Thursday, 31 January 2008

ATLAS Is Now Finally Available

ATLAS Online is now finally made available to STM community.

ATLAS is "an online collection of major religion and theology journals selected by leading religion scholars and theologians. Users can read articles or research the history of a topic from as early as 1924 to the present. Currently, researchers are able to use ATLAS as a search tool to retrieve images of the pages in more than seventy different journals."

With more than 153,700 articles available, ATLAS is an indispensable tool and resource for any theological student and researcher.

While ATLAS has been a standard online resource for seminaries in the West for some time, it is not the case for us in Malaysia. Operating on a very tight budget, we often find it not feasible subscribing to ATLAS. Thanks to a generous donor, we are now able to offer this very important resource for our students, both full-time and part-time. We hope that this would enhance their learning experience. Of course, with this newly added resource, the expectation of the lecturers on the students would increase proportionately.

All STM students (including TEE students) should have received an email informing them of this facility. If you have not, please contact the library directly.

Enjoy ATLAS!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Online Books From the Society of Biblical Literature

Society of Biblical Literature's International Cooperation Initiative (ICI) has put in place a system to provide free electronic access (in PDF files) to selected SBL publications to scholars and students in under-resourced countries who would not otherwise have access to this scholarship. Persons who are identified through SBL's technology as being from a country with a GDP per capita substantially lower than the average GDP per capita of the USA and the European Union will be able to have access to these resources.

The good news is that Malaysia is classified as one of those countries that benefits from SBL's online resources. The IP address will be tracked, so if you access the internet outside of Malaysia, you will not be able to have access to these files, unless you access it from a country that is classified to benefit from the ICI initiative.

Occasionally, it's "nice" to know we are still a "poor" nation!

So check out and enjoy the following books that are available for free to readers in Malaysia. All you need to do is to click here and follow the links of the books listed to download the PDF files.

Horsley, Richard A., ed. Oral Performance, Popular Tradition, and Hidden Transcript in Q. Semeia Studies 60. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006. (240 pages, 1.1 MB)

De Troyer, Kristin and Armin Lange, eds., Reading the Present in the Qumran Library: The Perception of the Contemporary by Means of Spiritual Interpretation. Symposium 30. Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. (244 pages, 1.5 MB)

Van Voorst, Robert E., Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary, Third Edition. Resources for Biblical Study 43. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001. (131 pages, 1.7 MB)

Draper, Jonathan A., Orality, Literacy, and Colonialism in Antiquity. Semeia Studies 47. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004. (248 pages, 1.4 MB)

Kennedy, George A., Invention and Method: Two Rhetorical Treatises from the Hermogenic Corpus. Writings from the Greco-Roman World 15. Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. (291 pages, 1.5 MB)

Nissinen, Martti, Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East. Writings from the Ancient World 12. Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. (296 pages, 12.5 MB)

Albertz, Rainer, Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century B.C.E. Studies in Biblical Literature 3. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. (484 pages, 4.3 MB)

Landes, George M., Building Your Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary: Learning Words by Frequency and Cognate. Resources for Biblical Study 41. Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2001. (232 pages, 679 KB)

Barr, David L., ed., Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students. Resources for Biblical Study 44. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. (212 pages, 1.2 MB)

Draper, Jonathan A., ed., Orality and Colonialism in Southern Africa. Semeia Studies 46. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004. (278 pages, 1.8 MB)

Georgi, Dieter, The City in the Valley: Biblical Interpretation and Urban Theology. Studies in Biblical Literature 7. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. (398 pages, 2.4 MB)

Lindenberger,, James M., Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, Second Edition. Writings from the Ancient World 14. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. (208 pages, 1.7 MB)

Moreland, Milton C., Between Text and Artifact: Integrating Archaeology in Biblical Studies Teaching. Archaeology and Biblical Studies 8. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003. (254 pages, 1.8 MB)

Mykytiuk, Lawrence J., Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic. Academia Biblica 12. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004. (347 pages, 9.6 MB)

Cook, Stephen L. and Corrine L. Patton, eds., Ezekiel’s Hierarchical World: Wrestling with a Tiered Reality. Symposium 31. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004. (304 pages, 1.5 MB)

Reeves, John C., Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader. Resources for Biblical Study 45. Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2005. (278 pages, 1.4 MB)

Singer, Itamar, Hittite Prayers. Writings from the Ancient World. Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2002. (160 pages, 562 KB)

Jones, F. Stanley, ed., Which Mary?: The Marys of Early Christian Tradition. Symposium 19. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Review of Biblical Literature Jan 25, 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature. There are some very interesting NT books included in this issue.

John M. G. Barclay, trans.
Flavius Josephus: Against Apion
Reviewed by René Bloch

Jeannine K. Brown
Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Philip F. Esler and Ronald A. Piper
Lazarus, Mary and Martha: A Social-Scientific and Theological Reading of John
Reviewed by Peter Phillips

Ulrich Fistill
Israel und das Ostjordanland: Untersuchungen zur Komposition von Num 21,21-36,13 im Hinblick auf die Entstehung des Buches Numeri
Reviewed by Ulrike Sals

Thomas R. Hatina, ed.
Biblical Interpretation in Early Christian Gospels: Vol. 1: The Gospel of Mark
Reviewed by David du Toit

Christine Helmer, ed.
The Multivalence of Biblical Texts and Theological Meanings
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Dan Jaffé
Le Talmud et les origines juives du christianisme: Jésus, Paul et les judéo-chrétiens dans la littérature talmudique
Reviewed by Bogdan G. Bucur

Christopher R. SeitzProphecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets
Reviewed by Michael B. Shepherd

A. T. Sulavik, ed.
Guillelmus de Luxi: Postilla super Baruch, Postilla super Ionam
Reviewed by Mark W. Elliott

Robert Tannehill
The Shape of Luke's Story: Essays on Luke-Acts
Reviewed by Robert F. O'Toole

Stephen Voorwinde
Jesus' Emotions in the Fourth Gospel: Human or Divine?
Reviewed by William R. G. Loader

Saturday, 26 January 2008

STM Ipoh Roadshow and a Slightly Twisted Version of Gen 3

This will be another busy weekend. Together with the 1st year seminarians and my colleagues, we will be heading north to Ipoh for the annual STM roadshow (for further info, see my colleague's post).

I have been assigned to preach from Genesis 3 in St Peter's Church in Ipoh. I am still struggling to prepare the sermon. I must confess that I am a little bit apprehensive when it comes to preaching from the OT (as a result of over specialisation?).

Anyway, my colleague in church, Ewe Jin (who incidentally maintains a blog called Slightly Twisted Mind), has some weird sense of humour about my sermon. He paraphrased Gen 3 for me (with some minor corrections and additions made by me). Read the NSWMV (the New Slightly Twisted Mind Version).

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did the lecturer really say, 'You must not commit plagiarism in the seminary'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may footnote all the reference books in the library but the lecturer did say, 'You must not commit plagiarism or you will die.'"

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For the lecturer knows that when you plagiarise your eyes will be opened, and you will be like the lecturer, knowing good and evil."

So the woman committed plagiarism. To cut the story short, the eyes of both of the woman and man were opened, and they realized their mistake; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for the results they received in their transcript.

Then the lecturer said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I plagiarised."

And the lecturer said, "The man and woman have now become like one of us, knowing good and evil."

So the lecturer banished the man and the woman from his class. They are now forced to do labour work, dorm duty, cleaning the toilets, and, of course, of course, gardening, come rain or shine.

I think my colleague certainly has more than a "slightly twisted mind"!

Swiss Vacation Highlight #5 - Sandwich Technique Rediscovered!

One of key literary features in Mark's gospel is the use of sandwich technique. While in Milan, I suddenly discovered a new meaning of the use of sandwich technique, much to the amusement of my two friends!

What (or rather who) should be the focus of the sandwich technique in this case?

Thursday, 24 January 2008

My Thesis Accepted for Publication

I have just received news from the publisher, T & T Clark (part of the Continuum Books), that my thesis has been accepted for publication subject to some editing and changes. Looks like I will now have to do the neccesary revisions for publication and I foresee several very busy months ahead!

Nevertheless, a very nice belated birthday gift indeed.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Church has to be Apolitical?

It is not very usual that when a local newspaper published an article on the Christian perspective on certain political and social issues affecting the nation, it would repeatedly cause me to go "huh?"

On Sunday, Jan 20, the largest English daily, the Star, in its column, Cafe Latte Chat, brought together a group of Christian leaders and politicians comprising "Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Subang Jaya assemblyman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, Balakong assemblyman Datuk Hoh Hee Lee, secretary-general of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) Malaysia Rev Wong Kim Kong, and Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Rev Dr Hermen Shastri to ponder on the issues that are of concern to the Christian community and how these will impact on the general election."

Several issues were covered in this interview: Christian perspective on the elections; politics from the pulpit; and Christians concerns and needs of churches.

After reading the entire interview, I personally find the article not only lacks substance despite the representation from different political parties and national church leaders (as correctly highlighted by Jack Said), it also exposes what seems to me some very fundamental erroneous understanding of the scriptures and Christian theology as expressed by one of the national leaders. This should be a matter of grave concern for the Christian community.

Of course, I must qualify that perhaps the entire conversation has been edited. Perhaps it does not fully reflect the position of all the participants. Perhaps there is the possibility that some of the conversations have been misquoted.

I must confess that I am appalled at some of the statements made by one of the national leaders, if all that were said are not misquoted by the press. Of course, I am not sure whether this leader was speaking in his personal capacity or as the representative and spokesperson of the organisation he is representing. If he was speaking as the voice of the churches the organisation is representing, then I have reasons to express my deep concern (providing that he is not misquoted by the press), and I am sure that my fellow theologians and biblical scholars within the Christian circles would agree with my observation.

Let me take, for example, some of the statements made in the article:

"Christians look for spiritual guidance as to what is God's plan for the nation."

"I think the Bible is very clear - the church has to be apolitical and not be involved in the political process directly."

"The church is a neutral institution."

"The church's main concern is spiritual rather than political."

"The separation between the state and religion is a very clear doctrine of Christians."

Of course, one needs to read the entire interview to understand the context out of which the above quotes are taken. But one could not help but to feel that based on the conversation by this national leader, the primary agenda of the church is merely "spiritual" and that our task as believers is to ensure that we get people into heaven, separate ourselves from the corrupted world, and the most that we could do for what is left on this earth is to passively pray about it.

But let me highlight some scripture texts from the NT (I will not touch on the OT as this is not an area that I am very familiar with) and I will only draw on two from the birth narrative of Jesus to make my point:

Song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

The words of Simeon in Luke 2:34-35: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

Is this apolitical? Or is the birth narrative of Jesus simply a "spiritual" event?

It is not necessary for me to go into great length to address some of these issues as Jack Said has eloquently responded to the interview, and I have also examined in some depth elsewhere the issue on "Was Jesus Political? A New Testament Perspective" during the OHMSI Inaugural Dialogue.

What's left is for me to raise some further questions for us to reflect: Have we not forgotten that the term ekklesia (from which we obtain the English translation church) is in itself a political terminology in the first century world? Have we also missed out that Paul's use of the titles "Lord", "Son of God" and "Saviour" for Christ is in itself political, having borrowed these titles from Caesar? How would the first century Roman citizens would have felt when they hear the titles ascribed to Caesar now being borrowed by the early Christian communities in addressing Jesus Christ? Didn't Paul set his gospel of Christ and the new communities he founded in opposition to the Roman imperial order? Didn't we forget that the very word translated "gospel" in Greek is also used in the political sense?

The editor, Datuk Wong Chun Wai, ended the interview by commenting that "the Christians make up a substantial chunk of votes in the elections and these are issues of concern to them. In the battle for hearts and minds, their voices and their votes certainly matter." I wonder how can our voices and votes matter if all that we are concerned are to merely "look for spiritual guidance", "to be apolitical", to exist as "a neutral institution", and to make our "main concern...spiritual rather than political"? Can we be genuinely concerned for the poor, the marginalised and fight for social justice in our community but yet remain apolitical? Can we ever be the true ambassadors of Christ in bringing the ministry of reconciliation to our community through the power of the authentic message of the gospel and yet remain focused merely on the "spiritual agenda"? Can we ever live out the authentic message of the cross and to allow it to penetrate all aspects of our lives and yet as a community of believers we remain "a neutral institution"? If this is so, can we ever become the community of righteousness and the justice of God in effecting the powerful social transformation as embedded in the gospel proclaimed by Paul (cf. 2 Cor 5:21, remembering that the word translated "righteousness" in its original sense can mean both "righteousness" and "justice")? Can we ever be the salt and light Jesus commended us to be?

This is indeed the deep struggles and concerns of the budding NT scholar concerning the direction of the evangelical church in Malaysia, if what is represented above is true and not misquoted. At the same time I also share the frustrations of JackSaid. And I think YB Teresa Kok hits the nail on the head when she answered the question, "Why are not many Christians involved in politics?"

"I think we have many good quality, educated Christians but they are involved in evangelical activities. They think it’s godlier. Also because of their background, they are more educated, upper middle-class people, they don’t want to dirty their hands because getting involved in politics also means getting your name tarnished, and your hands dirtied. There are also Christians who ask me to leave politics and get involved in more spiritual work."

O Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Review of Biblical Literature Jan 17, 2008

I am a bit behind time in uploading this. The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature:

Young S. Chae
Jesus as the Eschatological Davidic Shepherd: Studies in the Old Testament, Second Temple Judaism, and in the Gospel of Matthew
Reviewed by Daniel M. Gurtner

Robert B. Chisholm Jr.
Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook
Reviewed by Brian D. Russell

Craig Cooper, ed.Politics of Orality: (Orality and Literacy in Ancient Greece, Vol. 6)
Reviewed by Jonathan A. Draper

Tamás Czövek
Three Seasons of Charismatic Leadership: A Literary-Critical and Theological Interpretation of the Narrative of Saul, David and Solomon
Reviewed by Robin Gallaher Branch

John Paul Heil
Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ
Reviewed by Gosnell L. Yorke

J. Todd Hibbard
Intertextuality in Isaiah 24-27: The Reuse and Evocation of Earlier Texts and Traditions
Reviewed by Jeffery M. Leonard

Steven W. Holloway, ed.
Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible
Reviewed by Patricia Dutcher-Walls

George H. van Kooten, ed.
The Revelation of the Name YHWH to Moses: Perspectives from Judaism, the Pagan Graeco-Roman World, and Early Christianity
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki

Jerome Murphy-O'Connor
Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives
Reviewed by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.

Grant R. Osborne
The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
Reviewed by Oda Wischmeyer

Rosemary Radford Ruether, ed.
Feminist Theologies: Legacy and Prospect
Reviewed by Mary L. Coloe

Megan Hale Williams
The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship
Reviewed by Jonathan Yates

Monday, 21 January 2008

Swiss Vacation Highlight #4 - Meeting up with my Supervisor


Another highlight of my Swiss vacation is the opportunity to meet up with my PhD supervisor, Bill Campbell and his wife, Kathy Ehrensperger, in Basel. Kathy is originally from Basel, and they were having their Christmas holidays in Kathy's hometown. Both of them have been a real source of encouragement and inspiration for me while I was struggling to complete my PhD thesis.

It was great to catch up with them. I am always amazed by the amount of scholarly publications and research that they are constantly involved in. I just wish that I could have the space, time and resources to do just that.

During our meeting, Kathy presented me with her latest and recently published book, Paul and the Dynamics of Power: Communication and Interaction in the Early Christ Movement, Library of New Testament Studies, London: T & T Clark, 2007.

The description of the book is as follows:

"In this illuminating study Kathy Ehrensperger looks at the question of Paul's use of power and authority as an apostle who understands himself as called to proclaim the Gospel among the gentiles. Ehrensperger examines the broad range of perspectives on how this use of power should be evaluated. These range from the traditional interpretation of unquestioned, taken for granted for a church leader, to a feminist interpretation. She examines whether or not Paul's use of power presents an open or hidden re-inscription of hierarchical structures in what was previously a discipleship of equals. "Paul and the Dynamics of Power" questions whether such hierarchical tendencies are rightly identified within Paul's discourse of power. Furthermore it considers whether these are inherently and necessarily expressions of domination and control and are thus in opposition to a 'discipleship of equals'? In her careful analysis Ehrensperger draws on such wide-ranging figures as Derrida, Michel Foucault and James Scott. This enables fresh insights into Paul's use of authority and power in its first century context."

Thanks, Kathy, for the book, and I look forward to reading it.

On a side note, it is a real honour for me in which Kathy quoted my PhD thesis on several occasions in her book.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Tyndale Tech Email: Unicode Fonts

David Instone-Brewer of Tyndale House continues to amaze with his occassional Tyndale Tech emails. His latest email concerns the use of Unicode Fonts. The email is reproduced below. Read it and be convinced!

Unicode Fonts Unite Biblical Studies

In the bad old days you had to worry about Greek and Hebrew fonts.Now everyone is using Unicode. Well... everyone who wants to communicate.Unicode means everyone can read what you write, on a PC, Mac or web browser,in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, complext transliteration, or even English,Hebrew is formatted right-to-left, and wraps at the end of lines properly. And things continue to get easier.

1) Unicode Installation Easier

2) Unicode Bibles and Unicode on your Bible Software

3) Converting old fonts to Unicode

4) Unicode TLG, with INSTANT lexicon lookup

5) Unicode Greek & Hebrew Bible on Palms and other PDAs

6) Help, I've got an old computer!

1) Unicode Installation Easier

The Tyndale Unicode kit is a free and easy way to install Greek & Hebrew Unicodefor PC and Mac. Documents you write can be swapped between any computers.It includes keyboards for Greek, Hebrew and transliterration, and the Cardo font.

If you prefer another font (eg SBL or SIL fonts) you can simply substitute them,because Unicode fonts are interchangeable (so long as they contain the language!).

I've created new full instructions for WinXP & Vista but you don't really need them. It's easy. The Mac installation always always was easy, and the PC installation is now easier than that.

The keyboards work intuitively, though read the help for adding accents and pointing.When you've tried it once, you'll remember it easily, but there is a summary chart anyway.You should soon be touch-typing Hebrew and Greek. If you are already used to another layout,I've included instructions for changing the keyboard layout so that you can make it as you want.

Unicode knows where it is going. Greek goes left to right and Hebrew goes right to left.And when Hebrew flows over a line, it wraps properly, putting the later words on the next line.Word on the Mac can't do proper right-to-left, but there are solutions.

Another wonderful thing about a good Unicode font is that it knows where to put things.So a shewa centers itself under narrow and wide characters, and raises itself in a final Kaph.Though that only works for proper academic fonts like Cardo, SBL, SIL, TITUS and Code2000. (the Hebrew and Greek in Times New Roman and Arial doesn't do pointing properly).

So remember to change the font to Cardo when you start writing Hebrew or Greek. You could simply use Cardo for everything. It has Greek, Hebrew, Englishand all the symbols you need for transliteration, as well as rare Latin numbers etc.

All the normal Masoratic pointing and punctuation is included in the Tyndale kit,though some of the very rare non-standard markings are missing. If you really want them(perhaps you want to typeset the Leningrad Codex?) then you need Linguist Fonts._

2) Unicode Bibles and Unicode on your Bible software

No-one wants to type lots of Hebrew and Greek if it is just a quote from the Bible.

All the major Bible software now exports Greek & Hebrew in Unicode. Accordance, BibleWorks and Libronix all have settings to copy and paste Unicode.

Tyndale House provides Word documents of the Bible in Unicode.Copy them onto your computer and then copy and paste whatever you need.

There are also some online Bibles from which you can copy and paste Unicode text,the best of which is probably The Sword with parallel Greek, Hebrew & English.

Even easier is Michael Steed's InsertBible tool for Word on a PC. Just type the referenceand it writes the text in Greek, Hebrew plus English, in columns or paragraphs. It works in Word 2003 on a PC, and it is free.

3) Converting old fonts to Unicode

Converting a few quotes from the Bible is easy - see the previous section.And if you have a few extra bits, just type them. It won't take long. If you have lots to convert, use a font converter.

For Word on PCs, the converter from Galaxie works very well and is now free.It converts a whole document at once, and works with most common fonts(Bwgkl, Bwhebb, SPIonic, SPTiberian, Graeca/II, Hebraica/II, SuperGreek, SuperHebrew, Alexandria, Koine, Gideon, Mounce, SymbolGreekP, WinGreek, SGreek, SHebrew, Tecknia).It converts them first to Galaxie Greek or Hebrew, and then to Galaxie Unicode. You then do a Find+Replace for "Galaxie Unicode Greek" and replace with "Cardo"

For Macs, you can use the converters from Linguist which works with their fonts.Or you can load your Word documents into a PC and use the free Galaxie converter.

If your documents aren't in Word format, save them as Word format, convert them in Word, and save them in your favourite format again.

But don't bother with WordPerfect - I doubt this will ever be upgraded to read proper Unicode - sorry!.

4) Unicode TLG, with INSTANT lexicon lookup

Diogenes is the free software which makes TLG & PHI useable on your computer. If you think these are just irrelevant TLAs (three-letter-acronyms), read on.The TLG is the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: a dataset of virtually all ancient Greek texts.The PHI collection includes the Duke databank of papyri - virtually everything published up to the 90's, plus many inscriptions. Together they make a NT scholars dreams come true.

They are on the web, but if you have the CDs, you can use them with DiogenesDiogenes is wonderful software for searching these texts on PC or Mac.It isn't fantastically fast at searching, but it has INSTANT lexical help for every word.

Even if you don't have the CDs, it is worth installing Diogenes for the lexicons. When you install it, you also install a full Liddel-Scott-Jones 9th ed Greek lexicon, and the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary. Not abbreviated versions - the full versions!

When typing a word into Diogenes, you need Unicode, so install the Tyndale kit first.

5) Unicode Greek & Hebrew Bible on Palms and other PDAs

The clever guys at Olive Tree Bible Software have upgraded PDAs to Unicode.I didn't believe it till I saw it - a humble Palm with Unicode pointed Hebrew!Their Bible software was already superior by having so much grammatical tagging.Unicode is a free upgrade for existing customers.

And now they have searchable Qumran texts in Unicode Hebrew.

For speed I still prefer the free BiblePlus on the Palm, but for style and details, Olive Tree takes some beating.

6) Help, I've I've got an old computer!

Unicode really only works properly if you have Windows XP or Vista, or Mac OS X.Use the Tyndale Font Kit for legacy computers. It is almost as easy as Unicode,but it isn't future-proof.

You also need Word 2000 or higher on a PC, though any Mac version of Word has problems with Hebrew. If you can't afford Word (or if you have a Mac) use OpenOffice (NeoOffice on a Mac). This is free, and arguably just as good as Microsoft Office, but it doesn't have the advertising budget.

File this information away, because even if you have an old computer, you will soon need Unicode.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Surprise Birthday Party

Yesterday, a group of students, together with one of my colleagues, took me out for an early birthday celebration dinner.

After dinner, I went back to my office, and lo and behold, a surprise party was waiting for me.

The blazing birthday cake!

What greeted me was a blazing cake (don't bother counting the number of candles - but I must say the students got it right, though. I understand one of the them had to make some phone calls to check with my good friend about my actual age. To the "friend" who leaked this out - I need to have a word with you later.)

As usual, apart from the joy and laughter, there was some serious discussion going on....

In the midst of all these, I think we may have just identified a future STM lecturer - don't you think Andrew Lim (note - we share the same surname!) looks rather comfortable sitting on my chair?

Andrew, currently an impostor - but potentially a future lecturer!

Looks like the students had been planning this surprise party for a while already (taking into consideration the coordination needed in order to sneak into the staff pantry while we were out having dinner - how on earth did they do it when it was supposed to be locked? Hmmm...must be an insider's job).

To all of you - thank you so much for putting in all the effort to celebrate my birthday. This is deeply appreciated. Not to mention an unforgettable day too!

Thanks to Ruth for the photos.

Kairos Public Forum: Religious Liberty Under Threat

In light of recent events in the country, the public forum organised by Kairos Research Centre is timely and pertinent. Come and be informed.

Religious Liberty Under Threat

Time/date: 8.30pm , Thu 31 January 2008
Venue: Heritage Centre, Petaling Jaya
Speakers: Dr Ng Kam Weng & Mr Lim Heng Seng

Malaysian citizens – Malaysian Christians in particular – should be greatly disturbed by recent events that give alarming evidence of the erosion of religious liberty in the country. These events include civil court judgments that advise non-Muslims to go the shariah courts to settle matters of divorce and child custody, the demolition of temples and churches, and the seizures of Sunday School materials and Christian story books for children from bookshops. Of great concern is the Cabinet announcement that non-Muslims may not use the word 'Allah'. This prohibition would ban Holy Scriptures (Alkitab) and forbid Christians from using well established liturgy, hymns and prayers in their worship services.

Are these events merely ad-hoc actions by the authorities or do they reflect the implementation of a more fundamental Islamic policy that informs and guides the authorities in their treatment of peoples of other faiths? How should Christians view these developments? This public forum will provide an analysis of current trends in our nation and explore how Christians may firmly and constructively respond to these challenges that threaten religious liberty in general and the Christian faith in particular.

About the speakers
Dr Ng Kam Weng is Research Director of Kairos Research Centre.
Mr Lim Heng Seng , a former senior federal counsel and chairman of the industrial court, is currently a partner in a law firm in Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Learning Greek and Hebrew Online

My OT colleague, Anthony Loke, has posted some very useful links for those who would like to learn (or brush up) Greek and Hebrew online.

Click here for the links.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Swiss Vacation Highlight #3 - Luther's NT dated 1523


Sometimes, it pays to do some window shopping, and one can be amazed at what can be discovered.

While walking along the streets in Bern, I came across something very interesting being displayed in a used bookstore selling rare books.

Martin Luther's New Testament, dated 1523!

Of course, I did not dare asking how much it was for sale. Note that no price was displayed, compared to other books next to it. If the price of the books next to Luther's NT is any indication, one can only imagine how much this rare NT is going to be. Obviously, I could not possibly afford it. I think CBD's (Christian Book Distributors) academic closeout remains affordable for me where I could get 10 great books for US$57.00 (made even cheaper with the strengthening of the Ringgit against the Greenback)!

BibleWorks Classroom Tip #10

Folks at BibleWorks are busy trying to help users of this powerful software to make full use of the features available. The most recent Classroom Tip #10 shows one how to use the parallel passage feature in BibleWorks. I've tried using this in one of my lecture presentations, and I find it extremely helpful to bring the Synoptic parallels display up on the projector to enhance my teaching.

Click here to learn more about how to use this feature.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Swiss Vacation Highlight #2

The hotel where we stayed in Grindelwald

One the highlights of my Swiss Christmas vacation is the great opportunity to catch up with close friends. The fellowship we shared particularly over Christmas dinner in the Alps resort in Grindelwald is simply unforgettable.

Christmas Dinner with the Tan family and friends

It was a joy to be able to spend some days with Dr Tan Kang San, the Head of Mission Studies at Redcliffe College, England. Loun Ling, Kang San's wife, also works in Redcliffe and is the person instrumental in putting together a brand new graduate programme, MA in Asian Studies. This new MA will be offered beginning September 2008. My friend who hosted me is also a part-time student at Redcliffe College. So it was really nice to be in the company of missions scholars and student. One can only imagine the kind of conversation that went on around the table occasionally. For a moment, this budding NT scholar felt like a "minority" amongst mission-minded people!

Top of Europe!

On Christmas Day, we went up Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe. Our good Lord was exceptionally kind to us by blessing us with perfect weather - clear sunny day! It was simply awesome. I'll let the photos do the talking!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Belated Christmas "Gift" for A Bibliophile - Part 2

Apart from the order from Amazon that arrived after I stepped into office after my 2-week vacation, my order from CBD also arrived.

Occasionally, CBD offers really good bargains for academic books. I decided to splurge and bought myself a Christmas gift...and I managed to order the following books for less than US$60.00. With the weakening of the Greenback against Ringgit, this is indeed a real bargain!

Well, I am a happy man for the next few weeks! Look forward to interacting with these excellent books.

Gerd Luedemann. The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994.

Craig A. Carter. The Politics of The Cross: The Theology and Social Ethics of John Howard Yoder. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2001.

Ephraim Radner. Hope Among Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2004.

Norman Perrin. Parable and Gospel. Minneapolis, Fortress, 2003.

Willaim E. Arnal. Jesus and the Village Scribes: Galilean Conflicts and the Setting of Q. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.

Philip A. Hardland. Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.

Ben Withirington III. Jesus the Seer: The Progress of Philosophy. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999.

Craig Bartholomew, Colin Greene & Karl Moller, eds. After Pentecost: Language & Biblical Interpretation. Scripture and Hermeneutics Series Vol 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Craig Bartholomew, Jonathan Chaplin, Robert Song & Al Wolters, eds. A Royal Priesthood? A Dialogue with Oliver O'Donovan. Scripture & Hermeneutics Series Vol 3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Craig Bartholomew, C. Stephen Evans, Mary Healy & Murray Rae, eds. Behind the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation. Scripture & Hermeneutics Series Vol 4. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Belated Christmas "Gift" for A Bibliophile - Part 1

It was a real delight as I walked into my office after my vacation to see 2 parcels waiting for me. My Amazon and CBD orders have finally arrived. Well - they were not really "gift" but orders I made some weeks ago. They were late - but better than never. Now I shall indulge myself for the next few weeks devouring these books.
Check out my latest purchase from Amazon:

Darrell Bock. Acts, BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2007.
"Respected New Testament scholar Darrell L. Bock provides a substantive yet highly accessible commentary on Acts in this latest addition to the acclaimed BECNT series. With extensive research and thoughtful chapter-by-chapter exegesis, Bock leads readers through all aspects of the book of Actssociological, historical, and theological. His work blends academic depth with readability, making it a useful tool for students, teachers, scholars, and pastors alike. A user-friendly design with shaded text and translations of the Greek text make this commentary engaging and easy to use. The result is a guide that clearly and meaningfully brings this important New Testament book to life for contemporary readers."

G.K. Beale & D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

"Readers of the New Testament often encounter quotes or allusions to Old Testament stories and prophecies that are unfamiliar or obscure. In order to fully understand the teachings of Jesus and his followers, it is important to understand the large body of Scripture that preceded and informed their thinking. Leading evangelical scholars G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson have brought together a distinguished team to provide readers with a comprehensive commentary on Old Testament quotations, allusions, and echoes that appear from Matthew through Revelation. College and seminary students, pastors, scholars, and interested lay readers will want to add this unique commentary to their reference libraries."

Contributors: Craig L. Blomberg (Denver Seminary) on Matthew; Rikk E. Watts (Regent College) on Mark; David W. Pao (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Eckhard J. Schnabel (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on Luke; Andreas J. Köstenberger (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) on John; I. Howard Marshall (University of Aberdeen) on Acts Mark A. Seifrid (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) on Romans; Roy E. Ciampa (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) and Brian S. Rosner (Moore Theological College) on 1 Corinthians; Peter Balla (Károli Gáspár Reformed University, Budapest) on 2 Corinthians; Moisés Silva (author of Philippians in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) on Galatians and Philippians; Frank S. Thielman (Beeson Divinity School) on Ephesians; G. K. Beale (Wheaton College Graduate School) on Colossians ;Jeffrey A. D. Weima (Calvin Theological Seminary) on 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Philip H. Towner (United Bible Societies) on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus; George H. Guthrie (Union University) on Hebrews; D. A. Carson (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on the General Epistles; G. K. Beale (Wheaton College Graduate School) and Sean M. McDonough (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) on Revelation.

Oskar Skarsaune & Reidar Hvalvik, eds. The Early Centuries Jewish Believers in Jesus. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007.

This book "examines the formative first five centuries of Christian history as experienced by individuals who were ethnically Jewish, but who professed faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Offering the work of an impressive international team of scholars, this unique study examines the first five centuries of texts thought to have been authored or edited by Jewish Christians, including the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the New Testament Apocrypha, and some patristic works. Also considered are statements within patristic literature about Jewish believers and uses of oral traditions from Jewish Christians. Furthermore, the evidence in Jewish, mainly rabbinic, literature is examined, and room is made for a judicious sifting of the archaeological evidence. The final two chapters are devoted to an enlightening synthesis of the material with subsequent conclusions regarding Jewish believers in antiquity."

Richard Bauckham. The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History and Theology in the Gospel of John. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
"How do historical and literary details contribute to a coherent theological witness to Jesus in the Gospel of John? A leading British evangelical New Testament scholar answers that question with studies on themes from messianism to monotheism, symbolic actions from foot-washing to fish-catching, literary contexts from Qumran to the Hellenistic historians, and figures from Nicodemus to the beloved disciple to Papias. Originally published in various journals and collections, these essays are now available for the first time in one affordable volume with a substantial new introduction that ties them all together. A must-have for serious students of the Fourth Gospel."

Paul Trebilco. The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007 (previously published by Mohr Siebeck, 2004).
In this book, Trebilco "seeks to discuss all the evidence for the life of the early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, seen in the context of our knowledge of the city as a whole. Drawing on Paul's letters and the Acts of the Apostles, the author discusses the beginnings of the life of the early Christians in Ephesus, both before the Pauline mission and during that mission. He then shows that in the period from around 80-100CE there were a number of different groups in Ephesus who regarded themselves as Christians. Some key features of the life of each of these groups are discussed, as the evidence allows; this testifies to the diversity of early Christianity in Ephesus. It is also argued that the Pauline group and the Johannine group in Ephesus were distinct and separate communities, although they maintained non-hostile contact. Finally the information that Ignatius gives us about Christians in Ephesus in his time is discussed."

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Swiss Vacation Highlights

Over the next few days, I will post some of the highlights of my Christmas vacation in Switzerland. I had a fantastic 2-week break in this beautiful country that is rich in the history of Christian reformation. Thanks to a close friend living in Zurich who not only invited me and several other friends over but also generously hosted 5 of us in her apartment, be our knowledgeable guide, efficiently planned our holiday, and gave us (well, at least me) the most memorable Christmas vacation.

I had the opportunity to spend some days in the Alps (minus the skiing part); go on the Swiss Reformation trail; visit some of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland and the border towns of Italy, Germany and France; shop (read: window shopping) at the various Christmas markets; meet up with my PhD supervisor and his newly wedded wife; and discover the grave of Erasmus of Rotterdam along the way! Of course, not to mention the experience of a couple of train cancellations that I was told never happened in Switzerland! More to come over the next few days...

BibleWorks Classroom Tip #9

Tip 1.9: Using the BibleWorks Maps Module

The BibleWorks Map Module offers a quick way to display geographical information in the classroom. This classroom tip will address how to access maps for classroom display and for export to presentation software or a word processor.

To check out how to use the Map Module, click here.

Friday, 11 January 2008

New Hermeneia Commentary on Mark

Ausburg Fortress announces a new publication:

"Adela Collins's long-awaited commentary on the Gospel of Mark fulfills and even surpasses the highest expectations. It demonstrates the scholarly expertise and sound critical judgment we have come to expect from this expert on Jewish apocalyptic and Greco-Roman literary culture. This book will now be the definitive resource for historical-critical reading of the Gospel of Mark."—Karen L. King, Harvard Divinity School

In the newly released Hermeneia Volume Mark: A Commentary, Professor Adela Yarbro Collins brings to bear on the text of the first Gospel the latest historical-critical perspectives, providing a full treatment of such controversial issues as the relationship of canonical Mark to the "Secret Gospel of Mark" and the text of the Gospel, including its longer endings.

She situates the Gospel, with its enigmatic portrait of the misunderstood Messiah, in the context of Jewish and Greco-Roman literature of the first century. Her comments draw on her profound knowledge of apocalyptic literature as well as on the traditions of popular biography in the Greco-Roman world to illuminate the overall literary form of the Gospel.

The commentary also introduces an impressive store of data on the language and style of Mark, illustrated from papyrological and epigraphical sources. Collins is in constructive dialogue with the wide range of scholarship on Mark that has been produced in the twentieth century. Her work will be foundational for Markan scholarship in the first half of the twenty-first century.

Adela Yarbro Collins is Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. She has written numerous books on ancient Judaism and Christianity.

Order your copy today!

Some Interesting Statistics about 2008 Intake

Classes in the new academic year officially begin next week. The new students have settled in the new environment and the seniors are now back in campus. I have briefly analysed the new intake this year and here are some interesting statistics:

  • International students made up 41% of the new intake while the balance 59% are local students. This is perhaps the highest number of international intake in the history of the seminary. We rejoice that an increasing number of students from the region are now coming to STM for their ministerial training and formation.

  • The average age of the first year international students is 25.9 years old while the average age of the local students is 28.3 years old. This statistics could further support what Alex predicted when he says that the average age of students entering seminary will rise. At the same time, it is also interesting to note that the average age of international students is 2.4 years younger than local students.

  • There is equal male-female ratio for international students while for the local students, the male-female ratio is 11:9.

  • There is a slight drop of intake for local students in the English department this year. Of the local students, 65% are in the Chinese Department while the balance 35% are in the English Department. This may be the trend for the coming years as we continue to see more ethnic Chinese parents sending their children to Chinese vernacular schools in Malaysia. There is an increasing number of younger generation who are fluent in the Chinese language. In addition, many Chinese speaking churches in Malaysia are also experiencing encouraging growth. The English speaking students generally come from large urban centres.

  • The single largest denomination represented among the first year students is the Methodist Church of Malaysia.

What do this statistics reveal? Some food for thought.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

STM Orientation 2008

The seminary's orientation for new students for the academic year 2008 has finally come to an end. We welcome 34 new local and international students into our seminary family.

The orientation started with STM traditional welcoming bbq dinner.

Welcoming BBQ dinner

This was then followed by a series of sessions on the introduction to the seminary; ethos of STM training; registration of courses; critical reading and writing; library briefing; among others.

The students appeared to be very attentive.....

...compared to the rather "bored looking" lecturers sitting at the last row... :-)

There were also sessions allocated for bowling, fellowship and group activities as well....

To all first year students, I wish you all the best as you embark on this exciting journey of theological studies - a time to discover and deepen your faith, a time to discover yourself and a time to discover others as well. May our Lord guide and direct your path.

Thanks to Perng Shyang for the photos.

Review of Biblical Literature Jan 8, 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature:

Russell C. D. Arnold
The Social Role of Liturgy in the Religion of the Qumran Community
Reviewed by Carol A. Newsom

John Sietze Bergsma
The Jubilee from Leviticus to Qumran: A History of Interpretation
Reviewed by Erhard Gerstenberger

Walter Brueggemann
The Theology of the Book of Jeremiah
Reviewed by Carolyn J. Sharp

Catharine Edwards and Greg Woolf, eds.
Rome the Cosmopolis
Reviewed by Jonathan L. Reed

Jeffrey C. Geoghegan
The Time, Place, and Purpose of the Deuteronomistic History: The Evidence of â?oUntil This Dayâ?
Reviewed by Timothy M. Willis

John Goldingay
Old Testament Theology, vol. 2: Israel's Faith
Reviewed by Stephen A. Reed

Mark W. Hamilton, Thomas H. Olbricht, and Jeffrey Peterson, eds.
Renewing Tradition: Studies in Texts and Contexts in Honor of James W. Thompson
Reviewed by Korinna Zamfir

Ulrich Luz; Helmut Koester, ed.; James Crouch, trans.
Matthew : A Commentary
Reviewed by David Sim
Reviewed by Charles L. Quarles

Joan Goodnick Westenholz and Aage Westenholz
Cuneiform Inscriptions in the Collection of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem: The Old Babylonian Inscriptions
Reviewed by Michael S. Moore

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Garfield, You Are So Right!

I received a gift. And I think Garfield is so right this time!

SBL International Meeting 2008: Call for Papers

The 2008 SBL International Meeting call for papers is now extended to Feb 1, 2008. For this year, the International Meeting will be held in Auckland, New Zealand - the city of sails. The only downside is that it will be winter in Auckland!

I hope to be able to make my way there this year, after a failed attempt to attend the 2007 International Meeting in Vienna, even though my paper was accepted.