Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Reflections on Old Testament Themes

The Old Testament Themes module is taught by Hector Morrison, now principal of HTC. Its title seems to be a little simplistic for a Level 3 module - it sounds like something you might do on a Saturday course! However, this module is really akin to an Old Testament Theology primer. It's a great introduction to the Biblical Theology modules of Level 4. It is a superb module! Many highlights could be highlighted, but I will be brief:
  • Chaoskampf. One of the seminar themes - focussing on possible occurrences of the motif in the Psalms and writing prophets. I preached a mini-series on some of the Songs of Zion a few months ago and the chaos motif is clearly present in Ps46, contrasted there with the life-giving qualities of the Edenic Gihon spring on the slopes of Zion. The order displayed in the Sinaitic Law, whilst burdensome to the people, should perhaps be understood (at least to some degree) as a recreation of the world in the nation of Israel, which rises from the chaos of Egypt. Our God is a God of order!
  • Isaianic Portrait of the Messiah. This seminar caused disquiet for some by disallowing a simple reading-back of NT perspectives into the traditional Isaianic passages. However, important methodological decisions must be taken when intepreting the OT. One of them is to ask: what did this passage mean in Israel? If we do not ask this question, if we do not impose a historical ordering principle on our hermeneutic, then we will never properly understand the revelation of Christ.
  • Covenant. Dr Mike Bird used to harangue me (in jest) about the number of times I mentioned covenant! In this module, working through the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants enables your thinking to crystallize in this foundational area. A seminar on the New Covenant ('not like the covenant I made with their fathers...') was then an opportunity to build on this. Especially useful for me was time spent considering the fact that the New Covenant is made with the houses of Israel and Judah. Some want to interpret this spiritually, but I think that's a mistake. A literal understanding is what we need, if we are to understand what's happening at Pentecost (and before that, for example, at the well in John 4) and what Paul is getting at when he uses his vine imagery in Romans 11 (on a personal note, this kind of thinking a few years ago now was critical in my own ecclesiastical shift from being a Reformed Baptist to being a Presbyterian. In fact, thinking about it, does that move in itself make me a reformed Baptist?!). It also makes me wonder whether in some of the ways in which the Samaritans feature in the Gospels, we are in fact seeing some kind of tribal reconstruction motif - a rehabilitation of the northern tribes?