Saturday, 30 June 2007

A New Book by Helmut Koester: Paul and His World

Fortress Press announces a new book by Prof Helmut Koester: Paul and His World: Interpreting the New Testament in Its Context, Vol 1.

This book is described as "the first of two volumes of landmark essays in New Testament interpretation from one of the most renowned scholars in the field. This volume presents critical essays on theology and eschatology in Paul's letters, the apostle's religious and cultural context, and the interaction of early Christianity with its Greco- Roman environment, as reflected in ancient literature and archaeological remains."

Helmut Koester is John H. Morison Research Professor of Divinity and Winn Research Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Chair of the New Testament Board of the Hermeneia commentary series. He is editor of numerous volumes in the Hermeneia series as well as Cities of Paul: Images and Interpretations from the Harvard New Testament and Archaeology Project on CD-ROM.

From its description, this book appears to be interesting enough to catch my attention. I look forward to engaging Prof Koester in his latest book.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Celebrating Our Cultural Heritage in Chapel

Every year, STM dedicates a special East Malaysian thanksgiving chapel service to celebrate our cultural and ethnic diversity within our community.

In Malaysia (comprising Peninsular Malaysia, or West Malaysia and East Malaysia which is part of the Borneo Island - see map above), there are more than 100 different ethnic groups speaking different languages and celebrating diverse cultural practices.

This year's celebration on 28 June is not only colourful but also informative as well. One of our students provided an interesting account of the history and growth of the Methodist, Anglican, and the Sidang Injil Borneo church in the two states of East Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

One of our Iban students also presented a special item at the end of the chapel service - the ngajat dance. This is a unique dance as it serves many purposes depending on the occasion. During Gawai (the Harvest Festival), it is used to entertain the people who in the olden days enjoy graceful ngajats as a form of entertainment.

We are thankful the the colourful diversity within our community.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Goodbye, SBL International Meeting in Vienna

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to cancel my participation in the upcoming Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting in Vienna, scheduled from July 22-26, 2007. I am going to miss meeting up with friends this year in beautiful Vienna. In addition, I am going to miss the two special sessions on the Theology of 2 Corinthians (an area of my interest) presented by members of the European Association of Biblical Studies.

I have always enjoyed SBL meetings in the past, having participated in the Singapore (click here for the abstract of my paper) and Edinburgh Meetings (click here for the abstract of the paper) where I presented aspects of my thesis and received constructive criticism and encouraging feedback.

This year, I am scheduled to read my paper on July 24 in the Paul and Pauline Literature session. The title of my paper is “I Will Boast of the Things That Show My Weakness:" The Function of Paul’s citation of Jeremiah 9:22-23 in 2 Corinthians 10:17 in light of his apostolic sufferings in 2 Corinthians 10-13. If I were to make it, it would have been a real privilege to have my doktorvater presiding over the session.

Perhaps next year I might be able to make it to the Annual Meeting 2008 in Boston (would be nice to visit my alma mater as well, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and to taste once more the delicious and creamy New England clam chowder). Perhaps the International Meeting 2008 as well...

We'll see...keeping my fingers crossed...

Follow-up on "Another Sick Project": Character Formation and Theological Education

In my earlier post on June 24, 2007 (Another "Sick Project"), I raised the issue concerning the quality of some of the Malaysian government building projects and the quality of theological education. In subsequent discussions, Alex Tang raised the issue of Christian formation as the goal of theological education, and I responded by raising the following two questions:
  1. Is there a close correlation between quality theological education and character building?

  2. The better the quality of theological education, will this translate to better spiritual formation and character building?

Alex subsequently picked up these questions and did some reflections on the correlation between quality theological education and character building. Read the rest of his post, "Does quality theological education produces character?"

I think Alex is right on target in his reasoning. I do agree that theological education is not merely about impartation of knowledge for the sake of knowledge or simply an exercise in intellectual stimulation. The GPA is not everything - as jokingly suggested by someone in the seminary chapel recently that those who get straight As might not make good pastors while those C students turn out to be the best pastors (so, am I a good pastor? hmmmm..).

I guess what is crucial is holistic training - and this raises another question: what constitutes holistic training within a community of believers?

Ultimately, how can we hold the two - excellence in scholarship and christian formation - in balanced tension? Or can we?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Review of Biblical Literature 27 June 2007

New reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature on 27th June 2007.

David Tuesday Adamo, ed.Biblical Interpretation in African Perspective
Reviewed by Jan van der Watt

Eve-Marie Becker and Peter Pilhofer, eds.
Biographie und Persönlichkeit des Paulus
Reviewed by Günter Röhser

April D. DeConick
Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and Its Growth
Reviewed by Eric Noffke

David L. Dungan
Constantine's Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament
Reviewed by Jean-François Racine
Reviewed by Garwood P. Anderson

Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino
The Jesus Family Tomb: The Discovery, the Investigation, and the Evidence That Could Change History
Reviewed by Jonathan Reed

Leon R. Kass
The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis
Reviewed by E. Theodore Mullen Jr.

Israel Knohl
The Divine Symphony: The Bible's Many Voices
Reviewed by Richard S. Briggs

Moisés Mayordomo
Argumentiert Paulus logisch? Eine Analyse vor dem Hintergrund antiker Logik
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Steven Roy
How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Jeffrey Rubenstein, ed.
Creation and Composition: The Contribution of the Bavli Redactors (Stammaim) to the Aggada
Reviewed by Steven Sacks

Wolfgang Schrage
Der 1. Brief an die Korinther: 1 Kor 1,1-6,11
Reviewed by Mark W. Elliott

Blake Shipp
Paul the Reluctant Witness: Power and Weakness in Luke's Portrayal
Reviewed by Ruben Dupertuis

Hans Strauß
".eine kleine Biblia": Exegesen von dreizehn ausgewählten Psalmen
Reviewed by Gert T. M. Prinsloo

James D. Tabor
The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity
Reviewed by Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte

Peter T. Vogt
Deuteronomic Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal
Reviewed by William Morrow

Geza G. Xeravits and József Zsengellér, eds.
The Book of Tobit: Text, Tradition, Theology: Papers of the First International Conference on the Deuterocanonical Books, Papa, Hungary, 20-21 May, 2004
Reviewed by Micah Kiel

The Confessions of A Biblical Scholar

How does a biblical scholar confess his "sins" to one another (cf. James 5:16)?

Well, this is my 10 confessions as a budding NT scholar.

I confess that there is a BIG difference between a theologian and a biblical scholar. Theologians argue about things in the air and they can never come to an agreement. Biblical scholars argue about things in the text and they can never come to an agreement.

I confess that no matter how hard I tried reading Systematic Theology textbooks by Wayne Grudem and Millard Erickson, I am still not too sure whether theology can be systematic.

I confess that I have read a good bit of N. T. Wright and appreciate much of what he has to say, I am still not too sure whether Wright is right after all.

I confess that I have read James Dunn and learn much of what he has to say on Paul, and I wonder how many people are done with Dunn on the new perspective on Paul.

I confess that Richard Hays provides tremendous help in clearing the haze when I try to make sense of the function of Paul's use of the Hebrew Bible, whether it is an echo, an allusion, a citation, or a quotation.

I confess that Richard Hays, N. T. Wright, Rollin Grams, Stephen Fowl, Ben Witherington, and Michael Gorman have been instrumental in shaping the use of narrative approach in my investigation of Paul's sufferings in 2 Corinthians.

I confess that the two most memorable pilgrimages I took in the UK as a student were the visit to Chester Beatty Library where I finally had a glance of the P46 and the visit to British Library where I finally had a glimpse of the Codex Sinaiticus.

I confess that the highlight of my doctoral studies is the visit to ancient Corinth where I saw, felt, walked the Corinth that St Paul saw - not to mention the short visit to Acrocorinth (long gone were the 1,000 prostitutes that made the hill famous).

I confess that the Almighty has a very humorous way of dealing with a city boy like me when he sent me to two RURAL settings (I mean really ulu kampung) for my theological studies - in Massachusetts and Wales (ever wonder how a city boy survived that)?

I confess that many people in the seminary are confused about my personality - some think I am a sanguine, some think I am a melancholic, and some seriously think I am confused (or perhaps they are confused), and some question how I can be both at the same time (well, let's keep the guessing game on).

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Fellow Malaysian NT Scholar's Blog

This is to highlight the blog of another fellow Malaysian NT scholar, Dr Tony Siew. Tony is a pastor with the Sidang Injil Borneo, an indigenous church in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Tony did his PhD under the supervision of Prof Paul Trebilco at the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, University of Otago. His thesis is now published under the title, The War between the Two Beasts and the Two Witnesses: A Chiastic Reading of Revelation 11:1-14:5, Library of New Testament Studies No 283 (London & New York: T & T Clark, 2005).

Those of you who are interested in the studies of the Revelation of St John, make sure you check out Dr Siew's blog, Revelation is Real.

Another "Sick Project"

Boy...when is this ever going to end?

Yesterday, The Star highlighted that another newly built government building, the Pekan Hospital, has been found with defects that resulted in leakages (see Pekan Hospital a ‘sick project’). This angered the Health Minister, who labelled this hospital as a "sick project."

This is not the first time that such embarrassing news concerning serious defects found in newly completed government buildings hit the headlines. In the past few months, we have seen successive reports on defects, faults, and leakages in newly completed multi-million Ringgit buildings including the Jalan Duta Court Complex, the Headquarters of the Immigration Department Building in Putrajaya (see photograph to the right, courtesy of The Star), and the multi-purpose hall of the Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperative Ministry in Putrajaya (see photography below, courtesy of The Star). Not to forget are the reports on the leakages in the Parliament House and the runway blackout at the Kuala Terengganu airport that caused flights delay.

As someone who was involved in the property development industry for many years before making a "career change" to theology (well, I am still a property least in name! BTW, those who would like my professional advice, I'm happy to provide consultancy services, but please be reminded that it will be 10-year dated!), I am naturally concerned not only for the safety of these buildings but also the people that work and visit those buildings. As a responsible citizen, I am also concerned that more tax-payer's money might be used to rectify those defects in the event that the guilty party, should there be any, is not brought to justice.

It does not take a professional in the building and construction industry to inform us that defects just simply do not happen, and there could be many contributing reasons - unscrupulous cost cutting measures, poor supervision and inadequate quality control, unskilled labour, unethical practices, shoddy workmanship, poor design, not building according to specifications, and not adhering to building standards, amongst many others.

Similarly, as a theological educator, I am also concerned whether we have been producing "sick" graduates for the Christian ministry in Malaysia and beyond. And there could be many contributing reasons for this. Perhaps we have taken the easy route by providing short cuts in theological education. Perhaps we are guilty of poor pastoral supervision. Perhaps it is due to a poorly designed or outdated curriculum that does not meet the present ministerial expectations. Perhaps it is a result of lowering the standards of theological education. Perhaps we have demonstrated sloppy scholarship to our students. Perhaps we could have fallen into the temptation of conferring titles and paper qualifications to the extent that we are prepared to compromise the academic requirement and integrity of a degree programme.

Perhaps this is a good time for us to evaluate ourselves critically and honestly. The article by John Piper, "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries," is one that I constantly refer to and reflect upon. This article has been my constant source of challenge, guide, and prayer as I struggle to live out my vocation as a seminary lecturer.

Let us be reminded that as theological institutions, we must uphold our integrity as provider of quality theological education in training pastors, workers, thinkers, and scholars not only for this generation but also for the future. If we do not rectify our weaknesses now, it will be too costly in the future - and it might be too late by then.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

How Does A Biblical Scholar...?

I have started a series on "How Does A Biblical Scholar...?", hoping to answer some of the questions raised by friends, students, and people that I meet along the way.

The first post is on how I prepare and preach a sermon (followed by a postscript), and this is followed by a second post on how I organise my personal library.

The upcoming one will be on how I read the Bible (still struggling with this particular post).

So if you have any questions related to the practical aspects of the Christian faith that you would like to ask me, just drop me a note: karyong at stm dot edu dot my.

There is no promise that I will be able to answer your question(s), but if time permits and if I am able, I will try my best.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

God Is So Good...

When it comes to every Thursday during the semester, STM students seem to be praying especially hard.

What are they praying for? The seminary? The faculty and administrative staff? Fellow students? Their studies? I don't think so.

What are they praying for? They pray that it would rain...and more specifically, they pray that it would rain at 5pm...

This is because on every Thursday at 5pm, it's time for gardening where the entire student community is required to work on the grounds of the campus.

And they pray fervently for rain...

Somehow the Almighty seems to have special compassion on the students and answer their cry.

Somehow, it seems to rain or drizzle at the right time; if not, there would be sounds of thunder; just enough for the announcement to be made that gardening is cancelled. Then the rain or the thunder stops... This has happened several times already this year.

Then you can hear shouts of joy coming from the halls of residence, echoing in unison..."God is so good, God is so good..."

But what do some of the students do when gardening is cancelled? They go down to the basketball/volleyball court and demonstrate their fierce competitive spirits in the game - rain or shine...

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Classes have begun...

Classes for the new semester in the seminary have begun. For this semester, I'm teaching a course on Introduction to the New Testament and co-teaching with our "Rabbi" Anthony Loke on Exegetical Methods.

This is the first time that we are co-teaching the course Exegetical Methods in the seminary. I am taking the NT section while Anthony the OT. Previously, the course is taught by one lecturer. It will be interesting to see how well the students respond to two lecturers co-teaching the course.

Hopefully, we don't confuse them...!!

Latest book by John Paul Heil

I have just been alerted by SBL Publications regarding John Paul Heil's new book, Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ, Vol 13 in the Studies in Biblical Literature Series. The description of the book sounds very interesting:

"This book analyzes Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and demonstrates that the Letter’s implied audience heard its individual units as a rich and complex pattern of chiastic structures. It shows that, not only is the entire Letter arranged in fifteen units that function as a comprehensive chiastic structure, but that each of these fifteen units in turn exhibits its own chiastic structure. By attending carefully to the structure and rhetoric of Ephesians, this work demonstrates how the implied audience is persuaded and empowered by the progression of the Letter to “walk in love” and so contribute to the cosmic unity of all things in Christ."

Priced at US$39.95 for a paperback, this book seems a bit on the high side for a "poor" seminary lecturer (after the conversion to Ringgit Malaysia... :-) ) Looks like I have to request the library to acquire a copy. Can't wait to get hold of this book and interact with it.

John Paul Heil is Professor of New Testament at Catholic University of America. His books include The Meal Scenes in Luke-Acts: An Audience-Oriented Approach and The Rhetorical Role of Scripture in 1 Corinthians (Society of Biblical Literature); The Gospel of Mark as Model for Action: A Reader-Response Commentary (Paulist); and The Death and Resurrection of Jesus: A Narrative-Critical Reading of Matthew 26–28 (Fortress).

Happy reading...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

JSNT Alert: July 2007 Vol 29 No 5

This is a not-to-be-missed issue as it reviews the latest book list in NT studies, categorised into the following:

1. New Testament General
2. New Testament Topics
3. Jesus
4. Gospels
5. Matthew
6. Mark
7. Luke--Acts
8. John
9. Paul
10. Romans
11. Corinthians
12. Galatians
13. Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon
14. Philippians & Thessalonians
15. Pastoral Epistles
16. Non-Pauline Letters
17. Revelation
18. Judaism
19. Graeco-Roman
20. Early Christianity
21. Language
22. Textual Criticism
23. Reception

If you have not been up-to-date on the latest in NT scholarship, this issue is not to be missed. For example, in the area of my interest (the Corinthian correspondence), the following books are reviewed:
Have fun reading!

Monday, 18 June 2007

My Library: How To Organise?

If you are like me, a bibliophile, I would like to know how your organise your library.

But since I returned home from the UK last October, I have greatly reduced my visits to the bookstores (well, let me put it this way - I was "richer" as a student, at least I have a larger book budget allocated for me...but as a seminary lecturer...well....let's not go into this!)

I am not sure how Alex Tang does it, but judging from his monthly book hunting quests which he describes as one of his favourite activities (make sure you check out the piles and piles of books he acquired in just one trip to the bookstores in Singapore), one can only imagine that he must have designed a large special room in his home to house his invaluable asset!

Another "partner-in-crime," Pearlie, kind of "blamed" me for her indulgence in the recent Evangel sale (make sure you check out which is her favourite aisle in one of the local bookstores! I wonder whether she deliberately brought along a camera to a bookstore?!)

I do not have a "system" in organising my library, i.e., I do not follow the Library of Congress or the Dewey systems. This is what I generally do for my collection in biblical studies:


  • I tend to group commentaries according to its canonical book order - but I do run into some problems. For example, most NT commentaries do not have a single volume on Colossians, but they include Philemon. I'd just place them in my collection on Colossians Another problem is what does one do with multi-volume commentaries? For example, there are 5 volumes in the Expositor's Bible Commentary series. In this case, it does not really fit into the commentaries based on individual books. So I decided to put them together in a series.

Hebrew Bible

  • This is followed by my collection of the Hebrew Bible - I don't have much problem with this as my collection for this "forgotten" testament is somehow limited...

NT Studies

I group the NT studies into several categories:

  • Greek Grammars

  • Textual Issues

  • Hermeneutics/Biblical Interpretation

  • Introduction to the NT

  • NT Background

  • Biblical Theology

  • Gospels

  • Jesus Studies

  • Pauline Studies

  • Thematic Studies that do not seem to fall into any of the categories above, such as the Use of OT in the NT; Mission in the NT; Ethics, etc.

Well, as you can see, what I do for my collection is rather arbitrary.

If you have other ideas, do let me know!

New Semester Begins...

Today marks the beginning of the second semester in the 2007 academic year. STM is now buzzing with activities. After a month of "silence" in the campus, the students returned from their semester break, and lectures will begin this week.

As in the tradition of STM, the day begins with a Quiet Day. This year, Rev Victor Vethamani is the speaker and the theme is "Have Thine Own Way."

Sunday, 17 June 2007

SYNEIDON Research Project

I recently came across the Syneidon Research Project based at the Graduate Institute for Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham.

According to its website, the work of "Biblical scholars is usually published in specialist journals which, together with their highly technical language, remain inaccessible to the general public. SYNEIDON is dedicated to providing an accessible and non-technical introduction to the academic research of the Old and New Testament for everyone who wishes to widen their understanding and appreciation of these texts, regardless of faith or academic ability."

Therefore, the aims of the this project are threefold:
  1. To provide informative and fun courses, all of which can be tailored to suit the needs of your church or group. The aim of each course is to stimulate thought and an active engagement with the Bible.
  2. To promote and disseminate current research in the Old and New Testament to a wider audience.
  3. To encourage opportunities for interaction between faith-based and academic approaches to the study of the Bible.
There are some very useful resources and interesting information posted on the website already. Check out the forum, the research digest, and courses suitable for church groups.

This project appears to be very promising, and it is a very useful introduction not only to those who are interested in biblical studies but also to beginning seminary students.

It has always been my dream to create something similar with the SYNEIDON project where academic research of biblical studies can be made accessible in non-technical language to the wider audience. I wish this project every success.

Perhaps a Malaysian version of this website can be created where resources suited for the local context can be promoted and shared. At the same time, perhaps courses suitable for church groups can also be designed to benefit, equip, and empower the wider audience. Any adventurous takers out there? If so, I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Interested in A Study Tour Following the Footsteps of Paul?

I am just throwing this out to all of you out there. We are currently exploring the feasibility of offering a guided study tour following the footsteps of the Apostle Paul to Greece and Turkey. There is a possibility that you can take this study tour for a 3-credit hour course with Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. We are wondering whether there is sufficient interest out there for us to proceed with further planning.

We do not have any further details at the moment, but most likely, it would be a 8-9 day tour, and the cost would be at least RM5k!

We are looking at the 3rd quarter of 2008 for the trip, after the summer peak season, to take advantage of the lower cost.

If you are interest, please do drop me a note: karyong at stm dot edu dot my.

p.s. - concerning the photo: that's yours truly at Areopagus, standing at the spot traditionally believed to be where Paul stood when he addressed the people of Athens (Acts 17:25-34).

Friday, 15 June 2007

Postscript to My Sermon: What Story Are You Telling?

A number of friends have asked me about my sermon that I preached last Sunday (see my earlier post, My Sermon: What Story Are You Telling?). Thanks to all who encouraged me.

It's difficult for me to share about my sermon. But based on the feedback and comments received, I think the congregation was blessed by the sketch. It seems to me that having the sketch in the middle of the sermon did create an impact - because it was totally unexpected and it surprised everyone. As a result, the main message of the sermon was powerfully communicated.

The sketch went very well. Both Ruth and Ewe Jin did a fantastic job. Both of them have recorded their reflections on the sketch. Do read what Ruth and Ewe Jin have to say about their experience. The script for the sketch can also be found in Ruth's blog.

I hope that on Sunday, June 10 2007, the church has a different, refreshing, and meaningful worship experience.

p.s. - oh yes, I did receive one more comment - my sermon is getting shorter and shorter....! Hmmm..wonder whether is this good or bad?

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Chinese Programme at Gordon-Conwell

It is interesting to note that Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is developing a Chinese Language Semlink programme leading to an award of a Chinese-Semlink Diploma. Semlink is the distance learning programme developed by Gordon-Conwell and credits earned through the English Language Semlink programme can be applied to the regular MA or MDiv programmes of the seminary. The courses offered are actual lecturers that are videotaped/recorded.

According to the website, the Chinese-Semlink diploma programme is "designed to train men and women for ministry in Mandarin-speaking contexts in the United States and around the world through an e-learning environment."

"Although not yet offered for degree credit, the diploma curriculum is provided at a graduate level and involves Master of Arts core courses."

Please note that "The application process for Chinese-Semlink diploma students is completely separate from the application process for Gordon-Conwell degree programs."

To qualify for the award of the Chinese-Semlink Diploma, students are required to complete 6 core courses and 2 electives.

The core courses are:
- NT Survey
- OT Survey
- Theology Survey I
- Theology Survey II
- Survey of Church History
- The World Mission of the Church

The electives are:
- Life of Jesus
- Paul and his Letters
- Theology of the Pentateuch
- Old Testament Ethics

For further information on the Chinese Language Semlink programmes, click here and here.

Note also that the fees for students from Asia are heavily reduced. Scholarships are also available (well, that is if my reading of the Chinese version of the website is correct!!).

Is anyone out there interested in the Chinese Language Semlink programme?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Review of Biblical Literature 13 June 2007

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature has now been published.

Robert Chisholm
A Workbook for Intermediate Hebrew: Grammar, Exegesis, and Commentary on Jonah and Ruth
Reviewed by Stefan Fischer

Katharine Dell
The Book of Proverbs in Social and Theological Context
Reviewed by Magne Sæbø

Donald Jackson
The Saint John's Bible: Prophets
Reviewed by George C. Heider

Robert Jewett
Romans: A Commentary
Reviewed by James D. G. Dunn
Reviewed by Friedrich W. Horn

Mark Roncace
Jeremiah, Zedekiah, and the Fall of Jerusalem
Reviewed by Bob Becking

Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, ed.
The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: A-C
Reviewed by Walter A. Vogels

Esther Straub
Kritische Theologie ohne ein Wort vom Kreuz: Zum Verhältnis von Joh 1-12 und 13-20
Reviewed by Andrew T. Lincoln

Alfons Weiser
Der zweite Brief an Timotheus
Reviewed by Raymond F. Collins

L. L. Welborn
Paul, the Fool of Christ: A Study of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in the Comic-Philosophic Tradition
Reviewed by Russell Morton

Nicola Wendebourg
Der Tag des Herrn: Zur Gerichtserwartung im Neuen Testament auf ihrem alttestamentlichen und frühjüdischen Hintergrund
Reviewed by Markus Oehler


Bibliography: How and Where? Part 2

In my previous post, I have highlighted some tips on searching for books. In this entry, I will highlight some useful ideas in looking for articles and journals.

2) Journal and Articles

This is a very tedious process if the library does not subscribe to any online search engines such as ATLAS/ATLA, OCLCFirstSearch, Ingenta, etc. But all is not lost. You can still refer to the following links, and you might find just what you need!

David Instone-Brewer, Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and New Testament at Tyndale House, has done a marvelous job in creating links for journals and periodicals. Check out his his Tyndale Tech email "Theology Periodicals Online"

Full-Text Theology Journals Online, St Mary's University Louis J Blume Library

E-journals on BSW, Biblical Studies on the Web

Directory of Open Access Journals - this project attempts to list all academic journals with free internet access.

Index theologicus (IxTheo), University of Tubingen - contains more than 600 journals, including Festschriften and congress publications! This database also contains many non-English materials.

coming up...searching for Theses and Dissertations

Bibliography: How and Where? Part 1

One of the biggest challenges for theological students is finding bibliographic sources. This is one of the struggles that beginning students taking the Master of Theology programme usually encounter. The difficulty is building up a fairly exhaustive bibliography at the early stage of their research.

In the upcoming Seminari Theoloji Malaysia Master of Theology Seminar (usually held fortnightly), I have been given the task of giving some tips to our MTheol students in New Testament concentration on how they could build up a good bibliography for their research. My concern here is to use the internet for one's research.
Modern technology has made this task much easier and the following links are just some examples of how building a good bibliography is just a matter of a few clicks away! If the book or journal article is not available in the library, an order can always easily be made (more about this later in another post).

I've decided to document it in my blog, perhaps this could also be helpful to other research and theological students as well. (Note: if you have other tips, please let me know. Also, it would be great to learn from your experience as well)

1) Finding Books - using bibliographic search engines on the web

Tyndale House Library catalogue - TynCat
If you can find a book in Tyndale Library, then it is worth reading! Tyndale House is a specialist library in biblical studies, one of the three in the world!

The best thing about using TynCat is that the records are formatted for copying and pasting them straight to your footnotes and bibliography - this saves time! There are also links to online reviews and online copies.

This is a combined catalogue of 24 UK academic libraries in one single database.

Library of Congress Online Catalog
This is the largest English-language library catalogue in the world. You will surely find something here!

BILDI: Documentation for biblical literature Innsbruck
This is an excellent, free bibliographical tool from the School of Theology at the University of Innsbruck. Searches for books and articles can easily be done in a comprehensive database. This is one database that should not be missed for theological books and articles. Note also that there are several special databases: Deuteronomy; and Plants and animals in the Bible

BiBIL: Biblical Bibliography of Lausanne
This is a very useful free bibliographical tool for books and articles on Biblical Studies. But note that this database is not as comprehensive as BILDI but capable of quite complex and detailed searches, including use of Biblical languages.

Multi-Library Search
This is one of the best bibliographic search engines. It searches several catalogues comprising Online Biblical Articles Library, Library of Congress Online Catalog, COPAC (Union of Universities in the UK and Ireland), BILDI, and Pontifical Biblical Institute Catalogue at a click of your mouse.

Google Books
I have commented on this in one of my earlier posts. See the post on "The Wired Scholar and Google Books."
Don't laugh!!

Search by keyword or subject. Make sure you check out the exciting feature available online in the website, where you can search for the content of the entire book, and are able to browse through selected books in its entirety (No kidding!!). I have used this feature many times, and find it very useful and helpful.

More coming......

The Wired Scholar and Google Books

I have not been catching up with much reading recently, so I decided to visit the website of the Society of Biblical Literature to see if there is anything new there. I am not disappointed every time I go to SBL website.

The latest May 2007 Forum contains a very interesting post by Danny Zacharias on The Wired Scholar: Five Free Tools You May Not Know About.

Of particular interest is the highlight of Google Books. I have not been using Google Books for a while, and thought that it is worth trying out again. I am surprised at the amount of books in biblical studies that have been digitalised since my last visit and are now made available publicly. I did a quick advanced search on "Corinthians", an area of my own research interest, and it returned 1,164 titles.

Of course, full view are available only for some 22 books (e.g., Hodge's 2 Corinthians; Barnes' 2 Corinthians) while limited view for many others (e.g., I was looking in vain for some of these books but I found them here: Gooch's Dangerous Food; Holleman's Resurrection and Parousia; Kovacs' 1 Corinthians; and Smit's About the Idol Offering). The limited view gives one a rather limited idea of what a book is about but this may be sufficient for some books. For example, it gives about 25pp. of Furnish's Theology of First Letter to the Corinthians, out of a total of 173pp.; and 40pp. of Matera's commentary on II Corinthians. Not a bad deal, especially if your library does not carry the titles found in the limited view. Who knows, you might only need those pages that are available online!

Zacharias also highlights two "under construction" web pages dedicated to pointing out biblical studies works that are freely available, mostly from Google Books. While most of these works are now in the public domain, the list contains some recent books as well. Check out the following lists:

  1. The first is maintained by Mischa Hooker from the University of Memphis.

  2. The second is a joint collaborative efforts by Bob Buller and Zacharias himself.
There is less excuse now for students to complain about the difficulty in obtaining books that are not available in the library, and hence not referring to them in their essays/thesis.

Read the rest of Zacharias' article here.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives

I have just been alerted on the latest book by prominent NT scholar, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor - Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives (Collegeville: Liturgical Press : 2007). I hope to get hold of this book soon, as its description sounds really fascinating:

Belying the assumption that there is nothing more to discover about the similarities between Jesus and the apostle Paul, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor gives us this enticing study. Extracting his information from a variety of sources—pagan, Jewish, and Christian—Murphy-O’Connor imaginatively interweaves geographical, cultural, and historical elements into configurations that reveal important parallel trajectories in the lives of Jesus and Paul. Murphy-O’Connor begins by discussing the births, early years, and family settings of Jesus and Paul. He continues with an examination of their education, refugee status, social class, economic position, political circumstances, cultural influences, and conversion experiences. Finally, he explores details surrounding their deaths. In the end, Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives gives us incisive comparisons that include but also go beyond the Scriptures to suggest novel ways of picturing Jesus-Paul. Readers will appreciate the labors of Murphy-O’Connor to contextualize Jesus, the God-Man, alongside Paul, Man of God and Apostle to the Gentiles—and will thereby have a greater appreciation for the missions of both.

In my own doctoral thesis, I argued that the influence of the story of Jesus in Paul's understanding of his suffering and gentile mission has not been given its due recognition. As such, this is one book that I wished could have been published before I completed my thesis. I strongly believe it would have made a significant contribution to my thesis and further strengthened my argument.

Thanks Jerome for what appears to be another interesting and significant contribution by you on the Jesus-Paul debate. I look forward to reading your latest book!

I Called Him "Daddy": A Tribute to My Uncle

I called him "Daddy", just like all his children would call him. All my other siblings also called him "Daddy." This goes to demonstrate how close my uncle (my father's younger brother) was to me. As far as memory could recall, I always remembered that he had always been there for me during my childhood days until the day I left for university. We lived only two doors apart in our hometown, Kota Bharu.

In many respects, he was like a Daddy to me. From Standard 1 right up to Form 5, he was the one who fetched me to school without fail everyday. He would be our "captain" during the Mooncake Festival (Mid-Autumn festival), being there with all his children, nephews and nieces, in celebrating the festival with brightly lighted and beautifully decorated lanterns.

As an educator, Daddy made a very significant contribution to the field of education, particularly in the development of the national-type Chinese primary school in the state of Kelantan. He was a teacher, friend, and mentor to many.

In the church, Daddy also served the Lord with wholehearted devotion both in Kota Bahru Chinese Presbyterian Church and Kuantan Presbyterian Church. Those in the church could readily testify of his faithfulness and commitment in the ministry of the gospel of Christ.

On June 10, 2007, at 3.55am, I lost my Daddy. He departed from this world and went home to be his Maker. As Kar Tiat, his youngest son (my cousin) reminded us in his tribute to his father last night during the momorial service, life has no full continues on. Although Daddy finished his journey on earth, his life in the bosoms of the Heavenly Father has just begun. Although a chapter of his life on earth had ended, a new one has just begun for him in the Lord's presence. Although we dearly miss his presence on earth, there will always be a very special place in our hearts for him - our fond memory of him would always live on, be cherished and will be passed on to our future generations.

Daddy, as we bid you goodbye, we long to see you again, and we have this confidence that we will we see you again in glory.

Daddy, we miss you, but we know this is temporary. We will see you face to face again in glory...And it's just a matter of time.

"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
will award to me on that day--and not only to me,
but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
- 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Experience Ancient Rome!!

Are you like me, still dreaming of that day that you would be able to experience ancient Rome in a very real way? Have you ever wondered how some of the interiors of the Senate, the Colosseum and the basilica built by the emperor Maxentius looked like? Ever wondered how the numerous statues and monuments as they would appear without the dark smudges left by pollution looked like?

Dream no more! The Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia has launched Rome Reborn 1.0, a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared in AD320.

The purpose of this project which took 10 years in preparation is to "spatialize and present information and theories about how the city looked at this moment in time, which was more or less the height of its development as the capital of the Roman Empire."

It contains still images, video clips, audio clips and papers concerning ancient Rome (unfortunately, I am unable to stream the video clips at the time of writing - no thanks to streamyx!!)

Read the news report below, and make sure you check out Rome Reborn!


By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer

ROME - Computer experts on Monday unveiled a digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320 — what they called the largest and most complete simulation of a historic city ever created.

Visitors to virtual Rome will be able to do even more than ancient Romans did: They can crawl through the bowels of the Colosseum, filled with lion cages and primitive elevators, and fly up for a detailed look at bas-reliefs and inscriptions atop triumphal arches.

"This is the first step in the creation of a virtual time machine, which our children and grandchildren will use to study the history of Rome and many other great cities around the world," said Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, who led the project.

The US$2 million simulation will be used by scientists to run experiments — such as determining the crowd capacity of ancient buildings — and as a scholarly journal that will be updated at each new discovery of one of Rome's marvels.

Frischer also said students and tourists can also use the program to learn about ancient Rome.

The simulation reconstructs some 7,000 buildings at the time of emperor Constantine, when Rome was a vibrant and cosmopolitan city of about 1 million people, said Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, who led the project.

Guided by laser scans of modern-day Rome and advice from archaeologists, experts have rebuilt almost the entire city within its original 13-mile-long wall using the same computer programs architects use to plan new constructions, he said.

It even includes the interiors of about 30 buildings — among them the Senate, the Colosseum and the basilica built by the emperor Maxentius — complete with frescoes and decorations.

The simulation shows statues and monuments as they would appear without the dark smudges left by pollution. The computer experts also were able to accurately recreate buildings that are now almost in ruins, such as the temple dedicated to the goddesses Venus and Roma and the Meta Sudans, a fountain that stood near the Colosseum, Frischer said.

The program was created over 10 years by an international team of archaeologists, architects and computer specialists from the University of Virginia and UCLA, as well research institutes in Italy, Germany and Britain, he said.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

The Apostle Paul - A Storyteller?

Is Paul a storyteller? A philosophical debater? My own research in Paul has led me to consider the narrative dynamics approach to Paul (taking the cue after Richard Hays, NT Wright, Ben Witherington III, Steven Fowl, and Michael Gorman, amongst others - well..more about this approach later). I recently wrote a short article that is published in the first issue of Berita STM for 2007. This article is reproduced below.

I Love to Tell the Story

When we think of the Apostle Paul, we would naturally think of him as a courageous missionary who contributes significantly to the expansion of Christianity; an excellent communicator who articulates his thoughts eloquently and persuasively in his letters; and a principled person that stands his ground without compromise, refutes false teachings, and confronts those who oppose the gospel of Christ.

Many of us may not consider him as an engaging storyteller. If we consider the world that Paul lives in, narrative and story are fundamental to the very fabric of oral cultures that he is accustomed to. Paul’s symbolic universe is essentially made up of a series of stories. When Paul thinks of sin, he thinks of the story of Adam (Rom 5:12-19); when he thinks of the law, he thinks of the story of Moses (2 Cor 3:7-18); and when he thinks justification, he thinks of the story of Abraham (Rom 4:1-25; Gal 3:6-9). Above all else, when Paul thinks of grace and redemption, he thinks of the story of Jesus Christ, especially the story of his death and resurrection. It is this story that Paul places special emphasis in his letters, particularly in his correspondence to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:2; 11:23-26; 15:3-9; 12, 20; 2 Cor 4:7-15; 5:14-15; 8:9; 13:4). Why does Paul continue to recount the story of Jesus to the Christ-believers in Corinth?

First, this is the story that Paul wants the church in Corinth to embrace. In his initial proclamation of the gospel in Corinth, Paul emphasizes on the story of Jesus and him crucified so that their faith is grounded in the unshakable foundation of Christ, and not any clever rhetoric or human wisdom (1 Cor 2:1-5).

Second, this is the story that Paul wants the church in Corinth to proclaim. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Paul not only draws on the story of Jesus, he also reminds the church that whenever they gather to celebrate the Eucharist, they are in fact proclaiming this story until Jesus comes again (1 Cor 11:26).

Finally, this is the story that Paul wants the church in Corinth to live out in their daily lives. In exhorting the church to give generously to the financial project that Paul initiated in helping the church in Jerusalem, Paul appeals to the story of Jesus (2 Cor 8:9). It is this character of Jesus Christ that considers the needs of others before self that Paul wants the church to emulate (see also Phil 2:5-11).

For Paul, the Easter story is not simply an event in the past that has no contemporary significance, neither it is a story that is worthy only to be recalled during the Lent season. It is a story that is to be embraced, proclaimed and lived out in our daily lives. No wonder, the story of Jesus is the story that Paul never gets tired of telling and retelling. It is the same story that we are called to tell and retell as beautifully reflected in the words of this hymn:

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Position: NT Tutor, Wycliffe Hall

Wycliffe Hall, Oxford announces the appointment of the position of Tutor in New Testament. The college is going through some difficult times at the moment, as highlighted in the press. So do be in prayers for the college.

See my previous posts:


Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

Tutor in New Testament

Job Description

Wycliffe Hall is an international centre for evangelical Christian life and thought within the University of Oxford. It is both a theological college of the Church of England and a Permanent Private Hall of Oxford University. The Hall trains ordinands, mainly for the Anglican ministry, but also welcomes independent students, postgraduates, school-leaver undergraduates and a variety of others. The total student student body is in the region of 130 students. We also have a thriving part-time course with around 70 students and another 60 on an American Studies programme in Oxford. It is committed to the task of training Christian leaders for both church and society, through a focus on theology, community and mission.

The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, in partnership with Wycliffe and the Zacharias Trust, is also based at Wycliffe Hall

From 1st September 2007, or as soon as possible thereafter, we are looking to make appointment of Tutor in New Testament. This is a significant opportunity to contribute to teaching and research in the Hall and the University as well as contributing to the task of ministerial and spiritual formation in those called to ordained and other ministry.

Major Roles and Responsibilities

1 Teaching

§ A lead role in tutorial teaching for those undertaking the BA Honours school in Theology in the University of Oxford, especially those from within the Hall. This will involve tutoring in the following papers:
- the Gospels and Jesus
- Pauline literature

§ Delivering lectures and other involvement within the Faculty of Theology of the University, including the potential supervision of research students

§ Teaching within Wycliffe Hall (alongside the other New Testament lecturer, the Revd Dr Peter Walker), the New Testament syllabus for the University of Oxford Bachelor of Theology and other ministry courses. This is likely to include contributions in the following areas:

- Jesus and the gospels, including their reliability;
- New Testament books, including Matthew, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians;
- Other New Testament books or topics either as part of the syllabus or the wider bible teaching programme of the Hall (eg in ‘Bible themed weeks’ or ‘Integrated Study Weeks’).

2 Research: research, writing, reading and publication in areas of expertise.

3 Other responsibilities

§ Being a member of the college Academic team (as part of the management structure of the Hall).
§ Leading a college fellowship group, including report writing.
§ Leading a preaching group and associated responsibilities.
· To contribute, as requested, to teaching on the Hall’s evening Diploma course.
§ Other administrative and wider college responsibilities as directed by the Principal

Person & Skills Specification

We are looking for someone with significant ability in teaching and research, and with a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ. A postgraduate qualification (probably at doctoral level) is essential and experience of university level teaching an advantage. The candidate should be able to enthuse and inspire students for the gospel and its teaching.

The successful applicant:

  • will be committed to the Evangelical ethos of the college and be able to relate sympathetically to students from a wide variety of church backgrounds, including charismatic, open and conservative evangelicals;

  • will have a clear belief and commitment to the authority of Scripture and the transforming power of the Word of God;

  • will have a biblical understanding of ministry consonant with the Trust Deed of Wycliffe Hall;

  • will be able to encourage and enthuse students for leadership, mission and ministry;

  • will be prepared actively to support the training of women and men together for leadership in the church;

  • will be gifted in the areas of New Testament teaching;

  • will be theologically well-qualified and have a higher degree (probably a doctorate);

  • will be able to bring the skills of theological and biblical reflection upon practice;

  • must be able to teach students clearly and sympathetically and to enthuse them.

There is a Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR) that the postholder is a Christian man or woman, being in full sympathy with the ethos and aims of Wycliffe Hall. Regulation 7(2)a of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 applies.

Enhanced CRB disclosure is required.

All tutors, prior to formal appointment, will be required to sign a declaration approving the objects and principles upon which Wycliffe Hall was founded and to uphold them.


This post is offered subject to the satisfactory completion of a 6-month probationary period and the capability and disciplinary provisions set out in the employee handbook. The salary is provided on Wycliffe’s scale (linked to both the Lichfield Scale and the University of Oxford) and will be £24,697 (as at 1 April 2007) plus housing (either a college provided property or an allowance of up to £15,000 per annum).

In addition, in the case of an ordained person, the employee will be a member of the Church of England Pension Scheme, and the college will be the responsible body for contributions. In the case of a lay appointee, an amount equal to 20% of the stipend would be payable to a private pension scheme. However, arrangements can be made for the pension to be taken as part of the salary.

30 days per year, in accordance with the College Holiday Policy, in addition to public holidays, which if these fall during college term, shall be taken at an agreed time during vacations.

Study leave
Currently tutors are provided with study leave of 3 months in a four-year period.

Book Grant
A book grant of £563 per annum is provided.

Meals in college
The appointee will be entitled to free college meals except when the kitchen is closed.

The job description is correct as at 7 June 2007. It will, however, be discussed between the appointee and the Principal of Wycliffe Hall, and may be amended from time-to-time, following such consultation, to reflect developments in or changes to the job.

To apply for this post, please send the following
1) A full CV.
2) A personal statement explaining your vision for this position and the experience you have which might qualify you for this post.
3) The names and addresses of TWO referees.
4) A covering letter.

Please note that we are unable to accept applications by email.

§ Applications are to arrive by 28 June 2007.
§ Interviews are likely to take place at Wycliffe Hall on 11 July 2007.
§ Shortlisted candidates will be expected to give a ten-minute presentation on one aspect of contemporary New Testament studies designed for first year ministerial students.

If you have queries about the post or wish to have an informal discussion regarding this vacancy, please contact Helen Mitchell, College Administrator (01865 274201).

Please send applications to:

Miss Helen Mitchell, College Administrator, Wycliffe Hall, 54 Banbury Road,
Oxford, OX2 6PW

Email address:

Thursday, 7 June 2007

My Sermon: What Story Are You Telling?

How does a theologian/biblical scholar preach a Sunday sermon? How does he/she prepare for a sermon? What about sentence diagram? Do we need to quote Greek text, or provide our translation if we disagree with the translation of the pew Bible? These are some of the questions I have been repeatedly asked. In addition, I think it was one of my students who also asked me whether textual criticism should be included in a sermon.

I've decided that perhaps I'd share some of my joy and struggles in preparing for my sermon this coming Sunday, June 10, 2007.

I must confess that for me, preaching does not come easily, and it is something that I struggle with everytime I have to preach, and it is usually accompanied by sleepless nights. Unlike those who have the gift of communication who could preach without notes, this is one area I lack; and to overcome this, I found that the best way for me is to script out my sermon in its entirety - this way I will not be caught in a situation where I could be lost for words. Not to mention, I know for sure how long my sermon is going to take because we could easily get carried away in our sermon and we forget how fast time flies when we speak.

The text that I have chosen is Mark 5:1-20 on the narrative the healing of the demon-possessed man in the region of Gerasenes.

Of course with the help of BibleWorks, it makes the task of reading the Greek text a great joy! Several key elements in this narrative strike me:
  1. This account signifies a turning point in Mark's gospel. Here, Jesus is now entering into a gentile territory.
  2. The irony is that Jesus' ministry thus far up to Mark 4 has been met with conflict and rejection, although some welcome him (cf. the five conflict stories in mark 2:1-3:6); and it is in a gentile territory that a gentile is healed of his condition, and becomes the first evangelist to the gentiles.
  3. In 5:3-5, all the verbs are in imperfect tense in describing the conditions of the demoniac man. This highlights the continuous pathetic circumstances surrounding the man, and the imperfect provides a very vivid picture of the situation the man is in.
  4. In 5:6, the verbs change to aorist tense, describing the actions of the demoniac man in approaching Jesus
  5. In 5:7, the verb is in present tense in describing the actions of the demoniac man crying out to Jesus
  6. From 5:9-20, there is a constant change in the tenses - from imperfect to present and back to imperfect, and then aorist, imperfect, present and aorist. This is interesting. Why does the evangelist continue to switch the tenses? I suspect that this is to provide a very dramatic and vivid narrative of the event, highlighting emphasis, and at the same time contrasting the varied responses to the event of the healing of the demoniac man.
  7. There are two versions of the eyewitness accounts recorded in this account on how the people reacted to Jesus' acts of healing and exorcism - the account of the pig farmers (5:14-16) and the account of the demoniac man (5:20)
  8. Each of these eyewitness accounts results in opposing response to Jesus. Based on the account of the pig farmers, the people reject Jesus. However, based on the story of the healed demoniac man, people welcome Jesus (cf. the response of the people in Decapolis in 7:31-37 - could this be due to the testimony of the healed demoniac man as recorded in 5:20 that prepared for the subsequent visit of Jesus to the area?)

The are many other insights that I could list, but I thought for my sermon, I would focus on the BIG IDEA (a concept of preaching learned from my "sifu" - Haddon Robbinson) of the differing eyewitness accounts that result in opposing response to Jesus. To help me make the emphasis of this point, I turn to my good old friends to help me come out with a sketch - Chris, Ruth, and Ewe Jin. Chris will write the script, Ruth will play the role of Mrs Pig Farmer, and Ewe Jin Mr Demoniac. Both Ruth and Ewe Jin will tell stories of their encounter with Jesus - one focuses on her loss, the other his gain; one focuses on the negative and the other positive. But both have one thing in common - something are GONE in their lives - the pigs for Mrs Pig Farmer; and the chains for Mr Demoniac.

We have decided that the sketch will come on in the middle of the sermon - to give the congregation an unexpected "interruption" - after I give the historical background of the narrative. Then after the sketch, I will draw the sermon to a close with practical applications and implications for Christian living and discipleship - what story are we telling in our witness for Christ in a pluralistic context? Do our testimony, demonstrated through both our word and deed, result in people rejecting or accepting Jesus? Are we telling the story of how much the Lord has done for us, and how he has had mercy on us? (5:19)

As a seminary lecturer, my concern is not only faithful exegesis of the text, but also relevant application of the text in our contemporary setting. I am reminded that if I strive to be the best exegete of the text and yet fail to bring out its contemporary significance to the congregation, I fail as a preacher and teacher of the scripture. If I can be a very eloquent and persuasive preacher and yet fail to subject my life to the authority of the Bible, I not only a hypocrite but also one that brings dishonour to the One whom I am proclaiming. As such, every preaching engagement is a humbling process. It is a struggle. It comes with sleepless nights. But yet I can trust that every word of the Lord that is faithfully proclaimed will not return to him void. This is my prayer, hope, and joy.

So, now it's time for me to script out my sermon. Pray for me, and also for Chris, Ruth and Ewe Jin for the sketch.

Pray for the Seminaries and for Us

Over the past few days, I have posted several articles on the transitions that some of the seminaries/theological colleges are presently going through. (For previous posts, see here, here, here, here, here, and here). Another one of my previous posts (I have been requested to remove it) may have offended some parties and I apologise for any offence and confusion caused.

I think it is worthwhile to pause for a moment to reflect on the role of a seminary/bible college and the responsibility that God has placed on those who teach in theological institutions. In this respect, I find John Piper's article on "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries" which is reproduced below, to be very timely and inspiring. On reading it once again, I realise that as a theological educator, how insufficient I am to the calling God has placed in my life, and as a theological institution, how inadequate we are to train and equip God's people for ministry.

So, I urge you, if you are able, please spare a moment and say a prayer for the seminaries and for us.


Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries by John Piper

We cannot overemphasize the importance of our seminaries in shaping the theology and spirit of the churches and denominations and missionary enterprise. The tone of the classrooms and teachers exerts profound effect on the tone of our pulpits. What the teachers are passionate about will by and large be the passions of our younger pastors. What they neglect will likely be neglected in the pulpits.

When I was choosing a seminary, someone gave me good advice. “A seminary is one thing,” he told me. “Faculty. Do not choose a denomination or a library or a location. Choose a great faculty. Everything else is incidental.” By “great faculty” he, of course, did not mean mere charismatic personalities. He meant that wonderful combination of passion for God, for truth, for the church, and for the perishing, along with a deep understanding of God and his Word, a high esteem for doctrinal truth, and careful interpretation and exposition of the infallible Bible.

I believe his advice was right: choose a seminary for its teachers. Which means that when we pray for our seminaries, we pray especially for the minds and hearts of faculty and those who assess and hire them.

When we stop to think for a while about what to pray, we start to clarify our own concept of ministry. We can’t pray without a goal. And we can’t have a goal for a seminary faculty unless we have a vision for what kind of pastors we want to see graduate. So the more we try to pray, the more we are forced to define what we value in the pastoral office. And once we clarify this, we begin to ponder what sort of person and pedagogy cultivates these values.

So the will to pray for the seminary presses us on to develop at least a rudimentary pastoral theology and philosophy of theological education. What follows is a baby step in this direction – a rough sketch of what I think we need from our seminaries. My petitions cluster in three groups. Each group echoes a biblical value at which I think we should aim, and toward which we should pray, in pastoral education.

Under the all-embracing goal of God’s glory (first petition), petitions 2-7 echo my goal that we cultivate a contrite and humble sense of human insufficiency. “I am the vine, you are the branches . . . apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16).

Petitions 8-11 echo my goal that we cultivate a great passion for Christ’s all-sufficiency; and that, for all our enthusiasm over contemporary trends in ministry, the overwhelming zeal of a pastor’s heart be for the changeless fundamentals of the faith. “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7).

Petitions 12-21 echo my goal that we cultivate strong allegiance to all of Scripture, and that what the apostles and prophets preached and taught in Scripture will be esteemed worthy of our careful and faithful exposition to God’s people. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

You will want to supplement these prayers with the burdens of your own heart for the seminaries you care about most deeply. But these are essential, I think, to breed power and purity in our churches.

I pray:
  1. That the supreme, heartfelt and explicit goal of every faculty member might be to teach and live in such a way that his students come to admire the glory of God with white-hot intensity (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 5:16).

  2. That, among the many ways this goal can be sought, the whole faculty will seek it by the means suggested in 1 Peter 4:11: Serve “in the strength which God supplies: in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

  3. That the challenge of the ministry might be presented in such a way that the question rises authentically in students’ hearts: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

  4. That in every course the indispensable and precious enabling of the Holy Spirit will receive significant emphasis in comparison to other means of ministerial success (Galatians 3:5).

  5. That teachers will cultivate the pastoral attitude expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Romans 15:18: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. . . . I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles.”

  6. That the poverty of spirit commended in Matthew 5:3 and the lowliness and meekness commended in Colossians 3:12 and Ephesians 4:2 and 1 Peter 5:5-6 will be manifested through the administration, faculty, and student body.

  7. That the faculty might impress upon students by precept and example the immense pastoral need to pray without ceasing and to despair of all success without persevering prayer in reliance on God’s free mercy (Matthew 7:7-11; Ephesians 6:18).

  8. That the faculty will help the students feel what an unutterably precious thing it is to be treated mercifully by the holy God, even though we deserve to be punished in hell forever (Matthew 25:46; 18:23-35; Luke 7:42, 47).

  9. That, because of our seminary faculties, hundreds of pastors, 50 years from now, will repeat the words of John Newton on their death beds: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior.”

  10. That the faculty will inspire students to unqualified and exultant joy in the venerable verities of Scripture. “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8)

  11. That every teacher will develop a pedagogical style based on James Denney’s maxim: “No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”

  12. That in the treatment of Scripture there will be no truncated estimation of what is valuable for preaching and for life.

  13. That students will develop a respect for and use of the awful warnings of Scripture as well as its precious promises; and that the command to “pursue holiness” (Hebrews 12:14) will not be blunted, but empowered, by the assurance of divine enablement. “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20).

  14. That there might be a strong and evident conviction that the deep and constant study of Scripture is the best way to become wise in dealing with people’s problems. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  15. That the faculty may not represent the contemporary mood in critical studies which sees “minimal unity, wide-ranging diversity” in the Bible; but that they will pursue the unified “whole counsel of God” and help students see the way it all fits together. “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

  16. That explicit biblical insights will permeate all class sessions, even when issues are treated with language and paradigms borrowed from contemporary sciences.

  17. That God and his Word will not be taken for granted as the tacit “foundation” that doesn’t get talked about or admired.

  18. That the faculty will mingle the “severe discipline” of textual analysis with an intense reverence for the truth and beauty of God’s Word.

  19. That fresh discoveries will be made in the study of Scripture and shared with the church through articles and books.

  20. That faculty, deans, and presidents will have wisdom and courage from God to make appointments which promote the fulfillment of these petitions.

  21. And that boards and all those charged with leadership will be vigilant over the moral and doctrinal faithfulness of the faculty and exercise whatever discipline is necessary to preserve the biblical faithfulness of all that is taught and done.

John Piper, "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries," in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (B&H).