Divine Inspiration

Tremper Longman says the Old Testament remains fresh and exciting to him – even after 40 years studying it.

Bloody battles, glorious poetry, Hollywood-level drama, even romance … the Old Testament has it all.

But how many people have read it? A lot of us think we know what it’s all about – without having chalked up much, if any, personal experience within its pages. Even Christians often skip over it in favour of the New Testament.

“When I was young, my father would take me to the movies, but he had this weird habit of not looking to when the movie started. So more times than not, we’d show up 20 minutes before the movie was over – so we’d watch the last 20 minutes and then he’d say, ok, we’ll wait and watch the beginning. And then when we came to the end bit he’d go, ok, we’ve seen this, let’s go home. That’s kind of like reading New Testament without the Old Testament – but a lot of people don’t even watch the first part on the next showing!”

Tremper Longman III is an Old Testament scholar, so naturally, it matters a lot to him that people read this part of the Bible – and read it right.

“We need to remember that the Old Testament is ancient literature, it’s written millennia ago and it’s written in a Near Eastern context, not a Western context. So first of all, it’s important to remember that the Bible – as my friend John Walton puts it – wasn’t written to us, even if it might have been written for us. So it takes work.”

In this episode of Life & Faith, Tremper Longman answers a barrage of questions on the text he’s chosen to devote his working life to, from claims of divine authorship to those contested first few chapters of Genesis.

He’s convinced that the work it takes to understand this very old, very strange, but very rich book is worth it: “I’ve been studying it professionally for about 40 years, and every day it’s fresh and exciting.”