Monday, 28 December 2009

Why Would Laypeople Want Theological Education?

The following is an article written by Sally Simmel on "Why would laypeople want theological education, anyway?" published in the Alban Institute's website today.

In this new world, this global village we inhabit, growing ever more complicated and accessible through science and technology, many of us think daily about the meaning and purpose of our lives. We are mindful of the decisions that need to be made to make sense of the world and our place in it. We can all tell stories of significant life experiences and the role we feel God is playing in them. A child is born, a child dies. A job is terminated; a new one is begun. We fall in love; we encounter something in nature that stirs us beyond anything we have known before. A parent dies and the loss lasts a very long time. We feel yearnings in our very soul for something yet unknown. We witness an incredible sunset or experience an amazing piece of art or poetry. We wonder about God's role in the universe and our role with God in the ongoing creation and sustaining of the planet. Even as we live in a post-9/11 world, with wars and natural disasters, worldwide economic changes, and climate and environmental issues, the search for meaning continues and each generation shares the universal concerns for life and common good.

This is the world to which we in continuing theological education introduce the questions of why and how to provide theological education for laity living into the worthy questions of faith for this time.

Laity are those members of the church whom God has called to the church outside the walls of the church. In unison they might say, "We write the laws of our lands and invent new technologies to serve humanity. We know how to clone animals and humans and measure germs on Mars. We rear and educate children. We work in corporations, governments, and health care systems. We build roads and homes. We write and produce movies and TV shows. In those endeavors, we seek to practice our faith. We need the wisdom of faith through deeper theological reflection to help discern the how and why of it all."

They might also say in unison that they are not theologians, while they in fact are doing theology. For the most part, that means they are not trained in theology for preaching, teaching, and Word and Sacrament ministry. That is a particular call. "Doing theology" does not merely mean studying tradition, doctrine, and Scripture so that one knows about those things. Rather, theology balances fact and theory with the lived experience of God each of us has. All experience has meaning and provides insight for the journey. To stay either in the academic mode or the experiential mode would deny the wholeness of each person, God, and the universe.

At a very early age, the people of God begin to speak to God, to recognize there is a God, even without fully understanding: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord..." Laypeople of all ages and cultures are searching for meaning and purpose. The church risks losing them if the only theological reflection available to them is the church school. A forty-three-year-old from the East Coast sums up some of the longing for meaning in life when she asks, "What is this deep longing I feel in spite of success and happiness? What is God's purpose for me? How do I know when God is speaking to me?"

Even in their mature years, people wonder about meaning and purpose as they remain vital but begin, as one sixty-something puts it, "to deal with end-of-life decisions for parents and in-laws. How, as Christians, do we make choices for ourselves and our loved ones?" Some issues in later life are about new relationships with children and grandchildren, meaningful retirement, or new directions for the vital years yet to come. Other issues are connected to new technologies that are frightening and often not understood by clergy or laity who are not working in the fields of science and technology. How do we bring the science and faith perspectives together in ways that assist Christians in making decisions?

Unlike the more predictable and compact list of theological needs of church professionals, the possibilities for educational programming for laity are awesome. All of life and faith is out there to chew on. That makes developing educational opportunities tricky, but accepting the challenge means multiplying the number of people who are equipped for ministry in the world and in the church. People in church-related occupations may also be grateful for such offerings; many will appreciate a shift in emphasis for their own particular ministries. Continuing educators can enter the lay market in any number of places, slowly at first and then incrementally increasing or reframing offerings, testing, and checking with the audiences. I offer four strategies to help you get started:
  1. Involve laity in solid theological education (along with clergy, in many instances) where presenters and teachers pay special attention to applying their material to real-life situations. That will require a shift in teaching style for some presenters.
  2. Create reflection groups of people in similar occupations. Use a small group approach to provide information, support, accountability, and deep engagement in the issues of work and the marketplace. Often occupational groups are best done ecumenically; it strengthens relationships and better represents the day-to-day workplace connections of most Christians.
  3. Extend the groups mentioned in the first two strategies to include online conversations where possible. The Internet allows people to relate in real time and cyber time from anywhere participants find themselves working. Ethical and moral situations in which people find themselves on any given day can be discussed from a distance with trusted friends. A combination of face-to-face and online time probably appeals to many. The group can decide that for itself. Continuing educators need to be open to this type of format.
  4. Face squarely the challenges that this new group of participants will bring to traditional areas of your curriculum. For example, preaching events are popular for clergy. With laity, think about how pastors preach so that the Word can be heard. How do laity hear the preaching and then reword it for themselves? Who is responsible for the translating? Can laity and clergy do that together? How? Clergy and laity could participate in mealtime, evening, one-day, and weekend events.

There is no end to the corners of life that would benefit from theological reflection and education. In a post-Christian world, our faith should reach every aspect of work and family life, global economics, politics, and religion. Millions of laity are eager for the opportunity to expand their horizons, to think differently, to live differently. Learning happens in all of life and through all of life.

Why would laypeople want theological education, anyway? For life, of course.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Blogging on Christmas Day

Since I returned from Cambridge two weeks ago, life has been on a fast track without any prospect of slowing down till the new year. There are many things to attend to, from ministry to family, from church to personal matters.

In the past years, I would normally take some time off to reflect on Christmas, but this year, I failed to do so until now. Now that I am at home after an early Christmas service, and have some quiet moments for myself, I decided to blog my reflection for this Christmas.

I am reminded of my personal failures and weaknesses these past few days. I guess this brings me to the very meaning of Christmas. Christ took on flesh precisely for the brokenness of the world and the sinfulness of humanity to give us a hope and a future.

Interestingly, Sze Zeng blogs about his "mysterious change in personality" where he now turns his back on his active clubbing life and has become an introvert. I think I am heading down the same road too of becoming an introvert. I noticed that I have begun to retreat a bit more this year. Perhaps this is due to the fact I needed to find space to discover myself, to discover God and to enjoy the presence of God. One of the reasons is that living in a performance driven culture, it is natural to measure the success and effectiveness of our ministry based on the expectations of human. Our worship of God in church is measured against a 'feel-good' experience that the latest worship enhancement aided by modern technology can bring instead of the delight it brings God. Our sermon is measured against how it has ministered to the hearts of the people instead of allowing the truth of God to be communicated. Hence, I find myself retreating, often finding solace in the presence of God after preaching a sermon or teaching a class. The pressure of ministry can be daunting and stressful at times. It is through these moments I know I can be broken before God in my weakness and yet at the same time draw strength from Him.

At the same time, I have begun to enjoy spending time in nurturing spiritual friendships. All the more I am convinced that programmatic discipleship training carried out in many churches has failed to produce true disciples for the Lord. It is through personal touch and many hours of time spent in having teh tarik (or Starbucks for those who can afford it) that a life is touched, transformed and influenced for the Kingdom.

That's Christmas for me this year - Jesus has come to touch the world. Through his minstry on earth, he touched lives - some through his teaching, and many through personal touch. Jesus is never too busy to stop and heal the woman with bleeding problem for 12 years, to have a conversation with a Samaritan woman by the well, and to walk alongside troubled disciples on the road to Emmaus. May we find time to touch someone this Christmas.

Blessed Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Here's wishing all the readers of my blog Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I've been missing from the blogsphere for sometime. This is partly due to the year end holidays. Ironically, it is supposed to be a holidy season, but we end up being busier than ever - the reunions, the shopping, the eating spree, etc! But it's been a good time catching up with family and friends, near and far!

Review of Biblical Literature December 17, 2009

The following are new reviews added on December 17.

Rami Arav
Bethsaida: A City by the North Shore of the Sea of Galilee, vol. 4
Reviewed by David Fiensy

Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick, and Gene Green
The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context
Reviewed by Mark Fairchild

Guy Couturier
«En commençant par Moïse et les prophètes...»: Études Vétérotestamentaires
Reviewed by Philippe Guillaume

J. de Waal Dryden
Theology and Ethics in 1 Peter: Paraenetic Strategies for Christian Character Formation
Reviewed by John H. Elliott

Duane A. Garrett
Amos: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text
Reviewed by John Engle

Luigi Gioia
The Theological Epistemology of Augustine's De Trinitate
Reviewed by Mark Weedman

Daniel M. Gurtner
The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus
Reviewed by Felix Cortez

André LaCocque
Esther Regina: A Bakhtinian Reading
Reviewed by Mercedes García Bachmann

Roger L. Omanson
A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger's Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators
Reviewed by Zeba Crook

Carol Poster and Linda C. Mitchell, eds.
Letter-Writing Manuals and Instruction from Antiquity to the Present: Historical and Bibliographic Studies
Reviewed by Jan-Wim Wesselius

Kavin C. Rowe
Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke
Reviewed by Troy Troftgruben

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.
God Gardened East: A Gardner's Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis
Reviewed by David Maas

Niketas Siniossoglou
Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the Hellenic Intellectual Resistance
Reviewed by Jeremy Schott

R. M. M. Tuschling
Angels and Orthodoxy: A Study in Their Development in Syria and Palestine from the Qumran Texts to Ephrem the Syrian
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt

Karen J. Wenell
Jesus and Land: Sacred and Social Space in Second Temple Judaism
Reviewed by Cecilia Wassen

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Redcliffe and Allnations Announced Merger

Redcliffe College and allnations, two colleges specilising in mission training based in the UK, recently announced a merger to be completed by summer 2010. The merged entity will become one of the largest mission and cross-cultural training institutions in the world.

For further infomation concerning the announcement, please click here and here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

5 Weeks: What Have I Achieved at Tyndale House?

My time at Tyndale House, Cambridge, has almost come to an end. I will be flying home tomorrow night. Time flies, and 5 weeks just seem like a few days for me. I have been clocking in almost 10-12 hours of work in the library daily from Mondays to Saturdays, not to mention that I continue to work most of the evenings when I got home [I hope this can assure my colleague that my trip to Cambridge is really work. He keeps on teasing me and insisting that I am having a nice vacation in Cambridge with plenty of 'kiau kah' (literally means 'shaking legs' or 'crossing legs') sessions. Well, to be honest, I don't even have time to 'kiau kah' although I truly wish I could!]

So what have I achieved in these 5 weeks?

First, I have completed a draft of a 8000-word essay that will be published in a compendium of essays on Paul and Identity Formation to be published by T&T Clark next year.

Secondly, I have also made some progress in my writing for my book on Paul's Use of Images in the Corinthian Correspondence. I've made some changes to the introductory chapter and further clarified the methodology. I also did some additional writing on some of the chapters, tidied up some of the arguments, and also updated my reading on issues related to these chapters.

Although my progress falls short of my initial target, I must say I am still pleased with the achievements thus far. It would have been nice if I have a 4-5-month sabbatical soon, then I would be able to complete the first draft of the book. But I have to accept the reality of teaching in Malaysia that sabbatical is a privilege and not a right, so I am not sure where such privilege will be accorded. Nevertheless, I am thankful I have the 5-week period to work on the book - that itself I am grateful.

I will miss Tyndale House and its excellent resources.

Street Preaching: Does this still work?

"Believe in Jesus, then you will be saved. If not, you are going to hell!"

I turned around and saw this gentleman, standing at the corner of the market square in Cambridge, shouting at the top of his voice and holding what looks like a Bible in his hands.

I wonder whether such preaching still works in this present time and age. Would this encourage people to embrace the gospel or would this simply put people off?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A Little Walk Around Cambridge

Sometime last week, we had a very lovely and sunny day in Cambridge. So I decided to take some time off work and took a stroll around the city with a friend. Here are some photos taken around some of the colleges with my Sony Ericsson K530i mobile.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Can A Bibliophile Resist This?

I have told myself that I should resist buying books for this trip of mine to Cambridge. But when a bibliophile sees this, can he resist temptation?

Friday, 4 December 2009

1 More Week to Go

I have not been too active in the blogsphere lately. It's not that I do not have anything to blog. My time has been largely consumed in trying to get as much work done as possible before the end of my stay at Tyndale House.

Time flies - and by next week this time, I will be at Heathrow airport waiting for my flight home. I look forward to being home, but at the same time, I will miss all the resouces here at Tyndale. It's kind of a paradox.

It's back to work for now.

Review of Biblical Literature December 1, 2009

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

Stephanie Dalley
Esther's Revenge at Susa: From Sennacherib to Ahasuerus
Reviewed by Aaron Koller

Susan R. Garrett
No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Beverly Roberts Gaventa
Our Mother Saint Paul
Reviewed by Pamela Eisenbaum

James M. Howard
Paul, the Community, and Progressive Sanctification: An Exploration into Community-Based Transformation within Pauline Theology
Reviewed by Ron Clark

Jeremy F. Hultin
The Ethics of Obscene Speech in Early Christianity and Its Environment
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Christine E. Joynes, ed.
Perspectives on the Passion: Encountering the Bible through the Arts
Reviewed by Christopher Rowland

André LaCocque
Onslaught against Innocence: Cain, Abel, and the Yahwist
Reviewed by Mark McEntire

Bernard M. Levinson
Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel
Reviewed by Karla Suomala

Thomas E. Levy, P. M. Michele Daviau, Randall W. Younker, and May Shaer, eds.
Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

Steve Mason
Josephus, Judea, and Christian Origins: Methods and Categories
Reviewed by Sean Freyne

Tim Newton
The Forgotten Gospels: Life and Teachings of Jesus Supplementary to the New Testament: A New Translation
Reviewed by Thomas Bergholz

Maria-Zoe Petropoulou
Animal Sacrifice in Ancient Greek Religion, Judaism, and Christianity, 100 BC to AD 200
Reviewed by Adele Reinhartz

John F. A. Sawyer
A Concise Dictionary of the Bible and Its Reception
Reviewed by C. L. Seow

Stephen Sizer
Zion's Christian Soldiers
? The Bible, Israel and the Church
Reviewed by Faydra Shapiro

Gerhard H. Visscher
Romans 4 and the New Perspective on Paul: Faith Embraces the Promise
Reviewed by Don Garlington

Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm
Preaching the Gospel of Mark: Proclaiming the Power of God
Reviewed by Antipas L. Harris

Friday, 27 November 2009

It's Been A Sunny Week

I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the British weather this week. Although it is slightly colder than last week, it has been sunny for most of the days! This is a rarity for the British weather! So for the sunny weather, I am very grateful and thankful. It just cheers up the week and gives the needed boost to continue my work that has been slightly behind schedule!

PS - Hope the Reb has equally nice weather in Oxford.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Work Progresses at Tyndale

Time flies - it has been more than 2 weeks since I arrived at Cambridge. Work on my book has been progressing rather well - but at a rather slow pace - this is partly due to the fact that there is quite a fair bit of catching up for me to do in my reading. There has been a large number of significant monographs being published in Pauline studies in the last year or so. Scholarship is progressing at a rather fast pace, and this can be seen in the high number of PhD theses that are being published by major academic publishers. From the photo above, these are shelves containing books on the Corinthian correspondence - how can one finish reading these in 5 weeks?

I have 2 more weeks to go before heading for home - and I wish time could slow down a bit for me.

Friday, 20 November 2009

What My Students Think of Us

Sze Zeng blogs about his experience in Trinity Theological College after the end of his first semester there. He shares from three different perspectives as embedded in TTC's ethos of training: intellectual inquiry, spiritual formation and vocational training. Since I am not part of TTC's community, I don't think I am in a position to comment or respond to Sze Zeng. But I could certainly empathise with him on some of the issues he raised.

Closer to home, we also hear of our own students' lament about their seminary experience. The following is what one of our seminary students posted about his rather negative reflection about us as lecturers in one of his blogposts. Is this a case of unmet expectations of the student (whether these are realistic or not is a separate isssue), or we, as lecturers, are simply incompetent or 'beyond redemption'?

Lecturers: In many ways, being more competent than me, they have always challenged me to be ready to be a competent full time pastor. Unfortunately, I realised some of them just talked only ...they are good academically, not really that pastorally(not being patience by walking alongside with the students). On the other hand, some are really pastoral but not academically competent (do not update their information on their disciplines- they still use the 1990s materials for their lecture). Some even preached and don't practice what they preached. Sometimes, their preachings are bad model eg. Generally, most of them are busy and difficult to spend times with us or to nurture us personally. I pity those students in Chinese department where they have to bear the incompetencies of the lecturers who were neither pastoral nor academic. Well comparing to the Westerners, perhaps, at least Malaysian lecturers would try to be friends with us and are more compassionate towards us. These are the mixture of the characteristics of the lecturers there that make me as a student, need to be patient with and be challenged to pray for.

Another student blogs about his learning experience after one year in seminary. This is what he says:

Things that I have learned in lecture is (sic) very dry, spiritually dry, because it is just knowledge....I realised that when I understood something, it doesn't makes (sic) my relationship with God become more intimate.

Incidentally, Sze Zeng does have some good things to say about TTC lecturers - something that is missing from my students. Some food for thought for us as lecturers.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Review of Biblical Literature: November 11, 2009

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

Jim W. Adams
The Performative Nature and Function of Isaiah 40-55
Reviewed by Ulrich Berges

Joseph Azize and Noel Weeks, eds.
Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria: Proceedings of the Conference Held at the Mandelbaum House, The University of Sydney, 21-23 July 2004
Reviewed by Michael Moore

John M. G. Barclay and Simon Gathercole, eds.
Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment
Reviewed by Thomas R. Blanton IV

Nina Burleigh
Unholy Business: A True Tale of Faith, Greed and Forgery in the Holy Land
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

Philip Cary
Reviewed by Jacek Stefanski

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

J. Harold Ellens and Wayne G. Rollins, eds.
Psychology and the Bible: A New Way to Read the Scriptures (4 vols.)
Reviewed by Ron Clark

Douglas Estes
The Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel: A Theory of Hermeneutical Relativity in the Gospel of John
Reviewed by John C. Poirier

Eric Eve
The Healer from Nazareth: Jesus' Miracles in Historical Context
Reviewed by Tobias Hagerland

K. C. Hanson and Douglas E. Oakman
Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts
Reviewed by Panayotis Coutsoumpos

Xavier Levieils
Contra Christianos: La critique sociale et religieuse du christianisme des origines au concile de Nicée (45-325)
Reviewed by Stephan Witetschek

Tremper Longman III
Jeremiah, Lamentations
Reviewed by Francis Dalrymple-Hamilton

James L. Resseguie
The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Roman Vielhauer
Das Werden des Buches Hosea: Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung
Reviewed by James Nogalski

Paul Wilkinson
: What It Is, Where It Is, and How to Do It
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

Kairos Organises Forum on "The Real Jesus Christ of History"

Kairos Research Centre is organising the following forum.



Jesus of The Bible


Jesus of the Documentaries (National Geographic/Discovery /BBC)

Date: Friday, 20 November 2009

Time: 8.30pm – 10.30pm

Venue: Hall 1, Dream Centre

2 Jalan 13/1, Seksyen 13
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia

Influential networks like National Geographic, Discovery and BBC Channels are propagating new portraits (or fabrications) of Jesus that distort if not contradict what Christians traditionally believe about Jesus for 2000 years.

This Kairos Public Forum seeks to explain why these TV producers rely on pagan Mystery Religions and 2nd century Gnosticism texts to reconstruct new portraits Jesus, what methods and assumptions inform the scholars who advise these media channels for their distorted views of Jesus.

The Forum also offers evidence for the integrity of the New Testament Gospels as reliable historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry and critiques popular images of Christ in contemporary society.


1) The Fabricated Jesus of Contemporary TV Documentaries

Speaker: Mr. Philip Koh

(Partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur and Director of Kairos Research Centre)

2) The Historical Christ of the New Testament: The Test of History

Speaker: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

(Research Director of Kairos Research Centre)

3) The Real Jesus Christ and Contextual Christs Today: Who makes the real difference?

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Tan Jin Huat

(Anglican minister and CTEE Director, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia)

Kairos Seminar on Jesus Christ and Early Christianity

There will be a follow-up seminar for those who want to learn in detail how contemporary research supports the historical accuracy and authenticity of the New Testament portrait of Jesus Christ.

Speaker: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

Date: Saturday 5 December 2009

Time: 9.30am – 12.00 noon

Place: Dream Centre

To participate in this seminar contact Kairos office (Tel no: 7726 5420 or email:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Star Reports on Crisis in Calvary Church

The Star today reports the on-going crisis that confronts Calvary Church in Kuala Lumpur. Looks like there is no solution for the crisis anytime soon (For further details of the crisis, see Calvary Today blog).

I have often questioned mega projects for the church. Over the past few years, we have witnessed numerous churches in the Klang Valley pumping millions of Ringgit into church building projects. I am not against building physical building for the church - but my question here is this: Is it necessary to have a mega building project just to house a single church?

For example, a church is willing to invest RM150 million in a building project. I wonder would it be better if that money is used to build a single large mega building or plant 75 churches nationwide, assuming that it would cost at average of RM2 million to acquire a 3- to 4-storey office block in various location in the country? Would the latter be a better strategy in reaching the community with the gospel?

And if a church is willing to invest that amount in physical building, would she be willing to invest the same amount for the training and equipping of the workers to serve the church?

Strangely though, I have heard of many large scale fund raising projects organised for the building of church buildings, but I have yet to hear a large scale fund raising project to raise money for theological education - funds for the libraries of our seminaries, for scholarships for faculty members in theological colleges to upgrade themselves, for scholarships for seminaries, for theological research and publication, and for improving the facilities of seminaries. Just imagine what would have happened if the Christian community is willing to invest RM150 million in theological education.

Is something wrong with the Christ believing community when we are only interested in building physical buildings for the church at the expense of neglecting theological education in the equipping and empowering the people of God to serve and pastor the church?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Old and the New in England!

My colleague, the Rabbi, has safely arrived Oxford. He will be here for his pre-viva at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and also to get his thesis ready for submission. So both the Old (ie OT lecturer) and the New (ie NT lecturer) from the seminary are now both in England - and ironically, the former is in Oxford and the latter is in Cambridge. Hence, one of our students, SP, commented that the rivalry just does not stop in Malaysia!

All the best to the Rabbi. Hope you have a fruitful time in Oxford. Do drop by Cambridge for a visit. Tyndale House beckons you!

Haunted Bookshop!

Would you dare to step in and buy any books from this haunted bookshop in Cambridge?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

First Week at Tyndale

It's coming to the end of the week, and I am taking a moment to pause and reflect on my work throughout the first week of my time at Tyndale House, Cambridge. After having put in more than 10 hours daily (working from 9am till 9pm daily!), I must say it has been rather mixed.

Early on this week, I made some really good progress in terms of my reading. However, in the mid week, things seemed to hit a snag as I was not able to put my finger on the stuff I was looking for. Perhaps I had been asking the wrong question. It was not until this morning that I finally see the light when I decided to make a slight change on the thrust of my argument in the chapter that I am currently working on for my book, Paul's Use of Images in the Corinthian Correspondence.

I hope to be able to complete the first draft of my chapter by the end of next week. It's an ambitious aim. But considering the fact that I do not have the luxury of time, I have to make the best out of everything.

But it's not all hard work and no play. This weekend, I am heading to London to meet up with my relatives for a dim tum lunch at Chinatown and to drop by the British Library where I will be visiting the Sir John Ritblat Gallery to have a peek at the Codex Sinaiticus once again. Looking at the real thing is surely better than having to look at the online version!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Second Hand Religion?

Saw this in a local bookstore in Cambridge - Second Hand religion? What then is First Hand religion?

Better still, there is Second Hand philosophy as well...would you buy that?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Work Progresses at Tyndale

I was hoping to go full swing yesterday, but I guess the engine needed some time to warm up (especially in the unusually cold November in England!). So I did not manage to get much work done yesterday. But nonetheless, this morning has been rather productive - been reading a number of books on the temple imagery in both the OT and NT. So, this is how my desk currently looks like in Tyndale House.

I am a bit more persuaded that Paul's use of the temple imagery in the Corinthian correspondence is not simply sporadic, but constitutes a deliberate attempt in creating Christian identity in Corinth. I will blog more about this when my mind is clearer on this subject matter.

I've just managed to locate an online 2008 PhD thesis done by Timothy Wardle at Duke University on "Continuity and Discontinuity: The Temple and Early Christian Identity". It would be good to interact with Wardle and see how he argues for the use of the temple imagery in the creation of Christian identity.

So it's back to work now!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

All Set to start Work at Tyndale House

Bright and sunny morning - the library of Tyndale House

I was greeted with a very bright and sunny morning, a very rare sight in chilly November in Britain! With the jet leg behind me, and after having settled in at my accommodation, I came into Tyndale House this morning to continue locating the books that I might need for my research.

By now, I've got most of the books in place, and this means that I am all set to begin work by next week Monday!

Some of the books needed are now on my desk. How do I devour all of them in 5 weeks, not to mention there will be more to come along the way?

The rest of the quiet Saturday will be spent in trying to catch up with where I left off last year while doing my research at Trinity theological College, Singapore. So it's back to work now!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Arrived Tyndale House, Cambridge

After a long 13-hour overnight flight, I finally touched down at London Heathrow, and made my way to Cambridge. I arrived Cambridge much earlier than expected. After a quick hot shower at the place I would be staying for the next 5 weeks, I headed straight to Tyndale House, hoping to locate my desk and some of the books I need so that I could begin work next week.

My working space for the next 5 weeks

Coming back to Tyndale House has been a real blessing. It also brings back many happy memory of the many months I spent here working on my doctoral thesis.

I look forward to my 5-week stay here.

Oh yes, a small little surprise greeted me when I walked into the library as I browsed through the new arrivals section in the library.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Off to Tyndale House, Cambridge

In a matter of few hours, I will be flying off to London and thereafter making my way to Tyndale House, Cambridge for a 5-week research and writing on my second book on Paul's Use of Images in the Corinthian Correspondence.

This project has been brewing for a couple of years already. Since I am the most junior faculty member, the dream of having a sabbatical is non-existence for me, at least for many more years to come. As such, I can only squeeze in a period of 5 weeks during the end of the academic year and hope to spend some productive time at Tyndale House, so that I could get as much work done as possible. Like last year, I spent a month at Trinity Theological College working on the framework of the book, and this time, I hope to get some solid background materials done.

I will be blogging from Tyndale House next week and I will be sharing more on my book project.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Review of Biblical Literature October 17, 2009

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

Rein Bos
We Have Heard That God Is with You: Preaching the Old Testament
Reviewed by Jordan M. Scheetz

Brevard Childs
The Church's Guide for Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus
Reviewed by Paul E. Trainor

Billie Jean Collins
The Hittites and Their World
Reviewed by Dirk Paul Mielke

Desta Heliso
Pistis and the Righteous One: A Study of Romans 1:17 against the Background of Scripture and Second Temple Jewish Literature
Reviewed by Lars Kierspel

Jörg Lanckau
Der Herr der Träume: Eine Studie zur Funktion des Traumes in der Josefsgeschichte der Hebräischen Bibel
Reviewed by Bart J. Koet

Nicola Laneri, ed.
Performing Death: Social Analyses of Funerary Traditions in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean
Reviewed by Aren Maeir

Pekka Lindqvist
Sin at Sinai: Early Judaism Encounters Exodus 32
Reviewed by James N. Rhodes

Martin Mosse
The Three Gospels: New Testament History Introduced by the Synoptic Problem
Reviewed by Pheme Perkins

Charles Puskas
The Conclusion of Luke-Acts: The Significance of Acts 28:16-31
Reviewed by Deborah Thompson Prince

Huub van de Sandt and Jürgen Zangenberg, eds.
Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Settings
Reviewed by William Varner

Werner Schmidt
Das Buch Jeremia: Kapitel 1-20
Reviewed by Wilhelm J. Wessels

Herman J. Selderhuis
Calvin's Theology of the Psalms
Reviewed by Randall McKinion

Andrew Sloane
At Home in a Strange Land: Using the Old Testament in Christian Ethics
Reviewed by Andrew Davies

Robert Stein
Reviewed by Joel F. Williams

Alan Thompson
One Lord, One People: The Unity of the Church in Acts in Its Literary Setting
Reviewed by Bobby Kelly

STM Annual Faculty Consultation - Part 2

Sometimes, things can get a bit heated in our consultation (well, it's friendly disagreement). So, here we managed to catch our Rabbi and Deaconess Margaret in action again - Rabbi is now under attack! What do you think that could have triggered Deaconess' action?

STM Annual Faculty Consultation

Yesterday marks the beginning of the annual 3-day faculty consultation where we evaluate the past academic year and also deliberate on the planning for the following year. It is a very intense consultation, and it is hard work as well.

But it is not all work and no play - we begin today's consultation with some hymn singing! Here is a glimpse of where you could catch our Rabbi in action.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Graduation Week

It's been a busy week, running from one event to another in the seminary since yesterday. We had the commissioning service for the graduating students yesterday morning, and this is followed by the rehearsal for the graduation service. Then in the evening, it was the graduation dinner, attended by more than 500 guests and family of graduating students and the seminary community.

Commissioning service

Graduating dinner

Today, we had our 27th graduation service where we witnessed 63 students receiving their degrees from the Rt Rev Ng Moon Hing, Bishop of the Anglican Church of West Malaysia, who is also the President of the Seminary Council.

Next week, I would be working on my office makeover and attending the faculty annual evaluation and planning retreat.

Biblical Studies Survives at Sheffield

Following massive protests from students and scholars all over the world against the shutting down of the Department of Biblical Studies at Sheffield, I am pleased to read the good news that the Department survives. Here is the statement released from the university:

University of Sheffield Statement on the Department of Biblical Studies

The University of Sheffield has today confirmed its position with regard to the future of the Department of Biblical Studies. In the light of concerns regarding inadequate consultation, as well as feedback from staff and students, the Department of Biblical Studies is no longer under review and a proposal that it should be reconfigured as a Postgraduate Centre has been withdrawn. Instead the University has asked the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to consider, as a matter of urgency, a short, medium and longer term plan for the Department. With regard to the undergraduate intake for 2010, the University can confirm that it will recruit students for this year onto single and dual honours degrees in Biblical Studies. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities are working with colleagues to ensure that these students are appropriately supported, including through the recruitment of additional staff.

Looking to the future, the University recognises the outstanding reputation of the Department of Biblical Studies in Sheffield for scholarship and a superb student experience, and has confidence that all concerned will work together to enhance this for future students.

Professor Mike Braddick
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

See also the report by ChristianityToday by clicking here and follow the development of the protests at the Don't Shut Down Biblical Studies at Sheffield Facebook.

Long live biblical studies!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Final Week of the Semester

This week marks the final week of the seminary's academic year. It is a busy week as we are ready for the final exams, the Commissioning Service for the graduating students, the Graduation Dinner and the Graduation Day. There will be streams of visitors to the seminary as families, relatives and friends of the graduands will be visiting the seminary for the graduation day.

As for the budding NT scholar, it is work as usual - there are papers to mark, report of my pastoral group to be submitted, the faculty development evaluation to be done, and preparation for the following week's faculty planning retreat.

For our long vacation, I will be spending 5 weeks at Tyndale House, Cambridge, to continue working on my book on Paul's Use of Images in the Corinthian Correspondence. This is something that I will be looking forward to, and I will be blogging about my book project in the weeks to come.

So, back to work again....even though it is almost 10.00pm already!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Closure of Sheffield's Dept of Biblical Studies?

A petition has been going around to appeal for a reconsideration of the decision to close down the undergraduate studies at the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield. Please read the letter of appeal forwarded by the BNTC from Prof Cheryl Exum below which is self-explanatory.

The Department of Biblical Studies is one of its kind in the UK where the emphasis is on biblical studies, unlike other Department of Theology, Department of Religious Studies, or Faculty of Divinity in other universities. Please follow the instruction below if you are moved to join in the appeal.

From BNTC:

Please find below a letter that was forwarded to me from Prof Cheryl Exum as regards the current crisis facing Biblical Studies at Sheffield. Any support that we, as BNTC members, can give staff and students at Sheffield at at this critical time would be so much appreciated. There has been a facebook group been set up ('Dont Shut Down Biblical Studies at Sheffield') which already has over 700 members. Please join this group, or otherwise if you are not a facebook user show your support for the department by e-mailing the VC at Sheffield (see details below).

Many thanks indeed


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am writing you, in a personal capacity, to ask for your support in preventing the destruction of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield.

In its meeting on 7 October, the Senate of the University of Sheffield was asked to approve the following (copied from the Senate papers):

(a) that the 2009-10 entry to undergraduate programmes involving Biblical Studies should be the last and that the Department should cease to function as a single entity;
(b) that undergraduate programmes involve Biblical Studies should be maintained for existing
students, and that measures should be taken to ensure that they receive the high quality education and student experience which they have been promised;
(c) that the Department’s academic staff should be transferred to the departments in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities most suited to supporting their longer term careers;
(d) that the development of a Biblical Studies research centre be progressed with a view to providing a focus for postgraduate study and research and a continued point of contact and collaboration for academic staff irrespective of their new home departments, thus ensuring the continuation of scholarship in this area.

These proposals were made in the light of a review of the Department, conducted in the spring and summer of this year, for which I would like to give you a brief background. The Department had lost two members of staff (Loveday Alexander to early retirement and Jorunn Økland to a post in Norway), but had been given permission to fill a post with a senior New Testament scholar in 2009-10. Although this meant a change in staffing from 8 to 6, this kind of fluctuation in staffing has been typical in the Department over the years, and we had hopes of additional staff in future years. Difficulties began when the University decided, at the beginning of the 2008-9 academic year, not to make any appointments in the Faculty of Arts until reconsideration of the University’s financial position in the light of the national Research Assessment Exercise. So we were not allowed to proceed with the New Testament appointment. Then, in the second semester, the University decided to review the Department, citing the reduction in staff and the Department’s fluctuating undergraduate numbers and as major concerns (at the same time, deciding to cap the number of new students we could accept at 20). In fact, undergraduate numbers in the Department have always fluctuated, but Level 3 (i.e. final year) classes in the last two years have had the highest numbers ever.

Another problem for the Department arose when the University, in June of 2009, introduced a Voluntary Severance Scheme as a means of coping with the current economic downturn. Three members of staff are leaving. As someone within only two years of retirement, I am one of them; the others are Keith Whitelam and Barry Matlock. This leaves the Department with three permanent members of staff: Hugh Pyper, and Diana Edelman in Hebrew Bible and James Crossley in New Testament. We have also been given a two-year appointment in New Testament, Mark Finney.

These are the events that led to the proposals above. I did not know until today that the transferal of staff to other departments was being proposed, since I have been excluded from any formal discussions of the future of the Department. At the meeting of Senate, the vote on these proposals was postponed thanks to the intervention of the Sheffield University and College Union and the Union of Students. Our students are currently mounting a strong protest and you can find information about this on a number of sites on the web ( try, for example, As I understand it, the decision has already been made to suspend undergraduate admissions for the coming academic year while the above proposals are being reconsidered. But suspension of the undergraduate programme, in effect, means the end of it. And the notion that there can be any postgraduate ‘centre’ or programme without the existence of an independent Department of Biblical Studies is not wishful thinking, it is a way of subtly dismantling the Department, since the Department and its reputation depends on its distinct identity and its vibrant research culture based on its outstanding undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes.

I am writing to ask you to support the efforts of our students, alumni/ae, colleagues and friends to reverse what could be the end of an outstanding department by writing to the Vice-Chancellor to urge him not to dismantle the Department
(1) by destroying an excellent undergraduate programme, which will inevitably be the effect of a
suspension of admissions for the 20010-11 academic year and
(2) by setting up a Biblical Studies ‘research centre’ that cannot succeed without an undergraduate programme and its contribution to the Department’s research culture, when one appointment of a senior scholar would enable the Department to maintain its strength in
attracting postgraduates.

The Vice-Chancellor is Professor Keith Burnett and his email address is Please copy your message to Professor Paul White (, who, I understand, will be in charge of the ongoing review. For those of you who are willing to write on our behalf, I would be grateful if, in order for us to have a record of the level of response to our plight, you could either send me a blind copy of your message (bcc) or simply reply to this email that you have written to the Vice-Chancellor. Please also consider sending a copy of your letter to the website listed above.

If might be helpful for you to know that the Department ranked 6th in the national Research Assessment Exercise (higher, depending on how one reads the figures), quite an achievement for a small department. We achieved the highest mark in the national Teaching Quality Assessment, and our rating in the national Student Satisfaction Survey was, to my knowledge, the highest in the University, well above that of the Faculty of Arts and the University as a whole. We were at the time the review was undertaken (and may still be) also one of the few departments in the Faculty of Arts not in deficit.

I apologise for any cross-listings. I have combined and split various email lists I have in the interest of reaching as many colleagues as possible. Please feel free to forward this letter to anyone you know who might be willing to help.

Thank you for any support you can offer us,


J Cheryl Exum
Professor of Biblical Studies
, Sheffield Phoenix Press

Friday, 9 October 2009

Berita STM Sept 09 Issue

The latest issue of Berita STM, the seminary's newsletter, is now published. Keep yourself updated with what have been happening in the seminary. Berita STM can be downloaded here by clicking here.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Bibleworks Classroom Tips

Bibleworks has resumed offering tips for classroom use of the powerful and amazing software. Check out the following two tips:

Listing Hebrew Verbs in a Passage
KWIC Module and Prepositional Phrases

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Office Makeover

Last week, I decided to do an office makeover. It's been almost 3 years already since I started teaching in the seminary, and I reckoned that perhaps it was time to give my office a fresh look. In addition, I reasoned that since I spend quite a fairly great deal of my time in the office, perhaps it would be good to make it a little bit more welcoming, homely, and cosy, not only for me but also for those who might want to drop by for a chat or a cuppa. So I decided to put some of my creativity to work.

So this was what I did initially by rearranging some furniture.

Then I realised it was not good enough. It still had a very formal look. I wanted something more informal. So I thought perhaps my office could do with a rag and beanbag. So this was how it looked like after adding these two items.

And Andrew, one of my students, found the beanbag to be irresistible, and so decided to give it a try. It was pretty comfortable, wasn't it?

Then I realised there was still something missing. So after having a chat with a partner-in-crime, she suggested that perhaps the office could do with some lighting and a bowl of fresh fruits. So I decided to head to Ikea to check out some decently priced reading lights and a nice salad bowl.

So here is how the final office makeover looks like. I am rather pleased with the final product!

So if you happen to be in the vicinity of the seminary, please do drop by for a cuppa.

Should I repaint the walls with some contrasting colour scheme to give my office a more lively and uplifting mood?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Teddy Monk Falls Prostrate Before A Celtic Cross

A teddy monk falls prostrate before a Celtic cross in my office.

What comes to your mind?

It Is Finished!!

It is finished! I have finally finished marking all the papers of the graduating students. So here's wishing them all the best for their future ministry.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Review of Biblical Literature October 4, 2009

The following new reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature on October 4, 2009

Lars Aejmelaeus and Antti Mustakallio, eds.
The Nordic Paul: Finnish Approaches to Pauline Theology
Reviewed by Erik Heen

Philip S. Alexander
The Targum of Lamentations: Translated, with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes
Reviewed by Archie Wright

Sandra Gravett, Karla Bohmbach, F. V. Greifenhagen, and Donald Polaski
An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: A Thematic Approach
Reviewed by J. Dwayne Howell

Dietrich-Alex Koch
Hellenistisches Christentum: Schriftverständnis-Ekklesiologie-Geschichte
Reviewed by Friedrich Reiterer

Rachel Mairs and Alice Stevenson, eds.
Current Research in Egyptology 2005: Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Symposium, University of Cambridge 2005
Reviewed by Roxana Flammini

M. Sydney Park
within the Godhead and the Church in the Epistle to the Philippians: An Exegetical and Theological Examination of the Concept of Submission in Philippians 2 and 3
Reviewed by Mark A. Jennings

Jonathan T. Pennington and Sean M. McDonough
Cosmology and New Testament Theology
Reviewed by Michael J. Lakey

Enno Edzard Popkes
Die Theologie der Liebe Gottes in den johanneischen Schriften: Zur Semantik der Liebe und zum Motivkreis des Dualismus
Reviewed by Jan G. van der Watt

Gershom M. H. Ratheiser
Mitzvoth Ethics and the Jewish Bible: The End of Old Testament Theology
Reviewed by Ben Ollenburger

Jens Schröter
Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament: Studien zur urchristlichen Theologiegeschichte und zur Entstehung des neutestamentlichen Kanons
Reviewed by Nils Neumann

David Sim and Boris Repschinski, eds.
Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries
Reviewed by Glenna Jackson

David Wilhite
Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian's Context and Identities
Reviewed by Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

Lawrence M. Wills
Not God's People: Insiders and Outsiders in the Biblical World
Reviewed by Lara van der Zee-Hanssen

Frank Yamada
Configurations of Rape in the Hebrew Bible: A Literary Analysis of Three Rape Narratives
Reviewed by Susanne Scholz

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Caring for Parents

"You are still single, so you have more time." I have heard this saying countless time, and I really do wonder whether there is any basis to this statement. I often said that while I may still be single, it does not necessarily mean I have more time than those who are married and with family. Being one the primary care givers to my aged parents, I do have to look after their welfare too. For example, in the month of October itself, my parents have several medical appointments as follow:

Oct 2 - Father's doctor appointment for his frozen shoulder
Oct 5 - Mother's appointment with urologist
Oct 7 - Mother's appointment at the spine clinic
Oct 15 - Father's appointment at the orthopedic clinic
Oct 30 - Father's appointment at the blood clinic

Applying for leave during the semester is difficult. For example, how am I going to apply for leave on Oct 15, the day where the seminary will be having the commissioning service for our graduating students, followed by the graduation rehearsal? Since I am being appointed as the Marshall for the graduation service, my presence is needed at the rehearsal.

It is no wonder that those who run paid private services to bring the elderly to the doctor's appointment are having good business. The charges averages about RM100 per doctor's visit. That's decent money to be made, and it makes the budding NT scholar wonder why he has not changed his field yet! Not a bad idea in providing the services of bringing the elderly to the doctors. It could possibly be a good meaningful time ministering to them. In addition, the typical waiting time at the hospital is usually 2-3 hours, and that would give me some good moments to catch up with reading (while being paid for)!