Brexit – what next? (guest article by my friend Martin Williams of European Business Solutions)

martin-williams-570x570The UK voted in the Referendum by a very narrow margin the leave the EU. But it is not as simple as that. The process of leaving begins when the UK writes formally to the EU, specifically commencing the process set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Referendum is technically not binding on Parliament, the overwhelming majority of MPs preferring Britain to stay in the EU. The Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, has said he will step down for a new leader of the Conservative Party to be appointed, sometime in the Autumn, and he will not invoke Article 50, believing that this should be done by the new Prime Minister.

The leader of the “Out” side, Mr Johnson has said that he believes that the EU and the UK will retain access to each other’s markets. Mr Johnson adds that “Immigration was not the main issue in the Referendum” and a spokesman for Mrs Merkel has already commented that access to the EU Market for the UK is perfectly possible if the UK pays a contribution to the costs of the market in a similar way to Norway. Incidentally, this model also involves, for all practical purposes, free movement of people. Then what is going to change I hear you ask, and my opinion is “Not very much” The UK and the EU will continue to be effectively a free trade area, there will be movement of people and the UK will contribute to the costs. Read the rest of this entry

A good time to germinate your German

Today’s article is in response to a request I had on Facebook Messenger from a Polish youth called Adam.

He complains of having received 10 years of teaching at school in German after which he has emerged with very little German knowledge, and blames this on the teaching. He has however managed to learn English even though he didn’t get this kind of classroom time in English. He feels if anything that the lessons at school just served to make him feel bad about German as a language.


Vergissmeinnicht – naja, das ist genau worauf wir hinauf sind…

This is not to do with any implicit dislike of German people or the country – indeed in 8 months time he means to move there on his own and wants now to learn sufficient German in the intervening 8 months to cope with the move and function properly in the country.

So I agreed to produce an 8 month plan of action for someone in this situation, but it will just be a first 8 months of an ongoing study plan, but in English and here for other people to benefit from who are in the same situation. Read the rest of this entry

Qui habet aures audiendi audiat, Audible!

It’s time for me to say publicly how unhappy I am about this policy of not allowing me to participate in some of the daily deals because I live in a different EU country to the UK. I am from the UK, I travel and work all over Europe and live in Poland, but in Europe we have a special law (ironically in this context) called the Treaty of Rome which grants us four freedoms, including freedom of the movement of people and of services and of goods.

Nothing can override these freedoms as they are lex specialis. The problem is of course, that the EU in its current form is full of good thoughts and ideas which are applied on a selective basis. When they want our votes we are told we have these rights, but afterwards there are 1001 ways in which they are limited, if only by resources but also by all the special interests which really pull the strings. How can it be that in the EU a publisher can release books in one country but not in another? I understand there can be good reasons to limit that. I understand for example “Mein Kampf” being illegal in Germany, but Mary Beard? What has she been saying that would stir shit up in Poland? Read the rest of this entry

To Polish people and others who use the term “Ms Amy”, “Mr David”, etc in English

Just for your information, a title plus the first name is decidedly old-fashioned in English now. We use it for people with very high titles, such as Sir Cliff (Richards), Dame Edna (Everage) but not Lord and Lady. Mr, Miss and Mrs were used only with surname already before Ms was revived in the 20th Century. Ms plus first name is recorded in the seventeeth century. Ms then went out of use for two centuries, (because it is actually short for “mistress” which took on a risqué meaning).

The use of any title less than Sir or Dame plus first name seems decidedly quaint now. One is put in mind of that traditional old Texas oil baron Jock Ewing, who persisted in calling his wife “Miss Ellie” even after they were married and even just before his funeral. I understand that this is a bit of a Texas thing.

Meeting his Dick (Whittington) ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a pasticine avatar of the same.

Meeting his Dick(Whittington)ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a plasticine avatar of the same.

In the English-speaking world, first names seem to be in general use now and in the main people do not even ask for permission to switch to it. However there are still situations where deference is called for, such as to a client or a teacher, in which case Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms or a professional/academic title like Dr or Professor are used with the surname. More highly honorific titles still, such as Excellency for embassadors, highness or majesty for royalty are not usually combined with names at all in direct address. It is also usually appropriate to use the term once in a meeting and then default to “sir, ma’am” after this. The use of first or second name after foreign titles used in English will follow the usage in the language of origin. Examples include Don Giovanni, Sheikh Yamani, Mufti Menk and Imam Bayildi.

Poem on the whole history of human language

I recently expanded my earlier metrical version of the Genesis account of Babel to include some further points on the history of language from that point onwards and beyond the veil of Eternity. Hope you enjoy this and find it edifying.

The earth had once one speech o’erall. One tongue men used, to tell
From th’East to Shinar’s plain they came and settled there, to dwell.
Among themselves did they conspire “Bricks let us make,” said they
“To building stones them throughly burn and slime for morter lay.”
“Go to,” said they, “a city great, a tow’r to reach the sky,
We shall construct unto ourselves, our name to magnify
Lest scattered far abroad we be the whole earth’s face around”
They built the walls from bricks they’d baked and slime from lime they’d found.

The Lord looked down at Adam’s kin and saw their undertaking
He knew that left alone this would become mankind’s unmaking
Although still in his infancy, not yet a million souls
Mankind was learning things with which he’d score fatal own goals
Adamic language and long life allowed the human mind
To know and build technologies while immature and blind
The Lord said “See, this people is by language unified
Now can no thing their power restrain their will to realise”

“Now let Us unto them descend, their language to confound
That each the other’s speech and tongue no more may understand.”
And so the LORD did scatter them all o’er the earth from thence.
Their city no more could they build. Its name is Babel hence:
That there the LORD in mighty pow’r the earth’s speech did confound,
And He from thence did scatter them the whole earth’s face around.
For here the Lord unto each soul his single language giving
Ensured that man’s wish was to be with but close kindred living

And so each man his nearest took and from the crowd did flee
They lived alone until they spoke one tongue per family
The mother taught the babies hers, the father also learned it
The elder siblings got to add some features if they earned it
And families at length combined by dint of need to wed
So tribal languages emerged as Babel’s tongues went dead
And tribe fought tribe, and strong tribes grew, their tribal tongue promoting:
The structure ever simpler, the word-stock ever growing

And as they filled the earth and crossed each hill and vale and river,
Some tribes grew great and in due course their languages did sever
Through ice and fire and flood and marsh men walked and faced all dangers
To use all space this world allowed and grow to outnumber angels
And language families emerged that had one time been one
But once again they could no more grasp one another’s tongue.
One tribe, the seed of Abraham, in whom all would be blest
Got history and prophesy to cherish for the rest.

But man since Babel always sought to get back there again
To build the city, raise the tower and make himself a name.
To make the countries all one state and into Unions bind
And place a ruler over all, as blind will lead the blind
Each man who tasted power’s rush soon hatched the grand ambition
To subjugate all men to himself as slaves to his volition.
But rulership of this world here is but for its Creator.
It is reserved for God the Christ and He shall take it later.

For only Christ makes all things good: he’ll teach us what was missing
And speak to us in tongues of men, while angels throng to listen.
And when the Resurrection comes and all things be made new,
That ancient tongue shall sound again, the one that Adam knew.
The lives of men became too short to learn that perfect tongue
But it will be a joy to learn for the forever-young.
And so when we are healed in heart, bodies and minds restored
Again we’ll learn that language giv’n to Adam by the Lord.

I came, I sawm, I conquered…

No, that isn’t a typo in the title. Yes, it is another one of my trademark painful interlingual puns.

Fasting – known as “sawm” – during Ramadan is one of the so-called five pillars of Islam, or obligations described in Islamic texts, which many Muslims follow, alongside actions such as prayer, giving alms and making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thus spake today’s article on the topic in the Daily Telegraph.  They seem to have missed one of the five pillars, as I can only count four there, but such errors have never been known to bother the modern journalist. For the sake of completeness I will provide the whole list of these so-called “pillars”: shahadah (or “testifying” which means stating their belief that Allah is the name of the only God and his messenger is Mohammed as if it were fact) prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage to Mecca. Read the rest of this entry

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 45,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head…

Recently on Facebook a friend by name of John who has a tendency to challenge people about faith questions, taking basically it would seem an opposing view to traditional Christian theology linked me in the course of a discussion about a series of photos I had uploaded showing our Christmas meal to the following article.

He also gave other links and each article had a numer of bones to pick with traditional Christian understandings of Scripture. In particular there wwas the old chestnut about “almah” not necessarily meaning a Virgin. I wrote the following rebuttal of that point:

I will take just one point for now, about Mary being just “a young woman” – clearly there is more meanings to almah than just “virgin” – one is reminded of Jungfrau in German – it means literally a young woman but is also the standard German word for virgin. There is no paucity of Germans and their literature in the world today so no room to get confused about that one, but clearly there is room for people to get confused about the semantic map of a word in classical Hebrew in an age where little Hebrew existed outside the remaining religious texts and even the Talmud is rather Aramaic than Hebrew.

The article argues that if Isaiah had meant virgin he would have used betulah not almah. But the same problem exists with betulah – all it really means is a woman who is to be married. Her chasteness is a societal presumption. There were no words in Hebrew of a medical or biological import describing intact hymens etc that have at any rate survived in the corpus of Hebrew writing. Therefore the self same objections could have been raised to betulah.

In the Bible almah never is used in the sense of a woman about to be married, it is always about young women in a society where extramarital chastity and intactness of the young is presumed.

But the biggest argument of course is why would Isaiah make a big deal about messiah being born of an almah if that simply means a young woman? Would anyone have expected a firstborn to be born of an old crone or of a man? The verse simply becomes absurd with this reading.

Another point is that a pregnant woman would have been honoured and not left with whatever was left, the claim of the article about the manger. This is all very well but as an argument it barely stacks up in a situation where foreign government has sent people around the country to the place the man was born in in order to register for tax there. This was a typical case of an ill thought-out government imposition of duty on citizens with the resultant usual chaos compounded by the fact that the Roman rule had no love for the Jews and probably were having a great laugh at the logistical nightmare they had created.

So we have no idea how many married couples with pregnant ladies were turning up in Bethlehem and of course Joseph had no way of booking ahead, I am sure he did what he could, but as for consulting tripadvisor off of a mobile phone, well I doubt his donkey was equipped with that. So he got the leftovers. It’s hard to imagine turfing out rich clients who have already paid top shekel for the good rooms or asking them would you mind budging over for a pregnant lady when there probably were already quite a few pregnant ladies wrapped up in the chaos.

But the real reason Jesus was placed in a feeding trough was again, prophetic. You see the feeding troughs such as they were resembled the ones you probably saw in the forests in Poland when food is laid out for deer. It is basically a trestle – two cross beams making X shapes at either end standing each on the bottom two feet while planks of wood join together the upper part of the X in a V shaped trough. In this goes straw, and the wrapped baby who is the Maker of each piece of mass or each photon or other unit of any physical force in this Universe is carefully placed inside it. You see Him between two crosses – just as he was on the day of His crucifixion. This is why He was born in this way.
John then replied:

“Leave the virgin birth out for the moment. We could have a long debate about it but let’s not. I should perhaps have trimmed the two articles to exclude it but I always prefer, if possible, to present complete articles rather than risk taking things out of context.

What I was really wondering was what you think of the suggested confusion of the words for inn and guest room and suggestion that the manger would have been located inside a house rather than in a barn. You may have relevant linguistic knowledge and I’m sure your opinion will be informed”.

Well, let us grab the part of the article that John refers to here:
So, what are we to make of the “no room at the inn” and the manger portion then? Well, he goes on to describe the common living quarters at the time, which was common place since the time of David through even the twentieth century time frame. Most common folk had small living quarters that consisted of mainly three sections in a house. The main room, the family room, was the large area where all daily life living took place, from eating to sleeping. There was usually a second room attached in the back, or sometimes on the roof, which was considered basically a guest room.

The family room portion was most often a few steps higher, off of ground level. As you entered into a home, on ground level, you had a small pinned off area, like a modern day “foyer” we’d have today, and then you would step up a few steps into the actual living area. That entrance was foyer area was where common folk brought in and stored their few family animals at night for warmth and protection. In the morning, they were taken outside and tied up in a courtyard area of the property, and that nightly stable area was cleaned for daily use.

At the edge of the living room area, within reach of the stable area, were elongated circular pocket style recesses in the floor where food for the animals could be stored and easily reached by them at night. These areas were referred to as mangers. So, if Joseph and Mary were staying in the house of someone that took them in, and Jesus was born in the family room and laid to rest in this recessed manger area, that would perfectly match the cultural scenario of the living quarters.

When it comes to the idea of the “inn” the original language gives us much insight on it’s own, but the cultural understanding makes it even more clear. Most understand this verse in Luke to be referring to a common hotel type place that had the no vacancy sign lit when Joseph arrived. However, the Greek word used here does not refer to a public lodging place. A public lodging facility, a lodging place for strangers, was a pandocheion (see Luke 10:34). The word used here in Luke 2:7 is the Greek word kataluma, which more properly means the guest chamber (and is translated as such in the Young’s Literal translation). We see this same word being used exactly as that in Mark 14:14 – and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ (see also Luke 22:11).

This guest room was, as mentioned before, the second major room of a common dwelling. So, in this case, if the family that took Joseph and Mary in, already had additional guests in the guests room, then we find Mary and Joseph sharing the front family room with their hosts, and therefore, when Jesus was born, he was laid in the manger portion of that family room, because the guest room was already taken.

There is so much more detail and historical as well as biblical backing for this explanation in his book, but this in essence is the overview of what would have been culturally understood at the time of Luke’s writing. All of this to say that Jesus wasn’t necessarily born in a barn, out in the cold, rejected by all the local living places, but was rather, born in the family room of a family who already had additional guests in the guest room.

This is basically at issue as earlier on in our discussion I had spoken of Jesus Christ as being the maker of every atom and yet placed in a feeding trough. I hadn’t actually made an issue of whether the manager was a separate barn or incorporated into an area where people also lived. I am fully aware that in earlier agricultural settings quarters could be shared with animals. To this very day the Chinese and Japanese character for a house or home

effectively represents a pig under a roof. There is also no doubt a wealth of archeological evidence that shows common usage of space between livestock and humans, be they the family members or servile ranks.
The issue really isn’t here as I cannot think of one single Christian doctrine which hangs on whether this all took place in a separate barn or not.
But let’s look at the text anyway, and pretend that it really matters what the cut-off between “kataluma” and “pandocheion” is, and see what happens.
Let’s have a look then at the Greek as it is seen in Luke 2.7
” καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι “. This is Textus receptus, Westcott-Hort by the way being the same except for one detail – it drops the “te” of “te phatne”. But KJV translates it as “a manger” anyway, ignoring the definite article, so once again the point is moot.
What would be less moot is that the kalatyma in question that they were turned away from was unlikely to have been a single room for the simple contextually obvious reason thatit says “διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι” or “because not was to/for them space/place in the katalyma”.

This makes it clear – they came with a reasonable expectation of using the katalyma, but there was no space left in it. If it were a single guest room there wouldn’t be a issue of space being in it. A guest room is for one person unless it’s like a dormitory or a hostel where people are sleeping in an open space who do not know each other. The point at issue was that they expected to stay there but there was no space for them. Talking about whether the Greek should have used “pandocheion” instead of “katalyma” is as pointless as arguing whether instead of an “inn” that could not accommodate them it was a B&B, or a hostel, or a motel, or a hotel, or a hostelry, a karczma, or a zajazd, or a Logis de France, or how many jolly Michelin stars the place had. Every language has a whole bunch of interchangeable terms for places that offer a night’s rest as their business. Getting into what the culture of it was back then is as irrelevant as trying to work out what Joseph’s budget was and if he was getting ripped off.

The point at issue was that they expected to be able to room in civilised conditions as understood at the time, and instead of this they find no room. No space. Ouk topos. End of topic.
So we move on to the word which is more pregnant with meaning the phatne. The translation “manger” is a good one as this is related to the verb in French for to eat, as is the word “phatne” related to the Greek work for eating also. This was a food container for animals. He was placed in a food container for animals and what this looked liked could have taken various forms – not likely so much to have been a hollow in the floor of a space intended for use by humans as it would not be practical to clean it, but there are stone troughs from that time still in existance, but generally speaking they would have been made from wood – wood doesn’t survive the centuries as well as stone so the numer like this of the total is probably not representative, but the most basic shape of a manger is basically this:
Effectively two wooden crosses with slats running between as I described in the thread. It is not so fanciful to envisage this as the place Jesus was laid.

The point of all of this is summarised later on by the Lord Himself when He spoke of His position in earthly terms:

“And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9 v 58).

Whether in birth nor in ministry did the Lord of all the Universe have a place to call His own in the Earth He made and owns. He was the sufferer of the gravest and greatest injustices this planet has ever produced, so that He would be qualified to judge or to forgive. Even in death his tomb was one given by a stranger. But that tomb was our place, and His rightful place was in all Eternity in Heaven at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
And the ownership of the whole world belongs to nobody but Christ. Although so many maniacs have sought to achieve this for themselves and will keep trying.
The answer, my friend, is to stop blowing against the wind of God’s truth with strawman arguments of little relevance like what Katalyma means or whether it should be a different translation to “inn”, like we really know such details. The answer is to bow the knee to worship one who made this sacrifice for us, to say “I am not worthy that the richest of the rich and fairest of the fair should have been made a homeless baby for my sake, should have been unjustly accused and finally killed brutally for my sake, but without this intervention, I would have had no hope. With it, I can by believing and repenting be acceptable and forgiven from my sins and have the seal of God placed on me so that I am counted among his flock at the end. I give up my rebellion and self-will and unbelief as futile and only helpful for the devil, and I seek to made one with God in Christ Jesus, because this, without my deserving, is what is promised to every believer”.
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