Review: Preaching and Teaching the OT and NT

A few years ago I taught on the first Cornhill spin-off – the Northern Cornhill Training Course. Once a month David Jackman would come up from London for the day and teach a block of sessions on biblical interpretation. Now that material is available in two DVD box sets: Preaching and Teaching the Old Testament and Preaching and Teaching the New Testament. Each DVD also contains a workbook in the form of a PDF file so you can print off as many copies as you need for your group (you can access a sample here).

It’s a great resource.

The basic idea is that you watch a segment of video, anything from 5-20 minutes in length. Then the DVD pauses while you work on an exercise, usually applying the principles to example passages. Then you watch the next segment of video and so on. In additional to the exercises, the workbook contains a summary of the video segments plus sample answers to the exercises. The footage is shot in a home setting. Jackman keeps looking down at his notes on the table which is little distracting at first, but soon forgotten.

Each genre has four or five sessions which are each designed to be about 60-75 minutes long including working on the exercises. One small complaint I have is that the number of sessions is not stated on the box so you have to insert each disc to find out. For those you thinking of planning a programme of study using this resource here’s my summary:

Preaching and Teaching Old Testament

  • Narrative – four sessions
  • Poetry – five sessions
  • Wisdom – four sessions
  • Prophecy – five sessions

Preaching and Teaching New Testament

  • Gospels – four sessions
  • Letters – four sessions
  • Acts & Revelation – three sessions

So there are 29 sessions in all which could readily be divided up into three ‘terms’ and studied by a group over a year. But my recommendation would be to study one genre in a group before then studying a Bible book from that genre – perhaps in conjunction with a preaching and Bible study series within the life of your church. This would allow people to apply the principles they have learnt straight away in a real life situation. That’s our plan and I may write a future post to let you know how we’re getting on.

There’s nothing especially fancy about the material. This is a good, solid introduction to biblical interpretation and application. It’s kind of like getting How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US or Digging Deeper purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US in DVD format. It’s not particularly attention grabbing – it’s more seminar than sermon. But I think that’s fine for this kind of the material. The movement between watching the DVD and working on the text for yourself means people will not easily get bored.

There’s a good mix of theology and technique. Jackman never looses site of the theological issues: this is God’s reliable, historical and sufficient word. But he also gives us the tools to handle the text faithfully.

Two criticisms and two words of warning

1. I think there could be more emphasis on what the text does as well as what it means. Jackman does talk about the text speaking to the heart as well as the head. But there is little on how the text works on the affections or motives.

2. Perhaps because of this, the DVD on narrative emphasises what Jackman calls ‘principalization’ (borrowing a term of Walter Kaiser) – identify the timeless truth contained within the story. He says narrative reinforces what is taught elsewhere in Scripture through propositional truth. I think this reflects a certain approach to interpretation which sees it in terms of identifying axioms, principles, propositions – it’s a style of learning that suits literary learners rather than oral learners. It does not allow for stories to shape our values and worldview in ways that move beyond summary statements. An approach to narrative that seeks to reduce it to a summary statement is too reductionistic. It is because stories draw us in and engage our imaginations that they have such power.

3. The style and language of the material assumes the users are used to university level approaches. This is not a criticism. But non-graduates might find it a struggle. Jackman’s language is often very compressed. It’s a shame because the concepts are not beyond non-graduates; it’s just not their style.

4. My OT Poetry DVD cracked when I tried to remove it from the box – the force required to remove it from the central grip was such that it broke. So remove the discs carefully and, if you can, make copies (for back-up purposes only, of course).

But don’t be put off by these comments. I think this is excellent material. I don’t know of anything quite like it. I warmly commend it.

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