Friday, October 16, 2009

I digress

But the Adam and Eve story is just a such a small part of the minutiea, I don't want to get too caught up in talking about that. So many believers don't really care if that particular story is literal or not...

So, moving on.

When I was attending Denver Seminary, I took Old Testament Archeology & Theology. I was sitting in class the first day with several large books in front of me which we were told we were going to have to read over the course of the first half of the course (about 6 weeks). Actually there were two sets of two and one large book, all on the theology of the O.T.

"I am going to assign segments of each of these books to you to read and your assignment will be to read and assemble a report that gives your fellow students some understanding of the portion you have read. In this way, rather than having each of you trying to digest the entirety of the books in front of you, we will have an understanding of the theology within the OT as it has developed in the last hundred years or so."

The man who stood before me looked as though he could be cast in Hollywood to play the classic intellectual. Small in stature, thick round glasses, it was clear that he had spent many hours hunched over old books that were generally regarded as incomprehensible to the average reader. He was, well as far as I know he still is, highly regarded among biblical scholars... at least conservative scholars. He has published several books and is frequently asked to speaking engagements where his knowledge of the Old Testament is unsurpassed. You can google him and find all the titles he has either authored or co-authored are.(Now having said that, I should point out that many christians regard the O.T. as the "old covenant" and generally don't understand why anyone bothers with it at all. So while he is highly regarded, he is not given the degree of respect that his cohort Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament at D.S., is given)

As he spoke about the massive tomes we were about to read, he said, "Since we have learned so much about biblical theology in the past hundred years, it is important to give you an overview of how theology has changed. The first author you will read (Gerhard Van Rad) wrote his book about 50 years ago and has some interesting things to say about the O.T. but since he was working on the assumption that the Old Testament is historically accurate, he is generally not used as a source for really understanding the theology of he Old Testament. The second author (Walther Eichrodt) wrote his a bit later and less determined to view the text from and historical perspective with one overarching theme, he nevertheless still clings to some historical context which makes his theological development interesting but difficult to hold on to without the historical aspect. Over the next 20-30 years after Eichrodt wrote his text, Old Testament studies were in disarray because we were learning more about the region and that the stories of the Old Testament could not be actual events that took place at the time they are proposed to have taken place. Many scholars moved away from Old Testament studies altogether and studied strictly the New Testament. However, the problem with that is that so much of the New Testament is bedrocked on the Old Testament and if you ignore it or diminish it's importance, then you fail to see the whole picture of the New Testament. In 2005 Walter Brueggemann, a professor of Old Testament studies at Columbia (he's since retired apparently) has done the most complete work on the Old Testament and the themes within it, but as you will see, he is fairly liberal in his doctrine and in fact, does not even seem to answer the question about whether god is even in the O.T. In other words, he speaks a lot about what the people of the O.T. believed about god but does not answer the question as to what god is saying in the Old Testament. It can be rather unsatisfactory but nevertheless, it really is the best work on the Old Testament in the past twenty years or so."

Well! Quite an introduction! I was stunned. I hadn't given the historical nature of the bible much thought-- beyond the average, you know... "well, when did dinosaurs exist?" and I guess I had been content with the answer, "Seven days didn't mean literally 7 days. God did it over time. You know, maybe a day there is like it is in other parts, a day is like a thousand years..." Sounded good to me!

So onward we pushed- wading through the difficult english translations of german authors who were attempting to connect the Old Testament with the New. (and I might add this was important! Jesus uses the O.T. throughout his ministry and the other N.T. writers use events in the O.T. to show how god had planned sending his son to save the world all along.) So a first little web of thought was spun "what if..."

Indeed, what if...

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