BGST Faculty & Staff wish all our readers a Blessed New Year!
Two Good Books
don’t know if either of these two books is currently available in BGST
Library, but they soon will be.
I’m on holiday (ha!) at the moment, I thought that one of my books for
review could be the kind of thing an OT scholar reads for relaxation; more
specifically, a book on the New Testament, Paul in Fresh Perspective,
by N.T. (‘Tom’) Wright (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005). I have for
a long time been an admirer of Wright’s works, and think that he is one
of the few contemporary biblical scholars who can write effectively both
at the academic and at the popular levels. I applaud him for his
insistence that the New Testament must be interpreted against its
historical background, and for the creativity with which he has set about
doing this. I am impressed by his extensive knowledge of the primary
texts, Jewish and Greco-Roman, and also by his deep understanding of the
Old and New Testaments and of how they fit together. Wright sees himself
primarily as a historian, but on one level his writings function very
convincingly as a kind of biblical theology: he sees clearly how the major
themes of the Old Testament are taken up and transformed by the New
Testament writers in ways that are both surprising and satisfying.
Certainly one of the things I like in his work is that, though a New
Testament scholar, he seems to make such good sense of the Old Testament.
His latest book on Paul shows all these strengths. It does presuppose
knowledge of Paul’s letters, and you may find it necessary to reread
some passages in order to make sense of Wright’s arguments, or to check
his exegesis. But for a refreshing survey of Paul’s life and letters it
is hard to beat. Particularly interesting is his insistence that Paul must
be interpreted both against his Jewish and against his Greco-Roman
backgrounds: Paul’s gospel had thoroughly Jewish roots, but was shaped
so as to address the Greco-Roman world and, in particular, to mount a
challenge to the pretensions of the Roman Empire. You may not agree with
everything Wright says, and some aspects of his interpretation of Paul
have proved controversial, but you are sure to find this book stimulating.
second book is another excellent dictionary from IVP, hot off the press,
the second in what will be a series covering the Old Testament, the Dictionary
of the Old Testament Historical Books, edited by H.G.M. Williamson and
W.T. Arnold (Downers Grove: IVP, 2005). (A companion volume on the
Pentateuch was reviewed in an earlier issue of BTW.) It must be the most
detailed dictionary ever to appear on the Historical Books, and it
includes within its scope all sorts of topics, expected and unexpected:
articles on biblical books, on the major nations and sites of the ancient
Near East; eight consecutive articles on Israel’s History from Conquest
to after the Exile; and along with this, articles on topics as diverse as
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Forgiveness, Hermeneutics, Innerbiblical
Exegesis, Poetry, Roads and Highways, Sickness, Disease and Sin.
Altogether this volume contains a wealth of information, the distillation
of tens of thousands of hours of scholarly research, and all of it
available in a mere 1060 pages, very competitively priced, as IVP’s
books always are.
I am sometimes dismayed by the way in which BGST students cite dubious biblical web-sites in assignments, while failing to cite dictionary articles. To be frank, this is to get things the wrong way around. Anyone with access to a computer, a modem and the necessary software can publish on the web. There are no readers or editors to please, no corrections which have to be made, no recommendations to follow. Anyone can write what they like and put what they have written into the public domain, irrespective of whether it is well or poorly researched, right or wrong, heretical or theologically sound. In many web-based ‘publications’ there are no controls, and to be honest it shows. With dictionary articles things are entirely different. All dictionaries have editors who will insist on things like clarity, balance, good argumentation and familiarity with the primary texts and the secondary literature. The very format of a dictionary article demands that the writer survey recent and earlier scholarship on the topic in question in an accessible and even-handed way. This means that dictionary articles are often the ideal point of entry for students wanting to orientate themselves on an issue with which they are unfamiliar. So: Get hold of this dictionary! Browse in it! Read some of the entries that seem most interesting to you! Do it now! Do it throughout 2006! And do it with other dictionaries too! As I have said more than once, of all the books in BGST Library, dictionaries are the ones which have most clearly been written with students’ needs in mind. So why don’t more of you read (and cite) more of them? There is no quicker path to becoming a good scholar. [PES]
on 21 December 2005
can the Christian community exercise a prophetic ministry to our Church
and our society and even to our own community. With this concern this
week’s chapel talk focuses on the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah 7: 1-17
and draws two main points from this passage:
First, vv 7: 1-9, Human purposes challenge divine promises.
purposes here are the plans of the northern kingdom, Israel, along with
Syria to topple Ahaz, king of Judah, and install some unknown Tabeel in
order that they might fight against the Assyrian advancement. Though
visibly shaken at the threat of an imminent attack by his neighbors, King
Ahaz made plans to seek help from Assyria, the superpower of the day. But
God had other plans for Ahaz when he sent his prophet Isaiah with a
message that he must not seek human help but trust in the Lord who
promised his forefather David that he will not fail to provide a ruler on
his throne (2 Sam. 7: 14-16). This promise was later developed into the so
called Zion theology that ‘Davidic promises are inviolable, and Zion
invincible’. Nevertheless, Ahaz refused the prophet’s message and went
ahead with his original plan of seeking help from Assyria.
Human unbelief cannot exhaust divine Grace.
second time God’s message came to Ahaz through the prophet inviting him
to ask for a ‘sign’ from the Lord that could have laid his fears at
rest and transformed his reign to be a blessing. But unfortunately the
king once again declined the offer in the guise of false piety saying,
‘I will not ask for a sign and I will not test the Lord’. True,
Israelites testing the Lord in the wilderness was the worst sin they had
ever committed; in that context it was basically the ‘sin of
unbelief’. But this was precisely what Ahaz was doing at that moment.
The NT describes as the ‘unforgivable sin’ (Jn 16: 9) when the Jews
were unwilling to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. However, Ahaz’s
unbelief did not stop God from giving the ‘sign’ of the Immanuel, the
ideal future King, who would rule on David’s throne. But now it comes as
judgment and not as a promise. Although Israel saw a political deliverer
in Immanuel, God intended a spiritual deliverer in and through Jesus the
Messiah, who inaugurated his kingdom through his Church worldwide. Thus
God’s Kingdom did come not because of human cooperation, but in spite of
it, but along the way many a God’s people lost his blessing due to
unbelief, sin and false piety.
Bob Foo 29/12
Vincent Tan 29/12
Chen Lei 29/12
Joyce Go Yong 29/12
Ng Liang Wei 30/12
Douglas Milne 1/1
Andy Lew 1/1
Sally Wong 2/1
Victor Wee 2/1
Tomothy Lee 4/1
Lim Kim Wah 5/1
William Prabagaram 7/1