Personalização do tema Enigma

How to Customize Enigma Theme?

A partir da versão 5.34, de 19.10.2019, o tema Enigma passou por mudanças significativas de código e de aparência. Além dos habituais problemas técnicos decorrentes desta mudança, para quem gostava da aparência anterior foi um transtorno.

Porém é possível recuperar um layout semelhante ao existente até a versão 5.33, de 20.09.2019, adicionando CSS personalizado em Aparência > Personalizar > Theme Options > Theme General Options – Custom CSS. Isto funciona, no meu caso, para a versão atual, 6.0.5, de 18.01.2020 [download aqui]. Mudanças futuras no tema podem exigir adaptações.

Observo que a partir de 1.10.2020, com o Enigma 7.0, nada disso está valendo. Nem precisa de personalização. O tema foi retirado da página do WordPress por vários meses, foi melhorado e voltou a funcionar como deve. Especialmente a partir da versão 7.3, de 12.10.2020, Enigma está bem mais estável e bonito.

Não sou da área, minha especialidade é outra. Sou apenas um usuário curioso que tenta contornar os problemas que surgem na manutenção de minha página, Ayrton’s Biblical Page, onde uso o tema Enigma. © 2020 Ayrton's Biblical Page | Enigma Theme Developed by Weblizar Themes

 

:: Links

Para modificar a cor dos links apenas na área de texto – How to change the color of the links only in the text area:

.enigma_blog_post_content a {
color: #428bca !important;
}

.enigma_blog_post_content a:hover {
color: #2a6496 !important;
}

 

:: Cabeçalho – Header

Para mudar a cor de fundo do cabeçalho – How to change the background color of the header:

.hd_cover {
background-color: #0090ab;
}

ou

.header_section {
background-color: #0090ab;
}

Para ampliar a altura do container do cabeçalho – How to increase the height of the header container:

.header_section {
padding: 14px;
}

Para mover os ícones de rede social para a margem direita – How to move social network icons to the right margin:

.header_section .social {
margin: 2px 0 0 auto;
}

 

:: Rodapé de widgets – Footer widget

Para trocar a cor de fundo do rodapé de widgets – How to change the background color of the footer widget area:

.enigma_footer_widget_area {
background: none repeat scroll 0 0 #21565e;
}

Para diminuir a altura da coluna vertical do rodapé de widgets – How to decrease the height of the vertical column in the footer widget:

.enigma_footer_widget_column {
margin-bottom: 0px !important;
}
.enigma_footer_widget_area {
padding: 14px 0 0px !important;
}

Para remover todos os dados da coluna do rodapé de widgets – How to remove all data from the footer widget column:

.enigma_footer_widget_column {
display: none;
}

 

:: Rodapé – Footer

Para ampliar a área do rodapé [footer_area] na versão 5.34 e seguintes cobrindo a área branca, e deixando o copyright e os ícones de rede social com cor branca – How to get rid of the white area at the bottom of the page in version 6.x.x:

.enigma_footer_area {
padding: 61px;
padding-top: 12px;
}

.enigma_footer_area p {
color: #ffffff;
}

.enigma_footer_area p a {
color: #ffffff;
}

.enigma_footer_social_div .social i {
color: #ffffff;
}

 

:: Área de texto – Text area

Para mudar a cor de fundo da área de texto – Changing the background color of the text area:

.enigma_blog_post_content {
background: #000000;
}

Para escrever em hebraico mantendo a serifa das fontes – How to keep the “serif” in Hebrew fonts:

:lang(he) {
font-family:’Ezra SIL’, ‘Ezra SIL SR’, ‘Tinos’, ‘Frank Ruhl Libre’, ‘SBL’, ‘Cardo’, serif;
}

 

Links úteis
Tema Enigma e Support Forum
Como encontrar sites que usam o tema Enigma? WordPress Theme Universe e Themesinfo.
Precisa de um Child Theme? WordPress Child Theme Generator

Morreu José Nicolau, meu pai (1924-2020)

Esse homem de estatura tão pequena, mas de um coração tão grande, tão maravilhoso, deve ser observado, seu exemplo deve ser seguido, porque a sua caminhada é digna, é merecedora de toda atenção e carinho (Dindinho sobre o papai, por ocasião de seus 90 anos em 2014).

José Nicolau, meu pai, morreu hoje, 21.01.2020, aos 96 anos de idade.

José Nicolau em 18 de janeiro de 2019 - 95 anosJosé Nicolau em 18 de janeiro de 2018 - 94 anosJosé Nicolau em 13 de janeiro de 2017 - 93 anosJosé Nicolau em 16 de janeiro de 2016 - 92 anosJosé Nicolau em 17 de janeiro de 2015 - 91 anosJosé Nicolau em 18 de janeiro de 2014 - 90 anos

Publicações recentes sobre o livro do Gênesis

SCHNEIDER, T. J. In the Beginning and Still Today: Recent Publications on Genesis. Currents in Biblical Research, 18.2, p. 142-159, 2020.

São comentadas neste artigo 58 obras sobre o livro do Gênesis publicadas entre 2015 e 2018.

O artigo divide as publicações em categorias:

. Histórias da interpretação e transmissão do texto: 19 volumes
. Volumes religiosos, principalmente cristãos: 11 volumes
. Abordagens diacrônicas/histórico-críticas: 10 volumes
. Análises literárias: 12 volumes
. Estudos do Antigo Oriente Médio: 3 volumes
. Identidades múltiplas: 3 volumes

 

The focus of this survey is monographs about the book of Genesis published between 2015 and 2018. I have created descriptive categories, restricting each work to a single category, even though many of the volumes could easily fall into multiple groupings. I work as a Humanist and not a scientist, so the goal was not numeric accuracy but a general idea of what patterns, if any, exist among the topics on which Genesis scholars are working and how research is moving. I did not investigate whether the data for 2015–2018 is any different than for the previous three-year period. Finally, the categories used here vary between groupings based on a methodological approach and those based on the content of the volume.

The fifty-eight volumes considered include scholarly studies, as well as volumes that have a religious, usually Christian, focus but are still in a scholarly vein. For example, many commentary series serve a religious audience but are written by well-regarded scholars in biblical studies. Teaching volumes are also included if they appear to be aimed at a college audience, religious or otherwise. The survey does not include unpublished dissertations.

The categories, with the number of volumes in each, are as follows: Histories of Interpretation and Textual Transmission (19), Religious (Primarily Christian) Volumes (11), Diachronic/Historical-Critical Approaches (10), Literary Analyses (12), Ancient Near Eastern Studies (3), and Multiple Identities (3).

 

Tammi J. Schneider is a professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her research draws together the varied fields of archaeology, Assyriology, and biblical studies in an effort to understand the ancient Near East, especially the interactions among various peoples. She teaches ancient Near Eastern History, literature, archaeology and religion, and women in the Hebrew Bible.

A saga do fragmento do evangelho de Marcos

Um longo artigo sobre o caso do fragmento do evangelho de Marcos, que causou furor entre os estudiosos da área porque andaram dizendo que era do século I. Na verdade foi escrito entre 150 e 250 d.C.

Para entender o caso, leia antes o post Ainda sobre o fragmento de Marcos, publicado em 02/07/2019.

 

Um escândalo em Oxford: o curioso caso do evangelho roubado

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel – Charlotte Higgins: The Guardian – Thu 9 Jan 2020

What links an eccentric Oxford classics don, billionaire US evangelicals, and a tiny, missing fragment of an ancient manuscript? Charlotte Higgins unravels a multimillion-dollar riddle

To visit Dr Dirk Obbink at Christ Church college, Oxford, you must first be ushered by a bowler-hatted porter into the stately Tom Quad, built by Cardinal Wolsey before his spectacular downfall in 1529. Turn sharp right, climb a flight of stairs, and there, behind a door on which is pinned a notice advertising a 2007 college arts festival, you will find Obbink’s rooms. Be warned: you may knock on the door in vain. Since October, he has been suspended from duties following the biggest scandal that has ever hit, and is ever likely to hit, the University of Oxford’s classics department.

An associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford, Obbink occupies one of the plum jobs in his field. Born in Nebraska and now in his early 60s, this lugubrious, crumpled, owlish man has “won at the game of academia”, said Candida Moss, professor of theology at Birmingham University. In 2001, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award for his expertise in “rescuing damaged ancient manuscripts from the ravages of nature and time”. Over the course of his career, he has received millions in funding; he is currently, in theory at least, running an £800,000 project on the papyrus rolls carbonised by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.

Since he was appointed in 1995, Obbink has welcomed many visitors into his rooms at Christ Church: dons, undergraduates, researchers. Less orthodox callers, too: among them, antiquities dealers and collectors. In the corner of Obbink’s study stands a pool table, from which two Egyptian mummy masks stare out impenetrably. Its green baize surface is all but obscured by papers and manuscripts – even, sometimes, a folder or two containing fragments of ancient papyrus. One bibliophile remembers a visit to this room, “like the set of an Indiana Jones movie”, a few years ago. He was offered an antique manuscript for sale by a man named Mahmoud Elder, with whom Obbink owned a company, now dissolved, called Castle Folio.

One blustery evening towards the end of Michaelmas term, 2011, two visiting Americans climbed Obbink’s staircase – Drs Scott Carroll and Jerry Pattengale. Both worked for the Greens, a family of American conservative evangelicals who have made billions from a chain of crafting stores called Hobby Lobby. At the time, the family was embarking on an ambitious new project: the Museum of the Bible, which opened in Washington DC in 2017. Carroll was then its director. Items for the Green collection were bought by Hobby Lobby, then donated to the museum, bringing a substantial tax write-off. Pattengale was the head of the Green Scholars Initiative, a project offering academics research opportunities on items in the Green collection.

The Greens, advised by Carroll, were buying biblical artefacts, such as Torahs and early papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament, at a dizzying pace: $70m was spent on 55,000 objects between 2009 and 2012, Carroll claimed later. The market in a hitherto arcane area of collecting sky-rocketed. “Fortunes were made. At least two vendors who had been making €1-2m a year were suddenly making €100-200m a year,” said one longtime collector.

That wintry evening, Carroll and Pattengale were making one of their occasional trips to seek Obbink’s expertise on matters papyrological. According to Pattengale, just as they were about to leave, Obbink reached into a manila envelope and pulled out four papyrus fragments, one from each of the gospels. Obbink told them that three of these scraps dated from the second century AD.

But the fourth, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark – a 4cm by 4cm scrap the shape of a butterfly’s wing, containing just a few broken words – was earlier than that. It wasP137 ou P. Oxy. 5453 almost certainly from the first century AD, which would make it the oldest surviving manuscript of the New Testament, copied less than 30 years after Mark had actually written it. Conservative evangelicals place enormous weight on the Gospels as “God-breathed” words. The idea that such an object existed was indescribably thrilling. Carroll was “ecstatic”, Pattengale recalled. “Veins along his neck bulged. He paced with arms flailing.”

Carroll, who declined to be interviewed, has said that Pattengale’s account is full of “misrepresentations, misrecollections, and exaggerations”. But he has confirmed this: Obbink showed him the Mark fragment “on the pool table in his office … and he then went into some paleographic detail why he believed it must date to the late-first century … It was in this conversation that he offered it for consideration for Hobby Lobby to buy.”

No purchase was made at the time. Nevertheless, the objects did eventually end up being sold to the Greens, after Carroll left their employ in 2012. The vendor, or so it appears, was Dirk Obbink. His name, and seemingly his signature, appear on a purchase agreement with Hobby Lobby dated 4 February 2013.

The problem is that the items – if the purchase agreement is genuine – were not Obbink’s to sell. They are part of the Oxyrhynchus collection of ancient papyrus, owned by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) and housed at Oxford’s Sackler Library.

Thirteen additional fragments from the collection, it transpired this autumn, had also been sold to the Greens, 11 apparently by Obbink in 2010, and two by a Jerusalem-based antiquities dealer, Baidun & Sons. (A spokesperson for the company’s owner, Alan Baidun, says he was an agent acting in good faith, and that he checked the provenance supplied by the person who sold them to him.)

Six further fragments from the Oxyrhynchus collection have turned up in the possession of another collector in the US, Andrew Stimer, a spokesperson for whom says he acquired them in good faith, and with an apparently complete provenance (though parts of it have subsequently been shown to have been falsified). The dealer who sold them to Stimer told him they had come from the collection of M Elder of Dearborn, Michigan. That is, Mahmoud Elder, Obbink’s sometime business partner. (Elder did not respond to requests for comment. Both the Museum of the Bible and Stimer have cooperated fully with the EES, and have taken steps to return the fragments.)

In total, the EES has now discovered that 120 fragments have gone missing from the Oxyrhynchus collection over the past 10 years. Since the appearance, in June 2019, of that fateful purchase agreement and invoice bearing Obbink’s name, the scale of the scandal has taken time to sink in. What kind of a person – what kind of an academic – would steal, sell, and profit from artefacts in their care? Such an act would be “the most staggering betrayal of the values and ethics of our profession”, according to the Manchester University papyrologist Roberta Mazza.

The alleged thefts were reported to Thames Valley police on 12 November. No one has yet been arrested or charged. Obbink has not responded to interview requests from the Guardian, and has issued only one public statement. “The allegations made against me that I have stolen, removed or sold items owned by the Egypt Exploration Society collection at the University of Oxford are entirely false,” he has said. “I would never betray the trust of my colleagues and the values which I have sought to protect and uphold throughout my academic career in the way that has been alleged. I am aware that there are documents being used against me which I believe have been fabricated in a malicious attempt to harm my reputation and career.”

It seems that Dr Dirk Obbink is either a thief, has been caught up in a colossal misunderstanding, or, perhaps most shockingly of all, is the victim of an elaborate effort to frame him (continua).

Quem quiser ver apenas os pontos relevantes, pode ler o post de Peter Gurry, Longform Guardian Article on the Mark Fragment Saga, publicado hoje no blog Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Ensaios em homenagem a Thomas L. Thompson

Thomas L. Thompson está comemorando hoje 81 anos de vida.

NIESIOLOWSKI-SPANÒ, L. ; PFOH, E. (eds.) Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2019, 328 p. – ISBN 9780567686565.

This volume collects essays from an international body of leading scholars in Old Testament studies, focused upon the key concepts of the question of historicity of biblicalNIESIOLOWSKI-SPANÒ, L. ; PFOH, E. (eds.) Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2019 stories, the archaeology of Israel/Palestine during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the nature of biblical narratives and related literature.

As a celebration of the extensive body of Thomas L. Thompson’s work, these essays enable a threefold perspective on biblical narratives. Beginning with ‘method’, the contributors discuss archaeology, cultural memory, epistemology, and sociology of knowledge, before moving to ‘history, historiography and archaeology’ and close analysis of the Qumran Writings, Josephus and biblical rewritings. Finally the argument turn to the narratives themselves, exploring topics including the possibility of invented myth, the genre of Judges and the depiction of Moses in the Qu’ran. Presenting an interdisciplinary analysis of the historical issues concerning ancient Israel/Palestine, this volume creates an updated body of reference to fifty years’ worth of scholarship.

Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò is Associate Professor in the Institute of History at the University of Warsaw, Poland.

Emanuel Pfoh is Assistant Professor at the National University of La Plata, Argentina.

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Contributors
List of Abbreviations
Introduction, Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò and Emanuel Pfoh
The Publications of Thomas L. Thompson

PART 1: METHOD
Chapter 1. The City of David as a Palimpsest – Margreet L. Steiner, Independent Scholar, the Netherlands
Chapter 2. Living in the Past? Keeping Up-To-Date in Ancient Near Eastern Studies – Raz Kletter, University of Helsinki, Finland
Chapter 3. What People Want to Believe: Or Fighting Against ‘Cultural Memory’ – Niels Peter Lemche, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Chapter 4. The Need for a Comprehensive Sociology of Knowledge of Biblical and Archaeological Studies of the Southern Levant – Emanuel Pfoh, National University of La Plata, Argentina

PART 2: HISTORY, HISTORIOGRAPHY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
Chapter 5. The Abraham and Esau-Jacob Stories in the Context of the Maccabean Period – Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò, University of Warsaw, Poland
Chapter 6. Tell Balata (Shechem): An Archaeological and Historical Reassessment – Hamdan Taha, former Deputy of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Palestine, and Gerrit van der Kooij, University of Leiden, the Netherlands
Chapter 7. ‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom – Russell Gmirkin, Independent Scholar, USA
Chapter 8. On the Pre-Exilic Gap between Israel and Judah – Étienne Nodet, École biblique et archéologique française de Jerusalem, Israel
Chapter 9. Perceptions of Israel’s Past in Qumran Writings: Between Myth and Historiography – Jesper Høgenhaven, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Chapter 10. Is Josephus’s John the Baptist Passage a Chronologically Dislocated Story of the Death of Hyrcanus II? – Greg Doudna, Independant Scholar, USA
Chapter 11. Thompson’s Jesus: Staring Down the Wishing Well – Jim West, Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong
Chapter 12. The Qur’an as Biblical Rewriting – Mogens Müller, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

PART 3: BIBLICAL NARRATIVES
Chapter 13. The Food of Life and the Food of Death in Texts from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East – Ingrid Hjelm, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Chapter 14. A Gate in Gaza: An Essay on the Reception of Tall Tales – Jack M. Sasson, Vanderbilt University, USA
Chapter 15. Deborah’s Topical Song: Remarks on the Gattung of Judges 5 – Bob Becking, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Chapter 16. How Jerusalem’s Temple Was Aligned to Moses’ Tabernacle: About the Historical Power of an Invented Myth – Rainer Albertz, University of Münster, Germany
Chapter 17. Can the Book of Nehemiah Be Used as an Historical Source, and If So, of What? – Lisbeth S. Fried, University of Michigan, USA
Chapter 18. Chronicles’ Reshaping of Memories of Ancestors Populating Genesis – Ehud Ben Zvi, University of Alberta, Canada
Chapter 19. The Book of Proverbs and Hesiod’s Works and Days – Philippe Wajdenbaum, Independent Scholar, the Netherlands
Chapter 20. The Villain ‘Samaritan’: The Samiri as the Other Moses in Qur’anic Exegesis – Joshua Sabih, University of Copenhagen

Index of References
Index of Authors

A mensagem revolucionária do Natal

O Natal deve ser olhado como uma mensagem política ousada dos cristãos ao dizer que é preciso confiar em Deus e resistir ao império.

Christmas is intended to be a bold political profession by Christians to trust God and to resist empire.

O Natal é a história da promessa de Deus de derrotar os poderes do mal. O Natal nos lembra que Jesus nasceu para resgatar as pessoas da tirania do poder imperial.

Christmas is the story of God’s promise to defeat evil powers, Jesus born to rescue people from tyrants, resistance to imperial powers and faithfulness in the face of empire.

 

O verdadeiro significado do Natal: Confie em Deus, resista ao império!

The true meaning of Christmas: Trust God, resist empire! – By Michael F. Bird: The Washington Post – Dec. 24, 2019

When most people think of the message of Christmas, they normally think about angels, wise men, shepherds, joy to the world, peace and goodwill, and “to us a child is given.” True, Christmas celebrates the incarnation of the Son of God as a baby born to a Galilean teenage girl named Mary in Bethlehem. Christmas is indeed a time to celebrate God’s blessings and peace to all.

But there is another side to Christmas! Christmas is the story of God’s promise to defeat evil powers, Jesus born to rescue people from tyrants, resistance to imperial powers and faithfulness in the face of empire.

Take the nativity story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

According to Matthew, Jesus is a new Moses, born to save the people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He delivers them from Herod, the ruthless Roman puppet king of Judea, who acts like the old Pharaoh in the massacre of infants in his desperation to murder the child destined to replace him as king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-18). Whereas Herod turned the land of Judea into a place of misery and weeping, Jesus will lead his people in a new return from exile, a new escape from a wicked king, and into a new promised land called “the kingdom of heaven.”

Luke takes an explicitly political approach to the Christmas story. Luke situates the birth of Jesus in the context of a decree by Caesar Augustus for families of the empire to register for a census (Luke 2:1-3). Setting up the story this way, Luke immediately challenges us as to who we think is in charge of the world.

Is it Rome’s son of the divine Julius Caesar or Israel’s son of David? Rome’s Caesar or Israel’s Messiah? Rome’s Sebastos, the venerable one or Israel’s Christos, the anointed one? In particular, the various songs and prophecies uttered by characters in Luke’s nativity make explicit that God’s purposes in Jesus, summarized as “the kingdom of God,” entail social and political liberation from exploitative foreign powers.

Mary’s famous Magnificat could be the manifesto for a Marxist guerrilla group. She celebrates how, “God has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53).

For Matthew and Luke, the nativity story is not meant to occasion our “oohs” and “aahs” at cute babies and 6-year olds dressed as wisemen and shepherds. Rather, the nativity is hope for justice, deliverance, and redemption in a world run by predatory empires. Christmas for the evangelists marks the beginning of God’s revolution to make things on earth as they are in heaven all through the son of Mary.

The anti-empire script of Christmas is accented by John of Patmos in his apocalypse, which unveils God’s plan to defeat the Roman empire and to replace it with the reign of his Messiah. This book, The Revelation of St. John, is not a coded mystery of the end times that religious enthusiasts of the 21st century unravel for us. More properly, Revelation shows us what the Roman empire looks like from the perspective of those under its lash, under its boot, and facing the threat of imperial violence. Revelation, as a Jewish apocalypse, is a symbolic species of writing that uses metaphor and marvel to describe in cryptic insider language how God will triumph over the pagan powers of the reader’s day.

How does John describe the nativity? Imagine this: A woman is in the final throes of childbirth, screaming in agony, her legs spread apart, ready to expel the baby from the birth canal. And waiting there with her is a dragon, poised, hungry, leaning over her, eagerly waiting to devour whatever is ejected from her loins. Yet the child escapes from the dragon and he soon rules over the nations with an iron scepter. Sound weird? Well, this is the Christmas story of John as narrated in Revelation 12!

The scene depicts the cosmic battle between the forces of evil and the hosts of heaven as the context for the birth of Jesus. The woman in question is not Mary, rather, she is the messianic community through whom Jesus is birthed. The child is obviously the Messiah, hence the citation of Psalm 2:9 about his rule over the nations. The removal of the child from the dragon is allusive of Jesus’ ascension and exaltation.

Importantly Jesus’ birth and the blood that he sheds as the Lamb of God constitutes the victory of God’s salvation, power, and kingdom over the evil one. In John’s vision, God’s plan to repossess the world from the dominion of darkness is launched in the birth of a child who is destined to defeat the dragon that rages against God’s people.

For the faithful, Christmas is a celebration that God is for us, God is near us, because God was one of us. God comes to us, in the vulnerability of child, to save us from our sins, and to rescue us from the evil forces that oppress us.

Christmas promises us that the despots of this age, political or spiritual, are living on borrowed time. The Christmas story is God’s answer to all the evil, injustice, brutality, suffering and death that we see around us.

Christmas is not meant to be about cheap trinkets for consumer religion. Rather, it is the annual reminder that God’s liberating love will always find us in the darkest corners of the world. Christmas is intended to be a bold political profession by Christians to trust God and to resist empire.

Michael F. Bird is academic dean of Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia, and senior research fellow with the Australian College of Theology.

 

 

Doze coisas importantes sobre as histórias de Natal que devem ser lembradas

Twelve important things to keep in mind about the Christmas stories – By Andrew Perriman: P.ost – 20 December, 2019

1. Let’s be blunt. Christmas has nothing to do with God coming to earth as a helpless babe to save humanity from sin, etc. That is another matter, it’s not what’s being said, it’s not the burden of the stories in Matthew and Luke. These narrate the birth of a king who will deliver first century Israel from a national crisis. When the angel says to Joseph that Mary’s son will “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), he means that Jesus will save Israel from the concrete social-political-religious transgressions that have brought the nation to the brink of catastrophe.

2. The key question to ask about the virgin conception of Jesus is not “Did it happen?” but “What did it mean?” Neither Matthew nor Luke understood it as the metaphysical process by which God became man. Rather it makes Jesus’ birth an outstanding prophetic “sign” of things to come.

3. A sign of what? It’s in the name “Immanuel”. During the Syro-Ephraimite war in the 8th century BC, Isaiah told a nervous king Ahaz that a boy would be born to a young woman in the royal court who would be given the name Immanuel, which means “God with us”. The mere existence of this significantly named child would be a “sign” to Ahaz that the alliance between Rezin and Pekah would fail and that YHWH would preserve Jerusalem from the Assyrians (Is. 7:10-17; 8:5-10). The birth of the boy, therefore, was a sign that God is with his people at a time of great political crisis. Same for the boy Jesus, who is not given the name Immanuel but a name meaning “YHWH is salvation” (Matt. 1:21).

4. Luke puts a different prophetic spin on the miraculous conception of Jesus. The child being born will be called not Immanuel or even Jesus but “holy, Son of God”. By this he means not that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity or God incarnate, true though that may in some sense be, but that he is the Davidic king who will bring peace to a people under Roman occupation and will rule over the house of Jacob for ever (Lk. 1:32-33, 35; 2:1, 11, 14).

5. I wonder if Luke is not also pointing his readers to Isaiah’s description of a restored Jerusalem when he says that the Spirit will come upon and overshadow (episkiasei) Mary, and that the child will be called “holy”: on that day, what is left behind in Jerusalem “will be called holy, all who have been recorded for life”, because the Lord will wash away the filth of his people; then he will come, and as a cloud will “overshadow” (skiasei) the city (Is. 4:2-6 LXX).

6. Mary expects God to keep his promise to Abraham and help Israel at this time of grave crisis by scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful from their thrones, raising up the wretched and low-born, filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich away empty-handed (Lk. 1:51-55). Simeon says that “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…” (Lk. 2:34). This was inflammatory, revolutionary talk.

7. People like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, need salvation not on account of their own sins but because of the sins of the nation. These are righteous folk, but they are suffering the consequences of the wilful disobedience of a people that is on a broad road leading to destruction.

8. For the priest Zechariah the redemption of Israel simply means that he can go about the business of serving God in the temple without fearing for his life (Lk. 1:68-75). But he knows that redemption will begin with a devastating judgment against a corrupt priesthood (Lk. 1:76; cf. Mal. 3:1). The prophetess Anna expects no less and no more than the “redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk. 2:38).

9. Whereas the story of the coming of the magi is told against Herod, the angelic announcement to the shepherds has a ring of anti-imperial propaganda to it (Lk. 2:8-14). The Priene calendar inscription, celebrating the birth of the god Augustus, is now quite well known:

Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence… has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us Augustus, whom it filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as Saviour, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and having become [god] manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times… in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangeliōn) concerning him….

10. The infant Jesus is hailed as the Davidic king who will at the very least overthrow an unrighteous régime, deliver his people from oppression, bring peace and justice to Israel, and restore the international reputation of the nation—so that kings and magi and peoples would come to pay tribute. This was the good news.

11. Joseph and Mary presumably stay with family in Bethlehem. The guest room (katalumati) being already occupied or too small, Jesus is born in the animal stalls beneath the main living area and is laid in the feeding trough. This will be a sign to the shepherds (Lk. 2:12). Why? Perhaps because Isaiah says that “the donkey knows its master’s manger”, but Israel has not known the Lord (Is. 1:3 LXX); or because Jeremiah says that when Jerusalem is restored, there “shall again be in this place that is waste and in all its cities, lodgings (katalumata) of shepherds resting sheep” (Jer. 40:12 LXX). Again, a revolutionary message.

12. Simeon says that he has seen the salvation that YHWH has prepared “in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:31–32). What he means is that the coming judgment and restoration of Israel will reveal the power and character of Israel’s God to the nations and that this will bring glory and renown to Israel. This is clear not least from the allusion to Isaiah 52:10: “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” When God redeems his people from captivity in Babylon and brings them back to the land, the nations will see and wonder at this extraordinary act of salvation.

Given the poor reputation of the church and of the God of the church in the West today, I feel that we are in need of another such act of wonder-engendering redemption.

My name is Andrew Perriman. My wife, Belinda, and I have lived in various parts of the world over the last 30 years: the Far East, Africa, the Middle East, the Netherlands, and now London. I’ve combined theological studies and writing with pastoral and missional work in a wide range of contexts. I have a degree in English Language and Literature from Oxford and an MPhil and PhD from the London School of Theology, of which I am an Associate Research Fellow. I teach New Testament occasionally, and I am an extension studies tutor and examiner for LST’s MA in Aspects and Implications of Biblical Interpretation. My overriding theological interest at the moment is in how we retell the biblical story as we negotiate the difficult transition from the centre to the margins of our culture following the collapse of Western Christendom.

Feliz 2020

Desejo a todos os visitantes do Observatório Bíblico e da Ayrton’s Biblical Page um Feliz 2020!

Feliz Ano Novo!Nuvem de marcadores - Observatório Bíblico

Happy New Year!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Bonne Année!

Frohes Neues Jahr!

Buon Anno!