BTW issue no. 8, 1-7 March 2004

good books


TREASURING THE PAST

The recent discovery of precious artefacts in the grounds of St Andrew’s Cathedral has raised consciousness about the importance of understanding our past. Why does the past fascinate us?  I wonder if it is because we have so short a corporate memory as a nation compared with other countries that possess such a rich and long history that we learn to treasure what little we have. Sometimes I feel that personally I am subconsciously making up for the lost years when  (frankly) during secondary school I hated history; but now that I have tasted the delight of delving into the past, I am making up for lost time. Well, whatever are the reasons, I hope that I will be able to show you that archaeology is not a ghoulish, macabre subject even though some of the most interesting finds come from tombs. I hope I can interest you, my dear readers, to take a look at two books  - one reviewed this week and the other next week - that perhaps you might not normally pick up and read. This week’s Good Book bears a rather nondescript title:

A Manual of Field Excavation. Handbook for Field Archaeologists. Ed. William G. Dever and H. Darrell Lane. New York: Hebrew Union College, 1978

As the term may suggest, Field Archaeology, like Exegetical Theology to a theologian, is the starting point of a discipline where utmost care needs to be exercised in exposing what might have lain dormant for thousands of years. The discovery of a line of walls, ancient objects, human and animal remains, seeds, writings or even crude sketches, can collectively give us a glimpse of what life was like in the past. When the material remains from various sites are correlated certain broad observations can be made to strengthen and confirm a particular assessment of the significance of a site. From that point on other scholars will build on these preliminary findings and extrapolate scenarios, test them against the body of evidence in a particular group of writings - for us, the Bible - and pit these against any evidence outside this group of writings. For example, the extra-biblical literature contemporary with the period under study. Often these have far-reaching implications, impacting the way we live our life. For example, was there a conquest of Canaan during the Late Bronze Age (as in the biblical account of the conquest of Jericho under Joshua) or were there rather successive waves of infiltrations by outsiders resulting in the displacement of the indigenous Canaanite peoples?

Imagine that! All these flow from the initial uncovering of an archaeological site. This Manual of Field Excavation is clearly written and systematically prepared in a friendly manner. Archaeological ‘buffs” (or enthusiasts, sometimes also called “armchair archaeologists”) may find this Manual interesting and informative. Others may simply glance at a few pages and flip on to the rest of the book. The impression given is that Field Archaeology is not just a treasure hunt but rather a careful uncovering and documentation of a site.

What interests me particularly about this Manual is that in the Preface it is stated that the intention of the writers was to describe “Field Archaeology as it was practised at the Hebrew Union College/Harvard Semitic Museum Excavations at Gezer, Phase I, 1964-71.” “Many of the concepts, methods, and procedures developed at Gezer have spread widely to other ...  excavations in Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, and even North Africa, through the medium of staff members who received their training at Gezer.”

My interest in Gezer is two-fold. Bible Land trippers have made their way with me to the Palestinian Section of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to see among other things a small limestone plaque four and half inches long and two and three fourths inches wide. The “Gezer Calendar” is a child’s exercise in which he listed in order “two months of olive harvest ... two months of grain planting ... two months of vine-tending...." It is written in perfect classical Hebrew by a boy called Abijah during the period between 950 BC (1 Kings 9:15,17) and the destruction of Gezer by Shishak around 918 BC. My second reason is that Tel Gezer (Tel el-Jazari) is a beautiful 30-acre site which commands a spectacular view on all sides. It was my pleasure on several times to drive to the summit of this tel in my rented car and wander over its forlorn-looking stones and impressive walls. I thought to myself: how must the original Canaanite inhabitants must have taken pride in the fact that Joshua failed to expel them from their strongly fortified city (Joshua 16:10)? Later, however, many of them were allowed to co-exist in the land to become “hewers of stone and drawers of water.” That might have taken place when a powerful Egyptian Pharaoh conquered Gezer, burnt it and gave it as a dowry to his daughter as a wedding present for her marriage to King Solomon, who fortified the walls that we can now see (1 Kings 9:16-17). One can imagine the pomp and circumstance as Solomon’s homesick Egyptian wife swept into that city with her attendants. She might have consoled herself that Gezer was a transit point between her adopted home (Palestine) and her native country (Egypt): Gezer commanded a strategic crossroad where the trunk road leading to Jerusalem branches off from the Way of the Sea as it approached the Valley of Aijalon. There was no problem with water supply. The abundant springs at the foot of Gezer makes the entire surrounding area today a delight to see as it has many fruit orchards and acres upon acres of grainfields.

 The allure of archaeology will always remain when we can see how the Bible stories come alive as they are unfolded againsthe canvas of history.

(Reviewed by Dr Quek Swee Hwa)

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr Quek was the chapel speaker on 25 February. He spoke on “Preaching the Gospel” and took as his text from the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul  described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Chapel Speakers for the month of March are:
Dr John Lim - 10 Mar
Dr Ng Peh Cheng - 17 Mar
Dr Aquila Lee - 24 Mar

Rev Ng Seng Chuan - 31 Mar

NEWS BITS

1. The course ,  “Who is Jesus?” by Dr Aquila Lee, has been rescheduled to the 2nd Semester, 2004. The new dates will be announced in BGST This Week. Do continue to pray for the health of Dr Lee. Of late two films on Jesus Christ have been hogging the news: “The Passion of Christ” and “The Gospel of John.” After more than 2000 years it seems that the identification of Jesus is still gripping the mind of the world.    

2. New Admissions

  •  Mr Lim Thou Tin is working toward the Dip CS at BGST. He worships at the Paya Lebar Methodist Church. He is  the Principal Consultant of Decision Modelling Systems and holds degrees from the National University of Singapore (BBA, Dip in System Analysis), Central Queensland University (Master in Information Systems) and the Civil Service College in Singapore (Dip in Training & Development).

  •  Ms Maisie Kang Meng Lee is working toward the Dip CS at BGST. She is a member of Bethany Trinity Presbyterian serving in the Mission Committee and ministering to Nursing Students. She is a Finance Controller and a graduate of Monash University in Australia (MBA) and Australian National University (Bachelor of Commerce).

  •  Mr Gregory Ng Kai Woon is the husband of Maisie Kang. He is working toward the Dip CS at BGST and is actively involved in Mission, Worship and Cell Group at the Bethany Trinity Presbyterian Church. He is an Accountant and holds degrees from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (MBA & BAcc).

A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO ...


Mrs Sharon Quek  1/3
Mr Lim Kheng Hai  2/3
Dr Ng Hwee Hin  3/3
Dr Danny Goh  4/3
Ms Grace Gay  4/3
Mr Michael Goh  4/3
Dr Tang Hui Kheng  4/3
Ms He Liyi  4/3
Mrs Jenny Lun  5/3

Mr Lawrence Tan  6/3
Mr Oliver Chia  6/3
Mr Wilfred Leow  6/3
Mr Caleb Low  6/3
Mr Liew Cheng San  7/3

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