|Prof. Brent Strawn, the OT Lund Lecturer for 2017|
This week we’re right in the middle of North Park Theological Seminary’s annual Lund Lectureship and Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture. Each year, for the Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship, the seminary invites one Old Testament scholar and one New Testament scholar to speak on cutting edge issues in biblical studies but to present their work in a way that theologically informs the mission and ministry of the church. The audience to which they present are ordained pastors, church leaders, seminary graduate students, undergrads, and the wider church body. Nevertheless, as a scholar, I myself always learn and benefit from our lecturers.
Yesterday (Sept 27, 2017), we had the privilege of hearing from our OT Lund Lecturer Dr. Brent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at the Candler School of Theology in Emory University. His OT series was on the theme: The Difference between the Right Word and the Almost Right Word (of God): On the Nature of Holy Scripture. It was a very provocative series.
In his 1st lecture, entitled: “The Greatest ‘Story’ Never Told: Rethinking the Bible’s Macrogenre,” Strawn argues against seeing the Bible as story. The Bible is not a narrative, and if it is presented as such, it is because the interpreter has constructed its contents in story form. The dangers of presenting the Bible as story is reductionism. Narrative is an imposition on Scripture. It imposes an orderliness and sequencing to Scripture leaving out, at times, important themes, messages, and experiences. The cost is too high.
As an alternative maco-genre, Stawn suggests that the Bible ought to be construed and read as poetry. One pastoral note worth making is the difference reading the Bible as story vs. reading the Bible as poetry makes. With the former, a person races through the narrative to get a sense of its plot and with much of Scripture’s content slipping through the cracks in the reading experience. But with the Bible as poetry, the reader wrestles with every word, thinking about its meaning, slowing down to see the connections of the word with the rest of the sentence and with the entire poem as a whole.
The link to the 1st Lecture video is below:
Note: the video of the lecture is done through Facebook. The tech crew is experimenting with FB’s chat function for online participation
In the 2nd lecture, entitled: “‘I Am Large, I Contain Multitudes’: The Poetics of Scriptural Contradiction,” Strawn describes several reasons why the Bible’s macro-genre as Poetry is a better way to understand the nature of Scripture and how to interpret it. One of the most striking observations he made was what he called the Bible’s “re-utterability.” Often when we think of the Bible as a story “back then” or as history, this model of reading creates significance distance between the text and the reader. The reader is tempted to dismiss the content of Scripture as something for the people of that time not ours. But poetry is re-utterable. It closes the gap between the text and interpreter. We are invited to experience poetry, and Scripture does the same. The rawness, candor, and perspective of the text is something the reader enters into; it is a sacred space from which we experience the text as God’s word. It changes the reader. It transforms. To this, I say: “Amen!”
The link to the 2nd Lecture video is here:
I hope you are challenged and blessed as much as I was by the series. Next up: the NT Lund Lectures by Prof. Grant Makaskill which was today. I’ll post on this soon. MJL