Friday, 26 December 2008

Off to Sandakan for a Short Break

Within a matter of minutes, together with a group of seminary friends and students (Chee Keat and wife, Desmond, and Joel), we will be boarding Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan, a costal city in the east coast of the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. This is will be my long awaited REAL holiday for the year before the madness of 2009 begins.

I hope to have some good rest and, of course, good food in Sandakan.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

Here's wishing all the readers of my blog a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I really appreciate all the support you give me in reading and leaving your comments in my blog. Thank you for your friendship and fellowship.

By the way, if you are singing Christmas songs this season, perhaps it is worthwhile to check out The Christian History blog which has a very interesting post on the top 8 historically incorrect Christmas songs.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Why Pastor/Seminary Lecturer Should be on Facebook

Alex Tang provides 9 reasons why pastors should be on Facebook. I would like to add that seminary lecturers should be on Facebook too. In addition to the reasons listed by Alex, I think I could add that if lecturers in seminary participate in Facebook, we can discuss aspects of our lectures with our students, engage with them and, who knows, we might even attract some potential students.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

It is Work As Usual Despite being "On Leave"...

It has been a rather crazy week - and it's no wonder I felt ill last week!

Blogpastor has hinted that it is hard for me to slow down. I must confess that he is right. While I am officially on leave from the seminary, it is still "work" as usual for me.

The copy-editor of my first book to be published by T&T Clark has finally come back to me with some queries on the manuscript. Over the past few days, I have been working on responding to the issues raised by the copy-editor. Now that is out of the way, I can look forward to receiving the proofs sometime in late Jan 09. By then I would need to work on the indices of author and scripture references. If all goes well, the book should be on scheduled to be published in May 09. I am rather pleased with the progress.

My second book project that I have been working on over the past few months has been put on the back burner. Looks like I will only be able to pick it up again sometime in May 09 during the seminary's semester break.

For the next couple of days, I would still need to work on the brochure and registration form for the Edinburgh 2010 Study Process for ASEAN and Sri Lanka to be hosted by Seminari Theoloji Malaysia in 2009, and to respond to some of the queries from my postgraduate students.

The only time I can really look forward to some rest (without any access to emails and internet) would be my year end 5-day visit to Sandakan in Sabah. I am looking forward to this trip!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Latest Issue of Kairos Magazine is Out

The latest issue (December 2008) of Understanding the Modern World through Christian Eyes published by Kairos is now available. The theme of this issue is 'The Church's Neglected Treasures.'

Interesting articles in this issue include:
  • Forgotten Treasures: God's Prophets of the Old Testament
  • 'O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing..."
  • The Gift of Christian Doctrine
  • Pastoral Visitation and Pastoral Care
  • Have Christians Lost Their Minds?
  • The Silent Retreat: Finding God in Stillness
  • Food for Thought: The A-List of Spiritual Diets
  • The Cost of Discipleship
  • Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace
  • The Sights and Sounds of Christmas
  • The Darjeeling Limited
The article, Forgotten Treasures: God's Prophets of the Old Testament, written by my colleague the Reb, is available for free preview.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

PhD Scholarship in Biblical Studies

The recent announcement by BNTS e-list:

PhD Studentship in Biblical Studies: the Use of the Old Testament in the New

Newman University College is offering a PhD Studentship in Biblical Studies for three years. The studentship is open to students from within the UK or EU, and the successful candidate will be required to take up the position on a full time basis on 1 April 2009 or earlier.

Applicants must have a good first degree (1st or high 2i) in Theology or Biblical Studies. An MA or MTh in Biblical Studies, or a closely related area, will be a distinct advantage, and a working knowledge of New Testament Greek is also highly desirable. It is important to demonstrate in the application evidence of the skills necessary to undertake independent research (e.g. details of research methods modules undertaken and/or successful dissertations completed). Those called for interview will be asked to supply in advance samples of their previous written work.

The successful candidate will be expected to focus on a specific topic within the general research area of the Use of the Old Testament in the New. She or he will be free to decide which book(s) of the New Testament and which aspect of the research area to study in depth(e.g. direct OT citations; OT allusions; the exegetical techniques of a NT author; the representation in a NT book of an OT narrative or characters; Septuagintal text-form; parallels in the Qumran texts, other ancient Jewish commentaries or Hellenistic literature; the biblical interpretation in the NT against the background of Second Temple Judaism; the contribution to this field of rhetorical or narrative criticism; the way the OT is used to develop the theological intentions of a NT author; comparisons between the use of the OT in the NT and other early Christian literature etc.). Candidates will be invited to state on their application form the aspect(s) of New Testament study in which they are particularly interested, and to outline a draft research topic/proposal.

The supervisory team will be:
Dr Susan Docherty (areas of expertise: Use of the OT in the NT,Septuagint, Second Temple Judaism);
Dr Martin O’Kane, Visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Newman University College and Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter (areas of expertise: Hebrew Bible,literary and inter-disciplinary approaches to the text).

For further information about the conditions of the Studentship, the application process and application forms please visit or contact:
John Howard Research Office Administrator (; tel. 0121 476 1181 ext. 2246).

For informal enquiries/discussion about the topic or the supervisory team please contact:
Dr. Susan Docherty (;tel. 0121 476 1181 ext. 2231).

Please note that the College will be closed over the Christmas holiday period, so it will not be possible to respond to any enquiries between20 December 2008 and 4 January 2009 inclusive.

Closing date for applications: 23 January 2009; interviews to be held on 5 February 2009.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Latest Issue of Berita STM is Out

The latest issue of Berita STM (Vol 24 No 4) detailing some of the happenings and news of the seminary is now published.

Click here to read the issue.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

What A Way To Start My Leave...

Today marks the beginning of my leave until end of the year. But when I got up this morning, I was not feeling too well. I told myself, "Oh No! This is not the way to begin my year end leave!"

Well - technically, I am not on any holiday. My annual leave means that I don't have to go in the office, and I can work from home. There are heaps of things to do before Christmas - the copy-editor from T&T Clark has some queries on my manuscript that I need to attend to; preparation of lectures for next semester's class (I will be teaching Romans for the first time); brochures for Edinburgh 2010 to design, and a few papers to mark.

Well, to cut the story short, my good doctor friend to me to stay in bed for the next 2 days. Let's hope I get better before this weekend. I have to preach this Sunday - and I need to get back to "work"!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Church Sues Seminary for Disputable Doctrine

Sze Zeng highlighted this news in his blog today.

According to an article in Singapore's Christian Post on December 16, 2008, a church in Singapore (Life Bible Presbyterian Church) is taking the seminary (Far Eastern Bible College) that occupies its premises to court as the final attempt in asking the seminary to vacate the premises. At the centre of the dispute is the doctrine of Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP). This doctrine refers to "the belief that the infallible and inerrant words of Scripture are found in the Traditional/Byzantine/Majority manuscripts and fully represented in the Printed and Received Text (Textus Receptus) that underlie the Reformation Bibles best represented by the King James Version." Hence those who hold on to this teaching believe that King James Version is the only Bible that is to be used in the church.

For a statement by the elders of Life Bible Presbyterian Church dated January 25, 2008 on its relationship with Far Eastern Bible College, please click here.

I am wondering whether this case can be used as a test case for my future 1 Corinthians exegesis class on Paul's teaching on lawsuits. But for my Exegetical Method class in the coming semester, I will certainly bring up this case as an example when I deal with textual criticism in the class.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Economic Downturn Hits Non-Profit Organisations

Over the last couple of weeks, I have lost count of the number of emails I received from non-profit faith-based organisations from the United States appealing for donations to cover the current year operating deficit. These emails are not really "spam mails" or unsolicited emails, for I subscribed to news updates from these organisations. A couple of these emails sounded really desperate.

The present economic downturn does not spare anyone. While I was in Singapore recently, I also took the opportunity to visit several churches, and the message from the pulpit centred around how to faithful in bad times, how to deal with the financial crisis, etc. Looks like churches in Singapore are bracing for the turbulent times ahead too.

What about Malaysia? The recent November-December issue of Berita NECF published by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia also addressed the issue of global financial crisis, providing some reflections for both churches and individuals.

When it hits our pocket, we suddenly feel the pain. We suddenly fell desperate. And suddenly, there are avalanche of resources providing guidance of how we could sail through these hard times.

But when it comes to the suffering of the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts, and the marginalised, such news never receive the airtime they deserve. We don't feel the pain. We don't feel desperate. And the church sometimes choose to remain silent.

Friday, 12 December 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Book Writing in TTC Singapore - Part 9

It has been almost a week already since I am back in my seminary office after returning from my 4-week research and writing break at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. While in Singapore, I was working on my second book in which I explored Paul's use of images in the Corinthian correspondence. The major thesis of this book is that Paul carefully and deliberately selects familiar images such as temple, building, athlete, body, etc, in his epistles to build up this community that he calls the ekklesia that is transformed by the power of the gospel, and how the same could also be said for the ekklesia in the 21st century, that we too could be the alternative assembly (to borrow the language of Horsley) for our community.

While working on this book, I was reminded that this was never intended to be a lonely journey. Neither was my attempt to look at how Paul hopes to build up the community in Corinth to be carried out by locking myself in the library all the time. I was very glad that I had the opportunity to do research and reflection within the context of community in Singapore.

I am very thankful to have met so many people in Singapore - both old friends and newly made friends. Tony Siew welcome me to Singapore by taking me out for dinner on my first day of arrival, and we had opportunity to catch up over several meals throughout the period I was in Singapore. Joshua took me out for meals, coffee and also book shopping. Soo Inn invited me, together with Vinoth Ramachandra and his lovely wife Karin, to his home for a very delicious home-cooked dinner. I also had the opportunity to have coffee with Kenny and two other friends. King, my contemporary from my undergraduate days who is now an Anglican priest at Marine Parade Christian Centre, and I had several meals together. Vincent, a new friend also made me felt at home in Singapore. It was also great meeting Alex and his family for dinner (and I am reminded that Agnes, Alex's lovely wife, is still having some problems in balancing the bill for treating my injured ankle sustained during our Greece trip in May this year). Of course, it was great meeting up with Cher and Chee Ying, Susan, Ong and Jessie, and Wang Yen.

Thank you, all of you, for being the Christ-community for me and for making my writing and reflection a deeply meaningful and unforgettable experience. All of you have made my 4-week stay at TTC a very memorable one indeed.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Christmas Comes to Tanjung Sepat

Two evenings ago, together with several students, we decided to take a rather long drive to a coastal village, Tanjung Sepat, for some seafood dinner. At the same time, we also took the opportunity to catch up with Lik Chang, one of the seminary students who is doing his year end field education at the Chinese Methodist Church in Tanjung Sepat.

After dinner, Lik Chang proudly showed us his creative handiwork to liven up the atmosphere in preparation for the Christmas celebration. He has put in more than 2 weeks of effort to get this lighting ready. Strategically placed outside the church, it surely lights up the night at this sleepy village and attracts some attention from the villagers who pass by the church every day. Well done, Lik Chang!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Farewell, Bishop Paul

Bishop Julius Paul, the head of Evangelical Lutheran in Malaysia, was finally laid to rest yesterday, 16 days after he drowned in a tragic boat accident in Guatemala. The funeral was delayed because of the slow return of the body, partly due to the absence of a Malaysian Mission in Guatemala.

We at the seminary will always remember him and his contributions.

For further reports, please see the following local news:

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

2nd British National Patristic Conference

This announcement just came through the BNTS list:

Faculty of Divinity
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9BS

Second British National Patristic Conference
Wednesday 9th –Friday 11th September, 2009

We are inviting all those engaged in the research and study of early and late antique Christianity to this conference. Our aim is to acknowledge the wide variety of institutional contexts and inter-disciplinary research cultures, trajectories, questions and approaches, encompassing the history, literature, theology, practice, and material culture of the early Church, including questions of the relationship between Early Christianity and other religions, philosophies and social contexts both within the Roman Empire and across borders.

The conference programme will provide opportunities for research presentation and discussion and will encourage communication and potential collaboration between participants.

The four keynote speakers are Frances Young (Birmingham), Stephen Mitchell (Exeter), Thomas Graumann (Cambridge), and Carol Harrison(Durham).

Researchers are now invited to respond to a call for papers of about 20 minutes in length, followed by discussion time.

Please provide the following information by 15th January 2009, to
Allen Brent,
or by hard-copy to
Faculty of Divinity,
West Road,
Cambridge CB3 9BS.

1. Your name and affiliation (if any),
2. Paper Title,
3. Abstract of approximately 100-150 words,
4. Brief statement of your current recent research and writing if appropriate.

We would expect to give notice of acceptances by the end of February, 2009.

There will also be Workshops for Graduate students, grouped into areas of shared interests. Students are invited to indicate their area of interest and whether they would be prepared to make a brief, five-minute presentation of their work. The closing date for such offers is 1st May.

We look forward to hearing from you for what is looking like a very well subscribed conference with some very important contributions from researchers in our fields of study.

Allen Brent
Thomas Graumann
Judith Lieu

Monday, 8 December 2008

Review of Biblical Literature December 4, 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature on December 4, 2008:

Ignacio Carbajosa and Luis Sánchez Navarro, eds.
Entrar en lo antiguo: Acerca de la relación entre Antiguo y Nuevo Testamento
Reviewed by David Creech

Lutz Edzard and Jan Retsö, eds.
Current Issues in the Analysis of Semitic Grammar and Lexicon I: Oslo-Göteborg Cooperation 3rd-5th June 2004; II: Oslo-Göteborg Cooperation 4th-5th November 2005
Reviewed by Frederick E. Greenspahn

Paul Foster, ed.
The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers
Reviewed by Taras Khomych

Robert P. Gordon
The God of Israel
Reviewed by Ben C. Ollenburger

Christiana de Groot and Marion Ann Taylor, eds.
Recovering Nineteenth-Century Women Interpreters of the Bible
Reviewed by Caryn A. Reeder

Hans-Josef Klauck
Ancient Letters and the New Testament: A Guide to Context and Exegesis
Reviewed by Matthew D. Montonini

Nikolaos Lazaridis
Wisdom in Loose Form: The Language of Egyptian and Greek Proverbs in Collections of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods
Reviewed by John S. Kloppenborg

Mary E. Mills
Alterity, Pain, and Suffering in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
Reviewed by Hallvard Hagelia

Ilana Pardes
Melville's Bibles
Reviewed by Mark Elliott

Peter M. Phillips
The Prologue to the Fourth Gospel: A Sequential Reading
Reviewed by John Painter

Thomas Römer and Konrad Schmid, eds.
Les Dernières Rédactions du Pentateuque, de L'Hexateuque et de L'Ennéateuque
Reviewed by John Engle

Andreas Schüle
Der Prolog der hebräischen Bibel: Der literar- und theologiegeschichtliche Diskurs der Urgeschichte (Genesis 1-11)
Reviewed by Karl Möller

Christopher R. Seitz
Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets
Reviewed by Julia M. O'Brien

Hagith Sivan
Between Woman, Man and God: A New Interpretation of the Ten Commandments
Reviewed by William Marderness

J. Samuel Subramanian
The Synoptic Gospels and the Psalms as Prophecy
Reviewed by Thomas J. Kraus
Reviewed by Edward J. Mills III

Sigve K. Tonstad
Saving God's Reputation: The Theological Function of Pistis Iesou in the Cosmic Narratives of Revelation
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Ben Witherington III
The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Peace on Earth

Thought of this song while working on my sermon for next Sunday. It's by Casting Crown, "I Hear the Bells on Christmas Day." A timely reminder that the world truly need peace on earth.

Friday, 5 December 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Book Writing in TTC Singapore - Part 8

Time really flies. Today is my last day at Trinity Theological College, Singapore, working on my second book project. This evening, I will be making my way home.

It has been a very fruitful 4-week stay at Trinity, literally locking myself in the conducive library from 9-5 every weekday, trying to work on my book on Paul's Use of Images in the Corinthian Correspondence.

The reading room - where I have been hiding myself for the past 4 weeks

Over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about the flow of the book, and decided to add another chapter, bringing it to a total of 11 chapters. In my attempt to consider the images used in 1 & 2 Corinthians, I am further convinced that Paul does not simple pluck these images from the vacuum, neither does he use them merely for the sake of rhetoric in order to enhance the force of his argument. Rather, Paul's choice of images is deliberate and calculated. These images are carefully selected not just simply to persuade, correct, or instruct the Corinthians, they are employed for a wider specific purpose: to build up the community and to create a Christian identity among the predominant Gentile community in Corinth.

In this book, I will be examining a series of images used by Paul as reflected in the Corinthian correspondence, ranging from temples, body, commercial transactions, to images borrowed from the building and construction industry. These images, drawn from the Greco-Roman milieu, are very familiar to Paul's audience, but their impact to the original audience is unfortunately lost or reduced to a 21st century reader who may not have a full understanding of the 1st century world.

It is my purpose to explore these images and examine how they would have impacted the Corinthians as Paul strives to build up this community he calls the ekklesia - an alternative assembly (to borrow the language of Richard Horsley) in Corinth that is transformed by the power of the gospel, and how the same could also be said for the ekklesia in the 21st century, that we too could be that alternative assembly for our community.

Over the next few months, I will continue to reflect, write, rewrite and rewrite the materials. I target to complete the manuscript by the middle of 2009. By then it is time to work on my 3rd book, where I will be co-authoring with two others, on Jesus: His Life and Message, to be published by SPCK. More about the 3rd book later. Right now, it is time to finish browsing through a few more books, and to pack up!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

SBL 2009 Annual Meeting Registration Now Opens!

Barely a few days after the 2008 Annual Meeting ended, the Society of Biblical Literature 2009 Annual Meeting in New Orleans from November 20-24 is now open for registration! Call for papers will open on December 15.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

NT Use of the OT by Zondervan

In my recent book shopping quest, I managed to get hold of the recently released book by Zondervan, Three Views on the NT use of the OT, by Walter Kaiser, Darrell Bock and Peter Enns. I have already introduced this book in an earlier post where a fun quiz to test one's position is also highlighted.

Over the next few days, this book shall be my bed-time reading. I would be doing reviews as I go along. At the same time, it would also be a good to assess whether this book could profitably be used as one of the primary texts on a course that both my colleague, the Rabbi, and I would be thinking of offering sometime in 2010, The Use of OT in the NT.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Book Writing in TTC Singapore - Part 7

The facade of the library from my apartment

This is my final week in Trinity Theological College, Singapore, working on my book. I must say I have grown to love this place. The library is a real pleasure to work in. With the semester break now on, the library is almost deserted and quiet.

The past 3 weeks or so have been productive for me. Not only I have done significant progress in my writing, I also have a clearer direction how the shape of the book will take. Should there be no more changes, there would be a total of 10 chapters of approximately 3,000-3,500 words for each chapter, a rather comfortable length for a chapter, giving a total book length of approximately 100-120 pages.

The stacks of the rather well-equipped library

I have done most of the groundwork for 8 of the 10 chapters, and hope to get another chapter done this week. The final chapter is to bring together all my argument in a coherent manner, and this would only be done at a later stage. For the next few months, I will be working on tidying up the flow of each of the chapters, and I anticipate this would take some months as my teaching load for the first semester of the 2009 academic year is really crazy and heavy.

Personally, I wish I have another month in Singapore to work on my book. But in any case, I am thankful that I have this 4-week short sabbatical, without which I would never be able to even set out working on the book.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Book Shopping: "Healthy Diet" This Time

Over the weekend, encouraged once again by a partner-in-crime, we visited SKS Warehouse, and picked by several titles that caught my attention - with this latest acquisition, my reading diet would be rather healthy as I will not be merely focusing on Pauline studies but will be expanding my horizon!

Looks like my luggage will be heavier this Friday when I return home with the following books purchased in Singapore. But compared to Alex Tang and Pearlie, my book purchase quest seems rather pale.

By the way, not all the books are for me, a couple of them are for the seminary library, donated by a generous donor!

Friday, 28 November 2008

BibleWorks 8 Has Launched

The folks at BibleWorks must have been hard at work to get the latest version of the powerful biblical exegesis and research software, BibleWorks 8, ready for shipping before the Christmas season.

The new version that has just been launched promises to be even better with the following new features:
  • new analysis tab
  • phrase matching tool
  • related verses tool
  • new formatting for text export
  • cross-reference window
  • another new NT Greek diagram set supplementing the current NT Greek diagram available in BibleWorks 7

In addition, some of the following new resources now come standard with BibleWorks 8:

  • the grammars by Wallace, Waltke & O'Connor, and Joüon & Muraoka (and to think that I actually had to pay to unlock those grammars in the past!!)
  • Early Church Fathers
  • Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Arabic Bibles
  • OT Pseudepigrapha

For a full list of the new feature and databases of BibleWorks, please click here.

For the full contents of BibleWorks 8, pleases click here.

By reviewing the new features, I must say I am impressed. The new version appears to be much more user-friendly, and I know that it would certainly enhance my research and make the already powerful software even more powerful. For example, with the expanded information now available in the new analysis tabs feature, the Context Tab shows the most common words in the current pericope, the most common words in the current chapter, and the most common words in the current book when a search is being done. With a click, the Browse Tab shows the full context for the active verse. A plot of the current search results is shown in the Stats Tab. All of this is right at one's fingertips! Impressive indeed!! How much more can one ask for in doing exegesis and searches in Greek and Hebrew?

So how much does BibleWorks 8 cost? Surprisingly, it is not priced any higher than the previous BibleWorks 7 at US$349.99 (approximately RM1260). If you have been thinking of getting BibleWorks but have yet to do so, now is the time since you will be getting a better product with additional new features and databases that are not available in the previous versions.

What about those with older version? Currently, I am using BibleWorks 7. It has served me well thus far. Will I get an upgrade? At a price of US$149.99 (approximately RM550!) for an upgrade to BibleWorks 8 in the current difficult economic situation, I find it rather difficult to justify parting with such a large sum of money. Looks like I am contented with what I already have in possession.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Advantage of Writer's Block

Just when I thought that I have been progressing rather well with the writing for my second book, it turned out that today is one of those days that no matter how hard I tried, I could not churn out anything meaningful and coherent at all. Instead of trying to push myself harder, I decided to call it a day at about 3.30pm.

So what would I do for the rest of the day? Suddenly, I remembered a partner-in-crime informed me earlier today of a bookstore having a hard-to-resist-30%-discount-sale for most books. So that was it. I did not have to think further, and immediately I jumped on the bus to the bookstore. As a result, I picked up the following 3 books that have been in my Wish List at a real bargain price.

So I have no regrets for having a writer's block today.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Book Writing in TTC Singapore - Part 6

Time flies - I have been here in Singapore for 2 weeks already! I have only less than 2 weeks here to put in as much work as possible for my second book project. Now I wish I have more time here.

On last Friday, the library was closed. So that means that I am "forced" to have a day off - something I would not complain. It was nice to have a day off just to refocus on the stuff that I have been working on, and also to have the opportunity to meet up with a couple of friends based in the National University of Singapore.

I also took the opportunity to walk around and explore the campus - here are some photos.

The imposing main entrance to the college, with the symbol of the cross clearly visible from the main road frontage, Upper Bukit Timah Road

The main administrative block

The rock fountain at the courtyard, with the halls of residence and the dining hall at the background

The facade of the library, and the chapel is located on level 4

The chapel

Monday, 24 November 2008

Passing Away of Bishop Julius Paul

I have just received the sad news that Bishop Julius Paul, Bishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia and also the Council Chairman of Seminari Theoloji Malaysia where I teach, was drowned yesterday when the boat he was travelling in sank in popular tourist region of Lake Atilan, Guatemala.

Arrangements are being made to bring back the body for funeral service. Bishop Julius leaves behind his wife and 3 children.

Please remember the family in prayers.

For news report, please click on the following:
The Latin Herald Tribune
Asia Lutheran News

Theology and Architecture

It has been said that you can take a property valuer out of the real estate industry but you can never take the interest in real estate out of him. That is so true of my personal experience. My fascination and interest in real estate continues on today even after having left the industry for more than 10 years already. I am still very interested in architectural design of buildings and conceptual and land use planning of property development.

Last Saturday, I decided to take some time off from working on my book project to satisfy my fascination, curiosity, and interest in some of the interesting architectural designs of some prominent religious buildings in Singapore.

I visited the Church of St Mary of the Angels, a Franciscan parish, in Bukit Batok. The design of the sanctuary has won the prestigious President’s Design Award, Singapore's highest recognition award, and has been favourably mentioned in numerous publications and exhibitions.

The sanctuary of the Church of St Mary of the Angels is one example where the creativity of the human mind, the simplicity of contemporary design, the indigenous use of sculptures and spaces, and the emphasis on spiritual awareness for both the congregation and visitors collide to create an architectural wonder, inviting a sense of awesomeness from those who step into the sanctuary, calling them to worship the Creator and issuing a call for them to pause and reflect on their existence in this world.

I am struck at the minute details that have gone into the design of the sanctuary. Not only is the concept contemporary, but what amazes me is that its simplicity does not rob the sanctuary from being reduced to a mere functional space, as seen in many construction and renovation of large church halls in the Klang Valley in Malaysia.

The strategically positioned gigantic crucifix hanging from the ceiling, and placed above the altar in the mid air, reminds me of Christ’s work of redemption. I can only imagine as I walk towards the altar to participate in the Eucharist, this sculpture would naturally evoke in me a reminder of the passion of Christ.

As this sculpture invites me to focus on Christ, it also draws my attention to gaze upon the ceiling of the sanctuary where the shape of the cross dominates my attention. The clever design of using glass panel in the shape of the cross allows natural lighting to penetrate the sanctuary, giving one a sense of warmth. As my attention focuses on the crucifix, my thought is drawn to the finished work on the cross. But as I lift up my head looking at the cross on the ceiling, I am reminded of the truth that it is God who initiates this work of redemption by sending his son for all humanity. At I reflect on this, it is only natural that it draws me to fall down on my knees in worship of the creator God, constantly being reminded of my sinfulness and wretchedness who is in need of God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness that flows through Christ on the cross to me. My thoughts lead me from the earth to the cross, and from the cross to the heaven, and from the heaven back to the cross, and from the cross to the earth.

A visit to this church has not only reminded me of the work of the cross, it has also caused me to pause for a moment to ponder over the purpose of my existence in this world, to reflect on the calling of God in my life and to reorientate my focus on Christ and his cross.

This visit to the Church of St Mary of the Angels is truly unforgettable. This is one excellent example of how by paying close attention to architectural and conception design would go a long way in inviting those who walk into the sanctuary to rightly focus on God and to worship him and him only. It is a real beauty where theology and architectural design converge to make a powerful and dynamic statement concerning our vibrant faith.

I could only wish that more churches in Malaysia would not have compromised the fact that the architecture of the church does make a strong theological statement of our faith. It is unfortunately that many churches would rather settle for pragmatic design for the sanctuary, where in the end, we are being bequeathed with space which is merely functional as a place of meeting and not a place of worship.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Sermons and Gadgets

I have a funny feeling that what this cartoon depicts will soon be a reality in the seminary chapel. Who says chapel is "boring"?

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Review of Biblical Literature November 20, 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature:
Hector Avalos
Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence
Reviewed by J. Harold Ellens

Bob Becking
From David to Gedaliah: The Book of Kings as Story and History
Reviewed by Marvin A. Sweeney

Jason Beduhn and Paul Mirecki, eds.
Frontiers of Faith: The Christian Encounter with Manichaeism in the Acts of Archelaus
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Roland Boer, ed.
Bakhtin and Genre Theory in Biblical Studies
Reviewed by Timothy J. Sandoval

Susan Brayford
Reviewed by Jan Joosten

Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch
Studying the Old Testament: A Companion
Reviewed by Steed Vernyl Davidson

Stephen K. Catto
Reconstructing the First-Century Synagogue: A Critical Analysis of Current Research
Reviewed by Birger Olsson
Reviewed by Jonathan Bernier

Nicola Denzey
The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women
Reviewed by Paul Dilley

Deborah L. Ellens
Women in the Sex Texts of Leviticus and Deuteronomy: A Comparative Conceptual Analysis
Reviewed by Naomi Steinberg

Richard A. Horsley
Scribes, Visionaries, and the Politics of Second Temple Judea
Reviewed by Lester L. Grabbe

Paul Joyce
Ezekiel: A Commentary
Reviewed by Corrine Carvalho
Reviewed by Steven S. Tuell

Adriane B. Leveen
Memory and Tradition in the Book of Numbers
Reviewed by James W. Watts

David R. Nienhuis
Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon
Reviewed by Patrick J. Hartin

Matthew B. Schwartz and Kalman J. Kaplan
The Fruit of Her Hands: A Psychology of Biblical Woman
Reviewed by Corinne Blackmer

Jan G. van der Watt, ed.
Identity, Ethics, and Ethos in the New Testament
Reviewed by H. H. Drake Williams III

Géza G. Xeravits and József Zsengellér, eds.
The Book of Maccabees: History, Theology, Ideology (Papers of the Second International Conference on the Deuterocanonical Books, Pápa, Hungary, 9-11 June, 2005)
Reviewed by Pierre Keith

Friday, 21 November 2008

Vege and Ice Cream!

Someone sent me this cartoon, saying that it could not have portrayed me better. Any truth in this?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Preferred NT Course for 2010 TEE

For the entire month of October 2008, I ran a poll in the seminary's Theological Education by Extension Forum for our TEE students. The purpose of the poll is to solicit opinions on "What New Testament Course would you like me to teach for TEE in 2010."

I listed 5 courses in the poll and asked the students to select one that would most likely appeal to them as an indication of interest. This would help me design and prepare for a course that would meet the interest of the students.

The 5 courses are:
1) Romans
2) Ephesians
3) The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament
4) New Testament Theology
5) Mission in the New Testament.

And the results are in now, and the surprising verdict is as follows.

The most popular course is The Use of the OT in the NT, generating the highest interest at 34%, while NT Theology takes second place with 26%. The remaining courses attracted an equal interest of 13% respectively. I do not anticipate this results, as I would imagine that Romans would probably the most popular course. But it seems that this poll suggests otherwise. Perhaps the rise in the interest in the use of the OT in the NT is also in response to the proliferation of publications on the subject matter in recent years. So looks like I would take some time to prepare for this course, and I might rope in my colleague, the Rabbi, to co-teach this course too! Rabbi, are you game?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Book Writing in TTC Singapore - Part 5

The triple-volume height reading room

How time flies. It's been more than a week since I arrived Trinity Theological College, Singapore, working on my second book project. I have been enjoying my time here, utilising the excellent resources available in the library.

The spacious reading room

View from the reading room, looking out to the courtyard and halls of residence

I particularly like the triple-volume height reading room which creates a generous sense of space for those who are working here. The clever use of glass panels surrounding the reading room not only allows the morning sun to penetrate it, giving a sense of warmth for the readers; it also allows one to look out to the aesthetically landscaped courtyard and halls of residence, providing one a necessary and welcome change of scenery from the books and computer screens.

Would anyone fancy a game of chess in the library? This is my favourite spot in the reading room

Thus far, my time has been rather productive working on my book, and have written about 15,000 words since I arrived Singapore. I have a better sense of the direction of the book and how I would like the flow of my argument to take. Since I have intended this book to be targeted at a rather popular level catering to an informed audience, I have to be mindful in limiting my footnote references and staying clear on the main course of getting the message across without being dragged into the seemingly unending scholarly debates of some of the wider issues.

What am I working on? I am looking at how Paul uses images/metaphors in his Corinthian correspondence with the specific purpose of building up the community, leading to the creation of a Christian identity; and how we can also appropriate Paul's teaching in the context of the 21st century church in the contemporary setting in Asia. I will blog more about this in the coming days.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

T&T Clark Will Release My 1st Book on May 24

T & T Clark, the publisher for my first book (a rather extensive revision of my doctoral dissertation), has scheduled its release on May 24, 2009. And this coincides with Aldersgate Day.

Does that make me a Methodist? Suddenly, I feel a "strange warming of the heart"...

For further details of my book, The Sufferings of Christ are Abundant in Us: A Narrative Dynamics Investigation of Paul's Sufferings in 2 Corinthians, please click here. It will be published under the Library of New Testament Studies monograph series. The retail price is a whopping GBP65/US$130 per copy.

Monday, 17 November 2008

JSNT Vol 31/2 (Dec 2008) is now Published

The new issue of Journal for the Study of the New Testament Vol. 31, No. 2 (1 December 2008) is now published, featuring the following articles. To be of interest is the critical review of Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Jens Schroter and Craig Evans, and a response from Bauckham himself.

Out of our Minds? Appeals to Reason (Logos) in the Seven Oracle of Revelation 2-3
David A. deSilva

Hybridity and Reading Romans 13
John W. Marshall

An Apocalyptic Reading of Psalm 78 in 2 Thessalonians 3
Nijay Gupta

The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony? A Critical Examination of Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
Jens Schroter

The Implications of Eyewitness Tradition
Craig A. Evans

Eyewitnesses and Critical History: A Response to Jens Schroter and Craig Evans
Richard Bauckham

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Review of Biblical Literature November 15, 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature, November 15, 2008:

Hector Avalos
The End of Biblical Studies
Reviewed by Ulrich H. J. Körtner

Ward Blanton
Displacing Christian Origins: Philosophy, Secularity, and the New Testament
Reviewed by Clare K. Rothschild

Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem
Reviewed by Craig L. Blomberg

Katherine J. DellOpening the Old Testament
Reviewed by Bill T. Arnold
Reviewed by George Heider

Brad E. Kelle and Megan Bishop Moore
Israel's Prophets and Israel's Past: Essays on the Relationship of Prophetic Texts and Israelite History in Honor of John H. Hayes
Reviewed by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Jens Kreinath, Jan Snoek, and Michael Stausberg, eds.
Theorizing Rituals: Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts, Annotated Bibliography
Reviewed by Brian B. Schmidt

Daniel A. Smith
The Post-Mortem Vindication of Jesus in the Sayings Gospel Q
Reviewed by William Arnal

Fred Strickert
Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Fortress Tomb
Reviewed by Samuel Thomas

Emily Teeter and Douglas J. Brewer
Egypt and the Egyptians
Reviewed by Roxana Flammini

Ben Zion Wacholder
The New Damascus Document: The Midrash on the Eschatological Torah of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Reconstruction, Translation and Commentary
Reviewed by Gregory L. Doudna

Jürgen Zangenberg, Harold W. Attridge, and Dale B. Martin, eds.
Religion, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Galilee: A Region in Transition
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Tyndale Bulletin Vol 59 No 2 (2008) is Out

The next issue of Tyndale Bulletin is now published, featuring the following articles:

The Last Words of Jacob and Joseph: A Rhetorico-Structural Analysis of Genesis 49:29-33 and 50:24-26
Nicholas P. Lunn (Wycliffe Bible Translators, UK)

The Shema and Early Christianity
Kim Huat Tan (Trinity Theological College, Singapore)

'Known by God': The Meaning and Value of a Neglected Biblical Concept
Brian S. Rosner (Moore College, Macquarie University, Sydney)

Tiberius Claudius Dinippus and the Food Shortages in Corinth
Barry N. Danylak (St Edmund's College, Cambridge)

Semantic Variation within the Corpus Paulinum: Linguistic Considerations Concerning the Richer Vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles
Armin D. Baum (Giessen School of Theology, Germany)

Searching for the Holy Spirit in the Epistle of James: Is 'Wisdom' Equivalent?
William R. Baker (Cincinnati Christian University)

Tyndale Bulletin has also recently joined the journals in ATLAS who provide online copies for 5 years ago and earlier. This is good news as we are now able to access full text of Tyndale Bulletin online!

Friday, 14 November 2008

How Does A Biblical Scholar Spend His Long Vacation? Wet Singapore - Part 4

Since my arrival into Singapore, it suddenly seems that the British wet and gloomy weather has hit this tropical city state. It has been raining quite a fair bit for the past few days (and I have not been able to jog for the past few days). I have a speculative theory why this may be so as I suddenly realised to my horror something rather disturbing (for me) and yet comical (for some of my friends) this afternoon. And I really hope against all hope that my eyes are playing tricks on me....!

The view from the library where I have been seating for the past few days - wet and gloomy!

Book writing is progressing rather well - written about 7,800 words in 3 days. I have finished the bulk of the introductory chapter, and another main chapter. I will blog about my book project in some depth later. Stay tuned!