Adult Forum Class: Reading the Prophets in the 21st Century

The great prophets of the Old Testament whose work is collected into the books that bear their names worked for the most part in two eras, the eighth century B.C.E. and the sixth century B.C.E. These two centuries were times of cataclysmic change in the life of the societies of Israel and Judah, and the prophets were key voices in the debates about the meaning and significance of those changes. We will investigate the perspectives of a number of the great OT prophets in these two contexts of change, dividing the year roughly into halves. To help us better understand the prophets of the Old Testament on their own terms, we will spend the first two weeks on some background on who and what prophets were in ancient Israel as well as an overview of the history and culture of their times, especially the eighth and sixth centuries. This will help make the prophets’ voices more vividly alive for us today. That in turn will help us think about what it might mean to have a prophetic imagination in our own culture and society.

Thus the course falls out into two broad parts with a brief orientation to the subject: prophets in ancient Israel and their society, the voices of key eight century prophets (Amos, Hosea, Isaiah of Jerusalem), the voices of key sixth century prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah, Haggai, Third Isaiah). Especially, once we get past the first two weeks, you can expect the class to be highly interactive. The specific number of sessions devoted to each prophet may vary depending on the interests of the class, but this is a first approximation of the schedule we will follow. For each prophet we will look at key passages and consider how they define the meaning of events in the prophet’s day as a way to get our bearings for what they might show about the meaning of events in our day. Depending on the emerging interests of the class, the schedule may well evolve even further from this starting point.

ORIENTATION TO THE PROPHETS AND THEIR SOCIETY

SEPTEMBER 10, 17
• Who were prophets in ancient Israel?
• Key dimensions of Israelite, history, religion, culture and society crucial in understanding the prophets

8TH CENTURY PROPHETS

SEPTEMBER 24, OCTOBER 1, 8, 15, 22     AMOS

OCTOBER 29, NOVEMBER 5, 12, 26     HOSEA

DECEMBER 3, JANUARY 7, 14, 21, 28     ISAIAH OF JERUSALEM
• Isaiah 7:1-17
• Isaiah 11:1-9
• Isaiah 5:1-30
• Isaiah 1:10-17
• Isaiah 1:4-9 + 22:1-14 + 10:1-27

FEBRUARY 4     Class will meet with the task force working on Christian formation to talk about adult Christian formation.

6TH CENTURY PROPHETS

FEBRUARY 11, 18, 25, MARCH 4     JEREMIAH
• Jeremiah 5:1-9 + 5:20-29
• Jeremiah 7:3-20 + 26:1-24
• Jeremiah 27-29
• Jeremiah 21:1-10 + 31:27-37 + 33:1-13

MARCH 11, 18, 25, APRIL 8     EZEKIEL
• Ezekiel 1 + 10-11
• Ezekiel 18
• Ezekiel 37:1-14
• Ezekiel 40-48

APRIL 15, 22, 29     SECOND ISAIAH
• Isaiah 43:1-21 + 46:1-13
• Isaiah 44:24-45:24
• Isaiah 42:1-9 + 44:1-8

MAY 6, 13, 20, 27     VOICES OF RECONSTRUCTION (THIRD ISAIAH, HAGGAI, THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH)
• Isaiah 58 and 65:17-25
• Isaiah 56 and 66:1-6 vs. Haggai (1-2) and Priestly perspectives
• Jeremiah 31:31-37, 35:1-19 and 33:1-26 vs. Haggai (1-2) and Priestly perspectives
• Summation of the year

Dr. Richard Weis, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean and Professor of Hebrew Bible, Lexington Theological Seminary

Ordained in the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1974, and now a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Dr. Weis served pastorates in New Jersey and California, and has been parish associate for congregations in New Jersey and Minnesota.  Throughout his subsequent career in theological education, Dr. Weis has been active in regional manifestations of the church, and has been in demand as a teacher and preacher.  While in graduate school he also served as the director of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center in Claremont, CA.

Prior to going to Lexington Theological Seminary, Dr. Weis served on the faculties and as Dean of New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, NJ (1987-1998) and the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, MN (1998-2011).  At New Brunswick Seminary he taught the introductory course in Old Testament, Hebrew, Hebrew exegesis, and a variety of topical courses including courses on the Prophets, Jeremiah, Feminist/Womanist Interpretation, and the city and the Hebrew Bible.  At United he taught similar courses as well as the basic course introducing students to theological reflection.

Dr. Weis is a scholar of international reputation, specializing in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and the study of the book of Jeremiah.  He is the only one of the nine general editors of Biblia Hebraica Quinta from an American institution.  Published by the German Bible Society, this ground-breaking new edition of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament represents a revolutionary advance over previous editions of its type, and will provide the Hebrew text of the Bible used by the next generation of scholars, translators, pastors and students.  In addition to his publications in textual criticism, Weis is immersed in a multi-pronged project on the book of Jeremiah, which ultimately will issue in three separate books: the volume on Jeremiah in Biblia Hebraica Quinta, a commentary on Jeremiah for the Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series, and a commentary on the ancient Greek translation of the book for the SBL Septuagint Commentary.