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16 — 22 July 2007
Issue No. 26
Biblical GRADUATE school of theology
BGST This Week
Earlier in the year I had to preach three sermons in a series on Hebrews, and I found I was greatly helped in my preparations by N.T. Wright’s Hebrews for Everyone (London: SPCK, 2003; ix + 196 pp.), an exposition of Hebrews. On that basis I have no hesitation in recommending it as this month’s Good Book. This book is part of a series that Wright, now Bishop of Durham, has been working at for a number of years. When complete, it will cover the entire New Testament. As well as the volume on Hebrews, most of the other volumes that have appeared can be found in BGST Library. But I will confine my review to Hebrews for Everyone.
What are the strengths of this book? It is clearly and engagingly written. The text is broken down into short sections of exposition, each of which take up 4–5 pages of the book. These sections could easily form the basis for a series of ‘quiet times’. Each section begins with Wright’s own translation of the text, designed to bring out the sense of the original Greek in modern English. Having checked the translation against the Greek throughout, I can vouch for its faithfulness.
After the translation comes the exposition. Each section of exposition begins with an illustration which summarises one of the main points of the text as Wright interprets it. Every preacher wants to find a good illustration; every preacher longs to find a telling way of bringing home the point of the biblical text to a modern audience. I can only admire the skill with which Wright has chosen his illustrations: an analogy about support for different football clubs illustrates the attitude which Christians should have towards Moses and Jesus (Heb. 3:1–6); an anecdote about a man who worked in his father’s business illustrates the point about Jesus learning obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8); a taxi-ride through a temporary road system in Boston suggests a way of understanding the OT sacrificial system in the light of Christ’s finished work on the cross (Heb. 9:1–10). Wright gives the impression of one who travels through life with his eyes open, looking for points of contact between the Bible and the contemporary world.
The exposition itself is generally excellent. It is brief, and obviously cannot go into every detail as a commentary can, but it is in no sense lightweight. On the contrary, Wright throughout addresses the main issues of interpretation skilfully and insightfully. His treatment of ch. 1 explains what all the OT quotations (some of which don’t obviously seem to apply to Christ) are doing in the writer’s argument. His discussion of ch. 6 handles the issues of conversion and apostasy without blunting the force of the writer’s challenge. Throughout Wright displays a fine sense of the developing argument of Hebrews.
Here is a quotation from p. 52 to whet your appetite, part of a comment on Heb. 5:12:
‘Why is it, in the twenty-first century as in the first, that so many Christians are not only eager to stay with a diet of milk, but actually get cross at the suggestion that they should be eating something more substantial? ... In my own country I meet a settled prejudice, even among people who are highly intelligent in other areas, who work in demanding professions, who read serious newspapers and magazines and who would be ashamed not to know what was going on in the world, against making any effort at all to learn what the Christian faith is about. As a result we find, both inside the churches and outside, an extraordinary ignorance of who Jesus really was, what Christians have believed and should believe about God and the world, how the entire Christian story makes sense, what the Bible contains, and, not least, how individual Christians fit in, and how their lives and their thoughts should be transformed by the power of the gospel. ... Some Christians are indeed eager and ready for solid food. But I deeply regret that, in many churches in Western Europe at least, it seems that the most people can be persuaded to take on board is another small helping of warm milk.’
Having read the Hebrews volume, I can state that, if the rest of this series is anything like it, the comment of one reviewer on the back page is no exaggeration: ‘This enterprise is probably the most exciting thing to have happened in Christian education in Britain for many years.’ My only question is: why just ‘in Britain’?
GOOD BOOKS: N.T.Wright’s Hebrews for Everyone
Chapel Summary: 11 July 2007
Dr David Ravinder focussed on three New Testament images for the people of God.
In John 15 Jesus speaks of his relationship with his disciples as that of a vine to its branches (cf. Isa. 5 and Ezek. 17). The branches cannot bear fruit unless they remain securely connected to the vine: Christians must remain in Jesus, and Jesus’ word must remain in us. And the fruit we bear is for Jesus, not for ourselves.
Second, Ephesians 4 describes the church under the image of a body. This image makes clear the need for unity, connectedness and shared purpose among the members. The gifts of individual members are for the benefit of others, and we need to care for the whole body, and make sure that Christ truly is the head.
Third, 1 Peter 2 tells us that Christians are living stones in God’s new temple. This model makes clear that all members have a role, whether it is hidden (as foundation stones are hidden) or highly visible.
Taken together the three images tell us that we Christians should celebrate the grace given us, serve God where he has placed us, and seek to remain faithful.
Dr. Satterthwaite is pleased to announce the arrival in BGST Library of 50 copies of Exploring the Old Testament II: The Historical Books, the book he has been working on for years. Since the copies arrived earlier this week they have been selling with what he can only term a gratifying rapidity, so if you want one, don’t delay. Students who took OT 101 in 2004, please note: now is the time to claim your $15 discount! (The Library has your names.)
*The book costs $44.00. Students enjoy a 10% discount.
· Graduation photographs are available for viewing and ordering at library counter. Photo CD costs $5 & 4R photos at $0.50 per piece.
· Book Sale: We carry titles from Walk Thru the Bible and Overseas Radio Television. And right now there is a stock of used and new books selling at very special prices.
· To increase awareness of our Journal Collection, new journal arrivals are displayed at the ground floor for your browsing pleasure.
Courses Starting Next Week:
· The Parables of Jesus and The Kingdom of God (NT216, 1.5 credits), starting Jul 23 (Mon), 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Aquila Lee
· Contemporary Theologians & Theologies (TS160, 3 credits), starting Jul 24, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Douglas Milne
· Christian Ethics (TS252, 3 credits), starting Jul 25, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Douglas Milne
Students are reminded about orientation for “Academic Writing” (20 July) and “Thesis Writing” (27 July). Remember, both start at 7.30 pm.
Speaker for 18 July will be Dr David Ravinder again. Don’t miss him this week— it’s your last chance! Next week on 25 July,we shall hear from Mr Richard Ang.
Always wanted to play the guitar but never had the chance before?
Well now you can and should because you’ll be helping BGST at the same time. Mr Chan Kum Soon from Carmel Media has kindly offered to conduct guitar courses and contribute all proceeds to the school. He is a Certified Guitar Instructor with Fretboard Fellowship (USA), an evangelical Christian ministry that seeks to glorify God through song, equipping and edifying the body of Christ with a new generation of God-centred music ministry and impacting the secular world through music.
Here are the details:
Module 1: Strum & Praise Made Easy
Monday 7.30—8.30 pm
Module 2: Intermediate Guitar
Monday 8.30—9.30 p.m
Each module lasts 12 weekly lessons with 3—6 persons in a class. Starting date is 6 August 07. Please call BGST to register if you are interested to sign up.