Archive for October, 2012

The difference between an LP and a CD

Today I bought an LP.  Yes, that’s right: a vinyl long-playing record.

I saw it in the window of Oxfam in Ipswich, as the rain pattered on the glass and a cold wind blew through the streets under a grey sky.  It was a second-hand copy of Christian artist Steve Taylor’s third album, I predict 1990.  It appeared in 1987, through Myrrh records.

I never owned a copy of this album.  I bought his first album-ette, I want to be a clone, and liked it.  His second album, On the Fritz, I also purchased.  But the third album got him into trouble with some elements of the Christian music industry in the US and his career came to an abrupt halt.  The three albums can be obtained in MP3 form, although not in CD these days.

The LP was in good condition.  It must have been purchased by someone of my generation.  Oxfam stock tends to come from house-clearances, after funerals, so I infer that one of my contemporaries has gone to meet the Lord, leaving me his LP.

Buying it was rather a ritual.  The sleeve was in the window, but the LP itself was behind the counter.  I was invited to inspect the disk, to see if it was scratched.  Then the record was placed back in the sleeve, and the whole in a specially square plastic bag.  It was bulky, and awkward to carry, and I had to carry it upside down as I went out into the rain.  I knew that I had bought something tangible with my money.  It cost me a shade under five pounds, which is probably a little less than the original cover price, but not much.

Arriving home, I found a package on the doormat with a CD that I had ordered.  I placed the CD on the pile of music next to my CD player.  But I took the LP out, and placed it on my record deck — I still have an old-fashioned HiFi separates system, although it now has a CD player and some of the elements are not those from 1980 — and started it playing while I prepared lunch.  The 80′s sound came out of the speakers.  Somehow … it was worth listening to, all the way through, just as I used to do in the old days when buying music.  The sleeve and inserts rested on top of a pile of books nearby, conspicuous as I did this and that.

We’re all human beings.  We do tend to judge something that is small as being of limited value.  A CD doesn’t seem nearly as important as something several times larger.  The cover art on a CD is always squeezed into this tiny little square.  The notes are inserted in a little booklet, hardly large enough to read.  A CD is … just a disposable consumer item.  Has anyone ever felt about a CD as I felt, buying an LP today?  That I was doing something which was important?  I doubt it, somehow.

As for MP3′s… these were originally free.  The record industry has found a way to charge us for them, but somehow they don’t seem worth even the eighty pence or whatever the charge currently is.  A song in MP3 format is nothing, seems like nothing, feels like nothing.  Gigabytes of them are passed around by students on keydrives, I’m sure.

This is not nostalgia.  It’s about human perceptions of worth.  There is a reason why it matters whether the church steeple is the tallest building in the town.

Vintage worship tapes and other memories

Yesterday I encountered vintageworshiptapes.com, a site which is:

A project to preserve classic worship music from the golden era of Harvestime worship music.

Awake, O Zion!

I should explain that in the late 70′s and early 80′s, there were a series of annual bible weeks held at showgrounds in the United Kingdom as part of the Restoration movement.  Dales Week, which I twice went to, was in Harrogate.  There was also Downs Week in the south of England.  I think the New Frontiers week in Stafford is more or less the successor of these, although I could be wrong.

The worship was recorded, and cassette tapes could be purchased.  I’m not sure if I ever actually bought any of the tapes, but I did buy the Songs of Victory songbook, which I still have somewhere.

The tapes themselves were played endlessly by people that I knew who were involved in the movement.  I can hear some of those songs as I write, for they are embedded deep in my mind.

These tapes should be preserved.  They are part of the musical history of the charismatic movement in the United Kingdom.  Yet they never existed other than on cassette tape, and I imagine most of the copies have deteriorated by now.

The site owner has digitised what he has into MP3 format.  The results are pretty clean and clear, but somehow less impressive than in my memory.

What is needed, of course, is a remaster based on the master tapes.  But the Harvestime organisation has long since disbanded.  I wonder where the master tapes are?  I wonder who even knows about these things any more?

The site owner has been deterred from distributing the files because he is quite unable to determine who, if anyone, he needs to ask for permission to do so.  At the time the idea of copyright in recordings of Christian worship was ridiculous — that much I remember myself — and the idea of licensing the use of new songs only appeared during the 80′s, as a response to the difficulties that congregations had in precisely this problem.

Yet these things should be online.  There’s no money in this.  But there are people out there who would like to hear these memories of their youth again.

Incipits and explicits in extant papyri?

How would I discover if, among our collections of ancient papyri, we have the beginning or ends of some rolls?  It’s an interesting question, but my knowledge of instrumenta is too limited for me
to find them.  Has anyone any ideas?

For instance, surely some of the charred Herculaneum rolls preserve their colophons?

From my diary

I’ve continued working on the PHP scripts for the new Mithras site.  It’s slow, because I don’t do much development work in PHP.  The reason for doing this is so that I can work on the site from anywhere, work or home; and so that it will support things such as footnotes, not found in standard HTML.

I was struck today by the conviction that HTML is travelling in the wrong direction.  I remember the first HTML.  It was simple, and anyone could master it.  Today I learned that all of the attributes on the horizontal rule element, the plain old <hr> tag, are to be unsupported by HTML 5.  If you wanted a single line, all you had to do was <hr size=1>.  Now, to achieve the same effect … well, I did a google search, and had to experiment to find a CSS syntax that would work.

There is a disease that affects software products.  It happens when the developers forget that 99% of the time, the user is doing a few simple things; and start concentrating on the 1%.  In this case the HTML developers are so busy trying to separate presentation from content — a mantra of much software development, and not a bad thing — that they have forgotten that the first, most important thing is that creating a web page should be SIMPLE!!!  Idiots.

I’m still under the weather, but I also opened Daryn Lehoux’s book on ancient weather and calendars, and made a start.  I was deeply impressed by the opening pages, which gave a remarkably clear reason why such calendars were necessary, and nicely anchored it in farming in modern society.  Someone give this man a professorship: he has managed to produce a seminal piece of work on a very difficult, highly technical subject, and has done it in such a way that any reasonably educated man may get up to speed.  Marvellous!

List of inscriptions and literary works of Constantine

A very useful list of these is here at Fourth Century.  Very useful indeed!

I’ve noted an omission from their page on Eusebius of Caesarea, tho: they do not list the translation of Eusebius Quaestiones that David Miller &c made and I published.  Unfortunately there seems to be no way to contact them!

From my diary

A little more struggling with the PHP scripts for the new Mithras site, and they seem to actually work on the website now, in the version in my development area.  I haven’t written any content yet, tho: no point until saving works properly!

I’ve got a dose of gastric flu, however, so that is slowing me down perceptibly.  I think that I shall just go and sleep this afternoon.  Which is what I did yesterday.

Something I saw in a magazine today:

Time is the only true currency.

Which is horribly true.  I’m about to sign up for a job for six months during which time I will be too tired to do much else.  It’s getting worse too.  Employers increasingly demand that I work 8 hours a day when they used to demand 7.5, without — of course — offering more money.  Many demand “unpaid overtime”, which seems to me no different from stealing.    Not that I can work at my profession for 8 hours straight … I’m pretty much done after about 6.

I suppose this is why people “downshift”.  They’re just trying to get back their lives.  But how many of us can afford to?

Mind you, I’m better off than many.  At least I can take a couple of months off, if I want to.  Most people cannot.

Perhaps I should think about taking a gap year.

Did Origen say “The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written”?

I came across a post online which made some curious claims about Origen, repeated from here.  In particular:

The Scriptures,” Origen maintained, “are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.”

But did Origen say this? At the Logos forums the same question is asked, but with little result.

A Google Books search quickly reveals a likely US source for the quotation: Charles Anthon, A Classical Dictionary: Containing the Principle Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors (1841: this reprint 1888), vol. 2, p.936:

For, whether from a defect in judgement or from a fault in his education, he applied to the Scriptures the allegorical method which the Platonists used in interpreting the heathen mythology.  He says himself, “that the source of many evils lies in adhering to the carnal or external part of Scripture.  Those who do so shall not attain the kingdom of God.  Let us therefore seek after the spirit and the substantial fruit of the word, which are hidden and mysterious.”  And again, “the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.”

This gives us a little more to work with: and a search on “origen carnal external” quickly takes us to Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History[1], 1824, vol. 1, p.218, note h, which states:

h Origen in his Stromata, book x. expresses himself in the following manner: “the source of many evils lies in adhering to the carnal or external part of Scripture. Those who do so shall not attain to the kingdom of God. Let us therefore seek after the spirit and the substantial fruit of the word which are hidden and mysterious.” And again “the Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.” One would think it impossible that such expressions should drop from the pen of a wise man. But the philosophy which this great man embraced with such zeal was one of the sources of his delusion. He could not find in the Bible the opinions he had adopted as long as he interpreted that sacred book according to its literal sense. But Plato, Aristotle, Zeno and indeed the whole philosophical tribe could not fail to obtain for their sentiments a place in the gospel when it was interpreted by the wanton inventions of fancy and upon the supposition of a hidden sense to which it was possible to give all sorts of forms. Hence all who desired to model Christianity according to their fancy or their favourite system of philosophy embraced Origen’s method of interpretation.

Anthon, it seems, simply quoted Mosheim, here translated from the Latin[2] and doubtless paraphrased along the way, but omitted the reference.   A more accurate translation was made by James Murdock (1832)[3], and in vol.1, p.181, we find the following:

(8) Origen in his Stromata l.x, cited by Ch. de la Rue, Opp. tom i., p. 41, says, Multorum malorum occasio est, si quis in carne Scripturae maneat. Quae qui fecerint, regnum Dei non consequentur. Quamobrem spiritum Scripturae fructusque quaeramus qui non dicuntur manifesti. He had said a little before, Non valde eos juvat Scriptura, qui eam intelligunt ut scriptum est. Who would suppose such declarations could fall from the lips of a wise and considerate person? But this excellent man suffered himself to be misled by the causes mentioned and by his love of philosophy. He could not discover in the sacred books all that he considered true so long as he adhered to the literal sense; but allow him to abandon the literal sense, and to search for recondite meanings, and those books would contain Plato, Aristotle, Zeno and the whole tribe of philosophers. And thus nearly all those who would model Christianity according to their own fancy or their favourite system of philosophy have run into this mode of interpreting Scripture.

The Latin does indeed more or less mean what is given by Maclaine.

The Stromata of Origen is, of course, a lost work.  But here we get a proper reference, to the edition of Charles de la Rue, no less, which is what the Patrologia Graeca reprints.  So we can now use Migne to examine the text!

It’s PG 11 (Origen vol. 1), col. 99 f.  The first quotation from book 10 of the Stromata is on col. 106 C-D, and comes from a Latin source, Jerome’s 3 books of Commentary on Galatians, chapter 5, discussing Gal. 5:13.  The second is from the same source, col. 105 D, and reads somewhat differently to the quotation:

Sed neque in his consequentiam desperare debemus: quia opera carnis divinorum voluminum historia continent; non valde eos juvans qui sic eam intellegunt, ut scripta est.

I can’t quite make out from the Latin what the context is, except that the next sentence refers to multiple marriages by the patriarchs and the like.  Andrew Cain made a translation of this work for the Fathers of the Church series, and I can see on Google Books a preview of p.218 with the first quotation:

Clinging to the flesh [that is, the literal meaning] of Scripture opens up the door for many evils.  “Those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  So, then, let us seek the spirit of Scripture and the fruits that are not readily apparent to the eye.

Unfortunately I can’t view p.216 or 217 which must contain our quotation.  Can anyone else have any more luck?  It is infuriating not to have access, I must say!

UPDATE: A kind correspondent has sent me copies of those pages.  Here is what Jerome says:

5. 13a. Brothers, you were called to be free. Just do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (The word “use” is implied; the latin translator supplied it because it is not found in the Greek).

Given the obscurity of this verse, I have thought it best to insert a translated portion from the tenth book of Origen’s Miscellanies. I have done this not because individual parts [of this verse] cannot be explained according to their proper context and sense, but because, if they are isolated from the preceding passage, they comprise a single, indiscernible mass, and, if they are understood literally, they seem internally dissonant and logically inconsistent.

These are Origen’s words:

This is a difficult passage and so it requires elucidation. The one who is free and who, in a more elevated sense, pursues the Spirit and truth disdains both the letter and the types which precede [the realities they foreshadow]. He must not look down on lesser [Christians] and give those who cannot grasp spiritual profundities an occasion for despairing completely about their plight. For although they are weak, and although they are called flesh in comparison with the Spirit, they are nevertheless the flesh of Christ. For if he apprehends the mystery of the love which senses the lesser one, let him do what he can for the weak to make sure that a brother for whom Christ died may not perish  in deficiency of knowledge . Watch closely to see whether this is the sense that emerges from the discussion below.

 “Brothers, you were called to be free.” Perhaps he says this because not everyone could understand the calling to freedom. This is why you now hear, “Just do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” The greater must serve the lesser out of love, and he who aspires to be greater will become the servant of all. Therefore, the spiritual man must not tear to pieces [believers who are] Christ’s flesh, nor must he give them an opportunity to bite and devour one another. The one who walks by the Spirit and abides by the words of Scripture in the spirit of Scripture must not gratify the desires of his flesh.

Most take literally the injunction, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” If we do the same, Paul will do a sudden turn-about and contradict the argument and the point of his entire epistle. He continues right after this, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” The discourse has to some extent been internally consistent up to this point. If we again subscribe to the literal meaning, Paul leads us at once from a discussion about flesh and Spirit to random precepts, that is, “The deeds of the flesh are obvious,” and by contrast, “The fruit of the Spirit is love,” and so on. But we must not be dismayed by the implication of these statements.  The divine books record deeds of the flesh — a fact that is not edifying for those who take the narrative literally. Who will not be prompted to become a slave to extravagance and regard sexual immorality as something permissible when he reads that Judah propositioned a prostitute and that the patriarchs had many wives at once? How will someone not be inspired to worship idols when he thinks that the blood of bulls and the rest of the sacrifices detailed in Leviticus have no further significance attached to them than what the letter of the Law conveys? What Scripture teaches about hostilities is clearly shown in this passage, “O wretched daughter of Babylon, happy is he who will repay you for what you have done to us. Happy is he who will seize your infants and dash them against the rocks,” and also in this one, “Every morning I destroyed all the wicked in the land,” and so on. Comparable passages may be adduced which deal with discord, jealousy, rage, quarrels, and dissensions. If we do not go with a spiritual interpretation of them, examples from history will stir us toward these [vices] rather than deter us from them. Heresies, too, have taken rise more from the literal interpretation of Scripture than from the work of our flesh, as most people think. We learn envy and drunkenness from the letter of the Law. After the flood Noah got drunk, and so did the patriarchs when they were in Egypt visiting their brother Joseph. There are stories in the Book of Kingdoms and elsewhere about revelries. For instance, David danced in celebration and tambourines made loud music before God’s Ark of the Covenant. One might ask how the literal word of divine Scripture, which is called its flesh, leads us into sorcery and magic, unless we make our way toward the spirit of the same Scripture. This is what is meant, I believe, when it is said that Moses was educated in all the wisdom and learning of the Egyptians, and that Daniel and the three boy’s were found to be ten times wiser than the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers.

Clinging to the flesh [that is, the literal meaning] of Scripture opens up the door for many evils. “Those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So, then, let us seek the spirit of Scripture and the fruits that are not readily apparent to the eye. For the fruit of the Spirit is found in Scripture only with great effort, exertion, and careful study. I reckon that Paul was referring ever so carefully and cautiously to the literal meaning of Scripture when he said, “The deeds of the flesh are obvious.” As for the spiritual meaning, he did not say that the fruit of the Spirit is obvious, but he said instead, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” and so on. Now, if we leave behind types and move towards the Spirit and the truth of Scripture, first love is spread out before us, and then we move on to joy and peace on the way to acquiring patience. Who would not be educated in mercy and goodness when he regards aspects of the Law that seem gloomy to some — I mean penalties, wars, the toppling of nations, and the threats delivered by the prophets to the people — as remedies rather than punishments? For the Lord will not be angry forever. Since these things are evident to us, our faith will be more enlightened by reason and our conduct will be guided by temperance, which continence and chastity follow, and then the Law will begin to be favorable to us.

Here ends the quotation from Origen.

And there are our two passages.  Origen does indeed say what he is quoted to say.  He makes some interesting arguments, but today these issues would be dealt with by the idea of progressive revelation, rather than by this approach, whose weaknesses are obvious.

Interesting, tho, that he dismisses the literal sense of “David danced in celebration and tambourines made loud music before God’s Ark of the Covenant.”  I have certainly heard that verse used to justify both in pentecostal circles.

And I have to say that Andrew Cain has produced a rather excellent translation here.  It’s readable and comprehensible and, while we may not agree with all the points made by Origen, there is no doubt as to what he is saying.

  1. [1] Johann Lorenz Mosheim, An ecclesiastical history, ancient and modern, from the birth of Christ to the beginning of the present century: In which the rise, progress, and variation of church power, are considered in their connexion with the state of learning and philosophy, and the political history of Europe, during that period, in 4 vols, translated by Archibald Maclaine; 1764, but this reprint New York: Evert Duylinck, 1824.
  2. [2] Institutionum historiae ecclesiasticae libri IV, 1726
  3. [3] Under the title, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History.

From my diary

This morning I opened volume 1 of the Loeb edition of Pliny’s letters, and read a few.  I also read the introduction.  This was fine, but I found it infuriating that the text did not include the chapter titles from the front of each book, since these alone supply the names of the people to whom Pliny was writing.

This afternoon I worked on my Mithras site a bit more.  I’m still coding, and still not confident that everything is right, but it’s getting there.

Let us praise God for the persecution of Christians on campus

I’ve mentioned a number of cases where Christian groups are being banned by universities on one pretext or another.  Of course, in a secular way, such persecution is disgusting.

But if we look at it from the perspective of eternity, it looks very different.

God is allowing these hateful and malicious persons to reveal themselves.  He is allowing them to target the real Christians on campus.  And He is allowing them to say, thereby, “These are the real Christians, the ones whom the world hates.  These are the ones who are despised, who won’t conform, who we fear and hate.”  He is making the world proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

Most universities have a range of groups onsite which call themselves Christian.  These range from chaplaincy groups, to denominational societies, down to groups of unbelievers with a religious bent.  Quite often, the unbelievers point to these, and ask rhetorically, “why do you think you’re special?”

But now God has allowed a persecution to take place.  And … some are found worthy, and some are not.  And the judgement is proclaimed on university noticeboards, and in the press.

Praise God that Exeter University Christian Union was found worthy a couple of years ago.  And that the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Tufts University has been found worthy as well.

Always good to see God vindicating his name!

Christian Union banned at US university

The tide of religious persecution in our universities has reached yet another nadir.  I learn today via Virtue Online here of this news report:

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts has banned a Christian group from campus because the group requires student leaders to adhere to “basic biblical truths of Christianity.” The decision to ban the group, called the Tufts Christian Fellowship, was made by officials from the university’s student government, specifically the Tufts Community Union Judiciary.

The ban means the group “will lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life,” according to the Tufts Daily. Additionally, Tufts Christian Fellowship will be unable to receive money from a pool that students are required to pay into and that is specifically set aside for student groups.

There are various procedural pretexts for this hateful action.  One of the bigots even posted (anonymously) a “justification” in the comments section at Virtue Online, which reveals the real intent:

Had the group dropped the “biblical truths” requirement, and adopted democracy, they could have still chosen leaders who shared their beliefs, albeit with a ballot and not discrimination.

The technique is becoming familiar.

All student societies are open to all students.  Christians are a minority.  Any student may be a member; so naturally the leaders must be believers.  Otherwise a group of hate-filled non-Christians — and clearly we have some here — can gather a mass of drunken unbelievers in the bar, turn up to the vote, and simply take over the society in one go, and vote it into non-existence.

Precisely the same technique was used in the Exeter University persecution in England.  The pretext is “anti-discrimination”, as a means to prevent the Christians on campus from having recognised groups and blocking their access to funds which Christians are obliged to contribute to.

I have written to the PR department for Tufts university to enquire whether the university endorses this action, and if not, what it proposes to do about it, and likewise to the president of the university.  No university should allow vicious attacks on minorities like this.

I have also written a response to the anonymous persecutor on Virtue Online.  It occurred to me, as I wrote that the “Christian groups on campus” not selected for persecution must be gnashing their teeth at being found unworthy.  For persecution is the litmus test of sincerity.  “Not all those who say, ‘Lord, Lord’…” after all, and “They have hated me and they will hate you”.

The Lord has allowed this persecution, I think, to make clear in the eyes of the whole university who is, and is not, Christian.  Which is rather encouraging, isn’t it?  Well worth the inconvenience.

UPDATE: I got a response from a certain Kimberley Thurler at the Tufts University PR department.  But the email, as from the university, was in fact merely the text of a statement on the university chaplaincy site here.  The chaplaincy, then, is the voice of the university and vice versa.  The statement means nothing, unfortunately, except that the university endorsed the persecution and is now trying to deflect the criticism.

Curiously this official university chaplaincy — and therefore the university — has an official religious policy which is officially non-Christian:

The University Chaplaincy upholds the Universalist tradition and commitment to inclusivity.

I could not but be reminded inexpressibly of official Roman religion, when I read those pages.

I find this site reports on it.  A comment links to this article by one of the haters (does not display in IE), a certain Brandon Archambault:

As a Christian and a Tufts student, I am calling for the immediate de-funding of the so-called Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF). IVCF continues to promote anti-gay hate speech while acting as the oversight advisory for TCF’s funding, taken from the Student Activities Fee. This is unacceptable.

Last October, I was threatened by an employee of IVCF. They told me to be careful about whom I complained to, because “the last time this happened it cost everyone a lot of money, and we had to get lawyers involved.” (etc)

As IVCF New England Regional Director Chris Nichols told me in Nov. 2011, if a gay person was elected to an exec-board position, refused to resign and IVCF could not otherwise compel them, then “IVCF would not continue its relationship with that chapter.”

Note that this person has apparently been harassing IVCF for almost a year.  In the comments is the following dry response to this hysterical piece of hate:

… they didn’t really threaten you. It appears you have been threatening them (you’ve been leading efforts to defund them for months now), and they just informed you that they intend to do everything within their power to stay on campus. It’s not really a threat to say that lawyers will get involved when you are the reason that the lawyers would have to get involved in the first place.

Isn’t it curious that accusations against the Christians always come from those involved in vice, either personally or commercially?[1]  Why any university worth the name would tolerate the activities of this revolting individual to introduce a censorship is rather hard to imagine.

UPDATE (19th November 2012): An article in the Wall Street Journal online indicates that Tufts has a history of repressing political dissent too.  Which raises the question: why doesn’t some conservative foundation sue the heck out them under US free speech clauses in the constitution?

  1. [1] Tertullian, Apologeticum.


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