Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Once in a Lifetime Moments

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to see something historic. Sunday afternoon I was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans while web surfing (slowly) with my laptop. I went to espn.com to see what the scoop was with the Lakers, and read an article by Pat Forde about how Tiger was injured and any other golfer would have mailed it in, but Tiger didn't "get the memo" that he was done and rallied to bring himself back to the lead by the end of the day on Saturday...

It piqued my interest, so I turned the channel to NBC and watched as Tiger and a guy I've never heard of played to a draw after 72 holes of golf. Tiger only caught Mediate on the 18th hole with a fantastic putt. It was great stuff, and as I was waiting for the playoff holes to begin they said that an 18 hole playoff would be held on Monday.

Monday. Two guys, one US Open Championship in their grasp. Tiger Woods, the single greatest golfer ever, was going to play for the US Open title, and I suddenly had to be there. It's not every day that you can see Tiger Woods win a major, and if he didn't win, it's not every day that you see one of the greatest upsets in sports history. I thought about it for a bit, and decided that the only person crazy enough to go with me was my friend Tim. So I called him, and he asked me if this was a practical joke. I said no, and he proceeded to tell me that he was holding two tickets in his hand that he had purchased eight minutes before I called.

And so, it was on. Tim told me he was bringing his 6 year old son because kids under 12 were free, so I went into Jacob's room and asked if he would like to go. He got very excited (despite not caring one tiny little bit about golf) and so at 5:30 the next morning we left and drove down to San Diego to see what many are calling the greatest US Open Championship ever. And we were there.

But it gets better. The crowd was astonishing. I figured that since it was a monday and people who came from out of town would have flown home that the crowd would be small. WRONG. The official attendance was a little shy of 22,000, but one official says that more than 25,000 people were there. Think about that for a second. Over 20,000 people to watch just two guys play golf. Needless to say golf courses aren't really designed for this kind of crowd, particularly following only two people.

Needless to say, it was very hard to find a spot, and you had to pick and choose which holes to go see. We started at the green of four. We managed to get the boys under the rope so that they could see, and one official moved them closer to the action, which was very kind. Then we moved on to eight, stopping for water along the way. At eight we had to put the boys on our shoulders, but it was nice because we could see the entire hole, from the tee to the fairway to the green. We decided that we wanted to see 13 next, one of the signature holes. 13 is so popular that the grandstands were filling when we first walked in with people who were content to sit there all day waiting. We got a great spot, and again got the boys under the ropes. After Tiger and Rocco were on the green, an official took the boys from the ropes and put them right next to the green with the photographers! It was _so_ cool to watch. I don't think they quite realize how remarkable that was, but their dads did! They got to watch the action of the US Open all of ten feet or so from Tiger and Rocco. As a dad, that was one of the greatest moments ever.

After 13 we decided to make our way to 18. We debated watching 17 instead, and in retrospect I wish we had. By the time we reached eighteen, probably half of the 25,000 or so were crammed around the green, down the fairway, anywhere just to get a glimpse of it all. The atmosphere was electric. Once Tiger and Rocco arrived, the entire crowd was there. Rocco had the lead by a single stroke! It all comes down to this. Rocco got par, and Tiger, being Tiger, did what he had to do to get a birdie. 18 was not to be "the moment" as we had hoped. Now it would go to sudden death, starting on hole 7.

From where we were, it was impossible to get to 7. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people between us and it. Furthermore, as people were heading to 7, others were trying to get in closer to 18 for a better view of the trophy presentation. It was pandemonium. We worked our way towards the busses and watched the end of the tournament on the screen attached to one of the TV cameras on another hole.

Jacob said several times that this was one of the best days of his life, and he doesn't even like golf. But it was a chance to witness history and to be with his dad. We really didn't have the money to spend, and I really didn't want to use a vacation day for this, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. In life we have to seize the moment, do those extra special things that break us away from the ordinary. Monday was one of those days. I don't know that I would ever do it again, but on Monday, June 16, 2008 Tiger Woods won his 14th major championship, and we were there. That's a memory we will hold forever.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Fabricating Jesus - How modern scholars distort the gospel

Craig A. Evans is a brilliant scholar and writer. Dr. Evans teaches at the Acadia Divinity School in Canada, but every summer he comes to California for a couple of weeks and teaches at Fuller Seminary. I had the opportunity to take two classes from him, as well as attending several lectures on popular topics that were presented in the evenings.

Dr. Evans is very good at making clear the convoluted issues that surround the gospels and biblical interpretation. This is exactly what Fabricating Jesus is about. After a solid introduction in which he introduces some of the issues and key players, he dives into the topics at hand.

He begins by discussing the Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel, the Gospel of Mary, and the Secret Gospel of Mark. Evans does an excellent job of distilling the key issues and reasons that these works are late and not authoritative. In the case of "Secret Gospel of Mark" by late we mean "written in the 20th century" as it is a forgery.

In regards to the Gospel of Thomas, for example, one of the works that many people have been told is "authoritative" Dr. Evans details four key points against the Gospel of Thomas being an early work:

(1) Thomas knows many of the New Testament writings.
(2) Thomas contains Gospel materials that scholars regard as late.
(3) Thomas reflects later editing in the Gospels.
(4) Thomas shows familiarity with traditions distinctive to Easter, Syrian Christianity, traditions that did not emerge before the middle of the second century.

The reason the dating of Thomas is important is that those who argue that it is authoritative argue that it was written before the canonical gospels, and is therefore more accurate, particularly when it contradicts the other gospels. Evans lays out a clear argument (unpacking each of those four points above as well as others) that Thomas is late, written to support gnostic ideals, and should not be used to form an understanding of Jesus and His teaching.

After discussing these other writings, Evans moves on to tackle the idea that Jesus was a cynic, something that a few scholars have advocated. Cynics were known for their ragged appearance, and for behavior such as urinating, defecating, and engaging in intercourse in public. Hardly the kind of behavior that attracts followers and draws crowds of thousands. Evans goes far beyond simple logical analysis, and brings research and evidence to the table to show that Jesus was not a cynic, nor was there a presence of cynics in the area of Galilee.

There are also chapters on taking sayings out of context, the reality of the healings and miracles of Jesus, the dubious use of Josephus, and other exaggerations and fabrications that misrepresent who Jesus was and what He was about. The book closes with a positive affirmation of who Jesus was and how he is to be understood from scripture.

The book is well arranged and reads quickly. It is scholarly in content but not in style. Evans moves through each of the issues and provides the reader with solid evidence and scholarly analysis.

Highly, Highly recommended.