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)!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Medical Doctor's Musings on Theological Education

Alex Tang has begun posting a series of reflections on theological education, ranging from issues related to the need for learning original language, content of theological education, and spiritual formation. By knowing Alex, I strongly suspect there will be more to come (and I do look forward to Alex's observations).

It is interesting to read Alex's reflections - as he is not a "seminarian" or a "professional theological educator" per se, but a medical doctor whose hobby has driven him to complete his PhD in spiritual formation recently. I have always welcome observations from "outsiders" into the enterprise of theological education - they are the ones that often give the most insightful comments.

I will respond to Alex's musings when time permits. I think Alex has hit the nail on its head with some of his observations (although I might have to take issue with his comment on learning biblical languages - I think the problem of learning biblical languages for seminarians is not whether we need it or not, but the pedagogical method that we are currently using in teaching these languages may be outdated - but more on this later)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Glo Bible: A New Way of Experiencing the Bible

GLO bible - to be launced on October 15, 2009.

Retailed at US$79.99, and with pre-order sale price at US$59.99, would anyone be able to resist this new digital bible?