This week I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with my nose directed towards white paper or my computer screen, reading scholarly articles online (I think I read about 5) and more than 250 pages from 8 books as my assignments for my first week of class with Fuller Theological Seminary. I am taking a class on the book of Leviticus, a class on Christology, Soteriology, and Pneumatology (the study of Jesus, Salvation, and the Holy Spirit, respectively), and one on Worship Ministry. I originally intended to only take two classes, but my lovely wife encouraged me to take three and be a full-time student. I think she (and I) might be crazy to have so much confidence in my intellectual prowess. I think even more that she wants me to finish this degree as quickly as possible. She’s willing to have a little less time with me, but she wants that to be for as short of a period as possible. I can appreciate that.
I am taking the Worship Ministry class (called Worship Ministry on the Lord’s Day) because I saw it as being a “cake” class. After all, I have been thinking about and leading worship in church contexts for the past 10 years. How hard could a class be for someone like me with all the experience I have? Truth is, its not going to be that hard, but the fact that I have all of this experience in leading and thinking about worship means that the work itself is more tedious than my other classes. I have 5 books for this class, and had selected readings from each of these books this week. And I found myself falling asleep while reading. I think its because its less interesting to me because I came into the class not expecting to learn, but to excel. I’m regretting that.
I’m really excited about Leviticus.
Read that again. It’s true. I have learned so much this week about parts of the Bible that I have avoided for my entire life; and that’s just from reading the introductions to my commentaries. The themes of life v. death, the design of the tabernacle, understanding holiness, and thinking about how the rituals reflect something about creation itself has been spectacular for my brain. And my spirit. I also read an article about how academics since the 1800s have been talking about the how compilation of the current form of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) came into being. And it made total sense to me! New information that makes sense!
This article proposed that there are several writings that were compiled from the 10th to the 6th Centuries (or from King David/Solomon to the exile in Babylon/Assyria) which were synthesized into the books of the Pentateuch. This is why you will see in Genesis 1:1-2:3 an account of the creation story, and then in Genesis 2:4 you read, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven,” as if that account had not already been given sufficiently in chapter one. If they were written by different authors, this makes sense. If they were written by Moses, in order, then it makes no sense. There are four (or more) separate sources that most scholars believe make up the bulk of the Pentateuch, and none of them are as old as Moses.
Its amazing how swiftly my naive belief that Moses authored the first five books of the Old Testament went out the window when I started considering the material itself. For instance, Moses dies at the end of one of the books he wrote, and it even locates where he was buried. If Moses wrote that, then, well, then that’s pretty amazing and creepy. Moses also calls his father-in-law Reuel and Jethro (that’s strange), and the mountain where God reveals himself he calls Horeb and Sinai. The explanation for that fact when I was in Bible college was to say that, since God was writing through Moses, we just trust that these are different names for the same thing, and Moses was able to know the information about his death before he died for the same reason. That’s possible, but not necessary. I think the Bible gains more merit when I am allowed to believe that its more than just a book that was dictated to mindless authors to control a group of people. If its the expression of the entire Jewish community from the beginning of time through the exile, then its more powerful and filled with more meaning. I’m excited to lean into that.
Enough of that. My schedule has worked out pretty well – I finished all of my reading by Wednesday morning – which has allowed for me to actually be free to spend time with my family. Wednesday afternoon, we went and played at a playground. We haven’t done that in forever. So, it turns out that getting busier has caused me to have more time to have fun with my family. Who knew?
Its only Friday of the first week. I know its not always going to be interesting. I know I’m not always going to have a ton of time to spend with family, or write on this blog for that matter. But I’m super thankful that this week has been manageable and enjoyable. Further up, and further in.