Tuesday, 24 July 2007

song of songs


last sunday was the third sermon on the song of songs series in kl wesley methodist church. so far, the turnout has been around 120 persons each evening (in spite of the rainy weather). some people, I heard, came for the morning regular services as well as for the evening services to hear the series. these faithful people have been most interested in what the book has to say about love, marriage etc. i found many of them to be singles. perhaps what drew them to the series was the question 'has the bible especially the song of songs anything to say to single people?'

i touched a bit on this issue yeaterday evening. even though the book is about romantic love between couples, anyone can still read the song of songs. i take a typological approach to the book - that the love between the ideal couple is a type of the love between God and us. hence, there is a deeper significance that we can discover when we read the book. for singles, they can still read the song of songs and understand how God loves us that much.

this coming sunday is the last sermon on chapters 7-8. i will probably say a little more on the issue of singleness and move on to summarize the whole book. as i worked through the individual verses of the 8 chapters, i am gathering materials for my next book 'song of songs made simple' in the 'old testament made simple' series. hopefully, time permitting, i can get the book out early next year.

Monday, 23 July 2007

the tablet again

here is another article by time magazine which makes a more extravagant claim. whether a single discovery like this can therefore 'prove' the validity of a book like jeremiah is open to debate. i'm no 'minimalist' or 'maximalist' (don't like labels as they are restrictive) but a OT exegete who gladly welcomes archaeological discoveries but whose faith does not entirely depend on them either.

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A Boost for the Book of Jeremiah
Saturday, Jul. 21, 2007 By DAVID VAN BIEMA

This tablet contains details about the life of the Biblical character Jeremiah.
Ian Jones / Daily Telegraph

By confirming the historical accuracy of a tiny detail, a two-inch clay tablet long in the possession of the British Museum has given ammunition to those who believe that the Bible — specifically, in this case, the book of the prophet Jeremiah — is history. That, at least, is what the believers are claiming.

The tablet itself is certainly genuine. On July 10 the Museum announced that a Viennese expert working his way through thousands of similar clay documents in its possession translated one dating from 595 B.C that described a gift of 1.7 lbs. of gold to a Babylonian temple by a "chief eunuch" named Nabu-sharrussu-ukin.

A museum official called it "a world-class find." What makes the ancient but seemingly mundane receipt significant is that the book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) mentions the exact same official — though under a different transliteration, Nebo-Sarsekim, and a different title, chief officer, as accompanying the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar when he marched against Jerusalem in 587.

According to some experts, that proves that whoever wrote Jeremiah wasn't making it up.

It's another chapter in a larger debate between scholars known as biblical "minimalists" and "maximalists." Maximalists, who include most conservative Christian experts, tend to accept that those parts of the Bible that include prolific historical detail are probably historically accurate. Minimalists tend to think that they were completed centuries after their alleged dates as propaganda for a later Jewish government. Jeremiah's story is one of the most vividly rendered lives in the Old Testament. His biography is accepted as fact by pious Jews and Christians, as are the book's details regarding the sack of Jerusalem, in which Nebo-Sarsekim reportedly participated, and the subsequent Jewish exile "by the rivers of Babylon," commemorated by the Book of Psalms and Bob Marley. Minimalists tend to regard it as a polemic, until proven otherwise.

Conservatives are calling the Nebo-Sarsekim tablet, stamped in cuneiform script, such a proof. Lawson Stone, a professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, describes Nebo-Sarsekim's rank as roughly equivalent to Deputy Undersecretary of the Interior. "The logical assumption," he contends, "is that Jeremiah wasn't written by a later writer, but a person writing at the time. I don't know why a later writer trying to create a legendary basis for [a later Jewish regime] would want to make reference to a third-ranked Babylonian clerk. This argues that the document is accurate in its references to the world around it."

However, Robert Coote, an Old Testament professor at the more liberal San Francisco Theological Seminary, disagrees. Most academics who regard Jeremiah as a polemic, he claims, would concede that it makes use of materials originally written in Nebuchadnezzar's age, so there is no reason for it not to include the name of a minor figure in his court. "The logical fallacy," says Coote, "is to say that this one corroboration makes the whole narrative true and accurate."

It will take a lot more cuneiform tablets to convince him. But then, the British Museum still has a lot left to look through.