Sons of Korah

December 12, 2011

The Band

The band “Sons of Korah” have released their new album, Wait. I’m not generally a massive Christian music fan, my favourite bands are REM and Coldplay. In comparison some explicitly Christian music can seem like a cheap imitation. But this is a band who aren’t imitating the secular world. They don’t sing “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs – they sing the Psalms.

Sons of Korah are a band from the industrial town of Gelong, near Melbourne, Australia. They specialize in singing the Psalms, with lyrics almost exactly what you read in your Bible. The new album includes Psalms 19, 96, 77, 27, and Psalm 91. For me listening to the Psalms, I feel like these guys actually worship the same God that I do, not some media hyped invention.

The Bible

So who were the Sons of Korah in the Bible? Korah and his sons were originally gatekeepers of the LORD’s tent,

Shallum son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his fellow gatekeepers from his family (the Korahites) were responsible for guarding the thresholds of the tent just as their ancestors had been responsible for guarding the entrance to the dwelling of the LORD.

However, Korah himself went bad. Numbers 16 records that Korah and a group of 250 men rebelled against Moses,

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?”

Korah commits treason against Moses, God’s appointed leader of the Israelites.

When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly.

The judgement is harsh for those who rebelled.

The ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions…At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

But as Numbers 26:10-11 records, although Korah and his supporters died, his sons did not,

The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign. The line of Korah, however, did not die out.

By David’s time Korah’s line have become the musicians. The whole ancestry is traced in 1 Chronicles 6:31-39

These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there. They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them.

 Here are the men who served, together with their sons:

From the Kohathites:
Heman, the musician,
the son of Joel, the son of Samuel,

the son of Tahath, the son of Assir,
the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah,
the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath,
the son of Levi, the son of Israel;

Amazingly it seems, even Samuel was descended from Korah. But more important, the people in this line were the musicians. Heman wrote Psalm 88. Psalms 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87 and 88 are all said to be composed by the sons of Korah.

The Music

Don’t take my word for it, have a listen.

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I made an Android application! It’s a little game, to help learn Bible verses. I, at least, find it fun and I’ve managed to learn a couple of Psalms on the tram in the morning. If you’re interested you can also get it here.

The game itself is pretty simple, you just have to click on the words (in order) as they fall from the top of the screen:

Game in action

If anyone has any comments or suggestions, I’d love to know (and maybe I can put them in a future version), but otherwise: Happy memorising scripture!

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.


Hebrews 11:8

But about the Son he [God] says,
   “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
     and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.”

(See also Psalm 45:6-7)


John 5:18

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 8:58-59

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

John 10:30-33

“I and the Father are one.”
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

John 20:28-29

Thomas said to him,
“My Lord and my God!

 Then Jesus told him,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


Matthew 28:19

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.


Colossians 2:9

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Matthew 1:22-23

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”


Philippians 2:5-8

 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!


Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 40:3

A voice of one calling:
       “In the desert prepare
       the way for the LORD;
       make straight in the wilderness
       a highway for our God.

(See Mark 1:2-3)

Photos by: Walker Carpenter, radiant guy, Leonski, Per Ola Wiberg.
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Letter to the Europeans

June 23, 2010

Thank you to today’s guest blogger, Paul.

Every one of us judges. But at the same time we do exactly the same things. Are we so arrogant to think that we won’t be held accountable? Let’s face it – we often do the wrong things.

Christians do know what we should do. If nothing else, our Bibles make it clear. But just having Bibles never made anyone good – what makes someone good is actually doing the right things. Atheists, who do not even have a Bible, by nature know how to do good. They automatically know in their hearts what’s right – their conscience tells them.

But so many Christians boast that we’re better than atheists – because we’ve read our Bibles and we know what’s right and what’s wrong. We say we know about sexual relations – and yet priests have been having sex with little boys. Are we such hypocrites that we don’t do what we teach others to do? You guys who condemn smut in public – don’t you also surf porn at night? You who claim to stand for the truth – what do you think of evolution? The biggest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge him with their lips, but walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle. The name of God is blasphemed among atheists because of you.

Yeah. You support the troops, you always vote conservative and give sidehugs. But if you break God’s law, what good is all that? No one who is a Christian is merely one outwardly, nor is becoming a Christian outward and physical. But a Christian is one inwardly, becoming a Christian is a matter of the heart.

Read more on Paul’s blog.

Here are a couple of Old Testament sources collected together for your browsing pleasure.

(1) Masoretic text

The Masoretic Text (MT) is regarded as the authoritative texts of the Old Testament. Most of our Bibles are based on these texts. These date back only to 7th to 11th centuries. During this time, the non-semitic “Masorites of Tiberias” created a school on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and carefully standardised and preserved copies of the Old Testament.

Particularly important was the work of the Ben Asher family, several generations of whom worked on preserving the Tanakh. The oldest surviving copy of these is Codex Cairensis, written in 895, which contains a complete set of the prophets, along with Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The Codex can be found (as a poor quality PDF) online here.

Another ancient Masoretic text is the Aleppo Codex (Deuteronomy above, Joshua 1 below) was written in the 10th century. It contains the entire old testament – or at least it did until it was burnt during riots directed against Jewish property in Aleppo in 1947. Only 294 of the original 487 pages remain. The entire text is available online.

A third Masoretic text is the Leningrad Codex (title page shown below) was written in 1008. After the burning of the Aleppo Codex, it is now the oldest complete Masoretic text known today. It has been the basis the of Biblia Hebraica (1937) and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977).


(2) Dead Sea Scrolls

The dead sea scrolls were discovered in caves near the ancient town of Qumran, 20 kilometres east of Jerusalem, between 1947 and 1956. They contain the oldest known Hebrew text of the Old Testament, written between 150 BC and 70 AD. More that 15,000 fragments and 500 manuscripts have been found from around 900 separate scrolls. They contain every book of the Old Testament with the exception of Ester, including 19 copies of Isaiah (shown below), 25 of Deuteronomy, and 30 of the Psalms (shown above).

(3) Septuagint (LXX)

The Septuagint (LXX) is the name for the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was translated between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, and this is the version quoted by the New Testament and by early church fathers. It was used as the basis for Old Latin versions, Slavonic, Syriac, Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic translations. Remarkably there some early fragments of the LXX dating back to the second and third centuries BC, such as this one from the Rylands Library, containing parts of Deuteronomy 23-38:

An important version of LXX is recorded by Origen, known as the “Hexapla“. Taking him 28 years, he collected together six main Old Testament texts of his time. Origen arranged his six texts side by side: Hebrew, Hebrew in Greek characters, Septuagint and the early Greek translations – Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion. His original version has now been lost, although it is quoted in early Christian literature. Fortunately however the LXX portion was preserved, transcribed by Eusebius and Pamphilus, and was widely circulated. Manuscripts of the LXX are the oldest surviving nearly-complete manuscripts of the Old Testament in any language: Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus come from the 4th century and Codex Alexandrinus from the 5th century (below).

 

(4) Nash Papyrus

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, the oldest known Hebrew text was in the Nash Papyrus. It dates approximately 150-100 BC and was housed at Cambridge University. It contains the text of the Ten Commandments, from Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21

(5) Cairo Geniza Fragments

A geniza is a storeroom. Although many texts were thrown out, if a piece of writing contained the name of God, they were to be treated with respect, and even given a burial. Before they were buried, they were stored, meaning that we now have almost 300,000 fragments dating from 870 through to the late 1800’s.


(6) Syriac Peshitta

The Syriac bible, the Peshitta, was translated during the second century. The Old Testament of this Bible was translated directly from the Hebrew into Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. Peshitta means “simple” or “direct” translation. One example is manuscript 14,425, (below) dating from the fifth century and contains Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is housed in the British Library, London. A complete manuscript is B. 21 inf housed in Milan, which dates from the sixth or seventh century, and a text held in Paris, Syr. 341, dates from the eighth century. A fascinating interlinear version is online here.

(7) Vulgate

Finally, the Vulgate is a Latin translation of the Bible thanks to the labour of Jerome. Jerome translation came independly from the Hebrew, with the exception of Psalms. His translation was completed in 405 AD. The Codex Amiatinus is the earliest surviving nearly complete Vulgate Bible, dating from the start of the 8th century.

Sometimes you come across things that you should know but you don’t. This piece of information was one of those things, and when I learnt it I thought it was fantastic. I have always loved what God tells Moses when he asks for his name,

Moses said to God,
“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses,
“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

The great ‘I am’. Eternally existing. It has always made sense to me that God would refer to himself in that way. It turns out, this is connected to the name Yahweh: 

In appearance, YHWH is an archaic third person singular imperfect of the verb “to be”, meaning, therefore, “He is”.

Why choose the God of the Bible over Zeus, or Thor, the great Juju at the bottom of the sea, or any other pagan god? Since there’s “no good reason” to pick Yahweh over any other god, I’m told, we should simply dismiss the idea of gods altogether.

As Stephen Roberts says:

I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

But this argument doesn’t make sense. Even if there was no good reason to choose God of the Bible over any other, this isn’t a good argument for atheism. Let me explain. Atheism says we should dismiss all gods. But even if I didn’t know which one of several options is true, that doesn’t mean I should dismiss them all. Just because someone don’t know what the hundredth digit of π is, does not mean that we should dismiss the fact there is one. There is a hundredth digit of π. Not knowing which one it is, is not a reason for dismissing them all. It is a reason for searching for the right one.

All conceptions of God are not the same. They’re fundamentally (no pun intended) different. One of the most obvious chasms is the canyon between world’s monotheistic religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – on on one side and pagan belief systems on the other. Pagan beliefs have their gods planted firmly in nature, as if you could look down a microscope and see him. Monotheistic beliefs about God are much more awe inspiring. They don’t think God can be discovered in nature, but instead view him as the author, creator and sustainer of it all.

The pagan view makes no sense to me. If you take a piece of metal and bang it one way it becomes a “god”; bang it another way it becomes a pot or a pan. Personally I cannot see how it can ever be more than a piece of metal, not a “god”. This takes many forms, from worshipping statues or the earth, the moon or the sun, right the way up to pantheism (which Dawkins describes as sexed up atheism). I have much the same problem with all of them: I can’t see how the universe could possibly create itself. A pot or a pan did not create the universe. It can’t even move itself. It’s totally clear to me these things are not God.

Jeremiah put it like this:

3 They cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”

However, the most important reason I have for rejecting other gods is another thing that an atheist cannot claim to share: I find Jesus Christ compelling. It is how we respond to Jesus Christ which sets us apart. The main reason I am not a pagan, a Muslim, an atheist or a Jew is because of what I think of this man, Jesus. I am not an atheist with respect to belief in Allah or Zeus, I am a Christian. Unlike an atheist who tries to tear down other people’s beliefs, and ridicules everyone, I can offer positive, uplifting reasons for what I believe – and I hope, do that with gentleness and respect.

So I guess I have reasons for rejecting Stephen Roberts claim: Different conceptions of God are not equal. While some conceptions of God make no sense at all, others make a lot. Just because we reject the illogical picture of God, and keep a logical one doesn’t make us atheists. Finally, unlike atheists, Christians can offer positive, respectful reasons for what we believe, which isn’t solely based on disrespect and ridicule of those we don’t agree with.

As always comments are welcome and criticism is encouraged. Thanks for reading!