Mishnaic Hebrew as a Common Person’s Language

Based on old research, some claim that Hebrew was not a living language in use among the common people of the Land in the first century. Instead, they claim it was a scholarly or liturgical language. However, more and more evidence is coming to light that this is not so.

New Testament scholars have for years translated the Greek Ebraios into “Aramaic” when it appears in the New Testament instead of “Hebrew.” They do this because the prevailing theory for many years was that Hebrew was only used by religious people and scholars. However, the weight of evidence says otherwise.

Historical

From the return from Exile onward, there was a concerted effort to restore Hebrew as the national language. It had been lost among most of the people during the Exile. The post exilic books of Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are all written exclusively in Hebrew (Ezra has a few Aramaic sections, but these are correspondence with a foreign King). Daniel’s middle section is in flawless, Royal Aramaic (from 2:4b to the end of chapter 7), but the rest of the book is in Biblical Hebrew (and it’s good Hebrew). Those middle sections needed to be in Aramaic to reflect the original language of the decrees and events.

During the Hasmonean/Maccabean Revolt, even more emphasis was placed on Hebrew. Coins from this period (and other bilingual periods) are Greek/Hebrew and not Greek/Aramaic (with one exception in the middle of the period). Literature from the period and place is almost never Greek or Aramaic but Hebrew.

That literature includes: 1 Maccabees (originally in Hebrew), the Dead Sea Scrolls (almost exclusively Hebrew), all of the Palestinian apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, all Palestinian rabbinic literature (the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, all the Midrash). The Midrash can be compared to sermon illustrations that would be used in a preaching environment. Note that they were to be told to the common people and were in Hebrew.

The only collection of rabbinic literature in Aramaic is the Babylonian Talmud. This should not be surprising because it was compiled in Babylon where Aramaic was spoken. However, even the Babylonian Talmud preserves its Mishnah portion in Hebrew. The commentary on the Mishnah (called Gemerah) is in Aramaic, but the Mishnah remains in Hebrew. In addition, whenever a later, Palestinian rabbi is quoted in the Gemerah, the quote will be in Hebrew while the discussion of the quote is in Aramaic. Parables are also preserved in the Babylonian Gemerah in Hebrew. Parables were intended to be taught to the common people. They were far from academic exercises. Even though thousands of parables have been found in Hebrew (or Greek as recorded in the New Testament), not one parable in the Talmud or anywhere else has been found in Aramaic.

The Targumim (Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible) date to the second and third centuries after Christ and came about because of an Aramaic-speaking Jewish immigration from Babylon to Israel.

The early rabbis forbade the teaching of Greek to one’s sons and insisted that only Hebrew be used for religious instruction. The forbidden nature of Greek applied only to religious matters as commerce required Greek.

The New Testament includes Hebrew idioms that do not exist in Aramaic and makes wordplays that only work when a Hebrew source is considered. A good example of this is the “son from stones” word play Jesus makes in Matthew 3:9. The New Testament also never uses the word Suristi (Aramaic) to describe the language used. It only uses Ebraios(Hebrew).

Even though modern scholarship is admitting that Hebrew existed in the academies and temple, the rabbinic literature says that even children and women (who were not allowed to obtain formal, rabbinic instruction) spoke Hebrew.

Literary

  • We should not allow a few Aramaisms to cloud the case of the many Hebraisms that appear in the New Testament. Levonah (Frankincense, Matt 2:11), mammon (Luke 16:9), Wai (Woe Matt 23:13), rabbi (Matthew 23:7,8), Beelzebub (Luke 11:15), corban (Mark 7:11), Satan, cammon (cumin Matthew 23:23), raca (Matthew 5:22), moreh (Matthew 5:22), mor (myrrh, Luke 7:37), sheekmah (sycamore, Luke 17:6), and amen which appears about 100x.
  • Alongside the Aramaic names in the New Testament are many Hebrew names such as Judah (preserved as Jude and Judas), Jacob (preserved as James), Yehoshua (preserved as Jesus), Saul, Mattithyahu (Matthew), Mary (comes from Miriam), Simeon, Joseph, Y’hochanan (John), and others. Drawing conclusions from personal and place names tells us very little about the language of the common people.
  • Joseph A. Fitzmyer, one of the world’s more prominent Aramaic scholars, admitted in 1975 in hindsight: “…the way in which claims are sometimes made for the Aramaic substratum of the sayings of Jesus, when the evidence is merely ‘Semitic’ in general, or, worse still, derived from some other Semitic language, e.g., Hebrew, should no longer be countenanced.”
  • MH Segal in his Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (see pp. 5 and 9-10) demonstrates that this was a spoken language and not an artificial language of the academy.
  • Writings from the time have been found that show us Hebrew was a living language. These include the Masada Fragments, which have 6 items that are definitely not biblical material written in Hebrew. (There are other pieces which are biblical [numbering 7] or unidentifiable [numbering 2].) Included in these documents are about 2/3 of Ben Sira in Hebrew. They date to the first century BC.
  • Likewise, the huge cache of documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls (~250 BC – ~AD 50) shows that Hebrew was in use for centuries while it was thought unknown. While the Qumran caves uncovered copies of the Hebrew Bible and some apocryphal works, the vast majority was sectarian literature unique to the Qumran community. This material was written in Mishnaic Hebrew. The Dead Sea writings were not intended for use only by scholars but for all Jews willing to become an Essene.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls have also shown that many of the Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works were originally written in Hebrew. These works were intended for the common person to be able to read (the synagogues did not preach on them). As such, an understandable language was needed. That language was Hebrew.
  • An example of the above is Tobit, the apocryphal work. For centuries, it was assumed that Tobit had been first written in Aramaic. However, both Aramaic and Hebrew versions have been discovered in the Dead Sea Scroll caves. It was further determined, based on comparisons between the two, that the Hebrew version of Tobit was the original.
  • Other works from the second and third century BC are written in Hebrew: 1 Enoch, Jubilees, 1 Maccabees (tho preserved in Greek, experts all agree that its original language of composition was Hebrew on the basis of internal evidence), Judith (ditto), Ben Sira (cf. prologue which states it was in Hebrew), and others.
  • Documents from Nahal Hever are in Mishnaic Hebrew.
  • There is also the Targum Neofiti and Hebrew fragments of Ben Sira.
  • Even though Greek has a perfectly good word for Aramaic (Suristi), the Greek New Testament never once uses it. Instead, the Greek New Testament refers to Ebraios (or cases thereof) (Luke 23:38; John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14; Rev. 9:11; 16:16).
  • Suristi appears in the epilogue to the book of Job in the Septuagint. It also appears in the text of the Septuagint (2 King 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isaiah 36:11; Daniel 2:4). Hence, it was known that Ebraios and Suristi were distinct languages.
  • Josephus in Antiquities 10 1.2 says this: “When Rabshakeh had made this speech in the Hebrew tongue, for he was skillful in that language, Eliakim was afraid lest the multitude that heard him should be disturbed; so he desired him to speak in the Syrian tongue.” Josephus clearly draws a line between Ebraios and Suristi. More on Josephus’ use of Hebrew can be read here.
  • A very important piece of evidence here is the Letter of Aristeas 11, “The Jews are supposed to use Syrian [Aramaic] language, but this is not so, for it is another form [of language].” The author of the letter clearly states that the Jews do not use Aramaic. While some claim that he is speaking of the script used, this cannot be. Mishnaic Hebrew shared a script with Aramaic. Both languages used the Aramaic Square Script for writing. Paleo Hebrew writing had fallen into disuse during and after the Exile.
  • The Bar Cochva Letters proved conclusively that Hebrew was still a living language and was used as the primary means of communication among Jews in Israel a century after Jesus. There were 26 letters uncovered: 2 are in Greek, 8 are in Aramaic, 3 could be either Aramaic or Hebrew (the text is too short too conclude), and 13 are unambiguously Hebrew. These letters are not all religious (some discuss items needed for religious observance) but are of military conquests and other non-religious matters.
  • Wisdom is passed on to the common people in Hebrew. In Jesus’ Last Week, Shmuel Safrai writes (emphasis added): The parable was one of the most common tools of rabbinic instruction from the second century B.C.E. until the close of the amoraic period at the end of the fifth century C.E. Thousands of parables have been preserved in complete or fragmentary form, and are found in all types of literary compositions of the rabbinic period, both halachic and aggadic, early and late. All of the parables are in Hebrew. Amoraic literature often contains stories in Aramaic, and a parable may be woven into the story; however the parable itself is always in Hebrew (b. Baba Qam. 60b; or b. Sotah 40a). There are instances of popular sayings in Aramaic, but every single parable is in Hebrew.
  • Epigraphical (enscribed) material from the Second Temple Period is more often in Hebrew than Aramaic. A recent sarcophagus contained these words: ben hacohen hagadol, that is, “son of the high priest.” While some may say that this shows it was a religious language (being on the belongings of a priest’s son), it should be noted that this was on a tomb and meant for the common person to know who was interred within.
  • Josephus (War 5:269-272) points out that Jewish soldiers used a play on words that only makes sense in Hebrew. In 272, whenever a stone was on its way (being thrown from ballistea), the watchmen would shout “in their native language, ‘The Son Cometh!'” While translators are confused by the Greek text, the answer makes sense in Hebrew. The translator even admits how the words could be confused in Hebrew but not Aramaic. The watchmen would have shouted, in Hebrew, Ha-even ba’ah (“the stone is coming!”). However, because of urgency, the words would be clipped to ben ba (“son comes!”). They reduced the syllables due to time constraints. The pun between the Hebrew for son and stone even appears in the New Testament (Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8) “God is able from these avanim [stones] to raise up banim [sons] to Abraham.” This wordplay is unambiguously Hebrew. In Aramaic, the phrase would be kefa ate (“the stone is coming”) or the more literary avna ata. Neither sounds like bara ate (“the son is coming”). Another option for Aramaic would be to use the word aven, which is related to the Hebrew. However, aven would change the gender of the verb and still not work to make a pun on “son,” bar/a. Obviously, a warning of dire straits needs to be quick and in the common language. (American soldiers would yell, “INCOMING!” to warn of mortar fire.) That the pun works in Hebrew but not Aramaic means the soldiers (who were not scholars or priests) spoke in Hebrew.
  • Josephus also refers to words that exist in Hebrew but not Aramaic as Ebraion. For example, in Antiquities of the Jews I 33, he states:

For which reason we also pass this day in repose from toil and call it theSabbata, a word which in the Hebrew language means “rest.”

The verb SHBT does not exist in Aramaic. Aramaic translations, such as the targums, use NCH.

Likewise, in Antiquities I 34, he says:

Now this man was called Adam which in the Hebrew tongue signifies “red.”

Josephus derives adam from adom (red). In Aramaic “red” is expressed by sumka, there is no root ADM in Aramaic.

Archeological

  • Coins from the period are in Hebrew. They did not have Aramaic writing on them with one exception. As money requires a common language of the people, Hebrew must have been known. (During the Hasmonean period, Alexander Jannai (78 BC) minted one set of coins that had Aramaic on them (oddly enough, in the Paleo Hebrew script). However, at other times (before and after) he minted coins in Hebrew.)
  • The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan were once thought to reflect the language used in the time of Jesus. However, we now know these targums are centuries later than Jesus.
  • Most of the inscriptions around Jerusalem dating from the first century have been in Hebrew.
  • A tomb inscription from the second century BC has Aramaic that translates and incorporates spoken Hebrew idioms also found in the Mishnah.
  • A recent cataloging of inscriptions from archaeological finds shows that from the Second Temple Period, there were 116 clearly Aramaic inscriptions and 137 clearly Hebrew. There were many that overlap in the languages due to common words and the common script used for both. Also, personal names are not included in this tabulation as they are inconclusive.

Conclusion

Both Aramaic and Hebrew were in use in the Land at the time of Jesus. However, while we cannot say one predominated, we can say that Mishnaic Hebrew was very much a living language used by people of all walks of life in Judea and Galilee.

Bibliography

Baltes, Guido. “Hebrew or Aramaic? Some Evidence from Inscriptions,” Jerusalem Perspective Online, November 28, 2008.

David Biven. Hebrew as a Spoken Language in First-century Israel, posted November 18, 2008.

_______, and Roy Blizzard, Jr. Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insight from a Hebraic Perspective (Revised Edition), Destiny Image Publishers: Shippensburg, PA.

Buth, Randall and Brian Kvasnica. “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son,” in Jesus’ Last Week, 58, n. 17.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “The Study of the Aramaic Background of the New Testament” (1975), reprinted in Joseph A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramaean: Collected Aramaic Essays (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1979): 5.

Safrai, Shmuel. “Spoken and Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, Vol. 1 [ed. R. S. Notley, M. Turnage and B. Becker; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005], 238; see also

Waverly Nunnally. Hebrew as the Primary Language of Jesus, an email exchange.

________. Peshitta Primacy, an email exchange.

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Wisdom From James

Scripture Introduction:

The Letter of James was one of the first books written for the New Testament. James writes not to criticize his readers but to bring them to repentance. Unlike Paul, James writes not to an individual church but to all churches. A call to unity in the church. Stand together against pressure from without and gossip from within. He wrote to a church under economic and social pressure to conform to unbelievers but little to no physical persecution. That would come later. As James would attest were he alive today.

James was martyred by Annas the Younger, one of the chief Sadducees. This was the son of the chief priest who condemned Jesus to death. Something of a rematch you might say. Like his father, Annas thought he had won, but it was James who won. He said, “I cannot refuse to die for He who lives for me.” James was afterwards thrown from the roof of the temple. The fall did not kill him, and his last act before he was struck with a club was to pray, “I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Striving to be like Jesus even to the last.

James 1:1-15 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Sermon Introduction:

Last week, we looked at some of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament. As I said, it was a very important part of the Hebrew people. They wanted wisdom to live the way that God wanted them to live. Godly living came from godly wisdom. If it was so important to them, surely the quest for wisdom would continue into the time of the New Testament, right?

Yes, it did. You will find wisdom woven throughout the writings of the New Testament. Jesus speaks it. Paul writes it. The books of James, Jude, and the epistles of John are pure wisdom literature. They take God’s wisdom and distill it straight to the believer.

When Jesus first began His ministry, James did not believe He was the Messiah. However, after the resurrection, Jesus made a special appearance to James, and James converted. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and presided over the first church council where they decided what to do about the Gentile problem—Do gentiles have to become Jews before they become Christians? James led the group saying “No. Christ has not called them to be burdened by the Torah.”

Point 1: Joy from Trials

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James first tells us he wrote the letter to the Twelve Tribes. It is interesting that he addresses all twelve. While many people think ten of the twelve tribes disappeared before Jesus was born, the New Testament presents it differently. James, here, addresses all twelve, not just Judah and Benjamin. In the gospels, Anna is descended from Asher, one of the supposedly gone tribes. They were dispersed, but they did not disappear as many think. The New Testament also mentions descendants of Levi.

James point here is not about the tribes. He wants believers to live for God correctly. As Christians, we will experience trials of our faith. Some will be persecuted. Some will be killed. In any society that is not purely Christian, any Christian will face trials from unbelievers who are over them. This may be something like being denied a promotion, or it could be something greater. You may be made fun of. No, it is nothing as severe as execution for Christians that happens in some countries.

These trials are meant to make us better and strengthen us before the greater trials. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon. You start out by getting off the couch and preparing your body. You learn to run. You learn the difference between sprinting and distance running. The style of training is different.

I know a sprinter who put everything into a run. He could do a 200 meter in amazing times in his prime. Don’t ask him to run another longer than 1000M. His wife signed them up for a charity run. 5K. Not only did he have to get back into running, he had to completely change the way he trained. What works for a sprint does not work for going longer distances. Likewise, what works over long distances won’t prepare the runner for a sprint.

These trials come about to teach us endurance. Harder trials are coming. We don’t want to think about that. I fully believe we are entering a time of persecution on the church that the American church is completely unprepared for. We’ve grown fat and lazy. For so long, the culture has been if not Christian friendly to Christians, that the times to come will be a complete shock.

Endurance training is never fun but it brings out in us what God wants us to have. God is letting the wheat and tares grow together. The sifting is coming, when God will separate the sheep from the goats. We need to be ready. We want to get to that other side. It can only happen if we make it through.

How do we prepare for trials? Seek wisdom. Wisdom is found in the words of Scripture. All of Scripture is given by God and is fruitful for believers. This is how God wants us to live.

This is why I get so confused by people who want to be only New Testament believers. Or even worse, only red-letter Christians. I want to say to them, so you must be denying the inspiration of the rest of Scripture. What gives you the right to ignore God’s blessing on mankind? 77 percent of Scripture is the Old Testament. So little of the Bible is Jesus’ spoken words during his earthly ministry, though. Willfully ignoring Scripture is setting yourself up over God and saying you know better. One might even summarize it as “God did not really say…”

We can’t become ready for the track meet by eating donuts. We don’t become ready for persecution by avoiding parts of Scripture we don’t like. In fact, we don’t grow as Christians by ignoring parts of Scripture.

Furthermore, to say that only the spoken words of Jesus matter is so off theologically. The Bible is the written Word of God just as Jesus is the Living Word. Scripture didn’t come only from the pens of men. They were moved to write what God wanted them to write.

Point 2: Wisdom From God

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

Right away, James shows he thinks like a Hebrew. The Greeks almost made an idol out of philosophy. The Romans did so with law. Both of those things could come from men without input of any higher power. But the Hebrew and later Jew recognized how wisdom came from God alone. Men can acquire knowledge, but wisdom is the application of that knowledge to problems at hand. You could say that knowledge is knowing if a thing can be done. Wisdom is knowing whether or not you should do it.

When you ask of God for the needed wisdom, you must ask expecting to receive. This is a request God always answers. People need wisdom in their lives just as surely as they need salvation in their spiritual life.

Having wisdom also means overcoming doubts. Wisdom knows what is right and what is wrong. Wisdom does not second guess. James warns us that those who doubt stumble from place to place with no sense of direction. It isn’t enough to make decisions when the time comes. The wise man can see problems on the horizon and decide what to do ahead of time. If the problem can’t be solved while it is far away, he knows what to do when it arrives.

It is unwise to wait for a problem to be on hand. How many of you wait until the sink is clogged to get Draino? You keep it on hand because the odds are very high you will need it someday. This is very important when the problems keep changing every day. How many of you ever thought that some Dr. Seuss books would be forbidden?

Wisdom also recognizes one’s circumstances in life. A wise Christian knows to glory in his salvation no matter how humbling his life is otherwise. Likewise, even Solomon knew that his riches meant nothing in the world to come.

A poem I read recently illustrated this. In it, a king of the fabled city of Atlantis was riding to the sea. When night came, he camped beneath a mighty oak tree. In the night, he realized how the oak forest around him had been there long before his crowning and would remain long after the city had fallen. Humbled, the mighty king mounted his horse and rode on. Death comes to even the most highly exalted.

Solomon said that life is but a vapor, a morning mist that fades in the sun. James repeats that. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul reminds us that those who run in the race for Christ will all receive a crown that does not fade. 1 Peter 5:4 says the same thing. Gold does not last, silver falters, but Christ’s crown lasts forever.

The wise pursue the eternal.

Point 3: Temptation From Satan

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

The first thing we all experience as Christians is the sudden increase in temptation. One might even say that we only have sin problem after conversion. Before conversion, if I wanted to sin, it was no problem. However, once given to Christ, I had to change my ways. The things I used to do now grieved me. Yet, I struggled against them. What I wanted to do, I did not do, and what I wanted to not do, I did.

Temptations don’t come from God. God has given us trials but not temptation. Like Job, we must recognize what God has given us and what God can take away. I imagine it was not easy for that man to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” When everything is taken from you, it can be hard to see the benefit. Job made it through the trial and was rewarded for it.

Gd promises further that He will never allow too much temptation to come against you. The Devil will try, but you always have the ability to stand up under the trial. You can make it. God promised.

A very important part of temptation is to remember that temptation is not sin. Experiencing temptation is not sin. It does not become sin until you act on it.

Satan knows which buttons to push. Satan knows where you are weakest and will try to make you falter and fail. A former drug addict will be reminded of how the drug made him forget the hardness of similar situations. A man who spends too much money will see things he absolutely has to have right now. However, the Devil cannot force you to sin. The best he can do is make it look enticing.

Our own lusts and frailties bring forth sin from the temptation. Our actions make the sin. The thought is not the sin. The temptation is not the sin. The action is the sin.

From the earliest time, sin has brought forth death. Death would have no hold on humanity without sin. That is why Christ came to overcome sin. Without Him, I would be nothing. Without Him, we would all still be lost in our sins.

The wise recognize their own frailties and turn to Christ to over come sin.

Conclusion

Do you lack wisdom? Better, where do you lack wisdom? None of us are all wise. We must look to God for our wisdom. He is the source and fountain of all wisdom. It is His wisdom that helps us overcome temptation. It is His wisdom that provides salvation. He is mighty. We are not.

Turn to God for wisdom. Think of a part of your life where you need wisdom. Think of a problem that could be overcome with wisdom. Pray to God for the wisdom you need.

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Review: Dark Mirror by Diane Duane

Cover of DARK MIRROR

I always liked the STAR TREK giant novels. Not only do they give more bang for the buck, but they allow the author to delve more deeply into the characters than the shorter novels. The normal-length novels are good for quick adventures, but I really like to see the characters.

DARK MIRROR dives into multiple characters in a different way. While TO REIGN IN HELL followed Khan’s disasters on Ceti Alpha V between “Space Seed” and WRATH OF KHAN and SHADOWS ON THE SUN showed us how Dr. McCoy came to be the simple, country doctor in space that the series showed him to be, DARK MIRROR explores the NEXT GENERATION characters by showing their counterparts in the mirror universe.

Since Kirk and company crossed into the mirror universe in “Mirror, Mirror,” several authors have played with it in Star Trek setting. It has been explicitly dealt with in eight episodes (STD is not real Trek and therefore does not count, especially as they taint the lore). For a ninth, STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE made the ST:OS episode “The Tholian Web” link to it by revealing that the prime universe Defiant crossed into the mirror universe through the web. Likewise, it has been a favorite location of expanded universe authors.

Continue reading
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The Delightful Law

I recently finished my current through-the-Bible plan and decided to do something different. I have in my possession Help in Ages Past, Hope for Years to Come, a little devotional that I’ve used in the past. Written by Robert L. Cate, my first Hebrew professor, all its passages are from the Old Testament but the body below applies them to the New Testament believer. The possibility of this being done should not be a surprise to anyone as all Scripture is God-breathed and Christ told of his coming by drawing from the Old Testament. All through the New Testament, references are made back to the Old. Matthew writes many variations on “thus the prophecy was fulfilled.” I dare say you will not understand Revelation at all unless you become intimately familiar with Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah at least.

I also have a little Catholic devotional entitled Joyfully Living the Gospel Day by Day by Father John Catoir. Most of its passages draw from the New Testament. I am using the two in tandem. I will read devotions from each and then read the chapter Cate drew from.

This morning, his chapter was only six verses long (Psalm 1), so I read it and then the chapter from Catoir (Romans 12). By the work of God, the two chapters wove together in their emphasis, and both chapters have deep meaning to me.

We begin Psalm 1 with the shock of reading someone delighting in the Law of God. The approach astounds us because, in the modern world, we are libertines who believe freedom is the ultimate good that must be striven for. Law is, to us, a nuisance or something that keeps society functioning but we wish kept away from us. After all, if we merely do what is best for each other, the law need not interfere with our lives.

That would be true in a sane world.

The psalmist knows God’s Law and follows it because the Law points to what is best. God gives us the Law not to hem us in from the fun but to prevent us from running off a cliff. The wise man delights in the Law, plants his roots in the Law, and thrives because he avoids the wicked.

Similarly, Romans 12 speaks of the man of God, transformed by God out of this world. Taken from a caterpillar form to full butterfly.

Since God has transformed you, you should present your body to Him as a living sacrifice. This is a reasonable act of worship. Reasonable. Sacrificing all to God is reasonable.

What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? It means giving up the things you want to pursue and pursuing instead what God wants of you. You stop focusing on self and start focusing on God.

Both chapters declare that godly people follow God’s Law. They do it because they delight in it.

As I said, we cannot see how one can delight in the Law. They saw how it could happen and made it happen. Can we make our delight less than theirs?

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