Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vegetarian dinner

Vegetarian murtabah and chopped masala prata.  I've not tasted better vegetarian murtabah anywhere else and the chopped prata is only found here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The beginning of the end

I received depressing news this morning.  My best friend who has been experiencing pain in his chest since last Thursday finally saw his oncologist and it's now confirmed that the tumour in his lungs have grown so large that it's pressing against the lining of his lungs.  He has been asymptomatic for a long time but this time, the first symptoms have appeared.  He's now on the slippery slope that leads to sure death.  I can say all this because he does not read this particular blog of mine.

It all started in early 2008 when he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  He went through two surgeries but each time after a surgery, there were fresh malignant growths in his liver.  The best bet for him was a liver transplant but they refused to let him have a liver in Singapore because the cancer had seeded to the portal vein.  He made arrangements to have a liver transplant in Tianjin, China.

As it turned out, my wife and I are friends with a top surgeon in Tianjin.  We got in touch with them (both husband and wife are surgeons).  I flew to Tianjin to make arrangements for my friend to have the best liver transplant surgeon.  My friend had initially contacted a doctor in Tianjin but when my China friends heard of it, they insisted that we got hold of the head of the liver department.  Within a short space of time, a liver was available for my friend and the transplant was a huge success.  We were later told by the nurses in the hospital that if we had got the other doctor, my poor friend would have had to wait for months for a liver and even then, the surgery might not have been such a resounding success.

When they removed his liver, the doctors were shocked to see that the tumour was really large.  He was told that the categorization for such a cancer was Stage 4.  They also told him that this meant that there would be cancer cells in his blood stream and because he had to be on immuno-suppressant drugs to prevent a rejection of his new liver, the likelihood of the cancer appearing in other body parts was very high.  They told him that the lungs, the bones and the brain were highly susceptible.  

All was well until last year when a routine checkup revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs.  There were 12 small tumours in his lungs.  Various surgeons saw him but the general consensus was not to cut them out because of the position of the tumours.  He went through a series of drug treatments but nothing stopped the slow but steady progress of the tumours.

Despite all this he was asymptomatic for a long time.  We met regularly for meals and nobody would have thought that he had cancer.  Recently, he seemed to cough quite a bit.  I asked him if all was well and he said it was a mere throat irritation.

Last Thursday, he experienced pain in his chest every time he breathed in deeply or if he made a sudden movement.  He attributed it to an inflamed nerve.  I told him to see his oncologist.  He did this morning and he was told that the pain was caused by the enlarged tumour pressing against the lung linings.  This is the early symptom of terminal lung cancer.

After we had spoken on the phone, he sent me a text that merely said "Dying soon".  How does one reply to that?  Of course he was right.  I replied dishonestly, "Don't be silly".  What else could I have said?

He has two daughters aged 5 and 3.

He is one of the three chaps I led to Christ (I wrote about this in an earlier entry in this blog) shortly after I returned to the church, having spent 3 years as an atheist.

If I really believed 100% and without the slightest doubt in the existence of a divine being who is loving and omnipotent, I should be most outraged.  Thank God I have my doubts.

Breakfast with daughter

When my daughter got pratas for breakfast, I thought I should avoid them.  After all, they're loaded with calories.  But I got for myself nasi padang which could very well be worse.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lunched with my good friend, Lay Hoon.  Like me, she too is a photo addict but we both sinned terribly against our nature.  We failed to take a pic throughout the lunch.  As an act of contrition, I took a pic of the bicycle rack after we parted.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The next day (after Aldersgate Service)

I asked myself whether there'd be enough musicians for the evening service since we played at Aldersgate last night.  As it turned out, 6 (including me) who played at Aldersgate Service turned up this evening: Indra, Yolyn, Peter, Joyce Tang and Yeow Chong. Additionally, Janice and Sarah were in church too.  It was quite a good turn-out and I'm glad I didn't just assume nobody would be there.

A terrible weakness

Cakes should always be restricted to special days when one can't exclude them without doing violence to our sense of what is right and proper.  A good example is birthdays.  But my wife gave in to her baser craving and bought this lovely cheese cake from Goodwood
When I chided her, she replied that this was to celebrate my daughter's performance in school.  But that's a silly excuse.  She could have bought her an inedible present.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Christian Apologists

I used to think the world of Christian apologists a long time ago.  But it's hard to maintain our admiration for them as we age in life.  This is because apologists always use the same old trite arguments that cannot stand logically.

I'll be meeting next week a famous apologist whose father was the teacher of the now renowned apologist and Oxford professor, Ravi Zacharias.

But Ravi Zacharias, according to wikipedia, claims that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the second law of thermodynamics.  It is very hard for me to show any respect for anyone who says that.  I am inclined to think only a fool or a madman will make that claim.  Or an ignorant schoolboy.  I challenge anyone to tell me that he has not heard while at school some loud and boisterous schoolboy proclaiming to everyone that he could disprove the theory of evolution and then proceeding to do so by citing the second law of thermodynamics.  The same boy would probably blush at his folly when he subsequently understood what the second law of thermodynamics really meant.

Ravi Zacharias, alas, never grew up to understand better.

It's not just the second law of thermodynamics that is abused by religious people.  Schrodinger's cat in quantum mechanics has been mightily abused too.  I've heard the New Age movement does that.  Deepak Chopra claims to heal with the help of quantum physics!  I've seen a video in which Dawkins confronted Chopra on this and thrashed him soundly. 

The last time the bishop came to my church (I should know because I heard his sermon twice and I was seated just in front of the pulpit with the rest of the musicians), he made reference to dark matter.

How, you may ask, can dark matter assist any man of God in his sermon?  Dark matter probably exists even though it is undetectable.  It has inferential existence.  Ergo, God exists even though he is undetectable!!!  Ho Ho Ho!!!!

But let me make myself clear.  It would be wrong of me to criticise the bishop and if I gave that impression at all, I must correct it.  The bishop is a brilliant man who is well-versed in the sciences and in philosophy.  But like all clever men, he has to struggle very hard to defend the God concept.  Any intelligent man will sound silly when he tries to defend what cannot be defended.

Why then did he try so hard to defend God?  This is a natural urge a Christian has.  He feels a strong need to defend his faith and to make it appear reasonable or even logical.  He hates to admit that faith is blind, illogical and is absolutely unsupported by any evidence.  He hates to admit that God has as much reason to exist as the leprechaun and the tooth fairy.  That's because we Christians accept God but we reject the tooth fairy.  But that's precisely what faith means.  I choose to believe in God in spite of the available evidence and despite logic.

Jesus commended those who "have not seen and yet believed".  Blind faith is commendable.  But it's not attractive because it makes us sound stupid.

We try hard to make our faith look scientific and in the process, we get ridiculed by atheists.  What I would say as a Christian is this, "I know there is no basis for God's existence.  I know the Bible contains numerous errors.  But despite the evidence, I am still a Christian because I choose to embrace blind illogical faith."

But most of the time, we are too proud to say this.

Friday, May 21, 2010


In my turbulent youth, I used to deny God and proclaim myself an out-and-out atheist.  There were two periods in my life when I did that openly.  The first was when I was about 16 when I was certain the whole God hypothesis was bunkum but I was an atheist for only two weeks before church, the love of my family and other familiar habits coaxed me gently back to the straight and narrow path of faith.

The other occasion when I turned my back on our wonderful blind faith was after I left university.  I felt I had the backing of great writers, philosophers and other learned men whose books I had read such as AJ Ayer, Russell and Paul Davies.  I remained an atheist for 3 years before returning to the faith.  The path I took to return to the faith was simple:  First, I forced myself to believe in my original religion - thought of those happy times when I believed in Christ as a child.  Next, assume the Bible to be the word of God and any doubt I had about it called for a detailed reading of that portion of Scripture in the original Koine Greek (if it's the New Testament), believing always that it is perfect and it's my own inadequacies that led to the doubt.  Leon Morris's Commentary on the Gospel of John (which incidentally was presented to me by my devout brother as a birthday present) was particularly helpful in leading me back to the faith.

Naturally, my "re-conversion" stunned quite a few of my friends.  I brought three of my close friends to the faith by leading them in Bible Study.  At that time, I also taught Sunday School in church.

In one of the Bible studies I had with my 3 friends, we were on the topic of the resurrection of our Lord.  The Gospels tell us that when Christ died on the cross, many holy people rose from their graves and went into Jerusalem and were seen even after Christ's resurrection.  One of my friends naturally asked me if there were non-religious records of the resurrection of Jesus.

I was at that time blissfully ignorant of the historical records around the time of Christ.  Despite my ignorance, I replied that there were Roman records of his execution and resurrection.  There was a noticeable change in my friends after I had said that.  They became receptive and accepting.  Those were the days before the internet and in order to verify what I had said, one had to go to the library and who would really bother?  All 3 of them were subsequently baptised and confirmed in Wesley. 

Did I feel guilty for having told a lie?  No, I felt certain that I did the right thing.  If Jesus really did rise from the dead, what's the harm of saying there were Roman records of that event?  I was just plain ignorant.  Perhaps there were Roman records that I knew nothing of.  Even if I was incorrect, the fact remained that 3 souls were saved!

That's how lying for God is in fact a very natural thing to do.  It may not be an outright lie.  It may just be an "error" that came about because of our poor ignorance.

I'm now older and wiser and better read too.  I know that outside of religious writings, it's difficult to find even a single reference to Jesus as having existed, not to mention references to his resurrection!  I know today that the Testimonium Flavianium which Christian apologists love to wave in your face is in fact a forgery or at best an interpolation.  Any other mention of Jesus in history which believers try so hard to make a mountain of is nothing more than a mere reference to the early Christians as "followers of Christus" which no more asserts the existence of Jesus than the term "followers of Zeus" can be construed as a declaration of the existence of Zeus.

Have I confessed to my 3 friends that I lied to them?  I've lost touch with one of them, another has left the country but I'm still in constant contact with the third who is now, sadly, afflicted with terminal cancer.  I recently confessed to him that I had lied about the Roman records but he told me it didn't matter.  He found it amusing that I was so bothered about truth.  What he said was really interesting: even if the Bible is shown to contain lies and falsehoods galore, the faithful will remain faithful.  People will stick to what they are comfortable with and the truth is not at all important.  Was he upset that I had lied to him?  Not in the least.  He thought it was all for the best and my intention was pure.

How was my intention pure?  I didn't know a thing about non-religious records in the Greco-Roman world.  And yet I represented that there were Roman records of Christ's resurrection!  No doubt I believed the resurrection to be a true event but to conjure up Roman records was surely dishonest!  I had believed that leading or misleading my friends into believing in Christ's resurrection was essential for their salvation.  Since I knew very little about ancient records then, I felt there had to be some record of such a momentous event.  The Gospels say MANY holy people rose from the dead and went to Jerusalem when Christ died on the cross.  Surely there would have to be some record of the event that was so closely connected to Christ's death and resurrection.  Surely a simple mention of Jesus as a historical person can at least be found in the voluminous annals of Roman historical records?  Surely they would talk about the resurrection not just of Jesus but of MANY holy people?

The fact is I was dishonest.  I didn't know of any record.  I declared confidently that there were records.  My only comfort is that at that time, I didn't know there were no reliable records AT ALL.  I had assumed there were.  And I had spoken confidently like a true man of God.

Is lying for God a bad thing?  After all, Rahab told a lie that caused all men, women, children and infants in Jericho to be slaughtered by God's people.  And Hebrews speaks of Rahab as faithful!  Was I being faithful to God by lying for him?

That was a long time ago.  Today, I believe in speaking the truth all the time.  But am I being faithless for doing that just as Rahab was faithful for telling lies?

One never knows.  God works in mysterious ways indeed!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Just bought a box of reeds.  These should be enough to see me through PLMC on Saturday and St Andrew's in August, and possibly (although pretty unlikely) Christmas this year.  Someone should invent an everlasting reed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When science meets fundamentalism

This afternoon, I bought from Borders this book and am really looking forward to reading it.

Early last year, as soon as I got word that Jerry Coyne's book had been published in celebration of Darwin's 200th or 150th anniversary (depending on whether you're celebrating his birth or the publication of his book), I placed an order with for the book.  It's a truly remarkable book.  I'm quite pleased with myself because I recommended the book to someone who's a real dyed-in-the-wool creationist and who's also a deacon in one of the most ultra-fundamentalist churches that I know of and after reading the book, he accepted the truth of evolution and is now a closet evolutionist.  "Evolutionist" is such a needless word.  It's as needless as "gravitationalist" (a person who accepts the theory of gravity) or a "germist" (a person who accepts the germ theory).

Since my blog is intended to be largely pictorial, here's a pic of Coyne's book:

Monday, May 17, 2010

The little church on a hill

This is the church I became a member of just before I got married.  I had newly returned to the faith after a few years of being a clear-minded atheist.  I taught Sunday School for a number of years to JC students but I soon discovered that teaching in church was not my cup of tea.  But it's important to me that I fulfil my vow of "prayers, presence, gifts, service" which many modern churchgoers do not see as needful and I'm not surprised if many don't even know what I'm referring to.  I've found my niche again, this time as a part of the church wind ensemble.  This is probably the only "service" I can do.  I don't think I will ever teach in Sunday School again because my views may not be looked upon as orthodox.  I'm not averse to mouthing orthodox platitudes as a part of the liturgy but I'm not sure I can teach it without giving my students the full picture of what truth really is.  Truth is vitally important to me and it would be a lie for me to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God or even that it's reliable.  I've been able for decades (since I was a little boy) to gloss over all the obvious biblical errors and pretend that there were no errors by stretching the meaning of particular words to breaking point but as I age, I find it increasingly difficult to keep up this falsehood.  Errors are errors and deliberate lies are deliberate lies whether they are found in our cherished Bible or elsewhere and it's futile to overlook the lies and errors just because the Bible means so much to us.

I had not realised how pretty the church is.  Here's a pic I took as I waited for the traffic lights to turn green.  I wound down my windscreen just to take this pic for this blog and I had to do it quickly as I was attracting stares from the motorists next to me.

Here's a pic I took before the evening service:

We had a rehearsal for the 125th Anniversary Service and we had a good turn-out which included 5 trumpets, 2 tubas, 2 flutes and a clarinet.  There'll be many more at the actual service.  It was pouring when the rehearsal ended at 8pm but I had arrived early and my car was parked in the church. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A family that plays together

Which is the greatest?  Faith, hope or love?  Many religious people today insist that faith is everything.  But that's not what St Paul says.  To him, love is the greatest.  There is no greater love than the love within a family.

Today is the first Saturday when the kids' exams are all over.  We took a walk in a nearby shopping mall.  Everything was fine; young children were at play at the playground and God was in his heaven and all was right with the world:

We had dinner and I had my lovely soft-shelled crab

When we got home, my son downloaded scores for free from the internet.  That's how cheap our entertainment is - everything is for free!

The first was Beethoven's Trio for clarinet, cello and piano

But the poor pianist got a raw deal.  The piano part was the hardest and my daughter who was playing the piano got my wife to take over.  We played on until my wife found it too hard to sight-read.  She complained that the score was too small and because this was a freebie, all parts were grouped together and the print was really small.  We tried photocopying and enlarging the print but the whole thing couldn't fit in.  That's what you get when you're too much of a cheapskate to buy original scores from

My son gave us yet a different score - he seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of free scores!  This was Anton Alexander's piece for clarinet, flute, violin and cello.  None of us played the flute.  So, only the three parts were played and my wife was the audience.

After we were sick of that piece, my kids and I played Bach's songs which my son who appeared to have a lot of time on his hands had transcribed for our different instruments.  We played other pieces of music too - the theme for Schindler's List, etc.  I'm the musical idiot in the family and my kids have to write out the score for me before I can even play a single bar!  Over the years, they have written quite a lot for me!

There is nothing more cosy than for the family to play music together.  Most fathers in Singapore today are too proud and aloof to play music with their kids and this has resulted in a horrible rift and a breakdown of communication between parents and children.  One can always start with something simple.  One doesn't have to begin with Beethoven's Trio which we did because it was freely available on the net and well, we all got tied up in knots but we had a good laugh over it with wifey going "Aiyoh" all the time as she encountered impossibly tough bits.  One doesn't have to be musically gifted in order to enjoy playing music.  Pride is always the culprit here.

It's amazing that in today's world, one can have so much fun and laughter at absolutely no cost.  And it's all in the family too.

Ultra-delicious home-cooked food

Because of my wife's inherent modesty, most people are kept in the dark as to what a fabulous cook she really is.

Her specialities include:
sweet and sour fish

 sweet and sour pork

chilli prawns

Our Sundanese maid is not far behind my wife in her culinary skills.  Her Sundanese udang goreng is simply out of this world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who says nasi lemak isn't healthy?

Here's the healthy version of nasi lemak.  I can eat it any time of the day and feel quite good about it.  It's the sort of food any modelling agency will serve its top models for breakfast.

There's no trick here.  Just look at the items on the plates.  They are all low in calories.

The meaning of dedication and love

I was a little unwell today.  Had a migraine attack that lasted almost the whole day.  Had a long lunch with Charles but the headache continued tonight.  Wife had to go to Dr Goh's funeral wake and I could not accompany her.

There's been a great deal of tributes pouring in for Dr Goh and he more than deserved them.  There can be no doubt that he was a truly great man.  But what the press doesn't seem to talk about is what a great woman Mrs Goh really is.

My wife has always been most impressed by the care and concern Mrs Goh had given to Dr Goh for the many years that he was unwell.  She has never before seen so much love, dedication and devotion that could continue unabated for so long.  She's told me repeatedly for many years what a great woman Mrs Goh was and it was not until the passing of Dr Goh and I saw Mrs Goh and her swollen eyes that the truth of what real love meant struck me.

This has set me thinking.  I do not like to dwell on sad things and death and bereavement are taboo subjects to me in the sense that I like to dwell only on things that are happy and even frivolous.  But life is more than fun and frivolity.

How will I react should misfortune strike?  It will happen for sure.  My best friend is suffering from terminal cancer and all hope is now gone even though he still appears well.  I too will one day suffer from terminal cancer or some other death-threatening disease, or worse, someone in my family may suffer from such a disease.

It's good to turn to religion in times of despair.  Our human species has always looked to religion for solace when there is no more light at the end of the tunnel.  It's been so since our Cro-Magnon days.  This does not make religion true; it merely means religion is comforting.  But when the future looks really bleak, nobody cares for the truth.

Let's live life to the fullest but let's always allow some room for the divine.  That's our human safety valve which no amount of logic and clear thinking should ever induce us to discard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bukit Merah

It's so good I just had to have it again today.  This time, it was beef rendang and sambal goreng.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Bukit Merah is a gourmet's paradise.  This is the ideal breakfast -  a set of two torsays

The best nasi padang in Singapore can be found here.  I got myself just the chicken rendang and sambal goreng and that's more than enough.  It's really incredibly delicious.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Night Rider

Tonight, I went on a bike ride that spanned from the centre of the island to the west and back to the central region again.  I took pics along the way and if you will let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets, I'll show you something about the history of this lovely tropical island.

First stop on my bike was:

This is the church that gained notoriety for organising a group to take over AWARE, a women's organisation, last year.  The church is known for its strong anti-gay stand.  I looked for the banner that says "GAY BUT NOT HAPPY?  CALL US AT...."  but it was nowhere to be seen.  My children spotted it years ago when we happened to drive past the church but it must have been taken down.  After the take-over of AWARE's exco, the church group was ignominiously ousted when Singapore's women showed solidarity in repulsing the group and passing a vote of no-confidence against the new exco which was shamefully removed.  Even though the Senior Pastor, Derek Hong urged the church members to give their support to the take-over group and many of the women joined AWARE as members in order to be able to vote for the new exco, they were nonetheless trounced.  It attracted so much national attention that Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister voiced his disapproval of the group and cautioned that religion and politics had to be kept separate.  See this link.   Thank God that the Singapore public and the Singapore Government are levelheaded.

That church is in the west.  Next stop is

On Saturday nights up to the early hours of the morning, this place is crawling with party-goers.  There are many dance clubs, pubs and restaurants here.  But it was a bit dead when I was there.  Look at the street itself

This is Robertson Walk.  You can barely make out the name.

I've never really noticed this delightful temple just opposite Robertson Walk

Next stop is the heart of Singapore: Orchard Road.  Someone once told me that Orchard Road was the Oxford Street of Singapore.  Always on the side of the underdog, I corrected him: Oxford Street, I stressed, was the Orchard Road of London.

There's Wheelock Place, to my left is ION.      [Time stamp: 12:32am]

You can see how dead Orchard Road was and it was just a little after midnight.  That's CK Tang.  Notice how deserted Orchard Road was.

And here is the busiest junction in Singapore, where Scotts Road meets Orchard Road.  You can hardly spot a single car.  This was the last photo I took and the time stamp says it was 12:33am and it was almost completely deserted.  Well, I suppose I was wrong.  Orchard Road is the Oxford Street of Singapore and not the other way round.  One just has to be truthful.

Total distance: 17.76km

Monday, May 10, 2010

Women in the Bible

Shielded by a music stand in front of me, a wall on my left, and the other musicians on my right and behind me, I managed to read my book again during the sermon.  But I still maintain that I got more out of the sermon than most parishioners who appeared to give their undivided attention to the sermon.  The sermon was about women in the early church and the usual names were mentioned: Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, Lydia and Priscilla.  I was reminded of a book I've read on the same subject and it described how some scribes altered the Bible to ensure that the women in the early church appeared to hold no position of importance.

I'm too lazy to write the points raised in the book but it so happened that I took down notes as I read the book.  But since this is Mother's Day, I'll just repeat my notes here as a sort of tribute to all women and mothers too:

The book is Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus


Jesus's closest followers were men as is to be expected of a Jewish teacher but he was accompanied by many women in his travels, some of whom provided for him and his disciples financially, serving as patrons for his itinerant preaching ministry.  See Mark 15:40-51; Luke 8:1-3.  Jesus engaged in public dialogue with women and ministered to them in public (Mark 7:24-30; John 4:1-42).  Women accompanied Jesus in his final trip to Jerusalem where they were present at his crucifixion and remained faithful to the end while the male disciples had fled (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:40-41).  It was Mary Magdalene alone or with other female companions who discovered his empty tomb and were the first to know about and testify to Jesus's resurrection (Matt 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 23:55- 24:10; John 20:1-2).

Why were women attracted to Jesus's message?  Many scholars are convinced that Jesus proclaimed a Kingdom of God which had no injustice and all people, rich, poor, slave, free, men and women would be on an equal footing.  This appealed to the poor, the sick, the outcast and the women.

Celsus levelled a charge against Christianity that largely children, slaves and women were attracted to the religion and Origen did not deny it.

Even earlier than that, in Paul's time, Paul mentions Phoebe who is a deacon or minister in the church of Cenchreae and Paul's own patron whom he entrusts with the task of carrying his letter to Rome (vv 1-2).
- Prisca and her husband Aquila (missionary work among Gentiles and have a congregation in their home (vv 3-4;  notice Prisca is mentioned first).
- Mary, Paul's colleague (v 6)
- Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis whom Paul calls his "co-workers" in the gospel (vv 6, 12)
- Julia and the mother of Rufus and the sister of Nereus all had high profile in the community (vv 13, 15)
- Most impressive: Junia whom Paul calls "foremost among the apostles" (v 7).  The apostolic band was evidently much larger than the 12 men we are familiar with.

All this is unusual in the Greco-Roman world.

Paul's message of equality is seen in Gal 3:27-28.

But women had to cover their heads, etc (1 Cor 11:3-16, esp v 10). Paul did not urge a social revolution in the relationship of men and women just as he did not urge the abolition of slavery even though in Christ there is "neither slave nor free". Instead, he insisted that since "the time is short" (until the coming of the Kingdom), everyone should be content with their roles - whether slave, free, married, single, male or female (1 Cor 7:17-24).

Ambivalent attitude of the role of women (Paul acknowledges their important roles but he still says they needed an authority over their heads) led to differences of views after his day -equality in Christ emphasized or the need for women's subservience to men.  Documents after Paul's death shows dispute as to the role of women in his churches.  Eventually, there was an effort to suppress the role of women in the church altogether.

Scholars today are by and large convinced that 1 Timothy was not written by Paul but one of his later second-generation followers. (See Ehrman, The New Testament, Chap 23).  1 Tim 2:11-15 seems a long way from Paul's view that "in Christ there is ... not male and female".  As we move into the second century, the battle lines appear clearly drawn.

The scribes were clearly embroiled in these debates.  In every instance when a text is changed,  it is done to limit the role of women and to minimise their importance.  We will consider just a few examples.


1 Cor 14:34-35.  Most scholars are convinced that 1 Tim is not written by Paul. No one doubts that Paul wrote 1 Cor.  But there are doubts about vv 34-35 which are shuffled around in some of our important textual witnesses.  In 3 Greek manuscripts and a couple of Latin witnesses, they are found not here but after verse 40.  Some scribe could have written the verses in the margin, influenced by 1 Tim and they later got copied into the text.

Good reasons why these verses were not written by Paul.
They do not fit well into their immediate context. Paul is dealing with the issue of prophecy in church and giving instructions on how to behave during worship.  This is the theme of verses 26 to 33 and 36 to 40.  Without the disputed verses, the passage would have flowed smoothly.

Next, these verses are anomalous with what Paul says elsewhere in 1 Cor.  In chap 11, he says that when women pray or prophesy (activities that were always done aloud in Christian worship), they are to wear veils on their heads (11:2-16).   Paul would not have contradicted himself within the space of 3 chapters.

Rom 16:7 Junia who was called a foremost apostle by Paul was changed to Junias, a male name.  But Junia is a common female name, there is no evidence in the ancient world for Junias as a man's name.

Some scribes changed the verse to read "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and also greet my fellow prisoners who are foremost among the apostles."

Acts 17:4 "large number of prominent women" was changed by some scribes to "large number of wives of prominent men".

Some scribes even changed the order of appearance of the names to read "Aquila and Priscilla" as in Acts and also in Rom 16:3.


Cycled to Ghim Moh to buy pratas for breakfast.  Quite a long queue but there was nothing special about their prata.  Just middling.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Do Prayers Work?

 Propping up my bike before going to church

Recently, I had a talk with someone who believed in the efficacy of prayer.  I have for years been arguing that prayers don't work.  One can come to that conclusion through a process of logic but of course a proper study would be helpful.  During the discussion, I recalled a study done by a Harvard research team that showed that prayer was not effective when it came to healing.  I looked up my trusty gmail in which I store facts that catch my fancy and sure enough, I had the link to the Harvard study: Harvard Medical School

If you prefer a more readable newspaper-like article, here's a link to the NY Times reporting this: New York Times

And here are the links to Medline searches on the study: Medline 1
and Medline 2

All I can say is if I'm having a heart surgery I should pray real hard that nobody prays for me.  Or if they do, I should not be told of it.  Prayers can be harmful to healing or at best, they're just plain useless.

Human and Neanderthal Interbreeding

An exciting article appeared in Nature yesterday:

European and Asian genomes have traces of Neanderthal 

An older article appeared in Nature a couple of weeks ago:

Neanderthals may have interbred with humans 

This is exciting because studies have hitherto led experts in the field to the conclusion that there had been no interbreeding between these two species.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven...

It's been more than half a year since I started playing my clarinet in the church ensemble.  I can see from my diary that I've been doing that since 11 October 2009 which is rather odd.  I had my previous church membership transferred to this church before I got married in 1991 and I only joined the ensemble 18 years later.

Not many turned up today.  Some were unwell and PO had to attend to his wife in hospital (glad to learn from him later tonight that she was all right).  TS came in with his thumb dripping in blood.  It was so bad that I felt faint!  He had slammed his car door on his thumb!  But he managed to bandage it and it was much better later.  Surprisingly, he remained in church and continued to play his trumpet.  I didn't realise the trumpet could be played without the left thumb but still, that spoke of his dedication.  If my toe had been similarly injured, I'd get myself rushed to the A&E.  Very few of us turned up today: YS (tuba), JW (horn), YC (trombone) and of course IR (trumpet).

Very few people realise how I dread having to sit through a sermon because I'm so terribly bored.  The truth is I can do a few things at one time and I normally read a book surreptitiously during sermon.  I can hear every word of the sermon and at the same time, I can read my book.  Nothing is lost and I believe I probably retain the sermon better than most parishioners.

Today, Wendy's sermon was on mercy.  She chose the analogy of Cordelia in King Lear.  That set me thinking.  As we all know, she did not really go into detail (she shouldn't - this was a sermon and not a Lit lecture!) but we must always bear in mind that the setting was very different in the play.  Lear asks each of his three daughters to speak of her love for him in the presence of State dignitaries that included the King of France and the Duke of Belgium (if my memory serves me well).  Each daughter appears to dutifully (but in fact hypocritically) profess love for him in glorious terms.  All except Cordelia.  And all Cordelia says is  "Nothing, my lord".  Imagine the embarrassment to Lear!

We think of Lear today as arrogant and vain.  Scholars talk about how he was insane in his sanity and sane in his subsequent insanity.

But we must look at everything in the context of history.  Of course Lear is just legendary but all ancient kings and rulers demanded PRAISE and ADORATION from the people.  What Cordelia did would have been considered intolerably wrong and in most cases, worthy of an execution.

The biblical idea of God is very much based on a king who demands praise and adoration.  That's what we do all the time in church.  We don't just fold our arms and say "Nothing, my Lord".

Does that make God exactly like King Lear?  Of course not!  Heaven forbid that I should ever blaspheme our God to whom all praise, adoration and glory belong!

Anyway, I had a good read and I heard every word of the sermon at the same time.  No harm killing two birds with one stone.