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Speed Dating with Moses

September 22, 2007

Over at Temple, I have been accused of “speed dating” with both Homer (we read and discussed the Illiasd in a week) and with Plato (we’re tackling the Republic in nine days). However, neither of these causes me the vexation of having to speed through the legal material in Exod 16-50, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy at Eastern. In particular, I am worried about the Exodus section which I will try to cover on Monday.

The reason for my concern is quite simple: I am afraid that I will not be able to do justice to the material. While I am teaching a “survey” of the Old Testament, let’s be honest: most folks don’t actually survey the entire Old Testament. Rather, they attempt to focus on texts that matter most to them (and presumably to religious tradition). However, what happens when what matters to me doesn’t matter to you? For example, the sacrificial system in Leviticus matters much more to me than the promise to the Patriarchs. Ritual protocols matter more to me than narrative theology. However, I would probably be in quite a small group in these regards (especially amongst the Evangelicals at Eastern!).

Another dimension to my concern is the fact that my pastor friend Wes is in the midst of a ten-part sermon series on the the Ten Words (aka Ten Commandments). He’s having a hard time dealing adequately with each word in his normal sermon block — in fact, he’s been running long. (You can read his musings here.) I might be spending half an hour on the Ten in my entire discussion. This worries me a bit.

Now, I could justify my actions by pointing to relative lack of importance of the Ten in the Hebrew Bible. I could reiterate that I am teaching a survey and can only play tour guide to my students in this regard. But, in the end I am left wondering how much of a relationship I can build between these kids and the Torah (any part of it!) when we’re essentially speed dating with Moses.

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