Friday, November 22, 2013

by way of contrast

i've been obsessed with bees lately
industrious and organized
productive and precise
and dying

honey sealed in wax hexagons
honey sealed in glass jars
unspoiled, eternal
never sours, never molds
only crystalizes

if you'd been sealed in wax,
could i have kept you? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Misquoting Jesus, Chapter 2: The Copyists of the Early Christian Writings

"One of the problems with ancient Greek texts (which would include all the earliest Christian writings, including those of the New Testament) is that when they were copied, no marks of punctuation were used, no distinction made between lowercase and uppercase letters, and, even more bizarre to modern readers, no spaces used to separate words." (pg. 48)

Think of the complexity of some of the New Testament, like Paul's letters (I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.). Even with modern rules of grammar imposed, this passage is pretty ridiculous. When those rules are done away with, it's easier to misread what is on the page. And even if your eyes and brain play no tricks, even if every letter is read in its correct place, comprehension and translation errors can still happen. Ehrman provides an example of what can happen with the following word: "godisnowhere", which can be read as "God is now here" or "god is nowhere".

"Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple -- slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another. Scribes could be incompetent: it is important to recall that most of the copyists in the early centuries were not trained to do this kind of work but were simply the literate members of their congregations who were (more or less) able and willing." (pg. 55)

Mistakes happen, but once they do, it can be hard to figure out where they are and how to correct them. And now, centuries later, how can we ever expect to know for certain which manuscript is the most correct version? 

"What survives today, then, is not the original copy of the letter, nor one of the first copies that Paul himself had made, nor any of the copies that were produced in any of the towns of Galatia to which the letter was sent, nor any of the copies of those copies. The first reasonably complete copy we have of Galatians (this manuscript is fragmentary; i.e., it has a number of missing parts) is a papyrus called P46 (since it was the 46th New Testament papyrus to be catalogued), which dates to about 200 C.E. That's approximately 150 years after Paul wrote the letter. It had been in circulation, being copied sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly, for fifteen decades before any copy was made that has survived down to the present day." (pg. 60)

"Original" scripts for the Bible are essentially nonexistent, and even the earliest ones that we have are so far from the original that there is no way to determine how accurate the copies are.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

it's weird how i'm a complex human person

A friend of mine just posted a long, rambly quote on Facebook about not pursuing any romantic relationships until she finds full satisfaction in God. You see a lot of similar quotes when you and/or many of your friends are young evangelical Christians. Hell, i've even said similar things, and back in high school i broke up with one guy and rejected another because i felt like romantic considerations were distracting me from God.

You also see a lot of almost empowering secular quotes about not pursuing a man until you've found full satisfaction in yourself. You know, graduate from college, get a good career going, pay off some debts, buy some fabulous shoes, pick up a hobby. No one else can love you until you love yourself, after all, and men will like you better if they have to chase you and compete for you with your job and friends and dog or whatever, because of their cavemen genes. Or something. I stopped reading Cosmo a few years ago because of shit like that.

I realized over the past year that a lot of the things i have always taken for granted are not guaranteed. I also realized that i had never really thought about whether or not i personally wanted these things; i just knew that they were good things for some people and assumed they would come to me. Things like marriage and kids, for example. I had always more or less assumed that i would be married by the time i was 25. And then i was dating this amazing man, and we were so in love, and things were going well, and i thought i would marry him some day.

Over the summer, John and i talked about exactly that. We'd talked about marriage before, about how we had some things to work out in our individual lives before we could start making those kinds of plans, and how if/when we did get engaged, it wouldn't be till we were both done with grad school. But during this conversation, John told me he wasn't sure he ever wanted to marry anyone. And then as i thought about it more, i realized that John's grad school schedule meant that, assuming we did get engaged, i couldn't possibly expect to have a ring on my finger until i was 26 or 27. I thought about my options for a few minutes. Do i wait it out with John and see if he wants to get married some day? Do i stay with him even if we never get married? If we do, will i be able to marry him while i'm still young enough to have kids? Do i break up with him and start looking for someone who's a little closer to being ready to settle down? If so, can i get over him, find someone new, and wrangle him to the altar before i hit my quarter century? Where did i get this magic 25, anyway? Wait, do i even want kids?

And then i realized that i simply did not give a single fuck.

Getting married is no longer a goal of mine. If it happens, great, if not, oh well. I do want to do my best to love well those who come into my path. I do want to know that i never abandoned a promising relationship before doing everything i could to make it work. But if i'm on my deathbed, looking at my cats and my post-graduate degrees and my written works (published and unpublished), reflecting on years of hard and satisfying work, surrounded by nieces and nephews and friends, i'm pretty sure i won't be saying, "Damn. If only i had gotten married."

I pursue a relationship with God because i love Him, and because everything in my life seems better when things are good with Him. I pursue other things in my life (school, work, shoes) because i like them and they make me happy. I don't pursue them so i can cross things off of my pre-wedding check-list.

And here's the crux of the whole thing: My relationship with God is pretty solid right now. It could be better, but we'll never get to a point where there's no more room for improvement, because that's not how relationships work. And my personal life is heading in a good direction, and i'm working hard to keep it on that track: working nights and weekends so i can (FINALLY!) finish grad school, getting a new roommate, painting my apartment, and even trying to do a little writing here and there.

Yet two months ago, John and i broke up. I'm not dating anyone else right now, and i'm not looking for anyone else. Mostly because i'm still getting over him, and a little bit because i'm hoping we might still have a future. But big picture? I'm not dating anyone right now because i'm not dating anyone right now. It's not because God is trying to teach me a lesson or because He hasn't brought the right person to me yet. It's not because my many impressive accomplishments intimidate men, or because they see my cat pictures and knitting needles and decide i'm too much of a loser to activate their (bullshit) caveman genetic drive to pursue me. I'm not dating anyone right now because i'm not dating anyone right now.

Life is bigger than bumper stickers or Facebook statuses. It is far more beautiful and complex than Cosmo articles or the imaginary goals we think we're supposed to have. It doesn't mesh all that well with timelines and schedules. And it looks very, very different to each and every person who has it.

If you feel like you need to work out some shit with God before you date anyone, great. Go do that. If you feel like you need to get your career on track before you date anyone, great. Go do that. Me, i'm working hard and having adventures. Sometimes i'm alone, sometimes i'm with friends, and for two years i had a steady partner. Maybe one day i will again. But in the meantime, i'm not trying to get my life lined up so i'll be ready for love when it finds me. I'm trying to get my life lined up because that makes it easier for me to have adventures.

Life is the thing. Don't have a great life so that some guy will want to be a part of it. Have a great life so that YOU can have a great life.