Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Term Exercise

Lane Community College has a deal with the local bus service that allows students to ride the bus for free. Faculty do not get this benefit, unless they register for a class and thus are also students. Since the college reimburses faculty most of the cost of one class each term this is a popular option. Most of the faculty take a P.E. class since they then get exercise as well as a nearly free bus rides.

Last school year I took a Tai Chi class in Fall and Winter. Fall term it was the 18-move Chen short style. Winter term it was the 55-move Yang sword style. (Spring term my schedule was not compatible with any P.E. class I wanted to take.)

This school year I am starting out with two P.E. classes. Unfortunately, my schedule is again not compatible with Tai Chi. So I am trying yoga and strength training.

The yoga class could have been problematic in two ways.

The first potential problem was that yoga is really much more than a system of exercises based on breathing and postures. In the U.S. people normally only focus on the exercise aspect of yoga, especially in an exercise class. This is also true in the P.E. class I am taking, so I do not have to worry; I'm following instructions about physical exercise, not spiritual activity. (In a similar way, Taoism in the U.S. is usually limited to the philosophical aspect and ignores the religion involving ancestor worship that has attached itself to the philosophy in Asia. I would not be doing a translation of the Tao Te Ching in my free time otherwise!)

The second potential problem was staying "above reproach", as Paul writes to Timothy. To be professional I must not only behave properly but avoid situations in which people might even suspect I am not behaving properly. If the yoga class had no other men, or if the women were dressed for aerobic activity, I would not be able to take the class. However, neither is the case. Fortunately that room in the recreation center has the air conditioner set to "arctic" and so the attire worn is sweat pants and fully cut shirts (and some people even wear a sweat shirt).

The strength training class will be my first real exposure to free weights. I've used weight machines plenty of times over the years but never had proper training in barbells and dumbbells. My cycling and skateboarding keep my lower body in reasonable shape, but my upper body is currently not exercising much. It will be nice (and hopefully good for posture and general relaxation) to have a better balance of muscle tone.

Both the yoga and strength training classes have their own ideas about what makes a "complete" workout. These ideas are quite complimentary: yoga emphasizes mixing relaxation and stretching along with muscle work, and the strength training emphasizes learning a variety of exercises for each muscle group since any given exercise begins to lose efficiency after about three weeks.

Perhaps by the end of the term I can invent a "Tai Chi Dumbbell" form that can be done in the living room and blends the best of all three worlds, including subtle ways to modify the movements every three weeks to maintain efficiency in strength building.

Tao of Yeshua: Chapter 53

With only the tiniest grain of knowledge of the great Way I can follow it.
My only fear is straying from it.
The great Way is straight and smooth.
But people prefer twisted paths.
When leaders trust in superstition
then even when the fields are full of weeds and the granaries are empty
the leaders wear ornaments and fancy clothes,
gird themselves with sharp swords,
eat their fill of food,
and seek excess wealth.
I call this robbing and bragging.
What do they know about the Way?

Even those who barely know Yeshua can follow him.
His way is clear to his disciples.
Those who do not follow him also make themselves clear.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I've enabled comments on my blog post that shares my paper about first-century Judaism and its relationship to Paul's assemblies.

This is the start of a new trend.

The P'nei Adonai website does not have any appropriate place for discussions. Most of the pages I will be adding to that website in upcoming months are good sources of discussion: word studies in the vocabulary section and more Matthew studies put online.

Recently I have set up some new internet infrastructure. This blog has a new format and can better handle having comments enabled. The P'nei Adonai website has an RSS feed. Together this will allow not only P'nei Adonai folk but others who have visited the ministry (or meet in new online) to participate in a discussion about new web pages.

Almost all of these new web pages have already had their material processed in group discussion. The word studies are nearly all taken from old sermons to which I added notes during the congregation's discussion about the sermon (from the years when P'nei Adonai was a Messianic Jewish congregation that met on Shabbat, rather than its current identity as a discipleship ministry that meets during the week). The Matthew pages are all the result of group discussions about those certain chapters of scripture.

Yet more discussion with a broader range of participants will be nice as an extra layer of digesting spiritual truths and applying them to daily life.

So if you are interested in these online discussions, bookmark the RSS feed and when a new page is added also visit this blog's Ministry Work posts because at or near the top of that category will be the discussion corresponding to the new web page.

Because I teach Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will try (God willing) to make a new P'nei Adonai web page every Tuesday and Thursday. But some days, such as yesterday, will undoubtedly become full of helping people rather than typing at the computer. That makes my life more interesting and full of blessing, but due to the obvious confidentiality issues I do not get to blog much, if anything, about those days.

New Math Website

Many years ago, when I left preschool teaching and started adjunct college teaching, I registered the domain name

For a year, while teaching at the University of Oregon, I used it. Then it was stagnant, since Lane Community College offers some nice website options to its instructors.

I've finally revived In part this is because I have found enough of a routine at LCC, and in part this is because I've thoroughly explored the other college website options and decided that I might as well use my own format instead.

Last week I spent hours and hours getting my class set up. If you visit the website, you will see I have everything prepared through the end of October. The rest of the term will not be much work, for I have for the remaining weeks lecture slides and tests from past terms which I am quite happy with. The material for the beginning of the term required much more revision.

Ta da! Between this math work and the essay about first-century Israel you now know what I have been up to for all of September.

First Century Judaism and Paul's Assemblies

At the end of August and beginning of September I was busy writing a scholarly paper about first-century life in Israel. It is a history paper, not a theology paper. Those who are interested can download it here.

The paper's abstract reads:
This paper is an introduction to the social contexts in which Paul traveled and established assemblies of followers of Yeshua. Specifically, it investigates the degree to which Paul deliberately invented the concept of a local "church" for followers of Yeshua.

To begin, Jewish synagogues and Paul's assemblies are described within their mutual context of first-century Roman voluntary associations. Then an overview of the Nazarene movement in which Paul operated and a discussion of Paul's use of Stoic philosophy will complete the picture of Paul's contexts and innovations. Overall, this paper will present a large number of facts and then beginning weaving them together into a coherent whole.

The main references used in this paper (the books repeatedly used and listed in the bibliography as well as the footnotes) are mostly "summary of current research" texts. Using this kind of book as a reference will allow readers wanting to learn more about an issue to jump directly into a well-informed discussion about the agreement and disagreement among scholars on that issue.

The communities that Paul established and/or wrote to called themselves an "assembly" (ekklesia), a word with no inherently religious meaning also used to refer to general assemblies of people . These assemblies were clearly not Jewish synagogues, pagan temples, nor typical Roman voluntary associations, for they were never called such or described as such by outsiders or their own members.

The word "church" is very anachronistic but still used by many scholars of first-century religion simply because Paul purposefully established the identity of these assemblies in a dramatically novel and effective blending of the roles of Jewish synagogue, pagan temple, and voluntary association. One scholar writes,

In a remarkable statement, Elias Bickerman declares that the Roman general Titus, by destroying the Temple and, in effect, putting an end to the sacrificial system, was the greatest religious reformer in history.

Paul, by carefully trying to create the institution we know today as the local church, also deserves consideration for being the "greatest religious reformer in history".

It is unfortunate that of all the apostles, Paul alone made an attempt to bring Nazarene practices into Gentile communities. By the end of the second century much of what Paul established had become increasingly neglected in Gentile communities. Since then few local churches have recovered all the roles Paul intended for that assembly.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Happy High Holy Days!

L'shanah tovah tikatev(i) v'taihatem(i)!

This traditional Hebrew greeting for the High Holy Days means "For a good year may you be inscribed as sealed." The alternate (i) endings are the grammatical form used when addressing women.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Very Readable Bible Online

Normally when I want to read the Bible using a computer I use the software e-sword.

But sometimes I am not at my own computer. In that case, this website is the most readable Bible I've found, and thus the one I visit most. It does not have all of the fancy search or language features that other online Bibles do, but once I use my web browser's menus to adjust the text size it is very easy on the eyes.

New Blog Template

I finally switched to one of the new Blogger templates. I wonder how this will work?

There are two new features I plan to use once I have more free time. The first is the automatic sorting of "labels" for each post instead of relying on the blog search keying to an introduction category phrase for each post. The second is putting updates to the P'nei Adonai website into an RSS feed which will then be added to the sidebar.

UPDATE: Changing all of the "category: ..." tags did not take very long. There were a surprising number of old posts I decided to put more than one label on, which is new functionality.

I am rethinking the RSS feed. I could also use this blog to announce when I add new pages to the P'nei Adonai website and enable comments for those posts. That might be more interesting and helpful than an RSS feed.

UPDATE: Well, it turns out creating an RSS feed is quite trivial. It's worth doing that whether or now I use this blog as a place with comments for discussing new P'nei Adonai pages.