It is not often in the course of preparing lectures that I can allow myself the luxury of reading a book all the way through. More often than not I find myself briefly dipping into a book, ransacking it for material that I can use, and then dashing back to my computer. I was delighted, therefore, to be able to spend some time during the mid-semester break reading through The Canon of the New Testament, by the distinguished NT scholar Bruce M. Metzger (Oxford

University Press, 1987).
The topic of the biblical canon is an important one: why do we treat precisely these 39 OT books and 27 NT books and no others as Holy Scripture? To provide a proper answer to this question, however, requires knowledge of a range of extra-biblical material, not all of it easily accessible. Metzger's book is an able survey of the data relevant to the history of the NT canon. In a clear and at times entertaining way he surveys the following: previous scholarship on the NT canon; the period of the Apostolic Fathers (c. 95-150 AD), in which the NT was already being extensively cited; the possible influence of heresy (Gnosticism, Marcionism, Montanism) on the formation of the NT canon; the development of the NT canon in the Western and Eastern Churches; the NT Apocrypha (books of temporary and local canonicity, eventually excluded from the NT); early lists of NT books (the Muratorian Canon, Eusebius); the closing of the NT canon in the Western and Eastern Churches. A final section deals with contemporary discussions of the canon.
Many Christians may feel that investigation of a topic like this is more or less unnecessary: why bother finding out when different books of the NT were accepted as scripture when the NT itself speaks to us so directly and with such authority? As Metzger himself puts it at the end of this book (p. 287): 'If… all the academies of music in the world were to unite in declaring Bach and Beethoven to be great musicians, we should reply, "Thank you for nothing; we knew that already."' To be sure, few people are likely to be brought to faith through studying the history of the NT canon. But for those who want to know something of the history our New Testament, this is a most helpful book. You may also find yourself picking up quite a lot of early church history as you read it. (PES)

We were pleased to welcome to Chapel this Wednesday Mr. David Leong, our New Testament tutor. Mr. Leong spoke to us from John 17, Jesus' prayer for his disciples. There are two main aspects which the prayer focuses on. On the one hand, Christians are to be in the world (v. 11): we are not to be secluded from the world, or unconcerned about what goes on in the world. Christian are to be involved in the world, that is, in most of the activities, professions, etc. that are carried on in the world (IT, finance, etc.). On the other hand, Christians do not belong to the world (vv. 17-19): there must be some distinctives in our lifestyles that mark us out from the world. We should have different values, a different world-view, a different vision, which influences our responses to what goes on around us. Only by being in but not of the world do we find the joy that Jesus speaks of in v. 13).
But this is a hard balance to maintain. It is easy to swerve to one side or the other. It is easy for Christians who seem pious in church to be engaged in dubious business practices at other times in the week, in effect laying aside biblical values when they enter the work-place. It is easy to go along with the world's way of doing things. By contrast, it requires real effort on our part to live under Jesus' lordship, and to reflect that lordship at all points in our lives. It requires that we live purposeful and intentional lives: in effect, that we develop a distinctive Christian spirituality. This is not something that happens by itself. Certainly we can learn from the past, by studying how figures like Augustine and Luther sought to be faithful to the gospel in their generation, but we cannot simply imitate figures from the past. Our spirituality, as well as being biblical, must be appropriate to our own lives, the situations we face, the countries we live in.
We are called, then, to be God's children, and we should be content with nothing less than that. A life of daily obedience is one that springs from a deep knowledge of God and his love, nurtured by fellowship, worship, Bible-reading and prayer. Many Christians, by contrast, seem merely to skim the surface, and to have only a superficial knowledge of God. We should aim to do better than that. The alternative is to live 'Jekyll and Hyde' lives, lives which are respectable on the surface, but in reality deeply dishonouring to God.

(PART 2)

On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged 850 prophets of false gods to a test to prove who was the true God, and Yahweh won. Then Elijah, in the power of God, ran down Mount Carmel in the rain, overtook King Ahab's chariot and stayed ahead all the way to Jezreel, Ahab's capital city (1Kings 18:46).
Wasn't Jezreel over 30 kilometres away? So Elijah outran a king's chariot for 30 kilometres? Wow!
But why the mad rush by Ahab and Elijah?
Was it because Jezreel lay across the Kishon River? With the heavy rain and lack of vegetation (after years of drought) to retain the run-off, the river would have been flooded in a short time, and uncrossable? Ahab had to cross the river or be stranded and vulnerable to attack. But why did Elijah go too?
Was it because he wanted to see the evil Queen Jezebel realise that the Baal she worshipped was not a true god, and repent?
Did he want to preside over the mass destruction of Baal idols and Asherah poles all over Israel? But did the evil Queen Jezebel repent?
1Kings 19 1:1 says that after "Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done", she "sent a messenger to Elijah to say, 'May the gods deal with me ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not take your life'." After hearing of how Yahweh was publicly proven to be the true God by his sending down fire from heaven to burn the slaughtered and wet bull, whereas Baal and Asherah could not, how could Jezebel still believe in Baal and Asherah?
Isn't this one of the great mysteries in the Bible, and in the world?
But this is how some people are. They will not believe in God even if they see proof of his existence and his greatness.
When they end up in Hell, whose fault is it? Theirs, of course? But isn't it partly our fault for not loving them, not telling them about God, and not praying for their salvation?
What did Elijah feel, when Ahab and Jezebel did not repent?
Did his triumph turn into fear?
Elijah fell into a deep depression and wanted to die. God had given Israel the most graphic proof that Yahweh was the true God. What more could God do? What more could Elijah do? His greatest triumph had turned into nothing.
The Bible does not sensationalise. It merely states the bald facts: "Elijah ran for his life" (1Kings 19:3), from Jezreel in northern Israel.
Where did he flee to? To a town called Beersheba.
Where is Beersheba? Is it not at the edge of a great desert in the southern part of Judah, another kingdom?
Wasn't that about as far as he could go from Ahab without leaving the land of the Israelites?
What I find amazing is the simple statement: "When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there while he went a day's journey into the desert" (IKings 19:3&4).
"Servant"? Doesn't that mean that the servant, who was with Elijah on Mount Carmel when he defeated the 850 prophets, had also run down from Mount Carmel to Jezreel, and fled with Elijah to Beersheba? What a loyal and faithful servant!
Elijah ran away in fear, defeat and depression. Isn't it encouraging to us today that God can use people who are afraid, who feel defeated and who get depressed, namely people like us?

Chapel Speaker for this Wednesday will be Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

Word of Thanks from Library
Two readers of BTW have responded to our urgent need for monitors. We are grateful for three monitors and two CPUs given. Now we can retire our 486 computer!

Closure of Library on 25 Sep
Dr Quek will be giving a talk entitled "Treasures in Earthen Vessel" to 50 members of Bethesda (Katong) Church in recognition of the church's support to BGST. The talk is on the importance of the study of Biblical Archaeology as a background in understanding the Bible. This talk will be held in the library on Tuesday, 25 Sep 2001 at 8.30pm. The library will be closed from 7.30pm to prepare for the talk. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Wishing you God's richest blessings. Happy Birthday!

Mrs Cheong Cheng Choo  09/24, Ms Tan Chay Hoon Lydia  09/24,
Mr Lu Thiam Seng  09/25, Mr Cecil Peters  09/28,
Mr Rupert Seah  09/28, Mr Hosea Lai  09/29,
Dr Tan Lai Yong  09/29, Mrs Tay-Wong Kar Foon  09/29

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