Monday, 30 June 2008

Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Daniel J. Treier's new book, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice, will soon be released by Baker Academic.

Baker provides the description of the book as follows:

"In the wake of the schism during the past two centuries between biblical studies and theology, a new movement has developed, seeking to bridge this modern gap. This hermeneutical movement, which hearkens back to aspects of pre-critical interpretation, has been labeled the theological interpretation of Scripture (TIS) and focuses on the contexts of canon, creed, and church. While the trend is in its infancy, it is rapidly gaining momentum. Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture is the first clear, systematic introduction to this movement for students and nonspecialist scholars. The book surveys the history, themes, advocates, and positions of TIS and seeks to bring coherence to its various elements. The author, Daniel Treier, also explores what he sees as the greatest challenges the movement will have to address in the future, including the interface between TIS and biblical theology, general hermeneutics, and the concept of social location in reading scriptural texts. Woven throughout is a case study on the imago Dei, demonstrating how TIS plays out in theological exegesis. This case study adds to the book's usefulness as a secondary text in hermeneutics courses."

Having been a follower of what is described as TIS above, I am tempted to get hold of this book. I just wish there could be a scheme in which publishers in developed countries could offer genuine scholars from the Two-Thirds world a pricing mechanism where these books are priced according to the affordability and purchasing power of these scholars, rather than a simple conversion of the US$ into the local currency. I am dreaming - as usual....

Saturday, 28 June 2008

SBL International Meeting 2008 Printed Programme Book Available Now


The printed programme book of the 2008 SBL International Meeting to be held in Auckland is now availale at SBL's website and can be downloaded.

Please click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2 of the printed programme book.

Friday, 27 June 2008

2 Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making Seminar


The online programme of the 2008 SBL Annual Meeting in Boston is now available. Since 2 Corinthians has been my research area, it is with much interest that I highlight the 2 Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making Seminar papers. With great sadness, I will have to give the Annual Meeting a miss.

Theme: 2 Corinthians 1-7
Thomas Schmeller,
University of Frankfurt,
Presiding

Reimund Bieringer,
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

V. Henry T. Nguyen,
Loyola Marymount University

Thomas R. Blanton IV,
Luther College

Kenneth L. Schenck,
Indiana Wesleyan University

George H. van Kooten,
University of Groningen

Theme: 2 Corinthians 8-13
Dominika Kurek-Chomycz,
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven,
Presiding

James R. Harrison,
Wesley Institute

Laurence L. Welborn,
Fordham University

James Wallace,
Emory University

Kathy Ehrensperger,
University of Wales, Lampeter

Gregory Tatum,
École Biblique

Theme: Reconciliation and Atonement in 2 Corinthians
Reimund Bieringer,
Catholic University of Leuven-Belgium,
Presiding

Christian A. Eberhart,
Lutheran Theological Seminary

Sebastian Duda,
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Stephen Finlan,
Drew University,
Respondent

Nijay Gupta,
Durham University

Thomas Schmeller,
Frankfurt University

Jerry Sumney,
Lexington Theological Seminary,
Respondent

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Celebrating our Diversity: East Malaysia Thanksgiving Chapel Service

Today marks our annual East Malaysia Thanksgiving Chapel service, where we celebrate the diversity in our community. I will let the photos do the talking!


Chapel decoration


Our East Malaysian students performing a traditional dance

Our Iban warriors





Schreiner's NT Theology Arrives


I highlighted Thomas Schreiner's New Testament Theology about 3 weeks ago. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and many thanks to Marvin, a close friend, who ordered this book for me as a gift from my Amazon Wishlist.

I can't wait to engage Schreiner - but that has to wait for a couple more days, as I am now trying very hard to put together my paper for SBL International Meeting in Auckland to be held from July 6-11.

For a recent interview with Schreiner by Christianity Today, please click here.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Greece Trip (14): Thessaloniki: What Would Have Gone Through Paul's Mind (1)? - Part 4


Thessalonica is the second major city Paul visited in his Second Missionary Journey after receiving the Macedonian call (Acts 16:6-10). As in Philippi, Paul faced tremendous opposition to his gospel in Thessalonica.

In Philippi, it was the owners of the slave girl that Paul set free, together with the crowd, that opposed Paul for "advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practise" (Acts 16:21), and this subsequently led to the his imprisonment.

In Thessalonica, a group of Jews rounded up some bad characters from the city, formed a mob and started a riot in the city, accusing Paul for causing trouble and "defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus" (Acts 16:8).


In both cities, Paul had no choice but to leave, perhaps for the sake of the safety of the newly established community of Christ-followers. In fact, Paul had to leave Thessalonica at night.

I often wonder what would have gone through Paul's mind when he left Thessalonica. Both his mission to Philippi and Thessalonica had to be ended prematurely. In both cities, he faced intense persecution and opposition. In fact, in Philippi, he was humiliated, unjustly and unfairly tried as a Roman citizen - and in his own words, he had "suffered and been treated outrageously" (1 Thess 2:2). According to today's understanding of models of church growth, Paul's church planting activities in these two cities are far from successful.

At this point when Paul made his way to Berea, would he have doubted the vision of the Macedonian man he saw in Troas (Acts 16:6-10)? What would be the conversation like between him and Silas on the journey? Would they feel a sense of discouragement? Would they have entertained the thoughts of giving up?

What would you and I do when we are faced with similar situations like those of Paul's? Would we have doubted our calling? What would we do if were Paul? Would we still persevere on in our mission? Or would we give up?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Christian Theology in Asia


In light of the recent proposal by Tony Siew concerning the need for a Asian Theology series and the subsequent brainstorming by Alex, it would also be good for me to highlight a very recent publication by Cambridge University Press on the title Christian Theology in Asia, edited by Sebastian Kim.

The publisher provides the description of this new publication:

"The majority of the world's Christians now live outside Europe and North America, and global Christianity is becoming increasingly diverse. Interest in the history and theology of churches in non-Western contexts is growing rapidly as 'old world' churches face this new reality. This book focuses on how Asian Christian theologies have been shaped by the interaction of Christian communities with the societies around them and how they relate to the specific historical contexts from which they have emerged. The distinctiveness of Asian Christianity is shown to be the outcome of dealing with various historical challenges."

"Questions addressed include:
  • How does Asian Christianity relate to local socio-cultural, religious and political environments?
  • What is distinctive about the historical development of Asian theologies?
  • How have Asian theologies contributed to contemporary theological discussions within world Christianity?"
This book also:

  • Explains the development of Christian theologies in India, Indonesia, China, Japan and South Korea
  • Explores theological themes emerging from the Asian Christian experience
  • Employs historical and theological methods to enable readers to grasp theology in context

The Table of Contents of this edited volume looks impressive with contribution from prominent theologians, as highlighted below:


I. Formation of Christian theologies in Asia
1. Introduction: mapping Asian Christianity in the context of world Christianity by David M. Thompson

2. The Mystery of God in and through Hinduism by Jacob Kavunkal

3. Waters of life and Indian cups: Protestant attempts at theologizing in India by Israel Selvanayagam

4. From abandonment to blessing: the theological presence of Christianity in Indonesia by John A. Titaley

5. Studying Christianity and doing theology extra ecclesiam in China by Choong Chee Pang

6. Christian theology under feudalism, nationalism and democracy in Japan by Nozomu Miyahira

7. The word and the spirit: overcoming poverty, injustice and division in Korea by Sebastian C. H. Kim

II. Theological themes of Christianity in Asia
8. Religious pluralism, dialogue and Asian Christian responses by M. Thomas Thangaraj

9. Cross-textual hermeneutics and identity in multi-scriptural Asia by Archie C. C. Lee

10. Re-constructing Asian feminist theology: toward a glocal feminist theology in an era of neo-Empire(s) by Namsoon Kang

11. The ecumenical movement in Asia in the context of Asian socio-political realities by S. Wesley Ariarajah

12. Mission and evangelism: evangelical and pentecostal theologies in Asia by Hwa Yung

13. Subalterns, identity politics and Christian theology in India by Sathianathan Clarke


An excerpt from the Introduction is also available by clicking here.

I am looking forward in getting hold of this book when it arrives in the seminary library.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Junior Positions in NT at HDS


HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL seeks to make two junior, tenure-track appointments in New Testament and Early Christianity, with preference for specialization in Gospels or early Christian and Jewish apocalyptic (including the Dead Sea Scrolls).

The successful candidates will complement the current field of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at HDS which focuses on the interdisciplinary study of Christian literature (canonical and extracanonical), history, exegesis, and theology in the context of the ancient Mediterranean world, with special emphases in hermeneutics, feminist interpretation, and material culture.

Applicants must hold a doctoral degree by the time of assuming the position in the fall of 2009, be familiar with forms of analysis that address race, gender, and social location, and be able to teach and advise at the doctoral and master’s levels, including the M.Div. program. In addition to students in the Divinity School, successful candidates will teach undergraduates and graduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Harvard University is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action employer and encourages applications from and nominations of women and/or ethnic minority candidates. Letters of nomination are welcome.

Letters of application, accompanied by a recent curriculum vitae, a writing sample and/or select publications, and three letters of recommendation should be sent to:

New Testament and Early Christianity Search Committee,
c/o Jacob Rhoads,
Faculty Search Coordinator,
Harvard Divinity School,
45 Francis Avenue,
Cambridge,
Massachusetts 02138,
USA.

Review of applications will begin September 1, 2008.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Review of Biblical Literature: June 6, 2008

Here are the reviews published on June 6. I am glad to note that my colleague's work is being reviewed, but unfortunately, the reviewer somehow gets her gender wrong (The reviewer refers to Dr Koh as "he" - I guess this can be rather embarrasing at times)

Klaus-Peter Adam
Saul und David in der judäischen Geschichtsschreibung: Studien zu 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 5
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6023
Reviewed by Walter Dietrich

Andrew R. Angel
Chaos and the Son of Man: The Hebrew Chaoskampf Tradition in the Period 515 BCE to 200 CE
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6002
Reviewed by Lorenzo DiTommaso

J. Harold Ellens, ed.
The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6124
Reviewed by Jan Willem van Henten

John H. Elliott
Conflict, Community, and Honor: 1 Peter in Social-Scientific Perspective
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6127
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Cristina Grenholm and Daniel Patte, eds.
Gender, Tradition and Romans: Shared Ground, Uncertain Borders
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5208
Reviewed by Angela Standhartinger

John Paul Heil
Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5930
Reviewed by Timothy Gombis

John Jarick, ed.Sacred Conjectures: The Context and Legacy of Robert Lowth and Jean Astruc
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5926
Reviewed by Knut M. Heim
Reviewed by Allan Rosengren

Y. V. Koh
Royal Autobiography in the Book of Qoheleth
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5870
Reviewed by Cristian G. Rata

Carleen R. Mandolfo
Daughter Zion Talks Back to the Prophets: A Dialogic Theology of the Book of Lamentations
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6146
Reviewed by Elizabeth Boase

Leo G. Perdue
Wisdom Literature: A Theological History
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5980
Reviewed by Bernd U. Schipper

Hershel Shanks
The Copper Scroll and the Search for the Temple Treasure
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6136
Reviewed by Kenneth Atkinson

Robert R. Stieglitz
Tel Tanninim: Excavations at Krokodeilon Polis 1996-1999
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6195
Reviewed by Jodi Magness

Lieve M. Teugels and Rivka Ulmer, eds.
Midrash and Context: Proceedings of the 2004 and 2005 SBL Consultation on Midrash
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6008
Reviewed by Alex P. Jassen

Joseph B. Tyson
Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle
http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=6126
Reviewed by Dieter T. Roth

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Davina Lopez's Apostle to the Conquered


Many new and exciting books are hitting the shelves for the past few weeks - and I have been finding it extremely difficult to keep up with recent NT scholarship.

Another example of an excellent piece of Pauline scholarship is the book by Davina Lopez, Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul's Mission, published by Fortress Press in March this year.

In this book, Lopez "combines attention to Roman visual and literary representations of conquered nations with a gender-critical "re-imagination" of Paul's apostleship. The result is a new and more critical perspective on the systematic violence of the Roman Empire, and a renewed understanding of "Paul's politics of the new creation."

The Contents of this book are as follow:

Introduction: The Problem with "the Nations"
The Fate of the Nations in Roman Imperial Representation
Destiny and the Naturalization of Conquest
Conversion, Call, and Consciousness
The Politics of the New Creation
Conclusion: Dislocating Paul's "Universalism"

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Commentary/Theology Series Written by Asians?

Tony Siew (left in photo) who has been recently appointed New Testament lecturer at Trinity Theological College, Singapore, suggests that it is time for a commentary/theology series written solely by Asians.

He listed six reasons why such a series is not only justifiable but greatly needed. I applaud Tony's desire and dream for such a series, and could not agree more with his suggestion.

Would there be any international publisher interested in such a series?

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Happy Birthday to Myhomilia


Time flies - I just realised that I have been blogging for slighly more than a year already. I started my presence in the blogsphere on June 3, 2007. So 400 posts later, here's a belated 1st birthday to myhomilia!

Hope all the readers have enjoyed reading my blog, just as I have in blogging.


Greece Trip (12): Thessalonica: Why Did the Jews Form A Mob? - Part 2

Paul and his companions travelled to Thessalonica (modern day Thessaloniki) after being beaten and imprisoned in Philippi. Their route took them through Amphipolis and Apollonia, a journey of 154km (95 miles) that would have taken them several days.




When Paul arrived Thessalonica, "there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said." (Acts 17:1-3)

It is impossible to determine the length of Paul's stay in Thessalonica. According to above passage in Acts, Paul preached on three Sabbaths in the synagogue. But this should not be taken to mean that the extent of Paul's stay was merely 3-4 weeks.


From his letters to the Thessalonians, we learn that Paul worked "night and day" (1 Thess 2:9) to support himself and his companions. The newly established church in Philippi contributed financial assistance more than once to Paul (Phil 4:6). Together, these scriptures seem to suggest that Paul would have remained in Thessalonica for at least several weeks, if not months.

Paul's ministry in Thessalonica appears to be promising, according to Acts 17:4: "Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women." Again, as in earlier accounts (e.g., the conversion of Lydia in Philippi), the author of Acts places special emphasis on the conversion of several "prominent women."

Perhaps the initial success of Paul's ministry stirred up the anger of the Jewish community. But more importantly, the Jewish community also feared the respite from the authorities concerning the propagation of loyalty to another king that might jeopardise their favoured status in this city.

Thessalonica enjoyed the status of a free city, and this means that Romans did not occupy the local offices and government, although a Roman procurator was stationed in the city. Instead, the local rulers known as politarchs were in charge. The politarchs are names that are peculiar in Macedonia and found by archaeologists on the Vartar Gate. In fact, this word, πολιτάρχης, is the same word that is used in Acts 17:6 & 8 and is usually translated "city officials" (NIV, NET); "city council" (NLT); "rulers of the city" (NKJV); or "city authorities" (ESV, NASB , NRSV). It appears nowhere else in the NT. As such, the local Jewish community was understandably agitated at any suggestion that their favoured status might be jeopardised.



With this background information, we can better understand what transpired in the narrative of Acts 17:5-9:

"But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go."

I often wonder whether our present day church politics bear some resemblance to what the above passage described. As ministers of the gospel or church leaders, do we sometimes view guarding our favoured position more important than the progress of the gospel? Could our unstoppable craze and unsatisfiable hunger for power and privileged status be a significant contributing factor that may have impeded the growth of the church? Do we rather worship King Caesar instead of King Jesus so that our favoured position is not jeopardised?

Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Eleison.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Greece Trip (11): Thessalonica: Caesar Lookalike? - Part 1


The Octavian Augustus lookalike in Thessaloniki?

We may be brothers, we may look alike, we may pose alike - but I simply don't have that torso to die for. But someone promised me that he would make me "look good" in that photo - and I am still waiting...

Thanks, Kueh, for the photo.


Monday, 16 June 2008

Berita STM June 2008 is out!

The June 2008 issue of Berita STM is now published. Click here for the latest news, activities and events of the seminary.

New Semester Begins

The campus is alive with activities as the Second Semester begins today. One of the signs that our students have returned to campus is the lack of parking space. The fight with students in securing a parking spot has now begun.

The tradition of the seminary is to begin the second semester with a quiet day with some time for reflection and meeting up with the respective pastoral groups.

The speaker for our Quiet Day this year is Rev Wendy Ching, Academic Dean of Bible College of Malaysia.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Tyndale NT Study Group 2008


The Tyndale New Testament Study Group 2008 will focus on the theme of Perspectives on Peter - Peter and Petrine Writings in History, Tradition, and Theology.

To be held from July 7-9 at Tyndale House, this year's programme includes papers by:
  • Mark Keown (Bible College of New Zealand): “Proclamation of the Gospel in 1 Peter”

  • Rob van Houwelingen (Theological Uni of the Reformed Churches): “The authenticity of 2 Peter: Problems and Possible Solutions”

  • Mark D. Mathews (Durham University): "The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude Examined Against and Analogy of the Synoptic Gospels”

  • Nijay K. Gupta (Durham University): “A Spiritual House of Royal Priests, Chosen and Honoured: The Presence and Function of Cultic Imagery in 1 Peter”

  • Richard Bauckham (Cambridge): “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses Revisited: Mark and Peter”

  • Tomas Bokedal (Aberdeen University): “Canonical Reception of 2 Peter”

  • Armin D. Baum (FTA Gießen / ETF Leuven): “Were the New Testament Pseudepigrapha (including 1 and 2 Peter) Written with a Deceptive Intent?”

  • Tyndale New Testament Lecture: Michael Bird (Highland Theological College): “New Testament Theology Re-loaded”

For details of other Tyndale Study Groups (Old Testament, Philosophy of Religion, Christian Doctrine, Biblical Theology, Ethics and Social Theology, and Biblical Archaeology), please click here. Registration closes June 20, 2008.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Theologian Kwame Bediako Dies

I have just received news that African theologian Kwame Bediako passed away this week. Kwame was a key player in the African theology movement.

Chris Wright, International Director of the Langham Partnership International (John Stott Ministries in the US), has written a tribute to Bediako that is posted on the Zondervan blog. The tribute also features a recent video clip of Bediako preaching at Zondervan's chapel in May 2008 on the topic of "Understanding the unity of the Church." There is also a link to the Africa Bible Commentary, for which Bediako was one of the three theological advisers.

Greece Trip (10): Balancing Act


One can still learn some balancing act....and Agnes is not only good at what she does above, she is also an excellent doctor who treated my injured ankle sustained while visiting Corinth. The story about my injured ankle will come in a later post.


Friday, 13 June 2008

Rick Strelan's New Book: Luke the Priest

Rick Strelan, whom I had the pleasure of meeting some years ago in exploring the possibilities of doing my doctoral studies with him, has recently published a very intriguing book, Luke the Priest: The Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel. Rick is currently a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, University of Queensland, Australia.

Published by Ashgate, this latest book by Rick "focuses on the authority and status of the author of Luke-Acts. What authority did he have to write a Gospel, to interpret the Jewish Scriptures and traditions of Israel, to interpret the Jesus traditions, and to update the narrative with a second volume with its interpretation of Paul and the other apostles who appear in the Acts narrative?"

In this book, Rick Strelan constructs the author, "whom tradition has called ‘Luke’, might well have been a Jewish priest who, of course, had come to believe that Jesus is God’s Lord and Christ, the fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. It was the author’s status as priest that gave him the authority to interpret the various traditions he deals with and to write his interpretations as authoritative texts for his audiences." (from the Introduction)

The Table of Contents of the book is as follows:

Introduction
1 Who Were the Gospel Writers?
2 Gospels, Authors, and Authority
3 The Status of Luke in Scholarship
4 Why Write Another Gospel?
5 Owning, Controlling, Guarding the Tradition
6 The Oral and the Written
7 Luke in the Tradition
8 Luke among the Scholars
9 Luke the Priest
10 Luke as Authoritative Interpreter of Scripture
11 Luke as Interpreter of the Jesus Traditions
12 Luke as Interpreter of Paul
Conclusion

For a sample page taken from the Introduction, please click here.

The sample page from the Introduction alone is enough to whet the appetite for this book. The only prohibition is the price of the book at £50.00! Could there be a special discounted price for scholars from the Two-Thirds World?

Ancient Church Discovered in Jordan?


The jury is still out there whether the recently discovered cave underneath St George's Church (photo above) can be dated to AD33-70. The news report by AP is reproduced below:

AMMAN, Jordan - Archaeologists in Jordan have discovered a cave underneath one of the world's oldest churches and say it may have been an even more ancient site of Christian worship. But outside experts expressed caution about the claim.

Archaeologist Abdel-Qader al-Housan, head of the Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies, said this week that the cave was unearthed in the northern Jordanian city of Rihab after three months of excavation and shows evidence of early Christian rituals.

The cave is under St. George's Church, which some believe was built in the year 230, though the date is widely disputed. That would make it one of the oldest churches in the world, along with one unearthed in the Jordanian southern port of Aqaba in 1998 and another in Israel discovered in 2005.

Al-Housan said there was evidence that the underground cave was used as a church by 70 disciples of Jesus in the first century after Christ's death, which would make it the oldest Christian site of worship in the world.

He described a circular worship area with stone seats separated from a living area that had a long tunnel leading to a source of water. He said the early Christians hid there from persecution.

A mosaic inscription on the floor of the later church of St. George above refers to "the 70 beloved by God and the divine" who founded the worship there.

S. Thomas Parker, a historian at North Carolina State University who led the team that discovered the church in Aqaba, said that while he hadn't seen the Rihab site, any such claim should be taken with a degree of caution.

"An extraordinary claim like this requires extraordinary evidence," he said. "We need to see the artifacts and dating evidence to suggest such an occupation in the 1st century A.D."

Parker asked how archeologists could be certain whether the "cave was actually a center of Christian worship."

The archaeologist also noted that mosaics are difficult to date unless there is a precise date in the text of the mosaic inscriptions themselves and typical mosaic inscriptions with Christian themes are from the 5th to 6th century.

"It's quite possible that there was a cave with earlier occupation which was later converted to Christian use. But to make the jump that this was actually used by Christians fleeing Jerusalem in the 1st century A.D. seems like a stretch to me," Parker said.

Australian archaeologist Kate da Costa of the University of Sydney, who works in northern Jordan where the cave was found, also said the evidence needs to be confirmed by other archaeologists.

"And even if the cave can be proved to have been in use in the first (century) A.D., there needs to be additional evidence that it was used by Christians," she told the AP.

She also said that St. George's church is not universally accepted as the oldest church in the world. Da Costa said a date of 230 for a constructed church "is over 200 years earlier than any other known church."

Archimandrite Nektarious, bishop deputy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in Amman, hailed the discovery, calling it an "important milestone for Christians all around the world and right here at home."

"It confirms that Christians in this region are not strangers," he said. "They are real citizens who have always had roots in this region from those days until the present."

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Gordon-Conwell Names New President


In a letter to the alumni dated June 10, Interim President Haddon Robbinson announces that Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has a new president.

"On Tuesday, June 10, The Presidential Search Committee, having looked at a number of candidates, presented to the Board of Trustees Dr. Dennis P. Hollinger, President and Professor of Christian Ethics at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, Pa. The board voted unanimously that he would be the next president to lead Gordon-Conwell. He will be joined in ministry by his wife of 36 years, Dr. Mary Ann Hollinger, who is Dean of External Programs and Assistant Professor of Family Studies at Messiah College in Grantham, PA."

Dennis Hollinger’s leadership experience in theological education as a pastor, scholar and innovator are detailed here.

With the new President announced, Dr Robbinson will continue on serving Gordon-Conwell as the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching and working in the Doctor of Ministry program.

As an alumnus of Gordon-Conwell, I wish Dr Hollinger God's blessings and guidance as he assumes this new position in leading the seminary to greater heights.

Greece Trip (9): Philippi: Not Really A Homogeneous Ekklesia - Part 5


After Paul and Silas were released from prison, they went to Lydia's house, "where they met with the believers and encouraged them." (Acts 17:40) After this, Paul and his companions left Philippi and travelled to Thessalonica.



The mosaic flooring testifies to the first assembly hall, most likely established after the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, and dedicated to the memory of St Paul: Bishop Porphyrios made the embroidery of Paul's basilica in Christ


By the time Paul left Philippi, a rather vibrant ekklesia had been established and met in Lydia's house. Who were the "believers" (Acts 17:40) in this ekkelsia? We know that according to the narrative in Acts, they include Lydia and her household (Acts 16:15) and the jailer and his household (Acts 16:34). We can only conjecture that the other women who gathered with Lydia by the river (Acts 16:13) and the slave girl delivered from the spirit of Python (Acts 16:16-18) would most likely join this group of believers as well. By the time Paul left Philippi, the first ekklesia established in Macedonia would number approximately 15-20.

If we take a look at the composition of the believers in Philippi, this fledgling church is anything but homogeneous. People from various social status and standing form this church, and it cuts across the social structure of the day. From the rich (e.g., Lydia) to the poor (e.g., the slave girl), they worship the Lord together.


Basilica B - built in the 6th century CE.

One distintive character of the church in Philippi stands out. While Lydia most likely provides hospitality and financial support for the church and Paul, the church at large is generally poor. Yet despite their material poverty, this church gives generously for Paul's missionary work and the Jerusalem church.

Several times the Philippian church provides for Paul and his missionary activities. The church regularly contributes financially to Paul when he was in Thessalonica (Phil 4:16). When Paul was in the Roman imprisonment (traditionally believed, although this has been disputed), the church once again provides for Paul's material needs (Phil 4:10, 14, 17-18). After receiving these gifts from the church, Paul immediately writes a letter of thanksgiving to them for their partnership in the gospel. It is because of the generous giving that the Philippian church sends through Epaphroditus to Paul that we now have in our possession the Letter to the Philippians.


Epaphroditus

The Philippian church also partners with Paul for his collection project for the church in Jerusalem, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4:

"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches (the Philippian church included). Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints."

This is a church that looks beyond its four walls. Predominantly a Gentile church (see my previous post on why there is no synagogue in Philippi), this church contributes to the Jerusalem church, a predominantly Jewish community, to demonstrate her solidarity with those in need, regardless of ethnic, social, and cultural boundaries.

Listen to the words of Paul once again:

"Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:15-19

The Philippian church serves as a model for the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Corinthians 8-9). It is a church that gives generously out of its poverty, a church that knows the meaning of "partnership (κοινωνία) in the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil 1:5), and a church that is willing to help another assembly in need.

There is much that the Church today can learn from the Philippians. Many of our Malaysian churches, particularly those in the Klang Valley, are middle class. Are we willing to give generously, out of our wealth, as our partnership in the gospel, to those who serve the Master full time and and to other churches in need?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Society of Asian Biblical Studies Meeting in July 2008


The Society of Asian Biblical Studies is having its inaugural conference in July 14-16, 2008, to be held at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea.

For an idea of the programme, click here.

The complete list of papers to be presented have also been finalised.

I will have to give this conference a miss. It is held immediately after the Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting in Auckland that I hope to attend.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Greece Trip (8): Philippi: Jail House Rock - Part 4

After casting out the spirit of Python from the slave girl, the owners dragged Paul and Silas (note that Luke is excluded here) to face the magistrates which led to their flogging and imprisonment, with a jailer guarding them carefully (Acts 16:19-24).

According to tradition, the following photos depict the location of the prison cell where Paul and Silas spent the night. However, this tradition has been disputed, and this exact location is archaeologically unlikely to be Paul's prison.




According to Acts, there was an earthquake in the night, resulting in the opening of the prison doors and the loosing of the chains of the prisoners. Upon seeing this, the jailer attempted suicide, only to be prevented by Paul (Acts 16:25-28).

This subsequently led to Paul proclaiming "the word of the Lord" to the jailer and his entire household, resulting in their conversion.


It is interesting to note the sequence of events in Acts' narrative thus far:

Paul's Macedonian call - the visit to Philippi - Lydia's Conversion - the slave girl's exorcism - accusation by the owners of the slave girl - persecution, suffering and imprisonment - conversion of jailer and his household.

The questions are: Is suffering necessary for Paul in order for the jailer and his household to hear "the word of the Lord" (Acts 16:32)? Without Paul being flogged, humiliated (in which Paul gave up his rights as a Roman citizen where he was thrown in prison without trial, cf. Acts 16:37 - of course, the issue of Paul's Roman citizenship is disputed, but this is a topic for another post), and imprisoned, would the jailer have been persuaded to become believers of the Way? Is suffering therefore a necessity for the propagation of the gospel? Is suffering intrinsic to Paul's call? I have attempted to answer some of these questions in my own work to be published by T & T Clark next year.

Paul is no stranger to suffering and imprisonment (cf. 2 Cor 11:23). In fact, he wrote the letter to the Philippians from prison. Would Paul have remembered his chains and the conversion of the jailer in Philippi when he penned these words?

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (Phil 1:12-14)

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." (Phil 1:29-30)

Paul's chains in Philippi is a timely reminder for believers of the gospel he proclaimed. Missionary work in proclaiming THE way to salvation in 1st century is risky business, it is not any less risky for those engaging in the same vocation today.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Greece Trip (7): Philippi: Is Paul Proclaming A Way to Salvation? - Part 3

After the initial success of his Macedonian mission with the household of Lydia as the first few converts, Paul continued his missionary activities in Philippi for some days.



Acts 16:16-19 narrates the events that followed after the conversion of Lydia.

"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities." (NIV)

NIV slightly obscures the translation by rending the phrase πνεῦμα πύθωνα as "a spirit by which she predicted the future." Literally, it could mean "a spirit which is Python" or "a Pythonian spirit." In either case, a spirit of divination is intended here (cf. the translations of NRSV, NASB, KJV, ESV which rightly translate "a spirit of divination." See also NLT which generalises the phrase as "demon-possessed.")



It is interesting to note that while πύθων (Python) is a reference to soothsaying divinity, it is originally conceived as a snake or dragon who served as the guardian of the Oracle at Delphi prior to Apollo. This spirit was subsequently defeated and slain by Apollo. Priestess that uttered the oracles of Apollo were later known as Pythiai, and they were said to have been directed by this spirit to foretell the future.

In Philippi, this slave girl followed Paul by crying out these words: "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." (Acts 16:17, NIV). Paul was so troubled by this and decided to perform exorcism on this slave girl.

What makes Paul so troubled by what the slave girl uttered? Wasn't she correct to say that Paul and his companions were servants of the most High God and they were the one were telling the people the way to salvation or the way to be saved? If this is the truth, why didn't Paul say that even this girl possessed by the spirit of Python acknowledged who they were and what they were proclaiming?

A closer examination of the Greek text reveals the reason for Paul's anger, and unfortunately, this is again not reflected in most of our English translations. In the Greek text, this slave girl described Paul and his companions as "οἵτινες καταγγέλλουσιν ὑμῖν ὁδὸν σωτηρίας." (Acts 16:17). It is rather strange that almost all the English translations miss the nuance of this phrase. Most of our English translations render it as "who proclaim to you the way of salvation/the way to be saved." This is an incorrect translation. Notice that there is no article before ὁδὸν, making it anarthrous or indefinite. There is a very significant difference whether an article is present or absent in this phrase.

In other words, with the absence of an article before ὁδὸν σωτηρίας, what the slave girl was in fact suggesting is that Paul is merely preaching a way of salvation; not the way of salvation. If Paul is proclaiming a way of salvation, he is simply announcing that the gospel of Christ is one of the many ways to salvation, and not the only path to salvation. If it is intended that Paul is proclaiming the way to salvation, the presence of an article would be expected before ὁδὸν, like this: τὴν ὁδὸν σωτηρίας. As such, the slave girl's pronouncement merely adds to the confusion among the crowd, and this would most likely drive Paul to perform exorcism on her.
In this respect, NRSV has the right translation of this phrase: "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation."

To the Greco-Roman world, religious pluralism is not only tolerated but also celebrated and embraced (see Alex's post on this). But for Paul, the gospel of Jesus Christ that he proclaims remains the only way to salvation (cf. Acts 16:31; Phil 2:5-11), and he would not tolerate anyone that challenges that claim. Recognising that any distortion of his gospel would have come not from the Holy Spirit but the spirit of Python, it is therefore not surprising that Paul decided to perform exorcism on the slave girl.

Perhaps this incident may also explain why Paul would have reminded the Philippians years later with these words:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
- Philippians 2:5-11

For further information on the absence of an article, see Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1996), 243-254.

PS:
Perhaps this article in some little way serves to demonstrate the value of learning biblical Greek. To all our students who are still hesitating to learn Greek or questioning the value of learning Greek, I hope that this article would encourage you!

NT Position at Brite Divinity School


I have just come across the following announcement:
New Testament Faculty Position
Brite Divinity School

Brite Divinity School, affiliated with Texas Christian University, invites applicants in the fall of 2008 for a tenure track position in New Testament beginning in the fall of 2009.

Level of appointment is at the Associate or Full Professor level. Ph.D. or equivalent is required.

Commitment to teaching and scholarly research is expected. Teaching load is four courses per year at masters and doctoral levels.

Primary teaching competencies should include Pauline literature with significant publication record and teaching experience, and with competency in secondary areas that may include among others: Paul and politics, social context, NT archeology, gender studies, queer studies, and racial/ethnic issues.

Brite Divinity School is a seminary related to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is ecumenical in character and mission. Brite is an EEO employer and maintains a policy of nondiscrimination with respect to all employees and applicants for employment. Scholars of color and those from other underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.

Send a letter of application describing interests in teaching and research, dossier, and three letters of recommendation to :

Office of the Dean,
New Testament Search Committee
Brite Divinity School
TCU Box 298130
Fort Worth, TX 76129.

Review of applicants will begin September 1, 2008 and continue until the position is filled.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

7th Annual Greek Study Day

The following announcement came through the BNTS list.

7th Annual Greek Study Day, 15th September 2008
Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

The Greek Study Day is aimed at those teaching New Testament Greek in universities and colleges. It provides an opportunity to hear about different methods and textbooks, to share experiences and to develop new ideas and approaches for teaching.

This year's programme is presently being put together - if you would like to offer a session, or to register your interest in receiving further information, please contact:
Jane McLarty
jdm35@cam.c.uk
Lucy Cavendish College
Cambridge CB3 0BU

Saturday, 7 June 2008

PJEFC Church Camp


I am off to Genting Highlands for my church's PJEFC Zone Camp for the weekend. This is a rather rare occasion where I am not a speaker but a participant for a church retreat. As such, I am looking forward to some fellowship with my church members, and also a time to rest as well - if there is anytime for rest!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Greece Trip (6): Philippi: Lydia the First Convert - Part 2

Only a few Jews lived in Philippi, in fact there were less than 10 male Jews. For this reason, there was no synagogue where Paul could begin to preach the gospel according to his usual custom.

On the Sabbath, Paul and his co-workers left the city and walked about a mile east to the bank of a branch of the River Strymon (cf. Acts 16:13). There they would have expected to find a place of prayer where the few Jews in the area would have gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. On their arrival, they found several women and spoke to them.


"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us." (Acts 16:14-15)



Lydia, a gentile convert, is the first person and a female specifically mentioned in the Bible as being baptized in Europe. A merchant of fine purple cloth, she was a woman of some means and wealth (as evidenced by her trade of expensive garment and possession of a house). She was also an example of an upwardly mobile woman who not only became a follower of Jesus, but also one that had a generous heart in opening her home to Paul and his mission. In addition, she would also have, in some ways, provided leadership in the early Christian communities. As such, it is not too far-fetched to think that Lydia's house then became the headquarters for Paul's mission and the newly established church in Philippi (cf. Acts 16:40). In view of this, the narrative in Acts seems to emphasise the significant role women played in the expansion of the early Christian communities.

Today, the baptistery of Saint Lydia and the Church of Saint Lydia are erected in her honour. While this may not be the exact spot where Lydia would have been baptised, these monuments serve as reminders of the first wealthy and influential Christian who was a woman in Philippi.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Introspection of A Full-Time Worker


The Government of Malaysia announces 40% increase in petrol prices effective today. For me, this means an increase expenditure of RM120-150 per month for petrol alone. This would mean my monthly petrol expenses will now be in excess of RM420-450 per month! That is a LOT....WOW!!

But wait, I have not taken into account the anticipated inflation of prices of essential goods as a result of the hike in petrol prices.

For someone who is categorised as a low income earner in Malaysia, I sometimes wonder how to survive such high cost of living.

Several measures need to be seriously considered:

1) I think I must follow Pearlie's footsteps in fasting for books. Period. I repent from poking fun at Pearlie when she declared her "fasting."

2) I am beginning to think whether I should consider getting a motorbike to commune between KL and Seremban. That should save on petrol and tolls (currently, a return journey between KL and STM costs me RM23.60 in tolls). But with the Malaysian weather...hmmmm

3) Perhaps I should consider taking public transport - but that would mean it would take 1 hour bus ride from my house to KL Sentral, another 1 hour 15min by train to Seremban, and another 15 min taxi ride to the seminary - a total of 3 hours just to get to work from home.

4) Perhaps I should consider moving to Seremban, or somewhere closer to the seminary. But this would mean I would have to leave my church in Petaling Jaya and look for a new church - and this would involve the issue of raising support for my salary. In addition, I would have to consider my parents who are presently under my care, and also what to do to the present house in KL.

5) I should eat out less....and perhaps cut down on food as well. That would do me good and perhaps I could shed some weight too?

6) Perhaps I should consider "moonlighting"? Revive my real estate consulting firm and work part-time as a real estate agent?

7) Or....perhaps another form of "moonlighting", wishing that there would be 8 weekends in a month where I can do more Sunday preaching? Dream on....

8) Or...perhaps I should consider going back to my real estate profession....but who wants to employ someone who is 10 years out of the real estate profession!

9) Or...perhaps I should set up my little business venture that I have always dreamed of...but that's wishful thinking - I don't even have any capital for this....nah...

10) Or...look for a teaching job elsewhere, say in the States or in the UK....sounds pretty good..hey, does America or Britain need another unproven, self-proclaimed NT scholar?



Did I just hear someone telling me that I should have more faith in the Lord and trust that he would provide?

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

JSNT Vol 30 No 5 (July 2008) is Now Available

The Journal for the Study of the New Testament Volume 30 No 5 (July 2008) is now available. In this issue, there are brief reviews of significant books that are recently published in all the areas of NT.

This is one issue that is not to be missed for those who want to be kept abreast of the development of NT studies.

Click here for the Table of Contents.

Greece Trip (5): Philippi: A Leading City? - Part 1

While Philippi was an important city in the Roman and early Christian period, it remains an archaeological site today. The Via Egnatia, the important Roman road linking East and West, passes through this city.



The remains of Philippi are impressive and it is certainly worth the visit, and it was one of the major highlights of our trip to Northern Greece. It is unfortunate that the Archaeological Museum still remains closed to the public.

According to Acts 16:12, Paul and his companions travelled from Neapolis to Philippi, a distance of 16km (10 miles), where they remained for some days.

The NA27 text of Acts 16:2 describes Philippi as πρώτης μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Just what kind of city was Philippi? A complex textual problem here has led to a conjecture in NA27 about what the reading should be - and the problem is compounded by an alphabet in Greek, the sigma, in the word πρώτης.

So is Philippi a πρώτης μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, or πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις? Is Philippi a city of the first district in Macedonia; or a leading city (or first city) of the district of Macedonia?

While the second reading receives strong textual support, it is made complicated because historically, Philippi is not the chief city of Macedonia, as Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia and Amphipolis was the chief city in the district in which Philippi was located.

To resolve this issue, several possible suggestions have been put forward.

1) some have suggested that the author means Philippi was the first Macedonian city Paul and his companions came in the district. But in actual fact, this was not the case, as the first city that Paul set foot was Neapolis which is in the same district as Philippi.

2) some have also suggested the use of πρώτη as a title of honour, as an expression of civic pride. According to R. Ascough, "Civic Pride at Philippi: The Textual Problem of Acts 16.12," NTS 44 (1998): 93-103, civic pride often meant ascribing titles to a city in order to lift up its importance. If Ascough is correct, it appears that the author of Acts is attempting to magnify the importance of the status of Philippi in Macedonia, perhaps to underscore the fact that Philippi was the first European city to receive the gospel from Paul the missionary.

As a result of the difficulties in reading the text above, numerous scholars prefer to adopt the conjecture in reading πρώτη as πρώτης, despite the lack of manuscript evidence. This resulted in rendering the meaning of the phrase as "a city of the first district of Macedonia."

While there is no concrete solution to this textual difficulties, it is wise to take head of Metzger's proposal that "it appears ill-advised" to abandon the testimony of strong manuscript support for reading Philippi as πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, "a leading city of the district of Macedonia." The suggestion puts forward by Ascough should not be entirely discounted as well. As such, I am prepared to depart from the critical text in NA27 by adpoting the reading of πρώτη μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις.


For further information:

1) Bruce Meztger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, UBS, 1994), 393-395.

2) R. Ascough, "Civic Pride at Philippi: The Textual Problem of Acts 16.12," NTS 44 (1998): 93-103.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Thomas Schreiner's NT Theology

Thomas R. Schreiner's highly anticipated New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ has just been released by Baker this month. An excerpt of the latest addition by this prominent NT scholar is now available on-line. This excerpt includes Schreiner's preface, introduction, and ninth chapter of the book.

According to the publisher, Schreiner "traces key themes as they appear throughout the New Testament canon, exploring the emphases that emerge from a detailed reading of the texts... He focuses particularly on two overarching themes. The first concerns the unity of redemptive history and the kingdom of God. The New Testament takes up Old Testament imagery and affirms that the kingdom has come (although it remains unfulfilled) in Jesus Christ. The second related theme concerns the goal of the kingdom--the glory of God through the work of Christ and the empowering presence of the Spirit. In the second half of the work, Schreiner takes up the question of what these themes mean for the life of the believer and the ministry of the community of faith."

This major work is already creating a buzz on the Internet, and there is an insightful interview with Tom Schreiner by Andy Cheung posted on the Midlands Bible College and Divinity School Web page. In this interview, Tom shares about the approach he takes in writing this book. This interview might satisfy eager readers just that little bit until they can get hold of the book.

I know I will be getting hold of this book - but it has to wait until funds are available.

Excavations at Colossae by Flinders University


After our recent Greece trip, some have been asking for an another study tour covering biblical sites in Turkey. The recent announcement from Centre for Theology, Science and Culture of the School of Theology, Flinders University, should make our future visit to Turkey even more exciting! Led by Dr Michael Trainor, the Colossae Project: Unearthing the Past, could begin by December 2008. Thanks to Michael Bird for this piece of news.


The following news article is reproduced from AdelaideNow.

FLINDERS University students could be among the first to uncover the last remaining unexcavated site connected to the New Testament.

After 10 years' work on the project, Flinders theology and archeology students, led by College of Divinity lecturers Dr Michael Trainor and Dr Alan Cadwallader, could begin excavating the site with Turkish scholars in December.

Colossae is located on the south bank of the River Lycus at the modern day city of Honaz in Turkey's Denizli province.

"I think what's exciting about this project is that it has been initiated here in Adelaide and it's a work that will bring Adelaide and Turkish scholars together," Dr Trainor said.

Of all the ancient sites linked to the New Testament, Colossae was the only one which has not been excavated.

"The reason it hasn't attracted any archeological excavation is because there are more significant areas which have noticeable surface remains," he said.

Dr Trainor said Christians at the site received the Letter to the Colossians, which later became part of the New Testament.

The site is linked to about 8500 BC and is believed to hold the remains of the largest church in the Middle East - dedicated to the archangel St Michael.

"There are a number of remains of third or fourth century buildings which we quite well think could be from the Church of St Michael," Dr Trainor said.

Dr Cadwallader heads to Turkey next month to discuss arrangements with colleagues from the University of Pamukkale. "It's a terrific opportunity to enter into a collaboration with a different part of the world that has great significance," he said.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Tyndale House Spring 2008 Newsletter


Tyndale House, Cambridge, has recently released its Spring 2008 newsletter.

Click here to read the future plans for Tyndale, a filming project, news of Tyndale House members, and others.

I have warm memories of the many months I spent in Tyndale working on my doctoral thesis.

Greece Trip (4): Tracing Paul's Second Missionary Journey: Neapolis


Beginning with this post, I will highlight the places we visited in our recent Greece Trip. Essentially, we followed the footsteps of Paul in his Second Missionary Journey as recorded in Acts 15:36-18:22 in which we visited several cities in Greece. I will follow the chronological order as recorded in Acts of the Apostles rather than our actual itinerary, which is in the reversed order.


After Paul received the vision of the Macedonian call in Troas (Acts 16:6-10), he was joined by Timothy, Silas, and Luke, and they set sail to the region of Macedonian (Acts 16:11-12). It is significant that the first person plural pronoun, we, is used in Acts 16:11, possibly indicating that the author of Acts, traditionally acknowledged as Luke, now accompanies Paul in his journey.

Paul first landed in Neapolis, modern Kavala, the principal port of Philippi (Acts 16:11). A visit to modern Kavala shows why this is a natural port for northern Greece. The commanding and strategic location along the sea route from Thessalonica to Asia Minor makes this city an important port. From Neapolis, Paul and his companions would have walked approximately 16km (10 miles) to Philippi, slightly less than a day's journey on foot (Acts 16:12).



There is no mention of missionary activities in Neapolis in Acts. However, its proximity to Philippi and Paul's subsequent travels through this port (cf. Acts 20:1-2; 6) make it likely that some form of missionary work may have been carried out here, either by Paul or his converts. The city of Neapolis was subsequently renamed Christoupolis in later centuries before being burned down by the Normans in 1185.

Unfortunately, there is nothing much left for us to see from the 1st century as any ancient remains, if any, would have lied beneath the modern Kavala.


However, the modern harbour, with its quaint seaside cafes and the gentle hill slopes from the shore , provide sufficient backdrop for one to imagine the setting that would have greeted Paul and his companions as they landed here to launch their missionary work in this region in response to the Macedonian call.