Abstinence-Only Education?

Here is a post from a friend on Facebook and my response, there were also 25 previous responses and numerous comments that will not be reproduced below.


Random thought time. I support comprehensive sex education purely on the empirical ground that it produces better results. But I’ve often heard fellow supporters of comprehensive sex ed deride abstinence as “unrealistic.” How does that square with the principle that consent is essential and rape is inexcusable? Because let’s face it, not everybody is going to find a consenting partner. Abstinence had better be realistic, or else you’re condoning rape culture. Agree or disagree?


Lots of fair-minded people here. Is there such a thing as “abstinence-first” education?

Yes, if we were to actually tell kids that sexual desire is an irresistible force, then we would be putting those who do not have a consenting partner into an untenable spot where “I need this.” and “She wants this.” are more justifiable in their minds.

I don’t think “rape culture” would be addressed by encouraging masturbation as an alternative. There is a desire for power over another human that drives rape (and murder and most other acts of violence); this is something that we address as early as kindergarten with “Please and Thank You.”

What needs to be combatted in high schools and colleges is the glorification of sexual conquest. Whether their partner is consenting or not, many men feel pressured by their peers (their general society) to exhibit their manhood. Our society as a whole does a poor job of conferring adulthood to our kids. High school graduation is very impersonal, 18th birthdays are not often celebrated much different than 17th, etc….

As it comes to abstinence-only education, one of its flaws is that one day these kids will become adults with only a marginal sexual education. Although they may stay abstinent until marriage, they then have little idea about what they are doing. Abstinence-only education “should” be complemented by more comprehensive education at home or through other institutions; but that is hardly happening. Most kids educate themselves through experience (often secondhand) or through pornography. Our education in schools should therefore be crafted as a better alternative than those.

Sometimes the goal of sexual education is for people to remain physically healthy. Proponents of abstinence-only education (should) have the goal of societal healthiness. But there is no reason to attempt to shoot the moon for societal healthiness without educating folks about physical healthiness as well. “Abstinence-first” is an apt name for this approach within the current climate, but I’m sure a better name could be found.

Any thoughts on how we can better confer adulthood upon the youth in our churches?

I think youth should be given a comprehensive sexual education, but am unsure what role the state should play in this. What are your thoughts?

Predestination and… Relationships

The last few months I have read a few blogs discussing the idea of “Soul Mates” or “The One.” And, in a Christian context, the questions spin off into whether two people are “predestined” to be together, or whether a certain relationship is part of “God’s plan.”

It is often a fun topic to discuss about with others, but sometimes we may find ourselves in positions where we ask these questions about our own circumstances.

“Is it God’s plan for me to marry this girl?”

“If I start dating that guy, will I be throwing away God’s plan for my life?”

“How do I know if my boyfriend is the one?”

Though many of my friends are at that point of life where they are crossing to the “other side” of singleness / marriage, I still have many good friends and two younger syblings who have yet to do so. I do not want these people whom I love to make decisions based on “guessing” God’s will or, as is usually the case with guessing, trotting out their selfish desires under the banner of “God’s will.”


Because I like math (and, to a lesser extent, algebra), this is often the scenario we present before ourselves (you can replace “path” with “guy/girl” to make it about dating):

“If I tried, I could probably take path X, path Y, or path Z. Which path does God ‘plan’ for me to take? If I choose path X, and He wants path Y, am I out of step with God? Or if I choose path X, is that the one He wanted for me anyway? And, if, down the line it appears that path X is a mess and perhaps Z would have been the best choice, does that mean that I was disobedient in choosing X or that this brokenness I have experienced with X is somehow all a part of His plan?”

So now, after all that, do you feel more or less prepared to make a decision about the “paths” in front of you? How do you make that decision?


Ultimately, you should always choose to love. Do I persue this girl? Do I break-up with this girl? Both questions could be answered with either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Either answer could be the loving thing to do.

And we are not always eqipped to answer these questions without the bias of emotion or hormones. So, prayer and the counsel of friends who love you are to be sought when navigating these waters.

We aren’t choosing “paths” as in a series of steps that we will inevitably take. We are making a series of individual decisions each, hopefully, predicated upon love.

Is it by free-will that we make these choices or is it by God’s providence? Well, if you are choosing (by whatever you perceive to be your own free-will) to love as God loves, then it will be both.

Who is your future spouse? You are single. Is your boyfriend your Soul Mate? He is your boyfriend. Is your wife The One? She is your wife (and a smokin’ hot one, by the way).

As a newly married man, I will remind everyone that it is Always loving to honor the committment you have made to your spouse. And, on the flip side, while you have invested yourself to quite a degree while dating, you have not committed your entire life to that person until your marriage day.


If our choice to love leads us into lives that have much hurt and despair in them, we may think of what would have happened had we made different decisions. Yes, our lives would be different. Though there is no guarantee of less suffering, there is a guarantee that you will have loved less. Jesus himself guaranteed that those who loved as he loved would face suffering because of this.

But let us be careful, in many cases where there is abuse, brokenness, and infidelity, there were indicators beforehand. Some of us, swamped with “emotions and hormones,” may have ignored these indicators. And here I advocate again for seeking the counsel of God and of loving friends.

And if you are being walked over or perhaps being physically abused, then it is loving toward the other person to disallow them that abuse. I am not a counsellor, but I believe no counsellor would tell you to maintain the status quo in such a situation. For those married, separation is not synonymous with the desolution of marriage, even if life for a time afterward closesly resembles such.

God Created The Heavens And The Earth

Here is a rendition of the opening story of creation in the Book of Genesis. The story is told in the frame of a week. There are eight acts preformed by God, each beginning with “And God said.” For each of these acts there is a five-part literary formula followed. There is the act of creation, a statement affirming actual creation, specification on what that actual creation was, praise that the creation is good, and then a note marking that a day had passed.

Marking each day may not be part of this five-part formula. Twice, two acts occur on the same day; additionally, the statement of a day passing makes no reference to the creation that occurred on that day. But before we conclude that the marking of the day was added later to the text, we must recognize the parallel form between the first set of three days and the second. So, even if the marking of the day is not part of the literary formula; the text is constructed originally to fit the six days of creation. Perhaps these markers are designed to be sub-headings (or sub-“footers” being that they follow each day).

The first act, the Creation of Light, serves as a template for this formula. Whereas in further acts the phrases “And God saw that it was good” and “And it was so” are used, in the first act there is no pronoun. “Light” is used in place of “it.” This may serve as an introduction to the literary formula for readers of this passage or it may be of little significance. This first act also transposes two aspects of the formula, the Praise and the Specification. My guess is that this is a grammatical consequence of including the noun “light.”

Here is the text from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3, where this passage ends. My sub-headings are in bold while the rest of the text is taken without alteration from the ISV translation of the Bible. I chose the ISV mostly because of its readability and simply because it is of contemporaneous interest to me. The five parts of the formula are (C)reation, (A)ffirmation, (S)pecification, (P)raise, and the (D)ay marking.


Prologue: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. When the earth was unformed and desolate, with the surface of the ocean depths shrouded in darkness, and while the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters,


C: God said, “Let there be light!”
A: So there was light.
P: God saw that the light was good.
S: He separated the light from the darkness, calling the light “day,” and the darkness “night.”
D: The twilight and dawn were day one.


C: Then God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water!” So God made the expanse, separating the water beneath the expanse from the water above it.
A: And so it was.
S: God called the expanse “sky.”
D: The twilight and the dawn were the second day.


C: Then God said, “Let the water beneath the sky come together into one area, and let dry ground appear!”
A: And so it was.
S: God called the dry ground “land,” and he called the water that had come together “oceans.”
P: And God saw how good it was.

CREATION OF PLANTS (Day Three, continued)

C: Then God said, “Let vegetation sprout all over the earth, including seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, each kind containing its own seed!”
A: And so it was:
S: Vegetation sprouted all over the earth, including seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, each kind containing its own seed.
P: And God saw that it was good.
D: The twilight and the dawn were the third day.


C: Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to distinguish day from night, to act as signs for seasons, days, and years, to serve as lights in the expanse of the sky, and to shine on the earth!”
A: And so it was.
S: God fashioned two great lights {—} the larger light to illumine the day and the smaller light to illumine the night {—} as well as the stars. God placed them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the earth, to illumine both day and night, and to distinguish light from darkness.
P: And God saw how good it was.
D: The twilight and the dawn were the fourth day.


C: Then God said, “Let the oceans swarm with myriads of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth throughout the sky!”
A: So God created
S: every kind of magnificent sea creature, every kind of living sea crawler with which the waters swarmed, and every kind of flying bird.
P: And God saw how good it was.
Blessing & Order: God blessed them by saying, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the oceans. Let the birds multiply throughout the earth!”
D: The twilight and the dawn were the fifth day.


C: Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth each kind of living creature, each kind of livestock and crawling thing, and each kind of wild animal!”
A: And so it was.
S: God made each kind of wild animal, along with every kind of livestock and crawling thing.
P: And God saw how good it was.

CREATION OF MAN (Day Six, continued)

C: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, to be like us. Let them be masters over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly, the livestock, everything that crawls on the earth, and over the earth itself!”
Blessing & Order: So God created mankind in his own image; in his own image God created him; he created them male and female. God blessed these humans by saying to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and be master over it! Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds that fly, and every living thing that crawls on the earth!” God also told them, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant that grows throughout the earth, along with every tree that grows seed-bearing fruit. They shall produce your food. I have given all green plants as food for every wild animal of the earth, every bird that flies, and to every living thing that crawls on the earth.”
A: And so it was.
P: Now God saw all that he had made, and, indeed, it was very good!
D: The twilight and the dawn were the sixth day.

Epilogue: With this the heavens and the earth were completed, including all of their vast array. By the seventh day God had completed the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he stopped working on everything that he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God stopped working on what he had been creating.


First notes on the minor aberrations in the formula:

In the second act, the Creation of Sky, the Praise is missing. This may be the result of Moses or a later scribe removing one of the Praises so that there would exist 7 in total, a holy number. It may have accidentally been removed by a scribe or there may be further significance in its absence following the separations of the waters.

In the sixth act, the Creation of Birds and Fish, the Affirmation is missing. In its place the Hebrew verb “create” is used. This verb is different than the verb “make” which implies physical fashioning; “create” means to cause to be or bring into being, so it is a fair substitution for the actual verb “to be.” This change in the formula may have been akin to that posited above, to have 7 Affirmations instead of one for each of the eight acts. Why is it missing here? It is hard to say.

In the final act, the Specification is missing, but it exists in some manner in the elongated Praise. The Praise here is not simply “And God saw that it was good.” There is the added clause “all that he had created, and indeed…”. This functions as Specification, because it is pointing to something about God’s creation.

The Specification part of the formula is in some ways a catchall for the phrases appearing between the Affirmation and the Praise. But, it also points to the naming of creation, the process of creation (making, placing, according to their kinds, separating, fashioning, etc…), and emphasizes God’s hand in creation (except for the sprouting of vegetation, which does not allude to God). In the second act, the Creation of Sky, there is a bit of Specification placed before the Affirmation.

Blessing & Order:

This was not mentioned before, but not all of the text fits into the single literary formula. These “Blessing & Order” sections describe the relationships between these different parts of creation. In reading these there is an obvious order established: God > Man > Animals > Plants. The natural resources of the Earth would be subsumed into the “Plants” category. Plants were seen as part of the Earth’s natural resources, their creation placed in the first set of three days.

Nestled within the Blessing & Order is a section relating God to man: “So God created mankind in his own image; in his own image God created him; he created them male and female.” This is a little bit of poetry (note the reflexive symmetry, a common Hebrew poetic device) and likely was a common saying of Moses or earlier.


While I won’t flesh out the ideas here, leaving this post as mostly a literary one, the theme in this passage is clearly one of God establishing order to a world in chaos. The description of this act is here stated with almost ritualistic formulaism. But it is meant to teach that God created order to the point of completeness and that we have been designated to bear the image of that Order Creator.

How that pertains to government we will see in the next few chapters. It is interesting to remember that Moses was a lawyer in many ways. In practice, Moses arbitrated between many disagreements amongst the Israelites while they were in the wilderness.  To free himself up, he established judges over the Israelites, so that he would only have to instruct those judges and they could arbitrate more effectively.  These first books of the Bible are largely the working documents that Moses gave these judges to use and they likely stayed in use, constantly being copied and maintained, for most of Israel’s history. And so, it is to be expected that the book of Genesis opens with an appeal to God’s order and the command for man to rule in the image of God.

The Ten

This is an interesting arrangement of the ten commandments. I have highlighted the ten “Thou shalt not”s. The text here is from the ISV, mostly because I have been using it recently and enjoy its readability. I altered the word order in the first commandment because the ISV changed that “Thou shalt not have any other…” into “You shall have no other…”.

The basic structure here is that the ten commandments have been divided, as normally, between those strictly regarding religion and those regarding society. Before each set, the LORD makes reference to “land.” First, He reminds the Israelites that it is He who has brought them out of slavery. It is this demonstration of power and protection that underlies each of the first five commandments, as we see the LORD closing this “tablet” with an “interlude” tying the fifth commandment back into His initial pronouncement. There is also background reasoning present in the text, italicized, that further couches the first “tablet” in God’s might.

The second “tablet” deals not with the old land of slavery, Egypt, but rather the new land of promise, “the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Here the commands are not framed in “don’t forget what I have done for you” language but rather in “how now shall we live” language. The basic command is that you honor your father and mother, those who rear you in the ways of society, and that these five commands shall form the frame for good morals in that society. So, honor your fore-bearers by living rightly in the land they have been given.

Most people focus on the dichotomy between commands relating to God and commands relating to People, but the switch in tone from the land of Egypt to the land of promise deserves equal mention.


First Tablet: I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery.

  • I. You shall not have other gods besides me.
  • II. You shall not make for yourselves a carved image resembling any form in the heavens above, on earth below, or in the waters under the earth.
  • III. You shall not bow down to them in worship or serve them; because I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the iniquity of their parents, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing gracious love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  • IV. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave the one who misuses his name unpunished.
  • V. Keep the Sabbath day holy, just as the LORD your God commanded. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for the LORD your God. You shall not do any work: neither you, your children, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys, all your livestock, as well as the foreigners who live among you, so that your male and female servants may rest as you do.

Interlude: Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out from there with great power and a show of force. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Second Tablet: Honor your father and your mother, just as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your life will be long and things will go well for you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

  • VI. You shall not murder.
  • VII. You shall not commit adultery.
  • VIII. You shall not steal.
  • IX. You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor.
  • X. You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife, or covet your neighbor’s house, fields, his male and female servants, his ox, his donkey, or anything that concerns your neighbor.


Except for the addition of Roman numerals and sub-titles (“first tablet,” “interlude,” etc…) this is the biblical text. I’ve bolded the command proper and italicized background reasoning, because I think it makes the content *pop*.

You may also notice that the numbering of the commandments is a bit off compared to what we generally perceive them to be. The ancient texts were not numbered and there are various schools of thought on how they should be numbered; this being a unique model.

This is for fun, so I hope you had a little fun looking it over.

Oh yeah, this is the text from Deuteronomy. The Exodus version of the ten commandments has a little less reasoning in the command concerning the Sabbath and in what I have labeled as the introduction to the “Second Tablet.”

The Exodus version also contains an entirely different interlude.


Exodus Interlude: For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


The commandments themselves were also physically written on the tablets before Moses wrote about this event in either Exodus or Deuteronomy. This is another justification for contrasting what was bolded with the italicized. It reflects my personal prejudice (guess) about what may actually have been written in stone and what may have been spoken by the LORD or by Moses concerning this engraving or when Moses actually sat down to write what happened. As you may have guessed, I keyed in on “Thou shalt not” as the pattern that the actual engravings may have followed.

Is Genesis Historical

Yes. No. Maybe? The purpose of this post is not to answer the question definitively (weak sauce, I know) but to add one thought to the likely many considerations you have. As individuals we may hold to a single view vehemently without allowing our opinion to be challenged, even by our own inquisitive minds.

If Moses was the first author of the Bible, how do we get the stories found in Genesis?

If you believe that scripture is inspired then obviously these stories in Genesis are sanctioned by God and are deemed to be truthful if they are to appear in his Word, but what does that mean about their composition? There are two polar views which we should acknowledge; and by course the reality may lie somewhere in between.

The first view is that God sat Moses down and said “We need to talk… about Genesis,” and then proceded to reveal to Moses the story of Genesis, which Moses dilligently transcribed.

The second view is that the Israelites already possessed versions of the stories now found in Genesis, stories which had been told to them by their parents and which they had been telling to their children. God then told Moses that an official version should be recorded, one that dispensed with Babylonian and Egyptian religious views in favor of a theologically correct version.

The first view had been my default growing up. Then, when reading about other ancient stories that had similarities, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, questions popped into my head: who copied who, could God have plagerized other myths? The answer is that the truth about what “really” happened was passed down from generation to generation and that by the time it got to the Babylonians, Egyptians, and to other societies, it had morphed into very different stories told with very different religious presuppositions.

So now our two polar views become nuanced differences. Did God re-adapt the story that the Israelites had been told into one that correctly placed him at the top, or did God cut through the millennia of story-telling and reveal to Moses the original, primordial version of events?

Our two polar views, which have now become nuanced difference, zero out as being identical when we consider this last piece of information. What would be culturally relevant?

I have a funny image in my head of Jesus being born with already graying, dark-blond hair and a sweater-vest, taking a moment before being baptized by John to remind those around him that baptism was merely a symbol, and preaching on irresistable grace and dispensational theology to the crowds who followed him.

Jesus did not teach twenty-first century American theology to first century Jews. In the same way, if God were to have used a process like evolution to bring about life on earth, he would have quickly lost the ear of ancient Israelites had he spoken of it in modern terms. Survival of the fittist alleles? Natural selection of religious proclivities? What?

The truth was revealed to Moses in a manner that would be culturally acceptable to the Israelites while not compromising the truth about who God is and what he has done.

We don’t have to hedge against 21st century science and terminology to protect our belief in an inspired word. Does this answer the question as to whether or not evolution actually occurred? Sorry.

Hebrew Made Easy – 1

What makes Hebrew cool?

Hebrew reads from right to left. At first this is jarring, because you brain wants to read Hebrew the same way it reads English. Fortunately this is one of the first things your brain adjusts to. But it does make you grateful that nobody writes in boustrophedon anymore.

Hebrew also does not have any vowels; at least it didn’t originally. Hebrew only has consonants. Later on vowel sounds were hung after each consonant so that it could be better read. In most cases knowing the vowel sounds is not crucial to understanding the text. In English, if the word “wind” is used, we can pretty much tell whether we mean the wind that blows, or if you wind back up where you started; we don’t confuse the two as we read.

Semi-vowels and Gutturals

Because vowels only come after consonants Hebrew needs a special set of consonants to handle vowels at the beginning and end of words; most of these are different types of Hs. These letters don’t have specific vowel sounds tied to them, but when the Greeks, who only had a single H-sound, got a hold of the alphabet they used the other letters as the vowel sounds we know today.








alef hey yod ayin waw het
/silent/ /h/ /y/ /gulp/ /w/ /gutteral/

For learning Hebrew it is essential that you be able to differentiate between two letters. The two H-sound letters are quite similar. The guttural H, Het, is not found in any common English words, but you will hear it in Jewish words like the “l’chaim” [“to life” from Fiddler on the Roof] and “Chanukkah.” The Ayin seems even more alien. It is a /gulp/ sound. I have heard told that it is the same sound as in the English word “button,” when the two Ts are not pronounced. In Hebrew it sometimes has a strong /gulp/ sound as we see in the word “Gaza,” which begins with an Ayin.

In English, the letter Y can sometimes be a vowel or a consonant. To a lesser extent this is true of U making the /w/ sound in words like “queen” and “out.” In Hebrew, the Yod and Waw sometimes make vowel sounds as part of diphthongs, meaning they change the sound of a preceding vowel. There are 4 diphthongs to know. The Yod diphthongs are similar to English diphthongs: A+I = /ai/ like in “samurai” or “aye”; E+I = /ei/ like in “eight or “survey”; O+I = /oi/ like “boil” or toy.” One that is different than English is O+W which equals /oa/ like in “boat” or “coal.” Also, there are occasions when the Waw simply takes a long U sound. The vowels I’ve written here (A, E, O) are not the Gutturals listed above but are determined by vowel points, which I’ve added at the bottom.

Plosives and Fricatives

ב / בּ

פ / פּ

ד / דּ

ת / תּ

ג / גּ

כ / כּ

b / v p / f d / dh t / th g / gh k / kh

These are 6 common letters of the Hebrew alphabet that take on a different sound whenever there is a dot, a “dagesh,” in the middle. The dagesh symbolizes the fact that that letter makes a single, quick sound. Compare the sounds /b/p/t/ with the sounds that can be held out for a time /v/f/th/. Note that the /dh/ sound is the same English sound beginning “this” and ending “bathe,” whereas the /th/ sound is found in the English words “thin” and “bath.” We use the same TH letters in English but notice the difference in sound. It is the same difference between B and P as well as Z and S and many other combinations in our English alphabet.

The Rest of the Consonants













These are the rest of the Hebrew consonants. You will notice that there are a lot of S/Z consonants. This is the same with Greek as well. Even English has a few if you think about it: soft C, S, X, Z, and arguably J, CH, and soft G. Take note of the difference between the SS and SH consonants. It is really the same letter but with different modes. You will also see a second T consonant. These two are pronounced virtually the same except this one is a little more expressive. The same could be said between the Q and K above, the Q is more expressive. Again, the important thing is to be able to distinguish between two consonants not necessarily to get their sounds perfect.

Sometimes a dagesh will appear in the middle of these letters. This means something a little different than with the plosives above. This dagesh means the consonant is doubled. This is mostly to help pronounce long and short vowels. In English we understand that even though “supper” and “super” have the same vowel letters, we know the U in “supper” is short because of the double-P. We will go through vowels now, but you won’t have to memorize which vowels are long and short because rules like the double-P in “supper” do the same thing in Hebrew as they do in English; it will come naturally.

Vowel Points

There are no vowels in the Hebrew alphabet but the Hebrews certainly used vowels in speech. After the conquests of Alexander the Jews began forgetting their language as Greek became the international language of commerce and Aramaic became the common language of the people. To preserve their text, some scribes began writing vowel notes under the Hebrew consonants. This way, they could still read the Hebrew texts without forgetting what the words actually sounded like.

For us, who use vowels to read all the time, this is a certain help. And while the vowels are not integral to reading, they do help us distinguish what types of verbs or nouns certain words are. We already gave the example with the word “wind,” in English. Another example would be the word “fish.” We know what “fish” means and we can tell by reading a sentence whether it means the verb, “I fish,” or the noun, “I am a fish.” So in Hebrew we don’t really need the vowel points to tell us the meaning of a word; much of the meaning is discovered by seeing how it is written in a sentence.

Vowel A E I O U





/sound/ pal pelt pill putt





/sound/ paul pail pole put






/sound/ pile pail peel pole pool










Note that the A vowels all have a line underneath, the E vowels all have two side-by-side dots underneath, the I vowels all have one dot underneath, the O vowels all have a dot overhead, and the U vowels are all crazy.

Remember to pay attention for the Yod and Waw to see if they are part of a diphthong. If these two letters have vowel points of their own then they are likely operating as the consonants Y and W.

The short U vowel on this chart is not actually a U vowel. It is an empty or “schwa” vowel. In English it is spelled with most any other vowel, but not too often with O. To show you these vowels in English, here are some common words with the schwa vowel replaced by an apostrophe. You will notice that almost any vowel could be spelled where the apostrophe is and that the word would still sound the same: b’tween, litt’l, phot’graph, heav’n.

As always, it is best to be able to identify the consonants and vowels and be able to distinguish them from one another first. Then you can move on to sounding out Hebrew. For practice, here is a link to the first 5 verses of Genesis. There are other markings which have not been covered; these are accent marks; we won’t cover them. Don’t worry about trying to understand the words just yet. Practice on identifying letters and then sounding out the words. And don’t forget to read right-to-left.

“God on Trial” Pt. 1

I turned to Clark. His steely, expressionless face showed that he was deep in thought. “Hey,” I said, “try to show some concern. Otherwise the jury will show just as much care when they convict you.” Clark turned to me and smiled. His smile seemed very genuine. I tried to return the favor, but I was nervous. My career may be on the line today; but, I suppose, anything for a brother. Then we heard the bailiff clear his throat.

“All rise,” he said. A man in his 50s, weathered beyond his years, shuffled in. “Justice Bryan Boxer presiding.” Judge Boxer sat down and motioned for us to do the same.

“Mr. Nikolas,” Judge Boxer said, speaking in his out-of-place Bostonian accent, “you may make your opening statement.” Mr. Nikolas, a very fit man with dark blond hair, stood up in his well pressed suit. He had a friendly face; a fact I knew would work against us.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Mr. Nikolas began, “the prosecution wishes to prove to you that that man sitting over there…” I too looked at Clark. He was able to eek out some expression of humble embarrassment. Mr. Nikolas continued “… had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to kill Mr. Luther. It is my belief, and I hope you will soon agree with me, that that man failed to act as any human would or should, and is thus culpable and should be stripped of his rights to continue walking around as a member of our decent society.”

For his kind face and passion, Mr. Nikolas seemed sloppy in his argumentation. He walked back to his seat and the Judge Boxer looked at me. “Mr. Kent, please give us your statement.”

I stood and picked up the statement I had prepared to read. Why had I written it with such small letters. “Members of the jury, please, my client…” Judge Boxer cut me off.

“Mr. Kent if you could please approach the jury and speak up a bit, thank you.” I looked around and nearly kicked my chair so as to break free from it. I slowed my pace and took the final three steps toward the jury with much deliberateness.

“Members…” I held my scribbles a little further from my face to bring them back into focus. “Members of the jury, my client may have had the opportunity to kill Mr. Luther, but the defense wishes to show you that not only did my client abstain from killing him, but he did so in the same spirit of humanity that each of you, and I, expect out of the very best of one another.”

I sat down. My delivery was flat. Had I really spent two hours sweating through what to say only to say that.

Judge Boxer looked at Mr. Nikolas and invited him to present his first witness.

“Thank you, your honor,” Mr. Nikolas said. “As my first witness I would like to bring,” he then turned and looked our direction, “Clark to the stand.” Clark stood up with a little more abruptness than the courtroom was expecting, causing many people, including myself, to slide over just a little in our seats.

Clark took his place on the witness stand. It was strange seeing him, like this, and in civilian clothes. His expression returned to its emotionless state. Come on, Clark. Be a man.

“It seems,” Mr. Nikolas sauntered from the bench to the jury, “that we have named you Clark.” Clark’s face showed no change. “But,” continued Mr. Nikolas, “as I am sure the jury is aware, could you please refresh us as to the other name you are known by.”

without hesitation, Clark responded, “I am known by many names, Mr. Nikolas.”

“Ha, yes,” Mr, Nikolas stumbled over a step at this unexpected answer, but apparently proceeded to his second question. “And would you say, Clark,” Mr. Nikolas spoke Clark’s name as if to put it in scare-quotes, “that you have super-powers, powers that the average man can not have.”

Clark’s face was then enraptured, “The average man can have my same heart, if…”

“Clark, yes or no,” Mr. Nikolas interrupted. “Please. Do you have super human abilities.”

“I do,” resolved Clark.

“And, super-man,” Mr. Nikolas snerked at his clever pun, “how do you use these powers? Do you improve things, or fight… things?”

“I fight crime so that we can live a society fully governed by our law.” Clark again showed his impassioned side. Ha, he had Mr. Nikolas reeling for a response.

“Erm…” Mr. Nikolas struggled, “you say ‘we’ and ‘our,’ but really you are not from this society, are you. In fact, you are the relic of a dead society….”

“Objection!” I was standing up. Those words were quite possibly the loudest I had ever spoken without jumping to a yell. “Mr. Nikolas is insulting Clark’s dead parents. I move that he gets to the point without trying to bring the man to tears.”

“Your honor,” Mr. Nikolas spoke, “I was merely trying to elicit the fact that though Clark claims to be a part of our world, he is really an alien, from a foreign society.”

Judge Boxer neglected to rule on the objection and turned to the witness, “Mr. Clark,” he said, “are you an alien?”

Unable to twist the question out of reverence for the judge, Clark simply said, “I am.”

Mr. Nikolas pounced, “And as such, your presumption to impose your moral values on this society is paramount to an alien invasion of ideas. I asked myself,” Mr. Nikolas then meandered toward the jury, “what are Clark’s values? Are they consistent with human values?” He then returned to Clark. “Clark, would you say that you act because often times you have the power that so many others lack?

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Clark smiled at the rip from Spiderman, “and to whom much has been given, much is expected.”

“Is that a yes, Clark?” Mr. Nikolas asked, slightly impatient. Clark nodded. “Clark, you have stated that you are motivated by a desire to eliminate lawlessness and that you have the means to do so by certain super-powers. I now turn to two months ago, when you had the opportunity to destroy a mass-murderer and civil terrorist. Yet, you decided not to do so. In fact, you have repeatedly decided not to rid our society of this menace. Why is this, Clark. You had the power and the occasion, perhaps your motives really are not as altruistic as you would have us believe.”

There was no question at the end of the statement. The courtroom hung silently, and Clark still had that almost smug expression on his face. Come on, Clark. I looked at the jury and they seemed taken by Mr. Nikolas. ‘Perhaps Clark isn’t on our side’ was the thought that seemed to mull around in their heads.

Judge Boxer spoke up. “Are you finished with the witness, Mr. Nikolas?”

“Almost, your honor,” responded Mr. Nikolas. “Now, had I the opportunity to rid the world of this cantankerous individual, who has caused nothing but death and suffering, I would have. I would have saved us!” Mr. Nikolas turned to the jury. “And you would have too. Did Mr. Luther deserve to keep living? Had he earned a right continue functioning in our society? No! But we lacked the power. We could not go into space to meet the criminal master-mind. But had we, we would have.”

“And,” Mr. Nikolas turned again to the witness, “if Mr. Clark really had our best interests in mind, he would have done what we could not. He would have saved us from death and suffering. And either he is really not as powerful as we see him to be, or he did not really hunt down Lex Luther, or he really does not give a hoot about protecting our society!” Mr. Nikolas’s voice had risen to a feverish pitch. “Which is it Clark! Which is it Superman!”

The courtroom was in an uproar. Above the din and no longer at the center of attention, Mr. Nikolas turned to me; his eyes, quite red from the preformance, looked piercingly into mine; “Your witness, Mr. Kent.”