Thursday, February 24, 2005

Did the Jews Really Reject Jesus?


Maybe not.

It's going on two thousand years since "the Jews" rejected Jesus. But wait! Weren't all the earliest followers Jews? And weren't nearly all the New Testament books written by Jews? Which Jews did reject Jesus? More importantly, which ones did not?

It's an interesting historical question, one I came across recently in an article in my favorite magazine, First Things. The magazine's editor Richard Neuhaus reviewed a book entitled Why the Jews Rejected Jesus by David Klinghoffer. He found the very title highly problematic and explains why.

Scholars generally agree that in the first century there were approximately six million Jews in the Roman Empire. That was about one tenth of the entire population. About one million were in Palestine, including today’s State of Israel, while those in the diaspora were very much part of the establishment in cities such as Alexandria and Constantinople. At one point, the book's author Klinghoffer acknowledges that, during the life of Jesus, only a minuscule minority of Jews either accepted or rejected Jesus, for the simple reason that most Jews had not heard of him.

Some scholars have noted that, by the fourth or fifth century, there were only a few hundred thousand, at most a million, people who identified themselves as Jews. What happened to the millions of others? The most likely answer, it is suggested, is that they became Christians.

What if the great majority of Jews did not reject Jesus? That throws into question both the title of the book and, at least for me, an assumption I had about the early spread of Christianity. Neuhaus says that the question can be avoided only by the definitional sleight of hand of counting as Jews only those who rejected Jesus and continued to ally themselves with rabbinical Judaism’s account of the history of Israel (which Klinghoffer seems to do).

So there you have it. Most of the Jews in the early centuries of Christianity may well have come to believe in Jesus as their promised Messiah, leaving the old "Jews rejected Jesus" line in doubt. Or at least we're left with a historical number puzzle.

By the way, here're today's numbers: there're about 13 million Jews worldwide (compared with 6 million 2000 years ago). As for Christians, the estimate is that there are now 2 billion (Christians of all kinds). And 2000 years ago, there were -- let's see -- none.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

John Glenn and sunrises in space


Have you ever seen the movie The Right Stuff about the early years of the U.S. space program? If you have, maybe you remember John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth in his capsule, Friendship 7. I remember the movie, having watched it as a kid over and over.

Last night, my lovely wife and I went to hear Mr. Glenn speak at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. For those of you who don't know, other than being the first American to orbit the Earth, he is the oldest person to fly (at age 77 in 1998 on the Shuttle Discovery), and was a U.S. Senator for twenty-four years (D-Ohio). Both Jessica and I thought he gave a good talk. I especially liked the narrated 'home movie' of his most recent trip into space, which he recommends for everybody, especially the elderly.

He says the views of sunrises and sunsets in space are out of this world, with different colors than those seen on Earth's surface.

He also shared other views of Earth and space.

For instance, as one who cares about the future of the space program, he emphasized that the Shuttle and International Space Station are primarily for research. On each mission, each crewmember has a schedule broken down into 5 minute blocks (talk about micromanaging one's time!). Most of these are dedicated to scientific experiments. He agrees with Bush that we should go to the Moon and on to Mars, but disagrees with Bush's plan to dedicate all of the research on the Shuttle and space station toward that goal. He wholeheartedly believes the scientific research should continue. Furthermore, he believes that robotic craft can only do so much research and human pioneers must go follow and further investigate where the robot scouts have gone.

Regarding education, he says that America is falling behind, especially in the areas of math and science. He mentioned an interesting study of 43 nations which showed that from kindergarten to fourth grade, American students are among the top three nations in terms of math and science ability. But by the time American students graduate high school, their rank drops to among the bottom three! He says the countries that are beating us have a nationalized public school system with high nationally set standards and believes we must do the same to stay competitive in this era of globalization. He thinks No Child Left Behind is a good step in this direction, but as Bush cut much of its funding, it will not be able to work. As it stands, it will set high goals for students, without providing educators the resources to accomplish those goals.

Politically, he considers himself a centrist, representing the middle two-thirds of Americans. Regarding the current administration, he says there has been a reversal between the parties. The Republicans are now the big government, huge debt, foreign entanglement party (suggesting that the Democrats used to fill this role). He urged everyone who wanted a balanced budget to vote Democrat next time.

He had other things to say about what America and politics is about, but I don't want to take up too much space (ha!).

Finally, on the spiritual front, he was asked what, if anything, he learned from going to space. He said, first of all, he didn't expect that he would see God on his "trip to heaven." But as a believer already, he said his trips to space only deepened his existing faith (he's Presbyterian). He also mentioned that one of the Apollo astronauts, whose name escapes me, 'found God on the Moon.' I guess it's a bit like finding God in the desert... albeit a grey lonely, lifeless desert far from home where you can't breathe. A dire situation like that might make any one of us turn to God!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Help us pick pictures for our wedding album


Jessica and I are picking pictures for our wedding album and would be curious to have your input. We started with 600 pictures and have narrowed it down to a tenth, about 65 pictures. But we need to get the numbers down to about 40. I show you here a sample of 12.

The six pairs of pictures below have a similar theme. For each pair, pick one. Click the thumbnail to see a large version of the picture. We'll see how this works. (Photos by Britney Photography)

(1L) vs (1R)

(2L) vs (2R)

(3L) vs (3R)

(4L) vs (4R)

(5L) vs (5R)

(6L) vs (6R)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Making your bed is bad for your health?


Who wants you to make your bed? Bed bugs do!

Yesterday, Adam Yates pointed out that according to some recent research by scientists in the UK, not making your bed kills dust mites.

Dust mites can trigger asthma and have also been linked to eczema and a condition called perennial rhinitis, described as being a type of 'year round hayfever'. "House dust mites feed on scales of human skin so they love to share our beds. The allergens they produce are easily inhaled during sleep and are a major cause of illnesses," accoding to Dr Stephen Pretlove, from Kingston University, south-west London, who led the study.

But a made bed looks so much nicer than an unmade bed.

So does health trump aesthetics or vice versa?


Monday, February 07, 2005

100 Exercise Tips for Non-Hunter-Gatherers


#37: Walk around the mall for 15 minutes before shopping.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The surface of Titan


While I was getting married, it seems there was a probe dropped onto the surface of a moon of Saturn! Titan, a moon around the ringed planet some billion miles or so out there in outer space!

And we have a freakin' picture of the surface of Titan! No-freakin'-way!

A picture from the surface of freakin' Titan!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wagging the dog


I took Chispita for a walk the other day. And as I was walking, I passed several people. For a moment, I thought that maybe I looked silly, walking a little dog. Then Chispita and I came across something we didn't expect. It was a dude twice as big as me walking a dog half as big as Chispita. I smiled. He smiled back, as if glad to know there were other guys who walk little dogs. And I thought, it's not too silly after all.