Treasures found in Israel’s National Library | Book Patrol

Kafka’s notebook, the first written evidence of Yiddish and more as Israel’s National Library opens up | Book Patrol.

israel-national-library-mossad-bibleThis digital library news headline came in my daily “Book Patrol” email today and I found it amazingly interesting!

Below is the introductory note from the “BP” people (posted Oct.9, 2014), which is followed by a series of fascinating images, including pictures of a 13th century German prayer book containing Yiddish, Franz Kafka’s Hebrew vocabulary notebook, a page of Sir Isaac Newton’s theological writings, and an early copy of the Hebrew Bible (image posted here).

What a wonder the digital world has become! There is plenty more to explore here at the Israel National Library website, so take your time and marvel at what is now public.

The goal is daunting: Undertake “a worldwide initiative to digitize every Hebrew manuscript in existence.”

To celebrate the project, the National Library of Israel is opening its vaults to give the world a peek and some of the jewels of their collection.  The Associated Press was offered “a rare glimpse at its most prized treasures,” some never before seen and others that has been locked away for years. 

The jewels include manuscripts by Sir Issac Newton and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon and a Hebrew vocabuary notebook by Kafka, who took Hebrew lessons with an 18-year-old Jerusalem native who was in Prague in the 1920s studying math.


Book Alert! The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer

Coming_of_Zion_s_Redeemer -LgI was excited to find in my mailbox at church Sunday the latest offering from the Reformed Free Publishing Association – an important and significant new commentary on the last three prophecies of the OT. The 527 page book is authored by Rev.Ronald Hanko and carries the title, The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer: The Prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014). The author is a Protestant Reformed pastor, ordained since 1979 and currently serving the Lynden, WA congregation.

In the “Foreword”, former parishioner Joel Sugg, provides this perspective of this new commentary:

The full commentary on each book may be read with great profit by virtue of the author’s trained, experienced, and studied insights. Three perspectives stand out: first, a living picture of Judah in the generation following the return from the Babylonian captivity with her special charge to reform true worship of God; next, a sharp delineation of the truth that these ancient prophecies especially have direct and significant application to us as the church today; and finally, a humble bowing in living fearfulness before the one only true God of heaven and earth, Jehovah of the scriptures, who sovereignly carries out his absolute rule over all to its culmination in the unconditional, covenantal salvation of his church, all to his own honor and glory alone (vii).

And the author provides this overview of these three prophecies in his “Introduction”:

The three prophecies of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi form a unit, not only because these three and they alone are the prophets of the restoration, that is, of Judah’s return from exile in Babylon, but also because they have the same general theme and purpose. That one great purpose is the preparation of God’s covenant people for the coming of Christ.

..Thus these prophecies continue to be of value to the covenant people of God, for the church is still waiting for the realization of God’s promises concerning the coming of Messiah, promises that will not be entirely fulfilled until he returns at the end of the ages. Though the types and shadows of the Old Testament have already vanished, the people of God must still be reminded to lift up their heads and see that their redemption draws near (Luke 21:28). They need to look away from a perishing world and be watching and waiting for the coming of a kingdom that will never be moved (xi).

It should be evident that this commentary would make for a fine addition to your Reformed home library and/or church library. And with Bible study season here, this volume will be an excellent guide through an oft-neglected and frequently misinterpreted portion of God’s Word.

Visit the RFPA website for details on obtaining your copy. And think about joining the book club to receive these new titles automatically, so as to build a solid Reformed library that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

*P.S. If any of our readers are interested in receiving a review copy of this book for the Standard Bearer, let me know and I will obtain one for you. Thanks!

How ISIS Views and Treats Libraries and Archives

4,000 year old ziggurat in Ur

4,000 year old ziggurat in Ur

In the last week on one of the Association of Christian Librarians member forums a post was made calling attention to the travesty taking place in Iraq and other Middle eastern countries as ISIS (the miliant Islamic group) marches through attempting to take control and establish its own state.

The travesty involves its determined goal to wipe out the culture and heritage of that country, including its ancient Christian heritage, by stealing and selling or destroying its libraries, archives, artifacts, and archaeological sites. Many of these are from ancient Biblical times, such as the Mesopotamia region and ancient cities such as Nineveh and Ashur.

You will find this detailed report from the Iraq Heritage Senior Fellow and archaeologist himself, dated September 8, 2014, and titled “Iraq’s Heritage Is Facing a New Wave of Destruction”. And this report from the American Historical Association is also informative.

On the ACL forum these bullets were given summarizing some basic facts (with brief commentary).

The ISIS activities that are related to libraries and other information services can be summarised as follows [with my explanatory commentary in brackets]:
– According to ISIS law, libraries should not exist and must be demolished.
– ISIS wants to diversify and expand its financial resources to include the lucrative trade of antiquities. [This could be assumed to include the sale of rare books and manuscripts.]
– Mosul museum, the second large museum in Iraq, has been occupied by ISIS and its staff cannot enter to check its valuable collections. [The Museum Library was established about 50 years ago, and has a substantial collection.]
– Churches and monasteries were either burned or, when occupied, ISIS stole the contents. [Many of the monasteries in northern Iraq are known to have retained collections of ancient manuscripts]
– Mosques and shrines were destroyed by explosions and bulldozers. [These may also have had collections of ancient manuscripts]
– Government buildings have been destroyed by ISIS. [It is not clear whether these include the provincial records and archives centre, but it could be assumed that some recent government records have been lost.]
– ISIS has taken over public libraries in Ninawa and Diyala provinces. [These must be assumed to be under threat of destruction.]

Professor Ian Johnson,
Chief Editor, IFLA/De Gruyter series: ‘Global Studies in Libraries and Information’
Aberdeen,Great Britain

This is certainly something to be aware of and of which to stay informed. Of course, with this has been joined the open persecution of Iraq’s Christian population, many of whom have fled. Watch the news for reports of this evil and destructive activity.

World Literacy Day and Literacy “Selfies”

Grand Rapids dignitaries snap ‘literacy selfies’ on World Literacy Day, ask residents to do the same |

Literacy Day-2014According to a variety of news sources, today is World Literacy Day, something we certainly ought to take note of and be grateful for.

I mean by that, first of all, that our readers take stock of their ability to read, being numbered among the literate. Do not take it lightly that you are a person of letters and literature (according to the literal meaning of that word), having the ability to read and write. Such is a great gift and blessing. As a citizen of this land, and especially as a Christian.

But I mean, secondly, that we ought to be grateful that we also live in places where literacy is taken seriously, and where we have people to teach us to be read and write. That begins in the home, with parents, we believe. If that’s where you learned to read, thank your parents today. And are you continuing that legacy by teaching your own children to be readers?!

Yet that influence also extends to the school (the Christian school in particular) and to the community, where places like libraries play a key role. And, we ought not forget the role that the church plays in literacy, even though the emphasis may be on the audible word (preaching and catechism) and on the visible word (sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper). In her ministry the church is also teaching her members to be literate, and that is as it ought to be.

And, of course, being literate and serving as both a librarian and a registrar, I am concerned about literacy. I assume that by the time our Seminary students arrive here they are readers and writers; and they will do their share of that in their career here. But certainly part of our calling is to make them the best readers and writers we can. And I know from my limited experience here that this is certainly a goal the professors have in their teaching and training of future ministers of the Word.

But I also hope on this special day calling attention to literacy that you too will take care to become the best reader and writer that you can be, regardless of your calling and occupation. Literacy enables you to grow in life, not just intellectually and perhaps even economically, but especially spiritually, in the grace and knowledge that really counts – knowing God in Jesus Christ through His written Word.

Now, a bit ago I noticed from a local news service (see the above MLive link) that local dignitaries were taking “selfies” on this special day, calling attention to themselves as literate and enjoying something good to read. And they were encouraging Grand Rapids residents to do the same. So…, yes, I did.



Now, I claim to be no Grand Rapidian dignitary, but I did take my own “literacy selfie” – a first, I might add! With my latest issue (Sept./Oct., the 19th anniversary issue!) of Books and Culture: A Christian Review. You don’t have to enjoy the picture. Just know that you too can celebrate your literacy in this way – or another way, such as reading a good book.! And then help someone else who perhaps struggles with literacy to become a better reader and writer. Have a great World Literacy Day! :)

How 3-D Printing Will Change Our Lives – WSJ

How 3-D Printing Will Change Our Lives – WSJ.

3-D printingThink printing only pertains to books and periodicals? Think again. I have called attention to this new 3-D technology before, but now it is being taken to whole new levels.

The Wall Street Journal recently carried this report (posted August 1, 2014) about the growth of 3-D printing and how it is changing our lives and world rapidly. It truly is amazing what is being done with this technology!

Below is the first part of the article; find the rest at the WSJ link above.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, a hapless penguin at the Warsaw Zoo lost his lower beak, either in a fall or a fight, and there were concerns that the bird might starve to death because the damage left him unable to eat. Omni3D, a Polish 3-D printer firm, came to the rescue, offering to produce a new beak—based on a dead penguin’s, to get an idea of the dimensions—from materials including nylon.

According to Rozi Mikołajczak, a spokesperson for the Poznan-based firm, this is the first time in Europe (and only the second time in the world) that a bird’s beak has been reconstructed using 3-D technology. Unsure which material would be best for the penguin, they created three for the zoo to find a match. Modeling the beaks was time consuming: it took two weeks to complete them. As luck would have it, the penguin’s beak started to grow back so there was no need for the manufactured one, but this inspirational exercise illustrates how 3-D printing is crossing frontiers all the time, opening up new possibilities.

Published in: on September 5, 2014 at 6:14 AM  Leave a Comment  

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News.

hobby_lobby_300x225Since we have been following the case of Hobby Lobby (owned by the Green family who are Christians) against the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), I thought it good to report that yesterday the Supreme Court of our land ruled in favor of the company by a 5-4 vote. This vote also affects other Christian-owned companies who were fighting this mandate, including AutoCam here in Grand Rapids.

In this news report, Fox News reports on the meaning and significance of this decision. For the full story, follow the link above.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The 5-4 decision, in favor of arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and one other company, marks the first time the court has ruled that for-profit businesses can cite religious views under federal law. It also is a blow to a provision of the Affordable Care Act which President Obama’s supporters touted heavily during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Today is a great day for religious liberty,” Adele Keim, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby, told Fox News.

Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland – Gleanings

Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland | Gleanings |

Persecuted church - Heb13In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding the renewed, radical Muslim advances in Iraq and the peace we enjoy in our own country we sometimes forget that there is a long-standing Christian presence in Iraq and that these Christians are suffering greatly for their faith.

Christianity Today’s “Gleanings” section (“Important Developments in the Church and the World”) recently carried this story (June 16, 2014) and it ought to have our attention.

May we remember to pray for these persecuted believers (see the image here), as well as for the entire persecuted body of Christ throughout the world.

Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq’s second-largest city as an Islamist terror group solidifies its control over Christianity’s main remaining stronghold in the struggling nation.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni offshoot of al-Qaeda, took over Mosul (pop. 1.8 million) earlier this month, the BBC reports.

Most of Mosul’s remaining Christian population of 3,000 fled for safer areas, according to World Watch Monitor.

…”Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been,” writes Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. “The Islamic terrorists have taken control of the whole of Mosul which is Nineveh the main Christian stronghold. The army [has] even fled. We urgently need help and support. … We are in a desperate crisis.”

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much Time Young People Spend Reading Each Day – Mic.

SofareadingHere is another alarming report on the reading habits of young people in general (posted June 20, 2014). I try not to be an alarmist, but you also know that I share the concern that our young people are not reading as much as they ought. And the same applies to all of us, though, as you will see from the report, time spent reading does increase with age.

I would like to think that Christian young people do better, and that PRC young people do even better. But I also do not want to have my proverbial head in the sand.

What can we do to encourage greater and better reading among our teens and young adults? We have looked at and proposed lots of ideas here. What do you find profitable and effective?

Here is the dismal news in brief; for the rest, visit the link above – complete with graphs and charts.

Love Game of Thrones but worry about spoilers from those who have read the books? Your fears may be overblown — chances are your friends don’t read enough to ruin any plot twists for you.

A new study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American reads only 19 minutes a day (a rate at which the George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series would take more than a year for most readers).

Young people spend even less time with the written word, according to the study. Americans ages 25 to 34 spend about eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays reading, while ages 20 to 24 spend about 10. Teenagers, meanwhile, spend just four minutes a day reading on their days off. (The overall average is bumped up by older folks — Americans over 75 spend more than an hour a day reading over weekends and holidays, the study found.)

Screens instead: When it comes to leisure times, the big winner is television. The average American watches for almost three hours a day, according to the study. That’s more than three times longer than the next highest activity, socializing (which makes us all sound a little pathetic).

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary

Cubs go all out to celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary | News.

Wrigley Field -100th-1This past Wednesday, April 23, was the date of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, the home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs. And they threw quite a party! captured the anniversary moments in video and story, to which I link you here. If you care at all about motherhood and apple pie, then you care about baseball, that great American pasttime. And even if the Cubs are not your team, they are one of the originals and Wrigley Field is one of few remaining ballparks from the original era of baseball.

At Wrigley the game is still played the way it was meant to be played, with fans close to the field, ivy on the walls, afternoon games, and a hand-turned scoreboard.

I made it home from work Wednesday in time to see the final outs of a classic game – the two teams in throwback uniforms – the Chicago Federals (Cubs) and the Kansas City Packers (Arizona Diamondbacks) – and the Cubs with yet another meltdown! Leading 5-2 going into the ninth inning, they gave up five runs and lost 7-5. Just another day at Wrigley. But, O, what a day it was!

Here is the the story as told by’s Joe Popely. Be sure and read it all and watch the video. This is U.S. history too; you don’t want to miss it! :)


 CHICAGO — Talk to former players, regardless of sport, about Wrigley Field and they’ll tell you the same thing: Let’s do another 100 years.

Perhaps Hall of Famer and Cubs legend Billy Williams summed it up the best by noting the field’s significance beyond baseball. It’s as much about life and culture in Chicago as it is about the Cubs.

“They built this ballpark to host baseball. … But it has been the background for so many adventurous times,” Williams said. “The history. Everything that happened here — you had some great ballplayers that passed through here, and the history they made here at Wrigley Field is still housed here and this old ballpark.”

From prime boxing matchups to NFL championship teams, Paul McCartney and the Wings to Cubs pennant chases, conventions to a six-touchdown game, Wrigley Field has seen it all. The Cubs pulled out all the stops Wednesday for one of baseball’s most beloved and cherished ballparks. It truly is the Party of the Century at the iconic stadium, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first Major League game between the Chicago Federals — who called Wrigley home for two years before the Cubs moved in — and the Kansas City Packers.

National Library Week! What You Need to Know and Do

National Library Week Fact Sheet | News & Press Center.

NLW14_poster_120x180Yes, it IS once again National Library Week this week (April 13-19), and you should join me in celebrating our libraries – national and local, public and private (such as our Seminary library)! The following is taken from the American Library Association website, and includes some basic facts about this annual event.

National Library Week will be observed April 13-19, 2014 with the theme, “Lives change @ your library®.”

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries – school, public, academic and special – participate.

Celebrations during National Library Week include: National Library Workers Day, celebrated the Tuesday of National Library Week (April 15, 2014), a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers; National Bookmobile Day, celebrated the Wednesday of National Library Week (April 16, 2014), a day to recognize the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities; and Celebrate Teen Literature Day, celebrated the Thursday of National Library Week (April 17, 2014), aimed at raising awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens.

I find the background to this annual celebration to be quite interesting – and still quite relevant:

In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments. Concerned that Americans were reading less, the ALA and the American Book Publishers formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee’s goals were ambitious.   They ranged from “encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time” to “improving incomes and health” and “developing strong and happy family life.”

In 1957, the committee developed a plan for National Library Week based on the idea that once people were motivated to read, they would support and use libraries. With the cooperation of ALA and with help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

acl-logo-transThe Association of Christian Librarians, of which I am a part, is also marking the week, asking for special prayers on behalf of its staff and on behalf of all the member libraries which serve such a significant role for the institutions to which they belong.

So join us this week in noting the important place libraries have in our lives, for the access they give us to books and magazines and many other resources, to the internet and digital libraries and archives, to the world of knowledge – not as an end itself, but so that we might know God and His works, and might love and serve Him in all we do in life.

And by all means continue to support your library – especially by your presence there and by the reading of good books! And don’t forget to take your children and grandchildren! :)


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