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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dearth of Old Testament Scholars

It seems that there is a scarcity of Old Testament scholars in our church body. I visited a Hebrew class this morning at Concordia University - Irvine, CA. It was good seeing the fresh young fellows crunching away at it. I confess that my Hebrew is rusty. I'm much better at Greek and always have been. There seems to be less interest in our seminaries and pre-seminary programs in studying the Old Testament.

I remember a couple of times as a parish pastor being asked questions like, "Pastor, why should we care about the Old Testament. Let's just focus on Jesus." The trick is to demonstrate that the Old Testament IS about Jesus. In any case, the OT is 2/3 of your Bible. Neglecting its study is a very serious problem.

There is a second century heretic named Marcion. He denounced the Old Testament and all within the New which he considered too Jewish, basically. He was sort of hyper-Pauline and ejected Matthew, Mark and John. Luke being an associate of Paul was OK, I suppose.

Are we in danger of becoming Marcionites today when we ignore or neglect the Torah, the prophets, the hebrew poetry and hymns collected in what we call the Old Testament? Does it in some way discolor our understanding of Jesus?

I say yes it does. For the last couple of years, during Lent, I have made reading Leviticus part of my personal devotional schedule. If you ever want to gain a graphic new insight into the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, spend some time mulling over Leviticus. Consider also the psalms, the hymnal Jesus grew up using and had memorized. Remember that Jesus Himself explained to his followers that Moses, the prophets and the psalms all speak of Him.

I will even say that it is absolutely essential to know the first 39 books of our bible in order to correctly understand the last 27.

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Tom Becker said...

The Reform side are particularly good at OT scholarship. Could be tied to the focus on covenant theology I suspect. I took a DELTO class in OT last year and used an Edmund Clowney book on the OT for one of my papers - very helpful.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for the comment. There are indeed a lot of good resources, many from Reformed circles. Also Roman Cath and Jewish. Lutherans aren't totally absent, but it seems that this is a weakness for us today.

One problem - and I also indict myself by saying this - is that our clergy neglect using the original Hebrew. I know from experience how much reading Greek illuminates the New Testament. The bible is too important for us to rely solely on translators.

Christopher Gillespie said...

From my own experience, learning Hebrew after your first complete year of seminary limits the opportunities to really use it. About the time I expect to be getting more comfortable with it I go out on vicarage and am on my own. (Left to my own devices, I fear the worst.)

Is it too late for another curriculum revision? :)

Stoleman said...


I think one of the problems we have is when we think of Old Testament our mind always thinks Law. This predisposition hinders our ability to look at the Old Testament and understand that the Gospel is throughout all 39 books.

Some would say we should use the Old Testament only to point to Christ, but it is not just pointing to Christ, but the fulfillment of His mission and understanding the Gospel begins with the first words in Genesis and continues through all 39 books.

Maybe we should reform our seminary curriculum!!! But why wait til seminary, begin with children's stories, catechism, youth retreats, adult instruction and preaching among other things. This would have the greatest impact on the church at large.

Darian L. Hybl

VirginiaLutherans said...

Those who want to forget the OT only show why they should. Take Isaiah 49 for example. Its sole focus is Christ. It also has verbaige important to today on the topic of abortion (verses 1 and 5). It also hints at the promise of heaven and Christ being sent to Jew and Gentile. Does this sound like something that should be tossed out? I don't think so. It is parts like this that open up the New Testament. Without knowing the promises, it's just "a good story."

God's blessings on your recruiting trip, Pastor. God will stir the hearts of those He has purposed for being a shepherd.

The Beast said...

A helpful text for this common misunderstanding of OT Scripture is Luke 24:27. Jesus is speaking with the two people who he encountered on the road to Emmaus. No one during Jesus' earthly ministry really understood the concept of the suffering and resurrected servant. Christ finally just comes right out and explains it to these fellows. Verse 27 says, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." I think that pretty much sums it up.

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary