Introduction: The What and the Why of FirstThreeQuarters

First: Welcome

Glad you’ve come to look around.  Hope you find something that interests and perhaps inspires and intrigues you.

What

…is this blog about?  FirstThreeQuarters stands for the Old Testament, making up about three quarters of the Christian Bible (and all of the Jewish one, hence the common alternate term, Hebrew Bible, used in scholarship).  The intention is not really to say that these three quarters are more important than the last quarter, the New Testament, by dint of sheer bulk, but to try to remedy the neglect of the Old Testament by Christians.

Content will accumulate a little randomly at first, but this is not the “here’s the latest development” kind of blog, or a debate-dominated blog, but primarily an outlet for my better-developed ideas on various Old Testament topics.  My postgraduate study was a history of the interpretation of Genesis 1, the creation week, from 1 A.D. to 1860, so you can expect Genesis to figure in some posts, and what some influential thinkers and works of the past have done with the Genesis creation account/s.  Over time I hope to push this research up to the present day.

Otherwise I might post on any part of the Old Testament, particularly what I’m preparing for upcoming subjects, e.g. at the moment, early in 2014, for teaching Psalms, and then Jeremiah.  I love the Hebrew language in all genres, poetry and prose, narrative and wisdom, so some posts will be about those things.  I’m interested in all reception of biblical texts, not just Genesis, so that might turn up, along with what they call ‘reception theory’.  And I’m interested in the intersection of science and religion, particularly historically, and the history of ideas in general, so that might turn up too.  And thoughts about theology from the Old and New Testaments.

Last of all, I like to think about how to teach effectively, particularly using visuals, and about what software tools and online helps can aid in the process, so I’ll try to include aspects of these things.

Which already begins to touch on…

Why

My role (see below) invites me to be the advocate for the value and relevance of this part of the Christian Scriptures – the less well known, the more alien, the more ancient, the less well trodden.  And that just there is what I call inverted parallelism (it has 5 or 6 other names), and the Old Testament poets loved to use it…but perhaps you knew that already.  If you didn’t, perhaps you too might discover a few fascinating things you didn’t know about these mysterious and magical pages of Scripture.  At the end of the day, all of those pages are concerned with the goal of knowing God.  The whole Bible tells the story of the human quest to know God, or better, of God’s quest to be known by humans.  The last part of the story is climactic, the New Testament part.

But we don’t usually start a good story three quarters through, do we?  I invite you to come back and discover the back story to the Gospel of Jesus…the Silmarillion to the Lord of the Rings, as it were, or whatever vital prequel resonates with you.

Who

I teach Old Testament in whole and in part, and Hebrew periodically, at Melbourne School of Theology in Melbourne, Australia, a city of about four million people with its own home-grown brand of football and famously wacky weather.  Our college used to be called BCV, Bible College of Victoria, and before that, MBI, Melbourne Bible Institute.  It’s about 100 years old, and has a long-standing reputation in Australia as a missionary sending college and a leading symbol of evangelical Christianity in this part of Australia.  It also has connections to mission aviation training.

But I should point out here, that while I try not to shoot my mouth off, this blog in no way represents the college or its opinions.  It is my private venue, though bits and pieces of my teaching material and ideas will show up here.  You can’t hold the college liable if I say something silly one day.  It’s mine alone.

In the past, I grew up under the influence of a Christian mother (converted in the famous Billy Graham crusade of 1959) and father, and have studied at various Christian colleges in Australia and the U.S., have done a little secular work, gradually built up my teaching career, did my postgrad studies at the University of Queensland to doctoral level, and spent five years as a part-time, rather low-level pastor followed by six years as single pastor of a country church.  You might or might not relate to such a background, but while it might be a little cloistered in some ways and a little over-intellectual, there’s little I can do retrospectively to improve it.  To be honest, though my sense of God’s presence is admittedly patchy, I feel a conviction that I, and now my family, have experienced God’s guiding along the path that has led to this point.

So I’m blessed now to be married to Naomi, who understands the way that I think and shares my values, more than some spouses get, and we have an 11-year old son who is “growing up in front of us like a tender green shoot” (Isa 53:2), another almost 9, who grows more slowly since he won’t eat his vegetables, and a 6-year-old girl who intends to charm her way to the top.

I might sound conservative, but you should know that I’m always interested in the truth, and sometimes the truth involves asking hard questions or learning hard realities.  I’d rather not use denial to avoid such things, and stick the proverbial banana in my ear. But if God is anything like Christian theology on the whole imagines God to be, the search for truth, as Job 28 and Proverbs 1 & 9 announce, should lead not away from him but toward him.  At least I operate on that presumption.

That’s enough ‘who’.

Where

…am I pitching this?  Is it for Christian laypeople?  Theological students?  Fellow academics?  Top-flight biblical scholars?  Jews (hopefully, with this Scripture in common)?  Muslims?  Atheists?  All the people who listen to the ‘universe’?  Everyone else who doesn’t care, or are mainly just surviving?  Well, anyone and everyone, but not everyone will identify with what interests me, or be able to stomach my personality.  I’ll try to warn you when a post is going to be technical, and then some of you can respond and tell me when I’ve outrun my knowledge.  Other posts will be much more general and accessible.  If you’ve lost my thread, maybe you can enjoy the pretty pictures!?!?

I’d like to talk to Hebrew and Old Testament scholars, should they condescend to such a conversation, and to ordinary Christians looking to deepen their knowledge of the Old Testament, or tempted to re-examine their disinterest in it, and to the sceptical and uncommitted who would like to question or query or challenge.  Some discussions won’t really interest me and others will intrigue me.  Try me!

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