Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rob Bell Everything is Spiritual

This is a video of Rob Bell who we saw at Symphony Space.

He is now doing a talk The God's Aren't Angry which we well see next week.

Click here to order the DVD if you like this sample.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Staying Close To God

If you fill your calendar with important appointments, you will have no time for God
If you fill your spare time with essential reading, you will starve your soul
If you fill your mind with worry about budgets and offerings, the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders will betray you
If you try to conform to the expectations of those around you, you will forever be their slave
Work a modest day, then step back and rest
This will keep you close to God.

Dallas Willard

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Mishnah Part 1

The Mishnah (Part 1)

According to Jewish teaching, the Law delivered to Moses consisted of two parts. The written law, now contained in the Torah, or Pentateuch, was one of those parts. The other consisted of oral teaching, which was then passed by tradition from one generation to the next. This oral instruction explained and clarified what had been written. This material developed over time, but was finally codified and written down around the end of the second century AD or the beginning of the third century (there is debate among authorities as to precisely when the Mishnah was reduced to writing). This was composed in Hebrew but differing somewhat from the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Hence, it is called Mishnaic Hebrew. Though the Mishnah was written in Hebrew, it formed the foundation of the later Talmud, which is essentially extended comment on, and discussion of, the material in the Mishnah, and which was written in Aramaic.

The Mishnah is made up of six parts called “orders” (the Aramaic word is seder in the singular or sedarim in the plural). These orders are further subdivided into treatises, the treatises into chapters, and the chapters into paragraphs. The first order is called zera’im (seeds), and it is divided into eleven treatises. The second order is called mo’ed (festivals), from the Hebrew word for “appointed times” (see both Gen 1:14, where the ESV translates it “seasons;” and Lev 23:2, where the ESV translates is “appointed festivals”). This second order is made up of twelve separate treatises. The third order is called nashim (women), and is divided into seven treatises.

The fourth order of the Mishnah is called either nezikin (injuries) or yeshu’ot (deeds of help) and contains ten treatises. The fifth order is called qodashim (holy things) and contains eleven treatises. The final order of the Mishnah is called tohorot (purifications) and is made up of twelve treatises.

The Mishnah is available in English translation. Perhaps the most widely known version is that of Herbert Danby. It is still available, but is quite expensive. A newer version is that of Jacob Neusner. In a certain sense, Danby’s version was done for the uninitiated. The translation is paraphrastic and reads like literature. Neusner’s is more literal and shows the Mishnah for what it is—a compilation of Jewish teachings. The introduction to Neusner’s version is helpful in sorting some of this out. Neusner has also published The Mishnah: An Introduction, and Learn Mishnah. These two works provide a way into approaching and beginning to appreciate the Mishnah without it becoming a daunting task.

Over the next few weeks I hope to present the reader a brief survey of the content of the Mishnah in preparation for a look at the Talmud.


Author's Bio:
Dr. Shaw was born and raised in New Mexico. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico in 1977, the M. Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1980, and the Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, with an emphasis in biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament and Targumic Aramaic, as well as Ugaritic). He did two year of doctoral-level course work in Semitic languages (Akkadian, Arabic, Ethiopic, Middle Egyptian, and Syriac) at Duke University. He received the Ph.D. in Old Testament Interpretation at Bob Jones University in 2005. Since 1991, he has taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a school which serves primarily the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, where he holds the rank of Associate Professor.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Podcasting your classes?

Have you considered podcasting your lessons? This might be of interest to you.

Let me know if you decide to podcast.



Sharing audio and video files on the Web has been possible for most of the last decade. But in the past two years podcasting has exploded onto the scene.
This paper examines educational podcasting in three realms: the creation and distribution of lecture archives for review, the delivery of supplemental educational materials and content, and assignments requiring students to produce and submit their own podcasts.
From the Office of Technology for Education and Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence at Carnegie Mellon University, this is a 15 page PDF.
Podcasting: A Teaching with Technology Whitepaper

Friday, July 06, 2007

What Are You Reading?

As teachers we are constantly reading, studying and looking for insights to assist us in our classes.

What are you reading?

Comment on the blog or send an email to

I look forward to your sharing.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independance Day

In my reading I came across this verse from Isaiah;

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back.” Isaiah 54:2 (NIV)

This struck a chord in me. How often do I hold back and limit myself and what I am trying to do. In refining the vision of our church I have wondered am I thinking too small.

Have you ever been asked “If you new you could not fail, what would you do? My mentors encourage me to plan a plan so big & audacious that it could not succeed without God being involved.

Today is the 4th of July Independence Day in the United States. What thoughts and attitudes do we need to release, in order to be all that we are meant to be? To let our classes and our message reach all those who need to hear what we are saying?

Let's Release those chains that bind us, today is our Independence Day!

Live & Play Large!
Enjoy the fireworks!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Aramaic Thoughts -Idioms in the Bible- Part 9

Idioms in the Bible - Part 9

Mark 16:17 says, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast our demons; they will speak in new tongues.” Lamsa identifies the concluding clause as an idiom meaning, “You will learn foreign languages wherever you go.” In our day, Lamsa’s claim sounds questionable, due to the widespread influence of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements. There is also further question about the concluding verses of Mark’s gospel.

First, most modern versions have a footnote on Mark 16:9-20 like this one from the ESV; “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8. A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20.” What is the reader to make of this information? Do these verses belong in the gospel of Mark, or do they not?

These are not questions that admit of easy answers. In brief, there are three primary views. The first, and perhaps oldest, view is that the 12 verses (Mark 16:9-20) were part of the gospel originally written by Mark, and hence are to be retained. This is the view reflected in the KJV (Incidentally, the Syriac Peshitta includes these verses). This is due in large part to the fact that the manuscripts and texts available to the translators of the KJV all had that material included in the Gospel of Mark. The second view is that Mark ended at 16:8, and that the last twelve verses were added by someone who felt that the ending was too abrupt, and who thus compiled an ending from the concluding material of the other gospels and from the beginning of Acts. This is perhaps the most recent view to appear. The third view is that the last twelve verses are not original, but were later added because the original ending of Mark was somehow lost. This is the view that was adopted in the original edition of the RSV, where Mark 16:9-20 was placed in a footnote. It is perhaps the most commonly held view today.

The debate on the issue was begun in the latter part of the 19th century, due to the fact that a number of manuscripts of the New Testament had been found that did not include the material, or had other material in its place. The New Testament textual scholars Westcott and Hort adopted the view that these verses were spurious in their influential edition of the Greek New Testament. This decision affected both the English Revised Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901. Westcott and Hort’s view was vigorously attacked by the conservative scholar John Burgon in The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Saint Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established.
(We will continue this discussion in next week’s column.)

'Aramaic Thoughts' Copyright 2002-2007 © Benjamin Shaw.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Aramaic Thoughts--Idioms in the Bible - Part 8

Aramaic Thoughts
Week of June 3 - 9, 2007

Idioms in the Bible - Part 8

I may have written on this one before, but there is so much misinformation out there about it that it’s worth addressing again. Matt 19:24 reads, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Lamsa, on the basis of the Peshitta, translates it "for a rope to go through the eye of a needle." The Greek text reads kamelos (camel), though a few texts of minor importance read kamilos (rope). The Syriac reads lgm (rope), while the Syriac word for camel is gml. The reader can easily see how, given the subject matter, someone could think "rope" was intended instead of "camel." Thus Lamsa explains this as an idiom meaning "with great difficulty (The rich man must give up something.)." However, the point is not that this is something accomplished only with difficulty, but something impossible. Jesus makes it clear with his statement recorded in vs 26, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are impossible." If the word were "rope," one could see how with a big enough needle or a small enough rope it could be done. But with a camel, it is flat impossible. Jesus is engaging in the common Semitic practice of engaging in hyperbole (deliberate overstatement) to make a point in a forceful manner.

Mark 5:25-34 tells the story of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. In that story, the woman has heard about Jesus, and determines that she might be able to be healed if she can only touch his garment. Lamsa considers this expression an idiom that means "an urgent need." It is true that, "Seizing the edge of someone’s robe was a gesture of fervent entreaty in Biblical and Near Eastern tradition" (Keener, Matthew, 303), and this may be all that Lamsa means. But the matter of literal touching is essential to the story. The woman would have been made unclean by her irregular flow of blood (see Lev 15:25-30). Thus her touching of anyone would have made that person unclean as well. She would have been a social outcast, and her act here is an act of sheer desperation, and an apparent certainty that Jesus not only can but will help.

The centrality of a literal touching continues, however, when her touch effects what she has hoped for, Jesus sensed that power had gone out from him. He then asks who touched him. To this question the disciples respond with astonishment. What does Jesus mean, asking who touched him? The crowd was pressing so close that it was impossible to avoid being touched. Thus there is a play on the sense of "touch," both the physical touch originally intended by the woman and the "psychical" touch Jesus felt as her faith drew upon his supply. In all this, the reality of touching is central, and without that reality, the story loses its power.

'Aramaic Thoughts' Copyright 2002-2007 © Benjamin Shaw.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Charts of World Religions

Hi Friends

I came across a sample of the book Charts of World Religions published by Zondervan which you may be interested in. Here is the link.

Let me know what you think of it.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Aramaic Thoughts

Reflections on the Dangers of Aramaic: Or a Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Benjamin Shaw.

I did not see the movie The Passion of the Christ. But my understanding is that the dialogue was done entirely in Aramaic, with subtitles. This arrangement apparently sprang from both Gibson's desire for realism or authenticity, and from his conviction that Aramaic was the daily spoken language of Palestine in the first century. The problem with that view is that it is not accurate. This conclusion seems difficult for Americans to accept, though a resident of any major city in the world would understand immediately.

Aramaic would have been one of the daily spoken languages in first-century Palestine. It would have been commonly used in Jewish households and in the synagogues, for example. But Palestine in the first century was much like the same area of the world today—truly multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Someone walking down the street or in the marketplace in a city such as Jerusalem or Nazareth would have certainly heard Aramaic. But he would also have heard Greek, which was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world in the first century. He may have heard Persian or Egyptian. He would probably have heard Latin, especially if he passed near some Roman soldiers. He may even have heard some Western European languages, depending on where the Roman soldiers were from. Daily conversations were a smorgasbord of languages.

Acts 2 gives us some sense of the reality of the situation when it says, "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. … Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians" (Acts 2:5, 8-11). The text goes on to say that each of these heard the disciples extolling the virtues of God in their native languages. This was Pentecost, and hence there were people in Jerusalem who would not have been there at other times of the year. Even so, first-century Palestine even in those cities or parts of cities populated almost exclusively by Jews was really multi-lingual.

It is important to remember this because in the past century there has appeared on the religious scene a mindset that understanding Aramaic, because it was the language that Jesus spoke, will give someone special insight into the meaning of the New Testament. This is essentially a gnostic conceit. That is, the gnostics (an elastic term if there ever was one) were of the opinion that there was a secret knowledge that admitted one to truths inaccessible to the unwashed masses. This is wrong.

'Aramaic Thoughts' Copyright 2002-2007 © Benjamin Shaw.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Meditation Class starts Feb 8, 2007

Hi Friends

Are you staying warm? I thought it was cold last week when I was out at Unity Village but it was pretty cold this morning walking to the courthouse.

I just wanted to remind you that I will be teaching a meditation class starting tomorrow night at Unity of Hempstead @ 6:30 pm.

If you know anyone who would be interested please let them know. This class is a credit class. (Meditation Practices, required course).

I will also be speaking at the Sunday Service @ 11 am. At the Hempstead church as well.

They are located at 298 Fulton Avenue, Hempstead NY 11550. There is free (Evenings & Sundays) parking across the street from the church in a lighted parking lot.

Thank you for your support.

Stay Warm


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Licensed Teacher Team Meeting next week.

On January 30th The Licensed Teacher Ministry team will be meeting at Unity Village as part of the Association Mid Year Meeting. Are there any areas or issues that you would like them to consider?

If you have any thoughts please send an email with your thoughts to

Thank you.