Have you ever wanted to understand the Old Testament better? Do you wish you could take a class or sit down with a scholar and ask a bunch of questions? Perhaps like many other people, you find the Old Testament fascinating and puzzling, but alas, life is crazy busy and there isn’t time.
If only someone would provide the gist of it all in accessible bites for the person on the go.
You are in luck! I am planning to blog snapshots of my Introduction to Old Testament course that I am teaching this semester. This page will be a one-stop spot for all the posts I write. Over the next few months, I will gradually add hyperlinks to the headings below (ideally weekly). These correspond to the actual course units and lectures. Of course, a one semester class cannot possibly cover everything. One could easily spend a whole semester on one book of the Bible. My posts also cannot cover an hour + worth of class material for each session. But I am confident, you will find good substance to chew on. Enjoy!
UNIT 1: ARCHAEOLOGY OF ANCIENT ISRAEL
- Why Study the Old Testament?
- How Did Israel Become Israel? Origins in the Land (c. 1300-1025 BCE)
- Villages to Statehood: Did a United Israelite Monarchy Exist? (c. 1025-928 BCE)
- The Rise and Fall of Kings: Divided Kingdom to Exile (c. 928-586 BCE)
- Archaeological Clues to Israelite and Judahite Religion
- Family Life & Sexuality in Ancient Israel
UNIT 2: WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
- Origins of the Old Testament
- How to Read the Bible
- Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel
- The Nature & Function of the Bible
UNIT 3: TORAH
- “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1-3)
- Paradise Lost: Israelite Theology of Sin
- The Flood: The Impact of Science & Culture on Interpretation
- Israelite Ancestors: Abrahamic Covenant
- Exodus from Egypt
- The Creation of a Nation: Israel & Mosaic Law
- “Love the Lord Your God”: The Israelites & Worship
UNIT 4: PROPHETS (FORMER & LATTER)
- Conquest of Canaan: The Israelite Story of Israel’s Origins
- The Israelite Monarchy: King David as Exemplar
- Prophets & Prophecy in Ancient Israel
- Amos: Seeker of Justice
- Isaiah & Jeremiah Prophesy Destruction
- Isaiah & Jeremiah Prophesy Hope
UNIT 5: WRITINGS
- Has God Forgotten Us? The Tragedy of Exile (Lamentations)
- Psalms: Prayers of a People
- Introduction to Wisdom Literature
- Wisdom Literature & the Problem of Suffering
What does it mean that God inspired human beings to write Scripture? If human beings were involved in the process how does that impact the nature of written revelation? What is the nature of Scripture as a divine-human collaboration? How did inspiration occur? The four posts below touch briefly on this topic from the perspectives of early church fathers and three contemporary theologians and biblical scholars.
Part I: How God Speaks in Scripture: Early Church Fathers
Part II: Sacred Word Broken Word: Kenton Sparks and the Adoptionist View
Part III: Peter Enns on Inspiration and Incarnation
Part IV: John Webster on Defining Holy Scripture
This is the fourth and last post in a series on the nature of Scripture and inspiration. Previous posts looked at the early church fathers, Kenton Spark’s adoptionist model, and Peter Enns incarnation view.
John Webster provides a helpful contribution to the discussion on revelation and inspiration in Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch. He provides a much needed look at the role of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) that is missing in some of the discussions on the nature of Scripture. Webster roots his views of Scripture in a doctrine of God as saving presence (39). He emphasizes the importance of understanding the Bible as Holy Scripture, and not merely “scripture” (2). The former is a “human text which God sanctifies for the service of his communicative presence” and the latter is “human writing generated and used by religious communities.” He further defines Holy Scripture as “the saving economy of God’s loving and regenerative self-communication.” Webster believes that in some circles the Holy aspect of Scripture has been discarded (1). He seeks to provide a dogmatic explication of what we mean when we say “Holy” Scripture. In religious studies programs analysis of sacred texts tends to focus on the human agents in the production of the text. But, “Holy” Scripture is indicative of the reality that something divine is occurring beyond merely human activity. Webster does not deny the human elements in Scripture, but rejects reducing Scripture to mere scripture. A doctrine of Scripture must be firmly rooted in the “self-representation of the triune God, of which the text is a servant” (6). When Scripture is divorced from divine activity the text is treated as a matter of independent investigation.
This is the third post in a series on the nature of Scripture and inspiration, following a discussion on views of the early church fathers and Kenton Sparks’ adoptionist proposal.
In Inspiration and Incarnation, Peter Enns proposes an incarnational model for understanding the nature of Scripture and inspiration. Just as Jesus is 100% divine and 100% human, so also the Bible is both divine and human (17). Jesus was “God with us.” Even though he is divine, he took on human flesh and all the cultural trappings of this world. In the same way, the Bible is sacred yet clearly reflects the cultures that produced it. Enns recognizes that the incarnational analogy is not an exact fit. Thus, he suggests “incarnational parallel” might be a better way to phrase it (18, 168). The point is understanding Scripture as both divine and human is a crucial tension to maintain. There are tendencies toward two extremes: those who see the obvious cultural influences in the Bible and therefore only consider it a human book, and those who are uncomfortable acknowledging the earthiness of Scripture and overemphasize its divine qualities (18). The latter fall into Docetic heresy which claimed Christ was fully divine, but only appeared to be human. Enns states that the human dimension of Scripture is what makes it what it is. Recognizing that the Bible is both human and divine affects what we should expect from it and what we should do with it.
This post is the second in a series on the nature of Scripture and inspiration. See the first one on perspectives of some of the early church fathers here.
In his book, Sacred Word Broken Word, Kenton Sparks proposes an “adoptionist” view for understanding the nature of Scripture. Specifically, “Scripture is God’s Word because God providentially adopted ancient human beings, like Paul, as his spokespersons. In doing so God ‘set apart’ or ‘sanctified’ their words for use in his redemptive activity” (29, 156). Interestingly, he chooses a 2nd century heresy as an analogy. Adoptionism denies that Jesus was eternally pre-existent with the Father, but rather he became divine when “adopted” by God at his baptism and the Spirit of God descended upon him (e.g. Luke 3:22). Sparks says “there is a theological purpose behind God’s choice to use human beings as we are, so that the glory for redemption will truly be his” (156). However, he does not expand on this theory of theological purpose. Continue reading