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My Israel Prologue

I know that more than a few of you are waiting for a recap of the trip to Israel I took a few weeks ago.  I’m working on it!.  You may not be interested, but I’m going to use my first Israel post to do something a little different: I’m not going to write too much about the experience itself but instead call out words of praise for my Old Testament professors in seminary.  Don’t roll your eyes!  I had some great teachers at Asbury Theological Seminary and I didn’t return that blessing by being a great student.  Nevertheless, I learned a lot that I still use today as a pastor.  I’m what sports talk-show host Jim Rome would call a Bible “honk” (“geek” to you) and those classes, as well as this recent trip to Israel, have opened my eyes to the Bible in ways I will never be able to digest.

In the fall of 2000 I enrolled in an introduction to the Old Testament class and it was taught by Sandy Richter.  It was her first semester as a professor at Asbury after completing her PhD at Harvard University as I remember.  I told a friend that I was in one of her first classes and he said, “Oh, I feel sorry for you.  These new PhD’s haven’t figured out how to teach on a master’s level.  It usually takes them a couple of semesters to get adjusted so you are out of luck.”  My friend was wrong.  Dr. Richter may be more intelligent than most of MENSA, but the woman can teach.  I can’t describe the difference between good lecturer (she is that, too) and a good teacher in the space I want to dedicate to this post except to say that it is easy to be a good lecturer and a horrible teacher all at once.  Dr. Richter could probably win a Nobel Prize for pedagogy if there were such a thing.  

The reason I am describing her as an amazing teacher is because I remembered my experience in her class as soon as I started seeing the places in Israel we studied in class.  I’m not talking rote Bible information but as soon as we started driving her ubiquitous maps came alive in my imagination and I started thinking, “Holy cow, THAT’S what the Shephelah looks like!”  I remember reading and hearing about the Jezreel Valley and little of it made sense until I stood there.  I started recalling what the differences between the Broze Age and the Iron Age (early, middle, and late, of course) meant to stone cutting and subsequently wall building while standing in Dan.  I even took one of my required texts, the Harper Collins Atlas of the Bible, with me.  The marginalia from class made so much more sense while we looked at places around the Holy Land.

She is the author of a new book The Epic of Eden: A Christian Epic into the Old Testament which is a fantastic book.  I’m trying to find creative ways to entice my church to buy a copy and read it!

My other tribute is to Dr. Lawson Stone.  My first class with Dr. Stone had nothing to do with the Old Testament – it was a seminar class for our supervised ministry experiences.  That was enough to get me enrolled in Exegesis of Jeremiah the following semester.  Imagine all the awesomeness of Jeremiah, Hebrew readings, geek humor, and clips from Tombstone and Monty Python and the Holy Grail all rolled into one class.  Yeah, that was sweet.  Our time together not only plunged me into OT criticism, it added shading and color to the portrait of the Old Testament emerging in my mind from the beginning of seminary.  It’s a little hard to explain in a blog, but I can’t think of the prophets anymore without remembering the first few classes in which my knowledge of prophecy expanded more than it ever had.  When we stood on what our tour guide called the “teaching steps” just below the Al Aqsa mosque on the south end of the temple mount I couldn’t shake the image in my head of Jeremiah telling the people of Judah that God was going to make a new covenant with them (Jeremiah 31) and that he had to come into Jerusalem, a place from which his family had been banished.  It was a sweet moment for me.

Now, if that’s too sweet for you, Dr. Stone is also the guy who, with no words, convinced me that I needed a Mac and that I needed Accordance Bible software on that Mac.  I still have his “Buying the HALOT” document and, of course, opted for the digital version which served me well.  If you must know, when our tour guide, an Israeli, started doing word studies on the fly I went back to the hotel in the evening and checked her against the dictionaries (She whiffed on a Greek term, but as far as I can tell, she hit it out of the park when explaining “unripe” while at Bethphage).

Seminary was my primary preparation for this trip to Israel and these two profs did more to enhance that experience than anyone else in my life and to them I say, “Thank you.”  

For the rest of you, I’ll get to Day One soon!

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 10, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Ahh Jeremiah exegesis, good times. 🙂

  2. February 10, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I didn’t ever take a class with Dr. Richter, but I have heard nothing but good things. I will say that I have greatly appreciated my Asbury education and the work of the Old Testament department (a lot of Dr. Stone) gave me a love for the Old Testament. I’d be jealous of your Israel experience, but that’s sinful, so I’ll just say I’m happy for you. Yep, good for you. Not jealous at all. Just happy for you.

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