Which came first, the Church or the Bible?
Did you know that the Christian Bible is shaped by the contributions from 7 civilizations expressed in 3 distinct ancient languages? Considered the most widely-read book in the world, you might wonder which came first, the Book of the People, or the People of the Book?
Have you ever wanted to read a summary of the Bible without having to read a book? I have posted two short articles at Medium. Click on these links to read more.
A Bird's Eye View of the Bible: https://medium.com//a-birds-eye-view-of-the-bible-798dfee83ae1
The Bible of Christianity & Christianity of the Bible: https://medium.com//the-bible-of-christianity-christianity-of-the-bible-99c8a0a67d4a
These two articles are drawn from my earlier books called The Bible You Thought You Knew (3 volumes) that formed a series of earlier workshops called Project Timothy. I plan to update the books in the near future.
My articles provide the foundational framework to understand the relationship between Christianity and the Bible:
1. The Bible is a collection of texts written by multiple writers in different places and ages, using different vocabularies.
2. Christianity inherited, adopted and adapted earlier religious practices and beliefs of the Ancient Near East.
3. Belief in the God of Israel was also transformed by the geohistory of economics and politics from Mesopotamia (Abraham) to Egypt (Moses) to Israel (David) to Rome (Constantine) over the span of more than 2000 years.
Read the articles on Medium to discover whether the church formed the Bible or vice-versa. The importance of this determines how we use the Bible as our witness to God rather than God as witness to the Bible.
In Christ’s name,
Ancient Near East in the Bible: Treasures from the MET Museum by Dr. Ron Choong
REFLECTIONS by the cover artist of Ancient Near East in the Bible - Treasures from The Met Museum book
When I was asked to design the cover of the Ancient Near East in the Bible book, I looked for inspiration from the Ancient Near East itself and decided to include three significant elements that represented the geohistory of this region, i.e. writing, religion, and colours. Each signifies the socio-cultural relationship of the people.
An incantation bowl, also known as a demon bowl, devil-trap bowl, or magic bowl, is a form of early protective magic found in the Ancient Near East. Most are inscribed in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. The bowls were buried face down and were meant to capture demons. They were commonly placed under the threshold, courtyards, in the corner of the homes of the recently deceased and in cemeteries. Aramaic incantation bowls from Sasanian Mesopotamia are an important source for studying the everyday beliefs of Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, Manichaeans, Zoroastrians and pagans on the eve of the early Muslim conquests.
Literacy is one of the most defining characteristics of the Mesopotamian civilization. Writing had been invented to serve the bureaucratic needs of the time. From the 3rd millennium BCE, cuneiform was widely used outside of Mesopotamia where it was employed for the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian languages. A unique system of cuneiform that combined the Canaanite (Phoenician) alphabet with the Mesopotamian system of writing with a stylus on clay, transcribing the consonantal alphabet by means of cuneiform writing. This script was used for religious, literary and administrative texts. The scribes and writers during biblical times would have used some form of cuneiform script in their writings.
Also known as Phoenician red, Phoenician purple, royal purple, imperial purple, or imperial dye,Tyrian purple is a reddish-purple natural dye; the name Tyrian refers to Tyre, Lebanon. This dye is a secretion produced by several species of predatory sea snails in the family Muricidae, rock snails originally known by the name 'Murex'. In ancient times, extracting this dye involved tens of thousands of snails and substantial labor, and as a result, the dye was highly valued. This colour was chosen to represent the Phoenicians who are Semitic-speaking people. They lived in the cities of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre. Their prized natural resources were the cedars of Lebanon and murex shells. Production of Tyrian purple for use as a fabric dye was started by the Phoenicians and was continued by the Greeks and Romans. The pigment was expensive and complex to produce, and items coloured with it became associated with power and wealth. It has been suggested that the name Phoenicia itself means ‘land of purple’.
The ANE book is more than a photobook of the biblical artifacts from The Met. The author, Dr. Ron Choong skillfully explained the history and significance of wider Ancient Near East culture and how the museum’s artifacts relate to the Bible. The charts, maps, infographics and the author’s personal photos taken in this region illustrate and explain the geohistory of the ANE in the book.
- Christine Leong
Get your copy here:
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Near-East-Bible-Treasures/dp/1794792546/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2OYZ5G8AJ5IEI&keywords=Ron%20choong&qid=1648309346&sprefix=ron%20choong%2Caps%2C77&sr=8-2&fbclid=IwAR0P9IsvaNCcFZXF5yZxsp0nPeeuOUN-cXoOE_01v4I2QOP19zFxdWD0Qew
Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ancient-near-east-in-the-bible-ron-choong/1141266958?ean=9781794792548&fbclid=IwAR0cBffNbCi59ss1L88cZcwp3Mn7PzxLWyXoH3KRMBfumGTjzHjbEdzP8_M
Lulu (use WELCOME15 for 15% discount) - https://www.lulu.com/en/ca/shop/danny-lee-and-ron-choong-and-christine-leong/ancient-near-east-in-the-bible/hardcover/product-k28ppg.html?fbclid=IwAR1qdWQGI3-44StF9p1kubPUktE2QZRsFB7ntQHwHbVvLRps3mhQZfSvJrU&page=1&pageSize=4
OUR BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON NOW
ACT books are now available on Amazon (US, Canada, UK and Australia) and Barnes & Noble (US) along with Lulu (Global).
World's Oldest Bible: Science and the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
This is a great time to get a copy of this book because we are launching a series of podcasts to guide you through the book.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/worlds-oldest-bible-ron-choong/1141123360?ean=9781667149417
Lulu (use WELCOME15 for 15% discount): https://www.lulu.com/en/ca/shop/ron-choong-and-christine-sm-leong/worlds-oldest-bible-hard-covercolor/hardcover/product-deq7k9.html?page=1&pageSize=4
Ancient Near East in the Bible: Treasures from the Met Museum
This coffee table volume (8.5" x 11") is an addition to my current research on biblical archaeology. Stay tuned for our launch party!
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ancient-near-east-in-the-bible-ron-choong/1141266958?ean=9781794792548
Lulu (use WELCOME15 for 15% discount): https://www.lulu.com/en/ca/shop/danny-lee-and-ron-choong-and-christine-leong/ancient-near-east-in-the-bible/hardcover/product-k28ppg.html?page=1&pageSize=4
Info about the ANE book:
This book serves as a virtual guide to the rich items on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ancient Near East Gallery that relates to the Bible. I have carefully curated items to show how much the Christian faith is connected geohistorically to the Cradle of Civilization. Although Christianity is often seen as a European religion that began 2000 years ago, it in fact began as a Jewish religion in the Roman province of Palestine. St. Paul drew on his pedigree as a Roman citizen trained in the art of rhetoric to argue his points, leveraging Hellenistic philosophy and logic. This was because before General Pompey conquered the region in 63 BCE, Palestine was ruled by the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty who succeeded Alexander of Macedon. Prior to this, the region was ruled by the Achaemenid Persians who liberated them from Babylonian rule, which itself replaced the Assyrians who conquered the region from as far back as the 8th century BCE.
With this book, anyone living anywhere in the world can appreciate the artifacts of the museum in living color without making the trip to New York City. The charts, maps, photographs and comments, alongside four introductory chapters describing the history of museums, illustrate and explain the geohistory of the Ancient Near East, the beliefs and gods of the Canaanites, and the remarkable impact of the Ugaritic Library upon modern interpretations of the Bible. Full-color plates of illustrations and photographs are included to enhance the reading experience.
As this is first and foremost, a biblical guide, every artifact will be introduced within a biblical context. It is also related to the wider Ancient Near Eastern culture, which includes Canaanite and Israelite religious thought. Finally, this book reflects the 30-year ministry of the author. His method of investigating his inherited beliefs with candor, transparency, spiritual conviction and intellectual integrity includes research, teaching and publishing for non-technical reader. His unique interdisciplinary, boots-on-the-ground method of investigation includes comparative religion approach that delves into the history of each doctrinal belief, how it evolved under economic, political and scientific pressures, as well as its reception through the ages.
If you could ask God just one question ...
This reminds me of a time when I asked my students "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?" at a seminar on "Funding the Fingerprints of God in Nature."
The students were missionaries, pastors and ministers from Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, South Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan on furlough at the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC). Almost every question to God concerned the nature of knowledge. They wanted be sure that their interpretations of the Bible were correct, since every Christian denomination revised their views over time.
Here are some of their questions.
1) How can I reconcile paleontology with the biblical teaching regarding the origin of Man.
2) Will those who haven’t heard about Jesus go to hell?
3) Will those who commit su***de due to the mental illness go to hell?
4) Why did you allow Satan in the universe?
5) Did you plan you save humans before or after the creation of the earth?
6) How did you become God?
7) Do you permit worship in other religions?
8) Where is the Garden of Eden?
9) When in the Bible did dinosaurs exist? My son asks me and I don’t know the answer.
10) Was it your plan that I marry my husband?
Do you share any of their concerns? Most are related to issues of faith and science, except for the woman’s question about her husband.
One of these missionaries serving in a deeply Buddhist nation commented, “Your teaching is very interesting. I have never heard of this kind of lecture in my Seminary. All Seminaries must have this lecture, then we can approach people in the world to share the Gospel with more confidence.”
Although it appears that science and faith are incompatible, in reality, our questions to God are often raised by our increasing scientific knowledge. Science can be harnessed to strengthen our faith by providing more clarity and certainty about our stated beliefs.
This Summer, at Cambridge, I will be researching into medieval beliefs as well as the assumptions and implications of world-views, which led to the emergence of experimental science - the science we use today in everyday life. Knowing how Christian beliefs evolved from AD 500-1500, we can trace the evolution of current beliefs about who God is and how we might respond in worship.
- Ron Choong