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Interview: Iain Provan

Is the God of the Old Testament a God of wrath? How and why should Christians read the Old Testament? On Tuesday February 19, the Study Center will host Dr. Iain Provan to address these questions and others. Dr. Provan is a Professor of biblical studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and has written numerous books about the Old Testament. His lecture at the Study Center will explore seven Old Testament myths and misconceptions, and why the Old Testament is relevant for Christians today. In addition, following the lecture, we invite you to join Dr. Provan for light refreshments and an informational session about Regent College. 

Dr. Provan was kind enough to take a few minutes of Q & A with our guest blogger, Kendall Cox.

Kendall: What led you to serious study of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament?

Dr. Provan: Someone I deeply respected told me that there was a much greater need for good Old Testament scholars than for New Testament ones! So I registered for an Old Testament Ph.D., simply for that reason—my undergrad majors were actually New Testament and theology.

Kendall: What (concretely, in your experience of the church/Christians) inspired you to put together a lecture on myths about the Old Testament?

Dr. Provan: I do not think that many Christians read the Old Testament, and if they do, I don’t think they read it well … I’d like people to think about what reading the Old Testament well looks like.

Kendall: Why and how do you think the Old Testament is important for the Christian life?

Dr. Provan: It’s fundamental Christian Scripture, according to Jesus and the apostles; and I believe it’s all too possible to read the New Testament superficially, and even wrongly, unless we understand it as a continuation of the story of Scripture. For example, I don’t think most Christians who prioritize the New Testament have a very robust doctrine of creation—at least, that is my experience.

Kendall: What is the main problem with the way Christians interact with the Old Testament? What is the primary take-away from your talk?

Dr. Provan: They don’t take it first on its own terms, reading it in its ancient context … they tend to read it only through the lens of the New Testament. I’d like to persuade people that we should read it, fully, as Christian Scripture, and that this means reading from Old Testament to New Testament, as well as in the other direction.

Kendall: What is your favorite thing about teaching Old Testament to incoming students?

Dr. Provan: I love to see how the full, ‘big’ story of Scripture begins to frame everything more effectively for students, and helps them to understand the multiple ways in which God is good—as well as giving them a better sense of who they are, and what they are called to be and so.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Provan, you can visit the Centre for Public Christianity blog and listen to his interviews regarding the trustworthiness of the Old Testamentviolence in the Old Testamentthe relevance of the Old Testament today, and how the Bible has influenced the western world.