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Learning Things (10/3/15)

I have some book quotes sitting in my ‘drafts,’ but haven’t had time to actually write posts about them. This morning I have some time, so I thought I’d make a broader post on what I’ve learned so far this semester.

A Canonical Approach to the Psalms
I am taking a class on ‘the Writings’ of the Old Testament (Psalms-Chronicles in the Hebrew order of the Bible). My professor did his Ph.D work Book 4 of the Psalms – particularly on how Book 4 advances a ‘canonical’ understanding of the Psalter.

The Canonical Approach to the Psalms is intriguing, and I’ve found it helpful. The basic idea is that Psalms is arranged in an intentional order for the purpose of advancing a narrative. Psalm 1 introduces us to the Psalter as ‘torah,’ written in five books, like the Torah of Moses. Martin Luther called the Psalms a ‘little Bible’ within the Bible. The Canonical Approach sees it this way as well. Psalm 2 introduces the Messianic King whom the Psalter is written about. Books 1 through 3 show the decline of the messianic kingship, culminating in the final psalm of Book 3, which finds the kinship cut off and the people of Israel in Exile.

Book 4 (Ps. 90-106) finds the people in exile, ‘wandering in the wilderness’ like Moses in days of old (see Ps. 90-91). By Book 5 (Ps. 107-150) the people are ascending back up the mountain to Jerusalem and worshiping God. They still reflect on their captivity (Psalm 137), but they are mostly in a posture of worship, anticipating the restoration of the throne of David.

This theory of the Psalms as a ‘canon’ may have some holes, but it’s fairly compelling and gives us a macro way to demonstrate that aside from the experiential and worship aspects of the psalms, they are meant to have a narrative force that points us to Christ.

The Shepherd Hypothesis in Song of Solomon
We haven’t covered Song of Solomon in the course yet, but my reading has touched on this. The Shepherd Hypothesis, also called the ‘three person hypothesis,’ contends that the Shulammite (Songs 6:13) had two suitors in Song of Solomon. The story, in this theory, is that the Shulammite is in love with a simple shepherd man from her own territory, but is also being courted by King Solomon. Hence the back and forth action between the garden and the city.

I don’t have time at present to flesh this out completely, but if you take this approach, here’s a good example of what it entails. The palace scenes of someone knocking on her door actually describe her true love, the shepherd, traveling to the palace to find her and reclaim her love. He is in danger and flees, she chases him and is thus beaten by the guards. It makes a good deal of sense:

Song of Solomon 5:7 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city; they beat me, they bruised me, they took away my veil, those watchmen of the walls. 8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love.

In the end, love prevails. The Shulammite turns down the advances of Solomon, in all his pomp and splendor, and returns to the country to be with her true love, the simple shepherd.

The most amazing thing about this approach is that it turns the ‘allegory’ of the story in a fascinating new direction while also allowing for literal interpretation that doesn’t involve Solomon as the prototypical lover (if you know anything about Solomon, that has difficulties). If you’re interested in seeing more about this you can read more about it HERE.

Christian Education
I’m taking a course on the educational ministry of the church. The main idea so far is that education is vital to the task of the church (as it’s included in the Great Commission). Nothing major to report on as of yet. I had to wrestle with the differences between preaching and teaching this past week. It’s one of those situations where there are clear distinctions but a lot of overlap.

A.D.D. Environments
I’ve spent the last six months in my new job staring at computer screens for hours upon hours each day. I’m working on curriculum, doing technical work, answering emails, answering texts, and trying to work on sermons and school work from time to time. I feel it changing me. I feel my brain gravitating toward attention deficits. It’s interesting.

Douglas Coupland, one of my favorite authors, has made the claim somewhere that we are all going to be forced into living in a state of attention deficits. He tends to think this is something we’ll simply adapt to, and that it won’t necessarily be a bad thing. I have my concerns, as longtime readers of this blog will know.  I have been thinking about writing a post called ‘A.D.D. Environments,’ that would details how our environments deeply affect our ability to concentrate. I haven’t managed to do it yet, and others have certainly written about this. (By the way, in the time I’ve written this post I’ve had a dozen text messages, the phone ring, and some American Heritage girls come to my door selling cookies).

I read Moonwalking with Einstein recently and found it helpful. I’ve actually used some of the memory techniques Joshua Foer describes there.  (You can watch his TED Talk HERE). Aside from the ‘memory palaces,’ my wife has a nice picture of me studying with my large soundproof earmuffs and my blacked out glasses on. They actually help to fight distraction quite well if you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely have to concentrate.  Adapting doesn’t simply mean capitulating to A.D.D. environments; it means finding ways to fight back.

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