Category Archives: OT Resources

How to Go to Seminary for Free without Going to Seminary

biblical-training

There are many who desire the in-depth study of the Bible that one gains in seminary, but cannot afford to allocate the time required. Especially for those who do not aspire to serve in an official ministerial capacity, the time and labor that go into seminary simply are not practical. While online resources abound, some of which I have highlighted on this site (see here), one perhaps stands above the rest in my mind. BiblicalTraining.org (BT) contains a wealth of free, online courses, taught by many first-class professors. With 73 free classes available, anyone can easily gain access to the basics of a seminary education.

Of course, one cannot substitute the value of an on-campus experience. Between the rigor of presenting assignments and interacting with peers and professors in person, seminary is best experienced in the flesh, so to speak. Perhaps most significant, few people have the motivation and stamina to learn the biblical languages on their own (and no, learning the Greek alphabet in your fraternity does not count). But for those unable to pursue a degree in biblical studies, resources like BT may be a great help.

I have known about BT for some time, but have recently come across the accompanying iPhone application. Now, one can easily take lectures on the go, whether redeeming time in the car, or, as I often do, when doing the dishes.

Of the courses available, I want to commend a few that pertain to Old Testament studies. I hope many of you will make use of this great resource. If you benefit from this ministry, do not forget to consider a financial contribution to continue this work (see here).

1) Old Testament Surveys

2) Essentials of the Old Testament

3) Old Testament Theology

4) Essentials of Old Testament Theology

5) Biblical Theology

 

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A Few Helpful Resources on the Text of the Hebrew Bible/LXX

In my review of T. Michael Law’s book  When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible (see here), I posed a couple of questions that, in my humble opinion, would increase the value of the book as an introductory work. I have been asked what other resources I would recommend alongside Law’s book to provide a “fuller perspective.”

Again, these simply are my suggestions as a reader. Certainly one book cannot do everything, but I know what is helpful to me when I explore unfamiliar territory. The resources below are in relation to the specific points of my review. All but the fourth resource(s) are found in Law’s “Further Reading” section on pages 201-12, which itself is worth the cost of the book.

I confess at the outset that Law is the expert here. He is in a far better position to give book recommendations in Septuagint studies. Nonetheless, here are a few sources that may provide a more balanced perspective.

1. Robert Hanhart, “Introduction,” in The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon, by Martin Hengel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 1–17.

Comment: Interestingly, Hanhart presents a different perspective than Hengel on the problems in the history of the text of the LXX. In fact, it was for this divergent view that he was asked by Hengel to write the introduction. Though his remarks are brief, readers can hear another take on the problem.

2. Nora David et al., eds., The Hebrew Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Forschungen Zur Religion Und Literatur Des Alten Und Neuen Testaments 239 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012).

Comment: Though a more technical work, this book consists of 4 parts assessing the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the study of the Hebrew Bible. Part 1 is further subdivided into five essays labeled “General Studies” and four essays as “Case Studies.” The “General Studies” section represents two views: one emphasizing textual plurality in early Judaism, and the other articulating a greater degree of continuity with the later Masoretic Text. The existence of the volume is evidence that the conversation is slightly more nuanced than one may be led to believe by Law’s book.

3. Lee Martin McDonald and James A. Sanders, eds., The Canon Debate (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002).

Comment: This book incorporates 32 essays addressing a range of issues in both Hebrew Bible and New Testament scholarship. While many contributors of “The Old/First Testament Canon” section would side with Law, I appreciate their attempt to clarify terms and concepts. Understanding what an author means by “canon” or “Bible,” even if one disagrees, opens the door to a clearer discussion.

4. Peter J. Gentry, “The Septuagint and the Text of the Old Testament,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 16, no. 2 (2006): 193–218. See also Peter J. Gentry, “The Text of the Old Testament,” JETS 52, no. 1 (March 2009): 19–45.

Comment: These two articles, written from an evangelical perspective, stand at the other end of the spectrum. Gentry is a specialist in the Septuagint, and here assesses the value of the LXX, as well as methodological considerations for its study.

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Prophecy and Apocalyptic Annotated Bibliography

IBR bibliography

As any student can attest, research can be a difficult but rewarding venture. My research generally follows a common pattern: after my own exegetical work, I begin the task of gathering “conversation partners” (ie. sources). This step can often be daunting for those new to a particular field or even new to the research process itself. Questions like “what if I leave out some authoritative source?” or “has my topic been exhaustively covered in some old monograph somewhere?” can often plague the minds of a careful researcher. For this reason it is good to have some “go-to” resources handy.

One such resource for me is the IBR (Institute of Biblical Research) bibliography series. The purpose of these works is to compile and evaluate works in a particular field of biblical studies (Pentateuch, Jesus, Old Testament Introduction, New Testament Theology, ect.) in an easily accessible format for the student or researcher.

I have greatly benefitted particularly from the volume on Prophecy and Apocalyptic, compiled by D. Brent Sandy and Daniel M. O’Hare. This book is a wealth of information on the background, literary features, and interpretive issues in prophetic/apocalyptic literature.

The bibliography is divided into two sections (Prophecy and Apocalyptic), with each section further arranged by resources on: 1) Information and Orientation; 2) Definition and Identification; 3) Conception and Communication; 4) Composition and Compilation (Prophetic section only); and 5) Transmission and Interpretation. Each segment contains lists of important works, summarized by the authors with the major contribution of the work identified.

One additional benefit for most students will be the emphasis on literature in English. While many significant works on prophecy have originated in German and French, the authors focus on books published , or at least translated, into English. For those who have not brushed on their research languages, this feature can save time while simultaneously sparing you the guilt of omitting works that appear important but are not accessible. We all know that Google Translate can only take you so far.

Of course, as with any work of this nature, the book can be outdated before it was even released. Since its publication in 2007, more research has been done in each area addressed by the volume. Regardless, the resources included in this bibliography provide a good starting point for a researcher. Gaining a handle of the standard works on a particular topic is always a good starting place. There is no doubt that, in some cases, this work can save students and researchers alike a significant amount of time performing complex database searches and shelf browsing. As I once read in a review of another monograph, “if this resource is not on your shelf, it is in the wrong place.”

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So You Want to Improve your Hebrew?

I remember as a second semester Hebrew student wishing that I could have my professor present while I worked through Hebrew texts at home. Unfortunately, my professors rarely made house calls, even when the syntax of a adversative clause lay on the line. Along with many others, my translation technique consisted of simply looking up words in BDB and mashing them together into a wooden translation, leaving aside the complicated question of syntax and structure. If only I had someone to take me through a text line by line.

Amos handbook

Although there are many resources that can help improve your reading of Hebrew, one that I have recently benefited from is the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible Series. I have been working through the volume on Amos authored by a professor of mine, Duane Garrett. In the book, Garrett walks through every stanza, strophe, and line of Amos, describing the syntax and function of each grammatical construction, with a little commentary. This book does not address the text-critical problems of Amos, except where necessary for intelligibility, but focuses on the present form of the text.

By working through this book, students who have had a couple semesters of Hebrew can learn to read grammatically on a discourse level with a Hebrew Bible professor at their beck and call. I have not had a chance to reference any of the other volumes in the series, but have heard mostly positive reports from others.

One word of caution with the Amos volume: occasionally, words are missing or misspelled in the text. As you working through the book, I recommend having your Hebrew Bible open, for the simple purpose of verifying the text. With that caveat, I cannot recommend this work more highly.

You can read a review of the book here.

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Another Helpful Itunes U Biblical Studies Course

The other day I stumbled across another course on Itunes U from Concordia Seminary, which focuses on the text of the Hebrew Bible. I have been listening to Dr. Timothy Saleska teach an exegesis on the Hebrew text of Zephaniah and Habakkuk (part of 2 Samuel is posted as well). From what I have heard so far, this course is shaping up to be one of my favorites on Itunes U.

Find the course here.

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Annotated Old Testament Bibliography

Every year, Denver Seminary professors M. Daniel Carroll R., Hélène Dallaire, and Richard S. Hess, publish a comprehensive Old Testament bibliography. I have found this resource to be a great help in the past, and anticipate its revision each year. This year’s updated list has been posted here. The categories the bibliography includes are as follows:

Introductions
Series
Theology
Histories of Israel
Archaeology
Atlases
Translations of Collections of Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Ancient Near Eastern Histories
Hebrew Lexicons
Biblical-Theological Dictionaries
Concordances
Hebrew Grammars
Old Testament Canon/Textual Criticism
Sociological and Anthropological Studies
Feminist, Minority, and Third World Studies
Literary Approaches
Israelite Religion
Messianic Judaism
Commentaries by Bible book (following the order of the Protestant canon)

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Lots of Free Old Testament Lectures

Rusty Osborne, co-founder of the OT blog Law, Prophets & Writings, has compiled a list of free Old Testament courses on Itunes U. If you are unfamiliar with Itunes U, it is a resource  by Apple, providing access to higher education classes free of charge. The number of academic institutions represented is staggering, as is the range of material available. These resources can be downloaded from Itunes U via the Iphone/Ipod app, or simply downloaded through itunes on a computer.

These Old Testament lectures originate from different university/seminary contexts, but afford one an in depth look into the various parts of the Hebrew Bible. Of particular interest here are the courses on Book of the Twelve by scholars such as Richard Pratt, John Goldingay, and David L. Talley. I have listened to most of Dr. Pratt’s lectures previously, finding them to be rather helpful.

Thanks to Rusty for compiling this list.

HT: Charles Halton

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