Translation Principles

For those of you who are a little more familiar with the terminology of Bible translation, I’m going to start out with this: I’m trying for a formal equivalence, single source, and non-scholarly translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Formal equivalence is probably the hardest part of this to explain to the uninitiated. The two directions in terms of translation style are formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. This has to do with how you translate a given phrase from one language to another. I like to think of this in terms of a scale of one to ten, with the smaller numbers being more dynamic, the bigger numbers more formal equivalence. So if you take the Hebrew sentence, “נֹחַ בֶּן־חֲמֵשׁ מֵאֹות שָׁנָה” a 1 might translate it as “Noah was 500.” A 3 might translate as “Noah was 500 years old.” A 5 might translate as “Noah was five hundred years old.” A 7 would translate it as “Noah was a son five hundred years.” A 9 would translate it as “Noah [was] a son five hundred years.” A 10 would be an interlinear along the lines of “Noah (נֹחַ) [was] a son (בֶּן) five (חֲמֵשׁ) hundred (מֵאֹות) years (שָׁנָה).” Using this scale, I aim to be somewhere in the five or six range.

Single source is a little easier to understand. In every place where I make a translation of God’s Holy and Inspired Word from a source language into English, or an interpretation of any sort, I assume one single source to be correct and preserved in absolute and trust it above all others. However, I do not use a single source to the exclusion of other sources input. I assume one source to be correct, but other versions or translations or interpretations which agree with that source can be used to extract nuance or clarity not found in the original. In Book 18 of City of God, Augustine of Hippo discusses some of these same matters in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures compared to the Septuagint.

In selecting a source, I’m going to start by saying I try to select God’s source. To explain this, I need to start out in a way that, even to those who agree with me in believing there is a supernatural realm, might sound superstitious, but trust me, where I land I’ll be pretty concrete and down to earth.

The Holy Word of God is God’s Own Self. It is immortally immutable. It has no beginning, no end, and no alteration. It forms what we know as reality, although it is more real that anything we can experience with taste, touch, hearing, sight, or smell. This immortally immutable word both formed the world, and entered the world. It entered the world in flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In parallel to this (because to this word, there is neither before nor after nor during) it entered this world through the tongue and hand and ear and eye and nose of those whom God would call to deliver a message. In special cases, God would enter through his word in a special way, which he would through his purpose preserve in his way through his people. In such a case, each transcriber would, in a sense, be freshly inspired to copy what he had before himself. The result is that there are copies that accurately reflect what God says. The power of each new transcription comes from the immortally immutable Word of God which is God’s Own Self, transferred from the previous copy, and so on. I think for some of it, it might be helpful to read Plato’s Ion. His rings are in one aspect a well description, with the single exception that in the case of a transcription each new transcription holds all the power of the previous.

I must be careful when I say this to say what I mean. I do not exclude the possibility of mistakes. However, I do deny the ability of these mistakes to compound over time. Mistakes will be limited in scope, and in the cases of these inspired copies, they will be of a nature akin to a typo. It is not these copies which I seek to understand and connect with. It is the immortally immutable Word of God which is God’s Own Self I hope to connect to.

Now here is where things start to get tricky, so try to follow me. This theory does not exclude the possibility that a translation might be preferred over the original. In some cases, for example, I might choose a Greek translation of an Old Testament book. If I do choose something odd or obscure, I’ll try to say why.

It does mean that the source I use will have to represent a source which has been available through men of God (as opposed to the craft of men.) The source should also represent, for the most part, what people have understood God to have said. If I have a translation that radically alters some tenant of the Christian faith, I’d be concerned about my own salvation, and check it very carefully before choose to an alternate translation, switch to another version, or some more drastic action.

As to the non-scholarly in my translation principles, I’m a layman. I didn’t go to school for this. I’m doing this for one simple reason: I intend to strengthen my own connection to God through a deeper understanding of his Holy Word. For example, I’m not capitalizing pronouns unless other grammar rules require it. (You may already have noticed this, dear reader.) It has been variously explained to me that the reason people capitalize pronouns in relation to deity is because it is what they used to do for kings and such, or because they wish to emphasize the difference between God and others. In the original text, there is no difference between “he” when referred to God and men, so I will not render it differently. I live in the USA, we don’t have a king, and I use a lowercase “he” in relation to the president, so I guess that means I should use a lowercase for God as well.

I am not trying to say I’m “better” than any other. If anything, I’m trying to inspire others to seek original language studies of the scriptures because I believe pretty much anyone can do it. God is a great guy, and the closer you get to his original words, the better off you’ll be in understanding his purpose for your life, in my opinion.

Thoughts on Independent Young Women – A Parable

There once was a young, single father named Chuck. He had one daughter named Jill. It happened upon one auspicious morning that this bright, pleasant, and otherwise obedient daughter became a teenager. She forgot her chores and neglected her homework. Chuck went to his men’s meeting at church and asked them how to get her back in line. Jill was punished according to the custom with which the father had been told would bring her back to her senses. He stopped her from going to her favorite hobbies. She still didn’t do her chores and started hanging out with her boyfriend. He forbade her to see her boyfriend, and she snuck out of the house. It seemed that whatever punishment he tried to give her she shrugged off, and the more things he took away the more defiant she became. She was not turning into the young lady that the elders of the church promised.

Jill’s best friend Chloe was a martial artist. Chloe was raised by an older man who had many children before. The elders at Chuck’s church advised Chuck to keep away from Chloe and Chloe’s dad. They were free spirits. They did things different from other people. Chloe was a straight A student, but she didn’t have a curfew. She had the best attendance at her movie theater job, but watched the wrong kind of movies. She played the wrong kind of video games and read the wrong books. She was bad news, according to the elders at Chuck’s church. “After all,” one elder reminded him, “you have to think about her future, and about what kind of man she’s going to marry.”

One day, Chuck found out that Jill and Chloe had walked to Chloe’s martial arts school together. Chuck raced there to pull his daughter away from the dangers his church family had warned him about. Chloe’s dad was there, and Chuck heard that Chloe was going to martial arts class, even though she had not finished her chores at home the night before. Perplexed, Chuck asked the other father, “Wouldn’t it encourage her to do her chores if you denied her martial arts classes until they were done?”

The older father shrugged. “Who is to say? It might, it might not.”

The younger man then asked, “Why are you so lenient about it then? If it could get her to behave, isn’t that what you should do?”

The older father seemed to ignore his companion for a moment, watching his youngest in a new move she was working very hard to perfect. Then he answered, “The way I see it, she is a teenager, and she’s going to be doing something. She enjoys martial arts. She also enjoys her boyfriend. If she wasn’t practicing, she’d be with him. I don’t have the time and energy to follow her everywhere she goes, and even if I did, someday rather soon she’s going to need to make all these decisions without me. I’d rather give her however much freedom she can handle now when it is both prudent and appropriate for me to help her dig out of a situation than in a year when she’s across the country at a college and there’s no practical way for me to get there.”

The younger father looked indignant. “Aren’t you afraid that she won’t meet a man if she’s too strong? When I was her age, I would never have dated a girl who could beat me in a fair fight.”

The older father smiled a knowing smile, and answered simply, “And I would never want my daughter to be with a boy that only wanted her because he could beat her. So your lack of interest would not have bothered me, were you and her the same age.”

Looking into the class, Chuck saw Chloe surrounded by strong, capable men, all of whom considered her a sister, any of whom could protect her if needed, none of whom would ever be needed. The next day, Jill was in class alongside her best friend.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

As a Spider-Man fan since childhood, I’m not completely unaware of the character of Carnage. However, Carnage was introduced to the comics landscape in 1992. I was fourteen. Comics, as a whole, and those that had Carnage in particular had taken a much darker and more violent turn in the mid-90’s. I knew about Carnage, but I still haven’t ever read the Carnage character arcs from the original comics.

I am familiar with Carnage from the 1994 cartoon series. That was made appropriate for children of all ages. In the cartoon, and something that I’ve always heard was consistent from the comic books was that Carnage, in stark contrast to Venom, always referred to himself in a singular first person instead of a plural first person. The reason for this is complicated, but to draw it down to the simplest possible terms, Venom was two distinct entities with distinct goals, whereas Carnage was two distinct entities who shared common goals. Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote would argue and disagree and from time to time separate. The symbiote had a life separate from Eddie. It had been bonded to Peter Parker, it had lived as an alien, it had been imprisoned, it had its own life. The Carnage symbiote had bonded with Cletus Kasady’s blood when it was born. It had been born when a piece of the Venom symbiote got into Kasady’s body. The symbiote had never had a life separate from Kasady. It became a part of Kasady. Carnage was an alternate identity for Kasady, when he was bonded to his symbiote. One of the things that made Carnage such a difficult opponent for Venom was not that Carnage was more powerful, but that he was more completely in sync. Of the two, Venom was older, wiser, more stable, and more experienced.

This movie kind of reversed this paradigm. Carnage is still born the same way. (Kind of.) A bit of the Venom symbiote gets into Kasady, who is still a convicted serial killer. Instead of Brock and Kasady sharing a cell like the comics and cartoon, Brock interviews Kasady and blows open the mystery of some of his murders. In a fit, Kasady bites Brock and takes a piece of the symbiote into him.

Okay, wait… let’s back up. Can I just say that so far the Venom movie series has the absolute best setups for the next movie in all of cinematic history? When Kasady was shown in the post-credits scene of the first movie, I about lost it. The movie didn’t disappoint. Now that I’ve seen this, I’m looking forward to meeting Toxin in the next movie.

Carnage’s escape and then breakout of Shriek was awesome! Very well executed! But it’s also where we start to see the divergence between the historic Carnage and the Carnage of the movie. Carnage, the symbiote, started talking to Kasady. They immediately start arguing over Shriek. Which makes a certain kind of sense. After all, Shriek’s particular superpower is the very thing that the symbiotes are weak to: noise. It makes sense for them to disagree about her fate in their adventures.

Both the first Venom movie and this sequel do an excellent job of establishing that Venom and Eddie are in a relationship. They argue. They compromise. They help each other. They live a shared life.

Then, finally, in the middle of this sequel, they need to separate. The symbiote seeks its own life, and Eddie tries to find his own life post-Venom.

Until he discovers that Kasady is free with a symbiote of his own. The pair are reunited for the final battle. And then, almost immediately, they are in disagreement once again.

As soon as the Venom symbiote realizes that Kasady has a red symbiote, he becomes afraid. The writing in the beginning of the fight is excellent, with the Venom symbiote making it very clear he sees no way to win against a “red one.” In the comics, this statement would have been nonsense: the symbiotes can change colors at will so any symbiote could be red at will. In the first movie they established that there are various colors of symbiotes, though.

The battle is finally won when the Carnage symbiote decides to go against Kasady’s will and kill Shriek. With Carnage and Kasady fighting against each other, Venom and Brock are able to finally turn the fight around and destroy the new symbiote and Kasady both.

Although the Carnage of the movie is far different from the Carnage of other media, I think that it works better for a stand-alone movie.

Defining Real

Friend 1: “So, you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, haven’t you?”

Me: “A couple times. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. Why?”

Friend 1: “I had a question. If the back of the wardrobe had a wormhole to another world, why did the children go back to being children when they returned? Shouldn’t they stay adults?”

Me: “Oh. That’s a good question. I don’t know what C. S. Lewis would say to that, but from here I think that presuming it’s a wormhole rather than a portal is kind of putting a lot into the story that the story doesn’t say.”

Friend 1: “What’s the difference between a wormhole and a portal?”

Me: “Usually a wormhole is in science fiction and it just joins two points in space. A portal is in fantasy and it’s magical and can pretty much do whatever the author needs.”

Friend 2: “You two realize that the Chronicles of Narnia is fiction, don’t you?”

For me, I define real things in three realms. Just because I haven’t found a better tripartite division, I call them the Physical, the Ideal, and the Mental.

The Physical Realm contains all those things which everyone seems to experience temporally. The Ideal Realm contains all those things which we experience eternally. The Mental Realm contains those things which we only experience when we think about them.

The obvious example for a physical object is anything made of matter, but that’s not everything. Gravity, light, and sound are physical realities as well.

An idea is an object in the Ideal Realm, and the most obvious example is numbers. There’s no time when 1 + 1 started to equal 2. It just is. It’s eternal.

A thought is an object in the Mental Realm. To me, the ideal example of a useful thought is money. If I give you a ten dollar bill, you can’t cut ten individual dollars out of it. The dollars don’t exist in the Physical Realm. Before that bill was printed, those dollars didn’t mean anything, and if the world collectively decided to stop using dollars and instead use some other currency, there would no longer be any meaning to the term “ten dollars.” They would cease to exist.

Things which are in the Physical or Ideal realms are objective. Things which are in the Ideal or Mental Realms are spiritual. Things which are in the Physical or Mental Realms are temporal. Things which are in the Mental Realm alone are subjective. Things which are in the Ideal Realm alone are eternal. Things which are in the Physical Realm alone are material.

There are times when it’s difficult to know which realm something falls into without deep study. An example is color. Red is physical: a photon of around 700 nanometers is red. However, deep study has revealed that yellow is mental. The same experience is produced in us regardless if we have light with a single wavelength or if we have light with multiple wavelengths. Yet the mental experience does reflect at least two possible physical states.

Within this, things can be defined as more fundamental or emergent. This is something that exists on a scale. A chair is emergent: it emerges when you combine physical boards. The boards are also emergent: combine certain physical molecules in certain orders and you get wood. Keep going and going, and on some level your chair is a combination of quarks and gluons in a certain configuration. As far as we have been able to reach in our study, the quarks and gluons are the most fundamental physical aspect of the chair.

The chair is also emergent because it emerges from our thoughts about it, as well. It’s not always clear what makes the distinction between a stool and a table except for our perception of them, for example.

So this is where things get interesting for me. I wanted to know which was more fundamental: physical, mental, or ideal reality. At first, this felt simple: the mental world of our mind is in our brains, our brains are made of matter in the physical world, and quarks and gluons are described mathematically and are therefore rooted in something in the ideal world. So the ideal world is most fundamental. Except inside the mental world in our brains is another ideal world which (hopefully) reflects the real world, and that ideal world contains another physical world, which is populated with mental ideas of the people we know, who have their own minds. What’s more, the ideal world that’s in our head is hopefully the same as the ideal world that contains the physical world, and if this is true then our minds contain the world that contains our body that contains our mind. So from here, it looks to me like it’s a circle.

Historically, there has been a tendency to try to put mental realities and ideal realities in the same category just because they aren’t physical. To me, it seems clear that there’s a big difference between the things that are in my mind like Charlie Brown or this blog post and nonphysical things that are outside me like numbers and the law of gravity. If we erase all the Peanuts comic strips, Charlie Brown ceases to exist. If we burn all the math books and build math back, it will be the same math.

This isn’t the only way to define what’s real, though. Some people define real only those things that are physical or those things that are measurable or whatever. Sabine Hossenfelder defines “real” as those things which help explain a theory in one of her YouTube videos. “Real,” like any other word, can be defined any way we want. It’s in the mental realm. If we decide it means something else, then it really does. I find good use in defining things these ways, though. I’m able to distinguish things that others fail to distinguish.

If you don’t like this definition of how things are real, what is your favorite way? What are the advantages of your system over mine?

Venom (2018)

I remember when Spider-Man first got the black costume. I had always been drawn to Spider-Man. His alter ego was a bookish kid that had trouble making friends. Something about that spoke to me. So when my family was on vacation in Mexico in August of 1984, it took my breath away to see the cover of Marvel’s Secret Wars #8. Since it was in Spanish, I wasn’t sure if it was a new spider themed hero or if it was Spider-Man in a new suit.

When I got back to the States, the news was all a buzz with Spider-Man’s new look. Some people loved it. Some people hated it.

Over the years, this was revealed to be an alien that initially tried to take over Peter Parker and then later bonded to a rival reporter named Eddie Brock and ultimately became one of Spider-Man’s most formidable enemies. Eventually the bonded pair of symbiote and Brock would become the antihero Venom.

When it was announced that they were making a stand-alone movie for the character Venom that would not include Spider-Man, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure how you could have Venom without first having black-suit Spider-Man.

Venom was a great movie, but I’m not going to discuss the plot here. Today, I want to explore the question: is this the Venom I grew up with or not?

Several things are definitely similar: a jet black symbiote bonds to an out of luck reporter named Eddie Brock granting him superhuman strength, durability, and stamina while sustaining itself on Eddie’s own vitality. The two of them come to trust and depend on each other and fight against those who have wronged them before ultimately embracing the role of antihero.

And yet there are differences, too. The Venom of the comics had bonded to Peter Parker first. He was driven by jealousy and anger for Spider-Man. The Venom of the movie is driven by a mutual sense of being lost in their respective societies: the Venom symbiote is the weakest and least aggressive of his tribe, Eddie has lost his career and his fiance and is struggling to find his place.

It is clearly the author’s intent to create a new story with the same character, but if you think this is what they’ve done will depend a lot on your theory of identity. I try to be flexible and meet people where they are on a theory of identity when I can, but left to my own devices my favorite theories of identity would not allow us to see these two as the same character.

That said, as someone who spends a lot of my time in serious objective study, the author’s intent counts for a lot. Since the author intended it to explore the same character from another angle, for purposes of understudying the story I will adopt another theory of identity. One that is compatible with this intention.

This is one of the things that speculative fiction gives us that other forms of prose don’t. When we talk about plot holes, we are talking about times when the story doesn’t make sense in its own assumptions. My favorite theories of identity may in fact mean that there are two separate characters who just happened to both have the same name. That’s not what the author is saying, so I’ve got to adopt another theory of identity for the duration of the movie.

Advancement in our thinking often involves taking on an idea we’re not fully convinced of for a short time just to test it out. Doing that in fiction is a great way to practice doing this without the risks associated with doing it on a more serious topic. It also allows us to explore the plot holes, which in a more serious area of study are the parts of our theory that need more work.

Loving God is Loving People

This is a response to a YouTube community post put up by Pastor Mike Winger. While I often find Pastor Winger to be a thoughtful, Spirit led leader who seems to honestly do his due diligence in study and is primarily motivated by a love for God as revealed in the pages of the Bible, this is a case where I think Pastor Winger has missed the mark.

On October 3, Pastor Winger wrote “Loving God is a greater priority than loving people. This is not to lower our sense of how strongly we are to love people, just to elevate our sense of how strongly we are to love God. This moral rule seems to be absent in our culture.”

This statement is anti-scriptural. If you are elevating your so-called love of God above the love of people, then it’s not the God of the Bible that you love. It’s a god of your own imagination. What does it look like to make loving God a greater priority than loving people if it isn’t the false piety that Christ and the prophets so often condemn?

The most obvious place that Pastor Winger’s general thought is addressed comes out of First John 4:20 “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” To extend this thought just a little, how can you love the God you haven’t seen more than the brother you have seen? It’s easy to see how the one thought flows easily from the other.

This is hardly the only place that the subject is brought up, though. James makes a similar point in James 2:14-19.

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

Notice how intimately James connects the thought of false piety with the neglect of the poor. In James’s line of thinking, there clearly are those that profess a love of God above their love of others. He compares them to demons. I don’t know about anyone else, but when the inspired authors start comparing my thoughts to those of demons, I start to get nervous.

It never ceases to amaze me, but there are those who won’t believe a concept unless it is reiterated in one of Paul’s letters. I prefer Christianity, not Paulianity. That said, Paul is inspired and I’m casting a wide net for Bible believers here, so those who need to see this in Paul, he brings this very point up in The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 3, verses 11 to 13.

“And may God our Father, and our Lord Jesus the Messiah, direct our way unto you; and increase and enlarge your love towards one another, and towards all men, even as we love you; and establish your hearts unblamable in holiness, before God our Father; at the advent of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, with all his saints.”

Notice, he says to increase their love towards one another, not towards God. And in Titus 1:7-9, we are told several things that an elder is to love, but God isn’t one of them. It might seem strange to not list the love of God in the requirements for an elder. Surely the elder must love God. I would be skeptical of a church that appointed an elder that had not demonstrated a love of God. (Although I must admit that this seems to have worked once in history. See the story of Ambrose of Milan. He was elected bishop of Milan before being baptized. So… I would still be skeptical of such a church, but I could be wrong to be skeptical of such a church.) I think there’s a good reason that Paul doesn’t list love of God as a requirement for a leader, though. I think it’s impossible to love the God of the Bible in the same sense that one might love the neighbor or the stranger, and similarly impossible to love neighbor or the stranger without actually loving the God of the Bible.

Let’s take a moment to really examine Jesus’s take. In Mark 12:29-34 we read:

“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for he is one; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.”

To love God and neighbor is more than all the burnt offerings. And the scribe who accepts that — even though he is actively opposing the person of Christ standing right in front of him — is not far from the Kingdom of God. That is all interesting and I could probably make my whole point from what we hear about that scribe, but I’m already on this road and I think that road would be longer. For now, let’s focus in on “and the second is like,” which in Greek is “καὶ δευτέρα ὁμοία.” The word for “like” is the “ὁμοία.” This word is most often used in the New Testament to introduce a parable. For example, Luke 13:19 “It is like (ὁμοία) a a grain of mustard seed…” From this, it’s clear that Jesus is teaching that to do one of these is to do the other. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you’re really loving God, and vice versa.

I can expand on that. Have you ever noticed that after Jesus, when these commandments are alluded to in the New Testament, thay only mention loving your neighbor?

  • Romans 13:8-9 “And owe nothing to any one; but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law. For this likewise, which it saith: Thou shalt not kill; nor commit adultery; nor steal; nor covet; and if there is any other commandment, it is completed in this sentence: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
  • Galacians 5:14 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one sentence; in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
  • James, 2:7-9 “Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

After Jesus makes this point, the apostolic writers seem to no longer feel the need to command that future Christians to love God because loving neighbor will suffice. If you’ve done one, you’ve done the other, and it’s far easier to confuse loving God with false piety than it is to confuse loving your neighbor with something nefarious. (From the inside. I realize that examining a person from the outside is its own kettle of wax, but that’s another topic for another day entirely.)

More could be said to build this case, but I think I’ve shown that my position is based in scripture. There is one near miss that needs to be acknowledged before I go into what this means. Matthew 10:37 says, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This is the closest we ever get to something that matches Pastor Winger’s statement. I can’t find any other statements that even come close in all the pages of scripture. We can’t extract this verse from its context, though. Chapter 10 is where Jesus is sending out the Apostles on independent missions to Israel. Christ warns that those of us that follow him will find that our greatest obstacle will sometimes be in our own families, not those distant lands that we are sent to. In fact, in case you think I’m reading that into the context, those are almost the very words of the verse before. “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” In loving our neighbor, we may fail to fit into the predetermined mold set for us by our loved ones. In the immediate context, Zebedee might not have been thrilled that the sons he raised from their youth to take over the family fishing business are now wandering around the countryside like homeless vagabonds begging for food and talking about some (soon to be) dead guy. In modern times, a father may want their child to build the family fortune or reputation in a way that takes away from others, and a Christian will need to stand against that. A husband may want his wife to laugh along with the business associate that celebrates breaking a union so he can lower wages, or the union rep that wants to brag about getting their colleague out of charges of incompetence through aggressive negotiations. There comes a point when we need to tell someone, even someone we’re close to, “I understand you want me to walk with the world so that I can walk with you, but I can’t. I can’t promote hate.” Certainly the same Christ who criticized the Pharisees for using ritual to get around the commandment to love their parents (Matthew 15:5) isn’t here setting up some kind of loophole to avoid loving your father and mother because you are showing your devotion to God.

I want to take a moment to rewind. What was that James said? (James 2:19) “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” There’s something here, isn’t there? I can’t imagine any fact or detail about God that we would know that the demons would not know. We might know in hindsight things that they did not know in foresight, (1 Peter 1:12) but in terms of current sight they would seem to know more than we do. This is one reason why we need to be careful when we talk about loving God more than we love our neighbor: the demons hate the God we love, but they certainly know him better. It’s what John is getting at when he asks, “how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” If a man were to tell me that he loved his wife more before he met her, then it would be obvious that he didn’t really love his wife before meeting her. He loved his imaginary version of her. In the same way, if you’re claiming to love a god more than your neighbor, then you’re not loving the God who made your neighbor in his image. You’re loving an imaginary god of your own creation. Which, I suppose, is your right. I just don’t think it’s what Pastor Winger is going for.

I get the sense that Pastor Winger and I have different conceptions of God. I can’t say for sure. I don’t have insight into Pastor Winger’s concept of God. I’m sure if I could ask him he would say something like, “The God of the Bible,” or “The God of Christ and the Apostles.” Which, fine, I have been known to say the exact same things and been rightly accused of being exactly as unhelpful as those answers would be here. It’s going to be the same answer from a Jehovah’s Witness or Joseph Smith, so that’s how unhelpful that line of answers is. I’m not sure what Pastor Winger would say if I pressed further with more probing questions, though. So I’m not going to speculate on what he believes specifically. I’m just going to say that it feels very much like his concept of God is somewhat incompatible with my own just because Pastor Winger’s statement doesn’t make sense in terms of my understanding of God. To make an analogy, if someone told me that I shouldn’t be concerned that I can see myself in a mirror, only that it reflects light perfectly, I would be left scratching my head. Doesn’t one thing mean the other? Isn’t the way that I know my mirror is reflecting light perfectly that I can see myself in it? If I can’t see myself in it, doesn’t that very strongly imply that it’s not reflecting the light perfectly? Like, so strongly that every case where I say that I can’t see myself in it, it’s because it’s not reflecting perfectly? The interlocutor says, “Well, what if it’s dark?” Um… then there’s not no light to reflect and it’s therefore not reflecting light. “What if it’s fogged up?” Um… then the reflection is imperfect. “What if it isn’t facing you?” Well, then it might be reflecting perfectly but I have no way to know until I turn it around and see myself in it.

So let’s ask the question: what would it mean to prioritize loving God over loving neighbor? I mean, in a practical sense, not an emotional one. What does it look like when you love God more than your neighbor in a concrete, measurable outcome?

I still feel like that’s a silly question, but let’s turn it around to make it feel somewhat less silly at least in principle: what does it mean to love a neighbor more than God? At least when it’s asked that way, it doesn’t feel silly. I mean, I still think it is silly in the end, but I’ll admit that if I hadn’t put a bunch of thought into this way of thinking about God I might need to be walked to it. So let’s show why it’s silly, and I think that will shed light on why the reverse is also silly.

To love a neighbor more than God is going to imply seeking the good of my neighbor above the good of God. Leaving to one side that God is transcendent and therefore I can neither hurt him nor benefit him, we can at least admit that I can try. I can go to my neighbors birthday party on Sunday instead of church in a misguided attempt to actively hurt God by choosing someone else that I love more. Then I’ve loved someone else above God. Haven’t I?

Not so fast. Let’s remember what John tells us: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) So let’s assume that going to this birthday party is truly an act of selfless love for my neighbor. (Dubious with what data is given, but possible. Let’s roll with it. After all, it’s a thought experiment.) In order to do this act of selfless love for my neighbor, I have to prioritize that love. I have to prioritize my love at the same time in order to really prioritize my neighbor. There’s no way to prioritize my neighbor without also prioritizing my love for my neighbor unless it’s an act not done out of love. (If it were done more with intention to hurt someone else rather than to help the friend, that would not be loving.) And God is love. So I’m not just loving my neighbor, I’m also loving the love of my neighbor, which is itself God.

That even helps to explain a verse that many people find confusing: Luke 12:10 “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.” How can it be forgiven to speak against the Son, but not the Holy Ghost? What are you doing when you actively blaspheme the Son? You’re blaspheming a historical image. Which, let’s face it, we probably got more wrong than right. In stark contrast, when we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, we are calling something evil which is good. We are directly saying, “Even though you’ve acted lovingly and helpfully, you’re still evil.” That’s a denial of love. And since God is love, that’s a true denial of God.

Doesn’t this fit in nicely with the scribe who is closer to the Kingdom than he thinks? He’s blaspheming the Son who stands right in front of him, but he knows to prioritize love of others over a sense of piety. Indeed, wasn’t it the case that the Scribe alludes to in Micah 6:6-8? Aren’t the people of Micah’s day claiming to love God over others by offering sacrifices and holding feast days, all while their people go without? Isn’t it exactly this kind of piety that Christ rebukes with statements like, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” (Mark 2:27) and “Thus you have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition,” (Matthew 15:6) and “ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23) In every one of these cases, aren’t the prophets and Christ criticizing those who claim to be showing piety (the love of God) over the love of neighbor?

Isn’t it interesting how seeing God this way pulls all these things together? For me, this has become the lense I try first when examining any theological theory or doctrine or Bible passage. It has helped me to make sense of the Trinity, judgement and mercy, the nature of God, the incarnation, and salvation. This thought has not let me down in ten years.

But I’ve left one problem hanging: who am I snubbing in the birthday party scenario above? I’ve set out to snub someone, and it could be argued that trying to snub someone is automatically successful at least in principle. (I’m not sure that the crime of attempted but failed snubbing makes a lot of sense. If I tell someone that they’re skinny and then they thank me and I follow up with, “That wasn’t a compliment,” then they are usually offended just because I meant it so. The very thing they thought was a compliment becomes a snub just by intention.)

Clearly the entity that I was trying to snub isn’t love itself and therefore cannot be the God of the Bible. The immediate thing that pops into my head is that it’s some kind of semi-idolatrous anthropomorphic Thor-like thing or maybe a Zeus-like thing or maybe a Karma-like thing. I’m sure other ideas could fill that void as well, but whatever it is it’s not the God who is love that’s described in the Bible.

Of course, I can only speculate what Pastor Winger would say to such a thing. I’m not sure what the thing is that he’s trying to elevate above his love of neighbor. This concept of mine is grounded in scripture, and whatever he is trying to elevate doesn’t seem to match with what I read in scripture. That doesn’t automatically make me right. Maybe Pastor Winger has another, particular image in mind that better fits some point I’ve missed. It would be interesting to see if that were the case. From here, the obvious question is what I started with: “What does it look like to make loving God a greater priority than loving people if it isn’t the false piety that Christ and the prophets so often condemn?”

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Five years after saving the world from the dominion of Gozer, the Ghostbusters have been sued by the city, denied payment, and disbanded. Ray and Winston are entertainment at children’s birthday parties. Egon is doing psychological studies. Peter is hosting a sham television show giving a platform to supposed psychics. They are forbidden from conducting paranormal investigations or eliminations.

In June of 1989, I was ten years old. I loved The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. For that reason, I was very disappointed by the 1989 sequel to the 1984 movie. I wanted a two hour episode of The Real Ghostbusters with the live action actors. Instead I got a movie that completely ignored the development and structure of the popular cartoon series.

In the cartoon, the Ghostbusters never lost their business. They kept busting ghosts even after their encounter with Gozer. In the sequel movie, shortly after the destruction of Gozer’s gateway, the Ghostbusters found themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit that ended their business. I was just old enough to realize that these things were incompatible, and just young enough to prefer the ongoing canon of the cartoon rather than the periodic stories of the movies.

Rewatching the movie again as an adult, there is a certain kind of comedic consistency between the two movies. The movies and cartoon are definitely a product of their time. Movie makers were just waking up to the idea that a sequel doesn’t need to retread the same material as the first movie. Since the first movie set up the establishment of the Ghostbusters’ business, the second movie had to do that again, somehow.

All of that said, I do have to admit that my favorite scene in this movie is the courtroom. Watching Judge Stephen Wexler first claim that he does not believe in ghosts, and then rescind his judgement when two ghosts appear and threaten him and the other staff in the courtroom. Watching the Ghostbsuters don their packs and take down two threatening spectors in a live action sequence was just what a ten year old needed from the movie. Forty year old me isn’t saddened by the prospect either.

The movie that follows the courtroom scene is much more what I went to the theater to see. The Ghostbusters are pulling together all of their gadgets and skills to hunt down ghosts and to track the mood-slime that they originally got into trouble for investigating.

As much as I loved the cartoon, one of the things that I felt this second movie did much better than the cartoon ever did was to showcase the Ghostbusters studying, creating, and using new tools for battling the ghosts of their world. We see them making new photo processing techniques to get a better view of Vigo, the big bad. We see them positively charge the mood-slime, and then weaponize it against Vigo and his henchman. The familiar P. K. E. Meter is joined by the Gigameter. While I do wonder what each one measures and how they compare, there’s also a piece of me that doesn’t need to know. The Ghostbusters are doing everything they can to fight ghosts as effectively as possible.

Vigo the Carpathian is a fascinating big bad for the Ghostbusters to battle. He’s trapped in his painting, but somehow has been able to orchestrate the collection of negative energy from the City of New York through the distribution and collection of the mood-slime in great rivers that travel under the subway system. Using his accumulated power, he also seems to be able to somewhat track the movements of the Ghostbusters, and at least once moves to attack the Ghostbusters directly in their base of operation. As Ray and Egon are running tests on the photos they took of Vigo, the door gets locked and the chemicals catch fire.

There is definitely something to the message of Gostbusters II that I like. The power of positive thinking to fight against the power of negative emotions, and yet you can’t simply think the nice things and have that defeat the evil in the world. The Ghostbusters fill their weapons with positive emotions (in the most literal way possible) and still barely manage to defeat their negatively charged opponent. Vigo is willing to fight dirty, stack the deck, and hide behind henchmen to achieve his goals. The Ghostbusters are always trying to work in the best interests of their city, even when it means holding back against Vigo for a moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Ghostbusters films from my childhood. I’m looking forward to seeing Ghostbusters: Afterlife in less than a couple months.

The Halting Problem of Determinism

Free will is at the center of many philosophical approaches to the moral argument for God. It’s even at the center of the best proof of God I’ve ever heard. So if I believe that this is the best proof, it follows that I believe in free will. There’s a very unfortunate fact that I’ve admitted in the past on several occasions, though: I don’t know what free will is.

There’s a few ways to parse that sentiment, though. And unfortunately, I mean it in the worst possible way. I mean that I see two possible conditions, and can give good reasons to reject both of them. I’ve seen behind Door Number 1 and Door Number 2, and since I know the right answer isn’t there, it must be behind Door Number 3, which I don’t know how to locate.

One possibility is that our actions are defined by a sequence of events going back to the beginning of time. The first protons hit the first neutrons causing a cascade of billiard ball type reactions resulting ultimately in us here and now. Another possibility is that this kind of cause-reaction duality is complemented by a healthy dose of randomness in some subset of the billiard reactions.

I enjoy reading things about physics and biology, but it’s not really a place where I do my best. I’m actually better at computers. I did tech support for seven years, and I’ve done some amateur programming. I took a year of Software Engineering at community college once. I’m not a professional programmer any longer, but I’ve designed a flash cards program on my website because I honestly think that my system is superior to any other system out there.

One of the greatest computer science philosophers of all time was Alan Turing. He was famous for several thought experiments as computer science was emerging from its infancy. One of these is known as The Halting Problem. You see, there’s a thing in programming called a loop. It will repeat until a certain condition is met. If you’re not at least a little p careful how you write your program, you can accidently create an infinite loop. This is a loop that, by definition, never ends. A simple example would be if you accidently had your program to loop until a given unsigned integer was negative. Since the lowest value an unsigned integer can have is zero, this will loop forever.

Lucky for us, this is the kind of error that modern compilers and interpreters can often detect and warn us before we ship our errors. Unfortunately, there are other, more complicated infinite loops. It sure would be handy to have an “infinite loop detector” that will positively identify any and all infinite loops. Just load your program in and it will give a “yes” or “no.”

Turing proved that this isn’t possible. I mean, as explained above, some common typos that often result in infinite loops can, but there’s no program, no matter how complex, that will find all infinite loops.

It’s easy to prove why. Pretend you have such a program. Don’t worry about how it works, just pretend it does. (It’s magic!) Now, write another program that uses this first program. It has an infinite loop if the test program doesn’t have an infinite loop and vice versa. Now have that program test itself. What does it do? If it does loop infinitely then it doesn’t loop infinitely. If it doesn’t loop infinitely it does loop infinitely. So it can’t tell. So it can’t be written.

I think that determinism runs into a very similar problem. It’s a little more complicated, but it’s still there.

Consider the world where there is no free will. In this totally deterministic world, it is determined in advance by the physics of the world whether Bob will steal an apple. If it’s illegal, he will. If it’s not illegal, he won’t. (He is determined to like bucking the trend.) Mike has an apple tree and makes the laws. Mike knows about Bob. If Mike makes stealing illegal, Bob will steal the apples. So Mike doesn’t make the law. So which caused which? Did Bob’s behavior cause Mike to set the law, or did the law that was set cause Bob’s behavior? You get an infinite loop. We could try to add a layer to fix it: Bob’s behavior is caused by the knowledge of the law, Mike’s law is caused by the knowledge of Bob’s behavior. But in that case, Bob’s knowledge causes Mike’s behavior and Mike’s knowledge causes Bob’s behavior and Mike’s behavior is caused by Bob’s knowledge and Bob’s behavior is caused by Mike’s knowledge. So much for the tangled web of determinism. Note, this is even in the case where we know the outcome. No one doubts which law Mike is going to make, and no one doubts how Bob will react. Yet there is still no casual start to our conundrum. The real world is more complex. There can’t help but be real world parallels to these infinite loops.

What if randomness is allowed? Things in the past increase or decrease the probability of it going one way or the other, even to the point of 100%. In this case, we don’t have the problem above. Bob’s nature increases the chance of Mike changing the law, which increases the chance of Bob changing his behavior, and back and forth until both are effectively 100%. So that’s that. But let’s add Jim, who will always perfectly follow the law, taking all the apples if it’s legal but leaving them alone if theft is illegal. Bob will pull Mike towards leaving the law unwritten, but Jim will pull him towards writing the law. We will leave any concept of justice out of it. Mike doesn’t care what’s just, he just wants to eat his own apples. His chances are now exactly 50%. But he has to do one or the other. He has to make a choice. By the ways laws work in this world, Mike can’t both make the law and not make the law. He’s confined to consistency in legal application.

Note that whatever is happening in the second problem has exactly the opposite problem as the first: instead of us knowing what will happen for sure but not knowing where the start is, we have no idea what the result will be but we know exactly how we got there.

So now I’ve given good reasons to say that it’s not determined and it’s not decided by a predetermined probability. So what does that leave?

I’m not sure how the option behind Door #3 works, but whatever is there, it has a name: free will. I don’t know what free will is or how to define it, but there’s something there. Whatever it is, that must be the truth.

Ghostbusters (1984)

“We’re ready to believe you.” “Who you gonna call?” Right up front, you’ve got to admit that Ghostbusters has the best two taglines of any movie or business or anything ever! It takes a dedicated effort to get through any month without using a variation on at least one of these taglines.

I think that the first tagline I mentioned has something to it that is hard for a lot of people. “We’re ready to believe you.” I’ll come back to this at a later point in the discussion, but one of the things that we tend to do is build our understanding of the world, and then anything that doesn’t fit very nicely into that understanding we dismiss without any exploration. For my part, I try to consider all the evidence. I weigh the evidence that I see, for sure. Feelings are one of the weakest forms of evidence out there, but they are evidence. Personal testimony may not be as nice as video footage, but it is evidence. I work with what evidence I have, rather than wishing the evidence would line up with what I think is true. This isn’t a perfect procedure. There are times when I have to say, “I don’t really have anything I would call evidence for this, so all I can say is that I don’t know what’s going on.”

Ghostbusters is a film that explores the idea of supernatural entities having physical substance. Egon Spengler, Ray Stanz, and Peter Venkman are researchers at a college, and they discover the physical properties of ghosts. This is a remarkably physicalist view of the supernatural. Egon is able to determine their ionization rate, and using that data he figures out what kind of particle stream will hold a ghost indefinitely. Only physical items composed of atoms have ionization rates.

I find it fascinating that we never learn what Ray or Egon have their doctorates in. Peter has his PhDs in Psychology and Parapsychology. Given what they do, I think that one of them has to have degrees in chemistry or physics or both. It’s never explicitly stated, though.

It’s hard to believe that ghosts are regarded with such skepticism in the world of the Ghostbusters. The ghosts in this world leave residue, they interact physically, and they are electrically charged. It seems like someone would be bound to notice them eventually.

Be that as it may, the Ghostbusting trio is quick to pick up on the physical properties of the ghosts they encounter. Just as they are picking up on this attribute, they lose their positions at the college. They are forced into the world of entrepreneurship by necessity. I’ve been an entrepreneur. I ran a Kung Fu school for ten years. There are so many things that this movie glosses over to get to the main fight. There are business licenses, insurance, regulations to check, finding the right location, advertising, choosing a business structure, and many more tiny little steps. We get one glimpse of them looking at the firehouse which is to become their iconic headquarters, but that’s it for all of this stuff. Then they are teetering on the edge of financial ruin when they get their first big call, after which they are propelled to near stardom. I know very few entrepreneurs that would describe this as their trajectory. Most often, business is a series of busts and booms based on how you fit into the current economy and your competitors. I think it would have made more sense to either start this movie with them having an established business, or leave the fight with Gozer and company to a later chapter. But I do need to check myself: I’ve never written a cultural iconic classic, and Ghostbusters has become exactly that, so it must have found the formula that I have not.

In contrast to the tagline I discussed above, when their first client Dana walks into the office they hook her up to a lie detector and start quizzing her on the details of her experience. Finally, Egon declares, “She’s telling the truth, or at least she thinks she is.” So much for being ready to believe. Despite their handy gadgets and tools, they aren’t able to help Dana at first. Eventually they discover that her building is an antenna designed to draw in paranormal energy and call down a Hittite god, Gozer, and Gozer’s henchdemons Vinz Clortho and Zuul. How strange that one Hittite demigod should have a post-modern first name/last name combination.

Which brings to the point: when I first got into Biblical history, I realized that the Hittites and Sumerians were not far off from Israel, and I started looking for Zuul and Gozer. There is no such god or demigod that I’ve ever found in their literature. I think that I read that Dan Akroid made up these characters for the story. I’m mixed on how I feel about that. On the one side, there are so many good mythical stories from these cultures and other cultures around the world, Ghostbusters could have taken a moment to be a little bit educational. On the other hand, if you do that you run the risk of someone preferring a different story from the one you’re drawing from or something you do for the storyline that doesn’t come from the original stories offending someone.

Overall, I liked the Ghostbusters, even if there are a lot of things that I disagree with in it. It abuses the Rule of Cool to a point beyond what’s reasonable, and somehow that makes a movie that is so cool it covers the minor sins the production crew commit against history or reason.

Ghost and Spirit

Just when I thought I had heard it all… then someone asks what is the difference between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost.

Apparently this is actually a discussion that some people have. It’s come up in a number of conversations that I’ve been around lately. I haven’t engaged in every conversation this has come up in. It’s definitely the kind of discussion that I prefer to have my resources available.

So first, let’s talk about the different kinds of synonyms. If I told you that I ate cow meat and then later said that I ate beef, there is no conflict in that. Beef and cow meat are the same thing. There’s nothing you can point at and say, “That’s beef but not cow meat” or “That’s cow meat but not beef.” There might be a time when you need to clarify something for a technical point, but which you choose to call beef and which you call cow meat will be a matter of preference. What’s more, someone making the same points could make the division in the opposite direction.

In another extreme, I’m pretty sure that if I had ten of you here with me I could get at least two of you to have a first fight over whether or not the words “big” and “huge” are synonyms at all. If we were to define them separately, their definitions would look very similar. Their definitions might even be identical. That said, if I say, “This is a big pile, that is a huge pile,” I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that the piles you’re thinking of aren’t the same. With these extremes set in front of us, I can understand why those who want to say that the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit are different things won’t be impressed just because I say that “Ghost” and “Spirit” are synonyms. For one thing, in horror movies they seem to be different things. “Spirit” seems to be a larger class that includes demons and maybe fairies, where “Ghost” is a deceased human. So when someone notices that the King James Bible uses both Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit, it’s not entirely unnatural to wonder if they are similar but distinct in some particular way.

Of course, the first clue that they really aren’t is that the first generations of Christian thought were focused on defining and determining the Trinity as the Three in One. Even if you don’t believe in the Trinity, if the early church fathers had seen linguistic justification for both a Holy Ghost and a Holy Spirit, I would be talking about whether or not you believe in the Quaternity.

So that’s one issue that needs to be addressed by those that believe the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost are distinct. In English, we get the words “ghost” and “spirit” from the two sides of our linguistic family tree. Ghost is related to the German word geist, which is the only word that shows up in the New Testament in German editions to refer to the third person of the Trinity. Our Latin linguistic ancestors drew spirit from spiritus, and in the Vulgate this is the only word that refers to that person. I’m sure English isn’t the only language to use two different words, but we’re definitely in the minority.

But wait! There’s more! Everywhere that the Greek New Testament has something translated “The Holy Spirit” or “The Holy Ghost,” it’s the same Greek text behind it: πνευματος αγιου. There can be variation in the use of articles, but I haven’t noticed a particular pattern as to which would be Ghost and which would be Spirit.

In the Greek New Testament, there are a few words that deal with non-physical entities. Of course, the primary one and the one that is used to translate “The Holy Ghost” or “The Holy Spirit” is πνευματος. In Mark 1:26, we see that a man has a πνευμα ακαθαρτον (unclean spirit.) This is obviously something in contrast to the Holy Spirit. It also looks to me like it refers to the same thing as δαιμονιον, which typically gets translated as “devil” or “demon.” By the time we get to Mark 1:34, the language has switched to this and it kinda looks to me like the same thing is in mind.

Then there’s the incident where Jesus walked on water, and in Mark 6:49 the apostles thought that he was a φαντασμα. This word only shows up a couple times in the Greek New Testament. Not enough times for me to get a solid sense if it should be considered a synonym with πνευμα or δαιμονον. It’s never used to refer to the Holy Spirit, and so it’s a bit of a distraction from our discussion. On the other end of that spectrum is ψυχη, which is often translated as “soul” or “life.” Unlike φαντασμα it does occur a lot in the Greek New Testament, however it never seems to refer to a disembodied spirit or a demon and never that I’m aware of refers to the Holy Spirit.

From where I sit, it looks very much like the New Testament authors used πνευμα to refer to any disembodied spirit or gust of wind, and would attach an appropriate adjective identifying it as holy or unclean if necessary. Δαιμονιον could be used to specifically mention an evil or unclean spirit.

This is kind of interesting. It implies something. If the demons are πνευμα ακαθαρτον, what is the antonym of ακαθαρτος? It’s an answer that almost answers itself: it seems to be α (which is Greek for “not”) καθαίρω (which is a rare Greek word that seems to refer to beating the grain out of wheat.) Ακαθαρτος shows up all over the Septuagint version of Leviticus to describe things that are ritually impure. For example, Leviticus 10:10. Anyone familiar with Hebrew idiom and style will recognize that Leviticus 10:10 is probably parallelism. “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” This seems to imply that clean and holy are synonyms, and unclean and unholy are synonyms.

Now, here is where I make a bit of a leap. I may go too far here. If the demons are the unclean spirits, and unclean and holy are antonyms, then the Holy Spirit is the opposite of the demons. If this is true, it does inspire the question, “Then what are the angels? They certainly look an awful lot like they should fill that role of the opposite of the demons.” This fits very nicely with my theory that the Holy Spirit is the Angel of Yahweh.

For my part, following this through, I think that the Holy Spirit is the unifying principle and person of the Holy Angels, but that’s a leap fun where I am. What do you think the Holy Spirit is?

The Karate Kid Part III (1989)

Nothing shows how homologous the 1980’s were as a decade as well as the Karate Kid trilogy. The first movie was released in 1984, and the last was released in 1989. The stories are structured such that each is a chapter in a continuing story, and that overarching story takes place over the course of a year and a half. If I were to take this information, I would conclude that the story takes place between 1984 and 1985, but there’s actually very little to verify that. Dates are mentioned a few times in the first movie, but after that they avoid mentioning the date. Certainly, the story fits with Daniel LaRusso graduating from highschool in the summer of 1985, but this is only possible because the 1980’s were so homologous that the hairstyles, manner of dress, general culture, and technology was virtually identical for the average person across the decade.

Consider: America Online (AOL) started connecting average citizens to the Internet in 1991. (Before that, they went through various iterations of game and media distribution over direct modern link.) While it is true that colleges and military bases had the forerunner to the Internet in the 1970’s, that didn’t do much to change the average household.

Since I was born in 1978, I remember getting access to the Internet for the first time in 1992. I was in jr. high, and I didn’t know how to make it work. Neither did anyone else that I knew. The technology of the 1980’s was well established, reliable, and widely distributed, though.

As someone who came of age in the 1990’s, it’s hard for me to imagine a homologous decade. My formative years have hardly had a homologous year. You can almost tell what year a show or story is set in after 1995 by how people access the Internet and which brand of phone they’re using.

The Karate Kid Part III capitalizes on this quirk by setting itself in 1985, but lets the audience just not notice by simply not drawing attention to the fact.

There are a few things in this movie that I really appreciate that I wish more movies had picked up on. In each of the previous parts of the story, Daniel meets a girl and she rapidly becomes a love interest. I talked previously about how I felt this is actually more akin to my own dating experience than the traditional model of having the protagonist fall in love in the first story and remain with her regardless of how many actresses need to play her.

In Part III, we are introduced to Jessica Andrews who fulfills the role of bringing some much needed feminine energy to a testosterone thick environment. However, after a moment of flirting, Jessica decides to try reestablishing her relationship with a previous boyfriend and takes a platonic role with Daniel. Then the subject is never brought up again. Jessica brings the rationality and calmness that often cools the teenage testosterone temper tantrums without being the doe eyed pottery girl that just wants Daniel to notice her. She’s a buddy, a partner in crime, but not a romantic interest.

Somehow, our media empires have fallen into the trap of making sure that whenever they can create romantic tension, they will. Sometimes this takes away from the power of the propagandist or the agency of the damsel in distress and creates less interesting characters. Jessica brings her own interests and history and feelings to the story. She’s not the main character, but she’s not supposed to be the main character of this particular story.

The villains of this chapter, John Kreese and Terry Silver, are far less compelling, though. This is by far the most cartoonish portrayal of villains in the trilogy, and the Part II had set a fairly high bar in that regard. Terry Silver actually cackles. He is motivated by revenge, has unlimited resources, and never learns or grows in any way.

This is the story of how Kreese was unable to recover his business after losing at the All Valley tournament. In reality, this isn’t how things work. If a martial arts school doesn’t perform well at a tournament, they will most likely lower their prices a little until they recover that reputation. But leaving that bit to one side, it’s possible that Kreese’s problem isn’t simply that he lost the tournament, but that in losing her also lost to a school that wasn’t as aggressive as his own. Once his students saw that Kreese’s wasn’t the only way to learn Karate they vacated Kreese’s studio for a better environment.

Kreese has a war buddy in Terry Silver. Terry and Kreese seem to have studied Karate together at some point in Korea. (Wouldn’t that technically make it Tae Kwon Do or Tang Su Do? I digress.) Terry is a Sport Karate enthusiast and has absolute loyalty to Kreese. What’s more, instead of going into martial arts teaching like Kreese, he had gone into some kind of waste disposal, gotten some lucrative government contracts, and found ways to turn a healthy profit by skirting regulations in disadvantaged countries.

Something struck me while rewatching this movie for this review. When I watched the movie as a kid, then through the various rewatchings as a teenager and young adult, the casual but malicious racism of John Kreese and Terry Silver didn’t make my radar. I wasn’t raised around racism of any sort. My own Kung Fu teacher was so anti-racist that I didn’t even realize racism was a thing. Looking back on it, we had a larger percentage of hispanic and asian kids in the school than we had in the community I grew up in, but it didn’t strike me as odd in the slightest. It’s just how things worked out.

Some of the stories get kind of weird. We had a father of a student who apparently lost all ability to speak coherently the first time he picked up his son from our class. It was fascinating to hear my fellow students telling me about a parent that left such a sting that our instructor was dumbfounded to silence. Normally, a loss for words was not a quality assigned to my instructor. I wasn’t in class that day, but I was there a week or so later when the father dropped off some Ku Klux Klan flyers and publications for my instructor to read. My instructor simply threw it away.

On another occasion, we had a couple of guys that joined class not long after I had gotten my black belt. They were being disruptive, and I ended up asking them to leave. I don’t remember the specifics of their disruption, but I felt bad about it, and my instructor assured me that the next time he had them in class he had asked them not to return and told them they weren’t welcome there. I can only assume that the next time, it was something racially oriented. One of the guys that was taking classes around the same time was hispanic and was a cook at the local restaurant. The next time I was in, I went to pay, and I was told that he had bought my dinner. I thanked him and went about my day. Then it happened again. And again. And again. And then I was in with my entire family one night, and he bought dinner for fifteen people. At that point, it was way past crazy and I had to stop going. I mean, I get showing gratitude to your senior student, but this was getting ridiculous. About four months later, he had moved about twenty miles away and stopped coming to classes, and we ran into each other at the grocery store. And he offered to buy my groceries. I declined, saying something like, “I’m no longer your senior student, and really, this is way beyond what anyone expects from a junior student anyway.” Except that it turns out that wasn’t the reason. It turns out he had confused me with one of the other black belts that had been helping out the day the two troublemakers had been permanently dismissed from class. Apparently they had been harassing him and “I” (by which I mean whichever black belt had been there that day, because really, black belts are interchangeable when you’re at that level) had told them off and told them to leave and then my instructor had told them not to come back. I clarified his confusion, that he had confused me with another, but that I was glad he had such a good experience and that I thought those two were up to no good and all the rest of that. He called me a liar and thanked me again for what I had done. But I got out of there paying for my own groceries so… yay me? Sometimes it’s the little victories that count the most.

I don’t think I’d ever heard the term “slope” used by someone outside a movie until about seven or eight years ago. I just don’t generally make an effort to keep up with racist lingo. So when Kreese and Silver use the term, it just never registered with me on any previous watching. It seems odd to me, that Karate enthusiasts who presumably learned their martial art from Asians would be so blatantly racist. I wish I could say that it was beyond suspension of disbelief, but sadly I’ve met those guys in real life. It never ceases to amaze me the level of stupid racism brings with it. Over the summer of 2020, I had an outside job going door to door. One day as I was walking, someone with a pickup truck flying three or four American flags drove past and yelled, “Go back to Mexico!” It took me a few minutes to register that they must be talking to me, since I was the only one on the street. Shaun Kennedy. My ancestors told sagas of the time their great grandfather saw the great yellow beast peek its ugly glaring eye from behind the greyness that was the sky, and the horrifying and scary blueness that it brought with it on that terrible and awe filled day. My skin can only be coaxed into producing melanin through carefully coordinated short exposures to that demon ball of fire in the sky. How someone could think that I was hispanic is beyond me, but it is just one more confirmation that racism breeds stupidity.

The plan that Silver comes up with to get Kreese’s reputation back involves convincing Daniel to train with him, and then humiliating him at the All Valley Tournament with a ringer brought in from somewhere else.

Mr. Miyagi ends up unwittingly playing right into this trap by refusing to train Daniel for the tournament. Daniel is pressured into the tournament by thugs that Silver hires, and since Miyagi won’t train him, he falls right into the waiting fangs of Silver and his Cobra Kai. Of course, the training that Silver gave him turns out to be bogus, all flash and no substance. Silver, in a particularly Saturday-morning-cartoon-villain-ish move reveals the whole plot all in a night, intending to beat Daniel. Mr. Miyagi manages to rescue Daniel and take on all three Karate antagonists, which is made a little easier by the fact that they decide to take him one at a time instead of all at once, once again ensuring that they follow the cartoon-villian code of ethics.

All that remains of the movie after that is the final tournament where Daniel, predictably, does very poorly until the “sudden death” portion of the fight, where he suddenly bests the opponent that he had previously been unable to land a point on.

This is certainly the weakest of the trilogy, but it kind of gets a pass. It continues a story that was already pretty good, and even if some of the story elements were kind of cartoonish, this is a story primarily aimed at early teens and children. The lessons that it teaches aren’t just for the kids, though. Those of us who would be Miyagi are left with a challenge: if Mr. Miyagi had agreed to train Daniel for the tournament, particularly after getting pressure from hired thugs, then Daniel would not have fell so completely under Silver’s spell. Sometimes the perfect can be the enemy of the good. While refusing to fight for a dishonorable reason may sound good on paper, maybe sometimes honor and ethics do need a moment to bend in a way that will accomodate our emotional impulses.

What do you think? Am I being too hard on the Karate Kid series? I’m trying to decide if I should give my thoughts on The Next Karate Kid or the remake done with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. What do you think?