Taste of Korea at Redeemer Lutheran Church

kevin.jpgKevin Roiseland, director of international student programs at Wartburg College, presented today his one-month experience in Korea at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The title of the presentation was “Taste of Korea.” As the title indicates, he heavily focused on the Korean food and their warm hospitality. He also addressed the current situation of Korea in relation to the U.S.

I helped his presentation, and also presented a brief history of Korea from the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) to the present (2008). While I talked about the history, I invited them to think about these questions: What makes the Korean church grow? What do you see for the growth of Korean church from the history of Korea? I stressed the growth of Korean church cannot be separated from the Korean’s experiences from 1910 to 2008: the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), the period of trusteeship of the U.S. (1945-48), the Korean War (1950-53), the period of industrial development (1970-present). I insisted that the suffering of Korean people throughout the modern history is almost incomparable to any other nations. In my view, thus, the experience of suffering may be one of the main forces to lead the growth of Korean church.

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Stories in Daniel: More than a Life-Style for Diaspora

The stories of Daniel have inspired great works of art and music as well. The stories are staples in many church school curricula that they represent as models of courageous faith. In his article, W. Lee Humphreys (“A Life-Style for Diaspora: A Study of the Tales of Esterh and Daniel,” JBL 92 [1973]: 211-23) describes a reason why the stories have inspired: The stories in Daniel and Esther project a life-style for diaspora that affirms the possiblity of participating fully in the life of a foreign nation. His arguement has influenced many scholars who study the function of the stories. However, one would argue that the stories of Daniel present something more than a “life-style for diaspora.” For example, John J. Collins accepts Humphreys’ argument basically but understands differently:

The life-style proposed for the diaspora, then, was one of active participation in gentile life but without compromising the distinctive requirements of Jewish tradition (Collins 1992, 51).

I ask the following questions for understading the purpose of the stories: What is meant by “a life-style for diaspora?” What is the function of the stories? Do the stories really present “a life-style of diaspora?”

The stories in Daniel (1-6) are called “diaspora novellas” or “court stories” becuase the stories are assumed to have derived from the life of the Jewish eastern diaspora after the time of the exile in 586 B.C.E.: Daniel 1 describes Daniel and his three friends’ trial by diet; Daniel 2 accounts for Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; Daniel 3 tells us Daniel’s three friends’ faith in the Jewish faith; Daniel 4 describes Daniel’s another interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; Daniel 5 narratates Daniel’s interpretation of the mystic writing; and Daniel 6 accounts for Daniel’s faith in the Jewish practice.

It is very clear that setting of the stories is the foreign court. Indeed, Daniel and his three friends are diaspora. But the purpose of these stories is not to state the participation of the Jews in the life of a foreign nation. Rather, the stories show how the Jews kept their identify and struggled with the succeeding empires (the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and the Greek Empire). Indeed, what we see in the stories is that the attitude of Daniel and his three friends toward the empire is not positive at all. For example, the empires are represented by beasts in Daniel 2. Moreover, we see the idea that the empires will be destroyed by God because God is only the one who establishes and deposes the kings. Daniel and his three friends resist against the political and religious values of the empire. Daniel Smith-Christopher views the stories as hostility to the empire as follows:

It will be the perpective of this commentary, however, that the athors of Daniel 1-6 did not aspire actually to work for the foreign emperor. Rather, the emperor’s court served as an ideal setting for a political and religious folklore that speaks of surviving and flourishing (Smith-Christopher 1996, 20).

As Smith-Christopher insists, the stories of Daniel do not simply represent a “life-style for diaspora.” Daniel and his three friends do not aspire to work for the foreign emperor. Rather, they resist against the social-political value of the empire.

Reference List

Collins, John J. The Court-Tales in Daniel and the Development of Apocalyptic. JBL 94 (1975): 218-34.

Collins, 1993. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 

Humphreys, W. L. A Life-Style for Diaspora: A Study of the Tales of Esther and Daniel. JBL 92 (1973): 211-23.

Smith-Christopher, Daniel. 1996. Daniel. NIB VII. Abingdon Press. 

Towner, W. S. The Poetic Passages of Daniel 1-6. CBQ 31 (1969): 317-26.

How Do We Know the Locations of Biblical Place?

My colleague Kevin Wilson, who is currently teaching an introductory Bible class at Wartburg College, showed me a student’s test paper. The student completly messed up on the map test. The student locates Jerusalem at the vicinity of Damascus; Megiddo is located in Egypt; and so on.

I asked myself these questions, “How do we know the locations of biblical place?” “How are the locations of the ancient places determined?” “Did William F. Albright was completely right to locate the biblical places?” There can be little question, regarding the locations such as the Jordan River, ancient Jerusalem, Hebron, and Mediddo. But many biblical locations are problematic.

In his article, Maxwell Miller (“Biblical Maps” [BR 3/4, 1987]) notes three kinds of evidence to locate sites of ancient cities: (1) ancient written sources, including the Bible, provide to determine the loactions; (2) modern Arabic place-names that preserve the memory of ancient names offer a second kind of evidence; and (3) the archaeological excavations are the thrid kind of evidence.

Miller points out that the most influential biblical archaeologist William F. Albright was wrong to locate the biblical site Debir (Joshua 10:38-39; 15:15). After his excavations between 1926 and 1932, he published the book The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim (1933) and argued Debir is identified with Tell Beit Mirsim. His identification of Tell Beit Mirsim as biblical Debir was dependent on his military conquest model, and it is presupposed in a whole generation of Bible atlases, such as The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible. In the 1960s, however, Moshe Kochavi excavated a site called Khirbet Rabud, a deep in the hill country by southwest of Hebron, this site is regarded as a more likely candidate for Debir than Tell Beit Mirsim. 

Miller insists that our biblical maps and atlases represent scholarly opinion as result of the biblical and archaeological research, rather than primary evidence of what they assert. Thus, the three kinds of evidence-ancient written sources, modern place-names, and archaeology-must be used carefully and cautiously.

Reference List

Miller, Maxwell. “Biblical Maps” BR 3/4 (1987).

Who are the Exiles Today?

The Bible tells us about ancient Israelite expericences. One of the most prominent experiences of the ancient Israel would be the experience of exile. But how would you define the exile? In what sense the Bible accounts for the exilic experience?

The exile may refer to any people forced or voluntary to leave their tranditional homelands, so that the exile could be deportee, diaspora, refugee, alien, and immigrant. The Bible, indeed, is full of the exilic experience either by forced or by voluntary: the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (forced); Abraham and his family chose to leave their own land by the divine command (voluntary); Jacob’s fled from his own territory (forced? or voluntary?); Joseph was deported from his land (forced); Moses fled into the desert after his murder of an Egyptian (forced? or voluntary?); the Exodus from Egypt (voluntary); David’s deportation from his land (forced); deportation of Northern tribes by the Assyrians (forced); and the Babylonian Exile (forced).

The exilic experience is not just the experience of ancient Israel but the experience of modern people. Who, then, are the exiles today? They could be Mexicans in the U.S., North Koreans in China, Tibetans in India, and so on.

Peter Stalker introduces a survey conducted by the United Nations:

80 million people now live in “foreign” lands. One million people emigrate permamently each year, and another million seek political asylum. There were 18 million refugees from natural disaster or war (Stalker 1994, 3).

It is very important to respond to this reality. As a theological response, Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, who is a diasporic or exilic theologian, argues as follows:

Ancient Israelite responses to exile and diaspora, as reflected in the biblical texts, can provide the building blocks for rethinking the role of the Hebrew Bible in informing the modern Christians theological enterpreise (Smith-Christopher 2002, 6).

elvira-arellano.jpgSojourners magazine (September-October, 2007) introduces a movement so-called “the New Sanctuary Movement” that churches are the first to offer refuge to a person facing deportation. In the article “Living in God’s House” in this magazine, Celeste Kennel-Shank introduces an interview with an undocumented immigrant. Her name is Elvira Arellano who has taken sactuary in Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago since Auguest 15, 2006.

Kennel-Shank said,

Elvira Arellanno, 32, wants to be able to pick her son up from school and take him out for ice cream on hot days. But she cant’ leave her church, where she has taken sanctuary. . . after immigration officials told her she would be deported. she fears she will be separated from her son, Saul, who is 8 years old and a United States citizen.

The case of Elvira Arellanno is an example of exilic Mexicans in the U.S. But there are so many exiles in the world today. Smith-Christopher insists that exile is the daily reality for millions of human beings at the opening of the twentieth-first century. How would you respond to this reality?

Reference List

Smith-Christopher, Daniel. A Biblical Theology of Exile. Overtures to Biblical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. 

Stalker, Peter. The Work of Strangers: A Survey of International Labour Migration. Geneva: International Labour Office, 1994.