masters prefer that the remains of the unimportant should vanish, it seems.  Only the rich and powerful get graves today.

When the girl we loved dies, there is a funeral still.  But the graves of yester-year are no more, at least for us.  Instead the body is burned, like so much waste, to be disposed of as expeditiously as possible.

In some cases ashes are delivered to the relatives, and their fate is unknown to anyone else.  In others the ashes are supposed to be scattered at the crematorium; although a quick calculation of the number of dead against the size of the area in question reveals that most must be simply thrown in the council landfill. 

In either case, the beloved simply vanishes.  There will, most likely, be no plaque, no grave, nothing.

What happens, then, to those to only learn of the death in after years?  They come to grieve, and find nowhere to grieve.  They cannot lay flowers on the grave, for there is not one. 

They can, it is true, leave flowers at the crematorium where the funeral took place.  Although I find notices like this: “In order to keep the wall of flowers fresh, flowers will be removed every Monday”.  But the remains are not there; and so the mourner wonders where he should grieve, where the wreath should be sent, where the card can be placed.

Little by little the traditional way of handling a death, and of mourning them, has been adapted to the production line efficiency where the departed loved ones are simply a commodity.

In Iceland they still have proper cemetaries.  Not here, it seems.

It is a cruel, cruel business, this modern way of death.

Sunday and Eusebius — a supposed quotation?

By accident today I came across a supposed quotation of Eusebius, used in a negative way.

Eusebius, in AD 324, wrote, “We have transferred the duties of the Sabbath to Sunday.” Who are the “we”? Certainly not the apostles. They could not do so after the testament was ratified by the death of the Testator on the cross. When Eusebius says, “We have transferred the duties of the Sabbath to Sunday,” it reminds us again of what Paul foretold about those who, after his death, would speak “perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:30.) This last quotation from these early Fathers is dated AD 324. [1]

I always want to see a reference when I hear something like this.  Walker doesn’t provide one, and a search for the phrase brings up only copies of his book.  I’m not sure what group he wrote for, in truth.

The most accessible work by Eusebius has always been the Church History, so it’s probably in there.  But a search through the ANF version, online, in all 10 books for “sabbath”, brings up no such words.

  1. [1] Allen Walker, The law and the sabbath (1953), p.98-9.  Google books preview of reprint here.

The Australian on “Scholarly licence to print money”

A correspondent draws my attention to an article in the Australian on the academic publishing business by Colin Steele (Jan. 25, 2012).  It’s sitting behind a paywall, but if you search in Google for “scholarly licence to print money” you can click through to it.

WHO pays the piper in scholarly publishing is a very hot global topic.

If scholarly publishing were to be established de novo in the digital era, the economics would surely be very different from the current model and taxpayers would get a better deal from their funding of university research.

Scholarly publishing, especially for the six or seven huge multi-national journal publishers, is one of the most lucrative global businesses. …

Steele then backs this up by some solid statistics.  The article continues:

The big publishers clearly manage the current peer review system and provide efficient electronic platforms for access but as the UK Office of Fair Trading reported in 2002, “the overall profitability of commercial STM publishing is high . . . by comparison to other commercial journal publishing”.  …

The academic community, supported through the salaries and infrastructure of the institutions, gives away its scholarly content to commercial publishers.

Peer reviewing of millions of articles is then undertaken, almost totally without charge, by that same academic community.

The publishers then impose restrictive copyright regulations on the scholarly content, which they then sell back at ever increasing profit margins to universities which originally created the material. Logical?

Not really.

I wish I could quote the whole article.  It’s very well thought out, and calls for Australian institutions to take back control of the research that they do, that they manage, and which the taxpayer pays for.  It concludes with the following:

Ultimately, the prime issue is surely to disseminate university knowledge, which has been funded by taxpayers, as effectively and openly as possible, rather than for that knowledge simply to continue to be a source for large publisher profits and for manipulable metrics for research assessment exercises.

And who, outside of the academic publishing industry, could disagree with that?

If you can read it, do so.

Ps.Chrysostom on the Ascension

I’ve been sent a translation by KP of Ps.Chrysostom In Ascensionem 5 (PG 52:801-802), with notes and permission to put it online.  I do so gladly!

IN ASCENSIONEM
Sermo 5
ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΑΛΗΨΙΝ
Λόγος εʹ.
ON THE ASCENSION
Homily 5
Adest dominicæ Assumptionis dies : ac licet multi jam concionem habuerint, nostram tamen tenuitatem ad concionandum pater cohortatur. Verum nobis e re videbatur esse infacundiæ nostræ velum silentii obtendere, et ignorantiæ magnitudinem occultare : quia vero una cum patre et cum supernis facultatibus vos auditores nos cohortamini, et jubetis ea persequi quæ olim David de Assumptione dominica exclamavit: Attollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevamini, portæ æternales, et introibit Rex gloriæ; age et nos ea quæ ad hanc diem pertinent, cum modulis celebremus.  Ἐπέστη τῆς Δεσποτικῆς ἀναλήψεως ἡ ἡμέρα· καὶ προσοδοιπορησάντων πολλῶν ὃν καὶ τὴν ἡμετέραν βραχύτητα πρὸς λόγους ὁ πατὴρ προετρέψατο. Καὶ δίκαιον ἡμῖν κατεφαίνετο, κάλυμμα τῆς βραχυλογίας τὴν σιωπὴν ἐπιφέρεσθαι, καὶ κρύπτειν τῆς ἀπαιδευσίας τὸ μέγεθος· ἐπειδὴ δὲ μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἄνω δυνάμεων πρὸς λόγους τὸ πλῆθος προτρέπετε, καὶ λαλεῖν μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐγκελεύετε ἅπερ πάλαι καὶ Δαυῒδ περὶ τῆς ἀναλήψεως τῆς Δεσποτικῆς ἀνεβόησεν· Ἄρατε πύλας, οἱ ἄρχοντες, ὑμῶν, καὶ ἐπάρθητε, πύλαι αἰώνιοι, καὶ εἰσελεύσεται ὁ Βασιλεὺς τῆς δόξης· δεῦρο, σήμερον τὰ πρόσφορα τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ ἡμεῖς κελαδήσωμεν. The day of the Master’s ascension is upon us. Many have travelled here, and the Father has encouraged even him, who is ill-equipped to preach. Indeed, we were thinking it would be right to cover our ineloquence with a veil of silence, and hide the magnitude of our ignorance. But because you, along with the Father and the powers above, have been urging us to address you who have assembled here in such numbers, and with them, you request that we speak about that which David long ago exclaimed concerning the ascension of the Master—“Lift up your gates, O princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in”—Come then, let us also celebrate the things pertaining to this day.
Hodie namque Dominus noster Christus ad paternum solium ascendit; hodie qui incarnatus est, cum Patre sedet, neque prius separatus ab illo, neque nunc primum cum illo sedere incipiens: semper enim in sinu Patris requiescit : solus Patrem comprehendens, et solus a Patre comprehensus : nam Ego, inquit,  in Patre, et Pater in me est : Verbum erat in Patre, et Verbum erat in terra. Neque descendens sinum paternum vacuum reliquit : neque in cælum ascendens, præsentia sua vacuam terram reliquit; sed et cum hominibus vesans, cum Patre sedebat, et cum Patre sedens ab hominibus non separabatur. Ecce enim, inquit, ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummation em sæculi. Hodi Dominus Christus ex hominibus in cælos assumitur ; non quemadmodum Enoch translatus, neque sicut Elias curru igneo in cælum vecius; sed assumitur, ut discipulis Spiritus sancti veirtutem mittat. Σήμερον γὰρ ὁ Δεσπότης ἡμῶν Χριστὸς πρὸς τὸν πατρῷον θρόνον ἀνέρχεται· σήμερον ὁ σωματωθεὶς τῷ Πατρὶ συγκαθέζεται, οὔτε πρότερον χωρισθεὶς, οὔτε νῦν ἐν πρώτοις αὐτῷ συγκαθήμενος· ἀεὶ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς κόλποις τοῦ Πατρὸς ἀναπαύεται· μόνος τὸν Πατέρα χωρῶν, καὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς μόνος χωρούμενος· Ἐγὼ γὰρ, φησὶν, ἐν τῷ Πατρὶ, καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί· καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἐν τῷ Πατρὶ, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἐν τῇ γῇ. Οὔτε δὲ κατελθὼν ὡς οὐδὲν τὸν πατρῷον κόλπον ἐκένωσεν· οὔτε εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἀνελθὼν, ἔρημον τὴν γῆν τῆς αὑτοῦ παρουσίας κατέλειπεν· ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις συναναστρεφόμενος, τῷ Πατρὶ συνεκάθητο, καὶ τῷ Πατρὶ συγκαθήμενος, ὑπάρχει τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀχώριστος. Ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἐγὼ, φησὶ, μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. Σήμερον ὁ Δεσπότης Χριστὸς ἐκ τῶν ἀνθρώπων εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἀναφέρεται, οὐ κατὰ τὸν Ἐνὼχ μεθιστάμενος, οὐ κατὰ τὸν Ἠλίαν ἅρματι πυρὸς πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἀνερχόμενος· ἀλλ’ ἀναλαμβάνεται, ἵνα πέμψῃ τοῖς μαθηταῖς τὴν τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος δύναμιν. For today our Master Christ goes up to his father’s throne; today, he who was incarnated sits down with the Father; not that he was first separated from him, nor that he now sits with him for the first time, for he has always rested in the bosom of the Father, alone containing the Father, and alone contained by the Father. For “I”, he said, “am in the Father, and the Father in me”; and the Word is in the Father and the Word is on the earth. Not descending and leaving the Father’s bosom empty, nor ascending into heaven and leaving the earth empty of his presence; but both living together with men, and sitting together with the Father; and both sitting together with the Father, and not separated from men. For “be sure of this”, he says, “I am with you always, to the very the end of the age.” Today the Μaster Christ is taking himself away from men and into heaven; not being taken like Enoch, nor going up towards heaven in a fiery chariot like Elijah, but ascending <by his own power>, so that he may send the power of the Holy Spirit to his disciples.

Hujus Assumptionis gaudium cum David multis ante annis prospiceret, hæc præfatus est: Ascendit Deus in jubilo : qui Adamum ex puivere efformavit, qui Abelem justificavit, qui Enochum transtulit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui Noe gubernavit, qui fidelem Abraham elegit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui Isaac non immolatam hostiam accepit, qui Jacobum bendictionibus replevit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui Jesephum errantem duxit, qui Jobi patientiam accepit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui gloria Moysem affecit, qui Aaroni summum sacerdotium dedit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui Jesum Nave robravit, qui Samueli prophetiæ donum largitus est.  Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui Davidem fortituden, Salomonem sapientia donavit. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui prophetas inspiravit, et apostolis curationum donam largitus est. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui in cælis sine matre, in terra sine patre est. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, Patris ante sæcula proles matris germen non satum. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, vitæ largitor et mirabilium dispensator. Ascendit Deus in jubilo, qui mortem morte necavit, et genri hominum vitam largitus est. Ascendit Deus in jubilo : Dominus in voce tubæ.

Ipsi gloria in sæcula sæculorum. Amen

Ταύτης τῆς ἀναλήψεως τὴν χαρὰν πρὸ πολλῶν γενεῶν Δαυῒδ θεασάμενος, προανεφώνησε λέγων· Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Ἀδὰμ διαπλάσας ἐκ κόνεως, ὁ τὸν Ἄβελ δικαιώσας, καὶ τὸν Ἐνὼχ μεταθέμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Νῶε κυβερνήσας, καὶ πιστὸν τὸν Ἀβραὰμ ἐκλεξάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Ἰσαὰκ ἄθυτον θυσίαν δεξάμενος, καὶ τὸν Ἰακὼβ πληρώσας εὐλογιῶν. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Ἰωσὴφ ὁδηγήσας πλανώμενον, καὶ τὴν ὑπομονὴν τοῦ Ἰὼβ προσδεξάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ δοξάσας τὸν Μωϋσῆν, καὶ τὴν ἀρχιερωσύνην τῷ Ἀαρῶνι χαρισάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναυῆ ἐνισχύσας, καὶ τὸν προφήτην τῷ Σαμουὴλ δωρησάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τὸν Δαυῒδ δυναμώσας, καὶ τὸν Σολομῶντα σοφίσας. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τοὺς προφήτας ἐμπνεύσας, καὶ τοῖς ἀποστόλοις τὰς τῶν ἰαμάτων δωρεὰς χαρισάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ ἄνω ἀμήτωρ, καὶ κάτω ἀπάτωρ. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, τὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς προαιώνιον γέννημα, καὶ τῆς Παρθένου μητρὸς τὸ ἀφύτευτον βλάστημα. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τῆς ζωῆς χορηγὸς, καὶ τῶν παραδόξων διανομεύς. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, ὁ τῷ θανάτῳ θανατώσας τὸν θάνατον, καὶ τῷ γένει τῶν ἀνθρώπων ζωὴν χαρισάμενος. Ἀνέβη ὁ Θεὸς ἐν ἀλαλαγμῷ, Κύριος ἐν φωνῇ σάλπιγγος.

Αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

Having seen this joyous ascension many generations ago, David prophesied, saying: God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who fashioned Adam from dust, who justified Abel, and took Enoch. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who steered Noah, and elected Abraham faithful. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who accepted the sacrificeless sacrifice of Isaac, and blessed Jacob abundantly. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who lead Joseph to wander, and expected Job’s patient endurance. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who glorified Moses, and bestowed the high priesthood on Aaron. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who strengthened Jesus the son of Nun, and gave the gift of prophecy to Samuel. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who fortified David, and gave wisdom to Solomon. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who inspired the prophets, and gave gifts of healing to the apostles. God has gone up with a joyous shout, he who is without mother above, and without father below. God has gone up with a joyous shout, the eternal offspring of the Father, and the unfathered descendant of the Virgin mother. God has gone up with a joyous shout, the giver of life, and the distributor of wonders. God has gone up with a joyous shout; he who by dying put death to death, and freely gave life to mankind. “God has gone up with a joyous shout; the Lord, with the sound of a trumpet!”

To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Background Notes

The only extant homily on the ascension which is genuinely from John Chrysostom is In ascensionem domini nostri Jesu Christi [1].

About a dozen other homilies on the ascension have been preserved under his name. One of these, Sermo in Sanctam Assumptionem Servatoris Nostri,[2] has also been assigned to Eusebius of Alexandria.[3] Two others published by F.C. Baur are believed to be Nestorian.[4] Baur thinks one is from the hand of Nestorius himself. In amongst the remainder is a series of five anonymous short homilies on the ascension.[5]  The fifth homily, titled In Ascensionem 5 for convenience, is the shortest of that series.

Date, author, provenance

Unknown. The setting is obviously liturgical: the homily was written for, or delivered on ἡμέρα ἀνάληψις the day of the analepsis or taking up, that is, Ascension Day. As the Ascension Day feast was first mentioned in extant literature around the end of the fourth century (see Appendix), the sermon is unlikely to be earlier than than very late fourth century. Given the ‘Byzantine’ outlook it conveys (heavenly beings particpating in liturgy, use of ‘today’), it is likely to be much later.  The homily of course, may have been copied or compiled from another source, perhaps more than one, with the author adding their own remarks.

Manuscripts

I haven’t investigated.

Text and translations.

Given by both Savile and Montfaucon in their editions of Chrysostom’s works. Savile of course, did not provide any translations. Montfaucon provided a Latin translation for this particular sermon in Gaume’s edition. Migne prints Montfaucon’s Greek text and gives a Latin translation. [6] The sermon’s editor in Migne calls it “inepti Graeculi opus.”

Modern translations

Not investigated thoroughly but none found to date—it doesn’t seem to be in Bareille’s French edition of Chrysostom?

Studies

The fourth homily in this series gets an occasional mention. Davies mentions this fifth homily briefly in his 1958 Bampton Lectures but otherwise, this series and especially this homily are ignored because they provide “nothing new”.  A Byzantine would be proud to hear that.

[1] PG 50:441-52.
[2] PG 64:45-48
[3] PG 86:422
[4] F.C. Baur, Traditio IX, 1953:101–126. Cf. also H.F. Stander Acta Patristica et Byzantina 6, 1995:130-46; and 7, 1996: 105-116
[5] PG 52:791-802
[6] PG 52:801-802

Getting the CIMRM in digital form – sadly not

Today I’ve obtained copies of some of the pages from Maarten Vermaseren’s great compilation of Mithraic inscriptions and reliefs, the Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae or CIMRM. 

This work is frankly very useful indeed.  There are two volumes, and neither is at all easy to access, or available in print.  I do wish that it was possible to get hold of PDF’s of it.

The history of how the CIMRM was created would be useful to know.  For the preface indicates that a third volume was originally projected as well:

The first two parts of this Corpus have laid a basis for the scientific conclusions to be drawn from the material. The texts will be included in the third volume. This will show Mithras and the world that surrounded him during the different periods of his cnlt, in all its abundant varieties. In the accomplishment of that arduous task I hope I may encounter the same spirit of helpful collaboration that I have found everywhere so far.[1]

Vermaseren himself did not write the work in English, but in Dutch.  The translation of the material into English for publication was undertaken by A. M. H. Lemmers, apparently on commission.  Let us hope that the work was done better than the translation (by others) in Mithras: the secret god.

What this means, however, is that a manuscript in Dutch must exist.  And furthermore, that a manuscript of the third volume may also exist.

I wonder where Vermaseren’s papers are?

  1. [1] Vol.2, p.vi.

Barney Coombs, “Dealing with what life throws at you”

Before I went away, I was reading Barney Coombs, Dealing with what life throws at you, (2004).

Coombs is someone unknown to me.  But apparently he was one of the “fabulous fourteen” of charismatic leaders in the UK during the 70′s.  He aligned himself with the stricter group led by Bryn Jones from Bradford, classified as “Restoration 1″[1], whose vehicle was the Dalesweek bible week (on which I myself was converted in 1979, as it happens).  Derby Community Church is aligned with Coombs, and I was led to look at a sample volume of his work to get an idea of what sort of thing he teaches.

The book is very sound.  Clearly Coombs has a great deal of pastoral experience, and it shows.  Unfortunately I finished this book just before going to Iceland, so the impression has faded rather.  But I noted various interesting points as I read.

He highlights that “failure” can be anything but.

Firstly, we can never afford the luxury of self-pity. …

Secondly, never give up hope.  Even if it seems that you fail at almost everything you attempt to do, you could yet leave your mark on history.  …

Thirdly, determine to be convinced that through all the failures of the past, you have been acquiring invaluable wisdom.  Those failures can be stepping stones to success.[2]

There are sections on bereavement and rejection, full of good sound practical advice for the Christian.  I wasn’t reading it in order to seek help, but I can see that it would help.

The centre of the book is chapter 7.  Unfortunately Coombs has allowed himself to use some strange terminology here — “scandalized” –, which means that anyone reading the chapter must mentally retranslate the terms whenever he encounters it.  His point in this chapter is that we can become prisoners of what has happened to us. 

The book, in other words, is a good, God-centred piece of work.  It is not primarily aimed at people like me, nor, I suspect, most Christian readers of this blog, but then neither was the New Testament.

All books coming out of that movement tend to feel “harsh” to me.  There is an abrasiveness at points in what is said, as if the object is to make people feel uncomfortable in order to get them to submit to the discomfort.  But it is possible that this is merely how working-class Christianity actually is, and has to be in order to be heard by people who are not particularly educated nor particularly sensitive.

If this is the standard of work in those churches, they are to be commended.

  1. [1] By Andrew Walker in his analysis, Restoring the Kingdom.
  2. [2] p.22-23.

Grandsons of man born in 1790 are still alive today

An interesting article in the Daily Mail today.

John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States, was born in 1790. He grew up on a Virginia plantation, became a lawyer, and went on to the White House after the death of his predecessor, William Henry Harrison in 1841. …

But it has been revealed that two of the president’s grandsons are still alive – and were born nearly 140 years after their grandfather was.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. was born in 1924 to Lyon Gardiner Tyler, the son of the late president.

His brother Harrison Ruffin was born four years later, according to records kept by the Sherwood Forest Plantation Foundation, the home of President Tyler.

This extraordinary feat was possible in part because their father had Lyon and Harrison whilst in his 70s.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Sr., after all, was born while the nation fought the Civil War.

His two surviving sons were with his second wife, Sue Ruffin, who was born in 1889.

29 March 1790: John Tyler [=the father] born in Greenway, Virginia
1811-1839: Served as United States representative, state governor and senator 
1841: Became president, known as ‘His Accidency’ after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison
1853: Lyon Gardiner Tyler [=the son] born; becomes historian
18 January 1862: John Tyler dies, aged 71
1923: Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Sr., marries second wife Sue Ruffin, two years after first wife dies
1925: Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. [=grandson] born
1928: Harrison Ruffin Tyler [=grandson] born
12 February 1935: Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr. dies, aged 81

Which I think we can all agree is a very interesting set of statistics.

Transposing that to ancient terms, it’s as if someone born in AD 90 had surviving grandchildren in 312 AD.  And, in view of the availability of slave women to old men of fortune, it perhaps happened rather more often in those days than today.

Averages and probabilities are useless things in history.  All  that really matters is evidence.  What is not evidenced should never be stated as a certainty. 



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