This course differs from other Biblical Studies courses in that it focuses on a theme rather than a specific text. However, it has the same goal of contributing to a deeper understanding of Scripture, for extended reflection on a specific theme invariably leads to a more careful, observant reading of passages in which the theme is found. The theme of prophecy is also important and fascinating in its own right. Questions we will consider this semester include the following:
- What happened to prophecy between the Old and New Testaments? Did it cease only to be restored in the New Testament? Was it transformed or did it continue unchanged? What is the relationship between Old Testament prophecy and early Jewish apocalyptic literature (including the book of Revelation)?
- Perceptions of past prophecy: How did early Jews and Christians interpret the written prophets? In what ways did respect for the “prophets” as Scripture shape how they viewed contemporary inspired experiences?
- Future prophets: What role did prophets play in Jewish expectations of the future? How did early Jews and Christians understand Malachi’s prediction of the return of the prophet Elijah, and Deuteronomy’s prediction of a “prophet like Moses”?
- Jesus the prophet: What sort of prophet was Jesus? How does the title “prophet” relate to the title “Messiah”?
- Christian prophets in history: What role did Christian male and female prophets play in Paul’s churches? How would Christian prophecy have been viewed in comparison with Greco-Roman conceptions of prophecy? What was the experience of Christian prophecy?
- Christian prophets and theology: Are all Christians prophets? What is the relationship between prophecy and tongues? What are the characteristics of Christian prophets? How are prophets different from apostles? Is Christian prophecy different from Old Testament prophecy?
- True and False prophecy: What is the authority of Christian prophets? What does it mean for someone to speak for God? How does one distinguish between true and false prophecy?
- What happened to prophecy after the New Testament?
As important as these questions are in themselves, they will also serve as an opening into other more general issues in the study of the New Testament, such as the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and between Christianity and the early Jewish milieu out of which it developed, the function of the Bible’s historical contexts, and the ways in which our own experiences affect what we perceive in Scripture. I hope that as we progress through the course we will become more convinced of the relevance of the topic for the church today, and increasingly sensitive to the continuing work of the living God.
This course will encourage the development of, and familiarity with, a diverse exegetical toolset. You will be challenged to hone your ability to analyse and evaluate scholarly arguments, to engage in constructive dialogue, and to present the results of your study persuasively, both in written form and orally in front of your peers.
If you'd like more information, you can download the college (BLST415) and seminary (BT829) versions of the syllabus on my website here.
Any guesses what I'll be reading over Christmas break?