Friday, 18 April 2008

Reflections on the Symposium on Romans with Robert Jewett

I had a very stimulating and enriching time at the Symposium on Romans with Robert Jewett and K.K. Yeo organised by the Sabah Theological Seminary. The primary purpose of this symposium is to elicit response from Malaysian scholars on the relevance of Bob's newly published Romans Commentary in the Hermeneia series on the Malaysian culture and context.

In his epoch-making commentary, Bob sets a new benchmark on the studies of Romans and provides a fresh and groundbreaking analysis of the letter by employing tools of rhetorical criticism, social scientific analysis, historical and cultural analysis of the honour, shame, and imperial systems in the Greco Roman world. In doing so, Bob pays close attention in hearing the text in its own cultural, social, political, and ideological contexts.

Together with Ezra Kok (my Principal), we had the privilege to respond to one of Bob's papers, "The Agape Meal: A Sacramental Model for Ministry drawn from Romans 13:8." In this paper, Bob's major thesis can be summarised as follows:

1) Apart from the house church model, there is also the strong possibility of tenement churches as the social location for early Christian meals, particularly in Rome.

2) Bob suggests the reading of The Agape in Romans 13:10 as a specific reference to the love feasts.

3) The fulfillment of the law in Romans 13:10 should not be narrowly confined to the Torah but to include both Jewish and Roman law, and any other law that could be mentioned.

I will most likely post our response to Bob's paper in a later post, so as not to make this post unnecessarily long.

Personally, I have much to gain and learn from the symposium. Apart from the intellectual stimulation at the symposium, I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship with Bob and KK over the past few days (we stayed in the same apartment) and exchanged our views and debates over Romans (and many other issues as well). It is in such dialogues that I am humbled and kept reminded of my very limited understanding and knowledge of the world of biblical studies - there is much to discover and learn from one another. Biblical scholarship is never pursued in isolation but within a community. Our understanding and interpretation of the text is not only informed by but also subjected to the critique of the community.

Overall, Bob was very impressed, in his own words, "with the high level of discussion and interaction" among the participants in the Symposium. Coming from Bob, this is very complimentary and encouraging, demonstrating the level of maturity and high scholarship of Asian and, in particular, Malaysian scholars. Malaysia Boleh!


pearlie said...

Looking forward to your post on this.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Pearlie,

Will try to post it soon, after some minor editing.