Sep 232008

First day back at uni yesterday. Despite the long summer break it hardly feels like I’ve been away.

I had two classes yesterday (I have one on Friday as well), both quite different. The first was Biblical Interpretation which was the class I tried to get out of but couldn’t. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as I anticipated. The lecturer (for part of it anyway) is Prof Larry Hurtado. He comes across as a little bit dour when you chat to him but he’s quite animated when lecturing and really quite engaging. Yesterday was just an introductory session so not too heavy going. Mind you, it’s a small classroom and quite a busy class so the problem will be staying awake in a stuffy atmosphere. I’m still not overly taken by the content – it is very similar to the course I took last year and much of the focus is on historical-critical methods of Biblical interpretation, something that was heavily criticised in the course from last year.

The Hebrew Prophecy course should be interesting. Prof Hans Barstad is very knowledgeable but his lecturing style can be very off-putting until you’re familiar with it. He tends to wander off at tangents and it would be easy to switch off until he gets back on track, but there are wonderful little nuggets of teaching in his tangents and, all too often, he doesn’t get back on track. It’s only much later that you realise that, actually, he’s provided you with a lot of information to answer for yourself the question he got sidetracked from in the first place. He spent most of the first class setting out his position for teaching the Hebrew prophets – and it’s most definitely not from a historical-critical perspective, which he panned mercilessly (but I knew this and that’s why I wanted to do the course). However, that didn’t go down well with a couple of class members. One is German and is steeped in the historical-critical methodology. To be fair, he did say he was open to other approaches and I think he will get a lot out of the class. The other is from the US and seems to want the ‘right answers’. At least that’s the impression I got. She’s really not happy at the thought of more literary approaches to the Bible. However, if she gives it a chance she’ll discover that Barstad’s literary approach does not mean a liberal free-for-all in interpretation. A few of us in the class have had Barstad as a lecturer before so we know what to expect. We were chatting about it afterwards and it’s funny how particular lecturing ‘quirks’ stick in your head – and we all remembered the same ones. Maybe that’s a sign that he definitely makes an impression.

And some things never change – the potential for a huge photocopying bill for the reams of reading to be done.

Then just to cap off a busy day, I had to head to St. Andrews for the first of a series of meetings for the Ministries Training Network. This is part of the Church of Scotland training process for candidates. A short time of worship, a half hour Bible passage discussion, tea break and a one hour discussion of a theology article. I’m not altogether sure of what it achieved other than a very late return home and lots more miles on the car. At least the next one should be in Edinburgh.