Ancient Remedies

One of the more enjoyable aspects of researching ancient culture is what you learn that is secondary to the subject on which you’re reading and/writing. I’m finishing up a research paper that led me to Pliny the Elder, who lived in the first century CE. His still-famous Naturalis Historia (Natural History) became a classic work. It is essentially a catalog of the plant and animal kingdoms in Pliny’s culture. But far from merely describing the flora and fauna of his world, Pliny provides countless remedies that are comprised of various animal parts. For your dermatological needs, consider the following remedies:

  • A vulture’s blood, beaten up with cedar resin and root of white chameleon and covered with a cabbage leaf, when applied, is good for the cure of leprosy; the same, too, with the legs of locusts, beaten up with he-goat suet.
  • Pimples are treated with poultry grease, beaten up and kneaded with onions.
  • One very useful substance for the face is honey in which the bees have died; but a sovereign detergent for that part is swans’ grease, which has also the property of effacing wrinkles.
  • Brand-marks are removed by using pigeons’ dung, diluted in vinegar.

For your throat problems, consider these remedies:

  • Affections of the uvula and pains in the fauces are alleviated by using the dung of lambs before they have begun to graze, dried in the shade.
  • The same maladies (uvular maladies) are treated also with ashes of burnt swallows, mixed with honey; a preparation which is equally good for affections of the tonsillary glands.
  • Millepedes, bruised with pigeons’ dung, are taken as a gargle, with raisin wine.

For your shoulder problems, get yourself some ashes of a burnt weasel and mix with wax—it’s a cure for pains in the shoulders.

Want your teens to be nice and smooth beneath the arms? Have them rub their arm pits with ants’ eggs.

And what ancient didn’t have issues with stomach pains! Remedies were plentiful! According to Pliny, one of the very best remedies for affections of the stomach is to use a snail diet. They must first be left to simmer in water for some time, without touching the contents of the shell, after which, without any other addition, they must be grilled upon hot coals, and eaten with wine and garum; the snails of Africa being the best of all for the purpose. But remember, snails will give you bad breath!

If you’re afflicted with having to spit blood, use a vulture’s lungs, burnt upon vine logs, and mixed with half the quantity of pomegranate blossoms, or with the same proportion of quince and lily blossom: the whole being taken morning and evening, in wine, if there is no fever; but where there are symptoms of fever, instead of wine, water is used in which quinces have been boiled.

There’s plenty more, and these I’ve reproduced here are rather mild in comparison to some others he names. Go here to read more.

Ah, the ancients—how entertaining they can be!

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Mystery Solved

Apparently, a mass of mail has been sitting undelivered at a postal facility in Dallas. Sometime last year, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft sent me a copy of Biblia Graeca, which never made it to my mailbox. In light of this story, I have no trouble believing that it’s sitting in some postal facility somewhere because surely no one would open it and think, “I can make some money off of this!”

Seriously–how do more than 3,000 pieces of mail go undelivered? I can only assume there are more than a few time-sensitive documents that were never delivered.

Ridiculous.

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Music Monday

Today’s Music Monday offering is from Swedish metal titan Soilwork, who in my opinion, is one of the most solid bands in the business. Their 2013 double-disc The Living Infinite is one of my favorite albums in many years and has been in my rotation since its release. I still play both discs start to finish!

s - tliIt’s quite an accomplishment to release an album that is mostly listenable, one that doesn’t provoke you to press the skip button more than once or twice. On this double-disc release, Soilwork has managed to produce two discs, twenty tracks, that are solid from start to finish–no skips necessary for me! The only track I would be tempted to brush past is the last one on disc two and it’s not bad by any stretch.

Soil work’s brand of melodic metal encapsulates everything I want in a metal album–heavy yet catchy riffs, ripping solos, precision drumming, and a vocalist with range who can actually lead the band. Björn “Speed” Strid is a versatile vocalist with impressive lows and shrill highs, both of which are tempered by a perfectly suited clean signing voice that is devoid of the emo-laden whiny cleans that have plagued so many metalcore acts. As a drummer, I have long thought that Dirk Verbeuren’s skills land him in the upper echelon of metal drummers. Certainly he plays fast and does so with furious precision, but he incorporates various elements and styles in every song, resulting in a much more intricate backdrop for the rest of the band . It’s never just a straight forward rhythm with fills, but always something more complex. Naturally, all the other instrumentalists are integral to the band’s sound and perform splendidly.

It’s not hard to see how Soilwork has maintained a consistent presence in a musical genre in which it is easy to get lost in the plethora of more mediocre bands. They have forged a sound that has spawned numerous imitators and continue to evolve and improve as a band.

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Book Review: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: A Protestant View of the Cosmic Drama by Jerry L. Walls

Brazos | Amazon | CBD

Jerry Walls, who has published widely on Christianity’s teaching on the afterlife (though this is not a uniform concept), here seeks to articulate and defend a Protestant view of purgatory.

Early on, Walls makes a couple of astute points that are more commonly found in academic circles, but are still struggling to find a foothold in the church. For one, Walls comments that “popular writing about the afterlife is often sentimental, simplistic, and emotionally manipulative” (14). This is especially evidenced by the flood of journey-to-heaven books and movies to the Christian media market.

In his seven truths about heaven (based on Revelation 19–22), Walls dismisses the notion that heaven is an escape from earth. Redemption concerns more than just human souls—it concerns the entire cosmos (30). I have come around to this particular view of salvation, that God’s work of redemption in/through Christ entails the preparation of those who have been justified by faith in Christ for the fullest realization of the kingdom of God—the redemption of the created order as the dwelling place of God.

On these (and other more general points) I found Walls’ arguments agreeable. However, the main idea of the book is that the concept of purgatory is a defensible position for Protestants to hold and Walls spends the first third of the book turning the soil into which he will plant, sow, and reap a Protestant view of purgatory. Walls suggests that every theology needs a purgatory, not just that of the Roman Catholic tradition (93). The assumption underlying this idea is that prior to “entry” into heaven (which I take to simply the entry into God’s immediate presence) souls are still stained with sin, thus, they need to be fully purged. Walls makes clear that the very word purgatory bears the negative connotation that drew the ire of the Reformers, which was a justifiable response. However, Walls contends that the concept of purgatory had been perverted and is in fact a rather gracious work of God, not on men. Walls’ contention seems to be that the necessity of repentance requires some measure of purification between death and entrance into the heavenly kingdom.

As far as the biblical evidence for his position, well, there’s little discussion of that. Walls’ work is more philosophical in nature and does not deal adequately with the biblical data, which is its biggest weakness. Scripture is referred to, but only in such a way as to leave readers wanton for more substantive interaction with the sacred text. Walls is certainly shows himself adept in his interactions with theologians, philosophers, and writers (Dostoevsky, for example) on this issue, but if he had addressed the Scriptures more substantively this book would have been much stronger. As it is, it remains a largely philosophical enterprise, which is not necessarily a critique, but an observation as to its

Deep down I want to believe that there is some post-mortem opportunity for those who die without having surrendered to Christ to repent and enjoy life eternal, but I simply can’t get around the biblical data that suggests otherwise. I’ll admit that perhaps some texts could hint at the concept of purgatory as articulated by Walls, but I think the overwhelming testimony of the NT is that life is the time of opportunity and to miss it means separation from God. I want there to be another chance, but I can’t convince myself there is and Walls’ book, while thoughtful and well written, does not sway me in this matter. However, despite the fact I’m not persuaded by his arguments, Walls is a good writer and makes his case for purgatory well enough, just not strong enough to persuade me.

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Book Sale

No, I’m not selling mine–don’t be silly! But Westminster Bookstore has a couple of volumes on sale that you might be interested in: Collected Writings on Scripture (D. A. Carson) for $7 and Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (eds. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey Waddington) for $10. I’ve read a couple of essays in the Gaffin volume and they were quite good, so I ordered a copy–can’t pass up a new hardcover for $10!

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Typos

It seems no matter how meticulous editors and proofreaders are, invariably mistakes are missed. I found this one in Frederick J. Murphy’s Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World, p. 94.

There was no empire-wide persecution of Christianity until the middle of the third century BCE.

Did you catch it? BTW, this is a great book–get a copy and read it if you can.

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Music Monday

Today’s Music Monday selection is the album III by UK metalers Xerath. I only discovered Xerath relatively recently, but I was an instant fan.

x - iiiI suppose I would classify Xerath as a progressive metal band, but not in the vein of Dream Theater or Between the Buried and Me. They are heavy, but their style is more of a medium paced metal–there are no blast beats, blazing fast rhythms and solos, etc. But make no mistake–Xerath is heavy! This album I would liken to an army of foot soldiers taking to the field of battle, whose march is so great they shake the ground. You could play this in the background of any movie with epic battle sequences (300, Lord of the Rings, etc.) and it would be quite fitting (though admittedly a tad out of place!).  Xerath is technically sound and the production on this album captures their unique breed of heavy bombastic metal wonderfully. It just sounds big, so give it a listen and take shelter.

Some of my favorite tracks are 2053I Hold Dominion, Autonomous, Bleed This Body Clean, and Sentinels.

Check out III‘s predecessor II in its entirety here.

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