I have in the past admired some large size Concordances in second hand bookshops. They appeared to be a handsome piece of “books as furniture”. They do have a slight degree of utility in that they point out where you can find every word in the Bible. But, on the whole, it was a bit too hard to justify paying the price of a couple of real books for a bulky Concordance.
The summer holiday in Anglesea was drowned out by what we naively thought to be several days of extraordinarily heavy rainfall. The rain gauge recorded 140 ml over 4 days. That was before the night of February 4 when south east Melbourne recorded that much rain in 12 hours in the aftermath of Cyclones Yasi and Anthony. When the holidays are a washout my natural inclination is to head for the bookshop to tide me over. In Anglesea this means the Op Shop as there is no bookshop. I did well on the first pass finding an Anthony Trollope novel, Barchester Towers, for a mere 50 cents. As I’d tried and failed to find some Dickens at the library I was pleased with the Trollope.
A small digression on pronunciation: Trollope can be rhymed with shop or with hope. Sir Harry Flashman was a contemporary of the novelist and in one of his memoirs he clearly recalls hearing an army officer in India say that he fancied a bit of trollop before bed, which attracted Flashman’s attention before he realised that the upstanding Victorian meant nothing more physically active than page turning. Good enough for me. None of that Hyacinth Bouquet rubbish about social climbing pronunciation.
Barchester Towers is a well regarded comedy of manners set among the clergy seeking to find their way up the greasy pole of ecclesiastical preferment in a provincial city. The plot revolves around the question of who will rule the bishopric now that a new bishop has been appointed following the death of a popular long serving bishop. A four way jostle ensues between the new bishop himself, an Oxford educated appointee with good political connections and appropriate high church views, his wife who has family connections to the nobility, the wife’s social climbing chaplain who is more ‘enthusiastic’ in his theology than the others, and the local son of the former bishop who had managed the bishopric in the later years of his father’s reign. There is also the seemingly obligatory romantic sub-plot involving a marriage made for love but even more happily contracted with 1,000 pounds per annum annuity. Fancying a little more Trollope before bed is probably justified in the future. Barchester Towers is one of the Barchester Chronicles, and Trollope also wrote a series of books on Victorian politics and politicians which look promising.
One problem for the ignorant heathen who reads Barchester Towers is that a novel starring the Anglican clergy necessarily has a few Biblical references, albeit theological issues were never meant to unduly detain a good Anglican, particularly those of the upper classes. Nevertheless, I was seriously embarrassed by the gaps in my religious education and the allusions to Biblical people and events which I didn’t understand: who were the Shuhites, for instance?
It was in this chastened mood that I went back to the Op Shop in search of further reading matter and luckily found a Biblical Dictionary for $2; a sort of cut down Concordance. It includes 5,000 entries, Extensive Illustrations and Descriptive Maps, and is described as ‘Concise and Easy to Use’. There is much knowledge to be gained from such a tome. The Shuhites are a tribe descended from Abraham’s son Shuah.
But there are many other morsels of knowledge to be gleaned from the Biblical Dictionary, some of which may be more contentious than the authors from Grand Rapids, Michigan allow. After extensive study I feel that I may be able to suggest an alternative explanation for one of the entries.
The Dictionary tells us this re “Thunder, Sons of: the title given James and John by Jesus (Mark 3:17) apparently because of their bold and sometimes rash natures (Luke 9:54; Matt. 20: 20-23).”
After much biblical study, consultation with a learned colleague, and consideration of relevant secondary source material I am prepared to suggest an alternate hypothesis for the compilers of future Biblical Dictionaries.
“Thunder, Sons of: the title given James and John by Jesus (Greg 13/1/11; Mick 13/1/11) apparently because of their behaviour after a big night on the beer and beans at Lake Galilee (Life of Brian; Blazing Saddles).”
Thus is scholarship advanced. Here endeth the lesson.