Saturday, June 24, 2017

“Not Just Jane” (Book Review)

How many people – especially women – enjoy fame in their day, but are soon forgotten after their deaths? You only need to scan a list of Academy Award winners to realize that it doesn’t take long for fame to die out, even for many who are really gifted. So true for the authoresses featured in Shelley DeWees’ Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature (Harper Perennial, 2016).

Wanting to make the world aware that there’s more to the English literature than some Jane Austin mixed with a little Charlotte Bronte, DeWees introduces her readers to seven famous women almost no one has ever heard of: Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. (Before reading the book, I was only vaguely familiar with two of them, and my husband a different two for different reasons.)

These authors had sad, often tragic, lives and struggled to make a living in what was truly a man’s world. More importantly, they once made strong contributions to Britain’s literary scene, yet won’t be found on today’s high school reading lists. DeWees might change that, however. She peeks into each woman’s backstory, showing how their work shaped their lives and vice versa. From poetry to short stories, from major works of fiction to political and social commentaries, these writers left a lasting impression, even if it generally goes unnoticed or unrecognized. DeWess is right. They deserve our consideration today.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Introduction to ‘Jewish Memorials, Christian Revelations’ (Bible Study)

The three pilgrimage feasts: There were other feasts celebrated by the Bronze and Iron Age Israelites of the Old Testament and the first century Jews of the New Testament, but these three held special significance. In the Torah, God commanded every Israelite male to congregate together and offer sacrifices in commemoration of important events in the nation’s early history. After King David conquered Jerusalem and King Solomon built the temple, millions of people journeyed to these sites three times a year to fulfill their religious obligations.

In the spring, it was the seven-day חג המצות (Chag ha-Matzot) or Feast of Unleavened Bread, linked with חג הפסח (Chag ha-Pesach) or Feast of Passover and חג הביכורים (Chag ha-Bikurim) or Feast of First Fruit. In the summer, it was the חג השבועות (Chag ha-Shavuot) or Feast of Weeks. In the autumn, it was the seven-day חג חסוכות (Chag ha-Sukkot) or Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of the Ingathering, marking the conclusion of the Jewish calendar year.

Each feast had its rituals and its traditions, developing over time, that the people meticulously followed. Yet when an itinerant preacher called Jesus of Nazareth stood up in the temple during the Feast of Booths, He challenged their faithfulness, arguing that they did not obey, or even properly understand, the instructions that had been handed down to them.

Later, when celebrating Passover with His disciples, He challenged their understanding of the symbolism behind the dining table, infusing Himself where the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt had been. Then, after bring crucified right before the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, He rose from the dead on the day of First Fruit, breathing new meaning into the centuries-old festival.

Glorified by God the Father, Jesus, recognized by his followers as the promised Messiah, ascended into heaven. However, on earth there was one more festival waiting to be reinterpreted. During the Feast of Weeks, the gift of the Torah was replaced with the gift of God’s Spirit, enabling those called “Christians” to transform the lives of others.

When reading the Gospel accounts, it is important for Christians to understand allusions to the Old Testament found in the New Testament. Jewish Memorials, Christian Revelations: The Pilgrimage Feasts in the New Testament offers an opportunity to learn how the knowledge of Jesus Christ brought about different meanings to the Jewish pilgrimage festivals. This study was inspired by Songs for the Road: The Psalms of Ascent published by She Reads Truth, but all of the material is original, cultivated from various Jewish and Christian sources on the feasts. Each lesson includes discussions questions suitable for either group study or personal devotionals. Additional readings can be found in מגילות‎ חמש (Chamesh Megillot) or the Five Scrolls, which are each traditionally read during a feast.

After years of studying this subject, it is a joy for me to finally be able to share what I have learned. I hope that you find Jewish Memorials, Christian Revelations both informative and edifying. Thank you.

Jennifer Vaughn-Estrada

Note: This women’s Bible study will begin on Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 10 a.m. and meet monthly at Alhambra Church of Christ (Alhambra, California). Feel free to join us if you’re in the area.