FOREWORD


“Dr. Eric J. Tully: On Science Fiction, Prophets, and PhDs”

11.16.2021  |  Season 3  |  Episode 7




SHOW NOTES

Dr. Eric Tully joins Dr. Michelle Knight and Dr. Josh Jipp for this week’s episode. Eric is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he also directs the PhD. in Theological Studies. He completed his MDiv. at TEDS and also holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Eric begins with a recounting of his childhood in the mission field in central Africa, a time during which he grew to appreciate the spiritual benefits of the Old Testament. From that point onward, he was committed to helping the church understand it well. This leads into a discussion of Eric’s course on the “Book of the Twelve,” commonly known as the “Minor Prophets,” and the most coherent reasons we have for reading them as a unified set of texts. There is also an insightful conversation about the eschatological vision of the prophets, and how one’s relation to God determines where one stands in relation to such a vision. Eric also expatiates on the importance of focusing on the Hebrew text for interpretation, both in his work in Hosea and in his co-taught course on the Psalms with Dr. David Luy. Finally, Eric shares his wisdom about the benefits of getting a PhD., especially the kinds of intellectual virtues one is able to cultivate through the process.

Along the way, listeners will discover… 

  • Who shot first, Han or Greedo, and why?
  • Eric’s favorite drink.
  • What the prophets uniquely contribute to what we know about God, and what we’d lose without them.

To learn more about Dr. Eric Tully, visit his faculty page, or explore one of his many books, whether his Hosea commentary, his introduction to textual criticism, or his forthcoming work on the prophets, due March 2022. He has also done a recent chapel message. Thanks for listening!

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Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Josh Jipp
[00:00:00] Did you need something to drink?

Eric Tully
Uh, it might help.

Jipp
What…what do you want? If you could have anything—

Michelle Knight
If you could have anything in the world, Eric, what drink would it be?—

Jipp
—what would you want?

Tully
Uh, Mountain Dew.

Jipp
Mountain Dew!

Knight
Well how about that! [LAUGHTER]

Tully
[LAUGHS] A two liter!

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Hope this doesn’t destroy the studio.

Knight
Yeah. How long have you had that two liter, Josh?

Jipp
So basically, over the summer, I went—yes!—I went to get some fried chicken on a road trip at a grocery store, and they were like, “Hey, Nascar Sunday you can get some corn chips and a free two liter of Mountain Dew—”

Tully
Nice.

Jipp
“—with twelve pieces of broasted chicken.”

Tully
Thank you!

Jipp
And I thought, “I don’t drink Mountain Dew—”

Tully
You know someone who does!

Jipp
“—but I know somebody who does!” And…

Tully
It’s even cold.

Knight
It is? Okay!

Jipp
Faulty Lounge—

Tully
I do love it with all my heart.

Jipp
This is the first time I’ve “done the Dew.” [LAUGHS] Cheers!

Knight
Well welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m your host, Michelle Knight.

Jipp
And I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
And we are really excited. Today we have the pleasure of hosting Dr. Eric Tully who is Director of the PhD of Theological Studies here at TEDS as well as Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, but perhaps, most importantly, he is one of the few faculty members with whom I can talk about sci-fi. This is one of my favorite things about Eric.

Tully
I think…

Jipp
I think we’ve done this before.

Knight
We have done this with David Luy, but he was one of the only other few faculty members. But we thought, just to warm up a little bit, we would start out with some Star Wars trivia for you.

Tully
Okay.

Knight
Are you ready?

Jipp
I’m just here for the ride.

Tully
Okay. Let’s do it.

Knight
Only three questions, and I can’t cover the gamut obviously, so I’m starting out with one really easy one. The second one, then, is kind of like a boundary-defining question where we find out what kind of a fan you are. [JIPP LAUGHS] And the third one is just really on brand. Okay?

Tully
Okay.

Knight
Here we go. [CLEARS THROAT] Number 1—easy…softball—what is the name of the pit creature on Tatooine to whom Luke, Han, and Chewy were supposed to be fed?

Tully
The Sarlacc. [JIPP LAUGHS]

Knight
Thank you! The Sarlacc pit.

Tully
[LAUGHS] Did you know the answer to that?

Jipp
I didn’t know that, no.

Knight
My son has a whole—

Jipp
What episode is that one in?

Knight
That’s the Return of the Jedi.

Tully
That’s in episode six.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Episode six, okay. Didn’t know it.

Knight
Which used to be episode three. It’s a lot for us.

Jipp
I was going to say Jabba the Hutt.

Knight
He’s on Tatooine, so that’s something.

Jipp
Got lucky there. Alright.

Knight
Yep, cool. Alright. In the Mos Eisley showdown between Greedo and Han Solo, who shot first and why does it matter?

Tully
Han Solo shot first.

Knight
Thank goodness. Tell us why it matters, Eric. I’m not sure that this guy knows.

Tully
It matters…it matters for the characterization.

Knight
Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Jipp
Ooh!

Tully
Yes.

Jipp
Straight to Biblical, literary, sorts of— [KNIGHT LAUGHS]

Tully
That’s right. It’s one of the first times we meet Han Solo. We need to know right off the bat that he’s rogue, that he means business, that he gets the job done, you don’t mess with him, and so that change—you know, I think it damaged the character.

Knight
Gosh. Do you know how this changed? Have we complained about this before?

Jipp
Hmm…no. I don’t know.

Knight
When the original three movies were re-released, they changed the order, so Greedo shot first instead.

Jipp
Okay. I vaguely remember that.

Tully
A little bit of fancy camera tricks there.

Jipp
Oh and you didn’t know that back in the 80’s when it was—

Tully
No, they changed it. They actually—

Jipp
Oh, they changed it?

Knight
No, they changed it. Han Solo did shoot first—

Jipp
Oh, okay.

Knight
—and they changed it to make him more likeable.

Jipp
That doesn’t seem right!

Knight
They needed to make it, like, a defensive maneuver. Isn’t that terrible?

Jipp
Okay. That doesn’t seem right.

Knight
Well, we obviously agree. Okay, good. This is good. This is helpful. This tells us something about you, Eric. Thirdly—this is my favorite question—the writing on Darth Vader’s chest plate resembles which ancient language?

Tully
Uh, I don’t know!

Knight
You don’t know this!? Okay, so on Darth Vader’s chest plate, it’s Hebrew.

Tully
I have never noticed that before. [JIPP LAUGHS] I thought there were dials and lights and—

Knight
There are, but among them are actually—it’s…all of the ancient Sith font, whenever you see it, it’s like upside down Hebrew characters in, like, this really funky format.

Tully
I never noticed that before.

Knight
It’s Hebrew. People try to claim—like, there are Reddit forums and sub-forums or whatever…some sub-Reddits all about this, but it’s Hebrew font.

Jipp
Did you watch our episode with David Luy? We were the hosts of that one as well.

Knight
So it was obviously awesome.

Tully
I have seen…I did not watch it. I’ve been listening.

Jipp
You didn’t watch it?

Knight
No, he listened.

Tully
No, I didn’t watch the video.

Jipp
The video…okay, but you listened…you know this…she also did Star Trek.

Tully
Yes.

Jipp
Okay, and did you see how David did?

Tully
Yes. Michelle won.

Jipp
She won.

Knight
[LAUGHS] It wasn’t actually a competition!

Jipp
That’s where I’m going with this. I think the point of these is basically for someone to show her superiority in terms of all things sci-fi. Right? [LAUGHS]

Knight
[00:05:06] Okay. For the record…wait. Wait. Let’s get a couple of things straight. First of all—

Jipp
Come on. That’s why you picked the third one! You knew there was no way he was going to get that.

Knight
First of all—no—first of all, I did not design the Star Trek trivia. That was totally your idea. And second of all, I was not quizzed in this exchange, so I think that this is a figment of your imagination.

Jipp
I don’t remember it going down that way, but maybe.

Knight
Well, anyhow. Alright. Well at this point, Eric has done a great job showing us that he is, in fact, the right kind of sci-fi fan. Have you seen Dune yet, by the way?

Tully
I have not.

Knight
Okay. We might have to follow up about that later, but we should probably get—

Jipp
Maybe faculty retreat material. [LAUGHS]

Tully
I’ve been reading that book.

Knight
Have you? Okay.

Tully
And, yeah, I’m about halfway through and it’s been really, really good so far.

Knight
Oh good! I’m getting mixed reviews about the book from people who hadn’t read it previously.

Tully
Yeah, it’s been really interesting.

Knight
Good!

Jipp
Should we keep talking about sci-fi or should we make a transition at this point? [LAUGHS]

Knight
[LAUGHS] Yes, we can make a transition. Well, why don’t we—we always kind of start out by having a guest tell us a little bit about your story, so we want to know how you ended up here at TEDS, how you ended up studying what you’re studying—doing what you’re doing. So you can kind of frame that however you want.

Tully
Yeah, well first of all, thanks very much for inviting me. It’s really good to be here with you. I actually think—I don’t know, maybe it’s a cliche to go way back to the beginning, but I actually think that I can trace my journey back to probably first and second grade. I was living in central Africa on the mission field—my parents were missionaries—and I was homeschooled by my mom. I was…my sister and I were the only ones in our little village that did not go to boarding school. So we were homeschooled by my mom, and every day we would have a bible time and my mom would get out flannelgraphs—are you guys familiar with flannelgraphs?

Jipp
Oh yeah. Yep.

Knight
Totally. Yeah.

Tully
Kind of old school. And my mom was just…she’s godly, she’s passionate, she speaks with conviction, and she would teach us these bible stories when I was in first and second grade. And it just captured my imagination and I just loved that aspect of the Old Testament—the stories; the various ways that God interacted with His people. So I actually view that as sort of the first little event that got me interested in Old Testament. I’ll just tell this little bit of trivia here, which is a little bit off topic—

Knight
No, please.

Tully
—but we were living in this small mission station with a handful of other Western missionaries, and there was obviously no internet, there was no television, there was no radio, there were no stores of any kind—and so we were pretty isolated. There was one TV and VCR on the mission station with a box of about 20 VHS tapes, and we would rotate. And we would get that TV and VCR combination for one month out of the year. [JIPP LAUGHS] And so when it was your turn to have the TV and VCR, you just watched and watched because that was your one chance. [LAUGHS]—

Knight
Big day. [LAUGHS]—

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Nonstop movies—all 20 of these VHSs.

Tully
And one of the VHS tapes was some Spiderman cartoons, and one of the VHS tapes was a movie about a girl who wanted to become a pilot, and one of them was Star Wars: A New Hope.

Knight
This explains so much. Wow!

Jipp
That’s awesome.

Tully
It does! It does! Because every single day after school I watched that movie until I basically had it memorized. [JIPP LAUGHS]

Knight
That’s amazing.

Tully
So there are multiple aspects of my personality that probably arose during that time, but one of them was my love for the stories of my bible and the Old Testament that came from my mom. When we came back from the mission field, it was really tough. It was a really hard adjustment. In some ways, it was like I was immigrating to a certain extent. This was a very foregin culture to me and I felt like I had to try and get up to speed as quickly as I could—it was a really hard experience. And during that time, as I looked to the bible for, sort of, you know, ways to think about my faith and to process what had happened to me and to struggle through some of those issues, I really appreciated the Old Testament—the psalms, the prophets. I mean, as a middle schooler in seventh and eighth grade—ninth grade; tenth grade—I really resonated with, you know, prophets like Jeremiah or Habbakuk who were even expressing some negative emotion toward God about some of the circumstances that they had gone through—things like that. But at the same time, I was a part of a denomination—in some ways, the way that they were built theologically, they didn’t do much with the Old Testament. And so on the one hand, I felt like I loved the Old Testament, like I knew how important it was for me for my spiritual life, but I also didn’t have the resources to understand it in a more sophisticated way. And so I think that was a pretty important piece, too, of saying, “I want to go to seminary, I want to go to bible school, and maybe someday, I’ll get a PhD and hopefully be a resource to other people who will understand this.” And I actually think that’s part of the reason why I focus now on the prophets. Because I do think that they’re difficult—I think they’re difficult for church leaders, and so I’d like to be a part of the solution to helping pastors and teachers be able to understand the message of the prophets and see the relevance for today.

Jipp
[00:10:58] Yeah. So growing up as a missionary kid obviously impacted…it still…it sounds like you think about it quite frequently in terms of your vocation or how it…how you are, who you are and what you teach, and what you love, and—

Tully
Yeah. Yeah, it was such a long time ago and sometimes I wonder why it was so formative, but it was. It was very formative. So, you know, sometimes I think about the analogy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, where when you’re young, if you map the dream world onto real life, it’s like, when you’re young, things happen to you or you go through experiences that have a disproportionate effect on you, and because they…you sort of extrapolate them as you get older. And so, it was eight years of my life, but I think because of the age that I was, maybe because of the way that I’m wired, it did have a pretty significant effect anyway.

Jipp
Hmm. That’s great. I remember…it must have been about ten or eleven years ago—we both started at the same time and we were getting our faculty orientation. And I’m still just a lowly New Testament professor, but now you’ve had a little bit of a role switch in terms of—is this your second year directing?

Tully
It is, yeah.

Jipp
So you direct the Theological Studies Program at the Academic Doctoral Office. We all get questions about—“Why is a PhD important?” “Should I—is this something that God might be calling me to?” I’d love to hear a little bit about what you tell students when they ask you questions about, “Is this a good fit?” “Is it worth sacrificing so many years and so much work?” What might you say to students that are wrestling with whether this is something that God might be calling them to?

Tully
Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s hard…I think it’s a little bit difficult to answer that in the abstract—

Jipp
Totally, yeah.

Tully
—because it depends so much on who you are and how you’re wired and things like that. But, I think that…I do think that a PhD probably isn’t for everyone. It does require a significant commitment, not only from you, but from—you know, if you’re married or if you have children, the whole family is along for the ride on this commitment and it can be substantial. But I do think that a PhD can be valuable for service and God’s kingdom work in much broader ways than we sometimes think—I think sometimes we think that you get a PhD and then you go into academic teaching. And I think that the most important part of getting a PhD is not actually the content that you learn, but learning how to think, how to research, how to make an argument with precision. And those kinds of aspects, or elements, of your training can really serve you well in a wide variety of circumstances. In our PhD program, it’s…one of our distinctives is theological integration. So we’re not just interested in sort of boiling a particular concentration or discipline down to its most rudimentary parts, but we’re interested in interdisciplinary dialogue and working in that field from the perspective of a high view of Scripture and theological conviction and things like that. And so we have a number of students who come, get a PhD in a particular research area, and then that serves them really well for pastoral ministry. In recent years, we’ve had a number of graduates who have done excellent doctoral work, but now they’re flourishing as pastors in the local church, and that church is benefitting from their careful thinking, and their good preaching, and their research ability, and things like that. So, yeah. I think there’s a wide range of benefits to getting that kind of intense training.

Knight
That’s helpful.

Jipp
[00:15:23] I often say something similar, I think, in terms of—if you have a, “I’m going to go get this tenure-track position,” then you might be set up for something that’s really difficult. But if you’re going in thinking about, “This is the kind of person that I want to be, and I’m open to the ways in which God might use this in a wide variety of different circumstances,” and you love it, then it’s sort of like, “Alright, then maybe keep asking some questions.”

Tully
Yeah, I got my PhD in a secular environment. It was mostly devoid of any theological inquiry [KNIGHT LAUGHS], but I do think that it has made me a better preacher and it’s made me better at a lot of things that I do—even in church ministry. Because so much of it is just about a kind of rigor in the ways that you process things, and so I think there can be a real benefit to advanced training like that.

Knight
Yeah. One of the things I think back on most frequently in my doctoral training is how good I got at actually listening to what someone was saying in an argument. Because I do think that in earlier attempts at research, it would have been pretty easy to pull out certain points somebody was making to either support my point or not. But I do think that at that doctoral level, we really learn to see somebody as—who has an integrated view of the world, who is making a particular argument for a particular reason, and we are better equipped to handle it, and read them well, and enter a conversation rather than just using people for their quotations. Do you guys remember—when I learned to write a research paper, I was actually trained to write quotations on 3×5 cards and move them around and organize the paper.

Tully
Yep. I did that too.

Knight
And I do feel like with my doctoral students, my work—or masters students—is unlearning that. [LAUGHTER] Like, “Let’s engage real arguments, not straw men we construct from 3×5 cards,” but anyhow. Well you’ve talked quite a bit about your role here at Trinity, but I’d love to hear a little bit more about the prophets. You’ve already said that that has been a significant part of your research lately. You’ve been working on the Baker textbook, Reading Christian Scripture, and that will be about the prophets—and if I recall, that’s coming out in 2022, right? In the spring?

Tully
It is. In March. That’s right.

Jipp
Wow.

Knight
So, you’ve been deep in the prophets. You recently published on Hosea with Baylor, and then—are you working on an Ezekiel commentary too? Is that right?

Tully
Mmhmm. That’s my current project.

Knight
Okay, so you’re deep in. But one of the classes you teach here that was really well attended was on the Book of the Twelve, which, if you’re not familiar with that term, listeners, that is the Minor Prophets. Can you talk to us a little bit about what it means to be studying the “Book of the Twelve” and what that means—especially in relation to what normally we call the “Minor Prophets” in English Protestant circles?

Tully
That class—it was on the composition of the Book of the Twelve. It was really a particular question that we were engaging with—it was a doctoral class—and it was really about that question of “What constitutes a ‘book,’ and how do we know that…how do we view the ways that the various prophets relate to each other?” So that was the question. I think when we talk about the Minor Prophets, that label usually implies that there are twelve individual prophets. I don’t love that label, because the word “minor” can have connotations of lesser importance or something like that. And it is true that they’re much, much shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The Minor Prophets tend to have a much sharper focus on one issue that is carried out—even a book like Micah, which is quite a bit longer, you have the theme of “remnant,” Amos is interested in horizontal aspects of covenant obligations like social justice, and Obediah is interested in Edom as a token or a prototype for the nations on the Day of the Lord. So I do think that the Minor Prophets do tend to focus on one particular issue. Most of them are associated with a particular time period, a particular historical context, there’s a bit of biography included internally on some of those prophets. So usually when we use the word “Minor Prophet,” we’re talking about a collection of the shorter prophetic books of the Old Testament. When we use the label “Book of the Twelve,” I think typically that assumes that the twelve Minor Prophets are actually intended to be read as one book. That’s the difference. And there’s different ways you can think about that—you can think about the twelve prophets as a book simply in the sense that they all were written together on one scroll. So maybe they were literally “a book,” because that’s about the size of one scroll. And we have very early statements going all the way back to Syriac in 200 BC about the twelve prophets as one unit. Josephus and other ancient writers talk about “22 books of the Old Testament,” which would assume that the twelve are considered as one, and things like that. So that’s one possibility: It’s one literal book. The second possibility is that it’s an anthology—so the prophets all relate thematically to each other to a greater degree. So for example, the theme of “The Day of the Lord” is very important in the Minor Prophets—or in the Book of the Twelve [KNIGHT LAUGHS]—that you don’t get in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. I would say, also, the theme of Israel’s relationship to the nations is probably a particularly important theme in those books. The third way that you can talk about the Book of the Twelve is that it was actually not just an anthology of twelve separate books that were written on one scroll together, but they were actually edited together and intentionally shaped and—so for example, James Nogalski is well known for this view, that the ending of one book corresponds to the beginning of the next. He calls these “catch words,” or “catch phrases,” showing that editors or scribes have particularly rewritten parts of these books in order to link the different books together. And then some scholars will even say that a book like Joel was not even an original prophetic book, but it was written for incorporation into this book. In other words, there was no “Joel” with an original, historical, prophetic ministry, but it was a literary work that was in order to make it twelve and in order to sort of tie the books together and things like that. I don’t personally find that third option as convincing. And I actually think that it works a bit against the internal claims of the book—about when it comes to historical context and things like that. But, yeah, so usually when we’re talking about the Book of the Twelve, we’re talking about the degree to which these twelve books form one big book—it has either a thematic, or literary, or even sort of a compositional coherence.

Jipp
[00:23:40] Do they sometimes almost…do they demonstrate the individual prophet’s knowledge of each other, I mean, in terms of—I guess that’s maybe hard to establish definitely—but in terms of intertextual allusions to each other—

Tully
Yeah. They do.

Jipp
—and if so, how do you…where does that come from?

Tully
Right. Yeah, that’s a good question. You’d have to take it on a case by case basis. I think that would be a part of the question. So for the so-called “grace formula”—which is that “God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love”—that grace formula is seen throughout the twelve prophets. And so you could take the view that it’s a very significant creedal or faith expression in the Old Testament, and therefore, they all just simply happen to use it, or you could see that that’s evidence that there’s been some editing that has taken place there. One particularly interesting case of that is the correspondence between Jonah and Joel, where in the book of Jonah, Jonah is angry that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and relenting over harm because he showed grace to the Ninevites. In the book of Joel, the prophet says to Israel, “You should repent, because you know that God will show grace to you because he is gracious and compassionate and so forth.” Only those two expressions have the complete “grace formula” and this last bit of information, which is “relenting over harm.” So there seems to be some sort of an intertextual link there, an intentional link. And you could say that that’s a scribe editing the Book of the Twelve together. I tend to think, I guess, if I had to pick, I would say that Joel is late and is actually borrowing from Jonah and showing Israel, “If God is this gracious to pagan Ninevites, then certainly you can expect him to show you mercy when you repent.” Yeah, but there’s some interesting questions there about the relationship between the books.

Knight
[00:25:54] Well, and you’ve spoken of kind of the compositional question historically, but I guess what I’m wondering is, can you give us an example—I mean, obviously you don’t have to pick a side right now—but can you give us an example of the effect that this might have on interpreting these books? So, like, let’s say that the Book of the Twelve was written to be considered one book with these intentional intertextual links—you’ve already given us one example of how, if we read Joel and Jonah together, that might kind of up the ante in Joel a little bit—but can you help us see how considering these questions could actually affect interpretation in a couple other cases?

Tully
Yeah, it’s always a question—I mean, interpretation is always related to the position of a particular passage in its context, and so the question here is, “What is the contextual relationship of one passage in one prophet to another one? Is it simply that they happen to be not only in the same canon, but in the same corpus? Or, is it closer than that—is it that some editorial hand is actually intended for us to read these passages in light of each other in a much more intentional way, because it’s part of the same literary context?” So that would be the major question. And it’s interesting because some commentaries have come out recently where the author will say, “I fully accept the Book of the Twelve as one edited book, but I’m still going to interpret these prophets individually.”

Knight
Oh, how interesting!

Tully
So despite the current state of the question on that more broadly, which again, I personally don’t find as convincing, there still seems to be a pretty strong pull toward individual—there’s still a recognition that each of these books has a particular voice that has not been completely subsumed under one book.

Jipp
That’s interesting.

Knight
That’s very interesting.

Jipp
That reminds me of—I won’t name names, but a couple that will say, “You know, 2 Thessalonians—it’s pseudonymous, but none of the reasons that have been given for its pseudonymity are really that convincing anymore, but I’m still just going to treat it as if it’s pseudonymous.” [LAUGHTER] And you’re sort of like, “What are you even doing the work for?” Anyway, just kind of quickly, but I would love to hear—you know, we’ve got Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel—these big major prophets. Is there—and I’m sure there’s a lot of different themes; you already mentioned a couple of them; interesting examples when you’re talking about Obediah and others—but is there one theme that you’d say, “We’d really be missing in our canon if we only had those major prophets and there would just be a significant lack”—whether it’s canonically or it’s maybe even something that you find important or relevant for faith in the 21st century from the Minor Prophets?

Tully
Yeah. I think…that’s a very good question. I think the combination of the two themes that I think are maybe the most prominent in the Minor Prophets, which is “The Day of the Lord” and the non-Israelite nations. That is a very significant theological piece. And one of the things I think that the Minor Prophets really contribute to our theology is this idea that when we think about the Eschaton, or in the end, God breaking into human history and setting all things right—that could either be good or bad news, depending on how you relate to God. When I was young, I was in a theological tradition that always talked about eschatology in really scary ways. And I think we were all worried about the coming “Day of the Lord.” We were always nervous about, “Is this the end times?” And I remember as a teenager just always hoping that God would not return in my lifetime, just always worrying about, “What’s that going to mean when the world is upended by the return of Christ?” I think one of the things that has been very personally edifying for me in the Minor Prophets has been a complete 180 on that, and understanding that if you are properly related to God through his covenant, which we now in the New Testament know is through Christ, that there’s nothing to worry about, that God has everything under control, and for those who are properly related to the Lord because they have accepted his salvation, the Day of the Lord is something to anticipate—evil will be put down, God will claim his people as his own, there will be no more oppression, and the world will be set right. And for those who are not properly related to God, then you could pick an example like the book of Amos, which says, “There’s really nothing good to look forward to.” So an example of that might be the book of Zephaniah, which I think is probably the book in the bible that is most clear about this idea that the coming Day of the Lord and God’s exchatological breaking into history is either the best news that there could ever be or the worst news—and it’s kind of up to you. And that was very helpful to me. And so now I think as an adult, having had the chance to process these kinds of things, I think with John at the end of Revelation, I think now I can fully long for God’s coming and not be concerned about it. So that’s sort of one practical way that’s affected me.

Jipp
That’s great. That’s great.

Knight
No, that’s awesome.

Jipp
Thanks, Eric.

Knight
[00:32:00] Well if we could shift away from Zephaniah to Hosea—that was the volume you spent some time on for Baylor. What’s interesting about that commentary—if I can even call it that—is it’s only barely a commentary. It’s part of Baylor’s Handbook series, which really is kind of a linguistic analysis of the book. Can you talk to us a little bit about why that kind of work is valuable? And I don’t just mean in a broadly academic sense, but especially for people who are part of the TEDS community who care about the Global Church—we’re trying to serve this church and strengthen the church. How does that kind of work lead into a stronger, more capable church?

Tully
Yeah, I think there are a lot of different kinds of commentaries. In some ways, I think that the work that is done in those Baylor Handbooks is sort of a traditional commentary. In some ways, it’s almost a pure commentary, because it is analysis and explanation of the text itself. It’s true it doesn’t really contain overt theology; it doesn’t deal very much with historical background and things like that. Sometimes commentaries can just get more and more bloated with—and they become repositories for everything that you could possibly say about the text.

Knight
Totally. Totally. Yeah.

Tully
But you’re right. It is very limited in its focus, and it focuses on the Hebrew text, syntax—you know, how the relationship of the words to each other impacts meaning. I talk a lot in there about the semantics of individual words, and “Why this word was chosen instead of a different one,” and the nuances that that might have. Hosea in particular has a lot of difficulties. It’s interesting, in my Latter Prophets course for the MDiv students, I assign a number of different prophetic passages for them to work through in Hebrew, and it’s interesting to hear the comments about Hosea—the Hosea passage—because they just always say, “What is going on here?” You know, “It’s so difficult.” And it is an interesting book because it…you understand what all of the words mean individually, but when you put them together, it’s not always easy to make sense of it. And so there’s been some debate: “Is that because he was the only Northern prophet and it’s dialect, or is it because the book has just suffered in transmission and has become corrupted in some way?” So there’s different views on that. So basically, this Baylor Handbook is an opportunity to explain the text and say, “There’s a variety of ways that you could take this particular clause or this particular sentence. And as you weigh the evidence and look at what others have done…,” and I have some fresh contributions in there as well; it’s an explanation of what that says. So I think it doesn’t…I think it’d be difficult to make the sense that it directly serves the church, but it’s upstream of that. Because in some ways, it’s I think intended to help perhaps pastors who are working through the text preaching sermons. It’s intended to help scholars who maybe are writing a commentary on Hosea to have a resource for what’s going on in the Hebrew text and provide some analysis on that. So it was a really enjoyable book to work on. I also wrote my dissertation on Hosea and did a lot with the Hebrew text and ancient translations, and so this kind of flowed out of that—

Knight
Yeah. Naturally. Yeah.

Tully
—and it was an opportunity to put all of that together.

Knight
I adore those Handbooks, partially because of some of the things you talked about in terms of “commentary bloat.” I mean, we’ve all written commentaries and are writing commentaries, so obviously we think they’re valuable.

Jipp
I haven’t finished one so mine’s not bloated yet.

Knight
I mean I certainly have not finished one. [LAUGHTER] I’m very early in my progress. But I do think it’s helpful for students to cut out the noise. And it’s like, “Let’s just make sure we understand what’s happening with the Hebrew text.” And then it provides the backbone for really imaginative—and I’m not suggesting that people should just make stuff up—but if we read certain kinds of commentaries only, it’s like, those are the only conversations we have about the text. But what the Handbook does is reminds us just what the text is saying and gives us opportunity to ask questions that maybe haven’t been asked before—just because we’re not getting stuck in some of those conversations. So I really do think it encourages us to really think about the text and contextualize it for our congregations or for the problems the churches are facing. So I’m really glad you contributed to that. I think it’s a great series.

Jipp
I use the New Testament ones, obviously, more than the Old Testament, but now I’m kind of motivated.

Knight
Because you don’t read the Old Testament.

Jipp
I want to be like, “I want to read Hosea in Hebrew!”

Knight
And you can now because you have an excellent tool that’s going to help you through all of that syntactical nonsense.

Jipp
[00:37:00] Exactly. We’re probably getting close to being out of time, but I did just want to ask one more question: you and David Luy…I don’t know if you still will, but you have team-taught a course on the Psalms. And David Luy’s a theologian, so he’s got his own kind of particular training and bent, obviously you do—Old Testament. If you could only pick one, what is the thing that you think is most fundamentally wrong about David Luy’s approach? [LAUGHTER]

Knight
And listeners, if you want to hear David Luy’s side, please go back to our archives. We gave them each a chance.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] No, you could also just answer it in terms of where… are there places where you find interesting convergents and divergents from each other?

Tully
Yeah. It’s an important conversation that we’re having about hermeneutics and the role of theology and exegesis and things like that—I mean, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to teach that class with him and I hope we will have the opportunity to do that again. I think we’re probably closer than maybe it seems at times, but I think the things that David and I each emphasize have to do with our concerns about potential abuses.

Knight
That makes sense.

Tully
So I think he’s concerned, and rightly so, about an interpretive approach that is just completely stuck in the historical details, does not quickly enough move to theology, and ignores the place of that text in the canon, and perhaps doesn’t make any room at all for the divine author. I think the abuse that I’m concerned about is a kind of canonical flattening that doesn’t take into account progressive revelation, that assumes that we can read backward or forward however we want, and that it makes so much of role of the divine author in the communication that we’re finding things in the text that maybe the author meant but didn’t say. And I would say that those would be some of my concerns. So he’s interested, David’s interested, from his perspective in systematic theology of exploring the canonical pressure that is put upon a text. I probably…you know, I do in certain ways start with a starting point that I want to look at the particular contribution that that passage makes and then move outward from there to see what the implications are in the rest of the canon. One interesting way that that manifested itself is that question about the relationship between the divine author and the human author. And I think my training is to look for the human author, right, “What is the human author saying?” and then my Evangelical convictions tell me that that is being superintended by the divine author. And I think David’s sort of systemic view is to allow for the human author, but to primarily think about what the divine author is doing with foreknowledge and things like that. That would definitely be maybe one of the starting points. I remember one of our… probably one of our more significant charitable conflicts was when I made the point that I think that what the divine author communicates and what the human author communicates completely correspond if you were to make a venn diagram—that I don’t think…that I think that whatever the divine author has said is sufficient, and if that’s all he said, that’s all he said. I don’t need to read between the lines. And I don’t think David liked that very much. [LAUGHTER]

Knight
I can imagine. That’s perfect.

Jipp
That’s great, yeah.

Knight
I’m glad students get to hear both and see you guys enter that conversation.

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Tully
Yeah, I like to think that it’s a microcosm of what we are at TEDS. I just think it’s an extremely healthy place of all of us on faculty—and students as well—having really strong convictions about things, but being charitable toward each other and learning from each other. And so it’s very healthy.

Jipp
Yeah. Within certain parameters of agreed upon and shared convictions.

Tully
Exactly, yeah.

Knight
I love that.

Tully
Yeah, so I really appreciate that.

Knight
Cool.

Jipp
And that’s just the Foreword. Be sure to check out Eric Tully’s work forthcoming with Baker Academic Press on the prophets; you can find his Handbook—his commentary on Hosea—published with Baylor University Press; other works, his textual criticism book with Baker, and there’s more in the works. So we want to thank you so much for spending time with us, Eric. We also want to thank our wonderful producer, Curtis Pierce—

Knight
Sure do.

Jipp
—we’re grateful for our wonderful graduate assistant, Lauren Januzik—

Knight
We are.

Jipp
—and that’s it. That’s just the Foreword. I’m Josh Jipp.

Knight
[LAUGHS] And I’m Michelle Knight.

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The views expressed by the hosts and guests of Foreword do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

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