Cartoon Saturday

17 10 2009

I use to love Saturday mornings when I was younger; it was the morning for cartoons on TV.  With 24/7 cartoon networks today and ready access via the internet, kids today  probably do not have the same level of anticipation.   However, in the 1960s, cartoons, especially animated ones, were in limited supply.  I have always loved cartoons, comics, and animation.  While going through some old files, I stumbled across a few cartoons I created back in the late 1980s or early 1990s.  So, in honor of Saturday mornings,  I thought it appropriate to post one.   In the one below, some individuals might recognize a slight tip of the pen to Aesop’s fable “Boys and the Frog.”

Cartoon 1


Jesus and Caesar’s Coin

16 10 2009

While working on my paper for the SBL meeting in New Orleans, I chased a little rabbit about the coin of Caesar in Mark 12:13-17 (parallel,  Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26).   I had never really paid attention to that fact that not only does Jesus make reference to the image on the coin, but also to the inscription.   Most preachers/teachers are good at quoting an abbreviated part of the verse, “Whose likeness/image is on this coin,” but neglect to add “and inscription.”  Jesus  seems to be implying that both he and his audience would have recognized the inscription.  Would Jesus and his audience have read and understood a Latin inscription?  Probably not, so it is unlikely the coin used for illustrative purpose was a denarius carrying a Latin inscription.  (Beside, denarii did not circulate in the East this early.  This fact undercuts the “typical” Tribute Penny, that is denarius, associated with Tiberius).   The coin was most likely a tetradrachm minted in Antioch.  This particular coin would have had a Greek inscription, which is an inscription both Jesus and the audience were more likely to have understood.  Perhaps they would have understood it only too well: obverse, TIBEPIOS SEBASTOS KAISAP (Tiberius Augustus Caesar); reverse, THEOS SEBASTOS KAISAP (God Augustus Caesar).  See Peter E. Lewis, “The Actual Tribute Penny,” Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol. 10 (July 1999), 3-13.  While Lewis does not approach this text-segment with New Testament exegetical skill, he still makes some interesting observations.  It is extremely difficult to find image of this coin.  However, an excellent example, copyrighted by the American Numismatic Society, is available via the link I created:  Antioch Tetradrachm.

Pompey the Great and the NT

13 10 2009

Pompey the Great (106-48 BCE) is never mentioned in the NT; however, like the old saying goes, “the dead rule the living.” Pompey set in motion events, situations and persons who would influence the events within Judea well into the first-century and beyond.  The silver denarius below, minted in the year 42 BCE by Pompey’s son, Sextus Pompey (67-35 BCE), is a good window into his legacy for the study of the NT.



Obverse:  Head of Cn. Pompeius Magnus right; behind jug; before lituus; inscription around MAG PIVS IMP ITER.

Reverse:  Neptune standing left, wearing a diadem, holding an aplustre in right hand and cloak over the left arm; placing right foot on a prow; on either side, one of the Catanaean brothers, Amphinomos and Anapios, who are bearing parents on their shoulders; above is PRAEF; in exergue CLAS ET ORAE IT EX S C.

On the obverse, the right is weakly struck with a few banker marks.  On the reverse, the left is weakly struck.

This particular coin type was Sextus Pompey’s attempt to connect himself with his father, Pompey the Great, and to memorialize his father who had been killed during the Civil War against Julius Caesar.  After Caesar’s death, Sextus was appointed Prefect of the Fleet and Coastlines in 43 BCE, which is the approximate translation on the reverse of the coin above.  However, because of the pressure brought by Octavian, and Pompey’s own pirate-type actions against corn supply ships, Pompey found himself in conflict with the Triumvirate (Octavian, Mark Anthony, and Lepidus) and was declared an enemy of the state. Sextus, however, had a large fleet at his disposal, often numbering in the hundreds, and was able to control a great part of the Mediterranean Sea.  Sicily became his stronghold, and he used it as his center of power.  He continued to control the Mediterranean Sea until the defeat of his fleet and his death in 35 BCE.

Every coins carries with it explicit and implicit cultural and social cues, and this coin is no different. Honor is one of the easiest social values represented in this coin.  Sextus was honoring his father with this coinage and investing him with honor. Of course, by association this honor also accrued to Sextus, like father—like son.  It is also a significant honorable title that Sextus uses on the coins, a title granted him by the Senate, that is, Prefect of the Fleet and Coastlines.  To highlight that it was by Senate approval, the inscription on the reverse includes S C, Senatus Consulto, translated as “by the decree or authority of the Senate.”  One the reverse, also is highlighted one of the key social institutions of the day:  kinship.  The selection of the mythical scene on the reverse emphasizes this fundamental social institution.  It is the story of two brothers, Amphinomos and Anapios, who helped their parents escape from the volcanic explosion of Mt. Etna by carrying them on their shoulders out of harm’s way.  In the process, lava miraculously part for them as they fled. Here is familiar piety at its apex.  Some have suggested that the two figures on either side of Neptune (who might represent Pompey the Great) could be Sextus and his older brother Gnaeus Pompey, who was killed during the Civil War in 45 BCE.

For NT background, Pompey is the Roman general who expanded the borders of the Roman Empire into Judea.  From 63-62 BCE, the hegemony of Rome would hold sway over Judea for the next several hundred years.  It was Pompey who conquered Jerusalem and entered the Temple into the Holy of Holies.  In this respect he followed the precedent of the Selecuid ruler Antiochus the IV a hundred years earlier, with the exception, according to Josephus in Antiquities of Jews, 14.3, that Pompey did not molest any of the Temple treasury.  Pompey’s action also anticipates the action to occur 140 years later when Titus captures Jerusalem (70 CE); only this time, the Temple is destroyed and its treasures carried off to Rome.

One of Pompey’s key actions was to set the governance structure of Judea.  Pompey resolved the internecine conflict between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II by deposing Aristobulus (sending him to Rome in chains) and by installing Hyrcanus as high priest.  However, Antipater, father of Herod the Great, held the real power.  While Pompey’s is not mentioned in the writings of the NT, veiled allusions in the Psalms of Solomon may make reference to this time in Judea.  See specifically Psalms 2, 8, and 17.

Oxyrhynchus Hymn

12 10 2009

Several blogs of late, Mark Goodacre among others, have called attention to the YouTube musical version of the earliest Christian hymn.

“The Oxyrhynchus Hymn (P. Oxy. XV 1786) is the earliest known manuscript of a Christian hymn – dating from the 3rd century AD – to contain both lyrics and musical notation. It is now kept at the Papyrology Rooms of the Sackler Library, Oxford. The text, in Greek, poetically invokes silence so that the Holy Trinity may be praised.”

While considering early hymns, I would recommend one of my favorite books on hymns in the New Testament:  Robert J. Karris, A Symphony of New Testament Hymns (Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 1998).

“Novel” Interpretations

12 10 2009

When individuals approach biblical texts for interpretation, they often want to present new or innovative interpretations.   However, “new” interpretations are often greased by gimmick and present nothing new.   Charles H. Cosgrove, in an essay entitled “Toward a Postmodern Hermeneutica Sacra,” captures well that in a creative interpretation:  “. . . newness is not always something novel; it may be seeing the familiar in a new and transformative way.”  Well said, and kudos for those who can see from creative perspectives.