The Helmet of Salvation 2

If you were stunned by multi–layered intricacy of the allusions in the helmet of salvation mentioned in the last post, it’s time to strap on your seatbelt. This is just the first sparkle of the treasure trove. Before we go on, it’s worth asking why — why the flowers, the gemstones, the kiss of heaven, the threshold, the covenant and all the rest of the dazzle?

In my view, it’s because the epistle to the Ephesians was written to a city of sorcerors. They knew about curses and charms, agreements with demons, gemstone amulets, the power of words, incantations as songs or musical invocations, arcane spells hidden in mathematics or within seemingly nonsensical phrases.

Before the riot in Ephesus instigated by the silversmith Demetrius which is recorded in Acts 19, many people turned to Jesus and burned their books of magic. This happened because the seven sons of the Jewish chief priest Sceva tried to cast out demons in ‘the name of Jesus whom Paul preached’.

In a town like Ephesus where magic was a way of life, there were no doubt many opportunities for a deliverance ministry such as that offered by the sons of Sceva. However they wound up seriously wounded and having to flee naked from a house when a man with an evil spirit jumped them and demanded, ‘Jesus I know and I know about Paul—but who are you?

As a result of this notoriety, Paul was able to spread the gospel message much more widely. Many Jews and Greeks repented of dabbling in the occult and threw their scrolls of magic on a huge bonfire. The value of these spells was a staggering fifty thousand drachmas—around 150 years’ wages for an average labourer.

Meantime, down in the Ephesus CBD, the silversmiths were getting agitated.

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The Helmet of Salvation 1

As we approach the Jewish New Year—Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year—it seems appropriate to look at the armour covering the head which Paul wrote about his letter to the people of Ephesus.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:17 NIV

The word Paul used for helmet is perikephalaia. Strictly it isn’t a helmet, just something that goes around the head. I guess it’s translated as helmet because Paul was talking about armour. Perikephalaia is formed from the prefix ‘peri-’, around, and from kephale, meaning head. It’s probably related in Paul’s thinking to the Aramaic word karbela’, a helmet, turban, mantle or robe—just something you wrap around yourself.

In fact, all these wraparound things were meant to remind Paul’s Ephesian readers of this nifty verse from Isaiah: He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle.

Isaiah 59:17 NAS

Still, perikephalaia does specifically mention the head, ‘kephale’. But kephale goes further than just meaning head: it also encapsulates a sense of supreme, chief, principal, prominent and even cornerstone.

Surprise! Surprise! We’re back on one of my favourite topics and I didn’t even have to try hard. In ancient times, the cornerstone was not only the first part of a building laid down, it was also a most sacred place, the threshold. In Hebrew it is kaph, a word associated with atonement, but in this case meaning a shallow basinstone to catch the blood dripping from the lintels and doorposts when a guest was welcomed with a fatted calf or sheep.

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Musings on music and meaning

Sometimes, when I’m editing, I come across an author’s humongously long sentence which rambles on and on—often, so the authors tell me in insouciant comments when I express my concern, because they are imitating the apostle Paul who, after all, wrote excessively long sentences like the famous one at the beginning of his epistle to the Ephesians which is 202 words in length and has such a complex structure that it is actually able to be interpreted more than one way—and when I suggest that paragraph–long sentences are inappropriate in the age of Twitter, they baulk at the thought.

The publisher I work for, however, is delighted. He uses my remark about the age of Twitter to try to get his more verbose authors to see reason. It doesn’t always work. A pity. Because authors who have a significant message are not being given a chance, due to their resistance to cutting the words into bite–size chunks. Communication is important, in whatever age. Since today’s Christians have no idea what 202 means, it’s pointless having such a long sentence. Still I have seen sentences as long as 140 words; they make my effort of 101 words in the first paragraph look a bit puny.

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Here is Love

One evening in church a little while back, I got distracted while singing one of the choruses. My eyes happened to light on the final words of an unfamiliar hymn on the opposite page: And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

Hmm, I mused. The ‘suspicion’ switch turned on in my head.

If I’m not mistaken, I thought, those lyrics are a reference to Psalm 85:10. I immediately began to wonder about the age of the hymn. There was nothing helpful on the page except the composer’s name, William Rees, along with two verses:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,

Loving-kindness as the flood,

When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,

Shed for us His precious blood.

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten,

Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.


On the mount of crucifixion,

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide.

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.


It looked old. But not that old. It lacked a telltale thee or thou. Still those apostrophes were hopeful signs.

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Red Alert


Dale Harcombe  

Wendy Pye Publishing

Illustrated by Jennifer Cooper


Cassandra just loves camping.  Her mum doesn’t.  

Cassandra just loves challenges.  Her mum doesn’t.  

Cassandra’s just dying to go on the mother-daughter three-day camp.  Her mother isn’t.  

A-tishoo! Red Alert is a truly delightful tickle of a story about a reluctant mum willing to put up with all the things she hates for her daughter’s sake. A-tishoo! It’s the story of a girl with spunk and a raring-to-go attitude. A-tishoo! But mainly it’s the story of a girl whose mum can’t stop sneezing or reaching for the tissues. A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

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Rosanne Hawke
Lothian Books

Light and delicate, the echo of bells kerlink kerlink followed me through the day long after I’d finished Mustara. Robert Ingpen’s sandy-toned watercolours evoke the starkness and hazy mirages of a desert landscape, hinting too at the sepia-tinted era of eighteenth century exploration.

Mustara is a young camel. Taj hopes he will be chosen for the expedition of Ernest Giles to Central Australia. But Mustara is too young. Everything changes when Taj and Emmeline are caught in a sandstorm. This beautifully-illustrated book highlights the largely unknown contribution of Afghan cameleers to the pioneering of Australia’s interior.

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