Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Light Bulb

Rainy this morning. And that sound wasn’t thunder as I thought, but my neighbor cranking up his red pickup truck. Covet. If I can’t have a red convertible, maybe I’ll get a red pickup truck, both of my pickup trucks have been green. The first one was a well-used Ford V8 F-100, a model years before the popular F-150. The second one I ordered brand new about 1995 from my buddy the Ford dealer in Apalachicola, an F-150 XLT. Nice. Very, very nice. It was a six.  

One evening last week, news online carried stuff about asteroid 2000M26. It was the size of three football fields and could be a near miss and you could watch it pass us on Slooh, an online telescope community. So, I did. I listened to excited chat of astronomers on, as I recall, the Canary Islands and somewhere way across in the southwestern Pacific. George Washington would have been amazed. But there was nothing to see, it was a dark shadow passing in black space and Slooh missed it. And it was no “near miss” either, that was hype, it was more than two million miles away from us. Last year we had a real “near miss” pass between us and the moon, seems to me it may even have been between us and the space station. Holy you-know-what, the apocalypse.

Apocalyptic excites people. A string of blazing infernos in Kiev last week looked like the end of the world or at least that part of it. But the next day we found out that it was really just the downtown square and for the rest of the city, area neighborhoods, life was pretty much as usual. Could that happen in Washington? Would the officials shoot us? Or would they flee? I think they would shoot us, but remember, this is why we have the second amendment, not for squirrel hunting. Of apocalypse, I watched from the Pentagon across the Potomac River, the burning skyline of Washington, DC in days after MLK was assassinated. I saw newsreels of WW2 firestorms in Tokyo, Dresden, Coventry. On Youtube, one can still experience Coventry with people who were there. And get a sense of it by strolling the grounds of the Cathedral.   

Or by reading books. The Road. Earth Abides. On the Beach. Looking back on last week’s frankly phony stir about 2000M26, and the general notion of watching for the death of planet earth, some journalist wrote, “Here’s my hunch: The thing that’s going to get us, one day, isn’t going to be something on anyone’s radar.” I think that’s true. It won't be God coming at us from outer space. What’s going to wipe us out is our hatreds for each other.

My reading list has shifted. Yesterday while preparing for today’s Bible study of 2 Peter, I read something about Ignatius. According to tradition, and there is a lot of tradition surrounding Ignatius, he was Bishop of Antioch at the turn of the first century. About the year 110-115, Trajan the emperor condemned him and ordered sent for execution to Rome, where he was devoured by ferocious lions as a public spectacle in the Coliseum. On his way to Rome, Ignatius, like Paul, wrote letters. There are lots of forgeries claiming Ignatius, but seven letters are accorded legitimacy by most scholars, although there are said to be issues of some letters being tampered with, added to later. That uncertainty makes it uneasy to read them and unequivocally date things about early Christian church christology and ecclesiology. At 78, I don’t have to remember a gardenia thing and I don’t have to apologize that my lightbulb needs changing, but it seems to me I read that Ignatius did not know Second Peter. What Ignatius of Antioch knew, as indicated in his letters, is a help to scholars in dating early Christian writings, and this may be taken as one of several clues in dating 2 Peter into the second century A.D. after Ignatius instead of to the Apostle Peter. 

English translations of the seven genuine letters of Ignatius are readily available online. It occurred to me last night that I never read them in seminary, so started last evening and read two, his letter to Polycarp and the letter to the Philadelphians. Ignatius seems chiefly concerned about gentle kindness and about loyal obedience to bishops. Also, in both of those letters he discusses presbyters and deacons (which if genuine is indicative of that organization quite early). The letter to the Philadelphians is full of information, including his high christology (but is that his or added?). And in that letter I found quotes from the gospel according to Matthew, even though Ignatius doesn’t actually name Matthew: what might that suggest? For one thing that the "first gospel" was in circulation but had not yet been named. The seven letters of Ignatius of Antioch are short and easy to read in English, so my reading project for the rest of this week is to finish all seven.

For free tasty lunch at Bible study today, Linda is serving spaghetti with tomato meat sauce and a bowl of grated cheese fresh from Rome where Ignatius was martyred, no doubt, cheese from sheep grazing on grass growing in the blood of the martyrs right there in the coliseum; and Nancy is bringing a just-baked cake. It will all be delicious, and the rainy weather will keep some people away, so there will be plenty for Bubba.


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