Iranian Christians to be Beaten for Drinking Communion Wine

Four Iranian Christians have been sentenced to each receive 80 lashes because they drank wine in a communion service. The four men have ten days to appeal the verdict.

The men were arrested December 6, 2012 at a house church and charged with consuming alcohol…. Iran bans alcohol for their Muslim citizens, but non-Muslim citizens are allowed to brew their own alcohol. However, it is a crime to convert from Islam to Christianity and it can be punished with the death penalty.

While the severity of this sentence is shocking, this incident is but one of many cases of religious persecution in Iran. According to a UN report:

“Authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing…More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad.”

German Bishop Expelled over $43 Million (USD) Residence

Pope Francis expelled a German bishop for using Church funds to build a $43 million (USD, 31 million Euro) residence. Official statements did not specify whether the bishop might be reinstated after an official church inquiry.

German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, will be absent from the diocese of Limburg for an unspecified period of time. While the Vatican has not said if this expulsion will be permanent, sources have suggested that reinstatement is unlikely.

Bible Statistics

I grew up occasionally hearing Bible statistics like the middle verse, the middle word, and the number of words in the Bible. Unfortunately, these stats rarely agreed because they were usually done by hand and were almost always flawed in their methodology.

The stats were based on the King Jame Version, a translation whose text varies slightly from publisher to publisher (due to there being no copyright). Furthermore, verse divisions are relatively recent concept (AD 1551) and are are not universal. For example, many verses in the Psalms are numbered differently in the Hebrew text because verse one begins with the superscription (“A Psalm of David”, etc).

Here are a few stats on the Greek and Hebrew Bible. Getting an accurate word count is a little complicated. Depending on how and what you count, you will get different results. However, I have annotated my results.

Old Testament (Hebrew)

I used the Leningrad Codex as my text. The Leningrad Codex is the oldest complete manuscript of the Old Testament (AD 1008), represents the masoretic text, and is the text most commonly used by OT scholars as it is reproduced in BHS.

There are 468,748 words in the Hebrew Bible. This figure accounts for prefixed and suffixed words (for example,  וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ would count as four words [waw, preposition, article, and word], not one). If prefixed and suffixed words are not considered separately, the total word count would be 323,177. Words separated by a maqaf (hyphen) are treated as two words. If neither hyphenated nor prefixed/suffixed words are counted separately, the total would be 281,112. Note that all these totals include the entire Hebrew text of BHS (minus verse references). Thus things such as psalm superscriptions (“A Psalm of David,” etc) are included in the totals. For what its worth, the Hebrew Bible contains 2,243,936 characters (without spaces) or 2,525,047 characters (with spaces).

New Testament (Greek)

I used the NA27 text. This is the most common text among NT scholars. It has been recently replaced by the NA28, but the text is virtually identical as the vast majority of the changes occurred in the footnotes.

There are 138,020 words in the Greek New Testament. This number is much easier to calculate as Greek does not employ prefixed/suffixed words. You should note that this number reflects my minority opinion (at least among scholars) that the longer ending in Mark and John 7:53-8:11 are part of the biblical text. There are 879,270 characters (without spaces) or 1,009,365 characters (with spaces).

Middle Verse/Word/Letter/Etc

The middle verse, word, letter, etc is a product of what you count and how you count them. For example, the middle everything in the Bible falls somewhere in the Old Testament. However, the book order of the Hebrew Bible is different than that found in English translations. Therefore, the midpoint will vary widely depending upon how verses and words are counted as well as the order in which they are counted (the canonical order of books). I didn’t even try to generate stats on the midpoint. Instead, I took the easy way out.

There are 606,768 words and 3,123,206 characters in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures combined. There is no middle word or letter.

Don’t Buy Books You Don’t Want

BookshelvesthumbI love books, not just the idea of books. I love reading books. In our materialistic culture, we often equate owning books with reading them. We see a massive library and assume the owner to have the knowledge of the sum. Unfortunately, sometimes purchasing takes place of reading, and book owners become collectors rather than readers. However, regardless of how many books we buy, we cannot say we truly own any book until we have actually read it, and we can possess many books without owning any.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against buying books. I have hundreds. However, book collecting is an expensive hobby, and it serves only to nurture one’s own vanity unless those books are put to use and read. We would do well to buy less and read more.

Bible college and seminary students often have the urge to buy as many theology books as possible. This urge typically results in expensive mistakes. Students spend their undergraduate years accumulating outdated and overly general resources. During graduate school, students buy cutting-edge but exceedingly specialized resources. After graduation, most books in students’ libraries are retired to boxes and dusty shelves. Students would do better to save their money and make thoughtful purchases as they near graduation with their terminal degree. If books are needed beforehand, library cards make acquisitions much cheaper than credit cards.

Before buying any book (even a textbook), ask three questions. First, why do you want to buy this book? If your answer begins: “this book presents an interesting position on…/is significant to…/would be great for…”, then stop and don’t buy. In fact, if your answer is anything but “this is a book I want/need to read,” then you should not buy the book.

Second, can you read this book without buying it? If you have never read the book before, then you should always try to read it first for free. Perhaps you can borrow it from a library or a friend. Even if a book costs several dollars to borrow via inter-library loan, a small fee is much cheaper than buying a book in order to read only once.

Third, for those books you have read, would you profit from owning a personal copy? You will find that engaging in good reading habits such as taking reading notes will often eliminate the need for owning a personal copy. You may even find yourself studying borrowed books better than those you have bought because of the necessity to return them. In such cases, you may actually own the content of borrowed books better than those that sit on your shelves.

Theology students are pounded with advertizements and testimonials that urge them to buy books and digital library systems. Time equals money, and money spent on books often cuts silently into the time necessary to read them. Just because a book sits on your self or hard drive doesn’t mean it is doing you any good (even if it is fully searchable). Don’t buy books you don’t want. Read them first, and then buy the books you will actually use.

Study Romans with Moo

mooDoug Moo is one of the foremost scholars on the book of Romans. His commentary on Romans in the NICNT is arguably the best ever written. If you have a question on Romans, Moo usually has the right answer and gives a fair representation of the other positions as well. is offering free streaming and downloads of a D.Min. seminar Moo taught on Romans this past May at the Carolina School of Divinity.

If you want an in-depth (doctoral level) study of Romans, here you go. Best of all, it’s free.

2012 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What Is a Parallax Anyway?

Simply defined, the term “parallax” refers to how an object appears to be in a different location when seen from another point of view. To experience the effects of a parallax perspective, all you have to do is hold up a finger in front of your face and look at it with only one eye open. Now close that eye and open the other. Your finger will appear to have changed locations.

parallax finger

As finite creatures, we often forget that we do not have the ultimate perspective of God and the universe around us. Isaiah 55:9 makes this clear. This blog merely attempts to present some perspectives on life and theology to help you see things from a new angle. It will also be cluttered with a bunch of random stuff that I find interesting.

Thanks for reading.

BTW, if you relax your eyes and let the two white dots merge into one, the above picture will be 3D. It helps if you get close to the screen and hold up your hand between your eyes so that each eye can only see one picture.