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