Monday, 30 March 2009

Teaching Doctor of Ministry Module

This coming week will be another super busy one for me. I will be teaching the Doctor of Ministry module on Advanced Hermeneutics and Homiletics throughout the next 5 days, from 8am - 6pm.

This module is a historic one for the seminary, as this is the first ever DMin module that we are offering. I hope the candidates that will be here later this morning will find the course useful for their ministry.

I will be so dead by the end of this week.....

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Review of Biblical Literature March 28, 2009

Here are the new reviews:

Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll
The Psalms of Lament in Mark's Passion: Jesus' Davidic Suffering
Reviewed by Steve Moyise
Reviewed by Adam Winn

Adele Berlin
The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism
Reviewed by Allan Rosengren

Gabriele Boccaccini and John J. Collins, eds.
The Early Enoch Literature
Reviewed by William Loader

Pieter Craffert
The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological Perspective
Reviewed by Robert J. Miller

Pascale Dominique; Carmen Bernabé and Carlos Gil, eds.
Reimaginando los orígenes del cristianismo: Relevancia social y eclesial de los estudios sobre Orígenes del cristianismo (Libro homenaje a Rafael Aguirre en su 65 cumpleaños)
Reviewed by Leif Vaage

Michael Dübbers
Christologie und Existenz im Kolosserbrief: Exegetische und semantische Untersuchungen zur Intention des Kolosserbriefs
Reviewed by Christoph Stenschke

Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea Weiss, eds.
The Torah: A Women's Commentary
Reviewed by Yael Shemesh

Yosef Garfinkel and Susan Cohen, eds.
The Middle Bronze Age IIA Cemetary at Gesher: Final Report
Reviewed by Ralph K. Hawkins

Pauline Nigh Hogan
"No Longer Male and Female": Interpreting Galatians 3.28 in Early Christianity
Reviewed by Susan G. Eastman

Jurie Le Roux and Eckart Otto, eds.
South African Perspectives on the Pentateuch between Synchrony and Diachrony
Reviewed by William Johnstone

Jill Middlemas
The Templeless Age: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the Exile
Reviewed by Flemming A. J. Nielsen

Uwe-Karsten PlischThe Gospel of Thomas: Original Text with Commentary
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Jean-Louis Ska
Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch
Reviewed by Reinhard Achenbach

Bruce Wells
The Law of Testimony in the Pentateuchal Codes
Reviewed by Jeffrey Stackert

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Seminary Chapel: Don't Waste Your Pulpit

I promised to post my short sharing in the seminary chapel on March 10. However, I never got around doing so, till now.


Tuesday Chapel;
10 March 2009
Text: 2 Tim 4:1-5
Title: Don’t Waste Your Pulpit

Just imagine this scenario: If chapel is made optional this morning, I wonder whether all of you would still be here. And if you have a choice, and if you know that I am preaching, will you still come and listen to me? Even though you are here with me physically this morning, I wonder whether your heart is here and you are listening to me. Perhaps some of us are saying: “It’s the boring Lim Kar Yong again,” and you have already shut your mind from listening to me. Perhaps some of us are now thinking about our assignments, thesis and all the tasks that we need to accomplish before the end of the week. Perhaps some of us are memorizing our Hebrew and Greek vocabulary now. Perhaps some of us are now opening the book that we bring along to chapel, and we are now sliding the book in between our bible and we have already started reading it.

My point here is not how you react to sermon. My point here is what causes you to react to sermons. There are many reasons. And one of it could be me as a preacher. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on what it means for me to preach from the pulpit. I know I have complained about bad sermons. I know I have preached bad sermons. I know that if chapel is made optional, and if I find all of you are not here this morning, I really have to search my heart. As such, over the last couple of weeks, I have been asking many hard questions about my preaching both in the church and in STM. Have I not sufficiently prepared for my preaching? Have I taken STM chapel too lightly, just because it is compulsory, and I can be a bit more relaxed in my preparation? Have my sermon failed to exhort and encourage the community? And if I have failed to adequately prepare myself for the pulpit, have I not abused the pulpit, and wasted the pulpit?

That’s why I am once again reminded about Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in the text we read this morning:
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2). All of us here are called to be preachers of God’s word – and some of you are already preaching regularly. And to help us in our reflection of what it means to be called a preacher, I invite all of us to watch this short video clip by Dr John Piper. Piper, I think, essentially captures the real essence of preaching, and it is wise of us to take heed of his advice.

Listen again to what Piper says about preaching: “I think the reason pastors don’t preach from the Bible is because they themselves do not live off the bible day by day.” Is there any truth in what Piper is saying about our attitude towards preaching? Is there any truth in what Piper is saying about out attitude towards the Bible? Do we live off the bible day by day? Have we wasted the pulpit that God has given us? Remember Paul’s exhortation this morning: Preach the Word.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

PhD Scholarship at Bristol

The following announcement came through the BNTS mailing list:

AHRC Doctoral Studentship – Theology and
Religious Studies
of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Bristol has a tradition of intellectual innovation using all the available linguistic, historical, philosophical and theological methods. The Department's distinctive research profile is dedicated to excellence in the study of Buddhism and Judaeo-Christian studies. Within these traditions, the research work of the academic staff encompasses four areas:
  • Textual studies: focusing on the historical significance and analysis,as well as the editing and translation of, key religious texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Esther, Genesis, Medieval and Reformation theological texts, Abhidhammatthavibhavini and Tibetan love poetry.
  • Philosophical and theological investigation of concepts such as sin, incarnation, trinity, meditation, consciousness, and afterlife.
  • Investigation of religious practice as reflected in festivals, funerary rites, monastic life and preaching.
  • Inter-religious dialogue.
Further information about the Department’s staff and their research is available on the following web-site by clicking here.

Through the AHRC Block Grant Partnership scheme, the Department is pleased to be able to offer a Doctoral Studentship for successful postgraduate applicants beginning programmes in October 2009.

For further information and application forms for admission please visit:

The closing date for applications is 15th May 2009.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Biblical Interpretation Vol 17 No 1-2, 2009

The latest issue of Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches Vol 17 Nos 1-2 (2009) is now available. This issue focuses on violence, Scripture and textual practices in Early Christianity. There are some interesting articles in this issue.

Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practices in Early Judaism and Christianity pp. 1-11(11) Authors: Boustan, Ra'anan S.; Jassen, Alex P.; Roetzel, Calvin J.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Violence: Sectarian Formation and Eschatological Imagination pp. 12-44(33) Author: Jassen, Alex P.

The Eschatological Arena: Reinscribing Roman Violence in Fantasies of the End Times pp. 45-76(32) Author: Stratton, Kimberly B.

The Language of War (2 Cor. 10:1-6) and the Language of Weakness (2 Cor. 11:21b-13:10) pp. 77-99(23) Author: Roetzel, Calvin J.

Violence as Sign in the Fourth Gospel pp. 100-117(18) Author: Glancy, Jennifer A.

Clemency as Cruelty: Forgiveness and Force in the Dying Prayers of Jesus and Stephen pp. 118-146(29) Author: Matthews, Shelly

Reconsidering the Book and the Sword: A Rhetoric of Passivity in Rabbinic Hermeneutics pp. 147-176(30) Author: Berkowitz, Beth A.

Christian Martyrdom and the "Dialect of the Holy Scriptures": The Literal, the Allegorical, the Martyrological pp. 177-206(30) Author: Mitchell, Margaret M.

Immolating Emperors: Spectacles of Imperial Suffering and the Making of a Jewish Minority Culture in Late Antiquity pp. 207-238(32) Author: Boustan, Ra'anan S.

Martyrdom, Jesus' Passion and Barbarism pp. 239-264(26) Author: van Henten, Jan Willem

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Bart Ehrman Debates with Pete Williams

NT scholar Bart Ehrman was in the UK over Christmas 2008 to visit family and promote his book "Whose word is it?", the UK edition of "Misquoting Jesus". In it he calls into question the authority of the New Testament, claiming that scribes have deliberately changed the documents over time.

Premier Christian Radio interviewed him on January 3, 2009 on its programme, 'Unbelievable', and invited Peter Williams, Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge, to an hour-long debate with him.

The debate focused on the question ‘Do we have the original writings of the New Testament?’ Peter Williams argued that Bart's prognosis about the reliability of the New Testament is far too pessimistic. He agreed that scribal errors have occurred, but they are accidental changes and the original reading is almost always obvious and confirmed by large numbers of manuscripts.

The debate can be heard online by clicking here.

It is also worthwhile to check out Sze Zeng's blog where he highlighted the debate between Bart Ehrman and Dan Wallace.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Review of Biblical Literature March 11, 2009

Just realised that I missed out posting the reviews that were added to the Review of Biblical Literature on March 11, 2009. Note thae reviews on the book by Bird.

Michael F. Bird
The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective
Reviewed by James P. Sweeney

James H. Charlesworth
The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide
Reviewed by Peter J. Judge

Andrew D. Clarke
A Pauline Theology of Church Leadership
Reviewed by Jens Herzer

Tal Davidovich
The Mystery of the House of Royal Women: Royal Pilagsim as Secondary Wives in the Old Testament
Reviewed by Yael Shemesh

Mary Dove
The First English Bible: The Text and Context of the Wycliffite Versions
Reviewed by Francis Dalrymple-Hamilton
Reviewed by Christo H. J. van der Merwe

David Flood, ed.
Peter of John Olivi on Genesis
Reviewed by Mark Elliott

David Flusser; translated by Azzan Yadin
Judaism of the Second Temple Period, Volume 1: Qumran and Apocalypticism
Reviewed by Joshua Schwartz

Richard S. Hess and Elmer A. Martens, eds.
War in the Bible and Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century
Reviewed by Brad E. Kelle

Alistair G. Hunter
An Introduction to the Psalms
Reviewed by Gert T. M. Prinsloo
Reviewed by John S. Vassar

Barclay M. Newman, ed.
The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition
Reviewed by Cynthia Long Westfall

Anita Norich and Yaron Z. Eliav, eds.
Jewish Literatures and Cultures: Context and Intertext
Reviewed by Shlomo Berger

Robert B. Wright, ed.
The Psalms of Solomon: A Critical Edition of the Greek Text
Reviewed by Rodney A. Werline
Reviewed by Joel Willitts

Tyndale House Spring 09 Newsletter

Tyndale House has published its Spring 09 Newsletter. Click here to read the latest happenings in Tyndale House.

Friday, 20 March 2009

"Authors" of Dead Sea Scrolls Never Existed?

I am a bit late in posting up this piece of news, reported in Times Online on March 16, 2009

TIME: Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls 'Authors' Never Existed,8599,1885421,00.html

By Tim McGirk / Jerusalem

Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all — a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend." (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds, "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue." (See pictures of disputed artifiacts.)

Early descriptions of the Essenes by Greek and Roman historians has them numbering in the thousands, living communally ("The first kibbutz," jokes Elior) and forsaking sex — which goes against the Judaic exhortation to "go forth and multiply." Says Elior: "It doesn't make sense that you have thousands of people living against the Jewish law and there's no mention of them in any of the Jewish texts and sources of that period." (Read "Is This Jesus's Tomb?")

So who were the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Elior theorizes that the Essenes were really the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C. When they left, they took the source of their wisdom — their scrolls — with them. "In Qumran, the remnants of a huge library were found," Elior says, with some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known version of the Old Testament dated back to the 9th century A.D. "The scrolls attest to a biblical priestly heritage," says Elior, who speculates that the scrolls were hidden in Qumran for safekeeping. (See pictures of Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land.)

Elior's theory has landed like a bombshell in the cloistered world of biblical scholarship. James Charlesworth, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls project at Princeton Theological Seminary and an expert on Josephus, says it is not unusual that the word Essenes does not appear in the scrolls. "It's a foreign label," he tells TIME. "When they refer to themselves, it's as 'men of holiness' or 'sons of light.' " Charlesworth contends that at least eight scholars in antiquity refer to the Essenes. One proof of Essene authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he says, is the large number of inkpots found by archaeologists at Qumran.

But Elior claims says these ancient historians, namely Philo and Pliny the Elder, either borrowed from each other or retailed second-hand stories as fact. "Pliny the Elder describes the Essenes as 'choosing the company of date palms' beside the Dead Sea. We know Pliny was a great reader, but he probably never visited Israel," she says.

Elior is braced for more criticism of her theory. "Usually my opponents have only read Josephus and the other classical references to the Essenes," she says. "They should read the Dead Sea Scrolls — all 39 volumes. The proof is there."

Review of Biblical Literature March 19, 2009

The following reviews have been added to the Review of Biblical Literature, March 19, 2009

James Rowe Adams
From Literal to Literary: The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors
Reviewed by Christine Treu

Moshe Anbar
Prophecy, Treaty-Making and Tribes in the Mari Documents during the Period of the Amorite Kings (From the End of the 19th Century B.C.E. Until 1760 B.C.E.) [Hebrew]
Reviewed by John Engle

Dianne Bergant
Scripture: History and Interpretation
Reviewed by Sean P. Kealy

Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee, eds.
The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature
Reviewed by Daniel R. Schwartz

Norman C. Habel and Peter Trudinger, eds.
Exploring Ecological Hermeneutics
Reviewed by John Painter

Randall Heskett
Messianism within the Scriptural Scrolls of Isaiah
Reviewed by J. Todd Hibbard

Lynn R. Huber
Like a Bride Adorned: Reading Metaphor in John's Apocalypse
Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

Bernard S. Jackson
Wisdom-Laws: A Study of the Mishpatim of Exodus 21:1-22:16
Reviewed by Assnat Bartor

Mark Leuchter
The Polemics of Exile in Jeremiah 26-45
Reviewed by Wilhelm J. Wessels

Susan Niditch
Judges: A Commentary
Reviewed by Yairah Amit

Susanne Scholz
Introducing the Women's Hebrew Bible
Reviewed by Amelia Devin Freedman

Joseph B. Soloveitchik; edited by David Shatz, Joel B. Wolowelsky, and Reuven Ziegler
Abraham's Journey: Reflections on the Life of the Founding Patriarch
Reviewed by Ralph K. Hawkins

Charles H. Talbert
Ephesians and Colossians
Reviewed by Andrew T. Lincoln

Henry A. Virkler and Karelynne Gerber Ayayo
Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation
Reviewed by Oda Wischmeyer

Robert L. Webb and John S. Kloppenborg, eds.
Reading James with New Eyes: Methodological Reassessments of the Letter of James
Reviewed by Peter Frick

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Been Quiet for A While

Yes, I have been quiet for a while. Since I returned from the camp more than a week ago, I was swamped with loads of stuff and tight deadline. I am still going through the proofs for my book, which should be done within the next couple of days.

The only comfort I have this week is that it's reading week - hence no classes. It gives me some space to catch up with work.

I will be back blogging this week!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Camp in Port Dickson

This weekend, I will be at the Golden Sands Baptist Resort, Port Dickson, speaking at the Klang Chinese Methodist Young Adults Camp. I am looking forward to having a good time with the young adults.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Constitutional Conflicts and Ethics in Current Malaysian Politics

Kairos Reserch Centre is organising a forum on Constitutional Conflicts and Ethics in Current Malaysian Politics.



TIME: 8.30PM – 10.30PM

University Teknologi MARA; Author of Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia (2008) (Star Publications)

Co-editor of Sheridan & Groves, The Constitution of Malaysia, 5th Ed (2008)( MLJ) and Co-Counsel in The Tun Mustapha v Tun Adnan Roberts & Dato Pairin Sabah cases in 1985.

(Research Director, Kairos Research Centre)

(Chairman, Kairos Research Centre)

The unfolding Perak Constitutional Crisis and political events following the March 8, 2008 General Elections have raised some difficult challenges to democratic governance in Malaysia. Some of the contentious issues that have gained prominence include the following:

How should the Federal and State Constitutions be interpreted in the context of the present political conflict?
What is the scope of the Sultan's discretionary power to appoint or dismiss members of the State Executive Council?
What are the moral and legal issues arising from party hopping?

Resolving the present Constitutional conflict will require an informed judgment that takes into account legal precedents both in Malaysia and in the Commonwealth.
The purpose of this Forum is to provide a legal, political and ethical context to evaluate the plurality of views that have been expressed in the media.

The Forum will also provide theological and moral resources for Christians seeking to be responsible citizens who can engage realistically with the moral issues arising from the present political conflict.

Who Should Attend?
Pastors, church leaders,youth leaders and all concerned citizens who desire to gain an understanding of the vital issues that impact our nation.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Making Chapel Services Optional? Further Random Throughts about Preaching

Let's face it. While we desire to see chapel services as part of our spiritual formation in the seminary, the fact remains that attending seminary chapel may not necessary be what everyone looks forward to. I am not sure whether my observation here is accurate or not. But if I were to take a glance across the chapel, perhaps there are sufficient indications to suggest that there is some merit to my observation. Some would bring along their books to occupy time in chapel. Some, instead of paying attention to the sermon, would be dozing off. Some would be doing something else, such as playing games on their mobiles phones, etc. Sometimes I wonder whether our presence in chapel is simply to satisfy the requirement that chapel is compulsory for the seminary.

I have once suggested something radical before - let's make chapel optional. Let's give the students a choice of whether they would like to attend chapel or not.

I raise this issue to myself once again because it is my turn to preach in chapel next Tuesday.

Let's imagine this: If chapel is made optional, I wonder whether there would still be anyone sitting in the hall when I preach next Tuesday. If the seminary community knows that it's my turn to preach next Tuesday, will they still come and listen to me?

What if my fear is materialised next Tuesday? What if there is no audience when I stand up to preach next Tuesday? One thing for sure - I will not blame anyone. I will take it that this is a very clear indication to me about myself, my preaching and the quality of my sermon. I will take it that it is time for me to do some soul searching and to evaluate my preparation, my preaching, and the content of my message. I will have to ask hard questions. Have I not sufficiently prepared for my preaching in chapel? Have I taken chapel service too lightly myself? Have my sermon been so boring that it not only fails to exhort and encourage the community but it clearly reflects my ill preparation? Have I abused the pulpit by failing to adequately prepare myself?

If this is the case, perhaps it is time to listen to my sermons once again. Perhaps it is time to evaluate my attitude towards preaching and the the fundamentals of what it means to worship our Creator God. It is time to repent.

Deep in my heart, I wish for the day that students would still attend chapel even if it is optional. Wouldn't it be great if chapel services were so uplifting, encouraging and edifying that even though it is optional, students would still come in full force, knowing that they would have missed something if they skipped chapel? Wouldn't it be great that chapel services would be spiritually uplifting for both the preacher and the listener?

In the final analysis, I can only say this: Who says chapel is part of the spiritual formation for the students only? It is part of my spiritual formation as a lecturer too.