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Finally made it to Precept class this morning, though being late. We’ve been studying Judges and this was our second last lesson on this book full of fascinating stories. The story we studied today was Samson’s life, a story filled with blood and lust.

I never quite understood how Samson lead the Israelites. Sure he was probably the strongest man in the whole universe at that time but muscles don’t make good leaders. (Look at Arnold in California :X ) He could make the headline everyday: “Samson killed 30″; “Samson killed a lion with bare hands"; “Samson burnt the field, expect crop price to rise"; “Samson killed 1000 with bone"; “Samson’s wife was given to his friend"; “Samson spotted with a prostitute"; “Samson married Delilah"; “Fail – Samson lied, Delilah’s effort in vain"; “Failx2 – Samson lied, Delilah’s scheme failed"; “Samson caught!"… How juicy! Yet this man lead Israelites for 20 years.

And if he made the headline, I’m pretty sure there’d be a small box somewhere on A1 that goes like this: ‘Nazirite is…1)not allowed to drink wine or seimilar stuffs; 2)not allowed to cut his hair; 3)not allowed to be near a dead body (death is the effect of sin)… “All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD".’

How on earth was Samson holy? Throughout the four chapters about Samson, there were two prayers only: one when Samson was dead thirsty and he just wanted water and one right before Samson’s death when he wanted the one last revenge on Philistine. He was supposed to be a sacred man – a man that is God centered but Samson was never God centered. He’s more focused on woman than on God.

I’m not sure how his parents raised him up but obviously either they didn’t know how to teach him or parenting was just  not effective. Parents should really take note from the Samson story: committing your son/daughter to God when he was an infant does not guarantee that he’d grow up as a devoted Christian. God’s work may still be done through him but it could be done in a heart-breaking way.

And the same to all believers: converting is the starting point and the journey is long – longer than a marathon. Delilah is in our hearts. We are tempted to compromise our faith and we are more easily to give in than we like. It’s not because Delilah was a beauty or what. Samson gave in not to Delilah’s beauty but to Delilah’s daily crying.  Delilah got the chance to cut Samson’s hair because Samson, though with all the signs, was not alert at all and would just sleep on her laps. Be alert and stay on track (be God-centered) and you’ll surely reach the finish line in heaven. Compromise and wander off, your finish line is in somewhere else.

But how to finish a marathon? Well, God’s grace is abundant. Look at Samson. He broke every single Nazirite vow requirement and God still answered his prayers. Though works is the evidence of our faith, we are saved through grace, not works. Trust in Him, rely on Him and you’ll see the finish line in heaven.

Fellow runners, keep running for and to the greater glory of God!

So, I’ve been playing with my ipod touch with software 2.0 for almost a week. I’ve also finally paid the second time in app store, which is also the first time I pay for an app (the first time was to buy the software 2.0).

The app costed me USD29.99 and obviously, if it makes me pay USD29.99 and I’m willing to do it, this app must be a useful app and a meaningful app. And voila! I’ve got BibleXpress installed. Just tried out a bit and seems pretty good to me. Very similar to the olivetree (NIV bundle) I used on palm before but looks much better. (I am sophisticated enough to actually study the Bible but at the same time, I am cheap and I am shallow – I don’t want to pay and I do like eye-candy stuffs!) I like the note function which gives users a way to make notes on each verse which is, as the developer wrote, good for expository study. From its website, it’s very likely that I can get NIV and The Message in future free updates. I hope that the developer will add commentaries and dictionaries to the app as well. I’ll depend on this app when I do my Precept class!

After playing with my friend’s iphone (actually, she’s my piano student but we ended up playing iphone and ipod touch instead of playing the piano…LOL), I know I WILL get an iphone – just a matter of time. My dad will probably be envious if I get one =P

Was reading Mingpao today and read this article:

出土石刻或證基督信仰源自猶太教

 【明報專訊】一塊自死海出土的石塊刻文,可能令世人不得不重新評估基督信仰的起源和發展。經鑑證,有關的石塊刻文早在耶穌出生前數十年已出現,但內容似乎已提到彌賽亞死後3天復活,引起宗教界及考古學界爭議。有論者質疑,有關刻文似乎正引證,「死後3天復活」早在耶穌出生前,已成為猶太人的傳統故事內容。

 死海出土 耶穌出生前文物

 該石塊高3呎,上有87行希伯來文,罕有用墨書寫。石塊已破裂,部分字不可辨,預料將引起學者不同詮釋。特拉維夫大學考古學教授戈倫(Yuval Goren)已對該石塊作化學檢驗,他表示並無理由懷疑該石塊的真偽。該石塊早於十年前出土,由一名瑞士猶太人購買收藏,但該收藏家並不知道該石塊的意義,直至數年前一名以色列學者仔細研究該石塊後,才知意義不同凡響。

 加州大學柏克萊分校猶太教法典教授博亞林(Daniel Boyarin)表示,該石塊進一步說明,只有通過仔細研究耶穌所屬年代的猶太歷史,才能更全面了解耶穌這人物。他說﹕「基督徒或會覺得這是令人震驚的,因為這對基督教神學的獨一無二性構成挑戰。」新約《聖經》有關彌賽亞的描述,跟猶太教最大分別,便是彌賽亞的形象是受苦的,且死後3天復活。但若有關說法早在耶穌出生前便流傳,那麼這便顯示基督教的教義源於猶太教,對耶穌的傳統認識更可能要重新評估。

 提及天使命令3天後復活

 石塊上的文字內容,是關於「加伯利大天使」的啟示,當中引述舊約聖經中的先知預言。石塊部分文字已脫落,經研究後,希伯萊大學聖經研究教授諾爾(Israel Knohl) 認為,該石塊第80行寫的是﹕「我,加伯利,命令你3天後生存。」他命令的是「王子中的王子」,希伯來聖經《但以理書》曾提及加伯利及「王子中的王子」,諾爾認為石塊所寫的,是關於一名猶太人領袖死後3天復活。他表示該名領袖有可能是被希律王殺死的歷史人物西蒙,石塊可能是出自西蒙追隨者之手。他說﹕「這會動搖我們對基督教的基本看法。死後3天復活是耶穌出生前已出現的主題,這跟一直以來的說法大相逕庭。新約《聖經》中耶穌及其門徒的說法,都是以早期的彌賽亞故事為根據。」

 過往耶穌時代文獻出土總掀起大爭議,以60年前出土的死海古卷為例,學者目前仍為古卷作者及意義爭論不休。

 紐約時報

The original text from New York Times is here.

So what if this tablet shows that Christianity is originated from Judaism? Didn’t everybody know that Christianity IS originated from Judaism? 

So what if Jesus’ teaching is based on Old Testament? Didn’t everyone who has read the Bible know that,  too?

And how about the prediction of death and resurrection of Messiah? OF COURSE there were such predictions. Many scriptures from the Old Testament are related to that!

“it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time…Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story…He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day. But there was, he said, and “Gabriel’s Revelation” shows it."

So, one single tablet can prove that it’s a motif developed before Jesus, a recognized Jewish tradition? Now I understand why some believe that no one died in June-4 Incident as there’re more than one who have said so. 

I really don’t see how this may ignite debate over Messiah and resurrection. The tablet is, of course, worthy of study. It shows something from the past. It may fill some gaps… or it may create more gaps. Either way, it is good for understanding history. But to have the core of Christianity shaken by this finding… It’s unlikely to happen.

Have to address clearly that the interpretation of Matthew 13 posted here a few days ago and the traditional interpretation are not mutually exclusive.

For example, the mustard seed can be Jesus and disciples/believers at the same time; The merchant who seeks fine pearls can be Jesus and disciples/believers at the same time as well.

But I think the two interpretations come in hierarchy: First comes the mustard seed and the merchant being Jesus, then comes the two being disciples/believers.

Simple explanation is: “disciple" means learner. Who are we learning from? Jesus. So the mustard seed and the merchant refer first to Jesus then to disciples.

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