Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Now Released: Cross On Me – A Novel By Arie Uittenbogaard


A brilliant man flees from reality and drives in a panic from scientific Boston to the wilderness of Alaska. When his father learns of his son's plight, he sets out to find him. Before they can meet again, both men must pay an ultimate price.

In his ambitious, literary epic, Dutch-born author Arie Uittenbogaard shows the north American continent through the eyes of two displaced foreigners who are desperately looking for each other. Their quest takes them from the latest scientific findings to the ancient wisdoms of the Bible, from the Dutch city of Leiden to the arctic shore of Alaska, from the howling infinite of fiction and the squalls of madness to the folly of knowledge and the essence of redemption.
Cross On Me follows the trail blazed by Dante and Bunyan, and shows a modern day and unlikely Nazarene whose powerful father has to relinquish everything, follow his son into his grave and raise him from the death he died.

Arie Uittenbogaard is a former maritime engineer who moved to Massachusetts to study theology. He worked on cargo and cruise ships and spent most of his summers in Alaska. Today he and his wife live in Belgium and Serbia.
Arie Uittenbogaard publishes Bible studies, short stories and poetry in both English and Dutch. Cross On Me is his first full length novel in English.

Cross On Me was published by Abarim Publications and printed by iUniverse. It is available from online booksellers such as Amazon.com, Borders and Barnes and Noble. Cross On Me can also be read entirely online at http://www.crossonme.com/.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A message to Angry Dave

The other day Abarim Publications received a message from Angry Dave. He had become angry after reading our article on the word yom, meaning ‘day’ as used all over the Bible but most troublesome in Genesis 1. There it reads that it took God six yoms to create the heavens and the earth. Since mainstream science insists that the universe is 15 billion years old, throngs of eager Bible bashers have made it their mission to use Genesis 1 as proof that the Bible is flawed. Scripture Theorists and Christians alike became nervous, or should have, because when God launches the Ten Commandments, He claims His authority by stating that He’s the one who’s created everything in six days. If that’s not true then the Ten Commandments are folly, and ultimately Christ’s fulfillment of the law the ultimate joke.

A close look at Genesis 1, however, shows no reason to insist that the word yom must mean 24 hours. Dave thinks it does, and now he’s angry.

When I received Dave’s email, I had just come off work. I was tired and I gave Dave a short and little forgiving answer. I regret that now.

Dave, there are different models to believe in, and these models may not always be the same, or even comparable. People like to think that the scientific model consists of absolute truth, but no, even the scientific model is just a tool, and accepting it requires faith just as much as accepting the Biblical model. I can guarantee you that some day the scientific model and the Biblical model will be found at odds. I’m even predicting that science itself will one day conclude that the Bible is more true than science. But that day hasn’t yet come.

But to be sure, Genesis 1 without a doubt states that God created everything in six days, and that’s it then. And science figured out that the universe is 15 billion years old, and that’s that then. We can accept these figures as different, if we so chose, but we can also allow one account to explain the other, if we so chose, just to see what would happen when we do.

What I’m saying is that if you feel most comfortable believing that God made everything in six days, then you should go right ahead and worship God in spirit and truth. And just as you should be able to count on other people giving you the right to accept any model you chose, so should you allow people like me their own perspective. In the end, it only counts whether we believe in Christ or not. When you and I stand in front of His throne, I’d like to say to Him that you and I agreed that it took God six yoms, but that we would like to hear from Him what that word yom might mean, and how that relates to the scientific story.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Abarim Publications a resource for San José State University

A few years ago, the venerable San José State University in California decided to absorb some of my material into their curriculum, namely my article on the meaning of the Hebrew alphabet, to serve as a resource for their Jewish Mysticism, Magic & Folklore program. Very flattering of course, but when I discovered it I heavily copyrighted my stuff with the US Library of Congress.

One would have expected this University to kindly ask the author for the rights to use his material (people ask me that all the time and I usually grant all rights) but nope, not an email, not a phone call, not the smallest honorary doctorate.

Brass as I was back then, I sent them a CEASE AND DISIST letter, to no avail, which probably means that their Justice faculty has Scripture Theorists like me for breakfast.

O well, appreciative of acknowledgement of any kind, I’ve decided to find it charming.

Their version: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/mira.amiras/courses/c3/ (See course documents; Meaning of the Letters.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Totally awesome Christmas special

This being a Bible theory blog, and it being almost Christmas, I’d better come up with something really groovy to say, something that nobody in 2000 years of exegesis has said before.

Sure, got that.

Most elements of the Biblical narrative have buddy-elements, so that one explains the other. God’s Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1, for instance, is form-wise neatly repeated in Noah’s ark, containing the entire biosphere, bobbing about the flood waters, and again in Christ walking on water. If you want to know more about any of these scenes, then simply look at the others and see what you can learn.

Another example of this element & buddy-element is studied in a kind of Scripture theory called type-theology. Solomon, for instance, is an obvious “type” of Christ-as-king. If you want to know more about the kinghood of Christ, look at the kinghood of Solomon and start taking notes.

However, it sometimes happens that an element of Scriptures just sits there and has no buddy, meaning that the event or situation is nowhere repeated in Scriptures, which makes interpretation difficult. Such elements are called orphans. We don’t know where they come from, we don’t know what they’re doing there.

Finding a buddy for an orphan is really quite jolly.

One persistent Scriptural orphan is something that’s on display these pre-Christmas days in all corners of the Christian world, namely baby Jesus laying in the crib. All very romantic of course, but, cry Scripture theorists, what’s the Son of God doing laying in a crib? Why is that so important that it gets such prime Scriptural screen time?

Some have tried to tie the image of Christ in the crib to the Passover lamb introduced in the book of Exodus, but even in Exodus, no lamb is ever put in a crib. Then why is the Word In The Flesh put in a crib? The answer may lay in the book of Judges, in the nimble hands of arch-hooligan Samson.

But before we call on Samson, you need to know about an important principle in Scriptures called gender-inversion. That sounds rather invasive, and it probably is. Gender inversion is employed when an individual (male) turns into a group (female). Take Christ, for instance. He started His life out as a male, but now He’s incarnated in His people, which form the Body of Christ, which is feminine.

Another example is Jacob (male) who turns into Israel, which is a group and feminine. This particular gender inversion is described in gruesome detail in Genesis 32, where the English translations gingerly speak of the angel touching Jacob’s thigh, but the Hebrew reports that the angel whacks him on the membrum virile, and Jacob limps henceforth.

In Judges 14 Samson encounters a lion and rips it in half. When he returns to the scene he notices that a swarm of bees have nestled in the carcass. Samson uses this peculiar event to try to wing the Philistines out of their wardrobes, but this peculiar event is also a notorious Scriptural orphan. There is no other even that looks remotely like bees in a lion. That is, until the Christmas story was penned down.

The Hebrew word for bee is deborah. It’s a feminine noun from a root that means to speak, or rather to convey a formal message. A masculine derivative of this same root is the noun dabar, meaning word, as in the phrase Word of God.

One of the few Hebrew words for lion is ary. That’s a masculine noun from a root that means to gather up or gather around. The feminine derivative of this same root is aryeh, which means crib. In Hebrew both the lion and the crib were seen as entities that gathered, or around which a gathering occurs.

Ergo, the bee in the lion is the gender inverted equivalent of the Word in the crib.

Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why dark is not (really) the opposite of light.

In our world there are basically two ways of looking at reality: the Persian way and the Hebrew way. That’s sounds fantastically archaic, but they’re really quite hip.

The Persian perspective is by far the most prevalent way of looking at the world. Made popular by Zarathustra, the Persian model insists that everything comes in pairs, which are opposites, and which together either create a cosmic conflict or some harmonious whole: good versus evil, light versus dark, up versus down, yin versus yang, and so on.

The Hebrew way of looking at things supposes that there are no two sides, just one side, or rather no side at all. It’s just us in a big world, and we evolve from a chaotic past to a harmonious future. Another important factor in the Hebrew way of seeing things is that evolution is towards some kind of attractor; some kind of central entity towards all things move, evolve or simply revolve.

All story telling focuses on conflicts, but the big difference between Persian story telling and Hebrew story telling is that in Persian story telling the antagonist always comes from the camp opposite the camp of the protagonist. The conflict ensues and a happy ending revolves around the camp of the antagonist being defeated but not annihilated. The enemy retreats, regroups and will surely be heard from again.

Hebrew story telling focuses almost entirely on conflicts that arise inside the favored camp, or even inside our hero’s head. If there is an antagonist camp, it usually receives very little screen time, and a good look at the story reveals that the actual conflict of the story is that of our heroes. If there is an enemy camp, that enemy will either be completely wiped out, or they will reconcile with our heroes and become one with them.

A typical modern example of Persian story telling is found in the Star Wars cycle. The “dark side” is an equal counterpart of the side we’re rooting for. It’s peopled by darklings and captained by some arch-darkling. The Hebrew answer to Star Wars (although they came first) is Star Trek, in which a federation of heroes goes out to encounter strange new worlds and become one with a greater realm. Star Wars is always about the battle against the others. Star Trek is most often about our own attitude towards antagonism, and our personal or collective growth. An insurrection in Star Wars tells of the good guys finally rising up against the utterly other bad guys. An insurrection in Star Trek most often has to do with a person or group that breaks away from the larger fold and turns on it.

Similarly comparative are the movies It’s A Bug’s Life (Persian, by Walt Disney) and AntZ (Hebrew, by Steven Spielberg & co), which were published pretty much at the same time and were obvious reactions to each other.

We’re free to admire and utilize either perspective and it would be folly to state that either Persian or Hebrew is the right one or the true one. But it’s also wise to realize that the Persian way of looking at things is as poetic or experiential as the word sunrise. Of course the sun rises, in our experience, although in fact the sun stays were it is and the earth turns. What to an observer seems like an act of the sun is in fact an act of the earth. Take away the earth-bound observer and the sun never rises again.

In that same way, up and down aren’t opposites; they’re merely directions from an observer’s perspective. Take away the observer and neither direction is either up or down. The same goes for warm and cold, or any other duo. Even darkness and light aren’t opposites. Light consists of substance (photons) but darkness is not the presence of some other substance. When we turn the light on in a dark room, the room fills with light, but nothing actually leaves. Darkness does not get replaced with light; it doesn’t go away. It just seizes to exist.

Because the Persian way of seeing things is so natural to any observer, even the Bible often gets interpreted in a Persian way. Many people believe that God and the devil are equal opposites, each with their realms and empires, and that darkness belongs to the devil while light belongs to God. But no, we can safely conclude that the Bible works the Hebrew way.

In the Bible God is the legal owner of everything. Light belongs to God but darkness as well. In fact, some of the core scenes of Scriptures occur in darkness (like the creation, the covenant with Abraham, the death of Jesus Christ). God, or at least communion with God, is that attractor that all evolution naturally aims for, and the devil ‘rules’ separation. A consequence of this is that only God’s realm is organized and based on understanding, forgiveness and communication. The devil ‘masters’ chaos, which is a paradox because chaos can only exists when there is no rule. The devil is the emperor of an empire in which the subjects aren’t subjects.

The same difference between the realm of God and the realm of the devil - a.k.a. Beelzebub, which means Lord Of the Flies - is the difference between a colony of bees and a swarm of flies. Bees are organized; flies are not. Bees adhere to central rule; flies do not. Bees have a home; flies don’t. Bees focus on flowers and help them reproduce; flies focus on corpses and dung and aid only decay, and if they help reproduction, it‘s the reproduction of diseases. Bees produce honey and care for their offspring; flies produce nothing and don’t care for their offspring. Bees are armed; flies are not. Any bee can venture into a swarm of flies unscathed. Any fly foolish enough to come close to a beehive, won’t even make it past the first line of defense, let alone come near the entrance.

Next time you watch Luke Skywalker battle Lord Vader with a light saber (an obvious metaphor for an intellectual debate; for any physical fight both have access to grenades and laser guns and the likes), or Captain Picard zip through the Briar Patch (Moses in Exodus 3) and engage the Son’a in favor of the Ba’ku, and so doing create a conflict within the Federation that threatens its very existence, maybe you should take off your shoes…

Maybe not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christmas gift tip: Kevin Stevens’ One God One

Looking for a Christmas gift and you don’t know what to get? Then you may want to consider Kevin Stevens’ new book One God One; a delightful little tome (76 pages) that explores the meaning of freedom.

Starting out by looking at Webster’s definition of freedom, Stevens shines his considerable light on this difficult concept and draws from scientific research, Scripture Theory and philosophy, to drive his main point home:

“In a single cell and across the globe, the same principles and functions can be seen wrapped up in different layers and complexities. From cores to outer layers and from lesser forms to their greater extents, Oneness and unity is everywhere. One God and God is One.”

Kevin Stevens is bright and blissfully concise. His book One God One is a well crafted excursion into the vast universe of God’s freedom.

Get Kevin Steven's One God One here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is the Bible true?

Here at Abarim Publications we frequently receive emails from people who ask us – in various degrees of desperation – whether or not the Bible is true. Many of us have a lot riding on our conviction that, yes, the Bible is true, but we all hear about startling scientific reports that strongly suggest the opposite: The creation week made way for the Hot Big Bang Inflation Theory, the Ten Plagues never happened, the Exodus never happened, Solomon was just a minor tribal head, and so on. What’s with that?

What all of us need to understand is that what we call the Bible is nothing more than a best guess of what folks trough the ages thought that the source texts might mean. We work off translations and cultural interpretations of something that is vastly and unfathomably complex. In fact, our present understanding of the nature of the ancient Hebrew and Greek Scriptures is pretty much of the same level as the archaic  belief that the earth is flat and we might fall of the edge if we venture out to sea too much.

So no, the creation week doesn’t cover a period in historical time, and that hurts our pride a bit, maybe, but it doesn’t take anything away from the splendor of Genesis 1. Only from what we guessed Genesis 1 was about.

In the 20th century we saw the rise of quantum mechanics, chaos theory and complexity theory, all new and smashing insights in the working of the universe, and lo and behold, these methods applied to Genesis reveal that Genesis is right on a par with the hippest scientific slings and arrows. When we look at Genesis from a complexity axis instead of from a temporal axis - which is a dumb thing to do anyway because time is a by-product of creation, and thus The Beginning can’t be a point in the past (see my previous post) -  Genesis contains natural structures that mankind could not have consciously known about up until a few decades ago.

Then how did we get it?

The Standard Model of elementary particles (that’s the fundamental organization of the building blocks of the universe – subatomic particles and all that) was completed in the late 1990’s. When we finally had it, the Standard Model appeared to be as good as identical to the family of Abraham as described in the Torah. That family, says God in Genesis 13:6, would be like the ‘dust of the earth,’ and ‘dust of the earth’ is what God made everything out of in Genesis 1.

Whoever wrote that passage also compared the multitudinousness  of Abraham’s offspring to that of the kernels of sand on the sea shore  - billions and billions of them – and, in the same sentence, also to the stars in the sky - a mere few thousand visible to the naked eye; a mere few thousand people would hardly fill a town (Genesis 22:17). How did the author know that there are indeed billions and billions of stars out there, as many as there are sand kernels on a beach? And why did he expect his audience to accept that, and not throw him and his story out with the trash?

So is the Bible true? Goodness, we don’t even have an idea what the Bible is, or how we could have gotten our hands on it. There is clear evidence that the original Hebrew authors knew about the nature of the universe, from the vastness of multi-dimensional space down to the complexity of DNA.
As far as we can tell, the source texts of the Bible are at least as mysterious as the pyramids at Giza or the dessert drawings in Peru. And we are clueless about the lot of them.

My clumsy guess is that the Bible is very true, more true than any one of us could have ever imagined, and we just have to keep at it, keep interpreting, keep translating, keep comparing the unclear whole story that we got from history to the few clear parts of the mostly obscured story we get from science. Or as Dory said: just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

And the translations that we have may run a bit off track where creation and human history are concerned, but the source texts don’t. And the joy and consolation that waits for us in the translated versions of these event, and the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles have always been very real and readily receivable for anyone who can read or listen.

Communion with God results primarily in a lot of joy and peace. This He achieves by means of the Holy Spirit, not by means of giving us a knack for relativity theory and sorts. But knowledge is also promised at many locations in the Bible. Paul urges us to investigate all things and keep what is good, so go ahead and investigate. In this school of life theories come and go, and the convictions of today’s best and brightest tomorrow are dusty relics showing in trophy cabinets near the coat racks.

You know what? I’ll see you at recess. I’ll be out in the yard, playing marbles in the sun.