Lawrence H. Schiffman. Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Jerusalem:Jewish Publication Society, 1994.

Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner. Judaism in the New Testament. Practices and Beliefs.  London: Routledge, 1995.

This week's Good Books focuses on two books dealing with the history and beliefs of Judaism. Many today associate Judaism with either the more popular and 'ecular' brand known as "Zionism" or its colourful counterparts, orthodox Judaism as well as ultra-orthodox Judaism. The subject of the Jews has always provoked much interest. A clear understanding of our Judaeo-Christian roots in the Bible, with reference both to mainstream Judaism and the fringe groups existing at the time of Christ, is fundamental to the study of the Bible. Students of eschatology have also been fascinated with the role of Israel in the Last Times and much controversy has been generated in this regard by the advocates of Dispensationalism or the Reformed Faith. The current Israeli-Palestinian Conflict has fueled interest in this 'hot' topic. Last but not least, academic interests aside, the study of Judaism as a system of beliefs has important implications for an understanding of "Messianic Judaism" (i.e., the Hebrew Christian movement) and despite the rather reluctant efforts by ecumenical leaders to work towards the conversion of Jews to Christianity, organizations like Jews for Jesus are doing an important work in helping Christians at large fulfil the imperatives of the Great Commission.
    Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls has a polemic message: the historic manuscripts discovered at the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea tell us more of Second Temple Judaism (i.e., Judaism from around the Second Century before the Christian Era to the about the Second Century CE) than of early Christianity. Actually many who are serious in evaluating the significance of the DSS are aware of this and their interest in the DSS is twofold. They are excited by the substantial amount of biblical manuscripts found among the DSS as well as in an understanding of the beliefs of the community which lived at Qumran and were responsible for copying or preserving these valuable documents. Of special interest to Christian scholars is the interesting Chapter 10 entitled "Bible, Canon,and Text" which gives a succinct understanding of the biblical texts at Qumran. There is a helpful chart which shows that every book of the Old Testament was represented at Qumran, except Esther. The author dismisses it as "simply chance". But it may also be that the Book of Esther does not mention the name of God specifically: a correct understanding of Esther must acknowledge that without any reference to God the message of this book would be incomprehensible.
      Lawrence Schiffman has produced an excellent, balanced and not excessively technical introduction to a subject where has been befuddled by much controversy: were the members of the Qumran community Essenes or perhaps even Sadducaean in their sympathies? Was John the Baptist ever at Qumran, even for a short period (as claimed in the video presentation screened to all visitors to Qumran)? The liberal use of photographs helped greatly to sustain the interest of the reader: one wished that colour rather than black-and-white photographs could have been used. It is now standard practice that reference books like this should use colour photography. I found the Reference Notes at the end very helpful, together with the Glossary and the excellent Bibliography.

Judaism in the New Testament takes another look at the age-old question: did Christianity arise from the cradle of Judaism? How much of Judaism was retained by the earliest Christians? How can we read the New Testament with the assumption that its roots lay in a religion from which it eventually broke away.

The title of this book raises alarm bells in both Christianity and Judaism. To its detractors the two faiths may have been confused in the mind of the Roman authorities at the time of Gallio, proconsul at Corinth, but this was never the case within either Second Temple Judaism or among the earliest Christians. The premise that the earliest Christians did not think of their religion as Christianity, but as Judaism, is untenable. It does not surprise us that the authors of this book attempted to re-define Judaism and spoke of it as adherence to a single, uniform Judaic law (orthopraxy) rather than a system of beliefs (Judaism).  If the purpose of the authors is to bridge the gap between the two faiths, then I must say that this book is not convincing. 
If it is an attempt to make sense of the multiplicity of views presented both in the New Testament and in the Jewish beliefs in the First Century (Christian Era), then it also fails because while there was a fundamental disagreement between Peter and Paul (for example) this concerned primarily the insistence on circumcision and the accompanying Jewish ceremonial regulations: there was never any disagreement among the earliest Christians concerning the overriding authority of Jesus over the Law.

In the final analysis this is not a "good" book; it is included in this review only to show the futility of masking the difference between Judaism and Christianity and then drawing conclusions from this as to explain the origin of Christianity.  (QSH)

FRIENDSHIP
Dr Ng Peh Cheng's Chapel Message on 12 June, 2002


We may have many friends but the level of friendship varies. To reach the level of the friendship bond between Jonathan and David is not impossible but requires much inner searching and God-centred commitment. Jonathan and David's friendship was first mentioned in I Sam. 18:1. However, the strength of their friendship bond was put to severe testing by Jonathan's father, King Saul who was jealous of David's anointment to be the next king (I Sam. 18:6-9).  They passed the test because their friendship was characterized by the marks of loyalty and trust.

MUTUAL LOYALTY
Jonathan's loyalty was demonstrated with acts of risking his life to save David's life from his father's plan of assassination (I Sam. 20:12,13 & 23:15-17a). His deepest concern was to ensure David's continuing trust in God, "Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God" (I Sam. 20:16). The incident gives insight into Jonathan's own devotion to God and the dilemma he was experiencing. Jonathan was faced with a moral dilemma of having to choose between the right to honour his father and the right to save the life of his good friend.  He chose the latter to do what was right to his own disadvantage and risk.     
David was profoundly affected by Jonathan's death (II Sam. 1:26) and his loyalty remained unchanged and extended to his friend's children. He accepted Mephibosheth, Jonathan's lame son into his family and restored to him all Saul's lands and servants (II Sam 9).      Their loyalty enabled them to stay as friends through thick and thin.

MUTUAL TRUST
Trust was in the hearts of both men that they would not betray each other. Jonathan was heir to Saul's throne and he could have killed David who was a "rival" to his kinship. Jonathan gave his assurance (I Sam. 20:12,13).  Jonathan trusted David not to destroy his family as it was a cultural practice for the new king to destroy everyone in the family of the king he had replaced.  David earned his friend's trust by accepting Jonathan's covenants with him, (I Sam. 20:16,17 & 23:18). Their trust enabled them to seal a permanent and continuous loyalty to each other.

THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP
On two occasions, David had the opportunities to kill Saul to solve his predicament and refugee status (I Sam. 24:1-7 & I Sam. 26:8-11).  His fear of the Lord constrained him from taking vengeance, "the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed" (I Samuel 26:11).  Jonathan, the crowned prince had opportunities to kill David but his fear of the Lord constrained him from usurping David's throne, "Don't be afraid, . . . . My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this" (I Samuel 23:17). Their fear of the Lord enabled them the firm foundation to develop loyalty, trust and will to do the right thing to honour God with their friendship.

Lessons learned from the friendship of Jonathan and David can be applied in different contexts but I would like readers to consider an actual case in the context of Christian ministry.

Dick (not his real name) was healthy and fit when he heeded God's call to a full-time position in a Christian organization. He began with a group of loyal supporters whom he trusted with his life and ministry.  Unexpectedly, he was stricken with a rare illness some years later that left him disabled to continue his ministry. At the point when he needed friendship most, a number of supporters stopped giving that led to a sudden loss of financial security for him and his family!  He was thrown into a state of misery and uncertainties that led him to write, "Now, I know who my true friends are." Does it suffice to tell him and his dependents, "Have faith! Trust God and pray!" Perhaps, we should consider these questions.

  • In supporting a Lord's servant, are we supporting the work or the worker?
  • Should we separate the work from the worker?
  • What is the definition of "supporter?" 
  • How should we response to Dick's situation?

Our chapel speaker this Wednesday (19 Jun) will be Dr John Lim. Come & join us at Rm 302, 12 noon. Next week's speaker will be Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

 

1.  CONGRATULATIONS. We rejoice with Preacher Jabez Tan on the occasion of his ordination and induction by The English Presbytery of The Presbyterian Church in Singapore as Associate Minister of All Saints Presbyterian Church this Saturday, 22 June 2002.

2. INTERESTED TO STUDY GREEK? On Saturday, June 29, 5.30-7.00 pm, Dr Quek will introduce the study of NT Greek to those who have always wanted to study Greek but have limited time. All are welcome to attend without charge a demonstration class as Dr Quek introduceshis new course, Greek: Basic Research Tools (BG214, 1.5 credits). This is required for the MCS.

Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!
Elder Gan Pheng Chye  17/6
Mr Gordon Goh Hock Hai  18/6
Mr Samuel Lee Tong Fatt  18/6
Mrs Eva Lim  18/6
Ms Catherine Pang  18/6
Mr Yong Pin Yoon  18/6
Mr Leong Chun Nam  20/6
Ms Wun Yoke Chan  20/6
Ms Mak Moo Theng  22/6
Mr Lawrence Ng Kiam Yam  22/6
Ms Sandra Heng  23/6
Dr John Lim  23/6
Mdm Tricia Yeo  23/6
Mr Charlie Yeo Kim Cheong  23/6

 

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This page is updated on 17Jun 2002 by Jacob-Tan Lee Pin
    Jun 2002