Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Key To The Men's Heart

Few weeks ago, while I was driving, I heard this from a local radio station:

" If you think that the key to a man's heart is through his stomach, then you are thinking just a little bit too high. "

Karma, God's Will, and Disasters

Whenever bad things like the SiChuan quake happened, some Buddhists that I know are quick to shoot, "Your Christian God does all these thing, huh?"

On the other hand, how does it feel when someone shoot back, "It's karmic pay back time".

Sharon Stone made the not so smart statement while on the red carpet in Cannes. She was asked if she had heard about the disaster that hit China recently, and her answer was:

"...all this earthquake and stuff happened and I thought, 'Is that Karma, when you're not nice and the bad things happen to you?'"

So, Buddhists, stop using those cheap logic shots to bring down others because you won't know when is your karmic pay back time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reversed Correspondence

When I was very boring and dying to chill out on some Friday nights, no one is free or share my chill out passion. No SMS on my mobile phone. No one called.

And when I need to work on Saturday and Sunday, like this weekend, the whole world is trying to get me out. Yesterday there were:

1) Ben Witherington's public lecture at 7.45pm-9.45pm
2) Two-Left-Feet salsa social night from 9.45pm-12 midnight
3) Evelyn called up to go for a 9pm movie
4) Annie Wong called to chill at Orchard Rd at 9.30pm
5) Angie SMS at 10.50pm, asking for hang out

And knowing that I have to go for the "Opened Eyes in a Darkened Room" the next day from 3pm-6pm, then need to stand by in my office from 7pm-9pm. Then on Sunday, need to work from 8.30am-1pm. And after that, will be having dinner with David Pek. So, I had to deprive myself from being 'happening'.

What's fate and time doing? All these SMSes and calls should burst from my mobile during my super boring Fridays, not when I need to toil the ground in the weekend. What a reversed correspondence! Is the keeper of fate and time a joker?

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books: Justifiable?

Part 1. Introduction

Part 2. Question 1: Fixed Hebrew Bible during the 1st - 4th century AD?

Part 3. Fact 1: Rejection of Canonical Books during the 1st – 4th Century

Part 4. Fact 2: Affirmation of Deuterocanonical Books as Scripture during the 1st – 4th Century

Part 5. Observations based on fact 1 and 2

Part 6. Question 2: How to recognize the Scripture of the Church?

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.6

Question 2: How then can modern Christians recognize the canon for the Church?

I think that modern Christians able to recognize the canon by recognizing the findings of early ecumenical councils. And by ‘ecumenical’ I mean the most inclusive meetings that were attended by Bishops representing almost the entire major Christian communities in existence at that time. Hence subsequent councils after the splitting of the Monophysite and Nestorian churches, after the council of Chalcedon (451 AD), are not considered ecumenical (J. Hill, The History of Christian Thought, p.94).

This might seem odd to Protestants because of our sensitivity towards churches’ integrity on one hand, while there is a sense of betraying the Reformation by turning back to recognize the authority of the Church’ councils on another. But to think further, are not our core doctrines, such as the Trinity and Christology, based on the early ecumenical councils’ interpretation and understanding of the Scripture?

Hence it is not wrong after all that we should pay attention to what the early Christians have to say on this matter. And turning back to the ecumenical councils does not mean turning back to the Roman Catholic Church. To think like that is simply anachronistic.

Our theology of the Holy Spirit allows us to recognize the illuminated ability of God’s people. Though the Church consists of fallen humans, nonetheless the Holy Spirit’s continual guidance illuminates the widest Christian communities in the early days to identify which books to be deemed Scripture, just as how the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to understand the Trinitarian relationship and the dual natures of Christ as attested in the Scripture.

One may observes that the working of the Holy Spirit was fully manifested through the ecumenical councils, which consist of appointed Christian leaders from the east and the west, to institutionalise some of the core beliefs of the Church. And these core beliefs became the test of orthodoxy for subsequent believers. If not there is no way to know what is orthodoxy especially in today’s world where there are so many kind of diverging understanding of the faith. All these are to say that we have to acknowledge the establishment of the early ecumenical councils. Without them, hardly can we be sure whether any of our belief is the right one.

In conclusion, some Protestants’ rejection of the deuterocanonical books is not justifiable. If we can accept the findings of the ecumenical council at Nicae (325 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD), I think there is good faith for us to accept the declaration from the council of Carthage (397 AD), which was held between the other two great councils, and which itself well represents the majority of the earlier Christian communities' standing on this issue, 300 years prior to the council.

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.5

Observations based on fact 1 and 2

1) There was no fixed canon which was widely recognized by the Jewish and Christian communities during 1st – 4th century AD.

2) There are different sets of canon being recognized depending on the geographical area. Hence Jerome’s initial set of OT canon, which is identical to the Palestinian Jewish community's, is just another set among many which are in existence during that time. Yet Jerome differentiates the Hebrew Bible from the Christian Scripture.

3) The use of LXX of the early Christian communities, including the biblical authors. Though this fact does not mean the biblical authors and the Christian communities regard the deuterocanonical books as Scripture. It neither means they did not. What we know is that some later Christian communities from second century onwards do view the deuterocanon as Christian Scripture. In that case, we can confidently postulate that these later Christians followed the passed down tradition of the list of the canon just like their passed down belief in Jesus Christ. And if that is true, then the probability is high for the earliest Christians (particularly the earliest Jewish Christians) did really regard the deuterocanon as Scripture.

While Jesus did say something about the scripture of His days (Matt 23.35, Lk 11.50), yet the limits and extend of his canonical list is not conclusive given the fluidity of the canon at that time. Craig Evans summarized well, “…Jesus quotes or alludes to all of the books of the Law, most of the Prophets, and some of the Writings.” (The Scriptures of Jesus and His Earliest Followers, in L.M.McDonald & Sanders (ed), The Canon Debate, p.185)

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.4

Fact 2: Affirmation of Deuterocanonical Books as Scripture during the 1st – 4th Century

1. Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
Rabbis quoted this book as scripture in their literature (L.M. McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.177-178):
- b. Hagigah 13a
- y. Hagigah 77c
- b. Yebamot 63b
- Genesis Rabbah 8:2b, 91:3
- b. Bava Qamma 92b
- y. Berakhot 11b
- y. Nazir 54b
- Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:11
- b. Berakhot 48a

Early Christians who regard this book as Scripture (most are cited from L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.439-442):
- Jerome (Letter to Eustochium)
- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine)
- Council of Carthage
- Gelasian Decree
- Codex Vaticanus
- Codex Sinaiticus
- Codex Alexandrinus

2. Wisdom of Solomon
- Melito (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History)
- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine)
- Council of Carthage
- Gelasian Decree
- Codex Vaticanus
- Codex Sinaiticus
- Codex Alexandrinus

3. Epistle of Jeremiah
- Origen (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History)
- Athanasius (39th Festal Letters. In it Athanasius included the Epistle of Baruch in the canon.)
- Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures)
- Epiphanius (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)
- Hilary of Poitiers (Prologue in the Book of Psalms 15)
- Codex Vaticanus
- Codex Alexandrinus

4. Maccabees
- Origen (K. Aland, The Problem of the New Testament Canon)
- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine)
- Council of Carthage
- Codex Sinaiticus
- Codex Alexandrinus

5. Tobit
- Hilary of Poitiers (Prologue in the Book of Psalms 15)
- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine)
- Council of Carthage
- Codex Vaticanus
- Codex Sinaiticus
- Codex Alexandrinus

6. Judith
- Hilary of Poitiers (Prologue in the Book of Psalms 15)
- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine)
- Council of Carthage
- Codex Vaticanus
- Codex Sinaiticus
- Codex Alexandrinus

7. 1 Enoch
- Jude 14-15 (The New Testament)
- Tertulian (On The Apparel of Women)

9. Jerome and his works
You might wonder why did I include Jerome in this category as one who affirms the deuterocanon. The reason is simply this: Jerome and his list of Christian canon is the most misunderstood fact among the anti-deuterocanon Protestants.

Jerome is deem as the authoritative figure that most Protestants invoke to exclude the deuterocanonical books from the Church canon. His 'Preface to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs' (c.a 391-393 AD) is being used perennially to reject the deuterocanon:
As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.
By that statement alone, it is true that Jerome seems to reject Judith, Tobit, and the Maccabean literatures. Others extend the charge that Jerome excludes the 'Story of Susanna', 'The Songs of the Three Children', and 'Bel and the Dragon'.

But one just need to read his 2 other works 'Preface to Daniel' and 'Against Rufinus (Book 2)' where he explained what he did or did not meant by what he wrote in the Prefaces.
"But as to the objections which Porphyry raises against [Daniel], or rather brings against the book [of Daniel that includes the Story of Susanna, Songs of the Three Children, and Bel and the Dragon], Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris may be cited as witnesses, for they replied to his folly in many thousand lines of writing, whether with satisfaction to the curious reader I know not." (Preface to Daniel. Emphasis added)
"What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us. I did not reply to their opinion in the Preface, because I was studying brevity, and feared that I should seem to be writing not a Preface but a book." (Against Rufinus, Book 2.33, c.a 401-402 AD. Emphasis added)
It is noteworthy as well to note that Jerome cites passages from the Hebrew Bible side by side with passages from deuterocanonical books, as if there is no differences between both.
"At least that is what Solomon says: 'wisdom is the gray hair unto men’ (Wisdom 4:9). Moses too in choosing the seventy elders is told to take those whom he knows to be elders indeed, and to select them not for their years but for their discretion (Numbers 11:16)? And, as a boy, Daniel judges old men and in the flower of youth condemns the incontinence of age (Story of Susannah 55-59). (Jerome's letter to Paulinus, c.a 395 AD)
I would cite the words of the psalmist: 'the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,’ (Psalm 51:17) and those of Ezekiel 'I prefer the repentance of a sinner rather than his death,’ (Ezekiel 18:23) and those of Baruch, 'Arise, arise, O Jerusalem,’ (Baruch 5:5) and many other proclamations made by the trumpets of the prophets." (Jerome's letter to Oceanus, Epistle, A.D. 399)
Later in his life, in a letter Jerome wrote to Eustochium (404 AD), he quoted Sirach 13.:2 as Scripture to console his reader's loss of her mother:
Does not the scripture say: 'Burden not thyself above thy power'... (Emphasis added)
Here we observe a shift in Jerome's standing and his regards to Scripture. He does not seem to be having any distinction between those passages for "edification" and those for "doctrines of the church". In fact, he uses passages from Hebrew Bible and deuterocanon as if they are of the same standing.

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.3

Fact 1: Rejection of Canonical Books during the 1st – 4th Century

1. Samaritans and Sadducees (2nd century BC – 4th Century AD)
The Samaritans held only their version of the Pentateuch as authoritative while the Sadducees held only the Jewish version of Pentateuch. Both groups do not regard any other books as Scripture (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.136-142).

2. The Essenes & Qumran (2nd – 1st century AD)
The discovery at Qumran reveals the communities living there did not have the identical list of canon with the Hebrew Bible. Deuterocanonical texts such as Tobit, Enoch, and Sirach were found. Yet the book of Esther was not found so far. (Michael Barber, Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament (Part 1). Assessed on 24 May 2008)

3. LXX (Septuagint) (3rd – 1st century BC)
The LXX has been suspected to be less authoritative than the Masoretic Text which was assumed by rabbis in the medieval period to be identical with the Hebrew Bible in the 1st century AD. Yet the discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls challenges this assumption. For instance, the 1 and 2 Samuel from Qumran agree with the LXX rather than the Masoretic Text. (Michael Barber, Loose Canons: The Development of the Old Testament (Part 1). Assessed on 24 May 2008)

4. Josephus (1st – 2nd century AD)
In his Against Apion, Josephus listed a set of books that testify to the history of the Jewish communities. Yet his work cannot be taken as a given account of the sacred scripture of Jewish communities at that time because he was not concern with the list of a set of sacred scripture. He was concern with his own political standing.

Add to that, it is noteworthy that, on one hand, Josephus seems religiously reverent to the Scripture that he thinks "no one has been so bold as either to add any thing to them [Josephus' list of Hebrew Bible], to take any thing from them, or to make any change in them" (Against Apion, Book 1.8), yet on the other occasion, he exercised much flexibility when he paraphrased the book of Esther (Antiquities 11:184-296). This suggests that he does not think the book of Esther as Scripture. L.M.McDonald noted that Josephus forbade Esther from being publicly read (The Biblical Canon, p. 153).

5. Melito (2nd century AD)

Bishop Melito of Sardis in the late 2nd century travelled to Palestine for the very purpose of finding out the list of the Hebrew Bible. In his list of the Hebrew Bible, there are no Esther and Nehemiah, yet it contains the Wisdom of Solomon. Melito’s list implies two points:

a. The Hebrew Canon was not fixed and widely recognized by the Jews in Sardis and neighboring states . If it was, then Melito could just go to the nearest synagogue to asked or asked the nearest Jews.

b. The Christian community, which Melito represents, did not have a fixed list of Hebrew Bible. If not, Melito would not have to make the journey to find out. (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.200-201)

6. Talmud (1st – 5th century AD)
Other sources such as the Talmud and other rabbinic and Jewish tradition have listed some of the current Hebrew canonical books from being read in the public. Such sanction could only mean that these books were not recognized as Scripture and thus cannot be read to the religious communities (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.176-177):

Ecclesiastes – m. Yadayim 3:5; b. Berakhot 48a; b. Shabbat 100a; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:3; 11:9; Leviticus Rabbah 23; Avot of Rabbi Nathan 1

Esther – m. Megillah 4:1; b.Megillah 7a; b. Sanhedrin 100a; t. Megillah 2:1a; Josephus’ Antiquities 11:184-296

Ezekiel – b. Shabbat 13b; b. Hagigah 13a; b. Menabot 45a

Proverbs – b. Shabbat 30b

Ruth – b. Megillah 7a

Song of Songs – m. Yadayim 3:5; m. Eduyyot 5:3; t. Sanhedrin 12:10; t. Yadayim 2:14; b. Shahedrin 101a; b. Megillah 7a

7. Origen (2nd – 3rd century)

He does not think it is appropriate for Christians to read Numbers and Leviticus (L.M.McDonald, The Biblical Canon, p.202).

8. Athanasius of Alexandria (3rd - 4th century)
As stated in his 39th Festal Letter (or 'Paschal Letter'), he does not consider the book of Esther as canonical.

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.2

Question 1: Was there a fixed canon among the Jewish communities in the 1st – 4th century? If there was, was it widely known or recognized?

The complexity of the issue of the Hebrew Bible can be traced through two kinds of evidences. On one hand, we have evidences that point to the rejections of some of the canonical books in the current Hebrew canon among the ancient Jewish communities. On the other hand, there are evidences that contain the affirmations of deuterocanonical books by the early Jewish and Christian communities.

Notice that the evidences on both hands are dated well within the first five centuries AD. This period is in conjunction with the time when the Christian communities were formally establishing their set of distinctive Christian canon. Thus the selection of the books to be included in the Hebrew Bible by the Jewish community was not necessary very early. And the notion of such fluidity of the Hebrew canon has a major implication.

It explains why the early Christian communities able to adopt the deuterocanonical books as their OT without much fuss until Jerome came into the scene in the fourth century. That is the time when a particular Jewish community in a particular area closed the Hebrew Bible. And Jerome appeared at this particular time and place to study the Hebrew Bible. Hence his list of the OT books is identical to this community.

Some Protestants’ Rejection of Deuterocanonical Books (Inter-Testament Apocrypha): Justifiable?, p.1

The current Protestant’s Canon of the Old Testament (OT) has the similar list of books with the Hebrew Bible (otherwise known as Hebrew canon). Due to this point, Protestants contests that their OT canon follows the Hebrew authorities in the ancient time, and thus their rejection of the deuterocanon is entirely justifiable. Hence, in order for us to understand whether are the Protestants justifiable in rejecting the deuterocanonical books, we have to give our focus to the Hebrew authorities on this issue.

I, a Protestant, come to this study without assuming the answer presumptuously. This was an open issue to me before the conclusion is reached. Hence, it is good for me to place down my card prior to your further reading so that you may be aware of my presuppositions and hence able to evaluate and criticize with more precision.

First of all, my concern is more towards the history behind the canonization process of the Hebrew Bible. Hence, it does not concern me if there might be possible uprising of theological differences such as the doctrine of purgatory, or ecclesiastical practices such as prayer to the dead to a Protestant like myself.

It does not concern me not because I am being theologically apathetic but rather because of my firm theological conviction that Jesus Christ is and remains to be the horizon of interpretation for theological construction. That means the interpretation of the OT and the deuterocanonical texts have to be done through understanding the words and works of Jesus.

Secondly, I am drawing heavily from the secondary sources that are at my disposal. I do not have access to most of the primary sources. And as such, my dependence on the available sources is strong if only they are true; Just as the dependence of the 39 Articles on Jerome’s testimony on the 22 books of the Hebrew Bible is strong if only Jerome got his list right.

Thirdly, this study is to satisfy my own curiosity and hence bear no prescription to the reader, especially so if you are a Protestant. Hence if after reading my study and you still find other authorities (such as the Westminster Confession, the 39 Articles, etc) prevailing, please let me know why so. I would be interested to carry this conversation further.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Is So Special About Some Malaysia's Malays?

Recently there have been uneasiness concerning the 'specialty' (contra special rights) of the Malays in Malaysia. And I got curious about this because I seriously am ignorant of how special are Malays in Malaysia.

There have been talks about Malays being the 'special' race, the first-class citizens & etc among non-Malay Malaysians. Hence no part of my head was left unscratched over this question. And you know what? I found the answer a few days ago! It came like an epiphany. So, I'm going to share it with you here. It came through a letter, written in Malay language:

Kau jangan cuba mempersoalkan keistimewaan orang melayu (translation: Don't try to question the special rights of the Malay people - I think a better translation is "specialty" since their "special rights" come following their "special" standing, and not the other way around).

Kau jangan cuba mempersoalkan kuasa raja-raja melayu (Don't try to question the Malay rulers' powers).

Kalau kau tak berhenti!!!! peluru ini akan melekat pada kepala dahi kau (If you don't stop, this bullet will be lodged in your forehead).

Ingat kau Bengali! Jangan lupa!!!! (Remember, Bengali! Don't forget!).

Ini adalah amaran pertama.... (This is your first warning).

Have you figure out what's the "specialty" of the author of the letter and those who sympathize with him/her? (Obviously, I'm not referring all Malays!).

If you still can't get it, here: Their "specialty" is in their tendency to lodge bullets into people's head when they think (more like 'hallucinate') people are questioning their 'standing' (that's of course, if their so-called 'standing' is legitimate in the first place, in a multi-cultural country that propagates its representative identity as 'Truly Asia')!

Dr. Ben Witherington: Aldersgate Convention 2008: Other-World or After-Life?

Yesterday Nalika and myself attended Dr. Ben Witherington’s public lecture entitled ‘Other-World or After-Life?’ It’s an exposition of Biblical texts and theology that pertain to Dispensationalism’s interpretation of these texts.

He gave a lively introduction on the background of St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He untangles the interpretation of the ‘rapture’ proof-text 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 to show that the passage is not about the ‘rapture’ phenomena as propagated by the ‘Left-Behind’ series.

He said that St. Paul so smart that he used an imagery of ‘royal visitation’ as understood by the Thessalonians to bring forth his message about Jesus Christ’s second coming to his immediate readers.

That’s really enlightening but it prompted a question in me. So, during the Q&A session, I submitted my question to him.

I was one of the early ones who submitted my question to the moderator (a Methodist pastor who sat next to Dr. Witherington on the stage). But after a while, when many questions have been addressed without mine being raised, I started to doubt.

I signaled to Nalika that probably the moderator don’t want to read my question to Dr. Witherington. She asked why. I told her that’s because it is a complicated question. She asked further, how. I replied, “Extremely”.

After a few more questions being answered it became more and more obvious that my question was being ignored. Nearing the end of the session, the moderator told us that “it is now 9.27pm, let’s call it a night”. I was bewildered, “Hello Mr. Moderator, I submitted my question early than many others, and why am I being ignored?!” I can’t believe that the moderator ignored my question! You don't invite one outstanding NT scholar just to tell you that rapture is not in the NT!

But Dr. Witherington was gracious. Though he had a long day, having conducted an earlier seminar that day, he offered to respond to all the submitted questions, which were at Mr. Moderator’s undue hands.

As Mr. Moderator (literally) trembling and mispronounced a few words while reading out my question, my ears grew in size anticipating Dr. Witherington’s response.

Dr. Witherington,

Early in the session, you said that St. Paul used a “royal” imagery to put forth his message to the immediate readers. How then can we know that that is not merely St. Paul’s imagination but referring to a “real” future event? In other words, how can we make theological conclusion from an ancient person’s mental make up?

Thank you!
(This is what I wrote. Mr. Moderator only read the entire stem questions, without the addressee and addresser)

Dr. Witherington began, “That’s a wonderful question”. And then he paused for a while. Nalika turned to look at me. At that notice, I sensed two major commotions arose within her during that unusually long pause.

I suspect that, first she was impressed that Dr. Witherington remarked that question was “wonderful” (which could be a sarcastic remark). And that, in effect, boosted her curiosity to the max of wondering how would it be addressed. Sensing her commotions, my mind murmured, “Don’t look at me, I’m just as dead curious as you are”.

After the surreal long pause, Dr. Witherington continued (I forgot his precise words but something to this effect), “We can make theological conclusion from the author’s imagination because God has inspired the author’s mental state.”

I can hear my own breath.

There was absolute silent in the crowd. We expect him to spend some time to talk about it since he remarked it being a “wonderful” question. His one-liner response came surprisingly and unexpectedly short. In fact, the crowd didn’t realize that he had finish responding to the question after a while. How do I know that?

Simple. Because some of the people in the crowd chuckled, thinking that the so-called “wonderful” question is not really that wonderful after all. And their chuckles came only after about 3 seconds after Dr. Witherington finished his sentence. That lag of time is obviously too suggestive to my notice. And I can’t help to deem those chuckles as signs of ignorance. I tried not to think like this, but honestly I really think that those who chuckled do not know the complication and significance of the question.

After the event, I met Yip Khiong at the porch. He asked me whether was I the one who raised that “wonderful” question. I told him, “Yes”. And he remarked that, with that response, the next question would be, “how then should we take that ‘inspiration claim’ to be true?” A theological question that I have been trying to figure out all this while.

Later on, while walking towards the MRT station, Nalika curiously asked whether do I think my question has been answered. While still puzzling over Dr. Witherington’s unexpectedly short response, I told Nalika, “Yes and no”.

Later I sent a SMS to Yip Khiong, “…I was not surprise that you suspected that it was me who asked the question. In fact, I suspected that you’ll suspect that when you hear the question…”

He replied, “I suspected you to suspect me suspecting you are the one who asked…I was unhappy with his answer which is an answer that appears to fail to take your question seriously, failed to address the point…”

Anyway, if chance allows, I might be able to asked Dr. Witherington that next question tomorrow. And if not, I hope that he gives a more extensive address in ‘The Living Word of God’, which I bought at the seminar’s books table sales.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bible Study Environment

Last Sunday, my youth group went out from the church to have our Bible study at SMU because there is no QUIET place in the church that is conducive. We thought it is a quiet place. We were so damn wrong. The buses and cars from all the surrounding roads are pains in our ears.

There were only 8 of us, yet barely can we hear ourselves talking. That's the problem for not having enough space. You can't do Bible study! Having a quiet and conducive place is a must. You may have the best Bible and the best knowledge on the Bible, yet without a good conducive environment, you simply cant do group Bible study.

By the way, I have been thinking of quiting leading a youth group for some time now. Partly because I don't think I'm doing a good job. So, it's better for me to let others who can lead better to take the role.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gospel Of Peter Is Not So Weird Anymore

I used to think that the gospel of Peter is weird. And I kept thinking that until now. Now, I think the gospel is not so weird anymore. Not that it is not weird at all, but just not that weird. Why not so weird anymore?

Read for yourself:

And, as they declared what things they had seen, again they see three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him that was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, Thou hast preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, "Yea".

Weird, right? But why not as weird now? It's all because of a new shipment.

You see, I was unpacking the new arrived stocks in my office this afternoon. A lot of stocks indeed. So I was busy unpacking them, checking the stocks quantity, and tagging prices on them. After a while, I started to hear voices coming out from the box. When I look into the box, I saw...

Either that was a revelation, or am I starting to hallucinate..... Can you see the crosses talking in the pictures above? If you can, then probably the gospel of Peter is not so unbelievable after all.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Genesis 1: Application

The downside of renting a room is that you don't feel like investing in furniture. Thus I don't have a bookshelf which everyone knows I need. Nonetheless, one fine day, being inspired by Genesis 1, I took effort to arrange the chaotic situation in my room, putting stuffs in order.


In the beginning, Joshua created some space. Now the space was formless and empty, dust was all over the surface of the deep, and the vacuum cleaner of Joshua hovering over it.

And Joshua said, "Let there is cleanliness", and there was cleanliness. Joshua saw that the clean space is good and separated the foundational books from the essential books. Joshua called the foundational books "Biblical Studies". There was the first row.

Then Joshua said, "Let there be an expanse between the Biblical Studies to separate from OT studies from NT studies." So Joshua made the expanse and separated the OT to the left and the NT to the right. And Joshua saw that it was good.

Then Joshua said, "Let the theological textbooks be right to the NT and let the philosophical texts be together with it." And so it was. Joshua called the two rows "Cultural studies". And Joshua saw that it was good.

And Joshua said, "Let the Bibles be separated from the rest, not together with any of the row." So Joshua picked out the Bibles and placed them to a special section in front of the OT section. Each Bible was well placed according to their kind. And Joshua saw that it was good. Joshua blessed himself and said, "May I be fruitful whenever I read these sacred text."

Finally after putting everything in order, Joshua said, "Let me make something according to my liking." So Joshua made himself a cup of coffee. And Joshua saw that all that he had done, and it was very good.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Emergent Jewish

The buzz word of the day is 'Emergent', thus after we have Emergent Christian, we have now Emergent Jewish...

Not long after this, we would hear Emergent Buddhist, Emergent Muslim, Emergent Hindu, Emergent bla bla... Not sure why the word keep buzzing. It could be the popularization of the 'emergence' theory in the West. Basically this theory "refers to the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions."

Jesus As Man And We Are Whatever Else

" the words of Karl Barth...,"Jesus is man as God willed and created him....The nature of the man Jesus is the key to the problem of the human. This man is man." Historical Christologies sometimes ask, "Was Jesus truly human?" Barth and [Epistle to the] Hebrews reverse the question: given that Jesus was the paradigm of true humanness, are we, the readers, truly human?

(A. Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrines, p.392)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

St. Paul and Christian-Non-Christian Marriage

Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?
(1 Cor 9.5, TNIV, emphasis added)

It is obvious St. Paul take the extra effort to put the adjective 'believing' here. He could just say 'wife'.

So now 2 following important questions. (1) Did he put in the adjective 'believing' due to his theology, pastoral concern, or preference? Or all three?

St. Paul's allusion to the examples of the "other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas" does help. This gives us 2 points:

1) St. Paul was refering to the Jews' practice of marriage (married only those of the same religion and ethnicity), and

2) St. Paul extending this Jews' practice as an example for his rights to get a 'believing' wife because he himself is a Jew.

So now, the (2) question: Did St. Paul added 'believing' because he just want to emphasize his Jews' practice, or his emphasis is to serves as an example for Christians' marriage?

Though not sure whether will he allow Christian-non-Christian marriage, but from other passages, we know that St. Paul does not ask Christians to divorce their non-believing spouse (1 Cor 7.12-16). And he seems to be quite relax in his dealing with Gentile-Jew relation (for eg. circumcised or not is ok).

So is he OK with Christians marrying non-Christian? If not OK, why not? Due to his theology, pastoral concern, or preference?

Oh... and by the way, why modern Christians keep using pagan symbol such as those in the picture above so prevalently as if it is NOT a marriage without it?.....mmm....if Christian culture can marry non-Christian culture, how about Christian with non-Christian?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cente for the Study of Christianity in Asia Blog

This is 'The Cente for the Study of Christianity in Asia' blog! It's a 'mission arm' of Trinity Theological College, Singapore.

Though the motto of CSCA get my jaw dropped, "We create a forum where Christians in Southeast Asia can collaborate in affirming their distinct Christian ethos and in articulating their faith positions", the blog is not really an exciting, engaging, or enlightening one. Quite dull...

Do 'theology' and 'mission' always need to be 'dull'? I don't think so!

But anyway, it contains links to interesting documents.

Christian Institutions & Love & Grace & Divorce

Secular education institutions don't care about whether you are divorced or not. They don't want to know as long as you perform well as a teacher. They don't care because your private life has nothing much to do with your professional life.

Christian education institutions care about whether are you a divorce or not. They care because that will affect their standing as a 'Christian' college. They care because your private life has much to do with your professional life.

But is that really 'Christian'? But I thought the early Christians were recognized for their open arms, love, grace, and courage to live and die for their belief without causing harm to others rather than 'professionalism'.

A few months ago, Westminster Theological Seminary suspends Peter Enns for his publication on certain issues. Now Kent Gramm willingly resigned from his post at Wheaton College because he got a divorce without wanting to discuss the matter to the college's governing board. The college allows their teachers to be divorced as long as the matter is made clear with the board. But Gramm, "think it's wrong to have to accuse your spouse and to discuss with your employer your personal life and marital situation".

The college enforces such policy for morality's sake. Gramm's reluctance is also for morality's sake. So both are also for morality's sake. And I think that's fundamentally a shared value: upholding moral conviction.

Gramm is not being immoral, neither is the college. If that's the case, could there be a similar focus on this fundamental value rather than different perception on the same thing?

Christian education institutions should be more flexible on their teachers not because they cultivate a dichotomy between private and profession, but because of grace and love.

But if a man does know he's about to die and dies anyway. Dies- dies willingly, knowing that he could stop it, then- I mean, isn't that the type of man who you want to keep alive? ~ Kay Eiffel, Stranger Than Fiction (movie).

Christianity Today's blog on this here.

Revisiting Deuterocanonical Books

The issue about Christian canon pops up to me again. The last time was more than a year ago. Many friends have been willing to help to provide direction and pointers of how the issue can be investigated. Thanks and appreciation to Stephen Rapkin (Protestant), Teresa Tham (Roman Catholic), Soo Inn (Protestant), David Burke (Protestant), Kar Yong (Protestant), and Yip Khiong (Protestant).

I'm re-visiting the issue to see any new light can be shed on it.

Till now, I'm on the stand that the deuterocanonical/apocrypha books remain open to be adopted by Protestants as authoritative. But I do not enforce or restrict that to be the case for all Protestant or all non-Protestant.

It didn't matter at that time because when I reflect upon myself, I failed to live up to the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, thus whether there are additional books or not is not much of a concern. I was more concern with my life whetjer am I living rightly; whether am I conforming to the authoritative works (whether 66 or more books).

But this issue cannot be left open when it comes to doctrines, as I realized. Previously I hold that whether it is 66 or more than 66 is up to respective tradition to adopt. And it's up to their own use of their own canon for their own theologies.

But now, it is impractical to hold on to such theological relativism if one is to be coherent theology and doctrines. So, I will dig into this. I will refer the disputed books as 'deuterocanon' primarily in order to distinguish them from other 'apocrypha' (Acts of Thomas, Acts of Peter etc).

Some directions:

1) Find out the criteria for canonization of Luther and Calvin. Since they appealed to Jerome, I will look into Jerome's works. So far, found out that though Jerome's list of canon is almost identical with Protestant's list.

2) Criteria for canonization for Jerome. His disagreement with Augustine. His submission to Pope Damascus.

3) Rabbinic texts on Hebrew canon. So far, there are evidents that these Rabbis use the apocrypha as authoritative up till the 4th century.

4) The council of Carthage (c.397) which listed the apocrypha as canon. Since our NT listing and orthodoxy depends alot on these councils.

5) Gelasian Decree (5th / 6th century) which listed the apocrypha as canon.

6) Early theologians such as Origen, Athanasius, Tertulian and etc's perception of the deuterocanonical books. Since our NT listing depends on their list of NT canon, so it is important to check with them.

I think if to study this issue from the Christian's point of view, I have to assume two fundamental assertions. First is that Christian faith cannot be separated from church history and tradition. Thus, I will study this from the tradition of the early church. That will help to avoid to look into the arguments by ancient non-Christian Jews on the Hebrew canon.

My second assumption is that doctrines should be developed on historical basis rather than theological. I use both term strictly. For eg. when I say 'theological', that means I cannot determine which books should or should not be included in the canon for theological reason such as they contradict Protestants' heritage. My aim is to find out what was the most prevalent perception the early churches had on the deuterocanonical books.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Isaiah and Complaints

Joyce Meyer said and I paraphrase,

"You don't ask for a bigger house, and then complain that you need to clean it... When you are single, you wanna have someone to eat with. When you are single, you want someone to hug you to sleep. But when you are married, you said, "Leave me alone!"... Compare that to Isaiah 53.7 - He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."

Ok... I know you are not pondering on my paraphrase of Joyce Meyer above. You are wondering (perhaps with shock) what has Joshua Woo to do with Joyce Meyer, besides we share the same first 2 alphabets 'JO' in our name?... Yes, I confess that I listen to Joyce Meyer... and in fact, I listen to her weekly.

Stop thinking of stoning me, Calvinists! Ya, you might charge me that I'm being unfair for being so critical on Stephen Tong but not on Joyce Meyer. Well, simple reason: at least Joyce Meyer does not misuse others' name or work to build her arguments.

And by the way, Joyce is a Calvinist!!! She said, "We, humans, cannot change people. Only God changes people." How can one be more Calvinist than that?

And you, Arminians, drop the stones!

13 May - Weird Day

Today is a weird day. Why? Because nothing special about today as in when it started a few hours ago, yet it commemorates in a weird way of a day back in 1982. Today's date "13 May" is just a normal day. But because it resonates strangely with an event happened 26 years ago, odd creatures like us celebrate today.

Precisely 26 years ago, Steven Sim was born!!! Happy Birthday!!!

(If you can't recognize, Steven Sim is the one on the left)

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Westminster Confessions?

I'm a Presbyterian because I'm attending a very traditional Presbyterian church and had myself registered to its membership. Yet I can't see myself adhere to the comprehensive Westminster Confessions which is the so-called faith statement of Presbyterianism. Why? Because the Confessions is not important and sometimes seem irrelevant to me.

Even the Church of Scotland does not adhere strictly to it:

1. This Church no longer affirms the following contents of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Chap. 22, Section 7

‘Popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty and regular obedience are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares in which no Christian may entangle himself.’

Chap. 24, Section 3

‘… such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with Infidels, Papists or other idolators.’

Chap. 25, Section 6

‘He (the Pope of Rome) is Antichrist, that Man of Sin and Son of Perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.’

Chap. 29, Section 2

‘… so that the Popish Sacrifice of the Mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only Sacrifice, the alone Propitiation for all the sins of the Elect.’

Thus, the point is: it is possible to be a Presbyterian without adhering to Presbyterianism. Paradoxical or oxymoronic? mmmm.... It's not. Why? Because I identify myself a Presbyterian not by adhering to Presbyterianism, but just by simply attending a Presbyterian church. Just as a student attend a particular university, he/she is identified with the community, yet he/she does not necessarily need to adhere to the university's beliefs.

Then would that be just a 'superficial' identity? Nope. It's not. Just as the student is substantially known as a student of the university merely by attendance.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Purgatory Not In Scripture?

Updated (13 May 08): David Burke pointed out to me a logical flaw in the last fifth paragraph. To reject apocrypha is not saying that Roman Catholics are not Christians. "Rather, it is held that they are mistaken at this point" (Burke's words). Thus, I have changed the sentence from "we are ruling out Roman Catholics as Christians unnecessarily on one hand" to "we are ruling out Roman Catholics' doctrines as non-Christians unjustifiably on one hand"; the word 'identity' to 'doctrine'.


On page 12 of the recent Methodist Message, at the "Now, That's A Good Question!" section, Roland Chia has contributed an article to examines the Roman Catholic's doctrine of the purgatory entitled "Doctrine of Purgatory 'not based' on Scripture". The objective of the article is to answer whether "Is there scriptural basis for the doctrine of purgatory?"

That is a VERY ambitious attempt. It is especially so when a writer wants to clean a can of worms with only a-page-length long article. So, I excitingly read it to find out whether can Roland accomplish such massive task. If so, how did he do it.

Roland began by giving a brief introduction to the historical development of this doctrine. He traces its formal formulation to the Councils of Florence (c. 1438 - 1445) and Trent (c.1545 - 1563), though recognizing that the idea of purgatory can be traced back to Augustine, Origen, and all the way back to the 3rd century.

The historical development of the doctrine can be more traditionally recognized by Christians, if he includes an earlier council in his list. Roland probably missed out the mention of an earlier formalization of the doctrine by the western church. It was the second council of Lyons held in 1274, where the belief in purgatory was being formally defined (see 'Purgatory', in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed.).

Then Roland pointed out 2 Maccabees 12.44-45 as a passage that Roman Catholics regularly used as a scriptural ground to support the doctrine. He then further pointed out that "Protestants, however, regard 2 Maccabees as apocryphal and thus not part of the canon of Scriptures. The text in question therefore cannot be the authoritative basis for Christian doctrine."

Here, Roland is right on 2 things and mistaken on 1 thing. In fact, it seems to me that the 1 mistake actually invalidates the objective of his entire article.

Roland is right that Roman Catholics put a lot of weight on the passage in 2 Maccabees to justify their doctrine of purgatory as scriptural. He is also right to say that Protestants do not regard 2 Maccabees as Scripture, hence do not recognize that the belief in purgatory as scriptural.

The mistake is this. If Protestants do not recognize 2 Maccabees as Scripture, at best we can only conclude that the doctrine of purgatory is not in the Protestants' Scripture.

If we concludes that "The text... cannot be the authoritative basis for Christian doctrine" just because we do not share the same Scripture, we are ruling out Roman Catholics' doctrines as non-Christians unjustifiably on one hand; and we are arbitrarily elevating the Protestant's Scripture over against the Roman Catholic's on the other. But in the first 1400 years or so, before the Reformation, the entire body of Christ, stretches from the East to the West, shared, though with some different arrangement but still, the same Scripture!

After unduly dismissing the Roman Catholic's set of canon and their doctrines as 'Christians', Roland proceeded to argue that the formulation of "purgatory as a doctrine was woven into the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church to justify an existing practice" is not the practice of Protestants. In the sense of doctrine formulation, that is to say the Roman Catholics formulated a doctrine in order to validate an existing practice of the church. And Protestants do not share this similar formulation process.

Are Protestants really differ in doctrine formulation from the Roman Catholics?
I doubt so. Is not the doctrine of Trinity formulated to justify the already existing practice of the early church's devotion to one god and also to Jesus Christ?

Perhaps, Protestants might protest against this point by arguing that Trinity is different because the doctrine has scriptural basis. But that just beg back to the question whether is there any scriptural basis for purgatory. And the answer is 'Yes, the doctrine has scriptural basis in the Roman Catholic's Scripture'.

Thus, I think the more fundamental issue here is "which Scripture?". Unless that settled, we cannot provide a collective answer to the question of purgatory. But I highly doubt this fundamental question can be answered (cf. L.M.McDonald's 'The Biblical Canon'). Hence, instead of concentrating to disagree with the Roman Catholics' doctrines, our learning should encompasses 2 other things: First, how to accommodate and live with doctrinal differences within the body of Christ. But that is of course, I assumed that we still recognize Roman Catholics as 'Christians'. And second, what are the good questions to ask.

Channel of Divine Knowledge

Last Friday, I passed by a 2nd-hand bookstore at Bras Basah Complex and saw this peculiar book lying at the 'Christianity' section. Then I took a closer look..............

WOW!!! Don't let Karl Barth hear this.... he will jump out from his grave!!! And I don't want to worship another resurrected being.

Question: Does that mean I should now adjourn to St. James Powerhouse and start 'vibrating'?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

8 May 2008

If this date worth commemorating in the future, it's all because of this SMS exchange:

JS: concern is can help 1 house, there is 100 houses with different problems there. I'm thinking microcredit.

JW: Shit... what the heck... I just bought Muhammad Yunus' second book... God telling you something, man.

JS: Shit, what the heck... I was thinking of buying Yunus' book when I SMS you! By the way I'm at Tua Pek Kong dinner. When you come back, we discuss.

Friday, May 09, 2008

7th Building Bridges Seminar

The 7th Building Bridges Seminar was held on 6th - 8th May 2008 at Rome. When I read something like that, I shiver with excitement and awe. Why? Because such seminar brings the message "different people can in fact be civilized and talk to one another peacefully" back to us. Such events help us to realized this. It's a glimpse of HOPE.

ok... time to complain... The 6th Building Bridges was supposed to be held in Malaysia last year. But the *unpopular prime minister Abdullah Badawi clumsily canceled the event. And he did that last minute! For your info, the seminar took one year to prepare!

If Malaysia is the litmus test for harmonious and civilized dialog between these two great faiths, then we have failed it. And we failed it because Abdullah failed it!

Though he doesn't know how to spell 'HOPE', he is still not hopeless. In Malaysia, we do have primary schools that teach that.

*unpopular because many citizens don't trust him, his predecessor despises him, and his own party members want to grill him.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Evangelical is Here!

It's here, it's here! It's a 20 pages document. So, again, I can only carefully read it during the weekend. Justin Taylor has provided a summary of it. He listed 7 emphasis of Evangelical belief. And the one that strikes me most is this:

"The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice."

Ohh... you mean, "final guide only to our faith and practice"? How about 'history and science'? Hence, I wonder what has happened to Article 7 of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which is deem as the Evangelical's measuring tape for orthodoxy, and which some Evangelicals used to remove other membership from the society:

The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice.

We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

If there is an 'only' in the manifesto, then does that mean more Evangelicals are waking up to face the world which already in existence when prophet Robert Gundry published his commentary on Matthew? Yes. Good.

Good morning.

If there is no implicated 'only' in it, then that implies that the Bible is also a final guide to other subjects, like history and science, besides our faith and practices. If that is the case, then that's too bad. The cock has not crow for the third time yet.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

2 Thoughts On Food Crisis

Two thoughts on global food crisis:

First, avoid unwise solution:
Global food shortages is not merely a crisis of one nation, but crisis of humankind. And humans should not be deprived of such basic necessity. Any government that prioritizes only its own citizens during a global crisis shows not only how immature they are, but also how inhumane and hypocritical they can be.

If governments are NOT practicing according to Jesus' creed, "love your neighbors as yourselves", then they shall have no rights to advocate, and should not expect their own citizens to cultivate such practice within their own communities. Thus, helping neighboring countries during this crisis cannot stop. The government has to be a moral example too. And as soon as they realize this, this time of crisis can well be a time of opportunity.

Second, on possible solution:
In a regional crisis of food, the region should diversify and enlarge the choices of staple food instead of sticking to only one: rice/wheat. Governments should encourage and educate their own nations to consume other types of food. Therefore governments should source for other edible resources to their nation, and not limiting their effort to source only for one or two types of staple food. In fact limiting sourcing choices is a main reason that causes food panic. These are the leasts that any government can do. Banning neighboring citizens from buying food is probably not the most feasible and exemplary way.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

Read from Douglas Groothuis that there is a statement titled 'An Evangelical Manifesto' signed by 80 Evangelical leaders (most from North America, I guess) to be released to the public soon. It's a statement concerning the exploitation of Christian faith in politics. CNN reports,
The statement, called "An Evangelical Manifesto," condemns Christians on the right and left for using faith to express political views without regard to the truth of the Bible
Read the whole thing here.

This brings me to think about Malaysia's churches' relation with politics. Seriously, I think that the General Secretary of National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) Malaysia, Wong Kim Kong, should get a copy of this manifesto. Then he should read and re-read and re-read and re-read it before he goes around churches to speak on Christians political involvement. A subject that he is NOT equipped or prepared or qualified to speak on.

Fetish Nalika?

It had me guessing what kind of fetish does Nalika have? Recent observation got me thinking.......

First she took a picture of this gigantic...............

Then she seemed to be so engrossed looking at it................

(If you noticed, the kid in the picture is at awe, looking at the humongous.........well, replica of Michelangelo's David- the picture below).

mmmm........... I guess antique statues are her interest, no?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Relation Between Two Peculiar Traits?

Two peculiar traits that I experienced during last weekend. One is of procrastination, while the other is of excessiveness. Both are opposite to each other.

Trait 1, on the procrastinate trait. I didn’t wear any underwear since Friday till Sunday. All my undies were at the drying area and I was lazy to collect them back even though they are already dried for some while.Trait 2, on excessiveness trait. I was filled with inspiration to blog. Hence I broke my own record for numerous blog-posting over a weekend. I posted 14 blogs in two days!

2 posts on Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong.

9 posts to complete the discussion on "The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?"

3 posts on Westminster Theological Seminary’s Historical & Theological Field Committee’s theological approach:

So it makes me wonder whether is there a ‘cause & effect’ relation between not wearing undies and blogging inspiration? I was inspired to blog because I didn’t wear underwear, or I didn’t wear underwear because I was inspired to blog?

Anyone has similar experience?

If the former is true, then I guess Steven Sim, Dominic Foo, and Kenneth wear underwear most of the time, since they seldom blogs nowadays.

If the latter is true, then I guess Kar Yong, Jim West, and Xiaxue don’t wear underwear most of the time, since they blog so frequently.

Perhaps both are false. And wearing undies and blogging inspiration has no whatsoever relation at all.

OK…time to pretend to be learned. The above scenario is a metaphysical problem on ‘causation’. “Causation is the relation between two events that holds when, given that one occurs, it produces, or brings forth, or determines, or necessitates the second…” (‘Causation’, in Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd Ed)

The above scenario is asking ‘how’ event A relates to B if they relates at all, which is a much more complex issue from the ‘does’ question. But even on the ‘does’ question, Immanuel Kant and David Hume differ with each other.

To Kant, event A ‘does’ relates to B.

Hume doesn’t think that such relationship exists because, to him, there is no continuity in our perception. He wrote, “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other… I never catch myself without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception” (Quoted by Thiselton in The Hermeneutics of Doctrine, p.246). In other words, without continuity, there is no relation.

Of course Hume is dead wrong la. And of course it is not I who say so. It’s Thiselton who pointed that out. I’m not quoting Thiselton here because his discussion is complex. He drew his points from many people (see The Hermeneutics of Doctrine, p.246). So I’ll just use an illustration to make the same point.

We experience ‘continuity’ in our daily activities on one hand, and we assume it as our ground to make our daily activities possible on another. For eg. We try to understand the narrative of a movie when we watch it. We perceive the narrative by assuming ‘continuity’ underlies each different scene. Without such assumption, the experience of following the narrative is impossible. Thus, there must be continuity in our perception. So the ‘does’ question is settled. The ‘how’ question is open for further discussion in the future.

Ok… 9am soon… time to start work…

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.11

11) Bibliography

Ben-Aman, & Greenberg, R., Archaeology of the Ancient Israel (Yale University Press, 1994).

Bartlett, John R., Archaeology & Biblical Interpretation (Routledge, 1997).

Barton, John, The Biblical World, vol. 1 (Routledge, 2004).

Bright, John, A History of Israel (Westminster John Knox Press; 4 edition, 2000).

Bruins, J. Hendrik and Plicht, Johannes van der, ‘Radiocarbon Challenges
Archaeo-Historical Time Frameworks in the Near Eastern: The Early Bronze Age of Jericho in relation to Egypt

Bruins, J. Hendrik and Plicht, Johannes van der, “Tell Es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon Results of Short- Lived Cereal and Multiyear Charcoal Samples From the End of the Middle Bronze Age”, Radiocarbon 37, No. 2 (1995).

Collins, John J., The Bible After Babel (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005).

Dever, William G., Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003).

Dever, William G., ‘Archaeology and the Emergence of Early Israel’, in Archaeology & Biblical Interpretation, ed., John R. Bartlett (Routledge, 1997).

Finkelstein, Israel, The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (Brill Academic Publisher, 1988).

Finkelstein, Israel, ‘The Great Transformation: The ‘Conquest’ of the Highlands Frontiers and the Rise of the Territorial States’ in The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, ed., Thomas E. Levy (Continuum, 1998).

Finkelstein, Israel & Silverman, Neil Asher, The Bible Unearthed (Free Press, 2001).

Geisler, Norman L., Baker Encyclopaedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Academic, 1998).

Gottwald, Norman K., The Tribes of Yahweh (Orbis, 1979).

Kitchen, Kenneth, On The Reliability of the Old Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003).

Lemche, Niels Peter, The Israelites in History and Tradition (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998).

Levy, Thomas E. (ed), The Archaeology of the Society in the Holy Land (Leicester University Press, 1998).

Malamat, Abraham, The History of Biblical Israel (Brill Academic Publishers, 2004).

Miller, J. Maxwell & Hayes, John H., A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Westminster John Knox Press; 2nd edition, 2006).

Miller, J. Maxwell, ‘Palestine during the Bronze Age’, in The Biblical World, vol. 1, ed., Barton, John (Taylor & Francis, 2002).

Provan, I., Long, V. P., & Longman III, T., A Biblical History of Israel (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003).

Satterthwaite, Philip & McConville, Gordon, Exploring The Old Testament (InterVarsity Press, 2007).

Stager, Lawrence E., ‘The Impact of the Sea Peoples in Canaan (1185 – 1050 BC)’, in The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, ed., Thomas E. Levy (Continuum, 1998).

Whitelam, Keith W., ‘Palestine during the Iron Age’, in The Biblical World, vol. 1, ed., Barton, John (Francis & Taylor, 2002).

Wood, Bryant, The Sociology of Pottery in Ancient Palestine (Sheffield Academic Press, 1991). Discussion of Bryant Wood’s theses:,

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.10

10) Conclusion: The Conquest and The Reliability of the Bible for Our Life

With extensive excavations at the sites recorded in the Bible, archaeologists had come to deem the data of a massive military conquest to be unverifiable. No matter one dates the Conquest event to 15th or 13th century BC (despite some who date it to the 2nd millennium BC), the Conquest narrative does not fit into the sociological environment in Canaan at that time. Though that is the case, this incongruity does not stop scholars from continuously studying the Conquest data to explore other possible factors that are responsible for the Conquest account to be included in the book of Joshua "to this very day".

Given such conclusion, one might ask whether does that mean the Bible is useless and unreliable in all matters? No. It only means the ‘Conquest’ did not take place. Many parts of the Bible are, first and foremost, not historical textbooks. No doubt there are sections within the Bible that are historical, in the sense of bearing witness to events happened in the past, yet this study shows that there are also portions that are not historical to which we need to acknowledge. The bottom line is that the Bible is an ancient religious document belonging to faithful communities spanning a few thousand years. The documents in the Bible were authored, gathered, and canonized to describe and to convey religious messages to these communities.

Finally it is good to bear in our mind that archaeological conclusion is always provisional. New discoveries will always overthrow, change, or strengthen our understanding. Again, this study is not to devalue the Bible or its function within the communities of faith. It is my hope that the communities will come to a deeper understanding of the nature of the sacred Scripture.

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.9

9) Less ‘Dramatic’ Evidences and Further Interpretation

Gottwald remarks that although these indications open up the possibility of an early Israelite settlement, “the people who made these settlements are not, however, identified inscriptionally or by any distinctive artistic or cultic objects.” (p.195-196)

Some might object that, “No other people are known to have been on the move in Palestine at this time, so by a process of elimination it appears that the ruined Canaanite cities and the new settlements were alike the work of the invading Israelites” But Gottwald maintains that “When the whole body of biblical and extrabiblical data is examined, far-reaching objections to the conquest model arise.” (p.196)
“If Jericho stood at all in the late thirteenth century, it was apparently no more than a small unwalled settlement, or at most a fort. Ai (et-Tell) was not occupied at the time and had not been occupied for centuries. No feasible alternative site for the biblical Ai has been located in a survey of the area around et-Tell. May be the actual conquest of Bethel has been confused with Ai; but if that is the case, we then have two different versions of how Bethel was taken, and they do not agree in details (Josh 8.1-29, Judges 1.22-26). No Late Bronze remains (other than some tomb pottery from the fourteenth and possibly early thirteenth centuries) have been found at Gibeon, raising questions about Joshua’s purported treaty with the Gibeonites (Josh 9). Also, while the evidence from Hazor is still in the hands of a King Jabin. An outright harmonization of Joshua 11 and Judges 4 requires that Deborah and Barak predate Joshua or that Canaanites have returned in force to Hazor between the battles of Joshua 11 and Judges 4.” (p.199)

“As a self-sufficient explanation of the Israelite occupation of the land, the conquest model is a failure. On the literary-historical side, the biblical traditions are too fragmentary and contradictory to bear the interpretation put upon them by the centralized cult and by the editorial framework of Joshua. On the archaeological side, the data are too fragmentary and ambiguous, even contradictory, to permit the extravagant conquest claims made by some archaeologists and historians using archaeological data.” (p.202)

In regards to bichrome pottery, Lawrence E. Stager has documented that such pottery technique “had been known in Canaan since the Late Bronze Age I (1500-1400 BCE). A variant of the bichrome tradition developed in Phoenicia and in Palestine (eg. at Ashkelon) in Late Bronze Age II (1400-1200 BCE), where it was later absorbed into the Philistine repertoire.” (Levy, 1998:335-340). Hence bichrome is not a distinctive Israelite pottery since it was developed gradually and widely utilized in Palestine at that time.

Finkelstein and Silberman noticed such changes in the material culture, yet these evidents do not allow to be construed as distinctively Israelites, “In the thirteenth century BCE, Ashdod in particular was a prosperous Canaanite centre under Egyptian influence. Both Ashdod and Ekron survived at least until the days of Ramesses III and at least one of them, Ashdod, was then destroyed by fire. The Philistine immigrants founded cities on the ruins, and by the twelfth century BCE, Ashdod and Ekron had become prosperous cities, with a new material culture. The older mix of Egyptian and Canaanite features in architecture and ceramics was replaced by something utterly new in this part of the Mediterranean: Aegean-inspired architecture and pottery styles.” (2001:89)

Add to that, recent studies done on ancient Israelites ethnicity by Elizabeth Bloch-Smith has show that the attempt to identify Israel’s ethnicity based on the presence or absence of specific features such as pillared house, storage jars, and pork diet is faulty. (Elizabeth Block-Smith, ‘Israelites Ethnicity in Iron I: Archaeology Preserves What Is Remembered and What Is Forgotten in Israel’s History”, JBL 122 [2003], as referred by John J. Collins, 2005).

In similar vein, Niels Peter Lemche devotes a chapter in surveying the identity of ‘Israel’ as known by her contemporary neighbours through excavated inscriptions. He concludes, “It is true that the written documentation from the ancient Near East has nothing to contribute to the question of the existence of a specific Israelite ethnos that could identified and separated on the basis of ethnic distinctions from its neighbors.” (1998:63)

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.8

8) Less ‘Dramatic’ Evidences for The Conquest

Besides these remarkable archaeological findings on the sites of those conquered cities listed in Joshua 1-11, Norman K. Gottwald discusses some of the ‘less dramatic’ archaeological evidences for the historicity of the biblical account of the Israelite occupation in Palestine during the late Bronze Age by alluding to the settlements occurred in Canaan between twelfth and eleventh centuries BCE.

  • 1st indication) Distribution of occupation at Hazor, Succoth, Bethel, Debir, Gezer, and Ashdod following the thirteenth century destructions (with the assumption that these new occupants were the ‘destroyers of the Late Bronze cities on whose ruins they settled, it is easy to see them as the technically impoverished, ‘semi-nomadic’ Israelites’).
  • 2nd indication) Discoveries of collared-rim ‘Pithoi’ (large storage jars which are believed to be distinctively Israelites).
  • 3rd indication) Discoveries of bichrome ware (which was seen to be associated with Phoenician-North Israelite cultural autonomy by some. As suggested by R. Amiran ‘Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land’)
  • 4th indication) The appearance of new settlements at Dor (Khirbet el-Burj), Gibeah (Tell el Ful), Beersheba (Tell es-Saba), Tell Etun, and Tell Radanna (possibly biblical Beeroth or Ataroth) in the twelfth century.
  • 5th indication) Reoccupation of Shiloh (Khirbet Seilun), Ai (et- Tell), Mitzpah (Tell en-Nasbeth), Beth-zur (Kirbet et-Tubeiqah), and Tell Masos (possibly biblical Hormah) in the twelfth and eleventh centuries.

(See also other ‘less dramatic’ evidences listed in Dever’s ‘Archaeology and the Emergence of Israel’. Most of these evidences can be distinguished into material culture (grain silos, pottery, ‘four-room’ houses etc) and population distribution around the period of late 13th – 12th centuries BCE)

The Conquest of Canaan: Did It Happen?, P.7.d

7.d) Other Archaeological Remarks on the Conquest

Although argument for the evident of the Conquest of Jericho and Ai is untenable according to current provisional findings, Abraham Malamat is one who recently suggests that there are indeed some correspondence between the biblical data and the archaeological data, “The biblical thesis…finds weighty support in the archaeological evidence, demonstrating that several Canaanite cities (such as Lachish in the south, Bethel in the central sector, and Hazor in the north), which according to the Bible were conquered by the Israelites, were indeed destroyed in the 13th century BCE, or, more precisely in the second half of that century. (2004:71). Conversely such arguments have been considered and found wanting (except probably Bethel, which was destroyed in late 13th century. See Finkelstein, 1988:72-73). Herewith, I am listing remarks made by archaeologists among others in discussion with such hypothesis:

7.d.1) J. Maxwell Miller & John H. Hayes, ‘A History of Ancient Israel and Judah’ (2nd ed):
“The Late Bronze Age city destructions in Palestine were part of a general pattern that pertained throughout the ancient world, and it is not clear from the artifactual record that these cities were destroyed simultaneously or as the result of a common enemy. Indeed, it cannot be established archaeologically in most cases that they were destroyed by military action.” (p.55)

“The sites where artifactual remains indicate city destructions at the end of the Late Bronze Age, with a few exceptions (Lachish, Hazor), are not the ones that the biblical account associates with the conquest under Joshua.” (p.55)

“Most of the sites that are identified with cities that the biblical account does associate with the conquest, on the other hand, have produced little or no archaeological indication even of having been occupied during the Late Bronze Age, much less of having been destroyed at the end of the period. Prominent among such “conquest cities” are Arad (present-day Tel Arad), Hesbon (Tell Hisban), Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), Ai (et-Tell), and Gibeon (el-Jib).” (p.55)

Miller & Hayes also present a diagram of excavated sites according to the places found in Joshua 1-10. The diagram indicates that Arad, Debir, Hebron, Gibeon, Ai, Jericho, and Heshbon ‘produced minimal evidence of occupation from the fifteenth through the thirteenth centuries BCE, or none at all.’ (p.56)

7.d.2) William G. Dever, ‘Who Were The Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?’:
"We have already noted the absence not only of destruction levels at Dibon and Heshbon in Transjordan, but also any possible occupational context for such.” (p.44)

“The problem, however, is that Gibeon was apparently not occupied in either the late 13th or the early 12th century BC… James Pritchard…found Iron Ages remains, but nothing earlier than the 8th century BC…And Pritchard found 56 broken jar handles inscribed “Gibeon” in Hebrew in a deep water system of the 8th–7th century BC. The fact that this water system is probably the same one that is mentioned in 2 Samuel 2.13 suggests that the book of Joshua belongs to the 8th-7th century BC, when Gibeon known to the biblical writers really did exist.” (p.48-49)

“…large-scale excavations carried out by Israeli archaeologists in 1973-87 have proven that the destruction in question [Lachish] took place perhaps as late as 1170 BC, as shown by an inscribed bronze bearing the cartouche of Ramses III (ca. 1198-1166 BC). That is some fifty years too late for our commander-in-chief Joshua- unless he was leading troops into battle well into his eighties.” (p.50)

“There is little that we can salvage from Joshua’s stories of the rapid, wholesale destruction of Canaanite cities and the annihilation of the local population. It simply did not happen; the archaeological evidence is indisputable.” (p.227-228)

Dever provides a table listing 31 excavated sites and their findings that are unfamiliar with the data recorded in the book of Joshua. (p.56-57). Another similar summary can be found in his concise but substantial essay titled ‘Archaeology and the Emergence of Israel’ in ‘Archaeology & Biblical Interpretation’ edited by John R. Barlett.

7.d.3) John J. Collins, ‘The Bible After Babel’:
“The archaeological evidence for the land west of the Jordan in the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages can be construed so as to support more than one historical reconstruction. But it cannot, on the basis of the evidence now available, be made to support the account of conquest presented in the book of Joshua.” (p.38)

“The point is not whether [one’s] interpretation of the archaeology is objective fact. It surely is not. The point is, rather whether the findings of archaeology, as they exist in their present provisional state, can be reconciled with the biblical master narrative. And…[honestly] they can not.” (p.42)

“There is then a remarkable consensus, to which all but conservative apologists such as Kitchen and Provan would subscribe, that the foundation stories of the exodus and the conquest are best understood as myths. There is considerable disagreement as to when these myths became current and when they attained their present form, but they cannot be taken as history in any positivistic sense.” (p.46)
7.d.4) Israel Finkelstein, ‘The Great Transformation: The ‘Conquest’ of the Highlands Frontiers and the Rise of the Territorial States’ in The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land, ed., Thomas E. Levy:
“Archaeologically, suffice it to say that some of the most important sites mentioned in the biblical narrative of the conquest of Canaan were not inhabited at all the Late Bronze Age, and the recent finds have clearly demonstrated that the destruction of the Late Bronze culture was a long and gradual process, taking over a century, rather than a catastrophic event.” (p.363)

7.d.5) Keith W. Whitelam, ‘Palestine during the Iron Age’ in The Biblical World, volume 1, ed., John Barton:
"…it has been increasingly clear that the destruction of towns throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including within Palestine, was not synchronous but took place over a century or more…the idea that this was a rapid and dramatic collapse marking a distinct cultural change has tended to obscure the protracted nature of the disruption and dislocation throughout the region…This evidence, along with recent data from surface surveys and excavations illustrating the new rural villages in the highlands and steppes were largely indigenous, rapidly undermined the biblically derived assumption that many of the Palestinian towns were destroyed by invading Israelites.” (p.395)

7.d.6) Finkelstein & Silberman, The Bible Unearthed:
“The kings of each of these four cities – Hazor, Aphek, Lachish, and Megiddo – are reported to have been defeated by the Israelites under Joshua. But the archaeological evidence shows that the destruction of those cities took place over a span of more than a century. The possible causes include invasion, social breakdown, and civil strife. No single military force did it, and certainly not in one military campaign.” (p.90)