Sunday, 30 September 2007
Saturday, 29 September 2007
I feel very strongly that one should learn from one's mistakes and weaknesses (if any) in the papers or essays submitted. As such, I do point out some serious errors that students make, and sometimes I require them to make the necessary corrections in order to improve their work and, at the same time, to learn from the mistakes or errors that they make. Not to mention, sometimes this may improve their grade too.
However, comments on the students' mistakes and errors may not go down well at times. Sometimes, the request to rework on the papers may be frowned upon. I had one student remarked to me when I pointed out the shortcomings with the request for reworking on the paper: "I don't have time to look into it. I just want to get this out of the way."
When I heard such comments, I felt very sad, disappointed, and to a certain extent, upset. It was not because of the fact that my efforts went unappreciated. But I sometimes wonder what went wrong. Was there too much work for the students? Was I being too demanding? Or, what else could this be?
Whatever it might be, that was a sad day for me indeed.
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
These are some of the questions my colleague, the Rabbi, raised in his recent post which has generated some interesting discussion. This issue has been brewing in me for some time now. In fact this post that you are reading was first drafted sometime in August and I have been wondering whether to publish it or not. In response to the Rabbi's post, I thought that it would be good to just share my thoughts on this issue.
There have been some debates whether biblical languages are still required in the seminary curriculum. In Malaysia, seminaries like Bible College of Malaysia, Malaysia Bible Seminari and Seminari Theoloji Malaysia require students to do at least one biblical language, and this is usually Greek, and Hebrew is often considered as an elective.
Having taught at two seminaries in Malaysia for the past seven years, these are some of the frequent comments I received from former and current students:
- I don't see the relevance of Greek or Hebrew in my ministry.
- I don't foresee that I would use Greek after the Greek or exegesis class is over in the seminary.
- Most pastors that I spoke to admit that they don't even refer to their Greek Bible after seminary, and they don't even use it in their ministry, whether in counselling, preaching, or teaching.
- Some pastors don't even have time to read commentaries in preparing for their sermon, much less referring to the Greek text.
- I don't see the benefit of learning Greek - after all, all that I did was to memorise the vocabulary and the various paradigms in order to pass the exams.
In addition, I have also received many complaints from students with regards to the difficulties in grasping Greek.
Therefore, the question is this: What is the use of learning something that I know I will never use it after seminary?
I recalled some years ago that something caught my attention when I visited the website of International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC), a research and postgraduate institution of the International Islamic University Malaysia that offers Masters and PhD programmes in Islamic Studies. For the language requirements, in addition to the mastery of Arabic language, I was very surprised that Greek was also required so that those who study Islamic studies are also able to read the Christian scripture in its original language.
(I must qualify that recent visit to the website of ISTAC, there is no mention of the requirement or the offering of Greek language in its course offering. Therefore, I am uncertain whether any other languages other than Arabic are now being offered to or made compulsory for the students).
The mastery of Arabic language for the Islamic Scholars is never an option nor a requirement; in fact it is taken for granted that any Islamic scholar is able to speak, read and recite the Quran in Arabic fluently. Can this also be said to be the case with Christian scholars, ministers and pastors?
If it is true that Muslim Scholars and ministers are learning Greek so that they are able to read the NT in its original language, how much more do the Christian scholars and ministers owe it to themselves to learn at least one biblical language so that they would be able to read their own scripture in its original language as well.
If it is true that Muslims scholars and ministers are able to read the sacred text of other faiths in its original language other than their own, how much more do the Christian scholars and ministers need to master biblical language. Would the Christian dare to do less than this?
Sometimes, I wonder whether why are we so prepared to take the easier path at the expense of future generation instead of willing to pay the price of learning biblical language and thereby gaining further insights into God's word? If our Muslim counterparts are able to do it, why not us? If we truly believe that our Bible is God's word, why are we willing to compromise? Do we actually love our scripture less?
Admittedly, I must also say that I have heard excellent sermons being preached without the speakers knowing the biblical languages. I often wonder if these preachers were to have some knowledge of biblical languages, would their sermon be better?
Having said that, I must also confess that sometimes the lack of interest in biblical languages could very well be due to our teaching methodology. Perhaps, we have failed to demonstrate to the students the treasure of learning Greek and Hebrew. Perhaps we have only taught the students the mechanical and technical aspects of the language where it is nothing beyond mere memorisation of the vocabulary and different paradigms just for the sake of passing the exams. Perhaps we have failed to show them the relevance of knowing Greek and Hebrew in their teaching and preaching.
I think we still have a long way to go before we could even be at par with our Muslim counterparts. Is anyone out there willing to journey with the Rabbi and the budding NT scholar?
It is interesting to note that according to this report, Chinese Chritians in Malaysia belong to the so-called G-2 group, a group that are labelled "as “bananas,” meaning they are yellow outside (Chinese), but white inside (pro-Western culture). Or, as the Hokkiens would put it a little more explicitly, the G2 folk “chiak ang moh sai” (have eaten too much Western s**t). There's no denying that the G2 are more open to Western ideas and ideals.
"Their ideas of governance, democracy, role of the media and even elections are influenced by the West, namely Britain and the United States. They like to say these are universal ideals even though half the world does not subscribe to the way the Americans and British think,” said Fui K. Soong, director of Insap, a political think tank affiliated to MCA.
In addition, the articles reports that "the G2 are issue-oriented. They are influenced by issues and their votes swing from one election to another. They are mostly middle-class, articulate and prone to take issues to the press and in recent years into the Internet...The Chinese, it is often said, are quite inscrutable about their politics but not this group. They are not afraid to air their political views or who they will vote for.
“They are so articulate about their grievances that people think, ‘oh dear, the entire Chinese community is upset’.But actually, their views reflect mainly those in this English-speaking group,” said Soong.
The G2 have been the most critical of the ruling party in recent years.
The Christians in the G2 are particularly concerned about the issue of Islamic state. According to Soong, the survival of the common law and the secular state is very important to this group because it guarantees their modern lifestyle and for the Christians, the freedom to practise their faith.
“Their fears about the Islamic State is very real and emotional because they see it as a threat to Christianity. The fear comes from deep in the gut,” she said.
Read the rest of the article here.
It is rather interesting that Chinese Christians are labelled as such in the article. There is no denying that many Chinese believers in the Klang Valley belong to the group called G-2 in the article. It is even more interesting to note that Christians are particularly interested in the issue of Islamisation because of their concern for "their modern lifestyles...and the freedom to practise their faith." Islamisation is seen as "a threat to Christianity."
I could not help but to think whether Chinese Christians in Malaysia are only known as champions of freedom to practise Christianity and not freedom of religion in Malaysia? Are we only concerned about our "modern lifestyles" and conveniently turn our eyes away from the needs of the marginalised and those on the lower strata of society? Are we really blind? Are we really a group of selfish people who only care for ourselves?
On a personal note - what about me? To which group do I belong as a Chinese Christian in Malaysia? I am not sure whether I belong to G-1 or G-2. I grew up in the category of G-1 (well, at least Chinese educated) but now I think I belong to G-2 (I speak, dream and think in English, not Chinese. I read English newspaper instead of Chinese. I teach in English, and not Chinese, in the seminary. I worship in an English, not Chinese, speaking church). Perhaps a new category needs to be created, the G-3, to describe me. Or, perhaps I'm just simply confused - a result of theological education? Hmmm...
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Monday, 24 September 2007
Thursday, 20 September 2007
SEITE requires a full-time Tutor to join the existing ecumenical staff team, to be based in either Medway or central London.
We are a regional provider of ministerial formation and theological education. We have 129 students registered for this year, including 90 Ministerial Students.
The person appointed will:
- Lead the delivery and development of Biblical Studies teaching at the Institute
- Share with staff colleagues responsibility for supervising Ministerial Students from the Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran Churches
- Make a distinctive contribution to the development of the Institute.
Salary and benefits in accordance with the Lichfield scale.
Further details and Application Forms from:
Sun Pier House,
Chatham, ME4 4HF
Tel: 01634 846683
Closing date for applications: October 1st 2007
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
- Redefining Success for the Nation by Steve Wong
- Building National Unity in Poor Urban Communities by Kon Onn Sein
- Historical Insights into the Problem of Race Relations in Malaysia by Tan Kang San
- Life in the Service by Wong Ming Yook
- Religious Freedom after 50 Years of Independence by Lim Heng Seng
- Working Together for the Common Good by Wong Kim Kong
- Negaraku: My Country, My King, My God by Bob Teoh
- Redefining Patriotism: Why I Don’t Feel Like Celebrating by Wong Siew Li
- A Christian Social Vision for Nation Building by Ng Kam Weng
- Commentary: Tanah Air Ku! by Low Chai Hok
- Stories from Borneo: Building Bridges: Empty Tins, Woks & Firewood by Sylvia Webb
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
4) The Implications for the Church Today
In the beginning of this paper, I have raised two questions.
1) Does Jesus exhibit any political awareness in his earthly ministry?
2) Do the multitude perceive the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus to be political?
After our brief consideration, we can only come to a conclusion that both Jesus and the multitude understood him as political, not in the narrow sense of gaining and maintaining powers in party politics, but in the broad sense of ensuring the good life of the community. This involves making decisions affecting social groups in terms of ethical values and priorities; proper and just economic allocation and distribution of resources; calling the political and religious establishments to integrity and transparency by exposing their inner corruption and abuse of power; and ultimately calling Israel to live as a people of God in light of God’s covenantal faithfulness, failing which, the dreadful judgement and the wrath of God would await them. Notice that all of these are carried out in the public square and not in the private sphere of religion.
What does this mean for the church today? As believers, Jesus not only summons us to a radically exclusive commitment and wholehearted devotion to him but also challenges us as a body of Christ to be the alternative assembly for the society. In this respect, the church is also political. This means that the church does not and cannot exist in isolation from the community that God has placed her.
Admitedly, in this paper, I will raise more questions rather than providing answers. Therefore, the questions for us are these: If we believe that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation, could the church therefore be a social unit that undercuts even our biological and familial relations, demonstrating that the rule and reign of God does not belong to the distant future but is indeed a present reality in our midst where forgiveness, love and acceptance are our boundary markers and badges of identity? In this respect, would it be great that we as Christ-followers are known to our society by our practices – that we care about the environment; speak out against injustice, abuse of power and corruption; reach out to the poor and marginalized; investing our scarce resources to the training, educating and equipping the people of God rather than channelling them to build bigger and more expensive multi-million Ringgit facilities? Could greater Christian initiatives toward deeper racial reconciliation be appreciated in the church? Would the church be known as tranforming agents for our community and society? Would the church be known by her unity rather than disunity?
Can the church refuse the acceptance of the stand that privatises faith? Is the church willing to pay the price in seeking out and protecting those facing injustice and without a voice? Is the church courageous enough to call rulers away from tyranny and oppression towards embracing the Jubilee values of justice and mercy and principles of public servanthood and accountability?
Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on our role as a church, and it could not be more significant that we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Operasi Lalang next month. Where was the church when Operasi Lalang was mounted? Have we not learned our lessons? Or do we continue to choose to remain silent, disengage ourselves and retreat to our comfortable cocoon, deceiving ourselves that all that we need to do is pray and wait impatiently for the second coming of our Lord?
To conclude: How can we impact and influence the community that God has placed us? Taking the cue from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, have we in anyway defined who is our neighbour? Have we reduced others in the world as classifiable commodities by drawing distinctions between persons, deciding who is, and who is not, our neighbour? What are some of the factors that would discourage us to “go and do likewise” today? Perhaps it time we are reminded that we cannot define our neighbour. We can only be a neighbour. To be effective salt and light for the Lord, we need, first of all, to be a neighbour. Perhaps it is time we rethink whether the church of Jesus Christ today exist for the city or the city exist for the church? Does the church exist for the believers or the believers exist for the church?
--- THE END ---
For other perspectives on and response to the dialogue, please see:
1) OHMSI Inaugural Launch - Was Jesus Political? - Sivin Kit (check out the video for the opening and closing part of the event)
2) "Was Jesus political"? - Pearlie
3) Oriental Hearts & Mind Study Institute - Johnny Ong
4) How Was Jesus 'Political'? - Dave Chong
5) How Was Jesus 'Political'? - The Agora
6) Yesterday at OMHSI (sic) forum, "Was Jesus Political?" - Steven Sim
7) Was Jesus Political? - Tricia
1) The Self-Understanding of Jesus and his Mission
One does not need to go far to consider what others believe to be the political significance of Jesus life and ministry. Because of time, let’s limit our discussion to the birth narrative. Reading Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46-55 would have heightened our awareness just how political his mother thinks the birth of his son would be:
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:51-55)
While many of us are accustomed to spiritualising Mary’s song, when we read it in close context, it is nothing short of being very political. Not only will humility be exalted above pride, the rulers will be deposed, the hungry fed and the rich turned away. The outpouring of God’s mercy on the poor and those who fear him will no doubt bring significant change in the social order in which reversal of status is anticipated. As such, the mission of Jesus is seen in light of what is prophesied by Amos and the other prophets in the Hebrew bible – his birth is going to bring about the anticipated social justice.
Further political evidence surrounding the birth narratives of Jesus is also too strong to be ignored. For example:
- the significance of Bethlehem as the city of David (Luke 2:4; cf. Matt 2:1, 5-6);
- the angels’ proclamation of “peace on the earth among whom he is well pleased” to the shepherd (Luke 2:8-14) – this undermine the pax romana – peace is now from God and not Rome;
- Herod’s fear and the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem ensuring no rival competitor for the throne of Israel could possibly survive (Matt 2:1-16);
- the expectations of both Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) and Anna (Luke 2: 36-38) that underscore the political significance of the coming of the Messiah, particularly in the appointment of Jesus “for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” (Luke 2:34).
We have seen how the multitude perceived the political significance of Jesus. What about Jesus himself? Time only permits us to look at one particular synagogue incident in Luke 4:16-21 where Jesus read the scripture from the Isaianic scroll.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-20)
In reading Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus understood himself as fulfilling Isaiah’s vision of an eschatological jubilee year. The proclamation of Jubilee is itself a political declaration. Properly observed, it would severely limit the concentration of power and wealth by the rich. Isaiah’s vision anticipates a new world order where God’s justice is administered; wrong will be made right; the injustices which lead to oppression and captivity will be reversed; and God’s people would receive the full measure of his blessings. Proclaiming “liberty to the captives” and “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” could mean nothing more than liberation from Israel’s enemies – Rome. And Jesus publicly announced the inauguration of this new age “today” (Luke 4:21), and not in a distant future.
2) The Message of Jesus
Jesus began his ministry with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). One cannot help but to be impressed at the precise vocabulary carefully chosen from the political realm. It hardly needs to be argued that “kingdom” is a political terminology. What is less prominent for many of us is that the “gospel” is also political. Originally, gospel refers to the kind of report or important public announcement highlighted by the Roman government deserving attention and celebration when it is received. But with the ministry of Jesus, the gospel is no longer good news of the deeds and works of Rome, but it is now the retelling and re-enacting of the works of God climaxed in the story of Jesus. God has now finally acted in and through Christ.
The kingdom represents the long awaited hope that Yahweh would one day save his people by fulfilling his covenant promises toward them, bringing both vindication and restoration to Israel by defeating her enemies. By proclaiming the fulfilment of this expectation publicly is itself a very political move of Jesus.
What about the teaching of Jesus? How would others perceive the teaching of Jesus? One of the most common teaching methods of Jesus is parables. We have only time to consider one – the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In this parable, a lawyer approached Jesus with this question: “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus told the parable that is highly political in nature. The best species of the Jewish people – the priest and Levite, representing the law and temple, did nothing to help another fellow Jew in the ditch. This would be totally unacceptable. The only person that came to his rescue is a pariah of the Jewish society – a Samaritan. This Samaritan demonstrated his godly compassion (as reflected in the Greek word, splagcni,zomai in Luke 10:33 – it is very unfortunate that NIV misses the nuance by translating this word simply as “took pity”) on the wounded Jew by helping him and bandaging his wound, and going the extra mile in ensuring that he was taken care off until he recuperated completely. At the climax of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who is a neighbour to the wounded Jew?” and exhorted him to “go and do likewise.”
In this parable, Jesus overturned the question of the lawyer and replaced it with one that is more fundamental. If the issue is about love of neighbour, the question one should be asking is that of how one is to express that love and compassion, not to whom it should be expressed. Could there be more subversive instructions with greater political overtones in this parable? This parable crosses the divide between culture, race and creed. It talks about unjust crime, racial discrimination, hatred, exploitation and prejudices. It even impeaches the religious leaders who are turning a blind eye and are unwilling to do anything about these problems. The national and ethnic loyalties are abandoned. The Samaritan is no longer the enemy, but a neighbour. Therefore, the ethics of the kingdom challenges one to reconsider one’s relationship with others. To ask the question, “Who is my neighbour?” (10:29) is grossly mistaken because in effect, one is asking “Who is not my neighbour?” Once we can define who our neighbour is, we are also in effect defining who our neighbour is not.
3) The Activities of Jesus
In what ways do the activities of Jesus inform us of their political significance? One thing without doubt, Jesus did things that got him into trouble and caused controversy. Consider the following activities:
- his preference to participate in table fellowship with the most unlikely group of people – sinners and tax collectors - instead of the pious, holy and respectable figures of his days (e.g., Luke 15:1-2);
- his decision to do things on Sabbath that were considered sacrilegious by others – such as healing and performing miracles (e.g., Mark 3:1-5);
- his choice of allowing the untouchables prostitutes to anoint him (e.g., Luke 7:36-50);
- his act of over turning the tables of the corrupted money changer in the temple courts during a Jewish sacred festival (e.g., Luke 19:45-46);
- his harsh criticism of the ruling authorities by calling Herod a fox (Luke 13:32).
In addition, the choosing of the Twelve disciples is also a highly symbolic act that could not have been understood other than in light of the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel and the end-time reconstitution of Israel. The miracles that Jesus performed and the acts of exorcisms are collectively pointers to the present reality of the kingdom of God. Finally, the ministry of Jesus is not only limited to the Jews as well. He also chose to reach out to the Samaritans and Gentiles, groups of people considered outcast by the pure-blooded Jews.
All these acts of Jesus simply point to one thing: they are not merely acts of mercy or compassion. They are prophetic symbolic acts. Jesus clearly knows what he was doing and what others would say when they saw him performing these acts. They revealed Jesus as one with a specific mission to the nation of Israel. It is no wonder that the religious establishment had him crucified as a criminal – a death befitting a person charged with sedition and for causing political uprising.
To be continued.....The final part, Part 3: The Implications for the Church Today.
Monday, 17 September 2007
“Was Jesus Political?” A New Testament Perspective
By Dr Lim Kar Yong
Lecturer in New Testament Studies
Seminari Theoloji Malaysia
Before we proceed, perhaps it is good to clarify what I mean by the term, “politics.” In antiquity, according to Aristotle, politics is understood in the broad sense in which the objective is to realise the idea of a good life of a community within a city. On the other hand, politics can also be understood in the narrow sense as an art of gaining and maintaining power. I prefer to engage my reflection on the political Jesus in the broad sense. I use political to mean relating to public, state, or civil affairs. As such by “political” I do not mean that Jesus was thinking in terms of forming political parties or launching a revolt against Rome or Jerusalem. By “political” I propose to reconsider the historical Jesus as someone who has a mission to the nation of Israel in calling her to repentance in light of the coming judgment of God.
1) How much awareness does Jesus exhibit in his self-understanding of his mission to Israel as being political?
2) How would the multitudes perceive Jesus to be political through his teachings and activities?
1. The self-understanding of Jesus and his mission
2. The message of Jesus
3. The activities of Jesus
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Mark Taylor, president of Tyndale House Publishers, bemoans the effects of competition on his industry. It seems agents and large royalty payments, commonplace in the wider publishing world, have become the new reality for Christian publishers.
Taylor explains the process. An agent approaches the publisher with a can't-miss book proposal by a big-name Christian author. The publisher likes the idea. The agent lets the publisher know that other houses want the book. This project demands a serious advance. Perhaps against better judgment, the publisher bites.
"So we get the deal," Taylor writes. "We pay the advance. The manuscript comes in. We begin to wonder why we paid so much for this average manuscript. We edit it and market it and sell it and process the returns. And at the end of the day we take a huge write-off. If we're lucky, the book earns a net contribution to overheads. But in most of these scenarios, the book generates a loss even apart from overheads. Competition (and perhaps some greed) has nearly killed us."
What does all this have to do with theology? I won't guess which Tyndale books Taylor has in mind. But I can guess the genre. And it's not serious theology or catechesis for our churches. Al Hsu, an acquisitions and development editor at InterVarsity Press, explains the consequences. "[G]ood books (with less 'commercial potential') get squeezed out of the market and displaced from bookstore shelves to make way for high-profile books that publishers need to sell a boatload of to break even on."
This is business in the American market. I don't suspect Christian publishers will successfully collude to suppress author advances. At least the principle doesn't work in professional sports. So if the supply doesn't change, then demand must. Agents can pitch these books because we the readers often love our celebrity authors more than we care for sound doctrine. Consider the example of Hollywood. Movie studios would sooner take their chances on a star-studded cast with an iffy script than an unknown actor with a promising concept. It's a safer bet. Likewise, some Christian publishers will cast their lot with authors whose faces they can slap on the front of a book. If you don't like what you see in Christian bookstores, vote with your pocketbook. Lead not Christian publishers into the temptation of big advances for bad books. And when you do see good theology, drop some change.
Amen! Let us encourage our local Christian authors who write good theology and book stores that promotes good books (at reasonable price too)!
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Friday, 14 September 2007
Hmmm....any truth? Well....since coming to STM, I have been having Holy Communion more frequently now - twice a week in the seminary chapel. Could this be the result that when I went to see the doctor last week, he was shocked to find out that I am a lecturer and not a first year student? (BTW - it happened again earlier today when I took my mother to see her doctor. The doctor asked, "Are you a student?")
What is happening to the church in Singapore and Malaysia? If you want to stay young, you now have a choice: take frequent Holy Communion, or let your pastor touch your body parts and pray for you! Pick your choice....
Wonder what's next?
Thursday, 13 September 2007
By the way, for those of you who might be interested, Tony will be in Petaling Jaya conducting a seminar on "The Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament."
This seminar will review the following areas:
1. What do we mean by "Old" Testament? Is the OT relevant today? The biblical canon will be covered briefly.
2. Which parts of the laws in OT are no longer applicable in the NT? Case Study: The Ten Commandments and specific laws.
3. How do we interpret the OT in the light of the NT and vice-versa?
4. The Use of the OT in the NT with respect to:
a) Prophecy and Fulfillment
c) Moral Laws
e) Citations and Allusions
Dates: 1 & 2 October 2007 (Monday and Tuesday evenings)
Time: 8.00 pm to 10.30 pm
Venue: First Baptist Church, 38 Jalan SS17/1D, 47500 Subang Jaya.
G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, eds.
Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament: Volume 15: sākar-tarsîs
Reviewed by W. Boyd Barrick
Peter H. Davids
The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude
Reviewed by James P. Sweeney
Reviewed by Daniel B. Wallace
Craig A. Evans
Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels
Reviewed by Stephen J. Patterson
Michael V. Fox
Ecclesiastes: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation
Reviewed by Thomas M. Bolin
Garrett C. Kenney
Mark's Gospel: Lectures and Lessons
Reviewed by Tom Shepherd
The Jews and the World in the Fourth Gospel: Parallelism, Function, and Context
Reviewed by Adele Reinhartz
Jonathan D. Lawrence
Washing in Water: Trajectories of Ritual Bathing in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature
Reviewed by James W. Watts
Peter J. Leithart
1 and 2 Kings
Reviewed by Randall L. McKinion
Anthony C. Thiselton
1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III
Archäologie der biblischen Welt
Reviewed by Jonathan L. Reed
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Monday, 10 September 2007
In my earlier post, I mentioned that I will post the 12 questions for discussion for my lecture on the Apostle Paul. Here are the questions.
1) “Nothing in Paul’s life could have prepared him for the shattering mystical experience that Luke described in Acts.” Do you agree with this statement describing Paul’s call/conversion experience on the Damascus road? Discuss.
2) Paul’s call/conversion “triggered a whole new belief in Jesus and a whole new belief that Jesus could save and how the Jewish law was not the centre piece anymore, because he came to believe that Jesus was not dead but alive.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why? Give your justification.
3) The narrator comments that after Paul’s call as the apostle for the Gentiles, “for the rest of his life, Paul would face hatred whenever he went; danger laid in wait.” Do you agree with this statement that suffering is a hallmark of Paul’s life? How would the suffering of Paul inform us about those who are called to be involved in God’s mission today?
4) The cornerstone of Paul’s teaching is the grace and mercy of God towards all human beings. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
5) “Paul was most comfortable teaching in big cites with large gentile population.” How would you evaluate this statement concerning Paul’s mission strategy?
6) Concerning Paul’s Gentile mission, Ben Witherington argues: “There was a tremendous spiritual hunger in the First-Century world. The culture was ready to hear the message about some powerful religion that would actually help them in their day to day live, make them better persons.” How do you make sense of Witherington’s argument? Is Witherington’s analysis an accurate reflection of our contemporary culture? If so, how would this inform you concerning the church’s mission today?
7) In responding to the problems of the Thessalonian church concerning the question of the second coming of Christ, the narrator suggests that “Paul’s response became the basic tenet of the Christian faith.” Do you agree with this observation? Would Paul have imagined that his correspondence addressing the problems of his churches would one day become authoritative scriptures in the Christian church?
8) Stephen Doyle has this to say concerning Paul’s ministry in Ephesus: “During the years that Paul spent in Ephesus, he did not cease to evangelise the other areas around (the city). He formed other evangelists, those who would bear the gospel to go out into the valley in that area.” How would you evaluate this statement? What does this statement describe about Paul and his mission? How could we appropriate Paul’s method in our context today?
9) Concerning Paul’s rhetoric for the need of unity in the Corinthian church, Margaret Mitchell argues that for Paul, “the unity of the church is more important than anything of these things that are dividing them. Unity in the ancient world …is bought at the price of submission of some person to a higher good.” Do you agree with Mitchell’s assessment?
10) It is illegal to flog Roman citiznes. Yet, according to Acts, Paul has been flogged. On this matter, Ben Witherington suggests that Paul “did not bring up the trump card of his Roman citizenship except when he seems to be in a particular crisis…He is bringing a message that says everybody is created in the image of God, everybody is important. Status that is higher does not count for anything with God.” Do you agree with Witherington’s assessment on Paul’s use of citizenship? The issue of Paul’s possession of Roman citizenship has been largely doubted by NT scholars. This is because Paul’s Roman citizenship is only mentioned in Acts, but is never mentioned by Paul himself in his letters. How do you make sense of this issue?
11) On Paul’s appeal to Philemon to receive back Onesimus, the runaway slave, as a brother but no longer as a slave, J Gordon Melton argues that Paul “is a pioneer, a radical thinker who changed the whole theology of the church. He opened (the church) up. It is no longer for free citizens of the Empire. It is for slaves, for everyone.” If Melton is correct in his argument, how would this affect the way we understand and do church today?
12) On his missionary success, Kenneth Davis attributes Paul as “one man (who) walked around, sailed around…the entire medditerranean world in the course of a very few years and changed history. (This is) an extraordinary achievement for a man who (was) living in a time of no mass communication, no speedy travel, and nothing you would associate today of how to market a message.” Do you agree with Davis’ assessment? In your opinion, how did Paul manage to do what Davis describes?
One of the ideas given by Richard Walsh in introducing the study of Paul is to show some clips from movies that portray the Apostle Paul, after which discussions could be generated based on the clips. His idea can be found in the edited volume by Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction, Resources for Biblical Study 49 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature 2005). For further discussion on the book, see my earlier post on Classroom Ideas for Teaching the Bible.
Sunday, 9 September 2007
If your passion is the Bible and technology, Bible Tech 2008 might be the conference for you. To be held in Seattle, Washington from Jan 25-26, 2008, this two-day conference, sponsored by Logos Bible Software, is designed for publishers, programmers, webmasters, educators, bloggers and anyone interested in using technology to improve Bible study. BibleTech 2008 is an opportunity to meet others who share your interests and hear from industry leaders.
If you'd like to give a talk about a project you're working on, new technology you're excited about, or where you see the industry headed, please respond to the call for participation by August 13.
Any interested parties?
Saturday, 8 September 2007
This is just a sample of the list of names/descriptions/adjectives/titles I "earned" in the past few months since I begin teaching at STM:
- slave driver - this title is deliberately mentioned in a blog with the hope that I will read it! And I have the proof for this!
- paper doll - you got to know the context out of which this name is given.
- cute - I won't tell you where I find this. However, no extra credit for the person who gives me this name! You got to try harder (hint hint...I like chocolate).
- teruk - one of the most common descriptions given to me.
- teruk-ly funny - huh? what is this??
- genius - how nice! But this does not earn whoever that gives me this title any extra credit in the the exams or papers.
- incorrigible - well, you can find this expression everywhere in the comments.
- Apostle Lim - I am not going to tell you where I find this!
- weird sense of imagination and humor - huh?
- blooming NT scholar - well, technically not given by a student but a friend.
- Batman in Infinite Crisis - not really a nickname, but it's a title that I am honoured to be tagged by a friend.
Cartoons credit: Reverendfun.com
Friday, 7 September 2007
When the doctor saw me, he asked, "Which year are you in STM?"
"First year," I replied
"Oh, first year. That's good."
"First year as a lecturer, not a student."
The doctor was taken aback for a while....
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Justin Taylor recently interviewed Pete on his new role as Warden. Read the interview and be encouraged by Pete's vision for Tyndale which is reproduced below:
"I believe that Tyndale House exists to develop evangelical biblical scholars and evangelical biblical scholarship. I would like, quite simply, for Tyndale to play its part in increasing the number of bright, humble, sane, passionate, evangelical scholars who are deeply learned and contribute to the church and to the articulation of the faith in a wider culture.
"More specifically, I’d like to see confessional scholarship clearly outstripping non-confessional scholarship in its quality and rigor. We should want evangelical scholars to be trained to a higher standard than other scholars. If others decide that one Masters degree is enough before the PhD, maybe we should require two (for instance, one in each Testament). It would be great to have the resources to be able to fund young scholars to study to a higher standard. I would also love to be in a position for us to have more post-doctoral research fellows (we currently have three) and to take on major publication projects such as a large-scale treatment of the NT canon, which is proving such fertile ground for contemporary myth-makers. Perhaps we could be involved in setting up more University appointments, not just in Cambridge, but also in other Universities in the UK."
I share Tony's wish to see biblical scholars of high calibre and a resource centre similar to Tyndale House in South-East Asia. Will this happen? If so, when?
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Date: September 15, 2007
You may register for the Inaugural Dialogue by clicking here.
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
But when I stepped into the chapel, I realised that this could be a mistake as our Rabbi would be preaching. True enough, he preached from Psalm 56:8. But on the brighter side, modern technology saved the day - the text was flashed on the projector.
The moral of the story: Bring the "whole" Bible to chapel next time! Or, better still, just don't bring it, count on modern technology!
One PhD will address questions regarding the genre, coherence and argument in a rabbinic text, the other in a non-rabbinic Jewish text. The supervisors are Prof. A. Samely and Prof. P. S. Alexander, respectively.
Informal inquiries and applications should be addressed to:
Saturday, 1 September 2007
Where is the John Sung of today? Where is he?