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Thursday, 16 August 2007

Will the last Jew out of Baghdad please pull the drapes?

OK, corny title. But at least original. TIME's article is called The Last Jews of Baghdad. Here's an intersting quote:
"I don't want them to leave at all because the Jewish presence here is very important," White says. "But unless we care for them, I dread for what is going to happen to them. I do not want them to leave, but I think that is the only way."
I'm not sure what he's referring to. The presence of eight people on the Ark was certainly important, but how would ancient Babylonia suffer from eight fewer people who live in hiding already, too afraid to even worship at the last synagogue?

Actually, I think their departure would be far more significant. For thousands of years the Jews of the Diaspora have persisted in refusing to return from exile. Events of only the last 90 years have turned what for 2500 years had never been more than a trickle into a flood that has continued to gush forth in wave after wave of Jews returning to the land promised to the seed of their ancestor. To finally have the last Jew leave the land of their original exile would seem to portent something very significant.

The same scene may soon be played out in Iraq's neighbor to the East, the former Persia, where Daniel first read of the impending end of Jewry's forced exile. Here remains the largest Jewish population in any Muslim country, though only a quarter of its former size. While three-fourths have left Iran because they thought they could live better elsewhere, most of those who remain won't leave as long as they are reasonably sure it's the only way to live at all: Why leave? Really, it's OK here, and it's home"

Should conditions in Iran approach those in Iraq, the entire remnant of the Babylonian and Persian captivities may well find themselves elsewhere.

Where's that? Well, mostly not in Israel, for now anyway. America is the preferred destination; this does not bode well for that nation should a time come when all Jews everywhere will feel compelled to return to Israel. The only way it will happen here is if a virulently anti-Jewish regime comes to power. And that will not bode well for a host of people other than the Jews themselves.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The Lunar Sabbath and Pentecost

Since quite a few of the hits this blog has been receiving lately relate to the Lunar Sabbath question, this would be a good time to share the results of my ongoing research.

Earlier I said that I was leaving the Pentecost question for later, since it was the hardest to answer.

It's later.

The Pentecost problem is simply this: The Jews were instructed in Leviticus 23:16 to count "fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath." According to the weekly sabbath calendar, the day after the seventh sabbath would in fact mark the 50th day. But in a lunar sabbath calander, seven weeks of sabbaths would not equal forty-nine days.

But is this (fifty days, to the day after) the meaning of the text, or could it actually mean "count fifty days--to the day--after the seventh sabbath--" which would mean fifty days AND seven sabbaths; approximately doubling the time being counted?

To answer this question, we begin with linguistics. The Greek language is much more precise than the Hebrew in matters of chronolgy, and this is how this passage (v.15-16) was translated into Greek around the time of Jesus:

Kai ariqhsete umin apo ths epaurion twn sabbatwn, apo ths hmeras hs an prosenegkhte to dragma tou epiqematos epta ebdomadas oloklhrous ews ths epaurion ths escaths ebdomados ariqmhsete penthkonta hmeras. . .

In English:
And ye shall number to yourselves from the day after the sabbath from the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering seven full weeks until the morrow after the last week ye shall number fify days. . .

Here we see that the word "sabbath" and "week" are interchangeable in Greek, giving a possible meaning in this case that the fifty-day count comes after the seven-week count. Could this actually be the case?

There are several ways to test this hypothesis. First of all, we have several historical accounts of Passover and/or Pentecost given in the Scriptures, and we can glean clues from them as to what time of the year is actually in view. Let's look at these.

1. The first Passover occurred when the barely was ready to harvest but the wheat hadn't yet borne fruit. This is clear from Exodus 10:31ff. This gives us an idea that the wheat harvest was several months behind the barely harvest. In fact, historical records indicate that it was close to four months (John 4:35) until the next harvest. But note that in Leviticus 23, the feasts at both ends of this 7-week-and-50-day period require the bringing of FIRSTfruits; i.e. the first pick of the harvest of barley and wheat respectively. So the interval between these two festivals should coincide with the respective differences in harvest time of barley and wheat. Fifty days just isn't enough for a 3- to 4-month growing season.

2. The question may be asked, "But what if the wheat was planted earlier?" Unlikely as that may be, there would still be another question to be faced: the grape harvest. At Pentecost, the disciples were specifically accused of having had too much fresh grape juice to drink. This beverage is only available around the time of the grape harvest, and grapes in Palestine don't ripen until summer--putting us at least 100 days after Passover.

3. There are many verses that equate harvest, including grape harvest, with summer. Click on the title above for a link to some of them. Note that Gideon was using an empty winepress to thresh wheat, indicating that the grape harvest came somewhat later, at the end of the summer. One hundred five days after Passover would be just into the fifth month of the year, around mid-July on our calendar.

Understanding the 7+50 count gives us an interesting insight into the ministry of Jesus: Acts 1:3 says that he ascended forty days after his Resurrection, which coincided with the Firstfruits Sheaf Offering. Thus it was not ten days that his disciples spent awaiting the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, but more than sixty. Only then was the Day of Pentecost fully come.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

A Striking Blow to Global Warming

Creation on the Web has come out with a great article on Global Warming. Rather unusual for such a topic, CMI takes no position for or against; it simply reports on the latest developments in the debate.

And the latest developments are rather disastrous for the Global Warming camp.
Read the report here.

The video referred to in the article can be viewed on Youtube. Click on the title for the first segment.

For those who don't care to watch the whole video, here's a synopsis.

- Many of the scientists whose names are listed as supporting the IPCC's report, don't. Some have had to go to court to get their names removed from the list.
- Global Warming was unheard of before 1975
- Global Warming was first proposed in a BBC TV special in the late 1970's, as a good thing.
- Margaret Thatcher used the threat of Global Warming as a political weapon against striking mine workers
- The scientific data indicate that Global Warming is a direct result of solar activity, and CO2 levels are an indirect result (not a cause) of elevated temperatures.
- Global warming makes for milder weather, not more severe.
- Some of the same dire predictions being made by Global Warming chicken-littles were first broadcast by those warning of the same effects, but due instead to Global Cooling.
- Global Warming as a pseudo-religious political movement has taken on a life of its own, and anyone who opposes it is branded a heretic [much as happened 50 years earlier with Darwin's Theory].

As someone who lived through a few winters before the latest warming trend began, I have to say I'm glad for Global Warming and hope it continues.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Success of the Public School System

The Public School system in the Untited States, as overseen by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is a big business--a very successful business, I propose.

Now, in any unregulated industry, only the successful businesses survive. Others go under. Granted, public eduction is a heavily regulated industry, but it thrives nonetheless, even in the face of serious competition. Why have public schools survived? It is because they are so good at what they do.

What do public schools do? Well, whether they are crime-ridden inner-city structures or posh suburban campuses, all public schools do one thing, and they do it well:

They pay teachers a lot of money.

A few years ago, the taxpayers of Kalkaska, Michigan, tried to change this. They cut funding to the school system so severely that all the students were dismissed and the schools for all intents and purposes shut down.

The Teachers, however, continued to get paid. Thus the school, even while closed, succeeded in its primary mission: To pay teachers a lot of money.

This is not the story you will get from the AFT. According to their website,

"Teachers, especially new ones, are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing in their communities and to pay off student loan debts. These and other factors place the teaching profession—already plagued by high turnover and recruiting challenges—in further peril, according to the latest AFT teacher salary survey. The AFT teacher salary survey for the 2004-05 school year found that the average teacher salary was $47,602, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year. The report asserts that, to make teacher pay competitive with pay in other professions by the end of the decade, teachers need a 30 percent raise—an additional investment in our children’s future of almost $15 billion per year. The 2005 salary survey also examines the impact of rising housing costs and student loan debt on teachers in the 50 largest cities."

Now, it may surprise my readers, but I am all in favor of teachers getting paid $30 or $40 an hour. In fact, I have some educational needs in my family for which I would be willing to put up such a sum myself.

I, however, take no joy in paying such sums for the supposed education of other men's children. And I forsee the day in which the Public School System will loose its monopoly on education, and be forced out of business because competent teachers will be able to earn more money in the private sector, and parents will be unwilling to continue turning their children over to substandard teachers when other options become available.

Why do I foresee the demise of the Public Schools?

Because they have a Flawed Business Plan. Paying teachers a lot of money is no way to build a business, as long as it is tied to the level of their perceived needs rather than to the level of their contribution to the education of children.