When speaking to seminary graduates from all across the U.S., I’ve been noticing an increasing discomfort in students regarding their ability to preach and teach effectively from the Old Testament. Part of this is because the Old Testament comprises so much of the Bible, and there just isn’t enough space in a degree program to adequately cover all of the Old Testament (especially a degree that doesn’t concentrate solely on the Old Testament). The Old Testament is packed with a wide variety of genres and covers such an expansive amount of history.
Another part is of this growing discomfort is that the Old Testament can be difficult to understand. The culture of the Old Testament world is vastly different from ours, making it hard for us to relate. This, in turn, fosters the misconception that the Old Testament is irrelevant for us today. How is it that we have psalms in the Bible that apparently hurl curses upon others (imprecatory psalms)? That doesn’t seem very Christ-like.
Of course, there is nothing “new” in the Old Testament – God’s word remains the same. But, are there elements of the Old Testament that we haven’t yet studied, and therefore remain new to many seminary students and the wider Christian community?
Here at Talbot, there are many exciting developments in the Old Testament and Semitics Department that aim to tackle these seemingly insurmountable hurdles and misconceptions – and, more importantly, seek to equip better our graduates to be more effective in the ministry with which God has entrusted them.
One example is a new course that the department is offering this coming spring semester (2016) entitled: “Seminar in Old Testament Theology.”
So what’s so “new” about this course? While the course title doesn’t seem very new, for the first time, professors from almost every department at Talbot will be contributing to this one course: Bible Exposition, Biblical Studies, Christian Ministry and Leadership, New Testament, Old Testament, Philosophy, and Systematic Theology. This is unprecedented, and it is doubtful that one can find a seminary course in the U.S. that has this much diversity, yet still focuses on one subject of study (aside from, perhaps, Ph.D. seminars). Furthermore, these professors are all experts on the topics they will be presenting:
Ed Curtis – Old Testament Wisdom Literature
Tom Finley – The Theology of the Book of Daniel
Daniel Kim – The Promise of Rest in the Historical Books
Gary Manning – The Prophets and the New Testament
Scott Rae – The Ethics of the Old Testament
Walt Russell – The Gospel of God in the Old Testament
Mark Saucy – The Metanarrative of the Old Testament
Don Sunukjian – Preaching from the Old Testament
Charlie Trimm – The Imprecatory Psalms
Ken Way – The Law and Deuteronomy and Ritual Rites in Leviticus
That’s 10 professors from seven departments. Indeed, the diverse landscape of the Old Testament deserves a team of scholars to present it in a fresh, cutting-edge format!