Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus Was Dead and Remain Buried?

Titanic director James Cameron's latest documentary on the tomb of Jesus Christ has rock the boat of both biblical scholarship and the wider Christian community. This latest documentary film has Dr. James Tabor (University of North Carolina), Dr. Shimon Gibson (Albright Institute of Archeological Research), Dr. Francois Bovon (Harvard Divinity School) and others as the experts.

The film claims that Jesus was buried together with his wife Mary Magdalene and, possibly, their son, Judah, in that tomb. It also suggests that the 'James' ossuary which became headline in 2002 was taken from the same tomb. Seems that this documentary based its claim on one of the theory in James Tabor's book 'Jesus Dynasty'.

"The film suggests that ossuaries once containing the bones of Jesus and his family are now stored in a warehouse belonging to the Israel Antiquities Authority in Bet Shemesh, outside Jerusalem... The tomb where the remains were found was unearthed in the Talpiot neighbourhood of Jerusalem during the construction of an apartment building in 1980... During the excavation, archeologists found 10 ossuaries and three skulls. Six of the ossuaries had names inscribed into them: Jesus son of Joseph, Judah son of Jesus, Maria, Mariamne, Joseph and Matthew." James Cameron defends the documentary

Check out Discovery Channel's The Lost Tomb of Jesus for more info.

Various archeologists and Biblical scholars have responded. Leen Ritmeyer comments "Jesus and his family hailed from Nazareth in Galilee, as anyone with a shred of Bible knowledge knows and there was no reason for them to have a family tomb in Jerusalem." The same sort of insight was given by Joe Zias as he told CBS "It has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus, he was known as Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Jerusalem, and if the family was wealthy enough to afford a tomb, which they probably weren't, it would have been in Nazareth, not here in Jerusalem."

Darrell Bock's respond here.

Ben Witherington here.

We'll have to wait until the film is aired to see further uproars.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Education System As Barrier To Itself

Just came back from afternoon coffee with Steven Sim. It's great to hear conviction from others who share the same vision. Either both of us are crazy or we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. We agreed on the absurdity of the current local education and social system because both of us are stuck in it and trying to get out and stay out from it. There is no avenue to foster creativity among the people in such system. Just across the southern causeway, you'll find secondary school students discussing American Independent war, Kant's deontology, feminism, fairtrade system etc. Both systems have procedures and boundaries, just like any other systems, but the difference is that our system is despicably depriving while the other averagely encouraging 'thinking' and acquirement of knowledge.

Governments want creative thinkers and citizens, but they know deep in their bones that such community will not be as obedient as they want them to be. They try to eat the cake and have it at the same time. How to get sharp intelligence without freedom to acquire knowledge? On this wager, our government chose to sacrifice the freedom. That's obvious 'kiasuism'. And if this 'ism' is reigning in the vein of the bureaucracy, then they should stop finger pointing to the neighbors of this same pattern.

There are prices to pay for creativity. To be creative, to think out of the box, we must be given the freedom to explore the border, the shape and the dimension of the box. But unfortunately the current system has painted within the box with warning signs that read 'NO TRESPASSING'.

Read some shared thoughts of Zainah Anwar:

Don't Curb Students' Enthusiasm

9 Feb 2007:
OUR students in the UK are, oh, so shy, so unassertive, they keep to themselves, they don’t mix? I am surprised that the Minister of Higher Education is surprised. This is not a new problem. When I was studying in the US in the 1970s and 1980s, there were "kampung Melayus" sprouting on campuses in several universities in the Midwest. Friends complained of surveillance, peer pressure and anonymous letters slipped under their doors or sent home to the Public Service Department by fellow students if they were seen to be too close to too many Americans.

Even in Indonesia, our students don’t mix. A friend teaching at the Islamic University in Jogjakarta says the Malaysian students on her campus are so totally unassertive and disinterested and pursue the easiest of courses taught by the easiest of lecturers.

They avoid the many discussion groups that flourish on and off campus which bring together students and activists to discuss the latest books, ideas and debate on current issues. They would not take part in the many training sessions on human rights, democracy and women’s rights.

Actually, we the taxpayers are not getting value for the millions of our tax money spent on scholarship for these students who might as well remain in Malaysia if they only want to be "jaguh kampung".

Our young adults are losing out in a competitive world that is hungry for talent. In the end, it is Malaysia that will lose out.

In 1980, I wrote about racial polarisation on our university campuses and how some of the bright and articulate students I interviewed at the University of Malaya called it the Pantai Valley High School.

It was not the exciting, enriching university life they envisaged, but a life restricted and regulated by the Universities and University Colleges Act. In school, they had freedom to write letters to whomever they pleased, be it to make a school visit to a factory or a palace museum.

Imagine their shock when they found out that at university, all letters needed to go through the Dean of Student Affairs. And they were often reminded lest they were hatching rebellions, any unauthorised gathering of more than five constituted an offence. How to be assertive?

And the racial polarisation; everywhere on campus Malay students were with Malays, Chinese with Chinese and Indians with Indians — be it at the canteen, at the library, walking the streets from class to hostel and back.

The students spoke of how they were corralled into racial blocs by their seniors the moment they stepped into campus.

Woe betide those who stepped out of the box. An anonymous letter would be slipped under their door "condemning" them to hellfire and damnation.

My editor was so shocked by my findings that he decided not to publish the story. It does look that after 26 years, nothing much has changed.

When I recently told this story to a professor at the University of Malaya, she said she would be so lucky today to find a student astute enough to even make a remark about a campus life that is more akin to secondary school.

Most days, she says, she feels like pulling up her students by their collars to breathe life into them.

So dear minister, they are, oh, so shy, so unassertive, so not mixing with others on home ground as well. And it’s been going on for over two decades.

There is obvious awareness and concern by the country’s leadership that much has gone wrong with our education system, our socialisation and politicisation that have produced these unassertive, inarticulate, intellectually and socially disengaged, racially segregated and unemployable graduates.

Much hope is placed on the recently launched National Education Blueprint and its many promises, including the promise to produce well rounded students who will think out of the box.

A friend runs a programme that exposes students to literature, music, art, critical thinking and public speaking before they spend more of their parents’ hard-earned money to study abroad.

These are straight A students, whose parents woke up one day to realise that darling Johan and Janine who scored 11 A1s in SPM actually lack the cultural literacy necessary to succeed and get the best out of university education in the West.

My friend and her team of trainers were stunned that these students did not know a single fairy tale. An exercise to rewrite Hansel and Gretel from the witch’s point of view drew a blank; when asked if they knew other fairy tales, they did not. They had not heard of Winston Churchill even though they all got A1 for history.

They had never seen nor met a person in a wheelchair; they had never been to an art gallery or a museum, in spite of living in Kuala Lumpur and enjoying annual holidays abroad. One boy was passionate about studying aviation engineering and wanted to own an airline, but had never heard of Tony Fernandes.

Life for these kids revolved around school, tuition, shopping malls and computer games. What they did not know, they felt they didn’t need to know.

And yet, they wanted to go to Cambridge or Stanford and wanted to do well in their interviews and essays; but they had nothing much to say about themselves and their interests beyond the string of A1s for which they were rewarded and their parents applauded. Eleven A1s and not an ounce of zest to spare does not a successful life make.

At the other end of the scale, I do meet students and young people who are far from shy and disengaged. They have friends from different races and different countries, they read voraciously, they go to museums, concerts, plays, they backpack to the islands off Malaysia and Thailand and through God-forsaken countries of the world, they listen to world music, they speak their minds.

I meet young university students who dare to organise events outside the campuses, campaigning against the UUCA and dirty student elections, giving free tuition to squatter kids, cooking free food for the homeless, hanging out with non-governmental organisation activists and theatre practitioners.

These young people live their lives to the full, ever teetering on a fine balance between family, friends, fun and studies or a budding career of their choice.

What makes them different? For some, it might be class, but for most others, it is exposure.

Whether growing up in a family that eats, reads and talks together, or getting exposed to the works of Alice Walker and Maya Angelou in English class, or having a lecturer who loves the theatre and drags his students to all the plays in KL, or meeting an inspiring aging ex-student leader who wanted to join the university social club but ended up in the socialist club.

By design or by accident, it is exposure to adults who opened up their minds to other possibilities in life that made a difference to the lives of these effervescent young people.

A friend’s 15-year-old daughter complained how the teachers at school (a premier school, mind you) say no to everything suggested by the students — be it to organise a talentime (what would parents say if you kids wear sexy clothes), a Halloween party with the neighbourhood children (oh no, it’s Western culture), dance and music classes (cannot, must "jaga diri"), regular field trips to museums, orphanages, school for the blind (too many permissions to ask, forms to fill and transport to organise).

That many of the shy, unassertive students and young graduates have potential is without doubt.

The tragedy is we adults have failed them as we pour cold water over their ideas or just remain indifferent to their natural instinct to explore, discover, innovate, take risks, be different. It is our fault because we shut the doors and windows on them.

Bruce Metzger went home on Feb 13


Princeton, NJ, February 15, 2007–Dr. Bruce Manning Metzger, New Testament professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and one of the preeminent American New Testament critics and biblical translators of the twentieth century, died February 13, 2007, at the University Medical Center at Princeton, at the age of 93.

Bruce Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania on February 9, 1914. After gaining a B.A. from Lebanon Valley College in 1935, he entered Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating with a Th.B. in 1938. So began a life-long association with Princeton Theological Seminary during which Bruce Metzger became not only a legend himself but also one of the school's greatest intellectual ornaments. He was ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (now the PCUSA) in 1939. In 1944 he married Isobel Elizabeth, the elder daughter of John Alexander Mackay, the great third president of the Seminary, who rebuilt and revitalized the school after the divisions of the 1920s. Bruce Metzger's sheer brilliance, clarity, and Christian devotion set a standard all of his own. He taught while he continued to study (Princeton University, M.A. [1940], Ph.D. [1942], Classics), serving as teaching fellow in New Testament Greek 1938–40 and as instructor in New Testament 1940–44. He was appointed assistant professor 1944–48; associate professor 1948–54 and professor 1954–84. He was named the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature in 1964. He retired in 1984 and was named professor emeritus.

Daniel B. Wallace's tribute
Ben Witherington's tribute
John Piper's tribute
Darrell Bock's tribute
Iain Torrance's letter
Princeton's rememberance

Thursday, February 15, 2007

From Drawing To Theologizing

I used to draw and paint alot. But since started working, that hobby has dropped. Surprisingly my hobby was being observed by my sister at that time. I remember she sketched on one of my drawing last time when i went mad because of that. My artwork is precious to me. By i've threw alot of them away. Guess that when one moves on, his hobbies move along.

Now i found out that my sister is studying art in her school. She is majoring in it and as a result, the house is filled with her painting. She seems to enjoy bugging me about art, even until now. Whenever i'm home, she would ask my opinion on her works. Yesterday was another day when i was bugged. I appreciate her passion and i do want to help, but I'm trying to communicate what i know about art to her. And in my trying, i realized that i's building up a framework for criticizing art. I tried to tell her about aesthetic more than showing her how to do it. Part of it was due to my laziness because drawing takes lot of concentration.

On my part, i'm more curious to find out about aesthetic than to enact or express it. I prefer to express it through appreciation and criticism.

Supposed good references:
Art in Action
Theological Aesthetic: A Reader
Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition
The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics
Grace and Necessity: Reflection on Art and Love
The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth
Beholding The Glory: Incarnation through the Arts
Arts, Theology, and the Church
Theological Perspective on God and Beauty

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Framework For Worldviews

During dinner with LT and Mejlina last night, we came across the topic of 'conversations'. Mejlina was sharing her experience of handling questions while i listened with amazement of her consistent framework underneath her approach to questions and view of life. It dawn to me that i don have a fixed framework as her. Not sure which is better, as my approach to worldviews is evolutionary in nature, thus i can't cling on a 'fixed' frame to construct my view. But still, i need to have a consistent framework. And here is what i think i am:

1) All knowledge is fallible, thus all views, opinions, beliefs; including this belief itself

2) I see myself to respond to the world in two ways: (a) enjoy that which appeal to me (b) hate that which annoy me. (I enjoy justice when it serves me and other well, but at the same time, hate it when it find faults in me)

3) From these two responsive senses, together with my presumption of the causal chain-reaction, i believed every problem is this world has a primitive singular cause. From a reliable belief that the Bible is warranted historically, catholically, and theologically, this cause is sin. Thus all that annoy me are causes of sin. That includes my own laziness, unlovingness etc.

4) Again, from the warranted Bible, i came to see the works, message, and life of Jesus of Nazareth appeal to me. Though it causes annoyance, it is also the only warranted source of hope and joy which largely appealing and inviting.

Due to my first premise, i'm hanging on the edge between worldviews. Thus of my 'luke-warmness' in life, especially when everything seems to be uncertain in this time. The one only certainty is 'I exist'. This is a self-centred framework? Nope. It is the one and only frame that guarantees a rational living. There is a big difference between 'Man is the measure of all things' and 'Man thinks that Man is the measure of all things'. I'm the latter. The same with 'I think therefore i am' and 'I think that I think therefore I am'. Fallibility is a curse to me.

This is my framework. An ever evolving fallible rationality.