Friday, 4 April 2008

pastoral group mission trip

this weekend, i am bringing my pastoral group of 7 students (and another student from a different group) for the annual mission trip to kuala lipis, raub and bentong. it has been a long tradition (and being the first to start this) for a stm lecturer to bring his or her group on a weekend mission exposure trip. i have been bringing different students through the years since 2000.

it has proven to be an eye-opener to many students especially about ministry in small town churches. they get to see for themselves what churches in such situations are like, get to meet church members who have to struggle week after week trying to maintain their small congregation and sometimes to ensure survival, and get to share and encourage the believers in these small towns not to lose heart but to persevere. the learning experience is such that it is a two-way sharing - in turn, the stm students learn about faithfulness and commitment from these church leaders and members, how to work week after week with just a small number and how God expects faithfulness rather than just producing spectacular results all the time.

work in such small towns are often stagnated or in the decline because of rural-urban migration. one of the key struggles is that these churches are always losing their youths and young people to the bigger towns. to compound to the difficulty, many of the older members also eventually leave these small towns to join their children in the bigger cities. hence, the migration cuts both both ways.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

april fool's joke by eisenbrauns

the guys at eisenbrauns have done it again for another year - they pulled off another april fool's joke by this dubious email. see also the full layout with pictures at their webpage:

and they included a video by the mesopotamians!


From: "James Spinti"
To: "Booknews from Eisenbrauns"
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 11:03 PM
Subject: [Booknews] New and NOTworthy, Special April 1st Edition

> BookNews from Eisenbrauns
> Welcome to our special April first edition of BookNews. This
> is our annual preview of the latest titles from Winged Bull
> Press. Our editors and authors have been slaving away all year,
> scouring the globe for the best titles to advance(?) the study
> of the ancient Near East, biblical studies, and Home Ec.
> We have included brief descriptions of the new books below,
> but we encourage you to visit our website for the complete
> description and graphics:
> =================================================================
>>Always wanted to be famous? Here's your chance:
> Lost Graves Revealed: The Exact Location of Famous Historical Figures
> Edited by Seems Wright
> Winged Bull Press, Forthcoming August, 2008. Cloth. English.
> List Price: $1000.00
> Your Price: $900.00
> During the past year an unusually large number of books and movies
> have appeared claiming to have found the final resting place of
> various biblical figures. In our on-going effort to assist scholars,
> Winged Bull Press has compiled the authoritative guide to who lies
> where.
> Also available as a downloadable GPS program to ensure you have
> the correct location!
> (Special pricing available if we get a cut on the documentary
> Reviewer's comments:
> "If only we had this when we made the Tall Pot documentary!" S.J.
>>Save those Selectric typewriters:
> "Cuneiform type elements for the IBM Selectric"
> by A.P. Ril
> Winged Bull Press, 2008. Akkadian, Sumerian, and Babylonian.
> List Price: $600.00
> Your Price: $540.00
> Bring your beloved typewriter into the modern era with a complete
> cuneiform character set.
> Available as a set of 10 (ten) 96-character elements for the
> Selectric III, or 21 (twenty-one) 88-character elements for the
> Selectric I and II. Both sets, made of precision cast pot metal,
> include the complete catalog of 907 Akkadian characters set as
> outlined in Borger's Mesopotamische Zeichenlexikon, as well as
> characters to indicate lemmas, lunas, and loonies.
> Individual type elements are also available at a cost of $65 each.
>>This title will appeal to the linguists out there:
> "Bite Your Tongue: A Practical Guide to Impractical Phonology"
> by Hatta Sayyit and Augusta Summer
> Edited by Felix Languealchat
> Winged Bull Press, 2008. Paper. English.
> List Price: $75.00
> Your Price: $67.50
> PART 1: Hatta Sayyit examines archaeological phonological evidence
> for linguists doing field research on ancient phonology.
> gramophonology is examined, along with tablets recently discovered by
> a group of lost tourists in Egypt, including fifteen new sounds
> in modern languages.
> PART 2: Augusta Summer, of the Winter Institute of Linguistics, steps
> through a series of training exercises designed to bring you up to
> date with recent discoveries, enabling you to pronounce these new
> sounds correctly...
>>A rare tablet, actually found in situ:
> "Nuzi & the Hurrians: Greatest Hits Collection"
> Winged Bull Press, 2008. CD-ROM. Hurrian.
> List Price: $19.98
> Your Price: $17.98
> Now with all the hits:
> Hurrian Slow
> Sweet Home Anatolia
> Amarna Letters (Made You Cry)
> Mari, Mari, Quite Contrari
> Ya Had Me at Yamhad
> Knock, knocking on Hatti's door
> ... and all the Songs of Ullikumi!
>>At last, an interpretation of Jeremiah that makes cents!
> "Hostess of Heaven: A Critical Reading (with Recipes)
> from the Book of Jeremiah"
> by T. Winke
> Winged Bull Press, 2008. Cloth. English.
> List Price: $99.00
> Your Price: $89.10
> T.Winke advances the theory that the "Queen of Heaven" in the book
> of Jeremiah is not the Host, but actually the Hostess of Heaven.
> After a close reading of the text, the conclusion is drawn that the
> host of heaven is actually a misreading, and it is, rather, the
> blueprint for a party..
> To back up this novel theory, T.Winke has compiled over 55 recipes
> he believes are "coded" into the book, the most notable being the
> recipe for a cream-filled pastry in the form of a cylinder, flat on
> one side, and said to have an indefinite shelf life...
> __________________________________
> Eisenbrauns Booknews mailing list
> To subscribe or unsubscribe, visit
> Visit Eisenbrauns on the web at
> Customer Service:
> Phone: 574-269-2011, Fax: 574-269-6788,
> Toll Free Fax (USA only): 1-800-736-7921
> Eisenbrauns, Inc., P.O. Box 275

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

destruction of biblical sodom and gomorrah explained?

in the first story from the uk telegraph, 2 guys claimed to have translated an obscure sumerian clay tablet to refer to an asteroid hitting the austrian otz valley in the alps thousands of years ago and creating the valley. by the second story in the uk daily mail, not only did the 2 guys tranlsate the tablet they now claimed it was the asteroid that destroyed sodom and gomorrah! the argument is like this - an asteroid hit the austrian otz valley and triggered off something like landslides 1,500 miles away that buried sodom and gomorrah! sounds like another erich von daniken's chariot of the gods.


Clay tablet holds clue to asteroid mystery
By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 31/03/2008

British scientists have deciphered a mysterious ancient clay tablet and believe they have solved a riddle over a giant asteroid impact more than 5,000 years ago.

The tablet shows drawings of constellations and pictogram-based text known as cuneiform

Geologists have long puzzled over the shape of the land close to the town of Kofels in the Austrian Alps, but were unable to prove it had been caused by an asteroid.

Now researchers say their translation of symbols on a star map from an ancient civilisation includes notes on a mile-wide asteroid that later hit Earth - which could have caused tens of thousands of deaths.

The circular clay tablet was discovered 150 years ago by Sir Austen Henry Layard, a leading Victorian archaeologist, in the remains of the royal palace at Nineveh, capital of ancient Assyria, in what is now Iraq.

The tablet, on display at the British Museum, shows drawings of constellations and pictogram-based text known as cuneiform - used by the Sumerians, the earliest known civilisation in the world.

A historian from Azerbaijan, who believes humans originally came to Earth from another planet, has interpreted it as a description of the arrival of a spaceship. More mainstream academics have failed to decipher its meaning.

Now Alan Bond, the managing director of a space propulsion company, Reaction Engines, and Mark Hempsell, a senior lecturer in astronautics at Bristol University, have cracked the cuneiform code and used a computer programme that can reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago to provide a new explanation.

They believe their calculations prove the tablet - a copy made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC - is a Sumerian astronomer's notebook recording events in the sky on June 29, 3123 BC.

The pair say its symbols include a note of the trajectory of a large object travelling across the constellation of Pisces which, to within one degree, is consistent with an impact at Kofels.

Mr Hempsell said: "All previous work has drawn a blank on what the tablet is about.

Kofels, in the Austrian Alps, where an asteroid is thought to have hit 5,000 years ago

"It is such a big jigsaw and the pieces we have found fit together so well that I think we have a definitive proof."

The Kofels site was originally interpreted as an asteroid impact, however the lack of an obvious impact crater led modern geologists to believe it to be simply a giant landslide.

However, the Bond-Hempsell theory, outlined in their book published today, A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels Impact Event, suggests that the asteroid left no crater because it clipped a mountain and turned into a fireball.

Mr Hempsell said: "The ground heating, though very short, would be enough to ignite any flammable material, including human hair and clothes.

"It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast."

He added that extreme changes caused to rock and other substances at the site had previously led to the Kofels impact being erroneously dated to around 8,000 years ago.


Decoded: 'The clay tablet that tells how an asteroid destroyed Sodom 5,000 years ago'
Last updated at 15:46pm on 31st March 2008

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for more than a century has been identified as a witness's account of an asteroid that destroyed the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah 5,000 years ago.

Researchers believe that the tablet's symbols give a detailed account of how a mile-long asteroid hit the region, causing thousands of deaths and devastating more than one million sq km (386,000 sq miles).

The impact, equivalent to more than 1,000tons of TNT exploding, would have created one of the world's biggest-ever landslides.

Ancient record: Scientists claim the tablet, thought to be a 700BC copy from an even earlier civilisation, describes how a mile-long asteroid hit the Earth

The Old Testament story describes how God destroyed the 'wicked sinners' of Sodom with fire and brimstone but allowed Lot, the city's one good man, to flee with his family.

The theory is the work of two rocket scientists - Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell - who have spent the past eight years piecing together the archaeological puzzle.

At its heart is a clay tablet called the Planisphere, discovered by the Victorian archaeologist Henry Layard in the remains of the library of the Royal Palace at Nineveh.

Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago, they have pinpointed the sighting described on the tablet - a 700BC copy of notes of the night sky as seen by a Sumerian astrologer in one of the world's earliest-known civilisations - to shortly before dawn on June 29 in the year 3123BC.

Half the tablet records planet positions and clouds, while the other half describes the movement of an object looking like a 'stone bowl' travelling quickly across the sky.

The description matches a type of asteroid known as an Aten type, which orbits the Sun close to the Earth. Its trajectory would have put it on a collision course with the Otz Valley.

'It came in at a very low angle - around six degrees - and then clipped a mountain called Gaskogel around 11km from Kofels,' said Mr Hempsell.

'This caused it to explode - and as it travelled down the valley it became a fireball.

Biblical proportions: Researchers claim the tablet is a witness's account of the asteroid responsible for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as described in the Old Testament

'When it hit Kofels it created enormous pressures which pulverised the rock and caused the landslide. But because it wasn't solid, there was no crater.'

The explosion would have created a mushroom cloud, while a plume of smoke would have been seen for hundreds of miles.

Mr Hempsell said another part of the tablet, which is 18cm across and shaped like a bowl, describes a plume of smoke around dawn the following morning.

'You need to know the context before you can translate it,' said Mr Hempsell, of Bristol University.

Geologists have dated the landslide to around 9,000 years ago, far earlier than the Sumerian record. However, Mr Hempsell, who has published a book on the theory, believes contaminated samples from the asteroid may have confused previous dating attempts.

Academics were also quick to disagree with the findings, which were published in A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels's Impact Event.

John Taylor, a retired expert in Near Eastern archaeology at the British Museum, said there was no evidence that the ancient Sumerians were able to make such accurate astronomical records, while our knowledge of Sumerian language was incomplete.

'I remain unconvinced by these results,' he added.


update on fox news from the times uk

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for 150 years has been identified as a witness's account of the asteroid suspected of being behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Researchers who cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere tablet believe that it recorded an asteroid thought to have been more than half a mile across.

The tablet, found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the royal place at Nineveh in the mid-19th century, is thought to be a 700 B.C. copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer watching the night sky.

He referred to the asteroid as a "white stone bowl approaching" and recorded it as it "vigorously swept along."

Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago, scientists have pinpointed his sighting to shortly before dawn on June 29 in the year 3123 B.C.

About half the symbols on the tablet have survived and half of those refer to the asteroid. The other symbols record the positions of clouds and constellations. In the past 150 years scientists have made five unsuccessful attempts to translate the tablet.

Mark Hempsell, one of the researchers from Bristol University who cracked the tablet's code, said: "It's a wonderful piece of observation, an absolutely perfect piece of science."

He said the size and route of the asteroid meant that it was likely to have crashed into the Austrian Alps at Köfels. As it traveled close to the ground it would have left a trail of destruction from supersonic shock waves and then slammed into the Earth with a cataclysmic impact.

Debris consisting of up to two-thirds of the asteroid would have been hurled back along its route and a flash reaching temperatures of 400 Centigrade (752 Fahrenheit) would have been created, killing anyone in its path.

About one million sq kilometers (386,000 sq miles) would have been devastated and the impact would have been equivalent to more than 1,000 tons of TNT exploding.

Dr Hempsall said that at least 20 ancient myths record devastation of the type and on the scale of the asteroid's impact, including the Old Testament tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the ancient Greek myth of how Phaeton, son of Helios, fell into the River Eridanus after losing control of his father's sun chariot.

The findings of Dr. Hempsall and Alan Bond, of Reaction Engines Ltd., are published in a book, "A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels Impact Event."

The researchers say that the asteroid's impact would explain why at Köfels there is evidence of an ancient landslide 3 miles wide and a quarter of a mile thick.

Tale of devastation

"Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of Heaven; and he overthrew those cities and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities ... [Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace."

Source: Genesis 19:24-28

Monday, 31 March 2008

israeli-palestinian issue

will be speaking on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of israel in stm chapel.

here is a slideshare by e.e. hertz on the israeli-palestinian issue.