“The Titan’s Curse” by Rick Riordan

“Artemis’s presence at the winter council is critical.  We have only a week to find her.  And possibly even more important: to locate the monster she was hunting.  Now, we must decide who goes on this quest.”

The Titan’s Curse is book 3 in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.  312 pages, published by Hyperion Books in 2007.

Synopsis

This book picks up several months after book 2 ended (book 2 took place in early summer, this book starts in winter).  Percy is now 14 years old, and the story is told in the first person from his perspective.

The opening chapters of the book have the demigods Percy, Annabeth and Thalia rushing to a school to meet their satyr friend, Grover.  Grover had found two new demigods who don’t know who they are: Bianca and Nico di Angelo.  A monster is also on the trail.  The rescue attempt isn’t going well, when the goddess Artemis shows up with a group of young girls called her “hunters”, who are able to defeat the monster, but Annabeth goes missing in the process.

Artemis goes off on her own, while Percy escorts the hunters to Camp Half-Blood.  They soon learn that Artemis has gone missing, and the major quest is ready to begin.  If Artemis misses the Winter Solstice council on Olympus and can’t share her critical information, then it will make Olympus more vulnerable to Kronos’ armies (and yes, Luke is still working with them- and they are getting stronger, getting ready to resurrect Kronos).

This story has many surprises and plot twists in store.  To say much more would be to spoil the adventures!

Where is Annabeth? Where is Artemis?  Who are the new bad guys?  What is this monster Artemis was searching for?

Overall Impressions

I’m really enjoying this series.  Riordan’s writing style lines up well with my sense of humor and tastes.

Acts 19:28 comes to mind, where the people start rioting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  The Titan’s Curse introduces the reader to Artemis in a memorable way. Now when I read Acts 19, I know exactly who they are talking about.  One of the reasons I like this series is it is a fun way to research the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament.  The book also gave detailed appearances from Apollo and Aphrodite.  (All of the Olympians are in this book for the Winter Solstice scene at the end, but not everyone gets as much attention)

When Aphrodite was “on stage”, she made a direct reference to characters from The Iliad, which I recently read.  I appreciated her comments on a much deeper level having read that classic.  The more classic Greek literature I read, the more I enjoy the Percy Jackson books.  Hercules legends were also referenced several times in this book.

I read this book just for fun.  I’ve already covered the fantasy category in my 2017 reading goals with Book 1, but the series was too good to wait until next year before reading the next one.

My post on Book 1: The Lightning Thief

My post on Book 2: The Sea of Monsters

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“Comment Lire la Bible” by Alfred Kuen

La Bible n’est pas un livre facile, elle ne se lit pas comme un journal ou un roman. 

(Translation: The Bible is not an easy book.  It does not read like a newspaper or a novel.)

Comment Lire la Bible: À la découverte de la Bible by Alfred Kuen is a 140 page French paperback, and book 1 of a two book series.  The title translates: How to Read the Bible: Discovering the Bible. (Book 2 is How to Study the Bible)

Synopsis

The purpose of this book is to introduce new Christians to the discipline of reading the Bible: what sort of Bible to get, why it is important to read, and practical examples of how to read and reflect.

The book is split into 5 chapters:

Chapter 1 is about the Bible itself.  It talks about the sorts of Bibles available and what to look for when purchasing a Bible (margins, study notes, thickness of paper, and various translations available).  The author promotes getting a hard copy that you can personalize by adding notes, etc.  There is also a section about when to read your Bible (he recommends in the morning, before the cares of the day creep in, but acknowledges that this may not be possible for everyone).  There is also a suggested plan for reading for the first time (start on a Gospel like Mark, then going to Luke, Acts, simple epistles, more complex epistles, etc.)

Chapter 2 is about Meditating on the Bible.  He lays out 10 examples of questions you can ask of the text like “what does this passage teach me about God?” or “Is this person’s story a good example to follow or a bad example to avoid?”  There are then several examples, including meditating on an entire chapter, or going verse by verse.  Examples go from easier to more challenging, and come from Mark, Ephesians, Revelation, Psalms, and Joshua.

Chapter 3 is about Studying the Bible (he distinguishes between meditating and studying).  Studying is about enriching our knowledge, while meditating is about enriching our inner life.  This chapter focuses on the gospels.  He discusses basic strategies such as reading the same passage in different translations, looking at surrounding context, asking basic questions (who, where, when, what, why, how?).  Suggestions are made for how to “mark up” your Bible.  Examples are given from narratives, speeches, parables.  The chapter ends with another parable, along with guiding questions to coach the reader through studying a parable on their own.

Chapter 4 is on becoming better acquainted with the Old Testament.  He suggests a three-fold way of approaching the text: The historic sense, the prophetic sense (with an interest in how it points to Jesus), and what he calls the “current sense”, or contemporary application.  Examples are drawn from 1 Samuel, Hosea, 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Leviticus, Ezekiel, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.  Examples also range from single verses, to complete chapters, to biographies of a person across several chapters, and Types of Christ, to complete books (really easy to misinterpret Ecclesiastes if you pull a random verse out of context!).  Several other passages are listed to practice on without anymore guiding questions.

Chapter 5 is a summary chapter, which also points to book two in the series, mentioning concepts such as studying the Bible in a group setting and using Bible study tools like concordances, Bible dictionaries, Bible Atlas’ and commentaries.

 

Overall Impressions

This book is a good introduction to the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible.  I recommend it to French speaking new believers, and those who are discipling them and may have forgotten how to get started.

In thinking about potential weaknesses, I had two thoughts:

  • When talking about the types of Bibles to use, the author did not discuss digital Bibles, other than briefly mentioning La Bible Online software elsewhere in the book.  There’s some old ladies in my church who have the Bible on their tablets, and love them, since they can read it without a magnifying glass!
  • Some of the specifics he recommends (like when to read the Bible, or how to ‘mark it up’) seem like preferences of a certain learning style (I’ve been thinking about learning styles recently.  See this post.)  I wonder if some may find themselves rebelling against his methods.

 

I read this book as part of sermon preparation for a message on Reading the Bible.  Not sure where to put it in my reading goals.  Perhaps I’ll put this down as a book in French, and move the other French book I’ve already read (Pourquoi l’église?) to the slot for a book on Doctrine.

Thesis research: Kit Ho; the 4 Ways

“The Book of Jeremiah has lamentation as an undergirding structure…”

<font size=2>Narrating Jeremiah: Rhetorical Skill and Presentation Strategy in Jeremiah 26-45 (Traditional Chinese Edition)</fon

Ho, Kit.  Narrating Jeremiah: Rhetorical skill and presentation strategy in Jeremiah 26-45.
Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Theology, 1999.

This past week I worked through Kit Ho’s Doctoral Dissertation on Jeremiah 26-45. (Since published in Chinese by Chinese Bible International Limited).  I was able to access the original 369 page English dissertation through the ProQuest database (http://www.proquest.com/), which many theological libraries subscribe to.  I didn’t read all of it, but skipped chapters 4, 8 and 9, since they were not directly relevant to my thesis.

This dissertation made a couple of important contributions to Jeremiah studies:

  1. The setting of Lament.  He demonstrated that the lament style (with various “voices” speaking to each other) was present in the poetry sections, and should be understood as the backdrop of the narratives.  I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else point this out.
  2. He described the narratives as being set up in “episodic parallelism”, and used narrative criticism to interpret the text (including discussion on audience and narrator point of view).

He set up the narratives as being in chiastic structure, with the Book of Hope in the center.

It was good to see a sustained argument that used the “Book of Hope” method of dividing the text.  Until now, I hadn’t been entirely satisfied with other people’s explanations of it.

The 4 Ways

There’s basically 4 ways of approaching the “structure” of Jeremiah 26-45 that I’ve seen.

 

  1. The “random hodge-podge” method (no structure)
  2. The Jehoiakim framework (26-35 | 36-45)
  3. The Book of Hope chiasm (25-29 | 30-33 | 34-45)
  4. The thematic/chronological split (26-36 | 37-44)

All the main views put a major break somewhere between chapters 32 and 37, and never a break between chapters 38 and 39, reading 37/38-45 together as a narrative. However, chapter 32 occurs chronologically between chapters 38 and 39, creating a natural narrative gap, ie, part of the story is missing. This can have the effect of causing the reader to flashback to chapter 32 and see all of 32-38 as leading to chapters 39 and 40, the fall of Jerusalem.

My thesis is that Jeremiah chapters 32-38 (as laid out in the Masoretic Text) comprise a continuous, non-chronological narrative sequence, with the rhetorical purpose of aiding the exilic reader to interpret the fall of Jerusalem in chapters 39-40.  Maybe I’ll call it the “Courtyard of the Guard Cycle” or something.

 

“Learning Styles” by Marlene LeFever

Students learn faster and enjoy learning more if their unique learning styles are affirmed.

Learning Styles: Reaching Everyone God Gave You by Marlene D. LeFever felt like it dealt with one of the most profound teaching concepts I’ve seen in a long time.  256 pages.

In this book, Marlene D. LeFever applies Bernice McCarthy’s educational theories to Sunday School teachers teaching children, but the concepts are applicable to any teaching situation.

Synopsis

This book described the learning process in four stages, and then argued that each person prefers a different stage.  The teacher may only focus on their own preference, and ignore the other styles (and therefore, only really succeed in teaching students with the same style).

Image result for Learning Styles 4mat

(Picture from https://allthingslearning.wordpress.com/tag/4mat-model/)

The learning process has four stages (and a lesson plan should include all four):

  1. Hook- This is where you capture their attention and establish why they need to know the material
  2. Book- this is where you present the new information
  3. Look- is where the material is put to use
  4. Took- is where the students make it their own and creatively implement it.

People have a preference for where they learn best.  Imaginative learners excel in the hook stage.  They need to talk about it and see the big picture before they are ready to learn. Analytic learners love the second stage- where new information is transmitted.  Common Sense learners just want to get busy and excel in the third stage, while Dynamic learners see the world of possibilities as to what the new material could become.

Traditional educational models favor stage 2 with a bit of stage 3.  But the job of the teacher is to teach everyone, so all the learning styles need to be addressed in a lesson.

This is further complicated by learning modalities (Visual, Auditory, Tactile).  So it is possible to be a visual analytic, or an auditory analytic, or a tactile analytic, etc.

The book is laid out in 6 parts:

Part 1 describes the four learning styles, including ways to figure out your own learning style.

Part 2 has chapters with stories of the learning styles in action

Part 3 further explores the concepts by giving example lessons with commentary about how each section is targeting different learning styles

Part 4 mixes in the concepts of learning modalities (including a quick modality determination test), then systematically lays out activity ideas for each learning style/learning modality combination.  A chapter is included with a “do it yourself” lesson plan.

Part 5 extends the concept of learning styles to other areas: recruiting volunteers, designing worship services and within the context of marriage.

Part 6 takes it a step further, describing Bernice McCarthy’s theories on left/right brain dominant thinking; which further divides the Four learning stages into 8.  There is also a chapter on Rita and Kenneth Dunn’s theories on elements of learning, including concerns such as lighting, time of day, temperature and other factors.

Overall Impressions

Before reading this book, I was familiar with the concept of learning modalities (visual, auditory, tactile), and I was familiar with the concept of the structure of a lesson (hook, book, look, took), but the profound concept for me was that people have learning styles that correspond to the parts of a lesson, and are stronger in certain areas than others.  It seems to explain a lot from what I’ve experienced teaching others.  I feel I’ve had a paradigm shift in my thinking about teaching, and will approach the task with a new mindset, now.

I recommend this book not only for Sunday School teachers, but for any educator.

I read this book for the “Parenting/Homeschool” category in my 2017 reading goals.

 

 

Genre

Genre is a fluid concept.[1]  Descriptions of genre rely on comparing a text to other, similar texts, to highlight common traits, and deviations from that norm.  Genre classification is done on a spectrum ranging from very broad to very narrow.  Broadly, Jeremiah could be simply classified as a “writing”, which distinguishes it from things like the moon or a dog, but may put it in the same category as things like a business memo, a food label, and a comic book, (which is sufficient when teaching young children to recognize letters on a page).  On the other end, it can be seen as so unique as to be classed as a genre unto itself (the “Book of Jeremiah” genre, which may be helpful if comparing translations of the Bible).  So, the question of genre is best addressed in the context of what it will be helpful to compare it to.

It’s kind of like a game of “What doesn’t belong?”  It’s like saying “all of these things are of the same genre except for one.  Which is it?”

Image result for Book of JeremiahImage result for dog Image result for manga messiah

Genre is a game of comparisons.  If I have three pictures like the ones above (the book of Jeremiah, a puppy, and Manga Messiah), the one that doesn’t belong depends entirely on what I’m trying to do.  The answer depends on my purpose.

At first glance, I would say “puppy”, because it has little to do with the Bible (other than being an example of God’s creation), and my mind is currently oriented towards Biblical studies.  But I could say the book of Jeremiah is the unique one, as it is Holy Scripture, whereas the others are not (even if the Manga is inspired by Scripture).  Or I could say the book of Jeremiah is unique because the image is blurry, while the others are sharp and clear.  I could say the puppy doesn’t belong, because it is not a written document.  I could say the Manga doesn’t belong, since it is an illustration, while the others are photos.  Or maybe the puppy doesn’t belong because there’s no letter ‘e’ in the spelling.  I could probably come up with various reasons and play this game all day.  They could even be all grouped together in the genre of “images in a blog post”.

If I had a bunch of puppies (the very phrase is a genre classification), I could compare them to describe the unique features.  “one has brown fur, one is looking to the left, etc”.  But I wouldn’t bother mentioning that they all have noses. That is obvious when you think “puppy”.  I might compare the colors of the noses, but just saying they have noses is not helpful, since it is not a unique feature.

Image result for puppies

So if you classify the book of Jeremiah in a genre such as “prophet”, this is for the purpose of comparing it with other books that have been labelled “prophet”, such as Isaiah or Hosea or Ezekiel.  Once it is in the same category of other, similar objects, then you can compare them to talk about the differences in a helpful way.  The differences you are interested in exploring is what determines the sort of genre classification you give it (and how narrowly to define your genre/sub-genre!).  For example, by comparing prophets, you can point out that Jeremiah was preaching in a different time period than Isaiah.  Or you can point out that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries, but writing from different locations (Jeremiah was in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was already in exile in Babylon).  But you wouldn’t have to say “the books all have a person/character who is a  “prophet” in them”.  That is obvious.  You could compare those men, but the genre classification gave you a pile of basic information already, helping you get past the non-helpful observations.  Once I know what things have in common, I can then describe the differences in a meaningful way.

My daughter asked me recently about a mystery movie I was talking about with my wife.  (Father Brown, based on stories by G.K. Chesterton)

She asked if it showed who did it right at the beginning.  This is because she didn’t understand the genre of a mystery, and what was normal.  She asked because she is familiar with Columbo, and was using it as a measuring rod for the genre.

In Columbo, the movies always start by showing exactly who did it and how.  The entertainment is in watching to see how Lt. Columbo figures it out.  What detail did the criminal miss?  This is unusual, and is, in my opinion, the major thing that makes Columbo unique.  But without knowing other mysteries (Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, etc), you don’t realize that it is the unique feature.  Normally, a mystery story starts not knowing who did it, and the reader gets to try to figure it out with the detective.

So what is unique about a Biblical genre you are studying?  For example, if Revelation is “apocalyptic literature”, then are you familiar with other apocalypses to be able to pick out the unique features?  How is Revelation different than Enoch?  Are you noticing what you’re supposed to notice?  How much is just convention for that genre and how much is a unique twist?

Commentators say that what makes Jeremiah unique is the increased presence of individual prayers and biographical material.[2]

[1] Tremper Longman, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation 3 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Academie Books, 1987), 78.

[2] J. Andrew Dearman, Jeremiah and Lamentations, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 23.

Thesis update: August 22nd, 2017

Last week was fairly busy, with company over, etc.  I didn’t get as much done as I thought I might.  I read Jeremiah 29 and 30, and I managed to draft a section on the rhetorical situation of the book of Jeremiah, and another section on authorship.  They aren’t perfect, but I at least have something to work with and tweak, now.  I didn’t work through any new research sources.

Chapter 2 of my thesis is due in 3 and half weeks (Sep 15th).  Chapter 2 is supposed to be 10-15 pages on the structure and rhetoric of Jeremiah, in preparation for chapter 3, which will delve into Jer 32-38 in more detail.

Goals for this week:

  • Read Jeremiah 31 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Finish a rough draft of chapter 2 (sections on audience, genre and my own structural proposal)
  • Research another source

If I get that done, then next week I can slow down on the Bible reading as I hit Jer 32 and delve in deeply in preparation for chapter 3, (while going into revision mode on chapter 2).

Current thesis statement:

Jeremiah chapters 32-38 (as laid out in the Masoretic Text) comprise a continuous, non-chronological narrative sequence, with the rhetorical purpose of aiding the exilic reader to interpret the fall of Jerusalem in chapters 39-40.

Thesis update: Chapter 1 approved!

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 in Louis Stulman’s You Are My People: An Introduction to Prophetic Literature are about the book of Jeremiah.  I noticed this book in the footnotes of something else I was researching and was able to track it down this past week.

In these chapters, Stulman contends that the book of Jeremiah is divided into two parts: chapters 1-25 predicts the dismantling of Israel’s institutions (temple, dynasty, etc).  The second half (26-52) depicts the dismantling.  The book of Jeremiah seeks to give meaning to the suffering and gives hope.  This hope is complex, and is only possible by telling the truth about the suffering, and letting go of the old world.

Last week I touched up chapter 1 and resubmitted.  It was approved by my first reader.  I sent it on to my second reader, who also gave me the green light.  Hooray!

After getting the approvals, I started cobbling together chapter 2.  Chapter 2 of my thesis is on the overall structure and rhetoric of the Book of Jeremiah.  I’m supposed to keep this short (10-15 pages), since the real meat-and-potatoes of the thesis will be chapter 3.  Chapter 2 will cover topics such as author, audience, rhetorical situation, genre, and differing views about the structure and rhetoric of the book of Jeremiah.  This will lay the groundwork for chapter 3.  I discovered I had already discussed parts of this for one of my critical methodologies essays, as well as my original thesis proposal.  So after tossing those together, I already have 8 pages.  There’s still plenty to cover, so I’m not concerned about not having enough material.

Also last week, I worked through Jeremiah 27 and 28 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Goals for this week:

  • Work through Jeremiah 29 and 30 in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  • Track down and work through another source on my research to-do list
  • Continue writing chapter 2 of the thesis (paragraphs on author, audience, rhetorical situation, and genre)

 

Timeline: Chapter 2 due by September 15th (5 weeks)