QOTD: Thomas à Kempis and the Imitation of Christ

51n6qLPL-aL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I decided to do a bit of light reading this morning and picked up Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. The quote below is taken from Book 1, Chapter 3. Therein, he stresses the necessity of piety and the imitation of Christ above all else. The pursuit and acquisition of knowledge without embodying those very truths is vanity.

If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.

I, for one, don’t like the dichotomy between knowledge and praxis. We will always know more than we will assimilate. And as we continue to broaden our own knowledge base and perspectives, we are more likely to be affected by what we learn and thus more likely to grow. Nevertheless, there is the tendency to learn for the sake of false wisdom and for acclaim. And, thus, we would be foolish not to heed à Kempis’ piercing warnings: The Christian is to always be about the business of becoming more like Christ.

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Cyprian on Morning and Evening Prayers


In today’s reading of On the Lord’s Prayer, I encountered Cyprian’s reasoning for why we should engage in morning and evening prayers. Cyprian writes,

For we should pray in the morning in order that the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated in morning prayer.

Presumably, Cyprian is drawing from the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, wherein Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to Christ’s tomb at dawn and find the tomb empty. Reinforcing the connection between morning prayers and the resurrection, Cyprian draws upon Ps 5:4 and Hos 6:1 writing:

This the Holy Spirit previously pointed out in the Psalms, when he said: “My king and my God! I will pray to you, O Lord, in the morning and you will hear my voice. In the morning I shall stand before you and I shall see you” (Ps 5:4). And again the Lord speaks through the prophet: “Early in the morning they will watch for me and say: ‘Let us go and return to the Lord our God’ ” (Hos. 6:1).

Having established a connection between Christ, his resurrection, morning prayers, and Old Testament texts that reinforce these connections, Cyprian moves to discuss evening prayers:

When the sun goes down and at the close of the day it is necessary for us to pray again. For, because Christ is the true sun and the true day, when we pray at the decline of the sun and the day of this present world, and ask that light may again come upon us, we are praying that the coming of Christ should reveal to us the grace of eternal light.

As before, Cyprian provides his readers with Old Testament support, which in this case demonstrates that Christ is called the “true day” and “true sun”

Morning and evening prayers, however, are not sufficient for the Christian. The Christian must constantly and continually be about the business of prayer. Therefore, Cyprian writes:

But if, in the holy Scriptures, Christ is the true sun and the true day, God should be worshipped constantly and continually. There is no hour at which Christians should not pray; rather, since we are in Christ, that is, in the true sun and the true day, we should spend the entire day in petition and prayer. And when, by the law of the world in its recurrent changes, night’s turn comes on, then, since to the children of light night itself is as day, we are not to cease from prayer in the darkness of the night. For when are we, who have the light in our hearts, without light? Or when is the one to whom Christ is the sun and the day without the sun and without the day?

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60% Off All Oxford University Press Books

EMcA-Leap-3Email-021716aIf you haven’t seen, you can get 60% off all OUP books here. So, for instance, Lampe’s A Patristic Greek Lexicon usually costs $625 but can now be purchased for $250. Too bad I still don’t have the money, even if it’s a lexicon well worth the cost. There are a number of other great titles available as well, like the Oxford Latin Dictionary.

Just remember to use the code LEAPDAY at checkout.

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Tertullian on Praying before Meals


In today’s reading of On the Lord’s Prayer, I discovered this gem explaining why Christians should, according to Tertullian, pray before meals and before taking baths.

It is also fitting that the faithful should neither take food nor enter the bath without first interposing a prayer. For the refreshment and sustenance of the spirit should take precedence over those of the flesh, because heavenly things have priority over earthly.

I found this to be a helpful reminder that we should not simply pray before meals because it is customary. Yes, it may be customary, but this serves as a reminder that just as we are dependent upon physical food for nourishment and sustenance, so are we on prayer for our spiritual lives.

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QOTD: Tertullian on Hallowing God’s Name

31324I recently picked up a Logos package that includes Alistair Stewart-Sykes’ translation of Tertullian, Cyrian & Origen’s expositions on the Lord’s Prayer. I decided to take it up as a devotional, pleasure read, and I came across Tertullian’s comment on the words “let your name be hallowed”

As regarding our own request, when we say: “Let your name be hallowed,” we ask that it be hallowed among us who are in him and, at the same time, in others whom the grace of God still awaits, so that we should be obedient to the command to pray for all, even for our enemies (Mt 5:44). Consequently, as a result of this terse expression, we do not say “Let it be hallowed in us,” but manage to say: “in all people.”

This is a healthy reminder that when we pray, we should pray that God not only work in and through us but in and through our world so that his will and not ours be accomplished.

You can pick up the volume from Amazon or from Logos.

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A Well-Ordered Household

41dif1alkrl-_sx309_bo1204203200_One difficult passage within the pastoral epistles is the expectation that an overseer “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 1:4–5; ESV). The requirement and its basis are straightforward and sensible. Paul formulates his argument from the lesser to the greater: he who fails to properly manage the little that has been given him will fail to properly manage the greater things should they be entrusted to him.

Where, then, in lies the difficulties?

Picking up almost any modern commentary suggests that there are no difficulties, since few go beyond the simple observation that Paul establishes an analogy between the household and the church wherein mismanagement in the household functions as a litmus test for one’s suitability as a leader in the church.

Some commentators, however, hint at the presence of socio-political realities that might help us better understand the origin and importance of this requirement. For instance, I Howard Marshall and Philip Towner write:

The thought expressed here — that performance in the private sphere bears on suitability to hold a position of wider responsibility — is paralleled in secular Greek ethics (481).

Marshall and Towner suggest the possibility that Paul draws upon the cultural expectations of his time concerning how citizens were expected to behave within the broader context of the city-state. If Paul indeed draws upon this cultural framework, it’s important to investigate what “performance in the private sphere” entailed as adequate justification of one’s “suitability to hold a position of wider responsibility.” And, just as important, what disqualified or caused others to question one’s suitability to hold a position. Having examples from ancient literature would aid modern readers in their quest to discover what exactly this requirement entails.

I came across some confirmation of Marhall and Towner’s thesis tonight in my reading of Odd Magne Bakke’s fantastic volume Concord and Peace. Bakke discusses Greco-Roman household codes and the importance of maintaining concord (ὁμόνοια) both inside and outside the household. Concord, harmony, and the absence of dissension and rebellion were, for the Greco-Roman world, vital virtues (124).

Bakke provides readers with three insightful quotations from Isocrates and Plutarch. Concerning the signs that indicate a good king, Isocrates writes:

They must try to preserve harmony (ὁμόνοια), not only in the states over which they hold dominion, but also in their own households (τούς οἴκους τοὺς ἰδίους) and in their places of abode (124).

In Plutarch we find Damaratus insulting Philip writing:

A glorious thing for you, Philip, to be inquiring about the concord (ὁμοφροσύνη) of Athenians and Peloponnesians, while you let your own household (οἰκία) be full of all this quarreling (στάσις) and dissension (διχόνοια)! (124)

And finally Melanthius writes:

This fellow is giving us advice about concord (συμβουλεύει περὶ ὁμονοίας), and yet in his own household he has not prevailed upon himself, his wife and maidservant, three persons only, to live in concord (ὁμονοεῖν)…A man therefore ought to have his household well harmonized who is going to harmonize State, Forum and friends (124).

On the basis of 1 Timothy 3:4–5 and the passages from Isocrates and Plutarch, we find that the household functions as a microcosm of both the city-state and the church:

Household -> Church
Household -> City-State

The similarities between these two analogies and the common expectation of order within the household as a measure of one’s aptness to maintain order within the city-state/church seem apparent. But is there more in the literature that can be helpful enfleshing the expectations of a leader? Demaratus’ criticism of Philip identifies the presence of quarreling and dissension in his household and judges them to be signs that Philip has demonstrated himself an ineffective leader. But are there any other examples? Furthermore, is there any evidence of how patriarchs within the Greco-Roman world handled dissension or disagreement within their households in commendable ways? Finally, and most importantly, do the secular expectations of a qualified leader map to what Paul envisions in 1 Timothy, and if so how well?

Answering these questions would go a long way in assisting modern readers in their interpretation of this passage. For, simply reiterating Paul’s requirement and reasoning does little to aid us in defining exactly what it means to manage one’s household well and keep children in submission with dignity.

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The Grave Consequences of Sedition—1 Clement

41dif1alkrl-_sx309_bo1204203200_In my reading on Odd Magne Bakke’s excellent work Concord and Peace, I came across this great except:

Futhermore, and this is probably the most important reason for Clement to use just this particular term as the principal term for the happenings in the Corinthian Church, i.e. στάσις was connected in antiquity with very negative connotations and was viewed as the greatest evil to society. When Clement refers to the conflicts as στάσις, it is therefore not a neutral designation of the situation in the Corinthian Church, but shows how serious and dangerous the situation was in the eyes of the author. By using it to describe the conflict in the congregation Clement gives the impression that he considers the present situation as a serious social threat to the life of the Church as a community Just as στάσις is regarded as the greatest evil to society in that it has caused the greatest disasters, the στάσις in the Corinthian Church involves the greatest danger for the community. So when Clement explicitly states that the community will incur a great danger (κίνδυνος), if its members follow the purposes of men who rush into strife (ἔρις) and sedition (στάσις), he reflects a common topos from the political arena (90–91).

This has and continues to be an enlightening look at the problems facing the church in Corinth. 1 Clement and its message continues to function as a warning to churches today.

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