Archaeology of the Bible lands continues to enrich our understanding of the biblical world. But archaeology is a highly technical discipline, and it often takes years for the findings at individual 'digs' to be written up and responsibly assessed. That is why we must be grateful for a book like E. Stern, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Vol. II. The Assyrian,
Babylonian and Persian Periods (732-332 B.C.E.) (Anchor Bible Reference Library; New York: Doubleday, 2001), a companion to the earlier volume by A. Mazar (Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10000-586 B.C.E.).

Stern's volume pulls together a mass of information (surveys, excavations, artefacts, inscriptions), summarising it clearly and so as to make clear its relevance for biblical studies. The period in question was a turbulent one, with three Near Eastern powers dominating the region in turn. Here you will find surveys of archaeology relating to this period, not only in Palestine, but also in the territories of Moab, Philistia, Ammon and Edom. There are interesting discussions of the artefacts excavated in these territories (e.g., the many clay and stone figures, often religious in character). The volume is illustrated by a mass of photographs and diagrams. There are also copious bibliographies and a helpful glossary of archaeological terms. This book is recommended for anyone who wants to understand what contemporary archaeologists are saying about this crucial period of Israel's history. (PES)

Last week at chapel, Mrs. Peck showed us a selection of the photos she took during her recent sabbatical in Israel. Highlights included shots of the reconstructed Nazareth village, which aims to give a better idea of what daily life in Palestine was like in Jesus' day. We were also impressed by the photos of all the hills and cliffs which Mrs. Peck had had to climb during her course on the geography of Palestine. Mt. Faber move over! No wonder she came back to Singapore so fit and well!

Our chapel speaker this week will be Mr Quek Swee Kiang who will be speaking on the Incarnation of the Messiah among unreached peoples based on 2 Peter 1: 3-10.

On Saturday 14th July Dr. Douglas Milne gave a public lecture at Zion BP Church on the topic 'Who do you say that I am? The Truth about Jesus Christ'. What follows is a summary of the lecture.
Dr. Milne began by considering Matthew 16:13-21, noting how that passage distinguishes two understandings of Jesus: on a purely human, historical plane, Jesus may be viewed in relation to Israel's previous history, as one like John the Baptist or one of the prophets (vv. 13-14); but he is also the divine Son of God, to be acknowledged as such (vv. 15-16; cf. Mk. 4:41; John 20:31). A similar distinction may be made in connection with more recent views of Jesus.

On the one hand, there are the 'quests' for the historical Jesus which have been mounted in the past 150 years, which take as their basis the human facts about Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels: his bodily life, emotions, human relationships, sufferings, life and death. These quests, which have in many ways enriched our understanding of Jesus and the historical context of the 1st Century A.D., build up their picture of Jesus 'from below': though the facts on whaich they are based are clearly true, they have tended to be selective in their views of Jesus, often emphasising one part of the evidence at the expense of others. The 'questers' seem at times to have represented Jesus somewhat in their own images. Most of all, the quests have tended to omit or downplay the frankly supernatural and theistic elements of the Gospels' picture of Jesus. 

If we are to do justice to the Gospel accounts, however, to say nothing of the rest of the NT, we must take seriously those parts of the Gospels which portray Jesus as more than human. The titles he is given (Son of God, Son of Man, Lord, God) clearly point to his deity. The frequent 'I am…' sayings of the Gospel of John, reminding us of God's self-description in Exodus 3, make the same point. When Thomas calls Jesus 'my Lord and my God' (John 20:28) this text merely makes explicit what other texts have clearly implied: not only was God at work in Jesus or seen through Jesus (that could be said of others), but Jesus was and is God in person, come in human form to save us when we were helpless to save ourselves.

In contrast to some modern views of Jesus which emphasise his humanity but are vague about, or even outright deny, his deity, we must hold together both Jesus' humanity and deity. As Matthew 16 makes plain, responses to Jesus on the purely human level are not enough: as with his disciples then, so now with us Jesus seeks a confession of his deity. This only comes about as God reveals the truth about Jesus to us (Matt. 16:17). We must, of course, consider the evidence for Jesus, but we must also seek God humbly, praying that he will reveal the truth about Jesus to us, bringing true faith to birth in us.

Two points follow. The confession of Jesus as both human and divine has been and always will be fundamental to the life and health of the church (Matt. 16:18, 'rock' being understood as Peter's confession rather than Peter himself; cf. 1 Tim. 3:15-16). Perhaps the decline of the church in the West over the past 200 years can be traced back to its weakening grasp of who Jesus was and is. Secondly, as in Matthew 16 Jesus, having spoken about who he was, went on to speak of his coming death, so we must link Jesus' person and work in our thinking. It is because Jesus is who he is (a divine person as well as a sinless human being) that his sufferings and death can have a transforming, liberating and saving character.

After Dr. Milne's address there was a time of questions. All were impressed by Dr. Milne's lucid and pertinent answers on a wide range of topics. We are grateful to Dr. Milne for his well thought-out and heart-warming address. Our thanks, also, to Zion BP Church for making their premises available.

Thirty-Eight Years

Who was the most patient and hopeful man in the Bible? A strong contender is the man who waited 38 years for healing. He was lying beside the pool at Bethesda, waiting to be the first one into the pool when the water moved, so as to be healed (John 5:1-16). What great patience! What great hope! But wasn't it sad that he placed his hope in a pool instead of in God?

Could such a thing happen today? Sure. Don't we see millions of people placing their hopes on lottery tickets rather than in God? And people making pilgrimages tothe pool in Lourdes? Can God be limited to one place? Did Jesus heal in only one town?

Thirty-eight years. How much thinking the man could do, about the cause of his illness and disability. But did he? Somehow, I doubt it. For he did not realise that it was caused by his sins. So he continued to sin during those 38 years! How do we know? Because after healing him, Jesus told him, "…do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you (John 5:14)."

Thirty-eight years of waiting to get well, only to be asked by a stranger, Jesus, "Do you want to get well?" Did the man say, "Yes!"? Did he even reply to Jesus' question? He said:"Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up,but while I am coming, another steps down before me."What does his reply show? It shows this:

Thirty-eight years of sickness and he was still blaming others and not himself. If only a man had carried him into the water quickly, he would now be OK. If only someone else had not gone into the water first, he would have been healed. Isn't it terrible to blame others for everything? But aren't we all like that too? If only someone else in the office had not done so well last year, I would have been promoted. If only the boss had been more fair, he would have made me manager. Sounds familiar?

Thirty-eight years of waiting, for what? For a man to carry him. He wanted only one thing, and had closed his mind to other solutions. All he wanted of Jesus was to carry him into the water. And he didn't even ask Jesus to do that. Aren't we often like that too? We see only one solution and pray for that to happen. If Jesus went to Lourdes today, how many would ask him for healing? 

Of all the "multitude" of sick, blind, lame and paralysed people, why did Jesus choose such a man to heal? Was it because a man who had still not been healed after 38 years was a hopeless case in everyone's eyes? But then, Jesus healed him. Is there any case that is really "hopeless" to God?

Ms Christine Wong  24/7 
Rev Yap Kim Sin  24/7 
Mr Leonard Kok Chee Keong  26/7 
Ms Ng Li Shien  27/7 
Ms Au Na Chuang  28/7
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