Friday, 29 February 2008

Hermeneutics Quiz

Thanks to Joshua who highlighted this rather interesting Hermeneutics Quiz designed by Scot McKnight.

"Ever wonder how two people can look at the same passage of the Bible and come away with such different applications? The ways we interpret the Bible, and what enters into our process of applying the Bible, are important for us to be aware of. Without this self-awareness, we can have blind spots in our Bible reading and not even know it."

This quiz "is designed to clarify how you understand the Bible and how you apply it. Some people will quibble with the categories in the quiz or insist on more than one answer. That’s okay. No test like this can reveal all the nuances needed, but broad answers are sufficient to benefit from taking the quiz."

As for me, I scored 72. According to this quiz, that makes me "a progressive," among the other 2 camps made up of conservative and moderate on the Hermeneutics Scale.

According to this scale, a progressive "tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today. Following a progressive hermeneutic, for the Word to speak in our day, one must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world. The strength, as with the moderate but even more so, is the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day, and this means the progressives tend to be historians. But the problems for the progressives are predictable: Will the Bible's so-called "plain meaning" be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?"

Click here for further explanation of the score.

Hmmmm....any truth in this?

So go ahead and take the Hermeneutics Quiz. Let's see which camp you belong to.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Thanksgiving Chapel - Lessons to Learn

Today marks our annual Thanksgiving Chapel. Bishop Julius Paul of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia was our guest speaker. Being one of the pioneers who is instrumental in securing the land on which the seminary presently stands, Bishop Julius has much to say to remind us of the history of the seminary and how we ought to be thankful for what we have today.

The land on which the seminary presently stands originally belonged to the Society of Infant Jesus of the Catholic Church. Being deeply aware of the great need of STM in securing a permanent place for it campus back in the 1990s, and being thoroughly committed to theological education, the Catholic church decided to offer the land to STM to build its permanent campus, although the Jesuits were also eyeing the property at the same time.

This is where we have much to learn from the Catholic church. The church could have been inward looking by offering the land to their own community, the Jesuits. But instead, the church recognised the importance of theological education and the role STM would play in equipping God's people for ministry not only in Malaysia but beyond. As a result of this commitment of the Catholic Church, STM becomes the pround owner of a plot of land measuring more than 5 acres located on high grounds in the suburbs of the city of Seremban.

The Catholic church is to be applauded for being so selfless and having such a kingdomic perspective. Her generosity in going beyond the denomination boundaries and theological differences is not only one that is to be modelled but also one that makes the protestant church blushed.

The protestant church has much to learn from the Catholic church - we are good in paying lips service to the unity of the body of Christ and yet we are the very ones causing divisions - just see how many churches have split over the years resulting in the mushrooming of independent churches in Malaysia; we are good in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet we often fail to live out the values of the very gospel we are preaching - that makes us to be a mockery of ourselves in the eyes of the unbelieving world; we are good in promoting kingdom values but yet we are inward looking and have often failed to extend our generosity to others in the body of Christ, particularly in the sharing and giving of our resources.

Today's Thanksgiving Chapel reminds us of how much we could learn from the Catholic Church and her deep commitment to theological education.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Review of Biblical Literature February 26, 2008

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

Cilliers Breytenbach, Johan C. Thom, and Jeremy Punt, eds.
The New Testament Interpreted: Essays in Honour of Bernhard C. Lategan
Reviewed by Douglas Estes

Walter Brueggemann
Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church
Reviewed by Stephan Joubert

David Buttrick
Speaking Conflict: Stories of a Controversial Jesus
Reviewed by John J. Pilch

J. W. Childers and D. C. Parker, eds.
Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies
Reviewed by Erroll F. Rhodes

Rachel Hallote
Bible, Map, and Spade: The American Palestine Exploration Society, Frederick Jones Bliss, and the Forgotten Story of Early American Biblical Archaeology
Reviewed by Eric M. Meyers

John R. Hinnells, ed.
A Handbook of Ancient Religions
Reviewed by Martin Ramey

Shane KirkpatrickCompeting for Honor: A Social-Scientific Reading of Daniel 1-6
Reviewed by John J. Collins

Aquila H. I. Lee
From Messiah to Preexistent Son: Jesusâ?T Self-Consciousness and Early Christian Exegesis of Messianic Psalms
Reviewed by Sam Janse

Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed.
The Cambridge Companion to the Quran
Reviewed by Ernst Axel Knauf

Stefan C. Reif
Problems with Prayers: Studies in the Textual History of Early Rabbinic Liturgy
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

James Robson
Word and Spirit in Ezekiel
Reviewed by H. F. Van Rooy
Reviewed by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Richard W. Swanson
Provoking the Gospel of Matthew: A Storyteller's Commentary, Year A
Reviewed by Deborah Thompson Prince

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Eerdmans Order - Part 2

In my previous post, I mentioned that I will list some recommended commentaries and books published by Eerdmans. In this post, I will highlight some commentaries I personally find them useful. Recently released books that I find engaging are also highlighted. It is obvious that I only pay attention to NT studies in my selection.

Please note that the list is arbitrary and not all good books would be listed. Some would not fully agree with my selection as well.


New International Greek Testament Commentary:
1. Matthew by John Nolland
2. Mark by R. T. France
3. 1 Corinthians by Anthony Thiselton
4. 2 Corinthians by Murray Harris
5. Philippians by Peter O'Brien
6. Revelation by G. K. Beale

New International Commentary on the NT:
1.Matthew by R. T. France
2. Romans by Douglas Moo
3. 1 Corinthians by Gordon Fee
4. 2 Corinthians by Paul Barnett
5. Philippians by Gordon Fee
6. Timothy and Titus by Philip Towner

Pillar NT Commentary
1. The Gospel according to Mark by James Edwards
2. The Gospel according to John by Don Carson
3. The Letter to the Ephesians by Peter O'Brien

The Two Horizons Commentary
1. Philippians by Stephen Fowl
2. Colossians & Philemon by Marianne Meye Thompson

Apart from the commentaries, here are some excellent recently released books I would recommend:

1.Paul: Missionary of Jesus by Paul Barnett
2. Build Upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew by Dan Gurtner & John Nolland, eds
3. Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus by Klyne Snodgrass
4. Jesus and the Eyewitness by Richard Bauckham
5. Imitating Jesus by Richard E. Burridge
6. In Other Words by Charles Cosgrove & W. Dow Edgerton
7. The New Perspective on Paul, rev ed. by James Dunn
8. Recovering Paul's Mother Tongue by Susan Eastman
9. The Use of the Septuagint in NT Research by Timothy McLay
10. Give God the Glory by Jerome Neyrey
11. The Messiah in the OT by Stanley Porter, ed.
12. The end of Memory by Miroslav Volf

OK - I have to end somewhere. Happy shopping....

NECF-OHMSI Dialogue with DAP Leaders

I have just received news concerning the following dialogue organised by OHMSI with DAP leaders. Please make it a point to attend if you are able to. I must confess I am a bit surprised (confused?) to note that NECF is now involved in such dialogue, after taking into account the recent comments made by the Secretary General in the Star (please click here for further information).

NECF-OHMSI Dialogue with DAP leaders
2.30pm at Wisma Eagles,
27th February 2008
Closed door meeting for Christian Leaders and Elders
Time: 2:30 pm, Wednesday 27th February 2008
Venue: FGT, Wisma Eagles, Subang Jaya (Location Map)
DAP Leaders present will be:
Lim Guan Eng
Teresa Kok
Hannah Yeoh (candidate for Subang Jaya ADUN’s post)

All participants MUST register electronically using this webpage, on or before 6:00pm, 26-Feb-08. Click here to register online.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Elections Fever: "Have Christians Learned the Costly Lesson?"

With the dissolution of Parliament, the way is now paved for Malaysia's 12th General Elections to be held on March 8. Christian Federation of Malaysia has issued statements and flyers to encourage Malaysian Christians to exercise their rights by voting wisely.

Chapel messages in the seminary have also focused on issues and concerns surrounding the general elections. I will soon be posting the chapel message that I delivered yesterday.

In the meantime, the following article by Josh Hong, "Have Christians Learned the Costly Lesson?", as appeared in Malaysiakini today is certainly worth a read. I have reproduced this article below, as it complements my chapel message yesterday.


Have Christians learned the costly lesson?
Josh Hong Feb 22, 08 1:33pm
Goh Keat-Peng, a Christian leader and keen watcher of Malaysian politics, crossed the Rubicon when he entered party politics by becoming a founding member of Parti Keadilan in 1999. This created a bit of a stir within the Christian communities in Malaysia, with some criticising Goh for joining an opposition party as a prominent Christian.

Ten years on, the shouts for Reformasi have kind of died down, while the political climate in the country has vastly changed. Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose sacking of his deputy Anwar Ibrahim triggered the crisis, is even struggling to make his feeble voices heard – just like the rest of us.

Paradoxically, it was against this background of the seemingly moderate and progressive "Islam Hadhari", promulgated by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, that a series of controversies took place, all of which involved Islam and other faiths. On the eve of the 12th General Election, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), long perceived to be transcending politics, suddenly came out with a statement calling for Christians to "vote wisely."

If you ask for my frank opinion, I would say the wording of the original press statement is rather too cautious and level-headed, with no offence to any party. That is sensible. Still, it contains nothing new, and reeks of xenophobia even as it refers to a survey by the Star that "illegal immigrants" are among the issues central to voters’ concerns. The innocent and helpless face of infant Jesus seeking refuge in Egypt sprang to mind as I was reading it.

After years of the carrot and stick approach by the authorities, Malaysia’s religious communities have, generally speaking, developed severe political phobia for politics. In view of this, credit must still be given to the CFM for having taken the lead and set itself as an example for other religious groups to follow.

The statement is issued with a view to reminding Christians of their responsibility as citizens; it also spells out some guidelines which Christians should consider when they exercise their right to vote, and the criteria include "integrity, honesty and efficiency" of political parties, as well as candidates’ past performance and stand on "constitutional rights, civil liberties and freedom of religion". Although the statement falls short of unequivocal support for the opposition, the discontent with the Barisan Nasional government over the Islamicization of the country is too conspicuous to be ignored.

Christian politicians
His mission on earth may have been short, Jesus made justice the core of his sermons nonetheless. Malaysia has held no less than 11 general elections since the 1950s, yet it does not take a genius to tell in all honesty how many of them can be said to be squeaky clean.

If the CFM hopes to make some real impact on the reader, it should have touched on several serious concerns also, such as the gerrymandered electoral map and the absence of free press and independent media in Malaysia. This could help the intended public come to grip with realities.

Of course, there are always Christian politicians who do not just sit idly by when the rights of non-Muslims are encroached upon. Apart from some opposition parliamentarians, Loh Seng Kok, the MCA Member of Parliament for Kelana Jaya, once voiced the concern that the new edition of history textbooks used in national schools made light of non-Malays’ contribution to nation-building. Loh, in one of the parliamentary sessions, also requested that the directive of the Islamic Development Board (Jakim) for the private sector to conduct Muslim prayers during meetings be retracted.

Unavoidably, Loh’s conscientious acts hit a raw nerve when some Umno extremists gathered outside his service centre and yelled at him, warning him to mind his own business. But Loh lives in a country where absurdities and bizarreness abound. Instead of seeing the mobs punished for their unruliness, we now know that Loh has been dropped from the MCA candidates’ list.

But the most unbearable humiliation for Loh is perhaps the vandalising of his campaign billboards by unknown parties. I do feel sorry for Loh, and pray that he will soon receive healing on his wounded spirit from the righteous God that he and I both believe.

Damaging dispute
Having said that, I just wonder if Malaysia could have spared the damaging dispute over Lina Joy and Moorthy’s dead body had the Christian communities chosen to speak out without fear and favour on injustices over the years, and to show concern to all the weak minorities – "legal" or "illegal" alike, by virtue of the strength that springs from their faith.

Whatever has happened in regard to religion clearly indicates that non-Muslims in Malaysia can no longer pin our hope on some "powerful politicians" in government to safeguard our rights when the country’s democratic institution is seriously flawed.

After all, these politicians, Christian or not, are beholden to a racist and hegemonic party and can ill afford to sacrifice their political career, the latest example being Lee Hwa Beng who, like many BN leaders, is quick to blame the press for "misquoting" him.

It would be disingenuous for me to say there has been no breakthrough between the days when Goh Keat-Peng joined Keadilan and the moment the CFM statement was issued. Still, if Christians are still not grounded in the biblical teaching for us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, we may not really learn from the costly mistakes over the past so many decades and are bound to repeat them.

Eerdmans Order By STM - 1

STM Book Services is now taking orders for books published by Eerdmans at a price our students cannot refuse. For all our students (including TEE Students), this is your opportunity to order books and commentaries that you have been waiting for and wanting to display on your bookshelves to impress others of your scholarly pursuit!

Some of my students have asked for my recommendations for books to be purchased. Over the new few days, I will be highlighting some titles published by Eerdmans that I personally find useful for my studies and research.

Let's start with New Testament Background, Survey and Introduction.

For NT background, Everett Ferguson's Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd ed.) is extremely helpful. Until today, I still refer to this indispensable text for quick reference on some of the background issues.

For a fairly good textbook for the introduction to NT, I would recommend Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology by Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green and Marianne Meye Thompson. It is written in a format that is easy to navigate. The authors have done a decent job in clarifying some of the complex critical issues in a very readable and easy to understand fashion.

For a good introduction to Pauline studies, Michael J. Gorman's Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters is an excellent choice.

Coming up next: my choice for Intermediate and Advanced texts on studies on Jesus and Paul.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Amazon Wish List Does Works

My Wish List

When I set up my Amazon Wish List some months ago, it is primarily meant as a reminder for me keep in touch with some of the latest books in the areas of my interest - whether they will be released or have been published in recent years. It is also a useful tool for me to refer some of these newly published works to my students so that they too are kept updated in their research.

In the last few weeks, I have been blessed by two friends who actually took the trouble to look up my wishlist and bought some books for me. Pearlie bought Ferguson's Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed., as a Christmas gift for me. I have always recommended this text in my Introduction to NT class as an excellent tool for those who want to have a good grasp of the backgrounds of early Christianity, and yet I have never owed it before.

EJ ordered Richard Horsley's Religion and Empire for my birthday. What a pleasant surprise (although EJ was a bit worried that it might actually arrive on Valentine's Day, and I might get some wrong ideas!). I am always intrigued by Horsley's insights in his writings, and he has never disappointed me. In this book, Horsley "examines relationships between imperial power and religious life. He describes how ancient and modern empires subjugate peoples by co-opting their local religious practices and attitudes, and he identifies similarities among resistance movements."

Thank you so much, Pearlie and EJ, for the timely gifts.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Stories with Intent and the Parables of Jesus

I am delighted to see a parcel from Eerdmans waiting for me in my mailbox. Klyne R. Snodgrass' Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus has finally arrived.

According to Eerdmans, this book "offers pastors and students an accessible and comprehensive guide to Jesus’ parables. Klyne Snodgrass explores in vivid detail the context in which these stories were told, the purpose they had in Jesus’ message, and the ways they have been interpreted by the church and modern scholarship. While holding a consciously evangelical approach, Snodgrass deals throughout with a broad spectrum of opinions and interpretations."

"He begins by surveying the primary issues in parables interpretation. Offering both a new, more functional classification system for Jesus’ parables and guidelines for interpreting them, he provides an overview of other parables — often neglected in the discussion — from the Old Testament, Jewish writings, and the Greco-Roman world. The remaining chapters group the longer and more important parables of Jesus thematically and give a comprehensive treatment of each, including background and significance for today."

The reviews of the book are extremely encouraging and positive. The table of contents seems very promising. I am now making my way through the book and seriously considering it as one of the textbooks for the upcoming Theological Education by Extension course, Teaching and Preaching the Parables of Jesus, that I will be co-teaching with my Principal in September 08. But with a price tag of US$50.00, it seems to be a little bit on the high side for many of us from the Two-Thirds world. That is the only set back, despite the slight relief of the weakening Greenback in recent months.

It's unfortunate that when books cross over the Pacific to South-east Asia, they suddenly become expensive and beyond the reach of many. Is there anyway publishers in North America are able to give special concession to the Two-Thirds world?

Review of Biblical Literature, 19 February 2008

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

David E. Aune, ed.
Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification
Reviewed by James D. G. Dunn
Reviewed by Philip F. Esler

John Goldingay
Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1-41
Reviewed by Philippus J. Botha

John Goldingay and David Payne
Isaiah 40-55: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary (2 vols.)
Reviewed by Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Sabrina Inowlocki
Eusebius and the Jewish Authors: His Citation Technique in an Apologetic Context
Reviewed by Elizabeth C. Penland

Giorgio Jossa
Jews or Christians? The Followers of Jesus in Search of Their Own Identity
Reviewed by Michael F. Bird

John S. Kloppenborg
The Tenants in the Vineyard: Ideology, Economics, and Agrarian Conflict in Jewish Palestine
Reviewed by Richard L. Rohrbaugh

J. Ed Komoszewski and Robert M. Bowman Jr.
Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ
Reviewed by D. A. Carson

Victor H. Matthews
101 Questions and Answers on the Prophets of Israel
Reviewed by Hemchand Gossai

Andrei A. Orlov
From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticism: Studies in Slavonic Pseudepigrapha
Reviewed by Grant Macaskill

Maria-Luisa Rigato
Giovanni: L'enigma il Presbitero il culto il tempio la cristologia
Reviewed by Ilaria Ramelli

Bruce K. Waltke
A Commentary on Micah
Reviewed by Tiberius Rata

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

BibleWorks Classroom Tips # 11 & 12

The folks at BibleWorks continue to amaze with additional classroom tips.

Tip 1.11: Typing and Display of Hebrew
Searching, taking notes or developing assignments may call for typing in Hebrew. This Classroom Tip offers some tips for working with the Hebrew font and text display in BibleWorks.

Click here to read the entire tip.

Tip 1.12: Using the Graphical Search Engine
The Graphical Search Engine (GSE) is a powerful search engine that can perform many searches that cannot be done on the Command Line. In this Classroom Tip we will use the GSE to search for occurrences of the specific location in a clause of a postpositive word (GAR) in the Greek New Testament. How many times does GAR appear in the second and third position in the clause? Does it ever appear in the fourth position?

Click here to read the entire tip:

Monday, 18 February 2008

SBL International Meeting in Auckland: Paper Accepted

My paper proposal for the 2008 SBL International Meeting in Auckland has been accpeted for the Paul and Pauline Literature Programme Unit.

Let's hope I will be able to make it this year, as I missed last year's meeting in Vienna due to some personal reasons.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Review of Biblical Literature 13 February 2008

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature. There are some very interesting NT books being reviewed.

Brian J. Abasciano
Paul's Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.1-9: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis
Reviewed by Thomas Gillespie

François Bovon
Luc le théologien
Reviewed by Claire Clivaz

Emmanuel Friedheim
Rabbinisme et Paganisme en Palestine romaine: Étude historique des Realia talmudiques (Ier-IVème siècles)
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki

Luke Timothy Johnson
Hebrews: A Commentary
Reviewed by Wolfgang Kraus

Melody Knowles, Esther Menn, John Pawlikowski, and Timothy Sandoval, eds.
Contesting Texts: Jews and Christians in Conversation about the Bible
Reviewed by Ithamar Gruenwald

Amy-Jill Levine, ed., with Maria Mayo Robbins
A Feminist Companion to the New Testament Apocrypha
Reviewed by James Elliott

Edmondo F. Lupieri; Maria Poggi Johnson and Adam Kamesar, trans.
A Commentary on the Apocalypse of John
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

George W. E. Nickelsburg
Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism and Early Christianity
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Stanley E. Porter, ed.
The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments
Reviewed by Michael F. Bird
Reviewed by James Hamilton Charlesworth

Thomas Römer
The So-Called Deuteronomistic History: A Sociological, Historical and Literary Introduction
Reviewed by Ernst Axel Knauf

Hans-Christoph Schmitt
Arbeitsbuch zum Alten Testament: Grundzüge der Geschichte Israels und der alttestamentlichen Schriften
Reviewed by Christoph Levin

Friday, 15 February 2008

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Two PhD/Post-doc Scholarships: Dominican Biblical Institute

The following announcement came through the BNTS:

Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick
In association with the Dept of Theology and Religious Studies,
Mary Immaculate College,
University of Limerick

Two PhD/Post-doc Scholarships
Project on Christian Origins
On Tracking the Development of 1 Corinthians, the Gospels and Acts
and thereby Contributing to Clarifying
the Synoptic Problem and the Quest for History

2008: Second stage of the Project--in conjunction with an auxiliary project on Genesis' use of Homer

The Dominican Biblical Institute (DBI), Limerick, Ireland, is seeking applicants for two scholarships which will be awarded to suitably qualified candidates for three years, beginning in the Autumn/Fall semester, 2008.

The scholarships are intended primarily for those working towards a PhD, but may exceptionally be adapted for post-doctoral candidates. They are to work in particular areas that fall within the scope of the Projects named above and of which details are given below. The PhD for successful work will be given by the Dominican Biblical Institute, accredited by Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick (MIC/UL). The awarding body is the University of Limerick.

The amount of the scholarship is EURO 15,600 per year plus fee waiver, for three years of full-time study. It will require beneficiaries to participate actively in the overall research project of the DBI and to make occasional academic contributions to the work of the Institute. The terms and conditions of the award are adapted from Mary Immaculate College, UL. In line with the ethos of the Institute as a whole, participants will be encouraged to interact with the surrounding community in Limerick and the west of Ireland.

Applicants should send a CV, two academic references, and a statement outlining their academic interests and their reasons for wishing, first, to undertake one of four PhD topics outlined below and, secondly, to participate in the overall project of which it is a part,to:

The Secretary,
Dominican Biblical Institute,
Upper Cecil St.,
Limerick, Ireland.

For further information or informal discussion, contact Dr. ThomasBrodie,
tel. 353 (0)61 - 490 605.

Closing date for applications is Saturday 10th May, 2007, or as long as is necessary to find suitable candidates. The Institute may decide to interview candidates as part of the selection process. The selection will be made by the DBI Academic Council, following consultation with the Awards Council.

Outline of Main Project
The project of which the PhD research will form a part concerns tracking the sources and compositional methods of the New Testament writers, and thus clarifying the literary development of the gospels, Acts, and epistles. Emphasis on literary composition does not exclude other aspects of research, but it recognizes that at this stage in New Testament studies the literary aspect provides a pivotal opportunity. Furthermore, and crucially, clarification of sources and composition will greatly facilitate investigation of other aspects, especially history, sociology and above all theology.

This project does not come out of a vacuum. It builds on a literary movement that, despite its occasional difficulties, has been gathering momentum for over thirty years. The terminology of this movement varies between Jewish, Greco-Roman and modern--and the terminology itself needs clarification--but, with new awareness of ancient writing methods, and with increasingly reliable criteria for detecting the use of sources, it is now possible, as never before, to trace how New Testament writers refashioned older sources, especially the older scriptures.

It is also becoming possible as never before to trace whether or how the New Testament writers used one another, whether, for instance John used the other gospels, or, as has sometimes been suggested, Luke used 1 Corinthians (and other epistles). And it is possible too, within the context of this overall project, to contribute to solving the Synoptic Problem.

The project focuses primarily on the gospels and Acts but some account is also taken of the epistles, and particular attention will be given to examining the sources, composition and nature of Christianity's oldest extensive document--1 Corinthians. This attention to 1 Corinthians will include a conference that builds on the experience of the 2005 Limerick international conference that produced The Intertextuality of the Epistles. Explorations of Theory and Practice, eds. T. L. Brodie, D. R. MacDonald, S. E. Porter (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2006).

Apart from scholarly presentations and conference papers, the project will also be responsible for publishing an accessible book on the role of the New Testament within the development of civilization, literature and theology, and on the role of Jesus in personal spirituality, in the churches, and among world religions.

The principal overseer is Dr Thomas Brodie, who is responsible for the overall management of the project and who, along with Dr. Jesse Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Scripture at Mary Immaculate College, Univ. of Limerick, will supervisor the PhD research projects. Visiting scholars will also give support. Occasional expertise and input will be available from an Academic Advisory Board: Calum Carmichael (Cornell University), Paul Elbert (Church of God Theological Seminary), Wilfrid Harrington (Priory Institute, Dublin), Damien Nelis (University of Geneva), Carol Newsom (Emory University), Stanley Porter (McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON), Carol Stockhausen (Marquette University).

Those engaged in the project, including the persons appointed to the scholarship, will be expected to collaborate and to work as a team. There will be regular project meetings and occasional research seminars--particularly to give support.

While all four areas can contribute to a single project, each area is also capable, to a significant degree, of standing alone, and so the outcome in one does not determine the outcome in others. Among the four areas, each applicant may designate a first, second and third choice. Within the broad parameters of an area, a student may wish, as work progresses, to focus the research on an aspect sufficiently specific so as to produce a dissertation within the allotted time.

Dissertation areas
The four dissertations will focus on the Gospels and Acts--though as an exception a scholarship may be awarded for work on 1 Corinthians. The four basic areas are:


The Septuagint, the Elijah-Elisha Narrative, and the Testing of the Theory of Early Luke ("Semitic" Luke, or "Proto-Luke") Since the 1890s diverse evidence has indicated that Luke or Luke-Acts once existed in a shorter form--a form sometimes referred to as "Proto-Luke"--and if that form could be identified it would provide a crucial missing link in the history of the gospels' development. For decades the evidence seemed inconclusive and the existence of Proto-Luke was correspondingly vague. However, the situation has begun to change:

* Increasing clarity concerning Luke's imitation of the Septuagint, especially of the Elijah-Elisha narrative, has made it easier to trace his context and methods
*The sharpening of criteria for detecting direct literary dependence has facilitated the distinguishing of sources and levels within Luke-Acts
*Recent detection of clear structures in several biblical texts, including Luke-Acts, has added a further element by which to detect levels within Luke-Acts.

The challenge for the recipient of the scholarship will be to make a fresh critical assessment of (part of) the evidence for Proto-Luke and to move the investigation to a new level.

2. The Making of Mark. The Role of the Elijah-Elisha Narrative and of Elijah/Elisha-related Texts

Despite considerable progress in Markan studies--for instance, concerning a certain priority, social aspects, and literary and theological sophistication--a central puzzle has remained regarding the origin and nature of much of Mark's content, his narrative. (Form criticism clarified key features of individual passages, but not their origin and overall nature, particularly whether, despite the forms' roots in orality, the texts themselves were literary in origin). However--even while the genuine insights of form criticism were proving vague and incomplete--recent decades have clarified Mark's kinship with known texts, Greco-Roman, Christian, and Jewish, particularly the older scriptures and subsequent scripture-based writings. The second scholarship will focus on the contribution of these latter texts--the older scriptures and subsequent scripture-based writings--to Mark's narrative. Particular attention will be given to the Elijah-Elijah narrative--a text reflected in Mark's beginning, middle and end--and to Luke's use of that narrative.

3. The Making of Matthew and the Role of Elijah-related Luke

Given widespread agreement that Matthew used Mark, it is necessary to examine whether Matthew also used some of the scripture texts reflected in Mark--the Septuagint, the Elijah-Elisha narrative and also some of the Lukan passages that reflect the Elijah-Elisha narrative. This investigation will also address in some way both the ancient tradition that Matthew arranged sayings (logia) and the modern hypothesis of a sayings source (Q) shared by Matthew and Luke. One episode of the hypothetical Q source--the account of the centurion's servant--may provide an opportunity to test the relationship betweenMatthew, (Proto-)Luke and John.

4. Luke, Matthew and the Making of Canonical Luke-Acts

The essence of this dissertation is to clarify whether Luke-Acts, apart from using Mark, also used Matthew. The idea of Luke's use of Matthew is not new, but the issue has become stalemated for lack of credible context and criteria. The challenge for the applicant will be to clarify the context, to assess recent research on criteria, and to apply the criteria rigorously to the case in question.

In asking whether Luke actually used Matthew the thesis will also need to engage in some way the larger issue of the formation of Luke-Acts as a whole, including the questions of the Synoptic Problem, and Luke's possible relationship to other sources, including John.

Auxiliary Project: Genesis' Use of Homer

An auxiliary project concerns the formation of the Primary History (Genesis-Kings). This will focus initially on Genesis--on Genesis' use of the major prophets, and on Genesis' use of Homer. Applications are welcomed for scholarships promoting such research work on Genesis.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Congratulations: Another PhD in the Faculty

From left: Rev Dr Ezra Kok, Rev Dr Philip Siew and myself, extending our congratulations to Rev Dr Tan Jin Huat

Heartiest congratulations to Rev Dr Tan Jin Huat, our Academic Dean. We have just received news that Jin Huat has passed his PhD from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, UK.

We are very glad to have another Doctor added to the faculty of STM. We believe a celebration dinner is in order (and of course paid by Jin Huat)!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

N T Wright on Heaven

The recent interview by Time is reproduced below.

Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop
By DAVID VAN BIEMA Thursday, Feb. 07, 2008

N.T. "Tom" Wright is one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought. As Bishop of Durham, he is the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England and a major player in the strife-riven global Anglican Communion; as a much-read theologian and Biblical scholar he has taught at Cambridge and is a hero to conservative Christians worldwide for his 2003 book The Resurrection of the Son of God, which argued forcefully for a literal interpretation of that event.

It therefore comes as a something of a shock that Wright doesn't believe in heaven — at least, not in the way that millions of Christians understand the term. In his new book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne), Wright quotes a children's book by California first lady Maria Shriver called What's Heaven, which describes it as "a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk... If you're good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]... When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him." That, says Wright is a good example of "what not to say." The Biblical truth, he continues, "is very, very different."

Wright, 58, talked by phone with TIME's David Van Biema.

TIME: At one point you call the common view of heaven a "distortion and serious diminution of Christian hope."

Wright: It really is. I've often heard people say, "I'm going to heaven soon, and I won't need this stupid body there, thank goodness.' That's a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.

TIME: How so? It seems like a typical sentiment.

Wright: There are several important respects in which it's unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, "Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven." It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says "the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God," and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well.

TIME: But it's not where the real action is, so to speak?

Wright: No. Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I've called the life after life after death — in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth. Jesus' resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will "awake," be embodied and participate in the renewal. John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves." That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God's presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ's kingdom.

TIME: That is rather different from the common understanding. Did some Biblical verse contribute to our confusion?

Wright: There is Luke 23, where Jesus says to the good thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." But in Luke, we know first of all that Christ himself will not be resurrected for three days, so "paradise" cannot be a resurrection. It has to be an intermediate state. And chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, where there is a vision of worship in heaven that people imagine describes our worship at the end of time. In fact it's describing the worship that's going on right now. If you read the book through, you see that at the end we don't have a description of heaven, but, as I said, of the new heavens and the new earth joined together.

TIME: Why, then, have we misread those verses?

Wright: It has, originally, to do with the translation of Jewish ideas into Greek. The New Testament is deeply, deeply Jewish, and the Jews had for some time been intuiting a final, physical resurrection. They believed that the world of space and time and matter is messed up, but remains basically good, and God will eventually sort it out and put it right again. Belief in that goodness is absolutely essential to Christianity, both theologically and morally. But Greek-speaking Christians influenced by Plato saw our cosmos as shabby and misshapen and full of lies, and the idea was not to make it right, but to escape it and leave behind our material bodies. The church at its best has always come back toward the Hebrew view, but there have been times when the Greek view was very influential.

TIME: Can you give some historical examples?

Wright: Two obvious ones are Dante's great poetry, which sets up a Heaven, Purgatory and Hell immediately after death, and Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine chapel, which portrays heaven and hell as equal and opposite last destinations. Both had enormous influence on Western culture, so much so that many Christians think that is Christianity.

TIME: But it's not.

Wright: Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are we are all going to heaven. They all say, Jesus is raised, therefore the new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.

TIME: That sounds a lot like... work.

Wright: It's more exciting than hanging around listening to nice music. In Revelation and Paul's letters we are told that God's people will actually be running the new world on God's behalf. The idea of our participation in the new creation goes back to Genesis, when humans are supposed to be running the Garden and looking after the animals. If you transpose that all the way through, it's a picture like the one that you get at the end of Revelation.

TIME: And it ties in to what you've written about this all having a moral dimension.

Wright: Both that, and the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their "souls going to Heaven." If people think "my physical body doesn't matter very much," then who cares what I do with it? And if people think that our world, our cosmos, doesn't matter much, who cares what we do with that? Much of "traditional" Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won't be going up there to him, he'll be coming down here.

TIME: That's very different from, say, the vision put out in the Left Behind books.

Wright: Yes. If there's going to be an Armageddon, and we'll all be in heaven already or raptured up just in time, it really doesn't matter if you have acid rain or greenhouse gases prior to that. Or, for that matter, whether you bombed civilians in Iraq. All that really matters is saving souls for that disembodied heaven.

TIME: Has anyone you've talked to expressed disappointment at the loss of the old view?

Wright: Yes, you might get disappointment in the case where somebody has recently gone through the death of somebody they love and they are wanting simply to be with them. And I'd say that's understandable. But the end of Revelation describes a marvelous human participation in God's plan. And in almost all cases, when I've explained this to people, there's a sense of excitement and a sense of, "Why haven't we been told this before?"

Monday, 11 February 2008

T & T Clark's Request for Biblical Guides for the Perplexed

A few days ago, the T & T Clark Blog posted a request for ideas for Biblical Guides for the Perplexed. I think this is timely, as I have often been asked by my first year students whether there is a guide where the discussion is comprehensive enough and yet accessible to them on issues like the New Perspective on Paul; the historical Jesus; etc. I often find it hard to recommend 1 book that sufficiently addresses these particular issues at some depth and yet not too overwhelming for these students. At the moment, the IVP Dictionaries of Jesus of the Gospel, Paul and His Letters, Latter NT Development and NT Background are one of my few reliable helps!

So here is my wish list:

  • Use of the OT in the NT

  • Mission in the OT

  • Mission in the NT

  • Jewish background to the NT

  • Greco-Roman background to the NT

  • Feminist Approach to Biblical Studies

  • Social-Scientific Approach to Biblical Studies

  • Narrative Approach to Biblical Studies

  • Post-Colonial Approach to Biblical Studies

  • Miracles of Jesus

  • Sermon on the Mount

  • Parables of Jesus

  • Synoptic gospels

  • Jesus and Paul

  • New Perspective on Paul

  • History of Interpretation of Romans; Corinthian Correspondence, Revelation, etc

  • Paul and his Interpreters

  • Septuagint

  • Paul and his Sufferings

  • Paul and his Theology

I think I better stop somewhere...

Armour of God Pyjamas!

I have just come across this website selling the Armour of God pyjamas. Currently, online orders are only available in the US.

Hmm...wonder when will this pyjamas be made available in Malaysia? It sure makes me wish I am a kid again - perhaps I could have less nightmares!

Wonder what's next? Armour of God bed linens & quilts? Any creative mind out there?

Sunday, 10 February 2008

BNTS The Book of Acts Seminar: Call for Papers

The following announcement came through the British New Testament Society.


The Book of Acts seminar at the British New Testament Conference
University of Durham,
4-6 September 2008

I am writing to invite papers for the Book of Acts seminar group at this year's British New Testament Conference. The conference takes place at the University of Durham, 4 to 6 September 2008.

This seminar aims to be a forum for considering Acts from various angles:

historical, literary, textual-critical, theological, archaeological, the social world, possible links/parallels with other ancient writings, and so on.
We are very happy to include discussion of topics which relate Acts to the wider contexts of Luke-Acts and the Paulinecorpus, where they are relevant and helpful to the study of Acts, although the focus of the seminar is studying Acts. Papers are welcome from both research students and more established scholars.

If you (or someone you know) is interested in offering a paper, please make contact with me as soon as possible (ideally by the end of April, and by the end of May at the latest), so that I can make plans. It would be helpful to have a working title and brief sketch of the topic(s) which the paper would cover. Papers could be longer, requiring a whole seminar session for discussion (90 minutes) or shorter, filling half a session (45 minutes). Responses by post, fax or email are all fine, although email is preferred.

Our practice in the Acts seminar is that papers are available on the British New Testament Society web site a few weeks before the conference, so that seminar members can read them in advance. We then ask the paper's author to give a 10-15 minute summary before we discuss the paper. This approach maximises discussion time, which is a major reason we meet together.

Please pass the word around about the Acts seminar, and encourage others who may wish to offer a paper to contact me soon. Do forward this email to others who may be interested. A copy of this notice is in PDF format in the 'Files' section of the BNTS google group section; please will you display it on your departmental/college notice boards?

If you have any questions about the seminar, please do get in touch with me.

With warm regards,
Steve Walton

Saturday, 9 February 2008

CT Interviews Greg Beale and Don Carson

Some weeks ago, I highlighted about my purchase of the long-awaited one-volume commentary edited by G.K. Beale & D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).

CT editor-at-large, Collin Hansen, runs an interview with the editors, Greg Beale and Don Carson, about their project. It's worth a read.

Two Testaments, One Story:
Top evangelical scholars team up for landmark commentary on New Testament use of Old Testament
Interview by Collin Hansen posted 2/08/2008 10:06AM

About a decade ago, Wheaton College Graduate School professor Greg Beale had the idea to develop a one-volume commentary that would address every instance a New Testament writer quotes or alludes to the Old Testament. He sought the help of D. A. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and together they began soliciting the contributions of an all-star cast of biblical experts. Finally, in late 2007, they published the hefty Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker, $54.99, 1,152 pp.). CT editor-at-large Collin Hansen spoke with Beale and Carson to learn how this new volume will help Christians understand the Bible as one progressively unfolding story of redemption.

What might surprise readers about how the New Testament writers used the Old Testament?

Beale: It's evident in our book that the New Testament writers use the Old Testament with the context of the Old Testament in mind. That's a real debate between evangelicals and non-evangelicals, but it's also an in-house debate. Some evangelicals would say Jesus and the apostles preached the right Old Testament doctrine but from the wrong Old Testament texts. They believe that what the New Testament writers wrote was inspired, but their interpretative method was not inspired, that it was just as wild and crazy as the Jewish method at the time. Our book proceeds on the presupposition that of course their conclusions are inspired. But we also show that Jesus was not a wild and crazy Jewish interpreter like those at Qumran or elsewhere, but he interpreted the Old Testament in a very viable way.

If you want a good example of someone who would disagree with our method, there's a recent book by Peter Enns called Inspiration and Incarnation. In one of the concluding chapters, he contends that Jesus and the apostles preached the right doctrine from the wrong texts and that we should do the same. I have written a lengthy review of that chapter in the periodical Themelios. Enns responded, and then I wrote a surrejoinder just on this very issue.

Where does the New Testament make things difficult for modern readers in its use of the Old Testament?

Beale: Matthew has a number of them. For example, in Matthew 2:15 it says, "And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'" That's from Hosea 11:1. The problem is, when you go back to Hosea 11:1, it's not a prophecy. It's just a description of Israel coming out of Egypt hundreds of years earlier. If a student were asked on test, "Is Hosea 11:1 a prophetic statement?" many teachers would give them an F if they said yes. You can read Craig Blomberg's chapter on Matthew to learn more. Basically this falls into a category called typology, where the events of the Old Testament are seen as prefiguring events on a grander scale in the New Testament. For example, John 19 says Jesus is the greater Passover Lamb. Part of the presupposition of the Old Testament and New Testament writers is that there are two modes of prophecy, not just direct verbal prophecy but also what one might call "patterns of history" that point forward. All of a sudden it makes sense that the past exodus referenced in Hosea 11:1 is seen as an event prefiguring a greater exodus, Jesus coming out of Egypt.

I think a number of the contributors would say the more Hebrew exegesis you do in the Old Testament, the clearer the use is in the New Testament. The problem is, some New Testament scholars don't have much background in the Hebrew Old Testament. That's immediately a problem. There's such specialization in all fields today.

For the rest of the interview, click here.

Special Discount for Logos Software

Rest assured that I am not getting any sales commission from doing this (although it would be nice to have some!).

For those of you who have been delibrating for sometime whether to reward yourself with the Logos Bible Software, now is the time to do so. Dove Bookseller has just sent out a mailing announcing some special discount for Logos Electornic Books and Software only for the month of February.

So go ahead and indulge yourself. Some of the pretty good deals are highlihgted below.

Original Languages Library - Logos Bible Software 3, CD-ROM (Windows)
Dove Price: $300.99
List: $415.95
Save: $114.96 (27%)
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Scholar's Library - Logos Bible Software 3 (Windows)
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Bible Study Library - Logos Bible Software 3 CD-ROM (Windows)
Dove Price: $188.99
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Friday, 8 February 2008

International Review of Biblical Studies Vol 53 (2006-07)

Brill announces the release of the International Review of Biblical Studies, Volume 53 (2006-2007).

"Formerly known by its subtitle “Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft und Grenzgebiete”, the International Review of Biblical Studies has served the scholarly community ever since its inception in the early 1950’s. Each annual volume includes approximately 2,000 abstracts and summaries of articles and books that deal with the Bible and related literature, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha, Non-canonical gospels, and ancient Near Eastern writings. The abstracts – which may be in English, German, or French - are arranged thematically under headings such as e.g. “Genesis”, “Matthew”, “Greek language”, “text and textual criticism”, “exegetical methods and approaches”, “biblical theology”, “social and religious institutions”, “biblical personalities”, “history of Israel and early Judaism”, and so on. The articles and books that are abstracted and reviewed are collected annually by an international team of collaborators from over 300 of the most important periodicals and book series in the fields covered."

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Happy Chinese New Year

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Rat according to the Chinese lunar calander.

Happy Chinese New Year, Gong Xi Fa Chai, San Neen Fai Lok to all readers of my blog. May the new year be filled with joy, peace and love.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Bible Confiscated - Update

Following the news from Malaysiakini (see also the news report from the Star) and my earlier post on English bibles that were seized by customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur Airport, both Christian Federation of Malaysia and Council of Churches Malaysia have acted immediately and issued press statements concerning this matter.

The press statements from both CFM and CCM are reproduced below:

Press Statement from Christian Federation of Malaysia

Hands Off our Bibles
The Christian Federation of Malaysia registers its protest in the strongest terms, at the action of a Custom Officer at LCCT, who confiscated 32 English Bibles belonging to a Christian, who was bringing it from Manila for use in her church.

The reason given by the Custom Officer is that since it is the Bible, it needs to be cleared by the Internal Security Ministry’s Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts.

Since when has English Bibles become a "security issue" in our country?

Why is it, the said Control Division is amassing such rights to itself that allow Muslim civil bureaucrats to decide for Christians what religious material they can read, or bring into the country?

We have received many complaints from Christians being told to hand over religious books to custom officers at various checkpoints in the country. Now they even want our Bibles!

The Bible is our holy and sacred book. We will not comply with any directive from government or its agencies that infringe on our right to use our sacred book and other Christian literature.

We appreciate that the Deputy Minister of Internal Security, YB Dato’ Fu Ah Kiow has taken action to have the Bibles returned to the person concerned, explaining that the Customs officer had no such authority to seize the Bibles.

But in view of the fact that this is not an isolated case, we call upon YB Dato’ Fu to come up with a directive restraining all government agencies from future harassment especially by the internal security enforcement officers.

In the run-up to the National Elections, it is important for the churches to be convinced that the policy of the Barisan Nasional guarantees religious freedom and would not tolerate any actions that undermine the religious rights of all citizens of Malaysia.

Bishop Dr. Paul Tan Chee Ing., SJ
Chairman, Executive Committee
Christian Federation of Malaysia
5th February 2008

Press Statement from Council of Churches Malaysia

It has been brought to our attention that a Malaysian Christian has suffered much spiritual anguish and indignation as she had her English Bibles confiscated by the Custom Officers at the airport (LCCT) recently, when she returned from a visit to Manila, Philippines.

The Custom Officer had insisted that the English Bibles had to be sent to the Internal Security Ministry’s Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts (Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan dan Teks Al-Quran), for clearance .

The Council of Churches is flabbergasted that such acts are happening in our country with such frequency and impunity.

We want to state categorically that the Bible is Holy Scripture for Christians. No authority on earth should deny Christians the right to possess, read and travel with their Bibles.

The Council of Churches calls for the immediate release of the Bibles with an official apology by the Custom Department of Malaysia.

We call upon the Prime Minister, who is also the Internal Security Minister to make a clear and unequivocal statement to assure Christians in the country that they will not be subject to such harassment and that their holy books will not be subject to the scrutiny of the Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts of the Internal Security Ministry.

For a country that has celebrated, cultivated and sustained fifty years of religious freedom and harmonious living between all faith communities, this latest episode is another example of how the unilateral actions of certain government agencies are undermining the government’s stated claims of protecting religious freedom in the country.

Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri,
General Secretary
Council of Churches of Malaysia
4th February 2008.

Bibles confiscated

Malaysia's online newspaper, Malaysiakini, runs a very disturbing news today. I am reposting the news here. Is this another clear and unmistakable indication that freedom of religion as enshirned in our Federal Constitution is now slowing but surely eroding away?

Bibles confiscated by Customs Dept
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz Feb 4, 08 7:19pm

A seizure of English bibles by Customs Department officials has left a bitter taste in the mouth of a Malaysian Christian and led the Council of Churches Malaysia to decry the increasing incidence of such acts by the authorities.

It comes on the heels of a spate of legal suits following similar seizures of Christian materials by the authorities earlier this year and late last year.

On Jan 28, missionary Juliana Nicholas returned from a trip to the Philippines carrying with her two boxes containing 32 bibles meant for her church group.

Upon arrival at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Kuala Lumpur, she was told to declare and open the contents of the boxes.

Having done so - and despite showing them a letter from her parish priest stating the texts were for use by the church - Nicholas was shocked to be hear subsequently that the bibles would be “referred" to the Internal Security Ministry’s Publications and Al-Quran Texts Control Division.

Protestations that they could check the bibles there and then without the inconvenience of referring them to the ministry fell on deaf ears, said Nicholas.

“When I objected as these were English bibles, the ministry official I spoke to said, ‘Oh, we do this even with the Qurans that come through this way’. But these are not Qurans, these are English bibles!” Nicolas said when contacted.

As to when the bibles can be returned to her “would depend on those people at the division”, Nicholas said she was told further.

After a follow-up call today to the ministry, Nicholas said she was informed she could now pick up the bibles from the division office located near the airport.

Official apology needed
She insisted, however, that the ministry issue to her an official apology for the inconvenience caused and a letter of assurance that the incidence would not recur.

“They cannot allow such things to happen again. How can they do this to you?” asked an indignant Nicholas.

Echoing her demand today, Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary Dr Hermen Shastri said it should be known categorically that “the bible is Holy Scripture for Christians.”

“No authority on earth should deny Christians the right to possess, read and travel with their bibles,” he said in a statement.

“We call upon the prime minister, who is also the internal security minister, to make a clear and unequivocal statement to assure Christians in the country that they will not be subject to such harassment and that their holy books will not be subject to the scrutiny of the Control Division of Publications and Al-Quran Texts of the Internal Security Ministry.

“For a country that has celebrated, cultivated and sustained 50 years of religious freedom and harmonious living between all faith communities, this latest episode is another example of how the unilateral actions of certain government agencies are undermining the government’s stated claims of protecting religious freedom in the country,” said Shastri.

Legal suit
Earlier this year, the Internal Security Ministry confiscated English language Christian children’s books said to contain offensive caricatures of prophets from several bookshops in three states.

Last year, a Sabah church filed a suit against the government and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his capacity as internal security minister for not allowing the import of Christian literature from Indonesia containing the word ‘Allah’.

Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church president Pastor Jerry Dusing filed the suit on behalf of the church at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Dec 10 after six titles for their Sunday school education for children were banned from being imported.

In 2006, about 1,000 copies of bibles in Bahasa Indonesia were seized in Port Klang and had remained in Customs’ possession.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz had earlier told Parliament that the government prohibited the distribution of bibles in Bahasa Malaysia.

The prime minister however stated that Bahasa Malaysia bibles are not banned but must be labeled with the words 'Not for Muslims’.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Special TEE Course by Dr Peter O’Brien

In colaboration with Church Based Theological Education (CBTE), STM is pleased to announce a special Theological Education by Extension ( TEE) Course by Dr Peter O’Brien on "Justification in the Paul's Epistles."

This course will explore the development and presentation of the theme of justification in the letters written by the Apostle Paul. In view of recent scholastic studies that offer a “fresh interpretation” of the doctrine of justification, this course will be a timely reminder of the biblical view of how God justifies us while we were still enemies with him.

Dates: March 1 (Sat), 4 (Tue), 6 (Thu), 7 (Fri), 8 (Sat), 11 (Tue), 13 (Thu), and 14 (Fri)

Time: Tue, Thu and Fri: 8.00-10.30pm; Sat: 9.00am-5.00pm

Venue: First Baptist Church; Lot 8, Jalan Pantai 9/7, 46000 Petaling Jaya

About the Instructor

Dr Peter T. O'Brien is Senior Research Fellow at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia where he was formerly Vice-Principal. He has also been the Professor of New Testament and Academic Dean of Union Biblical Seminary in Yatvatmal, India.

Dr O’Brien is a noted NT scholar with special interests in Pauline theology and missions. Among his noted works include commentaries on Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary), Philippians (New International Greek New Testament Commentary) and Colossians/Philemon (Word Biblical Commentary). He is currently writing a commentary on Hebrews for the Pillar series. Other works include ‘Consumed by Passion: Paul and the Dynamic of the Gospel’, ‘Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission’ (written with Andreas Kostenberger) and ‘Justification And Variegated Nomism’ (two volumes edited with D. A. Carson and Mark A. Seifrid).

Course Registration
For STM and TEE students only, please contact Ruth Tee
Seminari Theoloji Malaysia
Lot 3011, Taman South East, Jalan Tampin Lama Batu 3, 70100 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Tel: 06 - 6322815
Fax: 06 - 6329766
email address:

For those who are not STM students, please contact the CBTE Registrar, Doreen Chan, via or 016-238-0918

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Review of Biblical Literature: Feb 2, 2008

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

Stanisław Bazyliński
A Guide to Biblical Research: Introductory Notes
Reviewed by Jeremy Punt

Douglas A. Campbell
The Quest for Paul's Gospel: A Suggested Strategy
Reviewed by Matt Jackson-McCabe

Gordon D. Fee
Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study
Reviewed by Don Garlington
Reviewed by Matthew Montonini

Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams
Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea
Reviewed by Claudio Zamagni

Pieter W. van der Horst
Jews and Christians in Their Graeco-Roman Context: Selected Essays on
Early Judaism, Samaritanism, Hellenism, and Christianity
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Hans Hübner
Wer ist der biblische Gott? Fluch und Segen der monotheistischen Religionen
Reviewed by Sven Petry

Garrett C. Kenney
Translating H/holy S/spirit: Four Models: Unitarian, Binitarian, Trinitarian, and Non-sectarian
Reviewed by Tony Costa

Jaclyn L. Maxwell
Christianization and Communication in Late Antiquity: John Chrysostom and His Congregation in Antioch
Reviewed by David Brian Warner

Patrick D. Miller
The Way of the Lord: Essays in Old Testament Theology
Reviewed by Walter Brueggemann

Pekka Särkiö
Kuningasajalta: Kirjoituksia Salomosta ja rautakauden piirtokirjoituksista
Reviewed by Pekka Pitkänen

W. Dennis Tucker
Jonah: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text
Reviewed by Karl Möller

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Biblical Women and their Afterlives: New Testament Characters

The Centre for Reception History of the Bible is organising a conference on "Biblical Women and their Afterlives: New Testament Characters"

Venue: Trinity College, Oxford

Date: 16-18th March 2008

This interdisciplinary conference is part of an AHRC-funded project, in collaboration with Boston University, exploring the reception history of biblical women.

Following on from the successful conference in Boston in 2007, which examined the afterlives of women from the Hebrew Bible, our 2008 conference will focus on the afterlives of New Testament characters in art, music, literature and theology.

Speakers include:
Prof Heidi Hornik (art history)

Prof Diane Apostolos-Cappadona (art history)

Prof Ruth Steiner (music)

Prof Peter Loewen (music)

Fiona Maddocks (music)

Prof Christopher Rowland (theology)

Dr Sarah Jane Boss (theology)

The programme also includes the specially commissioned poem ‘To cast a stone’ by the acclaimed Irish poet John F. Deane.

For the complete conference programme click here. For the booking form click here.