Monday, May 22, 2017

Warning Sign to Greeks on the Temple Mount

It feels like a long time since my Turkey trip in March 2017. I took about 6500 photos from my study tour through Turkey. A big shout-out to Dr. Mark Wilson who was an amazing commentator for connecting the archaeology and landscape of the sites I visited with the history of early Christianity in Asia Minor. Many thanks also to Tuktu Tours who organized the trip (as safe as safe could be!) and Meltem Ciftci, our official tour guide. 
    This post is on the Istanbul National Museum because I was able to finally connect one archaeological find in the Israel Museum, of which I took photos back in April 2016, to another artefact housed in Istanbul. First is the inscription from the Israel National Museum which was found near the Lion's Gate of old Jerusalem: 
Greek Temple Mount Warning (Israel Museum)
Photo by Max Lee ©2016
This small inscription currently housed in Jerusalem is so fragmentary, it's hard to figure out what it might say. None of what you see is a full word except for a random article (τοῦ) or conjunction (καί). Here is the inscription again in transcribed form: 
Josephus writes about a series of stone slabs that give warnings to foreigners, some written in Greek, others Latin, that no foreigner was permitted to enter the Temple area (see Jewish Wars 5.194). Scholars rightly identify the above inscription as an example of this warning. 
     But the identification is only possible because we can compare it to a larger and more complete warning which was found north of the Temple Mount and is currently housed at the Istanbul National Museum (how a fragment unearthed at the Temple Mount finds its way to Istanbul is another story). 
     Surprisingly, unlike the smaller one above that was protected in a (fiber)glass casing in prominent display, this larger and arguably more important find was on the floor of the Istanbul Museum, sandwiched obscurely between two other displays, without any protection, and vulnerable to the goodwill of any observer who walks by it. It was a first for me to be so close to, and able to touch, an inscription of such importance. 
Companion and More Complete Inscription of the Greek Temple Warning
1st century C.E., located at the Istanbul National Museum
Photo by Max Lee ©2017
As you can see, the larger inscription is likely complete. For comparison, you can see where the lettering preserved in the 1st inscription (red font) is repeated in its 2nd companion copy: 
Put the inscription in cursive text with an English translation, and it reads: 

μηθένα ἀλλογενῆ εἰσπο|ρεύσθαι ἐντὸς τοῦ πε|ρὶ τὸ ἱερον τρυφάκτου καὶ | περιβόλου. ὅς δ' ἂν ληφθῇ ἑαυτῷ αἴτιος ἔσ|ται διὰ τὸ ἐξακολου|θεῖν θάνατον

No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and enclosed area surrounding the Temple. And whosoever is caught will himself be responsible for his resultant death

With this full inscription from the 2nd artefact, we can now reconstruct what the 1st smaller inscription must have looked like as a companion copy of the same warning. Below is an artists's reconstruction of the 1st inscription in its entirety as the script is extrapolated from the original piece (traced out below).
Diagram from Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae Palestinae (vol. 1, pt 1; p. 43)
As Josephus stated ("In this [balustrade] at regular intervals stood slabs giving warning, some in Greek, others in Latin characters, of the law of purification, to wit that no foreigner was permitted to enter the holy place, for so the second enclosure of the temple was called" J.W. 5.194; LCL, p. 61), there were several such warning signs all over the temple area. Luckily, we have at least two of them. 
     The signs give a historical context to several texts in the New Testament, including the scene in Acts where some pious Jews thought Paul had brought a Gentile, Trophimus the Ephesian (Acts 21:29), into the temple, and started a riot as a result. There is also Paul's reference to the temple's physical walls separating out the court of the men from foreigners in the Letter to the Ephesians. Here he uses it as a metaphor for how this "dividing wall of hostility" between Jews and Gentiles has been torn down by the work of Christ (e.g., Eph. 2:14). 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Will Start to Blog Again... I Think!

Illustration Credit: Gemma Correll (public domain)
Well, the photo says it all. As the Spring 2017 semester comes to a close:

When giving finals, I was the early bird (who schedules finals at 8am? especially Greek!)
When grading finals, I was the night owl (why do students upload papers after midnight?)
When submitting the final grades, I slouch over as the permanently exhausted pigeon (there is no rest for the faithful!) 

But PTL!, I'm done. Now I can start my research summer, put this crazy semester behind me (and it was nuts... can I retire before North Park does another 10-year ATS accreditation report?), and hopefully get back into blogging again. I will start off slow and find a regular rhythm later to talk about the most random things concerning Paul, early Christianity, and the church today. Glad summer is here! MJL

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Paul as Pastor

Last week, I was at the Evangelical Covenant Church's Midwinter 2017 Conference. With fear and trembling, I was asked to teach on the topic of leadership in the New Testament, and I ended up preparing a message entitled: "Paul as Pastor." It became a tougher topic to address than I thought because Paul does not really use the word “leader” in any of his letters. 
    The words for “leader” in Greek are ἄρχων (archōn) and ἡγούμενος (hēgoumenos), translated “rulers” and “leaders” in your Bibles, and refer to secular leadership but not church leaders, with the exception of Hebrews (13:7, 17, 24). Instead of the word “leader,” what Paul does is discuss various leadership roles or pastoral activities using other terms like: 

I’ve arranged these 12 terms for pastoral leadership into 4 semantic domains or umbrella categories. 

1) The Preacher
  minister / servant (Greek δικονος or diakonos)
  preacher (Greek κηρσσων or kēryssōn)
  evangelist (Greek εαγγελιστς or euangelistēs)
  teacher (Greek διδασκλος or didaskalos):
2) The Pastor
  overseer (Greek πσκοπος or episkopos)
  elder (Greek πρεσβτερος or presbyteros)
  mentor/imitation (Greek μιμητς or mimētēs) and spiritual father/mother (Greek πατρ or patēr; μητρ or mētēr)
  shepherd /pastor (Greek ποιμν or poimēn) where through the Vulgate/patristic writers we get the Latin word pastor
  slave/servant of God and the church (Greek δολος or doulos)
3) The Prophet
  prophet (Greek προφτης or prophētēs)
x apostle? (Greek πστολος or apostolos): But apostleship was a unique office to the 1st century church alone.
4) The Priest
  priest or priestly minister/servant (Greek λειτουργς or leitourgos)
  administrator (Greek οκονμος or oikonomos) of the mysteries/sacraments (Greek word μυστριον or mystērion). μυστριον is translated sacramentum in Latin

    But let’s call the semantic domains something like the 4 ministerial roles, offices, even ministerial “functions” or responsibilities of the Christian leader. I call them the 4P’s of church leadership. Leaders 1) preach, 2) they pastor or shepherd or care for the flock, 3) they prophetically challenge the church and discern what God is doing in our midst,  and 4) they do their priestly duties, administering the sacraments, standing in the gap between God and suffering, but much more. So 4P’s: preacher, pastor, prophet, and priest, but it is arguably the role of the pastor or shepherd which functions as the core and unites all the other roles and responsibilities of leadership.
    I'm thankful that so many pastors, Christian leaders, former students, colleagues and friends at Midwinter appreciated the morning session I taught. Paul sometimes gets a bad wrap among scholars as too authoritarian. But this is really a modern pet-peeve. The solution to bad authority in the secular world is not no-authority in the church but the right use of authority that edifies and redeems. In fact, the more I study Paul, the more I am convicted that he was a premier pastor of the church whose teachings and practices can inform and form our present-day ministerium to become faithful servants of Christ and His body. 
    I am thinking that eventually this session can evolve into a small book on Paul as Pastor. We shall see. I have to finish my other book projects first. In the meanwhile, one of the most helpful resources on a pastoral theology remains the one written by the late Thomas Oden. His Pastoral Theology (1983) is a classic and still the best on the topic: 

Still the best work on a pastoral theology
available for the scholars, pastors and leaders
RIP Thomas Oden
Postscript: It pains me to blog so little (probably 1X a month) but until the ATS Accreditation report for North Park is complete, I'm swamped with work. The seminary needs its 10 yr accreditation so we can't fumble the ball on this one. Likely I can blog much more regularly again when we reach the summer and end of the academic year. MJL

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year this 2017!

Photo Credit ©2016 Fengshui Beginner
Happy New Year! Goodbye to the year of the (fire) monkey, and hello to 2017, the year of the (fire) rooster! It's a Lee family clan tradition to begin the new year with prayer and to reflect not only on how we experienced God this past 2016 but also share how we hope to experience Him further in the next year. We all heard a good and challenging word from the evening New Year's Eve service and are considering three questions to pray through for 2017: 

    1) What has the Lord done in 2016 that I want to see continue in 2017?
    2) What do I want to change for 2017?
    3) What do I want to start for 2017? 

I found each question difficult to answer. In fact, I'm not sure how to answer these. But I will be on my knees praying through the questions tonight, today, and the next day. Probably the whole week. But I do know that seeking God's counsel is exactly how I want to spend my first hours of this new year.

May we all begin this 2017 seeking the Lord and His kingdom first with all our might and strength! Blessings!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Intertextuality Revisited: Retrospect on SBL-AAR 2016 and Prospect for SBL-AAR 2017

The panel review of the book Exploring Intertextuality sponsored by the
Intertextuality in the New Testament Section at SBL-AAR 2016
Wrote finals. Gave finals. Graded finals. Celebrated Christmas. Heading into the new year. Trying to write but failing miserably. So if I don't catch up on some overdue blogging now, forget it. Notably I offer some notes on the past meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio last November 18-22, 2016 as a lead-in to a larger discussion on Intertextuality.
Collection of Essays on Method & Practice
born from papers and invited essays from the
Intertextuality in the NT Section of SBL
This past November, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section featured a panel review of Exploring Intertextuality (2016), a collection of essays from papers read during the past four years of our sessions at the Society of Biblical Literature and some select invited essays. The goal of the book was to provide the landscape of diverse methodological approaches on intertextuality (if you need a primer on intertextuality, click here) and how these (post-)modern literary approaches help illuminate how New Testament authors quoted, alluded, and interpreted the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, Greco-Roman moral traditions, Homer's epics, and other ancient texts to shape their respective messages. In an earlier post, I listed the select chapters from this book under review at the panel and the roster of panel participants. 
    Well, the panel was a resounding success. At one point, we had over 160+ fellow scholars and students attend the session. Within 2 hours after the session, the Wipf & Stock book table sold out on all copies. Wow!
    I can't go over the whole session, but I would say of the four chapters reviewed, the two that received the most "friendly fire" from the reviewers was the chapter on Mimesis by Dennis MacDonald (review by Karl Olav Sandnes) and Multidimensional Intertextuality by Erik Waaler (review by Stanley Porter). For the most part, the chapter on Midrashic Interpretation of Scripture by B.J. Oropeza and Lori Baron received a very favorably response from Craig Keener, who simply added that he saw other midrashic examples of intertextuality applied by the New Testament authors other than the specific type applied by the B.J. and Lori. Likewise, Nick Perrin gave a favorable review of the chapter on Metalepsis by Jeannine Brown and noted that while they both agree that the New Testament author evokes the backstory of the OT text which is alluded or quoted, the disagreement between exegetes who employ a maximalist approach to intertextuality is determining what part of the OT backstory that the NT author intends to highlight. 
   The real fireworks began, however, when Sandnes offered his review of MacDonald's chapter on mimesis, which by way of a general definition, is the way ancient authors of a later period imitate or appropriate narrative elements of works from an earlier author, notably Homer (which MacDonald favors), but also Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, and other Greco-Roman writers. Sandnes was dubious that Mark's story of the Gerasene demoniac, for example, as MacDonald interprets it, stood as an imitation of various episodes of the Odysseus story but especially Odysseus' encounter with the cyclops Polyphemus. There is a concern that the narrative elements common to Homer and Mark are simply plot points that are commonly shared across many other stories versus Mark's intentional zeroing-in on the Odysseus account. Sandnes wonders if the comparisons between the two stories of Mark and Homer were becoming "more or less out of control." MacDonald rehearsed the specific literary analogues drawn from Homer in his original essay but more intriguely, gave a call to the academy that they might think about intertextuality in a fundamentally different way.
    It is this latter challenge by MacDonald that not only intrigued me the most but also the steering committee members of the section. In short, MacDonald did not find (post-)modern literary approaches to intertextuality helpful. He wanted scholars to examine how ancient authors themselves practiced intertextuality and see if the same ancient methods were applied by the New Testament writers. 
    In response to this challenge, I and some other steering committee members thought it would be worth devoting a few themed sessions to this very topic. For the SBL 2017 annual meeting in Boston, the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section in its call for papers is inviting paper proposals which give a description of ancient Jewish exegetical practices (e.g., rabbinic or midrashic techniques, methods by Hellenistic Jewish exegetes like Philo, and exegetical practices from any other ancient Jewish author) and which explain how a given NT author employs or modifies the same method in their own intertextual readings of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, or other ancient texts. For SBL 2018, the focus will be on ancient Greco-Roman exegetical practices, and I'm thinking of expanding my earlier blog post on this topic into a full paper for 2018. 
    In any case, I'm excited for the next two years of the section. I'm certain we'll have some great papers and perhaps some of these can be revised into publishable essays for our next volume on exploring intertextuality. MJL

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Blessings 2016

Photo of a painting I purchased from a Christian artist during my trip to the
Democratic Republic of Congo entitled "Nativity" © May 2015
As I was reading Luke 1 during our family "7 Day Countdown to Christmas," I was just struck by the future tense verbs in the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary:

  • And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come (ἐπελεύσεται) upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow (ἐπισκιάσει) you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God...  For no word from God will ever fail (οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει)."
  • "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:35-38)

The same Spirit which by God's word that created the cosmos in Genesis 1 was about to overshadow the virgin Mary and by God's word, the Word would conceive and be born as the Son of the Most High. 
   All of world history hinged on Mary's obedience. The Holy Spirit will come, and the power of the Most High will overshadow, but the Lord wanted Mary to respond to this grand invitation to partake in His divine plan for humanity. God's word did not require, but the Lord nevertheless sought, Mary's faith so His word can do its work in her and through her. 
   She was at most a teenager from a politically insignificant village of Nazareth in Galilee, a blip to people like Caesar Augustus, or governor Quirinius, and the powers at Rome (2:1-2). Yet without her faith, would Christ have come? It's a mystery we need not ponder because she did obey. She did surrender herself to God's word and will. And God's word was fulfilled by the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, gave death's its death blow, and rose as the Son of God. 
    May we all be humbled by Mary's example and seek to have the same obedience of faith as Mary's (Rom 1:5). May the Lord bless you with His presence this Christmas and may His word to you be fulfilled to the fullest. Amen! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Blessed Thanksgiving this year of 2016
Photo Credit by @HWCDSB
Ever since the Symposium on Science and Religion held at North Park last month, I have not been doing much blogging. But I have been active on twitter. I think, for the time being, given my increasing duties at the seminary (I'm now the chair of the biblical field, and the whole faculty including myself is currently working on the ATS report for the seminary's reaccreditation), I will continue this habititude of tweeting actively and only occasionally posting on this blog. I do, by the way, have some reflections on the past SBL-AAR in San Antonio that I would like to share here after the holiday has passed. But generally you can find me on my twitter feed (see the side bar) and randomly posting something on this blog where a tweet will not suffice (hopefully 1X a month). 
   As for now, I would like to wish everyone a Blessed Thanksgiving this November 2016! Personally I have been reflecting on Romans 14:8 "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's (τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμέν)." In the midst of a morally confused and rapidly changing world, I have only one assurance: I belong to the Lord. I can count on Him who will never let me go. So whether I live or die, experience loss or gain, suffer in the present or find unexpected moments of peace this day, my life rests on God's kingdom and purpose unfolding in my life at His speed, His timetable, not mine. 
    So Lord Jesus, thank you that whatever my family, my church, or I might experience in this earthly life, we can count on one thing: we are the Lord's.