Thursday, April 13, 2023

What's in a Name

The following post is an elaboration on the YouTube short about names and the authenticity of the Gospels.  Here's the video:

Or, watch it directly at YouTube:

The book is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, by Richard Bauckham.

The significance of names in first-century Judea, as discussed in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" by Richard Bauckham, provides compelling evidence for the credibility of the Gospels. Bauckham argues that names were not arbitrary in the ancient world, but carried meaningful associations and were carefully chosen to reflect the cultural and social norms of the time. This view is further supported the name database compiled by Tal Ilan,  Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, which provides insights into the naming patterns and practices of that era.  She is a professor of Jewish Studies.

Bauckham emphasizes that the names mentioned in the Gospels, such as Jesus, James, John, and Simon, were common names during first-century Judea. This is consistent with the findings of Ilan's research, which reveals that these names were indeed prevalent during that time period. This alignment between the Gospel names and the database of Jewish names lends credibility to the Gospels as reliable historical accounts, written very early after the events they describe.  It suggests that the Gospel writers were accurately reflecting the naming practices of the time.

Some scholars have tried to suggest the Gospels were written much later than the events, such as the 2nd or even 3rd century.  If this were the case, the names used would not have matched what Ilan discovered in her compilation of names used in the 1st century.  A person from the 20th or 21st century could maybe pull off writing something they claimed was from an earlier period, because we now have access to information, such as that database.  Someone in the 2nd or 3rd century writing a “Gospel” later on would have inadvertently used common names from their own century.  The database compiled in the 20th century would have revealed this.  On the contrary, it has only reinforced the evidence that the Gospels were written early!

Furthermore, Bauckham highlights the use of patronymic names in the Gospels, where individuals were often referred to with the name of their father, such as Jesus son of Joseph or James son of Zebedee. This practice was common in first-century Judea and served as a means of identification and recognition within the community. The consistency of this naming convention in the Gospels further enhances their credibility as historical documents, as it reflects the social norms of the time and adds to the authenticity of the Gospel narratives.

Bauckham also discusses the use of nicknames or alternative names in first-century Judea, which were fluid and subject to change over time or in different social contexts. This is consistent with Ilan's research, which reveals that individuals in that era often had multiple names or nicknames. The fact that the Gospels reflect this naming fluidity, with Simon being referred to as Peter or James being called James the son of Alphaeus, supports the argument that the Gospel writers were accurately depicting the naming practices of their time.

The use of titles in conjunction with names in the Gospels, such as "son of man" or "son of God," also carries theological and messianic connotations that were significant in first-century Jewish culture. This aligns with Bauckham's argument that names were not only markers of identity and social status, but also carried theological significance. The consistency of these titles and their association with specific names in the Gospels further strengthens the credibility of the Gospel accounts as accurate historical records.

The significance of names in first-century Judea, as elucidated by Bauckham in "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" and supported by Ilan's research in the "Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity," lends credibility to the Gospels as early, reliable, and historical documents. The alignment between the Gospel names and the database of Jewish names, the consistency of naming conventions, the portrayal of naming fluidity, and the theological significance of titles all point to the accuracy and authenticity of the Gospel narratives. These findings provide compelling evidence for the reliability of the Gospels and affirm their credibility as historical accounts of Jesus' life and ministry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Mozart's D Minor Masterpieces

 Mozart's compositions in D minor are some of the most powerful and emotionally resonant pieces in classical music. From the haunting melodies of the Piano Concerto in D Minor to the fiery vengeance of "Der Hölle Rache" from The Magic Flute, these works showcase Mozart's unparalleled ability to evoke deep emotions through his music. Let’s explore Mozart's masterpieces in D minor, their tone color, flavor, mood, and feeling, as well as how his faith in God permeated his compositions.


1. Piano Concerto in D Minor

Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor, considered one of his greatest piano concertos, is a masterpiece of dark and intense emotion. The somber tone color of D minor is evident in the brooding melodies and dramatic passages that evoke a sense of melancholy and longing. The concerto's flavor is rich and complex, with virtuosic piano solos and lush orchestrations. The mood of the concerto ranges from introspective and contemplative to passionate and fiery, creating a captivating musical journey for the listener.  On a personal note, I learned this piece in college.  I still love it every bit as much as I did when I could actually play it!  Beethoven composed a cadenza, which is a solo part added to the piece at a break in the orchestration toward the end of the piece,  If you want the best of both worlds opt for a copy with this cadenza.  Two of history’s finest composers come together in one composition!  

2. "Der Hölle Rache" from The Magic Flute

As one of the most famous arias in opera, "Der Hölle Rache" (The Queen of the Night's Aria) from Mozart's The Magic Flute is a tour de force of vocal acrobatics and emotional intensity. Written in D minor, the aria is known for its soaring high notes and fiery coloratura passages, representing the Queen of the Night's furious rage and thirst for revenge. The tone color of D minor in this aria is sharp and piercing, reflecting the character's vengeful nature. The flavor of the aria is dramatic and intense, with rapid-fire vocal runs and powerful orchestral accompaniment. The mood of the aria is one of righteous anger and determination, as the Queen of the Night seeks justice for her daughter.  You may have heard this as background music for a movie, because movie makers have used it more than once.

3. Don Giovanni Overture

The Don Giovanni Overture, which opens Mozart's opera of the same name, is a dramatic and thrilling piece in D minor. The tone color of D minor in this overture is foreboding and ominous, setting the stage for the dark and tragic events that unfold in the opera. The flavor of the overture is bold and dynamic, with its sweeping melodies, intricate harmonies, and powerful brass fanfares. The mood of the overture is one of tension and anticipation, capturing the essence of Don Giovanni's libertine and morally corrupt character.

4. Adagio and Fugue in D Minor

The Adagio and Fugue in D Minor is a sublime piece of chamber music composed by Mozart. The tone color of D minor in this work is mournful and introspective, with the rich harmonies and intricate counterpoint adding depth and complexity to the composition. The flavor of the Adagio is solemn and meditative, while the Fugue is lively and virtuosic. The mood of the piece is one of deep reflection and spiritual contemplation, reflecting Mozart's profound faith in God, which often permeated his compositions.

5. Requiem in D Minor

No discussion of Mozart's compositions in D minor would be complete without mentioning his Requiem, one of his most famous and revered works. I had the privilege of singing this in my high school and college choirs!  It’s one of my favorite compositions!  The Requiem, a mass for the dead, is a powerful and poignant composition that is shrouded in mystery and legend. Mozart's use of D minor in the Requiem is particularly striking, evoking a sense of profound sorrow, mourning, and transcendence. The tone color of D minor in the Requiem is haunting and plaintive, reflecting the solemnity and gravity of the text.

The flavor of the Requiem is grand and majestic, with its choral movements, intricate counterpoint, and dramatic orchestration. The mood of the piece is one of deep introspection, as Mozart grapples with the concept of mortality and the eternal rest that follows. The Requiem is a testament to Mozart's compositional genius, with its sublime melodies, intricate harmonies, and masterful use of vocal and instrumental forces.

It is worth noting that Mozart's deep love for God also plays a significant role in the Requiem. Mozart infused his compositions with his faith, and the Requiem is no exception. The text of the Requiem is a plea for mercy, salvation, and eternal peace, reflecting Mozart's unwavering trust in God's providence and grace. The Requiem stands as a timeless testament to Mozart's his ability to infuse his spiritual convictions into his music, creating a transcendent and deeply moving experience for listeners.

In a tragic turn of events, Mozart passed away before completing the Requiem, leaving it unfinished. However, his devoted student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, completed the composition based on Mozart's sketches and instructions. Despite its incomplete state, the Requiem remains one of the most beloved and powerful works in the classical repertoire, a testament to Mozart's enduring legacy as a master composer.

Mozart's masterpieces in D minor are a testament to the power of music to evoke deep emotions, to express profound faith, and to transcend the limitations of mortality. His unwavering faith in God, evident in the Requiem, adds another layer of depth and significance to these masterpieces. Mozart's music continues to captivate audiences to this day, with its timeless beauty, emotional depth, and spiritual resonance. 

As we listen to Mozart's masterpieces in D minor, we are reminded of the profound impact his music has had on the world of classical music and the enduring legacy of a composer whose music continues to inspire and move us, even centuries after his death.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

A Silly Chat With AI

Is this a waste of a perfectly good AI?  You be the judge.  I signed up as soon as I heard, and I've asked it so many questions.  It's a really good Bible study partner, for example.  Something useful like that is what I should be posting, but it's ok to relax and have fun sometimes, right??  On a particular day a couple weeks ago, I pressed the question of whether the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" could be true.  This is what happened.  The following is only for entertainment purposes.  So, enjoy!  I think I almost convinced it the song could actually happen!  😃

Chat-GPT Logo

JOHN:  There is a song called "I'm my own grandpa."  Do the situations sung about in the song really cause the singer to become his own grandpa

AI:  The song "I'm My Own Grandpa" is a humorous and nonsensical song that tells the story of a man who becomes his own grandfather through a series of bizarre and unlikely events. The lyrics describe a convoluted family tree involving marriages, step-relatives, and other complications, leading to the absurd conclusion that the singer is his own grandpa.

Of course, this song is meant to be taken as a work of fiction and is not intended to be taken literally. In reality, it is impossible for a person to become their own grandparent, as it would require a violation of the laws of biology and genetics.

In order to be one's own grandparent, one would have to have a child with their own child, which is biologically impossible due to the fact that each parent passes on only half of their genetic material to their offspring. Additionally, there are legal and social prohibitions against incest, which make such relationships illegal in most societies.

So, while the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" may be a fun and entertaining piece of fiction, it is not based in reality and does not describe a situation that could actually occur.

JOHN:  If one were to follow all of the weddings and births from the song, "I'm my own Grandpa," would one arrive at the conclusion that the singer is, in fact, his own Grandpa?

AI:  The song "I'm My Own Grandpa" is a complex and convoluted story that involves multiple marriages and relationships, making it difficult to follow all of the family connections. However, even if one were to follow all of the weddings and births described in the song, it would not lead to the conclusion that the singer is actually his own grandpa.

It is biologically impossible for a person to become their own grandparent due to the fact that each parent passes on only half of their genetic material to their offspring. In order to become one's own grandparent, one would have to have a child with their own child, which is impossible.

Therefore, the story described in the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" is meant to be taken as a humorous and nonsensical tale, and should not be interpreted as a realistic or accurate portrayal of family relationships. While the song may be entertaining, it has no basis in reality and should not be taken as a serious account of any real person's family history.

JOHN:  One cannot be their own Grandpa biologically, but could they be so through adoption, and by marriage, as the song suggests?

AI:  It is possible for someone to become their own grandparent through adoption or marriage, but it is still a highly unlikely and rare scenario.

In the case of adoption, if someone were to adopt a child who was biologically related to them, such as a child of their own parent or grandparent, and that child went on to have a child of their own, then the adoptive parent could become their own grandparent in a legal and social sense, but not in a biological sense. However, this scenario would still be highly unusual and unlikely to occur in real life.

In the case of marriage, if someone were to marry a person who was already their step-parent, and that step-parent went on to have a child of their own, then the married person could become their own grandparent in a legal and social sense, but again not in a biological sense. 

However, this scenario would also be very rare and unlikely to occur.

So while it is technically possible for someone to become their own grandparent through adoption or marriage [I think I almost convinced it!], it is extremely unlikely and would require a very specific set of circumstances to occur. In most cases, the scenario described in the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" is purely a work of fiction and not based in reality.

JOHN:  I understand that the song is nonsense and humor, I was just wondering if it would be possible.  Are there any known cases, historically, of someone becoming related to someone else or to their own self in a strange and unusual way through marriage, adoption, or other means?

AI:  There are a few historical examples of people becoming related to someone else in unusual ways through marriage or adoption, although none of them involve a person becoming their own grandparent.

One well-known example is the case of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who married her first cousin, Prince Albert. They had nine children together, and many of their descendants also married within their own family. As a result, Queen Victoria became known as the "grandmother of Europe," as many of the continent's royal families are descended from her.

Another example is the case of the actor and comedian W.C. Fields, who adopted a child who was actually his biological grandson. Fields had a strained relationship with his son, and when his son's wife died, he took in their young son and legally adopted him as his own. This made the child both his son and his grandson, although there was no biological connection between Fields and the child's mother.

While these examples may seem unusual, they are still relatively rare and do not involve a person becoming their own grandparent or ancestor. The scenario described in the song "I'm My Own Grandpa" is purely fictional and has no basis in reality.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Dogs, the four-legged furballs that bring joy and slobber to our lives, have been “man's best friend” for ages. They're loyal, protective, and loving companions who make us feel like the most important humans on the planet. Some people even prefer their furry friend's company over humans - my wife, Kari-Lyn feels that way! But why do we love them so much? Is it their ability to sniff out buried bones, or their talent for playing fetch? Maybe it's because they're always up for a cuddle and a belly rub. Whatever it is, one thing is clear: dogs have a special place in our hearts and homes.

In light of Resurrection Sunday, and the hope it brings, let’s explore the different ways Christians view our beloved canines and their relationship to God. Some folks believe that dogs have supernatural powers, while others insist they have souls just like people. Then there are those who may not go so far as to believe a dog has an immortal soul, but they do say that dogs are creatures of intrinsic value who deserve our kindness and respect. But no matter where you land on the spectrum, there's one thing we can all agree on: dogs are a woofin' important part of our lives and we should love and care for them like family.  As we explore some of these theories keep in mind that I’m not advocating for any weird, witchy stuff.  Just trying to crack some of the mysteries of nature, and figure out if dogs go to heaven!

Winnie Bear, My Fur baby!

Supernatural Dogs?

Rupert Sheldrake, a biologist and author, has been one of the most vocal proponents of the idea that dogs have supernatural powers. He has conducted studies on what he calls "morphic resonance," which is the idea that there is a field of energy that connects all living beings. Wait, wasn’t that Yoda’s line?  Anyway, Sheldrake argues that dogs are particularly attuned to this field, which allows them to sense when their owners are coming home or to detect medical conditions like cancer. 

One of the most notable experiments conducted by Rupert Sheldrake involved a dog named Jaytee and his owner, Pam Smart. Sheldrake set up a series of experiments in which he would instruct Smart to come home at unpredictable times, while he monitored Jaytee's behavior from a remote location. In one variation of the experiment, Smart would come home at random intervals in different vehicles, making it difficult for Jaytee to anticipate her arrival.

To Sheldrake's surprise, Jaytee still seemed to know when Smart was coming home, even when she arrived in a different car or at an unexpected time. He repeated the experiment over several weeks with similar results, leading him to conclude that dogs have a kind of “telepathic" connection with their owners that allows them to sense their presence and anticipate their return. 

Could this simply be a God-given instinct? I mean some animals can anticipate, and respond to an impending storm.  Elephants have also been observed to sense coming earthquakes.  The Lord’s vast creation of animals is amazing, and we’re only starting to get past the tip of the iceberg in animal research!

However, not everyone is convinced that dogs are supernatural beings. While his theories are controversial and have been criticized by some scientists, Sheldrake's work has sparked a broader conversation about the nature of animal consciousness and the relationship between humans and their animal companions.

Dogs With Souls?

Some theologians and other Christian authors have argued that dogs, like humans, have an immaterial aspect. In other words, according to their “dog-ma” (see what I did there?), our furry friends are blessed with souls as pure as their love for us.

They point to the creation story in Genesis, which describes how God breathed the breath of life into all living creatures, including animals. While the Hebrew word used to describe the breath of life in animals is different from the one used for humans, some theologians argue that this distinction is not meant to suggest that animals are inferior or lacking in spiritual value.

Instead, they argue that animals have a kind of spiritual awareness or connection to God that is different from that of humans. Maybe it's because they're not as distracted by smartphones and Netflix? This idea is supported by biblical passages such as Job 12:7-10, which describes how even the animals and birds know that God is the creator of all things, and that they depend on God for their sustenance. Many of us humans would do well to remember that!  Other passages, such as Psalm 104:24-25, 27-28, and Matthew 10:29-31, suggest that God values and cares for all of his creatures, including animals.  So the next time you're feeling down, just remember: God loves you almost as much as he loves your dog.  I’m kidding… maybe!

Intrinsic Value

Not everyone believes that dogs have supernatural powers.  Even if you're not a believer in doggy miracles, you can't deny the fact that they're precious little balls of fur who deserve the love and treats we give them.  Or, in my dog’s case, larger balls of fur! Some say dogs don’t have souls.  However, most people would agree that they have intrinsic value and are worthy of kindness and respect. This idea is supported by biblical passages such as Proverbs 12:10, which states that "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel."

Similarly, Deuteronomy 22:6-7 instructs the Israelites to let a mother bird go free if they find her nesting in a tree, rather than taking her eggs or young. This passage suggests that God cares about the welfare of animals and wants us to treat them with kindness and compassion. Other passages, such as Exodus 23:5 and Proverbs 27:23-27, reinforce the idea that we should help animals in need and be good stewards of the natural world.

Beyond the biblical teachings, there is also scientific evidence to suggest that dogs are intelligent, social animals with emotional capacities that are similar to those of humans. Studies have shown that dogs are capable of complex social and communicative behaviors, and that they can experience a range of emotions, from joy and love to fear, anxiety, and even remorse. Just think about how many times you've caught your dog stealing food off the counter, only to see the guilty look on their face when they realize they've been caught. Maybe they know it's wrong, but just can't resist those delicious treats!


While there is ongoing debate about the supernatural and spiritual nature of dogs, there is little doubt that they have intrinsic value and we should give them the kindness and respect that we are to give all God’s creation. Whether we view them as supernatural critters, creatures with souls, or simply as intelligent and emotional animals, it is clear that dogs play an important role in our lives and deserve to be treated with compassion and care. 

Romans 8:19-22 suggests that the whole creation is in a state of longing and groaning, waiting for the redemption and restoration that will come with the full realization of God's kingdom. Even the animal kingdom is eagerly awaiting the restoration and redemption that will come with the Kingdom of God. While nature may appear violent or cruel at times, this behavior could be a reflection of the frustration and longing that comes from living in a fallen world.

Perhaps, in some way, dogs and other animals are yearning, as we are, for the day when all things will be made right and the pain and suffering of this world will be no more. Sometimes I look at my dog and think maybe we’re both waiting in hope for the fullness of God's kingdom to be revealed.  And if dogs do go to heaven, hopefully there will also be lots of tennis balls and squirrels!  

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.  (Colorado Springs, CO:  Biblica Inc. 2011)

Saturday, November 14, 2020


I’ll be turning 50 in a week.  I'm married for the second time.  She's a wonderful, beautiful woman who keeps me on my toes most of the time!  I’ve had the privilege of seeing my children grow up into adults and teens.  I can breathe without assistance, seldom skip a meal, and most of the food I enjoy digests with minimal problems.  All my limbs still work as well as my mind.  I have much to be thankful for!

I’ve lived as a sinner and a saint.  I’ve lived hypocritically and sincerely.  I’ve tried and failed to follow the example of Jesus.  I’ve given up and started over many times.  I’ve learned to rely on God’s grace and Jesus’ faithfulness to be my righteousness and hope of glory.  I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and despair.  I’ve reveled in moments of ecstasy and joy.   I believe there is one of two possible causes for this life I've lived so far. 

First Possibility:  Random Forces

There are two possibilities.  I don’t see more than two.  The first is, I am the product of natural forces randomly interacting in just the right way to produce intelligent life - somewhat intelligent in my case.  In this scenario I can’t see any good reason to believe that any part of me would be eternal.  I suppose the matter that makes up my body would continue in some form, maybe as long as this universe exists.  

In this case, my life is meaningless; my thoughts and deeds or meaningless.  In 500 years my great grandchildren will not even be remembered, much less me!  No emotion I feel, no activity I engage in, no memory I make will last into the 22nd century.  Eventually, the whole universe will reach absolute zero and die.  Long before that the human race will cease to exist.  No trace anyone ever lived.  No point to anything.  No action committed by any human was ever really good or evil.  Thank Sartre

Second Possibility:  Intelligent Planning

The second possibility is that I am the product of intelligent planning.  I used to think the structure and function of a human eye provided plenty of evidence for this.  Later, I learned about molecular machines that operate inside the tiny cells that make up the entire human body.  These machines operate as motors, propellers, and other such items found in the visible world.  Except these things were designed to fit inside of cells which are an average of 100 micrometers (one millionth of a meter)!  The kinesin motor protein is only about 8 nanometers (a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter) and still manages to shuffle along inside the cell!  Each component tirelessly does its job, making the entire cell work, which makes organs work, which make me work!  So, the evidence for design is there.  


Who was the designer?  If you say aliens, then who designed those aliens?  seems to me there has to be a first cause.  In the ancient world if you asked someone what was underneath the elephant that was holding up the world, they would probably say, “another elephant, holding up that one.”  If you persisted in trying to find the first cause, they might finally answer, “Why, it’s just elephants all the way down!”  

First Cause

If there is a first cause, it could be either God, as theologians claim, or “quantum fluctuations in a vacuum” as quantum physicists argue.  If someone were to ask what caused God?  I suppose the same question could be asked, what caused the quantum fluctuations?  Seems like there has to be a first cause, and God seems to be the best explanation for intelligence designing the universe.  A quantum fluctuation in a vacuum is something that exists outside of space and time, according to the theory.  God also is said to exist outside of space and time.  The complexity of the universe points to God as designer rather than fluctuations.  

Infinity with a Personality!

One definition of God could be like an infinite mind.  You could say God is infinity with intelligence and personality.  Personal infinity would also work.  The ramifications of saying the Biblical God created me are numerous:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am loved.  I am chosen to exist and live life.  The things I think, say, and do ultimately matter.  Good and evil are real and absolute.  

For some, the jump from infinite mind to the Biblical God seems like too much of a stretch.  I rely on the historical event of the life of Jesus recorded by four witnesses to get me from A to B.  The witnesses say that everything Jesus said about himself turned out to be verifiably true by way of the his Resurrection.  Therefore, everything he said about God, humanity, the world, and eternity can be trusted.  


For those who try to force a choice between science and faith, do some research.  Look at scientists in history and currently who also had/have Christian faith.  Read their writings about God.  Read Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.  Read the four Gospel accounts.  I pray fare thee well on your journey!  For 50 years, in spite of my lapses toward unfaithfulness, 

He has always been faithful to me!  I pray you find Him to be the same in your life!