What To Read: Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

(Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series)

Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri

And now for a bit of more serious reading…. Back when I was a Protestant I liked to read Bible commentaries. A Bible commentary is a book which explains, verse by verse, what the verses of a book of the Bible actually mean. A good Bible commentary is written by a Bible scholar who teaches in a seminary or a Christian college, who knows the Bible book in its original language, who is familiar with important archeological discoveries that shed light on the Bible, or important issues about the surviving manuscripts involved.

When I became a Catholic it felt like all the work I did studying Bible commentaries and attending college Biblical theology classes were all in vain. I had to relearn everything ‘in Catholic.’ But finding a good Catholic Bible commentary was not so easy— until the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series came out.

These commentaries are just like the Protestant commentaries I am more familiar with. They are accessible to lay persons, but have enough content to be a reference for pastors/priests preparing a sermon/homily.

One difference, though, is that each section ends with a short ‘Reflection and Application’ section. This is good for the Christian, because Christians believe that we are not supposed to just interact intellectually with the Bible, but apply its teachings to our lives.

This first volume of the series (they don’t have commentaries on the Old Testament books. Yet.) is on the Gospel of Matthew. A Gospel is an account of the life of Jesus Christ, and the four earliest-written Gospels were written by Apostles— leaders of the early Christian church. In the case of the Apostle Matthew, writer of the Gospel of Matthew, we are dealing with an author who was an actual witness of the life of Jesus Christ— Matthew was chosen by Jesus Christ to be one of the ‘Twelve,’ an inner circle of disciples who received more teaching and, in the traditional interpretation, were ordained to be priests/pastors at the Last Supper.

The Gospel of Matthew really starts off telling the story of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the beginning— with a genealogy list. The authors of the commentary are very aware that this genealogy is a stumbling block to some readers of the Gospel— especially those new to Bible reading who start off with the first Gospel.

The whole text of the Gospel, in the New American Bible translation, is provided, which I like because I don’t like having to flip back and forth between two books, a Bible and a commentary. OK, I do that anyway because I prefer the KJV translation (and have one with the Deuterocanonical books.)

Protestants unfamiliar with Bible commentaries may get upset about quotes from Early Church Fathers and saints and the like (even though I first learned about Early Church Fathers from Protestant sources,) but you don’t have to pay attention to these things if you are not interested in them.

I very much enjoyed reading this commentary and I plan to buy and read more in the series. I ALSO intend to buy and read more volumes in the old Tyndale Bible commentary series, which I have liked since my teen years.

Lenten & Wuhan-Coronavirus Greetings from

Nissa Annakindt, her cats & critters, plus new lamb Daisy

Daisy

 

 

 

 

 


My Facebook author page includes updates when I post a new blog post, so if you are on Facebook, please visit and ‘like’: https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats


PERSONAL UPDATE:

I have recently finished a short book about blogging, called ‘Getting More Blog Traffic: Steps Towards a Happier Blogging Life.’ I’m currently trying to figure out how to turn my Scrivener project into someone the Kindle Create software can work with. (Wish me luck!)

What to Read: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

Deus Vult

Saint Tommy, NYPD Book 6

Declan Finn

I had some earlier books in the Saint Tommy series on my Kindle last year when I went to the hospital and other places, and those books really took my mind off grim reality.

The main character, Tommy Nolan, is a NYC cop. If you like one of those Law & Order shows but wish it had fewer anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and pro-abortion moments, this series may be a real treat for you.

If you are well-informed on the Catholic concept of a saint, you may wonder how Tommy can be ‘Saint Tommy’ when he isn’t dead yet. Author Declan Finn is well-aware of this, judging by the books. He’s got every darn demon in the Greater NYC area offering to make Tommy into a full-qualified (dead) saint.

What Tommy has is some strange spiritual gifts that have been reported in the lives of certain saints while those saints were yet alive. Tommy can smell evil, can bilocate and levitate, and cool stuff like that which is quite useful to a working cop.

In ‘Deus Vult,’ Tommy just wants to spend some quality time with his wife and kids, but he’s caught up in a case. A monastery has been desecrated and monks brutally murdered, and the local demons are gathering to make yet another attempt to doom Tommy.

The term ‘Deus Vult’ means ‘God wills it,’ in case you don’t know. I didn’t and had to look it up. The genre might be described as faith-based urban fantasy, and it’s quite exciting. I also think it’s good because it shows that a formidable police officer can also be a man of faith and a family man.

There is (Catholic) religious content, but the book doesn’t feel like a bland faith-lesson or a tame work of stereotypical Christian fiction. It takes you in to places where you see the seamier side of life, but you are in the company of a man of faith and God is on our side. I would recommend it as an exciting read, even if I didn’t personally share the author’s faith.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I’ve known the author, Declan Finn, in an internet kind of way for a few years now. Right now, Declan Finn and his wife are having some troubles, They are/were in Italy when Italy shut down, and when trying to leave the country walking through the wrong door at the airport led to being detained and they still aren’t home safe as of this writing. But they have a batch of FB folks praying for them and they are supposed to leave Italy today.

 

What to Read: His Majesty’s Dragon

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire series)

Naomi Novik http://www.naominovik.com/

His Majesty’s Dragon is the first book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. I first read it when I stumbled upon it in the local library in Stephenson, Michigan.

The story follows William Laurence, captain of a British naval ship in a Napoleonic Wars era in which dragons are a weapon of war used by both sides. Captain Laurence captures a French ship which has a dragon egg about to hatch. It is standard practice to harness a baby dragon immediately after hatching, and it will bond to the person who does the harnessing.

Laurence hates to order any of his officers to attempt the harnessing. Being in the Aerial Corps is a major step down from being in the Royal Navy. But the officers draw lots for it anyway.

But when the dragonet hatches, he doesn’t want anything to do with the young officer meant to harness him. He speaks to Laurence instead— and accepts harnessing and food from him, becoming Laurence’s dragon. Laurence became his person.

Laurence names the dragonet Temeraire after a navel ship which has a cool name, and puts his second-in-command in charge of the ship. He will have to be leaving the Navy now that he is in charge of a dragon. And the step down in life position this change brings will mean he has to let his fiancee go since Laurence is now no longer respectable enough.

The Aerial Corps isn’t thrilled to have a Navy man for a new dragon captain, either. But attempts to replace Laurence with a properly trained man from the Aerial Corps just make Temeraire angry, and you don’t want to make a rapidly-growing big young dragon angry.

Laurence and Temeraire bond. Temeraire is a highly intelligent companion and likes for Laurence to read to him. Laurence discovers from a dragon expert that Temeraire is a Chinese breed of dragon, probably an Imperial, the second-rarest kind of Chinese dragon. (As it turns out, he’s really a Celestial, the rarest kind.)

Laurence and Temeraire must go to a covert to receive training in dragon war methods and tactics. Temeraire does not care much for the formation flying they have to do, though he masters it enough that he can come up with formation ideas of his own.

Temeraire must test himself in some aerial skirmishes with French dragons before long. He and Laurence prove themselves.

In the other books in the series, things do not go smoothly for Laurence and Temeraire. The Chinese discover what became of their stray dragon egg— meant as a gift for Napoleon himself— and want Temeraire sent home to China. Since Temeraire refuses to be parted from Laurence, he has to go to China as well.

There is a dragon epidemic in another book, and in another Laurence is condemned as a traitor which results in his and Temeraire’s eventually being sent to the colony at Australia, where they meet the colony’s former governor, Bligh, who is best known as captain of the HMS Bounty.

In the final book in the series, League of Dragons, Napoleon is finally defeated, as is Napoleon’s dragon Lien, Temeraire’s relative and arch-enemy. The story wraps itself up nicely and it looks like Temeraire and Laurence have a fine future which may even include Temeraire becoming a member of Parliament.

I find the Temeraire series to be such compelling reading that I have read the books over and over— even the ones I have to read from the library. (Note to self: return those Temeraire books to the library. Soon.) To me that’s the mark of a really good book— when you get done you feel like reading it again.

Thank you for visiting my blog & God bless,

Nissa Annakindt

Have you read any of the books in the Temeraire series? Did you like it/them? What did you think? Or have you read some other dragon-related book that you think is better? Tell me about it in a comment.

Today is a Friday in Lent, a time to fast, pray, sacrifice, or at least avoid mortal sin.

Please visit my Facebook author page:  https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats

Fixing Your Pathetic Facebook Author Page

Do you have a Facebook author page? Is it totally pathetic like mine? Facebook pages used to be a fun thing and easy enough to gain followers on, for free. I used to ‘like’ as my page a few dozen other pages on the same or similar topics, and I’d interact with those pages as my page and share cool posts from them that were related to the topic of my page and life was good.

Then Facebook changed pages and there was no longer a feed of stuff you liked as your page so you had to relike it as you and since Facebook no longer showed your page posts to most of the people who’d liked your page unless you spent advertising money with them life was not so good.

I had planned to delete my author page. But then I found out that my WordPress . com blog would no longer syndicate my blog posts to a Facebook personal page, nor to a Facebook group (which is probably good.) The only way was to keep syndicating to my author page.

Facebook author pages, like other pages, now suck, but there are ways to make them suck less. They won’t be as popular as they were back in the day, but without spending a dime there are things you can do, right now, today, to make your Facebook author page better.

  1. Post something on your page today. Something personal, posted directly on Facebook and not through Buffer or WordPress. Preferably something relatively on topic, or something about your cat. (All authors have cats, right?) And post something tomorrow, and the day after, and so on for the next 7 to 14 days.
  2. Syndicate your blog posts to your FB author page. WordPress lets you do that right when you post. With Blogger, you have to do it by hand (which FB likes better, anyway) or do it through your Buffer account. That means your author page will have new content every day you blog. Continue doing this with every blog post you write for the next 7-14 days.
  3. Find the author blog list and “like” other author blogs. Share some of the nicer posts to your own FB author page. Try to find a fresh author FB page to “like” every day for the next 7-14 days. Extra credit: Find this blog’s ‘Contact Me’ page and use the email form to let me know the URL of your FB author page so I can add you to the list. Let me know your genre(s) as well— I am going to be adding that to the list in future.
  4. Make a FB author page list for your own blog. OK, if you don’t have a blog (yet,) you might make a ‘note’ on your FB author page itself that includes your list. Or some other online place. NOTE: I tried to add FB author pages to a Blogger blogroll and Blogger could not detect a feed for that page, so that’s one idea that won’t work.
  5. Do ‘Housecleaning’ on your author page. Is your profile pic for your author page an actual picture of you? People relate to actual people pictures. A relatively current photo is nice unless you are as old and decrepit as me. I use older photos. I had thought of commissioning an artist to do an anime-style me, but haven’t got around to that yet. But make sure you take down any stuff on your author page that no longer belongs there. I have an old picture of a kitten in a boot (cover picture) that needs to be replaced by a new ‘kitten in boot’ picture, but alas I didn’t take one when my current three kittens (Jon-with-Rice, Moira and Declanna) were small enough to fit in boots.

Do these things, or some of these things, right now, today, and for the next 7-14 days. At the end of that time, your author page may not be as epic as FB pages used to be, but it will be better. And more useful to your writing career (or future writing career.)

My Facebook author page: (Please visit & ‘like!’) https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats

My Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy FB group (author networking) https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

Readers Group for Christian SF & Fantasy FB group (book promos allowed if in genre) https://www.facebook.com/groups/620983407928009/

Mediums, Psychics and other Fantasy Creatures

Recently I’ve been buying and reading some of the books in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, and have read ‘A Study in Sable,’ which features Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson (& Mrs. Watson) as characters. But what the book also features is Sarah Lyon-White, a medium, and Nan Killian, a psychic.

The disturbing part is that in the real world when we encounter someone who is labelled a medium or a psychic, we are encountering a con artist. Some of the ‘information’ provided by these con artists is the result of secret research— they know Mrs. Smith’s only son recently died, or that Mr. Terry has certain financial woes. Other information comes from the process of ‘cold reading.’ The psychic/medium guesses, ‘I see an older male spirit who wishes to speak to you,’ and they can tell by the subject’s reaction whether that’s what they are looking for. If the cold reader guesses wrong, he’ll say ‘No, not a older male, it’s a female.’ The subjects tend to forget the wrong initial guesses and say ‘that psychic was so great, she knew is was my great-aunt Felicity I wanted to contact and that she was an embalmer and had four children and a pet orangutan.’ Even though the cold reader guessed wrong two dozen times to come up with that info.

The medium character is used to place tired old Spiritualist ideas into the story, like the idea that ghosts surround us and can communicate, using the proper medium, that some of the dead stay because they don’t know they are dead or that they fear the ‘false’ idea of hellfire, and that other disembodied spirits have unfinished business like hidden finances they want to tell their widow about or solving their own murders.

These Spiritualist ideas are not backed by any scientific research. They also go against what Judaism and Christianity have taught about what comes after death. The problem with embedding these ideas in fantasy fiction is that some readers think that the author is endorsing the real-world Spiritualist viewpoint as true.

The medium and psychic characters are also referred to as having ‘gifts’— clairvoyance and telepathy, respectively. There is nothing in Judeo-Christian teaching which says having clairvoyance and telepathy are sins, but there is nothing in the Bible or in the Church Fathers to indicate that clairvoyance or telepathy were even known to the Biblical authors or the Fathers. And science has examined the ideas of telepathy and clairvoyance and not had any great success in finding people with these gifts.

‘A Study in Sable’ and books like it bring with it a moral problem. If some readers might be led astray into accepting mediums and psychics as real, we can’t honestly recommend the books to others. We probably shouldn’t be reading books like this too often even if we DO know better. Both from a scientific and a Judeo-Christian perspective, this book and those like it present a problem.

Now, I have been reading Mercedes Lackey books obsessively for years and I just presumed that Lackey was a neopagan or Wiccan  of some flavor, and had a low opinion of Christians that might be termed ‘hate’ if Christian-hate were considered bad like antisemitism and Muslim-hate are. But I have heard from a Christian writer that she met Mrs Lackey at a writing conference and that she says she is a Christian. Given the viewpoints in her books, however, one can’t term them ‘Christian fiction’ in any sense, and I don’t know if Mrs Lackey goes to a church that teaches historic Christianity or a ‘post-Christian’ church like the Presbyterian denomination I grew up in, the PC-USA (which is ‘post-Christian’ because it no longer requires members or clergy to believe/teach anything specific about Jesus Christ, like He is part of the Holy Trinity and the Son of God.)

I still enjoy reading Mercedes Lackey books in spite of content concerns, but I do not recommend them to teenagers, people in their twenties, or Christians who have not learned their catechism yet. You need a bunch of knowledge and discernment under your belt first, if you don’t want to be led astray.

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Death Eaters were Right about Purebloods

In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the bad guys prefer ‘pureblood’ wizarding families to half-blood or Muggle born wizards. And that makes them bad and prejudiced, according to the book’s author. But the plain fact is, the Death Eaters were right. Pureblood wizarding families ARE better.

Wizarding ability is inherited through the genes, and there is no clue in the series that the essential wizarding genes behave differently from other genes. When a wizard marries a ‘witch,’ the offspring can inherit magic from both sides. When he marries a Muggle (non-magical person), the children can only get magic from the one parent.

It is possible for a wizard to be born from Muggle parents, but that is very rare. One may assume, though, that in half-blood marriages between wizard and Muggle, there are a lot of non-Magical children born.

Wizards don’t want to die out. It’s clear that if most or all wizards reject the ‘pureblood’ prejudice and marry Muggles freely, the number of wizard-gifted children born grows smaller and smaller, and the Wizarding world might well shrink.

The prejudice against Muggle-born wizards may have its basis in facts. Do Muggle-born wizards have as many wizarding genes as the average pureblood wizard? Probably not! They are lucky to have any wizarding gift at all! They are a needful addition to the possibly-shrinking wizarding world, but they are more likely to have squib children.

Of course, these days wizards can figure out which genes are connected to wizarding, and figure out who has which genes. A marriage to a Muggle who has some wizarding genes isn’t as bad as one to a Muggle with no wizarding genes. And a pair of pureblood wizards might have very different wizarding genes and not be able to pass on the traits well, while a different pair might be destined to produce strongly gifted children.

A Writer’s Reading Life

Writers— at least writers with the potential of writing readable books and having writing careers— are readers. If there are no books handy, a writer will read the back of a cereal box while having breakfast. A male writer who prefers adventure fiction will read an Amish romance if he’s stuck somewhere with only that reading material available.

Writers must read books because writers must know books the way plumbers know pipes. Watching TV shows and movies does not cut it. Books and movies are different art forms and there are different tricks of the trade. Movies and television shows are created out of a groupthink process which involves input from dozens of people besides the head writer. Books nearly always come out of one person’s head.

When we are children, we can read whatever appeals to us. We may decide later in life that the books we used to like were substandard or filled with propaganda for an author’s viewpoint, but our childhood books were good enough for us at the time.

Once we identify as writers, we need to widen our reading. It’s not enough to just read what we like, or snap up the latest book from the handful of authors we have come to trust. As writers, books and the ideas we get from books are our tools. And we need enough tools to make stories of our own.

First, we need to read in the genre that we are writing in. Not just older books in that genre. You need to know what people are writing in the genre right now. You may come across some dreadful things. Feel free to give that author a pass next time. But you need to know your genre. There is nothing sadder than a science fiction author who only reads science fiction stories from the 1950s, and tries to copy that in his fiction.

Second, we need to read good literature. When I was in college, it seemed that ‘good literature’ meant Ernest Hemingway and I couldn’t stand Ernest Hemingway. But I found other good authors to love. I even took a class on the works of C. S. Lewis once. And I had read Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare on my own before I even got old enough for college. Now, the disadvantage on good literature is that when we want to read more recent good literature, it’s hard to find. Instead, we get fiction that’s loved by the progressive-university crowd that has a lot of political correctness but is not readable by ordinary people the way Charles Dickens’ books were.

Third, we need to read non-fiction of interest by qualified authors. With the advent of self-publishing, there is a lot of dreck out there being published by people who know little to nothing of their own topic, but who have read an ebook on how you can make money writing non-fiction. We don’t want to read that. We want to read books by people who know things. A book on ancient Egypt by an archeologist who can read ancient Egyptian and knows the names of the Pharoahs by heart. A book about a prison camp in WW2 written by one of the prisoners who survived. A memoir about growing up in Venezuela or Nepal, by someone who had that experience. Reading that kind of book gives you more writing ideas. It also makes you a better informed person.

Do we need to read every book that is ‘hot’ right now? I don’t think so. The Western writer Louis L’Amour, whose novels can still be bought in Walmarts today, once wrote a poem about how he hadn’t read the novel ‘Gone With The Wind’ when that was the novel everyone was reading. We can skip popular fiction that doesn’t appeal to us, because there is always always more coming along. Now, if there is something ‘hot’ and exciting that is in your genre and is something your readers probably will read, if you choose not to read it you should at least learn a little bit about it.

Where will you find time for all that reading? The same way you find time for writing your novel and for doing writing-related social media— you make the time. You look at your schedule and find bits of time you can re-purpose. Some of us read when we are doing other things— I often have a book handy when I’m watching TV, so I can read during the commercials. Some folks listen to audio books when commuting or doing housework. Whatever it takes. Your reading time is part of creating your identity as a professional writer, who is someone who has to read because it’s part of the job.