How many languages do I know

People sometimes ask how many languages I know. I generally answer “one”. English.

Then they ask how many languages have I studied. Ah.

Which languages have I studied formally? In chronological order of studying them in school/university/seminary:

  • French
  • Latin
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Greek
  • Akkadian (before Hebrew)
  • Hebrew
  • Hieroglyphic Egyptian
  • Ugaritic
  • Sumerian
  • Arabic
  • Aramaic

That does not mean I read or speak them fluently. If you do not use a language it starts to evaporate. I had to review Biblical Hebrew in order to teach it for a few years at a state university. I have returned to using it regularly. Witness the long list of Hebrew notes posted at Plenum Creaturis.

Which languages have I studied informally (which includes watching or listening to language lessons by Pimsleur borrowed from the library).

  • Norwegian
  • Farsi (Persian)
  • Russian
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Swedish
  • Danish (hoping to take a swing at Finnish and complete Scandinavia)
  • Lithuanian (important for linguistic reasons)
  • Italian
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Hindi
  • Japanese
  • Croatian
  • Polish
  • Tagalog
  • Indonesian (easiest language I have encountered)
  • Romanian
  • Czech
  • Ukrainian
  • Punjabi
  • Dari (in progress)

Do not be impressed. What one learns in a Pimsleur language course would take up one short paragraph. A Pimsleur language course is like an appetizer. It is at most a brief introduction to the phonemic inventory of a given language and to the basic rudiments of its grammar. Pimsleur courses rarely explain grammar. Generally it throws words and phrases at you and at some point we are supposed to figure out how the language works. In other words its approach is almost exclusively inductive.

Excuse me, do you speak/know/understand English? I/you do (not) know/speak/understand that. You speak/know/understand very well/a little. Are you American/native? Where is place? Here or there(?) I/you would like something to eat or drink(?) I/you would like to drink water/coffee/tea/wine/beer. When? My/your place(?) What time is it? Now or later(?)

No seriously that is basically what you learn over the course of ten lessons. Pimsleur language courses generally follow the same script.

I appear to have a knack for learning other languages. Perhaps it started way back when I was around six. We lived next to a family from Quebec who spoke French. My family had a wonderful dictionary with sections devoted to several languages so I learned words and phrases. Found my dad’s Russian textbook in the basement and taught myself to read Cyrillic (imperfectly).

Update 2018-06-20 = Expanded the final paragraph. Что бы вы хотели сделать?

Update 2018-10-14 = Updated the list of languages. I work my way through a basic/conversational language course about once a month. I am starting to forget language lessons from several months ago.

Update 2019-05-17 = Updated the list to include Hindi, Japanese, Croatian, Polish. I also am learning to read Hindi in Devanagari script.

Update 2019-08-14 = Working on Tagalog. Might try Indonesian next.

Update 2019-10-28 = Have worked on a few after Tagalog. Romanian Czech, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Dari. Ukrainian is more different from Russian than I expected. Dari is very similar to Farsi/Persian and is sometimes considered a dialect.

Posted in Language, Personal | 1 Comment

Announcement = Lections, Hebrew and Greek notes, now being posted at another website

Parma Psalter Psalm 1

Psalm 1, Parma Psalter (13th century)

This is important. For the past several months I have been posting Lections, Hebrew notes, Greek notes, and even sermons at another website. I can tell from the Stats (how many people visit this website, where they live, which posts) that (1) this website does not see a lot of traffic and (2) some of the traffic is for my Lections and Hebrew notes posts. To those people I say welcome and thank you.

However I created a second website which is devoted more to Bible and theology. Which includes Lections, Hebrew notes, Greek notes (which I have started preparing and posting), Sermons, and occasionally some cool quote or not so cool thought about Scripture and Christian doctrine. The idea was…

To start a separate blog that focuses on theological and biblical topics and stays away from politics and culture. So if church members peruse this blog hopefully they will not come across anything too controversial. Although good theology must sometimes risk controversy by challenging false teachings and the spirit of the age.

I was inspired partly by a an Anglican priest in Massachusetts (apparently from my home town) who maintains at least two separate blog sites. One is more strongly focused on Scripture, theology, and so on. The other is more “personal” about his hobbies and interests. I was increasingly concerned that Mangy Dog – which regularly delves into culture and politics – was mixing the personal and sometimes more controversial with more “neutral” topics like Scripture, theology, Christian ministry, and so on. What if people are interested in what I post on these topics and are put off by what I post on other topics?

The point of this specific post is to say thank you for visiting! you are very welcome! if you are here to check out posts on Scripture and theology – including Lections, Hebrew and Greek notes – I encourage you to visit my other blog site Plenum Creaturis. I will start the process of deleting and/or moving to the other site those posts that deal with Scripture, theology, and ministry. I greatly appreciate your interest in those topics and those posts.

Posted in Announcement, Aramaic, Bible, Greek, Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Notes, Language, Lectionary, New Testament | Tagged | 1 Comment

Goodbye farewell and thank you


Preface = Do not be alarmed by the title. This is not a “goodbye cruel world” post. I have spent the last couple years trying to process what I experienced at the church where I served for 18 years. Read on.

To __________ Baptist Church –

Goodbye. Even farewell. Thank you. And thanks be to God.

Thank you for calling me and my young family to Baton Rouge. Thank you for the great joy and privilege of ministering for eighteen years alongside and among you especially with internationals who come to this nation and this city. Thank you for your generous support during those years. For faithful and hard-working volunteers who drove the church van (and later the church bus). Who provided childcare. Who taught English classes. Who hosted internationals in their homes and later hosted English Conversation in their homes. Who helped provide transportation and came along when we had field trips to interesting places around our state. Who helped make our Welcome Party for Internationals possible. Who gave so generously so we could purchase and provide welcome gifts for internationals.

Thank you also for the opportunities to minister alongside and among Americans in __________ Baptist Church. For the opportunities you gave Church of the Nations to lead in worship. For the opportunities to preach and feed the people of God from his written word. For the joy and privilege of visiting church members during their times of crisis. When they were in the hospital. When they were dying. When someone died and fell asleep in the Lord. It might sound strange but those are among my most precious memories.

Thank you for the opportunities you provided to teach and lead Bible studies and draw upon my education and my love for the Old Testament. Thank you for giving me the freedom to teach at Tulane University and later at Louisiana State University. Thank you for supporting me – until the last few years –  when I attended academic conferences or conferences that focus on missions and ministry. Thank you for allowing me to serve as a kind of interim pastor during the two times two year periods when _________ Baptist Church did not have a senior pastor. Those times are also among my favorite. I was able to do things and serve in ways that normally I could not because the senior pastor would do that.

Thank you for giving me and some of my ministerial colleagues opportunities to lead the church in prayer and in missions. Thank you for the mission trips to Macedonia and much later to Cuba. Thank you for the mini-sabbatical and for making it possible to visit and journey through China for four weeks. Thank you for the compassion you displayed when my father died unexpectedly. And when my wife’s mother died just a few days before we were going to visit her and her husband. I do not think I was always or adequately grateful for all that you gave and all that you did for us.

Thank you especially for how you ministered to me and my family after my accident in 2015. For the visits, the meals, the support. Thank you for allowing me to return to work slowly and gradually. For your generous gifts that paid for much of my rehabilitation and recovery. For giving me the time and freedom to go to doctor’s appointments and rehabilitation/therapy. Oh and for the rides when I could not drive. But thank you especially for when so many of you gathered on Labor Day to pray for one hour. And as strange as it might sound thank you for your grief and distress. Thank you for your stories and testimonies.

Thank you for your generosity when after five years our family was able to purchase our first home. Twice one family made it so much easier for my family to travel and stay somewhere while on holiday. Although it took several years thank you for some of the changes and improvements you made to how the church compensates and provides for its ministerial staff. Thank you that for the most part I had almost anything I needed in terms of equipment and space for ministry. Thank you for the tremendous freedom you gave me for most of those years to minister with internationals as I saw fit. Thank you for letting me for the most part partner and collaborate with Southern Baptists in our shared mission to bear witness to the good news of God in Christ Jesus to those who come here from other nations and cultures.

Thank you for being at least for the first several years a good church in and with which to fulfill God’s call to pastoral ministry. Thank you for being at least for the first several years a church where my children could grow up as Christian believers and as young women. Thank you for giving my daughter an opportunity to serve as a minister to your young people. Thank you for the warm words of affirmation that some expressed when the time came to leave and go to a new place of service. Thank you for pushing back against some of the negative words that were becoming louder during my last year with you.

I could end with some warnings that might sound like criticism. __________ Baptist Church was for the first several years a good church with which to serve. There were always some problems. Especially with how ministerial staff were treated. And the last few years were rough. I think many of you know that and did not know what you could say or do. Eighteen years is a long time. What I observed was eighteen years of slow retreat. Slow retreat from the reach of your mission to bear witness and make disciples of Jesus. From making disciples of children. Frankly from making disciples of adults. It became increasingly a community in which my faith was not nurtured and strengthened so much as attacked and undermined. I know I am not the only one who experienced that.

Continue reading

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How old was Jesus when he was crucified?

This will be short and simple. Elsewhere I have posts about (1) the date of the star(? or astronomical phenomenon) of Bethlehem and (2) the date of the crucifixion. If Jesus was born around? perhaps before? April 6 BCE and was crucified in April 33 CE then he was around 39 (maybe 40?) years old when he was crucified. Which is interesting on several levels. A 40 year old Jewish man who was not married?!? Today we might think of 40 as young but in the time of Jesus perhaps 40 was more like 50-55 today. (Said the guy who is not an expert in average life spans throughout human history.)

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The disastrous experiment – part zero


A week ago I wrote two long posts about the co-pastor experiment (which lasted for at least four years and arguably for six) at the church where I served for 18 years. I debated whether to make them visible to the public. Posted the links on Twitter. A couple people read them. Then I changed my mind and made them private again.

I apologize not for writing them but for posting them publicly and the next day making them private. Everything I wrote is either what I saw heard and experienced first hand or came second hand from people whom I trust. The co-pastor experiment was awful. Especially for the other ministers. It impoverished the church it was supposed to help. A lot of people were hurt.

I do not expect there will be negative consequences for those two men. I do not necessarily want there to be. They were good to me and my family after my accident in 2015. There was a lot of good mixed in with the bad. However there was a lot of bad.

So why share publicly what we experienced? A small act of revenge? Maybe. To share our story? try to confront people with the truth of that situation? Yeah. To warn people against such situations in their church or organization? Definitely. So why make those posts private?

First what difference at this point would it make. Many people knew and know the co-pastor experiment was largely a failure. Those who supported it will not care. Or they will say it was not so bad and/or the church needed it. Which leads to the second point.

Although I still care about the people I am done with that place. Ministering with internationals for 18 years was a great and joyful privilege. However that church is in my past and I want it to stay that way. I do not want word to spread and people start contacting me to say I am being mean or unfair or it was great or we deserved it. (That church has a strange habit of blaming the people who leave. I can give examples.) To the best of my knowledge what I wrote is true. Everything in those posts… first hand or from people I trust. I can defend our testimony regarding what we saw and experienced. (Note the pronouns.) But I do not feel like doing so. I do not want to see or hear from those men again. I do not want to hear from some of the people who supported and defended that slow and expensive disaster.

I have felt torn between wanting to share what we experienced and wanting it to stay in the past. I apologize for not deciding one way or the other and then sticking to it. Many people know it was bad. I can still tell people about it privately. By the grace of God I have experienced much healing over the last two years. The United Methodist Church is not perfect (and Methodists will be among the first to say so) but is where God in his strange providence led me when I prayed “should I leave? and go where?” May God have mercy on his people. And may God heal and renew those who were spiritually wounded by that disastrous experiment.

Addendum = I shared a little of what we experienced in two posts. They provide a taste of what we experienced.

October 5th 12:27 (or) Calling it

One year later -> Two years later

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