Because this page contains a fair amount of autobiographical information, I will occasionally bring it up to date. This update is on October 15, 2013. A general directory of what you can find on this and the related sites follows:
- Theological or Historical Essays
Caleb’s Eye II:
- Exodus through Deuteronomy
- Galatians (in progress)
Caleb’s Eye III:
- Joshua, Judges, Ruth and I Samuel (incomplete).
This website contains the entire texts of the book I wrote on Genesis. The book is a “self-published” book by AuthorHouse; it is available through Amazon, Alibris, Barnes & Noble, and AuthorHouse directly, so if you prefer to read actual books rather than computer screens, or if you would like to support what I am doing financially, that option is now available. What I say down below, about its un-publish-ability requires that I explain a bit. What I say below about the seeming impossibility of normal publishing is still valid. I would not have considered self-publishing, and indeed it would have been impractical for me to do so. This publishing was made possible through a donation from a patron who believes in the book enough that she was willing to under-write it. Obviously I owe her a great deal for providing this opportunity, more than I can say, and I hope the result will not be disappointing for her or anyone who may read it.
Besides this book on Genesis, I have completed a sequel to this book, one that discusses Moses in the same style and format as this one; at least, it is as nearly complete as I can make it. You can find it on Caleb’s Eye II, and use the link in the right hand margin. If you find my take on Genesis to be helpful, I hope you will find my take on Moses equally worthwhile. I am also currently working on a third book continuing these two and covering Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the first part of I Samuel. These will be posted on Caleb’s Eye III as I can get to them. On this site, I will post all miscellaneous poetry and shorter essays I may write. On Caleb’s Eye II I am doing a verse by verse discussion of Galatians as well if you would like to join in that.
This website is what I hope will become a place for on-going Bible study and discussion. On the one hand, I have long been writing a commentary/dialogue of/with the Bible. My original intent was to get it published by a reputable publishing company as part of pursuing my career goal of being a self-supporting writer. I am now convinced that what I am writing is not publishable through the usual channels, for several reasons which I will get to, but may nonetheless be worthwhile reading for some people. And since I am hoping that some of you out there will read these posts and be enriched by them, you deserve to know who I am, where I am coming from, and what you can expect if you do decide to read any of this.
First the disclaimer. I am not a theologian, nor a seminary graduate. My academic training is as a mathematician, and my employment, when I can secure any, is teaching math on the college level. I have taught everything from the freshman intro classes to graduate level classes, but this is obviously not credible credentials for being a commentator on the Bible. My lack of such credentials alone makes anything I write unattractive to most publishers (and some readers, perhaps). The modern age values the professional opinion, and it is right that we do so. But like all purely human values, it is also a handicap to filter out non-professionals. My creation of this web-site is obviously a way of asserting that I am one of those non-professionals who may have something to add. That, of course, is something that the rest of you must ultimately judge.
But there are other reasons this may not be publishable. I do have a rather patchwork denominational background. I was raised in the American South as a Southern Baptist, baptized at the age of eleven in Pelahatchie, Mississippi. Growing up in the deep South during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s eventually convinced me that Christianity was the source of all evil, and by the time I graduated high school I was mostly interested in what is now called New Age ideas. But at college, in California, my interests were altered when I attended a Congregational Church out of curiosity. I had never heard of congregational churches and was unprepared. Actually, the church service itself was of no consequence; I do not have any memory of what was said or done. I merely felt the confrontation of a person, whom I intuitively knew to be Jesus, who silently demanded my allegiance. He was a tangible, almost physical, presence. At that point I realized that whatever the failings of Christianity might or might not be, they were irrelevant; and however much I might personally dislike or despise Christianity or its history or its people, that also was irrelevant. It was on Jesus Himself that everything hinged; it was Jesus himself, and not the church, to Whom I owed a response.
My college years were spent with that congregational church, a couple of Presbyterian churches, and the Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship. It was the time of the Jesus People movement and the charismatic movement. I, like so many students, met with charismatic people who prayed for me to receive the gift of tongues. I didn’t get the “baptism of the Spirit” at that time; what I did get came months later, perhaps the following year. I woke up one morning simply filled with joy. It is nothing I can adequately describe; there was no emotional room in me for anything but joy. I was ecstatic, though without the tongues or prophesying or whatever. I can’t remember how long this lasted, several days I think, probably not more than a week, and then I woke up and it was gone. Just vanished with only a memory. Naturally I thought I had done something wrong and I spent a long time praying. I recall fasting for several days. The answer I got to my inquiry was very simple: you are called to live by faith, not by sight. The sort of spiritual delight I had been allowed to experience made it all easy, but the easy way is not the way we, or at least I, have been called to live.
Thus my college years made me a Christian, and something of a charismatic: I was convinced that the gifts of the Spirit all were real and present but that they were not intended to make the Christian life groovy, like a sort of spiritual hippiedom. After graduation I went to St. Louis, Missouri, and became involved in a Presbyterian Church connected to the ministry of Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri Fellowship. The pastor was a great man, Egon Middlemann, and in that church I learned some real theology; I got a respect for church history and for John Calvin and Martin Luther and Augustine, and many others, that I still have. And I met my wife, Kathryn, who had come to that church from a Catholic background. We were involved with the Presbyterian Church for thirteen years, and helped to establish a mission church where I became a “ruling elder” for four years. I was a seminary student for a year or so at Covenant Seminary, and then a seminary drop out as I realized that I could not fit peacefully, long term, in that denomination.
Kathryn and I had both felt for several years that we were called to move to a rural setting and in 1986 we did so – this is a long story in itself – and ended up in upstate New York with six children. We bought a small farm from an Amish man and soon joined a non-denominational charismatic congregation. We were members at that church for about thirteen or fourteen years, and I was also an elder there for four years, before doctrinal issues made it impossible to stay. During that time we became acquainted with some Amish families and developed an admiration for them as well.
Nearly seven years ago we joined the parish of Trinity Episcopal Church where we were very happy. The liturgical style is still something of a stretch for me, but I increasingly appreciate its value. We have a total of ten children, the last being born in 1998. When our children were all older, my wife Kathryn attended an Episcopal seminary, Nashotah House, finished in June, 2010, and was ordained as a transitional deacon. Now she has just been ordained as an Episcopal priest and has been called to be the rector of a small Episcopal church that is near where we live. This should give you another good idea of why what I write is not publishable. Theologically I fall in between the cracks: a fundamentalist/ Calvinist/ Anabaptist/ CryptoCatholic/ charismatic. It is no wonder everyone I send it to looks at it askance.
But there is yet another problem. I can’t help but write it as a mathematician. In other words, perhaps I am too organized, perhaps I am too analytical, perhaps I am willing to speculate more than I should; my style drives some people crazy. On the other hand, it is by grace that I am what I am. Minimizing who I am and how I think would also hide anything God might have intended to do through me when He made me up. I think in outlines, and that is what you will find here.
This actually grew out of a Sunday school class I taught for adults in which the goal was to read and discuss the whole Bible over the course of a year. I called it “Bible Overview”. We only got through the whole year once. Each time I taught the course again, I added to the notes I had taken previously. Since I did the course five times, it has now reached its gargantuan size. Currently I am rewriting and editing and I will post it as it becomes more or less finished – and if you have done much Bible study or writing, you know it is never finished.
I seldom consult commentaries except about technical details of Hebrew or Greek or history, so all the opinions tend to be my own and you can just blame me. There are ideas that have become part of my permanent mental furniture and I don’t really remember where they came from. That means there is danger of unintentional plagiarism and I can only warn you ahead of time. If you notice such a transgression, please let me know.
Other than a denominational hodge-podge, I am writing from the viewpoint of faith. I assume the Bible is a true revelation, and my default position is to believe what it says. More specifically, it is the true revelation of a Person, not a revelation of everything. Even more specifically, it is the true revelation of a Person through a series of covenants. The idea of a covenant seems to me a very useful organizational tool for understanding the Bible, and it seems to be one that the Author chose as well. Also my impulse is to organize events chronologically. A chronological organization makes sense to me because I assume the Bible is a progressive revelation. In other words, the Bible is one Person introducing Himself to other people. In that process, He doesn’t tell everything about Himself all at once. He gives increasingly intimate glimpses of who He really is as people adjust to what He already said.
So here then I will post my take on what the Bible says and I hope that pretty much anyone who reads this – if anyone does – will find it irritating, offensive, challenging, interesting, helpful, and worthwhile. What good is it to read something you already agree with? You learn nothing. It may be safe but it is also boring and a waste of your time. I pray that what I say will be just irritating enough to get you thinking but not so irritating that you just go away. The individual posts should work best if you read the Bible passage first and then the post and then the Bible again, back and forth. I use the New American Standard and the English Standard versions most often because they tend to be very literal translations, though occasionally awkward. I will post the material in “bite-sized” pieces, so that you can read one of them without too great an expenditure of time.
It is also my intent, time permitting, to post various theological essays, perhaps some political opinion pieces, perhaps some poetry. These are listed in the “categories” section along the right hand margin. The same caveats apply to them as apply to the Bible commentary: use them as they are helpful to you and leave them behind if they are not. The title for this website, Caleb’s Eye, was suggested by Kathryn, a reference to the spy who, with Joshua, brought back a good report of the Promised Land. The posts are my report of the Promised Land, or at least the Book about the Promised Land, as best I can understand it, as clearly as I can see it, hoping that you and I will be encouraged to go on in, and get out of this desert.