Dec 052008

Barring exams on the 11th and 19th, three of my four courses for 4th year are now done. Only one course and a dissertation to do and that’ll be 4th year and my BD done. It all seems to have gone by in a rush somehow, although I’m still convinced term-time ‘time’ runs at a different rate to real time.

Of the three courses this semester, Hebrew Prophecy with Professor Barstad has definitely been the most enjoyable, not least because of some interesting class dynamics which I’ll not go into here. The bizarre thing is that, despite 10 weeks of lectures, I’ve barely got a handful of notes. This is mainly because most of the lecture is spent actually doing exegesis rather than talking about how to do it. It was a bit like being back in school – read round the class first, then ask questions. There’s always one particular ‘nugget of gold’ in his classes and the ‘light coming on’ moment for me was when he dropped in an almost ‘throwaway’ comment about “underlying reality” when considering the prophets. First and foremost, when tackling the text, the question to ask is, “What’s the underlying reality?” And it’ll be something like war, famine, idolatry, whatever. That then is the key to unlocking the language being used. From there it’s a matter of unpicking the metaphors. The problem is that it is also a slightly circular activity – unpicking the metaphors also helps to expose the underlying reality.

I’ve already grumped about Biblical Interpretation several times but I sort of enjoyed the course but ultimately found it very dissatisfying. Way too much emphasis on historical-critical methods. The irritating thing was that almost every article we read concluded that historical-criticism only took you so far, yet we barey touched on the bits that might take you further. Even more irritating was that they were treated in an almost disdainful way, simply because they weren’t historical-criticism. I knew beforehand that the NT lecturers at New College are pretty much wedded to historical-critical methods and that it can do no wrong, but I can’t help but think that, for a research establishment whose academic approaches ought to be pretty much up-to-date, Biblical Interpretation was done a bit of a disservice. That said, to cover some of these other methods are a course in themselves – and I’m very glad I did it last year.

Doctrine of Creation was interesting but pretty heavy going, as most systematics courses tend to be. Not sure that it contributed as much to my dissertation background as I had hoped it might. Still, once I get into that I’ll probably find stuff that is useful.

Anyway, revision time now and I suspect that that time will disappear even more quickly and the exams will arrive all too soon.

  7 Responses to “Getting there”

  1. ‘Doctrine of Creation …was heavy going’ – John, you secretly enjoyed that, come on !!
    I always got the impression that the lectures in New College were designed to take you so far and that you were then expected to take it from there. That was my memory of Church History at least ! But then, that was a course that our Lord would score 80% on !!
    Glad that things are progressing and that exams and dissertaion notwithstanding things are going as planned.

  2. I’m still trying to decide if I ‘secretly enjoyed the course or not. Maybe I’ll reserve judgement until after Thursday’s exam.
    I’m not convinced that the Biblical Interpretation was designed to take you ‘so far’. I did a course last year which did take it on further and maybe that’s why I found this one frustrating. But it’s certainly not the case that the two courses were intended to complement one another. When I questioned the necessity of doing this particular course, the lecturer of this year’s one had no knowledge of the course I did last year.
    Anyway, it’ll be done and dusted on Thursday as well.

  3. Thnaks John… what I meant and didn’t put very well was that the onus was on the student to do the further research. It was one of the things that I didn’t quite get right at Uni because I had always done the ‘regurgitate’ style of answers while not adding much of my own thinking. Had I my time again, I would do things a bit differently. Maybe a bit of further Uni study might present itself in the future sometime…

  4. I see what you mean.
    I think what I’ve found is that it is only now, by 4th year, that I can see enough of the academic ‘jigsaw’ to start pulling from other subjects because I’m seeing how they fit together. The main problem with doing independent study and further reading is simply the time factor. If I wanted to follow up on all the subjects I’d like to then my uni career probably wouldn’t end. I guess that’s just a reminder that we should never stop learning.

  5. john–

    i’ve been enjoying your chronicles of doctorate-dom.  i’ve been reading models of the church by avery dulles (1987 edition), and he has a chapter about the eschaton, where he rubs his models of church up against richard mcbrien’s models of eschaton.  (the mcbrien tome is church: the continuing quest).  might be of interest to you; he talks about ‘realized eschatology,’ which seems similar to your own understanding of the eschaton.


  6. Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the pointers to those books. They sound useful. I’m sure I’ve read some Dulles before, but I can’t remember exactly in what context. Haven’t come across McBrien but he sounds interesting.

  7. Having read some of your recent posts I almost miss University! I also spent a term studying Hebrew prophecy and I loved all the biblical interpretation stuff I did (especially OT ) … I lost count of the number of ‘light coming on’ moments… I even had them when studying Barth 🙂

    Hope the rest of your year is good and that the dissertation comes together.

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