Saturday, November 15, 2014

Where's that found?

At a Hi-B.A. gathering in the late 1960s—Hi-B.A. is the Christian youth group I attended in northern New Jersey—the speaker quoted a scripture verse, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

“Where’s that found?” he asked the large room packed with teens.

“In the Bible!” a voice yelled, earning the audience’s laughter and applause and perhaps a bit of irritation from the speaker.

Okay. I confess. C’est moi. I’ve been like this my entire life.

Do you wonder, like I did, what kind of scholar the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was when he wrote,

For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”

Somewhere? Shouldn’t it be in Genesis, like the first or second chapter? Why didn’t he know this when he wrote? I learned later in my Bible student career that the Bible didn’t have chapters and verses until many centuries after the anonymous Hebrew author wrote. To be specific,

The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton's chapter divisions.
The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan's verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

So basically all the Hebrew scripture quoted in Hebrews was rattling around in the author’s head. He was a great scholar.

The other day my fellow Bible teacher at Sunbury Christian Academy instructed her young teen students in the use of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. As the students groaned under the weight of the volume, she quipped, “It will make your stronger.”

Strong’s and similar concordances were what we used in the pre-internet era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Its use is pretty simple:  You look up a word in alphabetical order and the concordance lists every place in the Bible that word appears, and a short segment of the verse. Every place. That’s why it weighs twenty pounds. That’s why you need a page magnifier to read the microscopic type.

How on earth did James Strong compile this book without the internet to search the document? I’m glad you asked.

Dr. James Strong was professor of exegetical theology at Drew Theology Seminary when he supervised a team of 100 scholars in creating this index to the King James Bible. (I imagine he chained them to desks like the monks who copied the New Testament.) The concordance was published in 1890, and the old professor graduated to Glory in 1894. You can read more about his amazing accomplishment and other concordances here:

Now I use, though I suppose there are many Bible search engines online. But when I need to know the Greek or Hebrew word behind the English word, I’m back to Strong’s or Young’s Analytical Concordance. There are what-pass-for-concordances at the back of many Bibles, but don’t bother. They’ll break your heart every time.

Reimagine the scene from my youth:  The Hi-B.A. leader quotes the verse and asks, “Where’s that found?” 

Every teen there whips out a smart phone and within seconds multiple voices call out, “Mark 16:15!”

Except that one girl who exclaims, “OMG! There’s a BOGO sale at Payless Shoes!”

Let me offer a better answer, the best answer, when you quote a Bible verse and someone asks, “Where’s that found?” 

In my heart.

Scroll down for obscure Bible college humor.

Here’s how we characterized concordances in Bible college:
Strong’s for the strong
Young’s for the young
Cruden’s for the crude

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

You might be a pagan if…

What is a pagan, anyway? If you don’t like words and word origins as much as I do, you might want to skip a few paragraphs. offers these definitions, with the warning that points two, three, and five are disparaging and offensive.

1. one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks: no longer in technical use.
2. Disparaging and Offensive. (in historical contexts) a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim; a heathen.
3. a follower of any of various contemporary religions that are based on the worship of nature or the Earth; a neopagan.
4. Disparaging and Offensive. an irreligious or hedonistic person.
5. Disparaging and Offensive. an uncivilized or unenlightened person.

(pagan. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: October 28, 2014).)

The word pagan appears fourteen times in the NIV New Testament; three of those times, it’s Jesus speaking in what’s commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. (I call it Kingdom Torah, but that’s a blog for another day.)

Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46 – 47

Here the translators used “pagans” to translate telonai, literally tribute collectors. So how come they came right out and said “tax collectors” in verse 46, but used “pagans” in verse 47?

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. Matthew 6:6 – 8

Jesus said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31 – 33

In both Matthew 6 passages, the translators used “pagans” to translate ethnikos and ethne, which mean “adapted to the genius or customs of a people, peculiar to a people, national suited to the manners or language of foreigners, strange, foreign in the NT savouring of the nature of pagans, alien to the worship of the true God, heathenish of the pagan, the Gentile.” (Love me some British spelling!) (

Non-word lovers, join us here.

All this to say, in first century Israelite usage, the Jews were “the people” and everybody else was “the peoples.” The outsiders. The goyim of the Old Testament. The pagans.

So what would you have to do for Jesus to call you a pagan? Worship multiple gods? (See definition one.) Worship nature or the Earth? (See definition three.) Be an uncivilized and unenlightened clod? (See definition five) No. None of those.

You might be a pagan if…

  • You only love those who love you first.
  • You only say howdy to your own peeps.
  • You babble on in your prayers, telling God what he already knows.
  • You worry about what you’re going to eat, drink, or wear when God has promised to provide all that.
  • You don’t seek God’s kingdom and righteousness before your own concerns.

You might be a pagan. Don’t get mad at me; I didn’t decide the criteria. Jesus did. 

Besides, I might be a pagan, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meet my character: Laney Odell

            Thank you, Carrie Anne Noble, for inviting me to blog hop. Carrie recently entered and won The Young Adult Fiction category of the ABNA contest with her novel the Mermaid’s Sister (originally titled Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree). I read the fantastic first three chapters during the contest, and I’m itching to grab the rest when it’s released on February 24, 2015. Go to Carrie’s blog to learn more about the Mermaid’s Sister and to see Carries answers to the Seven Questions.

            Now it’s my turn to answer the Seven Questions about my main character in Surviving Jamaica.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Fictional character Laney Odell lives with her quirky puppeteering grandmother, Meemaw, and attends a small Christian school while Daddy serves in Afghanistan and Mama continues inpatient therapy following a suicide attempt—details learned in Surviving Meemaw, the first book in the series.

2) When and where is the story set?
Surviving Jamaica tells the story of the senior class mission trip to the northeastern part of Jamaica, where the students mix sweaty work projects, puppet performances in schools and churches, and touristy fun.

3) What should we know about him/her?
Laney is confused and skeptical about the Baptist style Christianity practiced by Meemaw and the other students. She was raised Roman Catholic and usually feels on the outside. Laney entered puppetry reluctantly, but is now one of the best. She has late night conversations with Puppet Baby.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Laney feels the zing any time she’s near her witty, immature, artistic boyfriend Calvin, but also cares deeply for her wise, solid, geeky friendboy Josh. Preventing public humiliation by virtue of being Meemaw’s granddaughter is an ongoing conflict.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?  
Laney wants Daddy to return safely from Afghanistan and Mama to return to mental health so her family can be reunited. She wants her classmates to accept her, and she wants Calvin to kiss her. 

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Surviving Jamaica is hopefully the permanent title for the second book in Laney’s trilogy. Follow Roberta Brosius, Author on Facebook to read updates.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
Surviving Jamaica should be ready for your Kindle or Nook in time for Christmas. In the meantime, get ready by reading Surviving Meemaw. To order an autographed print copy, contact me. Go to Amazon to order the electronic version and to read reviews.

            Now it’s my turn to nominate two more West Branch Christian Writers and to ask you to hop over to their blogs next Tuesday to meet their main characters.

            Susan Rainey Lower has written in many fiction genres, including romance, children’s, and speculative fiction. She will answer the Seven Questions about her intriguing Work in Progress Troll Hunter. You can find Susan at

            Kathie Mitchell has written biblical nonfiction for Barbour. I am enjoying the laugh out loud excerpts from her Work in Progress, which she classifies as “hen lit.” Read her blog posts at

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sparrow Lessons

            It’s been a rough summer. When my school closed, I lost my ministry teaching teens and the income that paid for my family’s health insurance. Soon after that, my close friend and coworker of fifteen years died suddenly and unexpectedly. I would rather not be experiencing redirection and sorrow.

            I argue with myself about the weight of these losses:

            They are nothing compared to what many in the world are going through.

            But they still hurt.

            They don’t measure up to Ebola, beheadings, genocide, or Ferguson.

            But I’m still heartbroken.

            I should be glad to have many other friends and now a new job.

            But I feel like a refugee there, a displaced person.

            Refugee? More like a wimp.

            I can go on, being adept at arguing with myself and others, but then I remember the words of Jesus to his twelve followers two thousand years ago.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29 – 31, NIV)

            My Father cares about the huge things like war and human rights and hunger and disease. But he also cares about the piddling things like one person’s losses and resulting anxiety and grief.

            My Father’s care is not limited by a tight budget and decreasing tax revenues. It’s not limited by not-enough-hours-in-the-day. God’s love, care, power, grace, and mercy are unlimited.

            That’s a good lesson for this half-penny sparrow.