Sunday, July 31, 2011


Peter Ruckman is a living legend of sorts. Seems like if you've heard of him at all, you either lament his very existence or revere him as a great teacher. I never encounter any middle ground on this... it's amazing.

I had heard all about Ruckman before I ever read a word that he wrote, and then when I DID first read words from him they were quotes in volatile anti-Ruckman polemic.  I avoided him for several more years and then happened-- quite by chance-- to hear him on an Ad-lib "Question and answer" tape recorded live at a tiny Baptist Church in Idaho.  His answers  totally disarmed me... he was intelligent, he was humorous, and he had a command of scripture that betrayed years of reading and memorization. He was far from the caricature of an  undisciplined and rebellious nutjob which so many people had wanted me to envisage.  This commentary was the first book of his that I actually read.

The Book of Job is, of course,  the oldest book in our Bible, and it touches on one of mankind's oldest dilemmas and conundrums; namely... "Why do the righteous suffer?"

Pete Ruckman's stab at JOB is a strange and marvelous book, really... unlike any other commentary on this or any O.T. book you will ever find. The main reason for this is that Dr. Pete's starting point [as in all his commentaries] is that the KJV 1611 text is perfect and infallible. Say what you will about this... but it DOES make a person's take on this most divergently translated of ALL Bible books totally unique.  [And brother, UNIQUE is the word!]

First off, Ruckman finds all sorts of prophetic, tribulation and millenial references. Ssome are very convincing,  some much less so. He also positively concludes-- in the face of virtually every other commentator-- that the human scribe of the book was one of it's characters, Elihu!  This may sound weird, but Dr. Ruckman DOES actually show that this is clearly demonstrable from the text of the King James [read it and you will see his reasoning.]

Also--and quite uniquely and effectively I might add-- Ruck uses gut-wrenching stories from church history and such varied books as Remarque's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and Wurmbrand's TORTURED FOR CHRIST to back up Job's theses. I like these passages a lot, actually, but be warned... they keep this being a "family commentary." 

His last 5 chapters [on the final summation by Jehovah Himself-- "Where were you?", etc.] is a masterful defense of God's ultimate justification of Himself in JOB. You have to read it and see what I mean.

Also, the extended passage on Job 33 ["delivered from the pit" or in Ruckman's phrase "RFD: Rescued from the dump"] makes me cry every time I read it. It is one of the best celebrations of simple Biblical salvation I have ever read    I am glad doc did so much reading in his life.  He mentally collected a whole storehouse of salvation stories alone, and i love it when he relays them like this!

My only complaint with this amazing tome is that Ruckman takes entirely too much time to trash other commentators. I know why he does this so repetitiously, but it really does get tiresome. In fact, if much of this material were cut the commentary would literally be about 200 pages thinner!

Still... it is an absolutely one-of-a-kind reading experience. I highly recommend it, no matter where you stand on Ruckman.

Friday, July 29, 2011

St. Jerome on I John 5:7

[I found this interesting... it comes from a website that deals with New Testament textual criticism from a position defending the "Textus Receptus" reformation text type that underlies our King James Version and (to a somewhat lesser extent) New King James Version Bibles.  While many would contend that there is a bias here and that the "Jerome Preface" is itself sometimes considered "spurious," I will say that I myself do believe that St. Jerome DID indeed write this-- mainly because the reliable and scholarly old commentator JOHN GILL (1697-1771), who had access to enormous textual resources and lived in a time of great scholarship in classical languages, seems to have had no doubt of it's authenticity. ]

St. Jerome [c.347-420 A.D] 
On the "Johanine Comma" [I John 5:7] 

Jerome's Preface to the Latin Vulgate
regarding the First John 5:7 comma:

The translation below was made by Thomas Caldwell, S. J. of Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. The translation comes from the Codex Fuldensis (c. A. D. 541-546). This Latin codex is available at, on pg. 399. The preface claims to be by Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate. The prologue has textual critical value because it bears on the question of the authenticity of the "Johannine Comma," 1 John 5:7 (“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” KJV).
If the preface is indeed by Jerome, it would provide evidence that there were Greek copies in his day that contained the Comma, and that Jerome thought that others who seem to have held to heretical doctrine had removed the verse from their manuscripts. Such a belief on Jerome’s part would explain the presence of the Comma in the overwhelming majority of copies of the Latin Vulgate. There is certainly evidence for the Comma in the Old Latin Bible and various other sources before Jerome (see, e. g., “‘And These Three Are One’; A Case for the Authenticity of 1 John 5:7-8 Rooted in Biblical Exegesis,” Jesse M. Boyd. If the Prologue is not by Jerome, whoever wrote it would still make the assertion that the Comma was originally present but was removed by unfaithful and heretical scribes.
Of course, both Jerome and the copyist of the codex Fuldensis died many centuries ago and nobody today can ask them what actually happened. It is certainly true that many opponents of the genuineness of the Comma would dismiss out of hand the possibility that this Prologue truly comes from Jerome based on the assumption that there cannot be genuine evidence at so early a date for the Comma, just as they dismiss Cyprian’s quotation of the Comma in A. D. 251 (“The Lord says, ‘I and the Father are one;’ and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, ‘And these three are one.’” On The Unity of the Church, Treatise 1:6. Trans. Church Fathers: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson.) on the assumption that Cyprian simply cannot have quoted it, since it allegedly did not yet exist.
However, the fact that many people dismiss the evidence of this Prologue to the Comma from unreasonable biases does not of itself mean that the work did indeed come from Jerome’s hand.

Latin Version
Non ita ordo est apud graecos qui integre sapiunt et fidem rectam sectantur· Epistularam septem quae canonicae nuncupantur· ut in latinis codicibus inuenitur quod petrusprimus est in numero apostolorum primae sint etiam eius 5 epistulae in ordine ceterarum· Sed sicut euangelistas dudum ad ueritatis lineam correximus ita has proprio ordine deo nos iuuante reddidimus Est enim prima earum una iacobi· petri duae· iohannis tres· et iudae una 10 Quae sicut ab eis digestae sunt ita quoque ab interpraetibus fideliter in latinum eloquium uerterentur nec ambiguitatem legentibus facerent nec sermonum se uarietas inpugnaret· illo praecipue loco ubi de unitate trinitatis in prima iohannis epistula positum legimus in qua est ab infidelibus 15 translatoribus multum erratum esse fidei ueritate conperimus trium tantummodo uocabula hoc est aquae sanguinis et spiritus in ipsa sua editione potentes et patri uerbique ac spiritus testimonium omittentes» In quo maxime et fides catholica roboratur et patris et fili et spiritus sancti una diuinitatis 20 substantia conprobatur· In ceteris uero epistulis quantum nostra aliorum distet editio lectoris prudentiae derelinquo· Sed tu uirgo christi eusthocium dum a me inpensius scribturae ueritatem inquiris meam quodammodo senectutem inuidorum dentibus conrodendam exponis qui me falsarium corruptoremque 25 sanctarum pronuntiant scribturarum· Sed ego in tali opere nec aemulorum meorum inuidentiam pertimesco nec sanctae scribturae ueritatem poscentibus denegabo

English Translation:
Jerome’s Prologue to the Canonical Epistles1

"The order of the seven Epistles which are called canonical is not the same among the Greeks who follow the correct faith and the one found in the Latin codices, where Peter, being the first among the apostles, also has his two epistles first. But just as we have corrected the evangelists into their proper order, so with God’s help have we done with these. The first is one of James, then two of Peter, three of John and one of Jude.
"Just as these are properly understood and so translated faithfully by interpreters into Latin without leaving ambiguity for the readers nor [allowing] the variety of genres to conflict, especially in that text where we read the unity of the trinity is placed in the first letter of John, where much error has occurred at the hands of unfaithful translators contrary to the truth of faith, who have kept just the three words water, blood and spirit in this edition omitting mention of Father, Word and Spirit in which especially the catholic faith is strengthened and the unity of substance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is attested.
"In the other epistles to what extent our edition varies from others I leave to the prudence of the reader. But you, virgin of Christ, Eustocium, when you ask me urgently about the truth of scripture you expose my old age to being gnawed at by the teeth of envious ones who accuse me of being a falsifier and corruptor of the scriptures. But in such work I neither fear the envy of my critics nor deny the truth of scripture to those who seek it."

Amen, brother Jerome... 

Oh, and people...


Also... In case anyone wants to see it, here is the part of John Gill's comment on the Comma that deals with Jerome:

"and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters... and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius F26, in the beginning of the "sixth" century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the "fourth" century..."

 John Gill's complete commentary.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: "Prince Valiant" 1954

With all the talk going on in geekdom about the new CAPTAIN AMERICA feature being possibly the best film treatment of a comics character ever [I can't wait to see it in a few months at the "dollar" theatre!], some "slightly-on-the-geeky-side" co-workers and I were just discussing today what our all-time fave "four-color-to-silver-screen" adaptations are. 

Some chose Raimi's SPIDERMAN cycle for its remarkable [for Hollywood, anyway] fidelity to source material; some went with Chris Reeves' turn in SUPERMAN I for starting the whole blockbuster-from-comics trend; and one even went with the oddball choice of last year's JONAH HEX for [he said] sheer over-the-top entertainment value [still haven't seen it so I can't fairly offer any jibe here...  even though I feel tempted. :) ]

My choice, however, was easily the most obscure and certainly the hardest to explain: 1954's PRINCE VALIANT... starring Robert Wagner... in a wig. 

Yikes!  Try defending that choice to the geeks at the water cooler!

But Alas,  I will just admit it...  if I am to be truly honest, this creaky old Technicolor CinemaScope Swords-and-Sandals nonsense epic does indeed top my list.

Mostly it's just nostalgia, I suppose-- I first saw it when i was about 9 and it took me away like no movie ever had before, and, on some levels, like none ever would again.  I can't explain it, really, but even seeing STAR WARS about 3 years later in it's first run did not match my exhilaration upon first seeing PV.  I would view it again many times throughout childhood and well into my adolescence, never missing a TV showing afterward if I could help it.  It was truly high adventure to me, and captured my young imagination so purely I still feel some of the gusto even today when I occasionally pop the letterbox disc into the DVD player.

The worst part about my choice is that it is, above all, simply a terrible adaptation.  Released in lavish style back in '54, the film must have frustrated many diehard fans of Hal Foster's original classic strip. While it carries over much of its source material's spirit and enthusiasm, as well as its visual grandness, the plot is WAY off... not even close... and most of the characters even emerge as entirely different beings from their newsprint namesakes (e.g. Princess Aleta, Gawain, even Val himself.)  

Then there's the cast.  While Janet Leigh and Debra Paget are both amazing eye-candy, their performances here are somehow only adequate at best.  The great Sterling Hayden is completely miscast as Valiant's mentor Sir Gawain.  Now, I actually like Hayden's work a lot, but I find his stiff acting style only effective in certain stern hard-boiled roles [such as, for 2 examples, his fascinating turns as the head hood in Kubrick's THE KILLING and the show-stealing walk-on as abolitionist John Brown in the 80s TV mini-series THE BLUE AND THE GRAY.]   In Valiant, his delivery of lines like "Unhand the lad, varlet!" is almost unbearably funny.

Still, it all works surprisingly well. In fact, this film is actually much more enjoyable than the far more faithful '90s remake. This surprising fact is attributable, I believe, to 2 things.

First, the script for the '54 version, written by a highly paid pro named Dudley Nichols, ably manages to transform Foster's lusty picaresque strip into a glorious send-up of Victorian boy's books and blood-and-thunder dime novels. In fact, fans of the now-revived juvenile fiction of G.A. Henty could easily view this film as almost a tribute to that great author, complete with relentless Victorianisms and a theme of paganism versus emerging "muscular Christianity."

Second, two of the performances are downright brilliant. James Mason, as the villian of the piece [the mysterious Black Knight] gives his role a depth that is engossing and rewarding to watch.  In the story, the Black knight is driven to treachery by his second-rate,  adopted status to the man who raised him:  King Arthur himself.   A lesser actor would have probably just grimaced his way through, but Mason turns every line and facial expression into a glimse of a truly tortured soul.   Mason is amazing here.

The other thespian praise I will hand out may surprise some.  Robert Wagner himself brings a vigor to the title role that completely propels the movie.  I must say I have come to really like Wagner as an actor.  He was extremely popular at the time [Fox gave him starring roles in at least a dozen of their highest budget production through the 1950s] and I long thought of him as a pretty boy actor...  but his undersatatement and intensity in films like STOPOVER TOKYO, THE HUNTERS, and the great western epic WHITE FEATHER [must see for any western buff] has never, to my knowkledge, been appreciated in print.  In Valiant he takes a downright silly role and gives it all he has, and he upstages a bunch of hardcore veterans in process.

So... The action is great-- well-done, and stunt-heavy;  the color and widescreen processing is luscious; and the scenery is breathtaking.  [Also worth mentioning: a marvellous political incorrectness reigns throughout! e.g. "The cross is our salvation!", Wagner screams at one point to scoffing villian Mason...  NICE!]

But all in all, my vote comes straight from my culturally over-fed inner child.  It is he who just won't let it go.

Who knows? Maybe in 40 years  even Rogan's GREEN HORNET could be some old guy's oddball choice for "best comic movie ever."

[By the way, as a note to other parents...  your kids-- even if they are jaded techno-junkies-- WILL love this. They may just have trouble admitting it.]


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"What Is Repentance?" By Gipsy Smith

One of the first Christian books to really effect me as an adult was one called FROM THE FOREST I CAME: THE LIFE OF GIPSY SMITH by David Lazell, an old Moody paperback I first read in about 1992.  I recommend it to any reader as one of the most charming religious biographies you could ever read.  The old Gipsy's heart and soul really come through and you will marvel at his life led in the steps of Jesus.    

A real gipsy born in a wagon, Smith (31 March 1860- 4 August 1947) became one of the best known evangelists in  a day when preaching giants walked this earth. 

Here is an example of his preaching from the good folks at the revival newspaper Herald Of His Coming.  It is an excellent example of the old-time Methodist view of "turning to Christ."  I think we need the soundness and clarity of the old Gipsy today.


What Is Repentance?
 By Gipsy Smith

    If there is a man or woman who has been trying to live a Christian life and has no joy in it, and no victory in it, and no song in it--I know the reason. It is that they have never repented. They have started wrong.

    Repentance is the most neglected doctrine in the New Testament and the most unpopular. People do not like to be called to repentance and you do not often hear it preached. And yet the Bible is a handbook of repentance. It enforces it, commands it, and so demands it that no substitute can be accepted for it.
    Over sixty times the Scriptures enforce it, and all the Epistles are written to show men how to repent, so that no one need be in a fog as to what repentance means, yet multitudes of people are.
    A spurious repentance means a spurious Christian life, and the reason many church-goers have no joy and peace in the Holy Ghost is because they do not obey the Scripture-- "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
    You ask, "What is repentance?" It is not conviction on sin. Conviction is an element of repentance but you can be convicted without repenting. No one repents until he is convicted, but not all who are convicted do repent.
    Conviction is not enough. It is not repentance, and "except ye repent, ye shall...perish" (Luke 13:3). Is sorrow repentance? No, it is not enough to be sorry for your sins. Something more than tears is needed.
    If repentance is not conviction, and not sorrow, what is it? Is it promising to do better? No. Some of you have been doing that for years and you are further from God than ever.
    Is repentance reading the Bible or praying? No. It is the sanest thing in God’s Word and one of the most beautiful.
    What is it to repent? Repentance is turning from sin to God.
    Repentance is getting hold of that which is your curse by the hair of its head and tearing it out by the roots. Pride is one of them. Pride can be as damning as drunkenness--and is. There is pride of face, pride of place, pride of grace, and pride of race.
    We need saving from our good self, our religious self, our spiritual self--as much as from our bad self. Satan is very subtle and if he cannot hinder by our badness, he will hinder by our goodness. If he cannot hinder us by our depths, he will hinder by our heights. If he cannot alienate us from God, he will hinder us by our self-righteousness, and if we are not careful he will come to us as an angel of light.
    Pride, self-righteousness, sham, fraud, hypocrisy, lust, duplicity--the sin in your life which enslaves you, let it go. Kill it--and all other things in your life that are wrong will slink away like so many whipped curs.
    What is repentance then? It is the moral response of the awakened soul to the call of God, the home of the soul. Have you repented? Have you turned from sin unto God?
    "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent...As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:2,3,19).