I didn’t think I’d be able to teach again in Fall, but my schedule changed and then I was asked. And so, I announce an Institute class to be held Tuesday nights at 8Pm at the Union Square building in Manhattan, on Psalms and Israelite Poetry. Class begins next Tuesday, Sept. 11th, and will continue through the 1st week of December (anticipated.)
Why study Psalms? A few reasons, which I’ll elaborate on in the first week’s intro. Psalms was the most translated Old Testament book into Greek during the early NT period, and the most popular book at Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls); moreover, Psalms is the most quoted book in the New Testament. As Psalms are human responses to God (prayers, hymns, etc.), they cover a lot of our normal situations; frustration at feeling like we’re doing what we should but not getting anywhere, feeling like God isn’t answering, and so on. It’s a very emotive book, easy to relate to. It’s also vastly underread and underappreciated.
Although I proposed it, I’ve never taught this class before. I have multiple goals.
- Expose students to Psalms and poetry, which includes most of the prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel), Job, and things like Deuteronomy 32, Exodus 15, etc. I expect we’ll spend most time in Psalms, with short detours elsewhere.
- Learn how to parse Semitic poetry a bit. Since it’s so common in our scriptures and so different from what we know, we need to learn how to read, parse, and appreciate it.
- Music- Many of the Psalms were meant to be sung, some in the Israelite temple/sanctuary. A huge outpouring of musical creativity has adapted the Psalms into various musical traditions. I hope to talk about these a little (as I only know a little) and play some of these during class, and thereby helping students gain an appreciation of scripture set to music. I confess that I find much of this tradition far more beautiful, meaningful, and uplifting than the stereotypical English-language Mormon Tabernacle Choir repertoire. To each his/her own, of course. I have an example of one of my favorite adaptations set to go in a post on Sunday.
Class will probably be thematic. Week 1 will be a general intro, week 2 on how to read Hebrew and Israelite poetry, parallelism, etc., week 3 intro to the book of Psalms. The following weeks we’ll cover such subjects as Psalms and Creation; Psalms, Christ, and the New Testament (probably 2-3 weeks there); Psalms and Ritual/Temple; Psalms and “Doctrine” (in which we’ll look at terms/concepts like death, sin, hell, etc. in Psalms), and others. I don’t have it all put together yet, and expect some of it to come together no earlier than the day before I teach it.
While my record of blogging my Institute classes is, well, not very good (last winter in my Genesis class, I petered out after about 6 weeks, scroll down), I will put up the initial posts with some resources, references, notes, and other material. Beyond that, I won’t make any promises, because as much as I want to post frequently and in-depth, I usually can’t.
So stay tuned, first post on Sunday.