This week’s Good Book will not be available to BTW readers for a
few days. This is because I find it a helpful treatment of an important
topic, and will spread my review over two issues of BTW. But first I must
finish reading it! The book is Plowshares and Pruning Hooks. Rethinking
the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, by D. Brent Sandy
Sandybegins by setting
out the main issue. Biblical prophecy is extraordinarily powerful. The
images and language used have a habit of sticking in the mind: God as rot,
eating away at his people (Hos. ); God as a tree of life, bringing blessing
(Hos. 14:8); God’s people as rejected silver (Jer. ); God’s people as a divorced bride called
back by her husband (Is. 54:6–7). But there are problems in interpreting
such language: (1) it is poetic and not scientifically precise; (2) it is
hard to tell what is literal and what is figurative; (3) it is emotive and
sometimes exaggerated; (4) it is sometimes unclear whether promises are
conditional or unconditional; (5) the imagery used verges on the surreal;
(6) it is not always clear whether or not a prophecy has been fulfilled
(e.g., concerning Israel’s return from exile).
This sets the stage for a more detailed investigation of prophetic
language. Biblical prophecy, Sandyargues, is mainly metaphoric and figurative. This does not mean
it is merely pretty or vague, however: we use metaphors all the time in
our speech, and a well-chosen metaphor can communicate truth clearly and
powerfully. Sometimes the only way in which we can communicate is by
metaphors, particularly when we try to speak of God and his actions.
Take the language of destruction and blessing in the prophets. The
visions of judgment seem extraordinarily brutal (Ezk. 32:4–7), and the
visions of blessing almost unreal (Joel ). How does this language work? Basically by
using exaggerations to get the point across, as a parent might tell a
child, ‘I’m going to lock you in a room and throw away the key!’ The
language cannot be taken entirely at face value: it is partly stock
language, much of which derives from the blessings and curses of the
Pentateuchal covenants (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). We should not ask of such
language ‘How is this all going to happen?’ (As
Sandynotes, the terms of the
curses in Deut. 28, if taken with absolute literalness, would imply that
the Israelites would die six or seven times over). The appropriate
question to ask is rather, ‘What response does this language aim to
produce?’ This is not to underplay the reality of God’s judgment and
blessing, but it is to take seriously the difficulty of speaking about
these awesome realities in human language.
and engagingly. He is obviously something of a literary artist himself,
using telling anecdotes and images to make his points. The argument is
well-structured too: you get a sense of issues being dealt with at just
the right points; e.g., his discussion of the various meanings of
‘forever’ in the Bible (not as simple as you might have thought!).
Next week I review his chapters on the language of apocalyptic, and
on the past and future fulfilment of prophecy.
(Reviewed by Dr Philip Satterthwaite)
Our speaker was Pastor Song Young Hak, who came to us from
S. Korea with his wife and son at the end of last
year. He began by briefly describing the history of Christianity in
Christianity only came to Korea about 150 years ago, but the population of
S. Korea is now about 20% Christian, with Christians particularly strongly
represented in the cities on the west side of S. Korea. He then went into
more detail about his home church in
Seoul, which started in a
house in 1970, but now has a membership of 1500. He showed a number of
slides of the church and particularly of the student ministry which is one
of his responsibilities as Assistant Pastor.
He concluded by mentioning three prayer needs:
For Korea, particularly for the difficult relations between
North and South.
For his own church, particularly for the faithfulness of the
For his family: for his son as he adjusts to the education system
here; for his wife as she tries to improve her English; and for his own
studies as he works towards the MCS.
We apologise for an error at the end of the 2nd last paragraph of
Chapel Notes in the last issue. The last two sentences of this paragraph
should have read: “The new church building and congregation will be known
as TA2. It will be an extension of the Hokkien-speaking ministry of
Chapel speaker for next week (18 Jun) will be Mr Timothy
BTW via email. In our efforts to be more cost effective,
we would strongly encourage those of you who are currently receiving
printed copies of BTWto
opt for BTW via email if you have an email address. For this purpose, we
have attached a response slip for those who are receiving BTW by
post. Looking forward to your support in this exercise.
Rev Ng Seng Chuan will be preaching at Faith Mission Home
on 15 June, .
Anonymous Donor. We want to thank God for a gift of $200
received from an anonymous donor. May the Lord continue to bless you as
you bless others.
BGST Garage Sale. We would like to thank Mrs Esther Quek
for organizing a Garage Sale at Bishan St 11 this week from June 9-11.
Some students from SingaporeBibleCollege, members of Zion BP
Church, students and staff of BGST worked hard to set up and sell a wide
range of goods for sale. We want to say a warm “Thank You” to everyone
who helped in one way or another. The total collected came to $2,774. In
addition, Mrs Quek has personally prepared paper tole cards for sale and
more than $1000 has come in. So the total amount raised for BGST
operational expenses stands now at $4,075. Perhaps those who have a mind
to contribute to this special fundraising effort might like to add to
this amount. Thank you, Esther, and everyone who helped.
Old Testament Foundations II
(OT102). Students who have completed OT Foundations I (OT 101) in
the last few years and who are intending to take OT Foundations II (OT
102) are advised to take OT 102 live in Semester 2, beginning
14th July. From 2004 onwards the teaching of both OT 101 and
OT 102 will be revised, and the ‘old-style’ and ‘new-style’ OT
Foundations courses will not be entirely compatible: a different
text-book will be used, and the distribution of the biblical books
between OT 101 and 102 will be different. Students who have not taken OT
101 are advised not to take OT 102 in this coming
semester. They should wait for OT 101 to be given live in 2004 and OT
102 to be given live in 2005. If you have any questions regarding the
above, please contact the lecturer, Dr. P.E. Satterthwaite