Saturday, April 30, 2016

Back in Chicago after a Month in Jersualem

I returned to the States after a glorious April month in east Jersusalem at the Ecolé Biblique et Archéologique Française (or EBAF, for short). I'm still processing my experience in the midst of pushing forward on the intellectual boost I received on my research project from well-spent time in EBAF's library. My trip had a multi-faceted missional character and I hope to blog about my experiences in the months ahead.
   First and foremost, it was a tremendous opportunity to get a huge breakthrough in my writing. I'm grateful that I could bust through some conceptual and exegetical roadblocks to my project on Paul and the Epicureans while at EBAF.
Front Reception Area of the Ecolé Biblique et Archéologique Française (EBAF)
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Second, not only was my post-doctoral studies a researcher's dream, as a seminary professor who teaches with the mission of the church always in the forefront of my work, it was a teacher's dream as well. I took thousands of photos (10,000+) that I plan on incorporating into my powerpoint slides that I use in my courses at North Park Theological Seminary. I can finally replace other scholars' photos of the Holy Land with my own. Vocationally, it was just inspiring to live, breathe, and see firsthand the archaeological and historical sites where much of the biblical narrative took place.
Finally, after years of waiting, I visited Qumran, the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Third, pastorally, I am grateful for the warm welcome and reception I received from the Palestinian Christian community. I visited both Nazareth Evangelical College and Bethlehem Bible College and heard first-hand the challenges that Palestinian Christians face trying to live out their missional mandate to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) in a volatile political climate where secular Israelis, orthodox Jews, Muslims, Messianic Jews, and Palestinian Christians are in conflict and experience personal frustration at the reconciliation process. It does not help that while many evangelical Christians in North America are keenly aware of Israeli politics, they nevertheless are unsympathetic to the suffering of their fellow Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters in the church. I'm hoping, after my trip, the doors will be open to sending some North Park seminarians to Bethlehem Bible College for field education and study on the peace process in Israel/the Palestinian Authority.
Bethlehem Bible College in the Palestinian Authority where Arab Christians
receive a theological education in preparation for a life of ministry
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016
   Fourth, personally, I'm grateful that my family could join me during my last week in the Holy Land and we could visit, survey, pray, read God's word, and hear the Lord speak to us as we went to Caesarea, Nazareth, Mt. Carmel, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, Ein Gedi, Masada, Qumran, the Dead Sea, Jersualem again, and several other sites throughout Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In many ways, this family time felt more like a spiritual retreat than a vacation. Praise God for that! Amen!
My sons Zach and Jonathan posing in the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv
Photo Credit by Max Lee © 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Scholarly Life at the Ecolé Biblique de Jérusalem

Well, I thought I would have time to blog about my experiences in Jerusalem, but the day flies by so fast, my head spins at night wondering where the time went! I just have to give a more detailed set of blog posts about the archaeological and historic sites of the old city later. But let me say a few words (and share some photos) about studying at the Ecolé Biblique de Jérusalem (or EBAF).
Front Gate and Address for the Ecolé Biblique
housed at St. Stephen's monastery
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
I will say that the hospitality and research set-up at the Ecolé Biblique has been wonderful. A scholar's dream really. My sleeping quarters are modest and clean. The food is delicious, and in a good way, you will lose weight. It's mostly fresh vegetables and fruit, salads (two or three), all types of bread (but Mediterranean pita is the best!), various pastas, and sometimes fish, chicken and other meats. I have not eaten this healthy in a while. 
To the left is a typical meal at EBAF: salads, pasta, steamed vegetables,
stuffed potatoe with eggplant, Lebanese loquat (the orange fruit), banana, water,
coffee (as much as I want!). To the right is a typical room with bed and desk,
You share a kitchen sink and bathroom with the adjoining room across the hall
The library is excellent, good wifi, and a very good antiquities section. They even have Galen's 3-volume treatise On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato on hand! If, however, you are a New Testament scholar interested in Jewish backgrounds, especially the Qumran scrolls, or an Old Testament scholar, the selections are not only very good but outstanding. You can check out their holdings here
    One thing to note that is especially helpful of their catalogue is that they (actually 3 committed librarians in the back) maintain a searchable database that lists out not just the books of an author but their individual essays. Most catalogues do not list out every essay separately for a given scholar. Type in "Troels Engberg-Pedersen" in an electronic catalogue and you will get all his books, but type this same search in EBAF's catalogue and you get a listing of books and hard-to-find essays hidden in various anthologies and Festschriften. 
Reference Section of the EBAF. There are two floors and their holdings
are organized by section: Antiquities (including Greek and Roman materials;
this is where I hang out!), Old Testament, New Testament, Qumran, Patristics,
Medieval Church History, etc. You get 24-hour access and can work all night!
   When you arrive, the folks at the EBAF get you settled, give you a quick library orientation, and set you up at a desk where you can work and leave your laptop.
Modest desk set up at the EBAF but it does the job! You can plug in, get
good wifi, leave your books and laptop there to return later. Not shown are the
scanners, copiers (40 Agorot each copy = $0.10 each; scanning is free), desktop
computers, outside lounge area with coffee machine, water, etc.
   I think the best thing about the EBAF is their wonderful community of Dominican priests, nuns, and visiting scholars in an ecumenical setting. I have been having some wonderful conversations at the meal times over work, scholarship, parish life and the politics of Israel. In the mornings and evenings, there are prayer chapels. Although everything is in French, and I sing horribly, it is an experience to share in the Roman Catholic piety of those who take their service and mission in East Jersusalem with such passion.
The beautiful interior of St. Stephen's Church located on the campus of
the EBAF and monastery. The middle mural/fresco before the altar is the Lord
Jesus, to your left is St. John, and to your right, St. Stephen. Imagine how beautiful
and awe-inspiring it is to have a prayer chapel here every morning and evening
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
   Last thing, old Jersusalem is less than a 10 minute walk away from the EBAF. I do it in 5. Walk down the hill on the Nablus Road and you run into the stunning Damascus Gate. 
The stunning Damascus Gate which leads into the Muslim Quarter
Photo Credit © 2016 Max Lee
Walk through the gate and you are in the Muslim quarter, hang a right and you head to the Christian quarter, walk straight and you'll find your way to the Jewish quarter, and farthest away is the Armenian quarter. 
As soon as you weave your way through the Damascus Gate, you walk onto Souk 
Khan al-Zeit Street with its various shops lining its edges in the Muslim Quarter
   It was hard not to spend the first day just exploring the sites in Jersualem and so I have already visited all four quarters of the city, walked fully around the pathway/roads around Jersualem's walls (a 2 hour walk), and seen the Western Wall, Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock, the underground excavations under the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives and Church of All Nations (Gethsemane), the Kidron Valley, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and more. Too much to do. Too much to see. One month here now feels painfully short. 
   P.S.: I probably won't post any more until after I return from my trip unless I get writer's block and need to do something random to move forward in my work. So until I get back, blessings! MJL

Postscript 4/10/16: added an extra photo of the shops/bazaar lining the streets of the Muslim quarter

Sunday, April 3, 2016

At Least He's Still a Bear

Good news! My son received a letter of acceptance from Cornell University and will be heading to Ithaca, New York, as a freshman come Fall 2016 as part of Cornell's class of 2020. He also received the Posse scholarship which generally pays for his tuition for the next four years. Needless to say, I and the Mrs. are very proud of him. Way to go Zach!
To celebrate, the banner of Paul Redux was change to
Cornell colors until the start of Zach's Fall 2016 semester
and then I'll revert back to the older orange banner (or may be not!)
The awards ceremony was this early part of January, but I simply held off on announcing the good news until we all heard from Zach's friends and what schools they received acceptance. In case you're not a parent with a senior in high school, April 1st (no it's not a joke) is the day when most universities inform students of their admission. 
   I've included a photo of us celebrating the receipt of his scholarship at Posse (so it was not a dream!). I'm very grateful for the Lord's provision and encouraged by Zach's hard work. He also has his own literary blog entitled Montag's Musings (check it out!). 
   There is also the added bonus that Cornell University has a first class philosophy department in the same building as the English Department which houses the creative writing major that Zach is interested in. So when I do get a chance to visit Zach on campus, I just might mozy on down to Goldwin Smith Hall and see if I could connect with professors Tad Brennan and Gail Fine whose works on the Stoics and Platonism I have read and appreciated. 
    If I have any regret, a part of me wishes he could have gone to Cal Berkeley like Su and I did way back when, but at least he's still a bear, though a red one!
Photo Credit: Thanks to my younger son Jonathan for taking this pic

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Louder than a Bomb: Ground Zero for a Pastoral Theology

From February 13-March 13, 2016, the family and I were on pins & needles watching my oldest son Zach Lee (stage name: exzachlee; pronounced "exactly") compete in Chicago's annual poetry slam Louder than a Bomb sponsored by Young Chicago Authors.  Zach is co-captain of Whitney Young High School's slam poetry team and this year, he and the team went further than they ever have, moving from the preliminaries to the quarterfinals in the group competition, and Zach reaching the semi-finals in the individual ("Indy") bouts. 
   For those who follow me on twitter, I have been tracking #LTAB2016 and posting photos, videos and commentary on some of the poems I have heard and seen performed by some very talented young men and women with lyrical skill and cadence. As I shared in my tweets, LTAB is ground zero for voicing the angst, frustrations, and passions of urban youth. Among the poems recited, I heard from those who were hurt over dysfunctional relationships with mothers, fathers, step-parents, and grandparents. Others shared their frustrations with cheating boyfriends, or their anger over racial prejudice and the violence of their neighborhoods, and exasperation over the cultural slurs people fling at one another in ignorance and sometimes fear. As I heard one poem after another, some with an artistry and rhythm that shined with poetic brilliance, I was struck by how well each performance articulated and described the brokenness of our sinful world. 
    What was missing was hope. The strength of LTAB is how the artists express with truthful candor the ugliness of life and how wickedly people can act. But it was hard to see a glimmer of light in the midst of such darkness, nor find a redemptive moment in the midst of anguish and pain. 
    Zach, to his credit, wanted to share a poem which spoke to hope and redemption even in the face of hardship. His piece focused on what good word the Bible has to share in the pit of human struggle. He did not make it to the finals, but below is the video of his semi-finals performance held at the Metro theatre on the north side of Chicago. I hope you are encouraged and blessed by his witness.

Many thanks, by the way, to Park Community Church who posted this video clip on their youtube channel. Soli Deo gloria!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Glorious! Christ Is Risen, Risen Indeed!

Founded in 1890, the  École biblique is the French School of Archaeology
located a quarter of a mile away from the walls of old Jersualem, Israel
Photo credit: google images
Blessings on this glorious Easter Sunday! Soon, I will be leaving for Israel to begin post-doctoral studies at the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem for the entire month of April. If I don't get totally enamored by the sites of old Jerusalem, I will try to post on my adventures in the holy city (daily, weekly, randomly?... no promises here) on the blog. The École biblique happens to located right across the street from the Garden Tomb, one of two possible sites for where Jesus was buried. 
The Garden Tomb, the alternative location for the burial of Jesus
beyond the traditional site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons © 2008
Roughly within a two-mile, well-within-walking-distance radius are the Temple Mount, the tower of David, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a dozen of other historic and archaeological sites. I'm planning on using the mornings to explore the old Jerusalem and leave the afternoons, evenings, and late nights to intensive study, research and writing. I'll have to be disciplined to keep on my writing schedule and not get lost in the sites and beauty of Jerusalem and beyond.
    Interesting enough, the campus of the École biblique has its own rich history. It is located within St. Stephen's monastery of the Dominican order, which was rededicated in 1900 over the remains of the much older Byzantine church built by Empress Eudocia in the 5th century A.D. to house the relics of St. Stephen. 
Statue of St. Stephen (1st Christian martyr of Acts 6:8-8:2) in the atrium
of the Dominican monastery and home to the École biblique

Photo credit: google images
I will be living on campus, have 24-hour library access, and employ to the best of my ability the resources of this first-class research facility. I'm also very much looking forward to the meal times for conversation with other scholars and the Dominican residents. I'm sure I'll learn much from them!
   On this Easter Sunday, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 6:14: "By his power, God raised the Lord and will also raise us." May the power of God which raised his Son two-thousand years ago, and with His resurrection, crushed sin's grip on our world and death's reign, strengthen your witness to, service for, and life in Christ this day until the Lord himself calls us to our own resurrection. Amen!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Exploring Intertextuality: A Book Review Panel at AAR-SBL 2016

Panel Review of Exploring Intertexuality for AAR-SBL 2016
in San Antonio, Texas, this November 2016
I'm excited to announce a plenary session of the Intertextuality in the New Testament (INIT) Section at this year's AAR-SBL conference in San Antonio. The Intertextuality Section has three sessions this year, the first of which is described below.
    Over the years, the section has had a fair number of presenters with excellent papers exploring a diverse range of methodologies in intertextuality. A select number of these papers plus some invited essays have been published together in one volume, edited by B.J. Oropeza (formerly chair of the INIT) and Stephen Moyise. 
    I and Erik Waaler, current co-chairs, have organized a book review panel for the book, which will be published under the Cascade imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers sometime after the summer 2016. The off-prints are currently being reviewed, and I've included an unofficial title page below: 
Available from Cascade Books sometime in Summer/Fall 2016
    There are 17 essays in total, each reflecting either a well-established methodological approach to intertextuality (e.g. metalepsis, rhetorical readings) or new and avant-garde models (e.g., hypertexts, relevance theory). We could not possibly cover every essay. Instead, we elected to pick four representative essays that cover a good range of approaches to intertextuality in New Testament interpretation. We asked the authors to give a short 10 min. summary of their work, highlighting key tenets of their use of intertextuality to interpret the biblical texts. We then gave greater time to the respondents, each an expert in his or her field, well-qualified to give a robust and critical response to each essay. There is also a planned open Q&A for the last 25 min. 
     Here is the programmed panel review (tentative schedule, subject to minor change if any) below, and I must say, we are fortunate to have quite a line-up of who's who in New Testament studies participating in the panel. I'm very excited how this panel came together and look forward to both the presentations and what is sure to be a dynamic dialogue and debate afterwards. Be sure to join us for this session if you are there in San Antonio come this November 2016. 

Intertextuality in the New Testament 
Theme: Exploring Intertextuality: Diverse Strategies for New Testament Interpretation of Texts

Presider: Max Lee, North Park Theological Seminary

Introduction (5 min): Erik Waaler and B.J. Oropeza

1) Metalepsis: The Intersection of Two Stories (10 min)
by Jeannine Brown, Bethel Seminary

Respondent: Nicholas Perrin, Wheaton College and Graduate School (20 min)

2) Midrashic Interpretation of Scripture  (10 min)
by B.J. Oropeza, Azusa Pacific University, and Lori Baron, Duke Divinity School

Respondent: Craig Keener, Ashbury Theological Seminary (20 min)

3) Mimesis (10 min)
by Dennis MacDonald, Claremont School of Theology

Respondent: Karl Olav Sandnes, Norwegian School of Theology (20 min)

4) Multidimensional Intertextuality (10 min)
by Erik Waaler, NLA University College

Respondent: Stanley Porter, McMaster Divinity College (20 min)

5) Panel Discussion and Questions from the Floor (25 min)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

An Ideal Setup Can Help with Research

Here is a not-so-popular addage: "Good administration is no guarantee for success, but bad administration can certainly stiffle it" (a Max Lee quotable). This is true of business, profane or holy, and it is true for academics who are plugging forward on their research projects. I have longed to find the perfect computer screen setup for writing. I finally saved enough dough to put it together this past week. Here is a photo of it: 
My Research Computer Setup: Left Screen: MS Word Doc of a chapter I'm working on
Right Screen: Top is Plato's Theaetetus from the HathiTrust Digital Library and
Bottom has the Greek morphology engine on the Perseus Project website

I used two 22-inch Dell flat screen's (refurbished price $140 each) and rotated them to portrait mode, set the display to extended screen so that the two monitors act as a single screen together, got a used docking station ($20) for my North Park issued Dell Latitude E5440 laptop (free as long as I keep teaching at the seminary), found an old keyboard, and voilà! The perfect setup. 
    Because the screens are rotated to portrait mode, on the left one, I can get a full page view of whatever part of the monograph I'm working on (more like 1 1/2 pages) at 150% zoom. I don't have to squint anymore at my 14 in. (X 10 in.) display on my dinky laptop which only allows me to see less than 1/2 a page at a given moment. To my right, I can keep the top window open on whatever electronic document I'm working in (i.e., the photo above has Plato's Theaetetus on screen, courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library) and on the bottom right window, I can keep a web browser open (i.e., the photo has the Greek morphology engine on the Perseus Project website). Of course, the most important item on the desk for any researcher, an absolute must, is a cup of java to keep the blood pumping.
   I just thought I would share this setup since the scholarly world sometimes seems so solitary and we academics, professors and students alike, need to help each other out with whatever productivity hints we can share. 
   FYI, I received the idea for the above setup from a post by James Warren, Reader at Cambridge University, whose kenodoxia blog I follow. In his post, James (with whom I enjoyed a very helpful conversation one day in 2010 when I stole away from my post-doctoral studies at Durham University to visit Cambridge) showed a two-screen setup as he was compiling the indices for his now published book The Pleasures of Reason (2014). When I saw his post, it gave me the inspiration for the above desktop arrangement. But I had to save for a few months before I could buy what I needed. Cheers!