Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Thoughts on Memorization

Although I have not gotten much further with my memorization of Philippians (through v.10), a few comments on my last post by readers have prompted me to elaborate a bit more on technique.

At first, I set a goal of memorizing two passages a day. I believe this is still realistic, and with that pace I would complete Philippians in about 52 days. However, I have found that some days I have more time than others, so I have ceased from putting a specific number of verses on my daily agenda. This allows for the verses I have already memorized to become cemented and enable instant recall.

Another factor I have long thought about and has preoccupied much of my own work to this point is the aural/oral aspect of memorization. This current project has engaged my thinking once again about Paul's audiences and whether Scriptural allusions and citations would have been recognized by them. This may be a bit anachronistic, especially considering the fact that I live in a text-based culture, but it would be fascinating to see if I could memorize parts of Philippians on the basis of hearing alone. I might try that for part of this project.

Once again, this has become an exercise that is extremely gratifying, humbling and fun. I am hoping that Paul's words to the church in Philippi will resonate with this endeavor:
πεποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ὅτι ἐναρξάμενος ἐν ὑμῖν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐπιτελέσει ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (Philippians 1.6)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Memorizing Philippians

With some of the challenges presented by other bibliobloggers with regard to memorizing Scripture in its original languages, I have decided to memorize Paul's epistle to the Philippians. What makes this convenient is, one, the length-- only four chapters, or 104 verses to be exact, and the fact that I have been using Jerry Sumney's Philippians: A Greek Student's Intermediate Grammar. This grammar has many strengths, one worth noting is that many grammatical constructions are covered with lucid explanations given along with other examples from the NT. I would highly recommend this grammar to anyone wanting to sharpen their reading and translation of the Greek NT.

So far I have worked through and memorized the first eight verses. I only have 96 more to go!

A couple of observations are in order. Memorizing has helped facilitate recognition of different grammatical forms (i.e. verbal forms and vocabulary to name but a couple.), and enables ease of translation into English. One trick I have learned is to bite off small chunks. For example in Phil 1.3 the phrase εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν may be broken up into εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου and then ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν. These smaller chunks seem to ease the trouble of memorizing wholesale phrases which can be in fact, quite daunting. Another thing I have noticed is how much work and repetition is involved in just going over the verses you have already committed to memory. I'd like to say that once you have memorized it, that is that, but that is far from the truth. Only constant repetition will ingrain the particular passages into your mind. I find it helpful to start at the top at times, or pick up a particular verse and see if I can go from there.

Despite the amount of time and work involved, this has become quite a fruitful exercise. I love the fact that I am getting to know Paul's letter to the Philippians much more intimately than I did before.

Spiritually this has become a routine I do during my devotional times at night and in the morning with a nice, hot, cup of coffee. I encourage those of you who have considered doing something along these lines to go for it! It will be well worth your time and effort.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Lincoln!

I know I have not been around the blogosphere much lately, but in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, I thought I'd dust off the keyboard and write a post.

Many of you who have read this blog know that outside of the New Testament and related studies, my special field of interest is in Abraham Lincoln. I admire the man on many fronts. He had an inquisitive mind, teaching himself law and even Euclidean geometry and much later became proficient in military history and became an effective strategist during the Civil War. Lincoln also imputed the best qualities to people, at times, to a fault. This is evident in some of the inept generals such as McClellan that he gave several opportunities to prove themselves, and the fact that most of his entire cabinet was made up of political rivals, who in the case of Salmon Chase, Secretary of Treasury, often undermined Lincoln and attempted to run against Lincoln in 1864.

I wanted to close this post and mention appreciation for the work of Ronald C. White, Jr. in his splendid biography A. Lincoln. What makes this biography a must-read is how White wrestles with Lincoln's words as a way into the oft-debated subject of Lincoln's view of God. White stresses that Lincoln was comfortable with ambiguity in his relationship with God, and I think he is spot on. Like the search for the Historical Jesus, we often make Lincoln appear more like us than the man himself. This is why White's insistance that we examine his words is a welcome suggestion.

Here are some of Lincoln's words about God in his Second Inaugural (March 4, 1865):

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.