On St Andrew’s Day forty-five fellows and members met in the intimate surroundings of Bow Wine Vaults for a seminar supper on recent developments in Old Testament Studies. Our speaker was Paul Joyce, Head of Theology and Religious Studies and Samuel Davidson Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at King’s College London. Paul began his academic career as Lecturer and later Director of Studies at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, where he had taught some of those present when training for ordination.
Paul began by outlining the way in which Old Testament studies had been taught in previous years. The central focus had been on historicity and source criticism, which, he felt, had greatly reduced the Bible's accessibility and relevance for many. More recently, however, many more avenues of study had opened up, which were enabling people to engage with the Old Testament in new and exciting ways. Using insights from literary fields as well as psychoanalysis and reception history, scholarship has begun to reflect that the Bible is just as much about 'now' as ‘then’. Paul also movingly described the importance of the rediscovery of Jewish insight.
None of this, of course, means that the historical is unimportant, but these developments have changed the study of the Old Testament in such a way that we can now understand much better that Scripture is about the mystery of God, whose depths we cannot plumb.