Thursday, June 28, 2007

More NT Wright

I heard this from one of Bishop Tom Wright's (see below) lectures, too (summarized in my own words):

I often hear very conservative Christians talk addess environmental issues this way: If God will restore all things in the end of time, why should we work hard now? If God will create a new heavens and new earth, why should we work so hard to preserve the old one?

I usually ask those people, If someone comes to your church looking for help with a terrible sin problem, do you give the same advice? "Ok, so you've got a terrible alcohol problem. Don't worry too much, God will save you in the end, and you'll not have a problem at all. Just wait until then." Of course not. Just as God wants us to work earnestly toward the redemption of our sinful destructive behaviors, he also wants us to work earnestly toward the redemption of social structures and the physical world (to name just a few things). Of course, we will never reach perfection with any of these things, but that should not deter us from our earnesty -- for we can make real progress, and we ought to do so.

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Bishop Tom Wright

I've been listening to a bunch of NT Wright recently. He is incredibly helpful and Christological. His book Simply Christian is simply great! I haven't read his other works, but I'm sure some will enter my library soon.

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This morning I heard a lecture with this anecdote which I summarize here.

When Bishop Wright was a chaplain at an Oxford college, he would take time in each semester to spend a few minutes with each of the new students. He would offer himself as a spiritual resource and guide. Inevitably, some students would say something like, "Thanks so much, but you probably won't be seeing much of me, because I'm an athiest." To which Wright would always say, "Oh, that's interesting. Which God don't you believe in?" The student would be shocked, but would stammer out always the same basic answer about a God who lives in the sky, and looks down on the world and occasionally intervenes in the affairs of the world. The chaplain always responded with, "I see. I think we are together on this athiesm, then. I don't believe in that God, either." The students would look puzzled, and then he would add, "I believe in the God revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and he is nothing like what you described." Then he would thank the person for coming and send them on their way with this question firmly planted in their mind.

Brilliant evangelism! I love it.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What I'm Watching

I'm way overdue for an update on my movie-watching. We've gotten rid of our TV, and the Blockbuster program is working wonderfully. Here are a few recent movies, but there are more reviews coming soon.

Rocky Balboa (2006). If you understand that the Rocky series is not really about boxing, this is a great movie. Audiences have been complaining about the endless series -- he's so old, etc. It makes me wonder -- did people really think the movies were about boxing? If so, I guess they don't know much about boxing. I find that a lot of people secretly enjoy this series, and this movie, but they don't know why they like it so much. In a great speech, Rocky says, "Life is not about how hard you can hit. It's about hard you can get hit, and still keep going." In other words, how much strength do you have in you to keep going? Where does that kind of inner strength come from? Where does real courage come from? Good spiritual questions from a very spiritual movie. Highly recommend for people who can understand the subtlety of Rocky's message.

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Happy Feet (2006). Not impressed. Lots of dancing, pop music, one-liner jokes, and flat characters. Throw in a positive message that tries too hard. I really wanted to like Happy Feet, but it was a big waste of time.

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Gangs of New York (2002). I always like a good historical fiction, if it captures the history well. I think this one did (but, of course, I don't really know). Great acting, a decent story. I liked the characters, too. It was way too long. It tried to be an epic, but didn't have an epic story, epic characters or epic plot. Would have worked better as a biography. Nonetheless, the production value is incredible. A good, solid movie. Leonardo is simply an amazing actor -- paired with Daniel Day Lewis, who is also terrific. Worth watching, but not owning, I think.

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Kill Bill, vol.1 (2003). I love the style of Tarantino, though not his content, usually. I wince at the content while being captured and thoroughly the style. This movie was exactly that (as Pulp Fiction). One of the most violent movies I've seen, but so uniquely artful. Can violence be beautiful? Should it be beautiful? Is this like eloquent verbal abuse? Or like a delicious and satisfying meal of poison? Damn you, Tarantino! I think I can appreciate and enjoy the beauty (which is doubtless present) without enjoying the violence -- or can I? I plan to watch volume 2.

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Fools Rush In (1997). Romantic comedy with Matthew Perry (Friends) and Salma Hayek. We watched this one on a recommendation of enjoying the culture clash of this mis-matched couple. All-American rich white boy meets poor, free-spirited Mexican girl. Some hilarious scenes, especially when the parents meet each other. Great stuff. Of course it ends with "romantic love triumphs all differences," which I have found to be (and believe to be) incredibly short-sighted. However, it was a fun, light movie with a progressive message, plus Salma Hayek is very easy on the eyes. Worth watching.

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Pursuit of Happyness (2006). Perhaps not quite worth the hype, but this is a great movie. Will Smith shows his dramatic chops in full force. His son (on screen and in real life) is really cute and does some great dramatic scenes, too. Nothing unexpected from this movie, but I usually enjoy true stories that remind me about the racism (and classism) of the very recent past (not to diminish the very real problems of the present). I especially liked the "behind the scenes" stuff with the real guy. Worth watching occasionally, not owning.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

New Student

Last night we recieved another English student. Our new student is a lady about our age from Tokyo. She will be with us for about 3 months, I think. We didn't really get to know her at all. She flew from Tokyo to Atlanta, then to Miami. After that long trip, she took a quick shower and went to bed pretty quick. Looking forward to a new friend.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wierd Kid

Some kids are in a world of their own.

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How Did We Get Our English Bible?

How did we get our English Bible? 04
Introduction to Textual Criticism

There is significant difference between trying to determine that actual words (and letters) of "God's Word" between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

OT --Hebrew (and Aramaic) language, fluid, poetic, image-oriented
NT --Greek language, precise, logical, technical

OT--Much of the OT was originally orally transmitted, and the written page is a copy
NT--The written words are the original source

OT--Much of the OT material was compiled over many generations
NT--Each book was written complete by a single author

OT--Hebrew (Oriental) people revered the tradition of the text and were very careful in transmission
NT--Greek thinkers (Western world) was much less careful in transmission, preferring quantity to quality

To illustrate the difference, think about what it means to "get back" to the original text of the book of Psalms -- it's just a collection of songs. Each song came from somewhere other than the "Book of Psalms." Or, compare Psalm 14 and 53. Or, compare 2 Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 36-39. Or, think about Deuteronomy 34 -- Moses dies. Certainly that's not part of the original text that Moses wrote, yet, it is certainly part of the book of Deuteronomy. For these reasons, New Testament textual criticism is far more important and useful[1] than Old Testament textual criticism.

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Think of the "telephone game" where one person whispers a story into the ear of another. That person then repeats the story to another and on it goes. At the end of a long line, the story has morphed quite a bit. Each person remembers a different story.

Now, we can think of a poorly paid scribe copying the gospel of Luke for a wealthy landowner in the 6th century. He is in a poorly lit room, standing (not sitting) all day at a rickety desk, with poor writing paper and ink. He's cold (or hot) and hungry. He may be barely literate. His "original" copy is smudged in places, and apparently whoever wrote it had bad handwriting. Further, remember that there is no punctuation marks, every letter is capitalized, and there are no spaces between words. As he looks at the "original" he sees that someone has come along and "corrected" or edited the text in some places. There are original words crossed out and replacement words in the margins. He wonders which is truly original, and why the new words are there. Also, there are some personal notes in the margins -- some of which is done with terrible handwriting! To top it all off, his boss is very pushy and wants the completed copy immediately. Ok, our poor, tired scribe is doing his best, but he's bound to make mistakes.

We’ll return to our poor scribe but for now, let’s get more concrete. There are almost 5800 Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, some are only portions of particular books and some contain many or even all of the New Testament. Besides that, we have 15,000 to 20,000 manuscripts of translations of the New Testament, primarily in Latin, Coptic and a few other languages. These versional copies help tremendously, too. Finally, many pastors (known as “church fathers”) wrote to each other and to other churches and regularly quoted their New Testament. We have more than 1,000,000 NT quotations in the writings of the church fathers. In fact, we could construct the entire Greek New Testament (except for about 6 or 7 verses) simply from the church fathers.

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Textual critics refer to textual “variants.” A variant is one possible “reading” of a particular part fo the text. For example, perhaps in one manuscript, at a particular place, it says, “Jesus.” In another manuscript, at that same place, it says, “Jesus Christ.” In another, it says, “Christ.” In another is says, “the Lord Jesus.” That would be 4 variants. Which is original? That’s the job of the textual critic. There are about 300,000 to 400,000 variants in the Greek New Testament. There are about 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, meaning that for every word, there is an average of 3 or 4 variant readings.

By far the largest category is Nonsense and Spelling Errors. There were no dictionaries and so there were no standard spellings of words. Proper names, especially, were subject to many different spellings. Sometimes, it was clear that a scribe was getting sleepy, and making stupid mistakes toward the end of a page, or a paragraph. Then, sometimes, you can see on the next line, a fresh pen, good handwriting, and no stupid mistakes. It must be the next morning.

The second largest category of variants is those that do not affect the translation at all. For example, in Greek, the definite article can be used in front of a proper name, or not. For example, in Greek you could say, “the Paul went to Jerusalem” or “Paul went to Jerusalem.” No scholar has any idea what the difference is. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable pattern. The meaning is not affected at all.

Another large group are those variants that are meaningfully different, but not viable. For example, there are some church fathers that clearly misquote the New Testament (perhaps they didn’t take the time to look up the exact wording, but just relied on their faulty memory). If the only testimony to a particular variant is one church father, of course it is not original.

The meaningful and viable variants make up less than 1% of variants, and no cardinal doctrine is in question or is affected by any viable variant.

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Ok, for a few more words about how these variant get into the text, let’s get back to our scribes. There were other common ways (in some places at various times) to copy the books of the New Testament. For example, a reader would stand in front of a large group of copiers. The reader would read a line of text from his manuscript and the copiers would then write down what they heard. If the reader went too fast or had an accent errors would creep in to some of the texts. If a listener heard the wrong word, he might write a word similar to what he heard. Think of these sentences:

Our chance that he will be allowed to chant aloud this hour is not good.
He was seen mourning in the morning scene of the play.
You two need to wait with your cart, too, for four people is too many in this car.

Also, sometimes somebody would cough, or a particular scribe would be inattentive for some reason. For example, in Revelation 15.6, most translations say that seven angels were clothed in "linen," but the ASV says they were clothed in "stone." Well, the Greek words for "linen" and "stone" sound very similar, but are spelled differently, and some manuscripts have one, others have the other.

This "He must have heard it wrong" kind of error is but one in a much larger category of unintentional changes. Bad handwriting, poor eyesight and dim lighting account for a large number of mistakes, too -- sometimes a scribe would skip a line altogether -- so in his new copy, 6 or 10 words would be missing, which made no sense at all. Sometimes, somebody would catch the mistake and put the missing text in the margin. Speaking of which, it was common for users of these texts to write notes to themselves in the margins of the book. If there was a word they were not familiar with, they would commonly put a synonym in the margin, but the margin was also used to correct the text. In later years if a scribe were to use this manuscript to copy from, how was he to know which one was a correction and which was a personal note? He made his best guess.

What is perhaps the most atrocious of all scribal blunders is contained in the fourteenth-century codex 109. This manuscript of the Four Gospels, now in the British Museum, was transcribed from a copy which must have had Luke's genealogy of Jesus … in two columns of twenty-eight lines to the column. Instead of transcribing the text by following the columns in succession, the scribe of 109 copied the genealogy by following the lines across the two columns. As a result, not only is almost everyone made the son of the wrong father, but, because the names apparently did not fill the last column of the exemplar, the name of God now stands within the list instead of at its close (it should end, of course, "…Adam, the son of God"). In this manuscript God is actually said to have been the son of Aram, and the source of the whole race is not God but Phares![2]

There were many intentional changes, too. Not all of the Biblical writers wrote with grammatical precision, so it was common to "correct" the grammar, spelling, etc. of the copy in front of you. Further, there are many "parallel" passages in the New Testament which are slightly different. Many of the monks had large sections of the Bible translated. If Mark's version of a gospel story was "lacking" compared to Luke's version, a scribe might put the "extra" sentence back in to his copy of Mark's Gospel. Early versions of Mark 1.2 say "as it was written in Isaiah the prophet." The quotation it refers to is a composite from both Isaiah and Malachi. Later versions of Mark simply say, "as it is written in the prophets." This was probably an intentional change. Other changes were made for theological reasons. For example, in Luke 2.41 and 43, the text reads "his parents" referring to Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. However, some later manuscripts read "Mary and Joseph" in an apparent attempt to protect the doctrine of the virgin birth. Lastly, many "pulpit" copies of the New Testament were prepared specifically for public reading at worship services on Sunday. Each week, a little more was read, continuing where we left off last week. If a particular week's reading started with, "He began teaching them, saying…" then the "pulpit" copy would substitute the person's name ("Jesus" for example) instead of "He." Or, a brief phrase or sentence might be included to help the readers understand the reading. This was often confused as being part the text itself.

However, the vast majority of scribes and copies were amazingly scrupulous with their work. With the many thousands of copies made, we would expect to have far more textual problems than we have. Many errors (even in spelling) are copied over and over because most scribes would not change anything, they would copy exactly and check and recheck their work.

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One more thing. The average ancient Greek author has about 20 manuscripts of any kind. The very best is Homer (who wrote The Illiad and The Odyssey). We have less than 800 manuscripts for his work, even though he wrote 900 years before Christ. Also, the earliest copy we have of any Greek author is 500 years after the writing, but for the New Testament we have many copies from the 2nd Century (AD 100-200), which are about 100 years after the originals.

Next week, we’ll look at how scholars determine which variant is original, and why it matters. We’ll look at a few examples of some actual textual problems, and see if we can determine together which one is original. We’ll talk more about the significant differences between the KJV and the NIV. Which one is closer to the original?

[1] This does not mean that the Old Testament is less important, useful, relevant or inspired than the New, but we are simply talking about textual criticism here.
[2] Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, 3rd, enlarged edition, Oxford University Press, 1992, p.194-195.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

How Did We Get Our English Bible

Lesson 03, King James and such

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. He called for convocation of the religious leaders (of which he was now the chief). That group decided that a new English translation was in order. The churches were all using the official translation known as "The Great Bible" which was chained to the pulpits. However, the people preferred the "Geneva Bible." Its Calvinistic notes were incredibly popular, and the translation was far preferable. The king and clergy did not like the Geneva Bible for a variety of reasons -- it was not made in England and it was seen as subversive of the establishment, emphasizing the priesthood of all believers. For example, one note from Exodus 1.19 says that Hebrew midwives acted morally when they disobeyed the king and refused to kill their baby boys.

So, James authorized another "official" translation of the Church of England. He appointed 47 translators to the task (he didn't do any translation himself). Even though it was supposed to be a completely new translation from the original Greek and Hebrew, it was mostly a revision/compilation of a variety of previously published English translations, all of which relied heavily on Tyndale's work. In places where Tyndale did not translate, the KJV normally follows the Geneva Bible. In fact, in the original introduction, there are several Bible quotations, and they are all from the Geneva Bible, not the KJV. In a few places, the translators departed from Tyndale's language -- when they did so, they made the English more elegant at the (slight) cost of Tyndale's accuracy. The translators used the Greek and Hebrew texts, but were more interested in following English versions. In fact, in at least 10 places, it follows the Latin Vulgate (as in the English Rheims-Douai) where there is no evidence of any Greek manuscripts whatsoever.

The "Authorized Version" was completed in 1611, and revisions started in the middle of the first printing when typographical errors were caught. The second edition began printing before first was completed, and apparently the two versions got mixed up in binding the pages into books. There were 14 revisions in the first 3 years. Since 1611, it has seen nearly 100,000 changes.

Originally, the KJV received mixed reviews. It was (and is) amazingly elegant from an English language standpoint. Some have said it is the greatest literary achievement in the English lanuguage. However, it was critisized at first for being too easy to understand, too "dumbed-down" and disrespectful (mostly by Catholics, not the Anglicans). It did not gain popularity for several decades. This version represented "the aristocracy" for the common English Christians who still loved and preferred the Geneva Bible. This is part of the disagreement of the Puritans who finally left to the New World.

However, in time, the KJV became overwhelmingly popular. In England it became patriotic to use the KJV, and eventually, the KJV has become the best-selling book of all time. It is the only book with more than one billion copies printed (1,000,000,000+). Gideons International gives away one million copies of the Bible every 6 days, mostly the KJV. The KJV differs from most other modern translations in many points. Here are a few examples, but you'll have to wait until later lessons to understand the differences (a shameless plug).

The NIV does not contain these verses which are in the NIV: Matthew 17.21, Matthew 18.11, Matthew 23.14, Mark 7.16, Mark 9.44, Mark 9.46, Mark 11.26, Mark 15.28, Luke 23.17, John 5.4, Acts 8.37, Acts 28.29, and Romans 16.24.

Matthew 16.13
NIV, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
KJV, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Luke 9.56
NIV, and they went to another village.
KJV, For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

After the Authorized Version of 1611 caught on, there was not another popular English translation until 1881, the Revised Version. During this time, there were many individuals who published original English translations, but none began to rival the KJV. The Revised Version was a "revision" of the King James and gained some popularity because it used a translation committee (unlike other contemporary translations), and sought to translate more accurately where the KJV was sloppy. Most scholars conceded its accuracy, but still preferred the KJV because of its elegance. The main importance of the Revised Version was that it seemed to launch a movement toward greater accuracy in translation. It is the dawn of a new era in English translations.

After the British Revised Version, American scholars revised the KJV again with the American Standard Version in 1901. People liked it much better, but the translators were so slavishly tied to the original languages, it is very hard to read in English.

It became apparent that it would be more difficult to than previously expected to replace the KJV. In 1946, after 15 years of work, a committee of 32 scholars published the Revised Standard Version, another revision of the KJV. One million copies were sold in the first day, and is still one of the most popular translations available. However, the RSV is also the most hated of all English translations, mostly by religious conservatives.

For example, Isaiah 7.14 in the RSV, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In all previous versions, the words "young woman" are rendered "virgin" as in Matthew 1.23. This became proof to many conservative pastors that the RSV was "of the devil." In fact,

Several fundamentalist preachers publicly burned the RSV. One of them took a
blowtorch and in front of his congregation tried to light it on fire. When he had trouble getting it lit, he remarked that it was just like the devil because it was so hard to burn!

Another preacher sent the ashes of the RSV to the senior editor.

1983—I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton Seminary. … While there, he showed me an urn full of ashes. I didn’t know what had been burned, but at first I thought this was a bizarre thing to show a guest. He said, “These are the ashes of the Revised Standard Version Bible.” Dr. Metzger had inherited the ashes from the previous senior editor. He quipped, “I am grateful to be a Bible translator in the 20th century. Nowadays, they only burn the translations rather than the translators!” But he quickly added that it was a terrible shame that people would treat the Word of God the way this preacher did.

Isaiah 7.14 in the RSV became the most divisive verse in 20th century translations. This text was a watershed for orthodoxy. The Hebrew word that the RSV translated as ‘young woman’ and that the KJV had translated as virgin was the word ALMAH. The debates raged so much in the churches across America that one observer noted that ALMAH had become the most recognized Hebrew word in the country! The conservative reaction to the RSV’s translation of this one word gave birth to the NASB, the NIV, and a host of other translations.[1]

The New American Standard Bible was finished in 1971 as a reaction against the RSV. It was updated in 1995, but is still very wooden and difficult to understand. It works well for people who have studied Greek and Hebrew and can "see" these originals in word order and syntax presented in the NASB, but for the average reader it is quite difficult to understand in many places. It is a revision of American Standard Version (1901).

The British New English Bible of 1970 was the first completely new English version since William Tyndale in the early 1500's. It was quite free in it's translation, which was a new idea, and since it was the first new work, there were a lot of things that "didn't sound right" even though the NEB caught the meaning better than "what we're used to hearing." For example, John 1.1, "In the beginning the Word already was. The Word was in God's presence, and what God was, the Word was."

The New International Version claims to be "international" but the 100(!) scholars that worked on the translation were almost all American. The translation took 13 years and was finished in 1978. It is now the most popular book in the world. Reacting against the KJV and the NASB, it is incredibly readable, which becomes its weakness in some places (see 1 Peter 5.6-7).

The New King James Bible tried to "update" the old KJV in 1983, but was considered a flop almost from the very beginning. Many of the textual problems of the KJV are continued here despite the translators' acknowledgment that the Greek text used is inferior. More on this when we return to an introduction to textual criticism.

The New Revised Standard Version of 1989 was a great update of the RSV. Overall, it improved and updated a lot of language that was out of date, and words that had shifted meaning. In updating the gender-inclusive language (which was certainly in order), it seemed to bend the meaning too much in many gender-specific passages. This kind of "stretching" the meaning is uncharacteristic of the translation generally, but the translators seem especially intent on being gender-inclusive, however,

it could have gone much, much further. When the NRSV was getting under way, one of the translators on the committee suggested that God be treated as a woman. If this suggestion had been approved, the Lord’s Prayer would have begun, “Our Mother who is in heaven”! The Great Commission would be: “Baptize them in the name of the Mother, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”!
Dr. Bruce Metzger, who was the chairman of the committee, dealt with this issue swiftly and decisively. Now, Dr. Metzger is a conservative Christian, and a diplomatic genius. He could sell ice cubes to eskimos; he could tell you to go to hell and make you look forward to the trip!
So he responded to this woman translator: “Yes, I believe we should call God a ‘she.’ … And we should call the devil a she, too!” That was the end of the discussion.
Overall, the NRSV is an excellent translation whose only real flaw is its gender-inclusive thrust. Not only does this change the meaning of the text in some places, but it also is bad English style. [2]

The English Standard Version of 2001 is another revision of the RSV in contrast to the NRSV. Some say it is trying to be the NRSV without the gender-inclusive language -- perhaps. It is marketed as a middle ground between the NIV and the NASB. More accurate than the NIV, more readable than the NASB, and I think this is true.

The NET Bible was also published in 2001. A few unique features -- it is copyright free, and so very reasonably priced. It has over 60,000 translators' notes that go with the text to help explain the original text. It uses the internet media effectively to "beta-test" its updates and notes. I like this version the best by far.

Which one is right for you? The one you'll read.

[1] From Daniel B. Wallace, "Part IV:Why So Many Versions?" online at Dr. Wallace was a professor of mine at Dallas Seminary and I remember him relaying this story to us in class.
[2] Wallace, "Why So Many Versions."

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season officially begins today, June 1.

Wilma (October 2005) was the last one to hit us hard.
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Actually, we probably won't see any real hurricanes for a few months, but we've got our second named Tropical Depression already, Barbara is south of southern Mexico, off the southwest coast of Guatemala.
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