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.