Brokenhearted Theology

Old Testament? Nah, leave it for the scholars!

The title is meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek.  I was speaking with someone yesterday about my academic plans as I begin seminary classes in a few weeks.  This person was quite knowledgeable about the offerings of the school I’m at and the program that I’m in.  He was asking about what kind of classes I wanted to take, or if I was going to have a concentration in any one area. 

I had previously mentioned that I had taken a few semesters of Hebrew during my undergrad, and asked if there was a concentration in Old Testament Studies.  From that, he assumptively asked if I was planning to go on to work on a Ph.D. 

I answered that I had thought about it, but wasn’t sure if that’s where I was headed.

About 8 hours later I was brushing my teeth, when I realized something.

Why does my interest in Old Testament and Hebrew lead towards an assumption of doctoral work in the area? 

Isn’t there value in the Old Testament and its language beyond scholarly pursuits? 

Isn’t a theology that overlooks, or sells short, the groundwork, the foundation, the primer, the beauty of the Old Testament missing something? 

Anyone?  Bueller?

This isn’t really a surprise to me.  I’ve been realizing over the last five years of my spiritual growth that other than select portions of Genesis, the Psalms, and a few verses cookie cut from the prophets, the Old Testament has gotten less and less attention in many churches. 

I’ve realized as I’ve been struggling through the book of Isaiah the last few weeks that the Old Testament is difficult.  It’s even hard to plow through it quickly without digging in deep.  It takes time to really understand what’s going on. 

But it shouldn’t be reduced to discussion only in scholarly and academic surroundings.  I’m inspired and challenged by guys like Rob Bell who preach Leviticus to contemporary crowds.  Or like Phillip Yancey who wrote about “The Bible Jesus Read.”  I want to know about more people who love the Old Testament and desire to see it balanced properly in it’s context. 

Last night, Krissy and I were both reading around Isaiah 45.  I had just finished it, and she was just starting.  She asked me if I knew who Cyrus was.  I honestly had to look back to see where that name was mentioned, because I had glossed over it in an effort to get through the chapter.  Realizing that he was mentioned several times in the surrounding chapters, and was really one of the main figures being prophesied about, I sheepishly grabbed a study Bible and looked it up.  Turns out Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus by name about 150 years before his reign as king in Persia, talking about how the LORD would use him, a ‘pagan’, to restore the people and land of Israel. 

And this is what I glanced over.  What a great story!!!  And I almost missed it…wow…I’m glad my wife is such a close reader.  I wondered how many other people are like me and just find it easier to skip over chunks like this, hoping that Jeremiah isn’t as odd.  These are the kind of stories that I don’t want to miss anymore.  I feel like I’ve missed so much of the theological and artistic depth of the Old Testament. 

Yes, the Old Testament requires some leg work to understand and apply.  Yes, you may not hear it in churches. 

Yes, the Old Testament is god-breathed.  Yes, it is completely worth the effort.



4 thoughts on “Old Testament? Nah, leave it for the scholars!

  1. Great post! I love the Old Testament. Especially when I recognize that in the OT Israel is who God was revealing Himself to, that they might reveal Him to the world. And in the New Testament the Church is who God is revealing Himself to, that they might reveal Him to the world.

    Somehow that comparison made me want to really understand what was happening in the OT. The God of Israel is the God of us. Hebrews is also a great study that puts it all together.


  2. I think the OT hit me last semester when I realized that the new testament is simply full of it… if we really want to understand what Jesus was saying we have to go back and know our OT. Just think of how much more meaning Jesus’ words would have if we knew the Torah front to back.
    And beyond giving so much meaning to the NT, the OT has so so much to offer itself. I think the testament just got a bad rap. I used to think it was boring, until I fell in love with the books of Genesis and Joshua (the stories pull me in). I used to think it was outdated until I read parts of leviticus and numbers and realized that Jesus was preaching on their principles. I used to think the prophets were beyond my grasp of understanding until I saw them as courageous leaders, changing the world.
    Thanks Dave, and I’m glad you love the OT 🙂


  3. I found in my own experience that anytime someone suggested an interest in the academic side of seminary it was assumed they were on the fast-track to PhD work. It didn’t seem to matter what specialty, if you were there for more than a missions-training sort of education you were an “academic.” But this is probably more of a commentary on the grad school I attended (which is several tiers below Fuller, in my opinion).


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