Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Rich Fool image; Thanks; and Progress on the Book

The Rich Fool

Three quick things in this post:

First, the above image is another one that my Honors Seminar student is having difficulty finding enough information on. In addition, the quality of the image/file size makes it impossible to enlarge so that we can read the text on the painting itself (unlike the previous image, in which the Greek is easy to see). The image is found here. If you have information that would be helpful to her (my student), please email me (or comment below).

Second, I want to thank the people who graciously responded to the request in the previous post. Two people have been especially helpful: Ralph (Zosimas) Sidway, "Webservant for Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church": and Dr. Bruce Beck, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and Director, Pappas Patristic Institute.

Third, I want to report progress on my own book since the last update. I have finished sections on both the hymnwriter (lyricist) Fanny Crosby and the great novelist Leo Tolstoy. To keep the sections within the word limits, I focused on four hymns by Crosby and on one short story by Tolstoy ("Where Love Is, God Is"). Very fun sections to write.

Today--a snow day in Atlanta--I am doing some college work, but I am also writing about Adolf Jülicher. His Die Gleichnisreden Jesu (The Parables of Jesus; it's not translated from the German) is the most famous and influential scholarly book on the parables ever written. This afternoon I am reworking a section from my What Are They Saying about the Parables? about Jülicher to include in this new book (I received permission from Paulist Press to do so).

Since my first parables book was about modern scholars, I am only including three modern scholars in this much broader reception history of the parables book with Baker Academic. David Flusser and Elsa Tamez will be the other modern scholars I will include in this book.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Orthodox Image of the Rich Fool Parable: A student's request for more information

Orthodox Image of the Rich Fool Parable

One of the students in my Honors Seminar is working on the parable of the Rich Fool. She currently is exploring five images of the parable, and she is having some difficulty locating very much information about two of them.

The first image is above; it is an Orthodox icon of the parable of the Rich Fool ("The Parable of the Rich Man who celebrated the Crops"). Note the building of the barns on the left, the rich man dying on the right, and the rich man again in the center (one of the web sites argues that this image is of Jesus).

The image is found on at least two web sites (e.g., here and here), but my student has had no luck in gathering further information about the image.

If anyone reading this blog has more information about this image or ideas about the best places for her to look for more information (she also is working with a couple research librarians), please email me ( She would be very grateful (and would, if you wish, reference you in her project, which will be online later this semester).

With many thanks for any information about the image that you could share.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Honors Seminar update

Oxford College of Emory University Library
The Honors Seminar is going extremely well. Students have been exploring various receptions of "their" parable and have decided which reception on which to focus for the first major section of their project. Here are some examples:

The Rich Fool: the focus will be on five striking images representing the parable, including a mural from a monastery on Mt. Tabor, two modern representations--one from the U.S. and one from Kazakhstan--and others resembling Orthodox icons. The student will investigate personal and cultural contexts, the amount of guidance as far as how the representation is "guided"--from monologic to dialogic--and the "rhetorical effect of these images.

Workers in the Vineyard: The focus is on the history of reception in one of its "trajectories," that is, through the interpretations of early Christians like Irenaeus on through interpretations in the Islamic hadith. The allegorical interpretations have a fascinating history and development, and a detailed analysis of the texts yields much insight as well. The Muslim texts have a great amount of continuity and discontinuity with early Christian interpretations. 

Talents: The focus on this project's initial section is on two 17th Dutch images: an etching by Jan Luyken and a painting by Willem de Poorter, placing the works in the context of both the artists' and the historical (in a variety of ways) contexts. 

Rich Man and Lazarus: The focus in the initial part of the project is on a ballad on the parable that was licensed by "Master John Wallye" and "Mistress Toye" in 1557/58. The "genealogy" of the ballad, including a previous Latin one, will be part of the focus, as will a detailed exegesis of both lyrics and music.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ouch: first draft of Chapter 3 is ~38,000 words

I just finished working through this text by Roger Williams

Good news and bad news about the book:

The good news is that I finished the first draft of Chapter 3. The bad news is that the first draft is approximately 38,000 words, and it needs to be under 20,000 words.

Here are the sections and their approximate word count:

Martin Luther (4800)
Anna Jansz (2250)
John Calvin (4825)
John Maldonatus (3025)
Shakespeare (4150)
Domenico Fetti (2000)
George Herbert (3600)
Roger Williams (3100)
Rembrandt (3603)
John Bunyan (6420)

I have already eliminated the section on William Tyndale I was planning to include, but I still have a lot of painful cutting to do for the book, especially in this chapter. This is the longest chapter so far, and it has the fewest sections (10). Chapter 1 has 13 sections, and Chapter 2 has 11-12 (John Gower may go completely).

I primarily blame John Bunyan for the wordiness of this chapter (partly kidding).

Chapter 4 is in focus now. I have completed the sections on William Blake and John Everett Millais, and I am currently working on two sections (Fanny Crosby and Leo Tolstoy).  I also have gathered the resources I need to write about Soren Kierkegaard, Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Adolf Julicher, Charles Spurgeon, and Amos Bronson Alcott. 

About half of Chapter 5 is written: Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Hart Benton, parables and the Blues, Elsa Tamez, and Octavia Butler. I plan to write sections about the Dalai Lama, David Flusser, and Howard Thurman but have not decided on the remaining sections (perhaps Rilke, probably some art from Africa, and maybe an excerpt from a recent film).

I also have the materials to write a section on some of the parable reception in the hadith. 

Back to work . . . .

Friday, February 13, 2015

Anna Jansz and the Sheep and Goats parable (part 2)

Ausbund, Hymn 6 (by Felix Manz)

Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of Hymn 18 in the Ausbund, so I included the above photo of Hymn 6. You can read about it here.

The song connected to Anna Jansz and her execution is the 18th Hymn in the Ausbund, and it is sung to the tune of “Come Here to Me, says God’s Son.” The first two stanzas set the stage for Anna’s testament to her son just before her death by noting the joy that parents receive from instructing their children to follow God’s teaching. “Annelein” (i.e., Anna) however, now receives one final chance to instruct her young son Isaiah before she follows “on the path of the prophets” to martyrdom; they all follow the ultimate example of Jesus:

I am going on the path of the prophets,
The martyrs’ and apostles’ way;
There is none better.
They all have drunk from the cup.
Even as did Christ Himself,

As I have heard and read (stanza 3; all quotes are from Snyder and Hecht 1996: 345).

The hymn notes that Annelein now understands that all “the priests of the King” travel on this path alone and demonstrate that they indeed are “God’s true sons and children” (stanza 4). At this stage, the hymn domesticates the apocalyptic fervor evident in Anna’s own works; it still employs the imagery of Revelation 6:9-11, but now the perspective expands and softens. This persecution is felt by “all the priests of the King,” and the delight in vengeance, while still present, is moderated:
They cried out to God: O Lord!
Righteous and Truthful One,
How long until you bring order to the earth
Among people everywhere?
And take revenge on only those
Who with great insolence (stanza 6)

Have shed blood everywhere,
Murdering innocent people?
Are you willing to punish them
So they no longer cause dishonour,
Driving your own out of the land,

Continuing in their sin? (stanza 7)
Once again, the hymn expands this persecution to all believers (e.g., “God gives to all [His children] a white robe”), but it also assures its readers/singers/hearers that God’s wrath will be calmed “once the number is fulfilled” (stanza 11).

The hymn’s reflection on the implications of Revelation 6:9-11 ends with stanza 11, and it switches to portraying Anna’s advice to her son for how he should therefore live. He should join with those who are despised, rejected, and persecuted:
Therefore my dearly beloved son,
May you wish to do my will,
And follow my teaching.
If you know a people who spurn every luxury
And pleasure of this world,
May you wish to join them (stanza 12).

They are despised and rejected
By the wretched world.
They must carry Christ’s cross,
And have no secure place
Because they keep God’s word.
They are often hunted down (stanza 13).

God lives with such people,
Who are mocked by the world.
Keep company with them.
They will show you the true way,
Lead you away from the path of evil,

Guide you away from hell (stanza 14).
Anna urges her son to live up to the “dear price” paid by the death of Jesus to deliver him “from the eternal fire.” Here is where the hymn turns to the parable of the Sheep and Goats to illustrate what following this “pure teaching” actually means in one’s life:
Share your bread with the hungry,
Leave no one in need
Who professes Christ.
Also clothe the naked,
Have pity on the sick.

Do not distance yourself from them (stanza 17).
 Note that these actions of love seem to extend only to those in need who “profess Christ,” although that limitation is not explicitly stated in the other sections about the naked, sick, or imprisoned:
If you cannot always be with them,
Show your good will.
Comfort the imprisoned,
Welcome guests cheerfully into your home,
And don’t let anyone drive them out.

Then your reward will be greatest (stanza 18).
The hymn then connects this exhortation to identify with and help those in need with Jesus’ prophetic proclamation of liberation in Luke 4:16-21.
Both your hands should be ready
To do the works of mercy,
To give twofold offerings;
This is spiritual and worldly work:
To set the prisoners free, strengthen the weak;

Then you will truly live (stanza 19).
The hymn concludes Anna’s testament to Isaiah with the an exhortation “to give always to God’s people” (stanza 20) and with the assurance that God will reward him if he follows her counsel:
God also will reward you
In His Kingdom in the other world.
He will bestow it twofold;

There should be no doubt of this (stanza 21).
Stanza 22 provides a concluding exhortation that praises Anna as a “beautiful model” of what Christians should be:
On the one thousand five hundredth
And thirty-first year
Annelein paid with her life,
Which in virtue soft and mild
Was for Christians a beautiful model,

Given in death as well as in life.

That finishes the posts on Anna Jansz, and I'm not sure what I will discuss next. Next week I will give an update on the Honors Seminar, though, and then decide which direction to head next. Perhaps John Calvin's sermons on some parables.

"The Work of Christmas," by Howard Thurman

"The Work of Christmas," by Howard Thurman   Howard Thurman’s poem, “The Work of Christmas” is my favorite Christmas poem, and I p...