A Little Window into Old Testament Scholarship

In my PhD work I completed a seminar in which I had to read roughly 4,200 pages covering the history of scholarship on the Old Testament. In a major paper I wrote for that seminar I included a short introduction in which I did some personal reflection on some of the major impressions I took away from my reading as a whole. I have included my major impressions below in a modified format. I hope these impression might be beneficial in some way to you and at least give a small window into the world of Old Testament scholarship. As always, I love to hear feedback from you.


The issue that made the biggest impression on me in my reading in the history of biblical scholarship, and particularly Old Testament scholarship, was its fascination/obsession with finding, understanding, and appropriating history as it appears in the Bible. In the past I believe I have neglected this important aspect of Old Testament scholarship. So much of the interpretive debate within Old Testament scholarship turns on how the interpreter understands history as presented in the Bible as well as the history of the documents themselves.

Secondly, it was interesting to me to see how tied interpretive methods and theories are, at their core, to the wider culture and philosophies of the world at any given time. One can point to the Jewish allegorization in Alexandria as a product of general literary hermeneutics of the day coupled with Hellenistic philosophy. Or similarly, a link can be seen between the Enlightenment and the higher critical movement that was so concerned with finding a scientific research method for biblical studies as well as objective facts within the Bible. The tie between culture and research methods should give us pause as Old Testament scholars and encourage us to stand back from our own culture and see how it may be driving our inquiries into the Biblical text. It seems plausible that the current eclectic state of biblical scholarship may be tied to the post-modern tendency to approve of all methods and yet stand in judgment over none.

Thirdly, I was reminded of the complexities that are involved in deciding what text we should actually study as Old Testament scholars. The compilation of the canon is not a clean process, but I think reflects a perfect God working through imperfect people. This is one area of scholarship that almost necessitates faith. In response to the complexity that is involved, I plan to be more sensitive to textual issues, especially regarding the LXX, the MT, and documents that have come from Qumran.

Finally, I enjoyed placing myself in the long line of New Testament and Old Testament scholars that generally have wanted to genuinely understand the Biblical texts. Sometimes the philosophy of the day, personal sin, or a misguided teacher have led scholars astray, but there is value even in learning from the wrong turns in the history of scholarship. Above all, I hope as I work in biblical studies, and more particularly in Old Testament studies, God would let me understand His Word and maybe, just maybe, add my own tiny piece to our understanding of the Bible.

*The above excerpt is modified from a paper originally presented to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a PhD in Old Testament, summer 2015. Any use of the above material must be properly footnoted and credit given to the author. DO NOT Plagiarize! Furthermore, the picture above is an original work (copyright 2015) of www.entrustedwiththegospel.com and must not be used without expressed written consent.

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