Thursday, October 17, 2019

Church Write-Up: Messiah as Melchizedek; Jacob’s Stone in the Temple

Here are two items from Wednesday’s church Bible study:

A. The Book of Hebrews interacts with Psalm 110. Psalm 110 opens: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (KJV). Within the New Testament, “my Lord” in Psalm 110:1 is interpreted as the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see here). Psalm 110:4 goes on to say, presumably still to “my Lord”: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” According to a New Testament interpretation of Psalm 110, the LORD is telling David’s Lord, the Messiah, not only that the coming Messiah will sit at God’s right hand and rule his enemies, but also that the Messiah will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a priest prior to the time of the Levitical priesthood (Genesis 14), so Hebrews 7 argues that the Messiah, Jesus, is high priest, even though he did not descend from Aaron or any other Levite. The pastor speculated that, upon receiving the revelation that the coming Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, David moved the Ark to Jerusalem, the site of Melchizedek’s old kingdom Salem.

B. The pastor said that the Ark of the Covenant was not inside of the Holy of Holies of the Second Temple. Instead, there was a stone, believed to be the stone on which Jacob slept and poured oil in Genesis 28. In Genesis 28, Jacob saw a ladder going up to heaven. The stone in the Second Temple reinforced that the Temple was a place to encounter God: it was where people could meet God, and God could meet people. There are rabbinic traditions about a stone in the Temple, first and second, and some of them associate it with Jacob’s stone (m. Yoma 5:2; Pirke R. Eliezer 35; see here for more information).

Monday, October 14, 2019

Church Write-Up: Baptism

Here are some items from last Sunday’s church activities:

A. The youth pastor talked about some of the places where contributions to the “mite box” go. They help bring Africans clean water. We saw a picture of what their usual water looks like, and I thought it was chili at first. The contributions also train women on how to sew so they can get jobs, as well as fund braille Bibles for blind Christians in Europe.

B. The sermon was about baptism. When we are baptized, we become connected with Christ, and we thereafter receive our nourishment and sustenance from Christ rather than the corruption of the world.

C. The Sunday school class was also about baptism. The teacher quoted Luther’s statement that baptism and the Lord’s supper are visual aids for the Word of God. Baptism is a visual picture of conversion: the old person dying and rising with Christ. Christians are baptized into Christ’s death because it was Christ’s death that brought the atonement, whereas Christ’s resurrection is Christ’s victory over the things he came to defeat (i.e., sin, death, the devil). Christ’s death was also when Christ connected with us, and we become connected with Christ in baptism.

D. There was discussion about the Greek word baptizo. In some cases in the New Testament, it refers to washing (Mark 7:4). But there are also places in which it can refer to dipping or immersing (LXX II Kings 5:14; Mark 10:38-39). Baptism entails being identified with someone or something: when the Israelites were baptized into Moses, they became identified with Moses (I Corinthians 10:2).

E. When we are baptized, we put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). The teacher likened that to wearing colors that show one belongs to a gang. We are part of the gang of Christ. And we demonstrate Christ to others, however imperfectly. We show people in our words and our lives who Christ is and what Christ wants to do for them.

F. A church member from Hong Kong shared a story. Jesus in Matthew 28 commands the disciples to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But many Christians in Hong Kong were baptized solely in the name of Jesus, and, after they arrived at a Lutheran understanding, they wondered if their baptism was valid. The teacher responded that, in his belief, the baptism is valid as long as the baptizees were sincere and believed that Jesus was part of the triune God.

G. One of the members traced her conversion to her confirmation and confession before the church. That does cause me to wonder what the baptism accomplished at infancy, if salvation came later.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Book Write-Up: Inflation (Opposing Viewpoints, 2013)

Noah Berlatsky, ed. Inflation: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven, 2013. See here to purchase the book. See here to purchase the book.

This book contains different viewpoints on inflation. Here are some thoughts, observations, and questions.

A. Richard Salsman has an article, entitled in this book as “Deflation Is Not a Serious Danger.” Salsman argues that deflation did not cause the Great Depression and cites numerous other economic problems that contributed to it. One of the problems was the Smoot-Hawley tariff. That makes me wonder if the prices were high or low. Deflation is extremely low prices, whereas tariffs are controversial because they raise prices. Perhaps the prices were high, then suddenly low. Some have criticized the Federal Reserve for suddenly contracting the money supply, and FDR in his New Deal sought to increase prices, which may indicate that he thought the prices had become too low.

B. A conventional piece of economic wisdom is that nations try to increase their exports and decrease imports by debasing their currency. I am not entirely sure how one leads to another, but I can envision inflation at least discouraging Americans to buy imports, since a debased currency means prices in America are high on imports (as well as domestically-produced items, of course). A couple authors in this book seemed to question the conventional economic wisdom, for they argued that domestic inflation negatively affects exports. When prices are high, it costs more for companies to make a product, and thus there are fewer of those products to export.

C. Something that has puzzled me is that the Consumer Price Index indicates inflation is low, yet people continually complain about high prices at the grocery store. This book offered an explanation for this: the Consumer Price Index averages out high-price items (i.e., food) with low-price items. The CPI may be low, yet food still costs a lot. Lower-price items are pulling the CPI down.

D. If the Federal Reserve printing lots of money results in inflation, why do we not see hyper-inflation? One reason, of course, is that, just because there is more money out there, that does not mean that people are spending it. This was the case after the 2008 financial crisis. But that has passed, right? What other explanation is there? Peter Bernholz explains that most dollars are overseas, but how does that obviate hyperinflation? Is it because there are fewer dollars in the United States, meaning the U.S. in effect has a small money supply? But how relevant is that in a global economy, where the supply of something (i.e., oil) in the world affects its price in the United States?

E. One of the debates in this book concerns whether money supply is a primary factor contributing to inflation. It makes sense that it would be. More money out there stimulates demand, and, if the supply fails to keep up with that demand, the price goes up. The view that money supply contributes to inflation is related to the conventional supply-demand explanation for whether prices are high or low. Some contributors, however, acted as if supply and demand were the primary factors. If prices are high for one product, they may be low for another product, since high demand for one product may entail low demand for another product. People are spending a lot for that one product and thus do not clamor to buy that other product.

F. The editor explains how inflation can actually lead to an increase in consumption. People may purchase a car immediately rather than saving for it if they realize that the price will soon go up.
This is a good book, albeit difficult to understand, in areas.

I checked this book out from the library. My review is honest.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Write-Up: Proverbs, by Irving L. Jensen

Irving L. Jensen. Proverbs. Moody: 1982, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Irving L. Jensen taught Bible and chaired the Bible department at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. This book is a reprint of Jensen’s 1982 commentary on the biblical Book of Proverbs.


—-Jensen interprets wisdom in Proverbs 8 in a manner that is faithful to its probable original meaning (wisdom is being personified), while smoothly integrating into his discussion the ancient Christian interpretation of wisdom as the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, through whom God created the cosmos. According to Jensen, what is said about wisdom in Proverbs 8 is consistent with the ancient Christian interpretation.

—-Jensen does well to address the question of whether Proverbs is simply a bunch of scattered meanderings, or if the proverbs instead are grouped together as they are for a specific reason.

—-Jensen offers a compelling picture of wisdom inviting people into a relationship.

—-Jensen argues that the Book of Proverbs was largely written by Solomon and that some of the proverbs reflect the lives of David and Solomon. This may be speculative, but Jensen argues artfully.


—-The commentary is not particularly meaty. Overall, it proceeds rapidly from one subject to another rather than dwelling on things in depth. A significant amount of the book consists of charts rather than narrative.

—-Jensen argues for a tee-totaler interpretation of Proverbs 23:30-35. He fails to engage Proverbs 31:6-7, in which the author seems to encourage the poor and despairing to drink alcohol.

This commentary has some merit, but better ones are out there.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

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