Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Prayer and the Transfiguration

Luke places the event of the transfiguration within the context of regular prayer on the mountain. The appearance of his face changed indicates that Jesus was transfigured while he was praying. In describing the Transfiguration only Luke indicates that Jesus, Moses and Elijah appeared together in glory.[i]

For years, translators wished to make Luke 9:35 agree with a similar verse in Matthew and Mark. However, Luke's verse in the original Greek reads: "This is my Son, the Elect One (from the Greek ho eklelegmenos, lit., "the elect one"): hear him." The "Elect One" is a most significant term (found fourteen times) in the Book of Enoch. The Book of Enoch contains numerous descriptions of the Elect One who should "sit upon the throne of glory" and the Elect One who should "dwell in the midst of them."

John Paul Heil in his book, The Transfiguration of Jesus[ii], emphasizes the rich Old Testament heritage shaping both the content and reception of the transfiguration story. The experience of a "pivotal mandatory epiphany" by Balaam (Num 22:31-35), Joshua (Josh 5:13-15), and Heliodorus (2 Macc 3:22-34) provides the principal model for characterizing the transfiguration as an extraordinary "epiphany" of heavenly beings on earth (Jesus, Moses, and Elijah) culminating in a divine "mandatory" announcement to Peter, James, and John: "Listen to him!"

Heil offers a new proposal concerning the symbolic significance of the appearance by Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah represent not so much law-giving and prophetic prototypes for Jesus as figures mysteriously transported or "assumed" into heaven in marked contrast to Jesus, who "will attain [permanent] heavenly glory only after being unjustly put to death by his people and raised from the dead by his heavenly Father."

Heil demonstrates the pivotal function of the transfiguration scene in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, by tracking key links with antecedent and subsequent material.
Recently Lee Dahn proposed that the two men who appeared in the Lucan tomb on the first Easter morning were none other than Elijah and Moses who of course appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration.

The Lucan Jesus prepares his disciples, Peter, John and James, for the events that are about to transpire preparing them concerning his “departure” linking Luke’s understanding of the event to prayer and the passion. This proper understanding is confirmed by the fact that the voice from heaven echoes the voice of the baptism that was also preceded by Jesus in prayer and was an allusion to Jesus’ suffering and death.

[i]. Lk. 9:28-36; cf. Mt. 17:1-8 and Mk. 9:2-13.
[ii] The Transfiguration of Jesus: Narrative Meaning and Function of Mark 9:2-8, Mat 17:1-8, and Luke 9:28-36 (AnBib 144; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 2000).

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Allthing2all: Turning the world upset down

Last Saturday, Catez Stevens, writing in New Zealand in a blog with the title, The Pit and the Pendulum: Blogging and Popularity,, included this interesting observation.

“The Romans built the 1st century equivalent of a highway system throughout the Empire. It meant people could travel faster from one place to another, and therefore news, information and opinion travelled faster too. The Roman roads made it possible to travel to places that a person might previously never travel to. It became not only a faster track for merchants but an information highway and a means of cross-cultural encounters and communication.”

This highway system made possible the phenomenal growth of early Christianity.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Via Egnatia

The Egnatia Way, that run through the Balkans from the Adriatic coast to the Dardanelles, was one of the most important communication routes of the Roman world. Paul probably traveled this road on both his second and third missionary journeys, as he traveled between Philippi and Thessalonica.

Christine, writing on history and archaeology at,
posted this link yesterday: Travel as the Romans did on ancient Roman highway

The following sites provide additional information including photographs:

David Padfield, The Via Egnatia At Philippi in Greece

Atlantic Baptist University

Michele Fasolo

Roman Roads in the Mediterranean Region and Europe

I just saw this at Roman Archaeology

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Christian Paradox

Bill McKibben in Harper's examines why America is "simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior."


Peter’s Confession

This is the fourth example presented by Luke of prayer in the life of Jesus. Last July 14th, in my blog, The Theme of the Feeding of the 5000, I noted that Joseph A. Grassi essentially concludes that the miracle of the bread revealed the true identity of Jesus to Peter, and only Peter, who proclaimed it as his confession. Grassi did not consider nor did I mention the role of prayer in Peter’s confession.

Once again only Luke mentions the event in the context of prayer. Luke demonstrates that the prayer of Jesus had been effective since the secret of the messianic person had been revealed to Peter. Luke also includes a saying about the imminent coming of the kingdom of God. Thus the section begins with prayer and ends with the announcement of the coming kingdom. This is the second instance, the first being the baptism of Jesus, where Luke has linked Jesus’ prayer with the kingdom of God.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

applying the scientific method to prayer

Since I been writing about the prayer life of Jesus as recorded in Luke, I noticed this unusual blog.

Last Friday, A Voice from Eden covered the article written in the medical journal, Lancet involving 748 patients. These scholars wanted to know whether or not one could apply applying the scientific method to prayer.

The link appears below:

The Call of the Twelve

“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles;”

In the face of rising opposition, Jesus goes to a mountain and spends the entire night in prayer. Mountains for Luke are places of divine revelation.[1] This prayer before the selection of the Twelve is recorded only in the Gospel of Luke. Furthermore, Luke alone makes explicit that the twelve are selected from a larger group of disciples. According to Darrell Bock, “The account simply narrates the gathering of the Twelve to show the authoritative credibility they have as Jesus’ chosen representative.”

However it is clear that the early church followed the example set by Jesus of prayer before decisions (Acts 6:6; 13:2-3; 14:23; I Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

[1] Hans Conzelmann (The Theology of Luke [1960], 44).

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Routine Prayer

“But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” In Luke 5:16, the regularity of the prayer life of Jesus is noted. This verse appears just after the healing of the leper and before the conflict with the scribes and Pharisees. They had questioned his authority when he healed the paralytic man. Danker[1] indicates that Luke make clear that before Jesus faced opposition he spent time with God in prayer. Jesus withdrew to a deserted place in order to focus on the goal of his ministry. This goal was contrary to the expectations of the people. Barclay, commenting on this verse, states: “He drew strength for the battle of life from the peace of God.”

[1] Jesus and the New Age (1988), 120.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Jesus in Prayer at His Baptism

The baptism of Jesus is significant for all the gospel writers. Acts 10:37-38 acknowledges that this event was significant. However, the account in Luke is both unique and significantly different from the other gospel accounts. Only Luke includes the phrase, “when all the people were baptized.”[1] Luke does not include the reference to Jesus’ coming from Galilee or being baptized in the Jordan. Luke uniquely notes Jesus’ prayer. Luke has the heaven “open” in agreement with Matthew versus “rent” as in Mark and only Luke notes that the Spirit descended “in bodily form” like a dove. As Nolland said, “Something set Jesus apart from all other baptismal penitents.”

That something relates to the fact emphasized only by Luke that the descent of the Spirit was coincident with Jesus’ prayer, not his baptism. The fact that Luke highlights Jesus’ prayer is unique. One would expect that prayer would be part of the preparation of His ministry. Luke also tells us that the heaven opened while Stephen was praying even as the stones were landing on him. The process of establishing the kingdom began with the baptism of Jesus. Only Luke has linked the kingdom with prayer. Only Luke understood.

[1] The significance of this phrase needs to be further explored at a later date.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Luke as the Gospel of the Prayer

Last Friday, I ended my blog with a brief comment about praying in school on the day after 9-11. This past week I have been thinking about prayer in the New Testament and in particular, prayer in the writings of Luke. No doubt last Sunday, Sun and Shield’s blog with the title, Prayer in the New Testament, was a factor. The author concluded that members of the NT church primarily prayed for each other.

Prayer is certainly a significant theme in the Lucan writings. The Gospel opens with God’s people at prayer and closes with the believers joyfully blessing God in the Temple. I have been thinking about both the unique terminology used by Luke and the unique context in which this terminology is used. Two passages at the beginning of the Gospel may link the OT idea of prayer to the proper understanding of Jesus’ ministry of prayer although I need to consider more thoroughly the significance of the OT connnection and whether or not this needs to be included in the discussion. It seems to me that the direction in Acts 6:4 that the Twelve are to engage in “prayer and ministry of the word” represents the proper implementation of the teachings of the gospel.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Jewish Catacomb in Rome

Brandon Wason,, was first to report on the AP article. Jim Davila,, also picked up the story. Not only do findings indicate that the early Christians adopted the practices of Jewish residents of Rome, but also “that Judaism may have influenced Christianity for longer than previously thought.”

As Jim Davila noted the AP article mentioned by Wason was based on the publication of the findings in Nature journal. Leonard V. Rutgers, professor of late antiquity at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and the lead author on the study stated “Scholars have frequently argued that Christianity came into its own fairly early on in the first century, and from then on there was no Jewish influence. The period of separation probably took a lot longer and was much more gradual than we thought."

These findings support the conclusions reached by Rodney Stark in his book, the Rise of Christianity. It also supports the conclusions of numerous mission studies about how new religions attract their members.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Zenon and the wicked tenants

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is such a shocking story that for a long time it did not seem real. C.H. Dodd in 1935 recognized that the parable described real social and economic conditions where Gentile landlords owned large first century estates in Palestine.

Martin Hengel writing in 1968 provided a detailed analysis of agrarian conflict evidenced in the Zenon archive. The Zenon Papyri of the third century B.C.E. disclose that the Hellenistic monarch of Egypt, Ptolemy Philadelphus (283-246 B.C.E.) had granted property in Baitianata in Galilee to his finance minister Apollonius. The estate, which he owned as an absentee landlord, appears to have been a large holding of grain fields and a vineyard of 80,000 grapevines. It is estimated that a workforce of at least 25 people was required to carry out the work that was involved in such a large operation, but this seems to be a minimal figure.

Hengel argued the essential details of the story are thoroughly credible. Land was in fact awarded to officials of the state who derived their income from it by leasing it to the peasantry for a stipulated rent to be paid in the form of agricultural produce, money or labor. As Hengel pointed out, the terminology used for the violent action in the Zenon papyri is similar to that in Luke’s version of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Weekend in NYC

This weekend my wife and I will travel to NYC. Although I love NYC, I have to admit that I have stayed away, this being only our second trip since 9-11. I doubt if we will venture any where near “ground zero”. We will be staying in a hotel near Central Park. We plan to window shop during the day and eat dinner Saturday night in Little Italy with relatives.

Shortly after 9-11, I met someone who had recently arrived in NYC from Israel, having left in part because of the spiraling violence, only to be on the subway traveling to the World Trade Center. He was late for his classes but when he arrived everyone in the room was looking at what was WTC in a state of shock. My sister, the Wise Librarian, was in Queens looking out the window, of the school library where she works, at WTC moments after impact. For a long time after 9-11, field trips from her school in Queens to Manhattan were prohibited.

The stories I heard from friends and relatives and on my last visit have made an everlasting impression. My son told me that on the day before 9-11, one of his high school teachers was explaining to his class why the Supreme Court said no religion in the public schools. On 9-11 this teacher was leading the class in prayer.

Copyrighted 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Theme of the Feeding of the 5000

According to Joseph A. Grassi, bread is a central issue in the four gospels. When Grassi concludes his book, Loaves and Fishes, the General Feeding Narratives (1991), he says this about Luke: “Luke’s Gospel deserves the title of a ‘gospel of bread.’ To establish bread’s importance, he draws careful literary parallels between the beginning, middle and the climatic end of the Gospel where the risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of bread. In addition, teachings about bread and table fellowship are found on almost every page of his Gospel, as well as frequently in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke emphasizes the Twelve as successors to Jesus in his feeding role. Jesus’ new bread is not only a means of spiritual nourishment but a physical bread that continues to be ‘multiplied’ by Jesus’ succession so there can be enough food for everyone.”

For instance, Grassi notes that Mary praises God in the Magnificat that “[God] has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty [1.53].”

Grassi essentially concludes that the miracle of the bread revealed the true identity of Jesus to Peter, and only Peter, who proclaimed it as his confession. The bookends of the inclusio emphasize this theme. Grassi is the only scholar who has addressed the theme of the inclusio of the feeding of the 5000 and his proposal is certainly provocative. Although Peter learns the identity of Jesus, there is no indication as asserted by Grassi that he also learns at the same time the meaning of the bread.

The “skimpy meal” has truly provided me with food for thought that I will ponder as I further research this inclusio.

Grassi has recently written: Social Justice in the New Testament (2003) and the Roots and Praxis of Peace in Luke (2004) that I have added to my reading list.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

No Room at the Inn

There was no room at the inn because Bethlehem was crowded with visitors. This was not an act demonstrating rudeness or lack of hospitality. The place was booked. One summer we were traveling in Germany in the general direction of Neuschwanstein castle. The autobann was so crowded it was a parking lot because the whole country was on vacation. We traveled the back roads and when we arrived in town there were no vacancies. It was one of our many memorable experiences in Germany in the month the wall came down. However, we ended up in the middle of nowhere with no place to stay. Fortunately we found a farmhouse where we could stay.

The 5000 were in the middle of nowhere. The twelve disciples suggested to Jesus that the crowd be urged to leave to find food and lodging in town. Only Luke uses the Greek word for "lodge" in the feeding of the 5000. I suppose this is subtle link to the manger scene at the beginning of the Gospel. Because there was no room at the "lodge" they stayed in a manger.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Full Meal in Emmaus

At the feeding the 5000, Jesus, the gracious host, welcomed the crowd. Hospitality is an important theme in the Gospel of Luke. The mass feeding is linked to the pericope of the Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus where Jesus is again the host. The linkage is remarkable with usage of words unique to Luke appearing in both pericopes. However, the most important coincidence of the two accounts lies in the blessing, braking and distributing bread in Luke 9:16 and Luke 24:30.

Luke tells the story in Acts 12 of the famine relief using it to frame the story of Herod Agrippa I.
[1] Luke employs an inclusio to contrast the conduct of Herod with the Antioch congregation.

Question: If the mass feeding has been framed by the Questioning of Herod and Peter’s Confession what is the theme being emphasized in this three pericope inclusio?

[1] Noted by John B. Polhill in Acts, The New American Commentary (1992), 276-77.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

What is an inclusio?

An inclusio is a literary device, an enveloping of sorts, where the concept at the beginning and end of a section is the same, thus "including" or "enveloping" the intervening material. Inclusio serves as bookends to the entire passage between. This literary structure was employed in several different books of the Hebrew Bible.

There is no question that Luke employed a literary structure to frame “a skimpy meal.”

I have attempted to include in parallel columns Luke 9:7-9 in English followed by the Greek in the left column and Luke 9:18-20 in English followed by the Greek in the right column and then place my achievment on my blog.

I give up!

My compromise blogging solution:

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Skimpy Meal

The Lucan mass feeding narrative which I have been studying this week is only seven verses. It is the one miracle recorded by all four gospels. Both the Matthean and the Marcan accounts are, not only longer than Luke, but also include a second mass feeding account having no parallel in Luke.

In Luke’s account of the feeding of the 5000, we learn that Jesus not only feed the crowd but also he healed and taught them. Matthew says nothing about the crowd being instructed by Jesus. Mark says nothing about the crowd being healed. Since it is widely believed that the longer pericopes are the results of expansions by their authors, it seems that Luke being shorter is probably the more original account which formed the source for both Matthew and Mark.

The Lucan mass feeding account follows the pericope of the fundamental question raised by Herod Antipas as to the identity of Jesus. In Luke, this miracle is followed by Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Thus Peter answers the fundamental question and there is command that the identity remain a secret within this small group. Luke, unlike the other Gospels, has no intervening events between the miraculous feeding of the 5000 and the confession. This serves to emphasize the Lucan placement of these three pericopes that bring the Galilean ministry to an end. Luke has crafted a literary inclusio that has the effect of framing the feeding of the 5000 within Herod’s question and Peter’s confession.[1]

[1] The inclusio was first noted by Joseph A. Grassi, Loaves and Fishes, the General Feeding Narratives (1991).

Copyrighted 2005

Saturday, July 09, 2005

“You give them something to eat”

In the accounts of Elijah (1 Kgs 17:9-14) and Elisha (2 Kgs 4:42-44), there is an emphasis on the command by the prophet to give food to the people. The Lucan Jesus told his disciples: “You give them something to eat.” It is God’s command to feed the hungry, and when this is done, there will always be food, not only enough, but there will also be plenty left over. There is left over food in these stories and in the Gospel feeding accounts.

Paul also understood how God’s multiplies. Paul states: “As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.”[1]

When Paul begins, “As it is written”, he, in verse 9, is probably quoting Psalm 112:9 which says, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor.” Yet I believe Paul was also inspired by verses such as Isaiah 55:10, “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”

Thus we learn God multiples food that is shared.

Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way to conduct our foreign policy?

[1] 2 Cor. 9:9-12.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Manna, the Feeding of the 4000/5000 and Paul’s Collection

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about a collection for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:15), he made an appeal for equality quoting the words of Exodus 16:18: “Those who gathered much had nothing left over, and those who gathered little lacked nothing.” Rashi (1040-1105 CE) called the manna event a miracle because not only did God provided but also because the people shared.
Perhaps the Gospel feeding narratives should be understood in the same manner as Paul preached to the Corinthians. KISS, Keep it simple, SHARE because "God loves a cheerful giver."[1]

[1] Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Cr 9:7

Copyrighted 2005

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Parables as Subversive Speech

Yesterday I discovered the book, Parables as Subversive Speech.

I have only read a few pages and already I like it. Herzog starts by asking the following questions.

What if the parables of Jesus were neither theological nor moral stories but political and economic ones?

What if the concern of the parables were not the reign of God but the reigning systems of oppression that dominated Palestine in the time of Jesus? What if the scenes they presented were not stories about how God works in the world but codifications about how exploitation worked in Palestine? After several more questions, Herzog asks, What would all this mean for a reading of the parables?

Now my question.

What if Luke, the social critic that I claim he is, recognizing that Jesus is in fact is doing all of the above, writes his gospel to the one person he believes can change the system?

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Paul’s Speech on the Areopagus

They took Paul from the marketplace and brought him to the Areopagus. Since trial scenes in Acts are easy to identify, we should consider this change in location to be not a trial scene but the opportunity to preach from a quieter more prominent venue, the Hill of Ares. The audience expected Paul to follow a rhetorical format: 1) introduction; 2) thesis; 3) narrative of the facts; 4) argument and 5) conclusion. They were not disappointed.

This speech is an apologetic for Jewish anti-idolatry monotheism delivered in a city where religiosity is expressed by the multitude of its idols. This speech does not have, as asserted by Marin Dibelius, “a rational character which is foreign to the New Testament.” The anti-idol polemic in this speech is similar to the anti-idol polemic found in Isaiah 40-55. The phrase, “gods made with hands are not gods,” provides a good summary statement of the arguments against idols in Isaiah 40-55.

It was a speech to which Theophilus, the High Priest, could not find fault with its basic premise. Jesus is not mentioned by name nor is there any mention of the cross. That Paul could have delivered such a speech is confirmed by Rom. 1:19-32 and 1 Thess. 1:9-10 as well as 2 Cor. 5:10. If Luke crafted this speech, he did so respecting the sensitivities of Theophilus the High Priest.

It is my intention to review and discuss the other passages in Acts containing anti-idol polemic and its purpose for Luke.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Peter’s First Sermon

This sermon was delivered in the temple precincts. It was a Midrash on Joel 2:28-32. The Jewish audience expected that the prophecy would be spoken in Hebrew, the language of the temple and of the Torah. Instead, the languages of the Jewish Diaspora became the vehicle for the word of God. Luke, the missionary, understands from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the people hearing the Word in their own language will serve as the mouthpiece of God. These people filled with the Holy Spirit will become witnesses and will proclaim the gospel in their own language.

Peter’s message establishes the significance of the event of Pentecost and makes it clear that the experience is to be shared. Peter’s message is that Pentecost has empowered the followers of Jesus to begin their worldwide witness of the events that have been fulfilled in their presence.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Temple Talk

Did the events of the first Pentecost occur in the Temple?
When the Vicar Patrick Seyler asked me this question during dinner I was somewhat surprised because no commentator, to my knowledge, had ever made this suggestion.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, (see, they were all together in the same place.” Dunn and Talbert both indicate they were in the upper room mentioned in Acts 1:13. Witherington state, “It is not made clear whether this is the same location as the ‘upper room’ where the Last Supper was eaten or where the disciples were staying (cf. 1:13).” Witherington further note, “Somewhere along the line the event migrates to the temple precincts, the only place such a crowd could or would likely be congregated, but Luke does not explain the sequence, only the events.” Of course, Theophilus, the High Priest, 37-41 C.E., to whom Luke addressed the gospel and later his second book, being in or near the Temple, already knew something about these events.

According to Talbert, “The echoes are unmistakable. Sound, fire, and speech understood by all people were characteristic of the Sinai theophany. The same ingredients are found in the Pentecost events.” When I blogged on Pentecost on May 16th, I noted the Book of Jubilees connects Pentecost to the covenant of Noah. The Book of Jubilees also connects Pentecost in book 1:1 to the giving of the laws during the Sinai theophany. Therefore, it is clear that Luke is alluding to the Sinai theophany.

Would the first addressee have understood the powerful symbolism of sound, fire and speech of the Sinai theophany if he were a Gentile?

It seems to me to make more sense to place the first Pentecost in the temple precincts.

Copyrighted 2005

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Already the social critics are asserting the “Performances did not deliver on the cause” and the “event lacked moral voice.” They said that it is naïve to believe that the White G8 leaders would be so impressed by people attending a free concert that they would commit to spending more money to save starving Blacks in Africa. The problem with the premise of the organizers and performers is that not everyone believes that the value of a life of a child in Africa is equal to the value of the life of a child in the Red States. We are more likely to spend money installing netting off the Florida coast to protect a few swimmers from shark attacks than increasing the size of the mere pittance we provide in aid to the people of Africa.

This merely demonstrates why it is so important for bloggers to send the message that we too agree the life of a child in Africa is important to us.

Shouldn’t we who have more than two coats give one to a person who has none (cf. Luke 3.11)? Shouldn’t the richest nations in the world provide food and clothing to the poorest nations? Is not this what Luke would tell us to do? See my blog, Luke Remembered the Poor,

Make Poverty History

Mark Goodacre has broken his protocol of not blogging outside academic NT topics yesterday for a good cause.

We can all be participants as if we were present in Philadelphia, London, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, Barrie or Johannesburg with one accord by merely blogging our agreement with the objective of these 8 million plus participants. The goal is to create a global audience so that poverty will no longer make life short and brutal in Africa. Let’s make it a global blogging event. Say me too.

We can say we will make poverty history so that our blogs are heard along with all those who appeared in person. We can pray that the G8 leaders hear our cry. Amen.