Jan 2008

Dr David Bostock is Tutor of Old Testament Studies at the Midlands Bible College and author of A Portrayal of Trust: The Theme of Faith in the Hezekiah Narratives, published by Paternoster in 2006. In this February 2008 interview Calvin Smith asks David to tells us more about the book.

Calvin Smith: First of all, please tell us a little bit about yourself, for example your Christian experience and where you teach or minister.

David Bostock: I became a Christian at the age of 14 through Boy Crusaders. After teaching in secondary school for five years I became an Assemblies of God minister and held pastorates in Manchester and Sunderland. While in Sunderland I studied for an MA and then a PhD at Durham University. I have taught in several colleges on a part-time basis including the AoG college, Mattersey Hall and Cranmer Hall, Durham. I held a teaching fellowship at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a time. I am still an AoG minister, but I now work as a mental health chaplain for the NHS in Sunderland and Gateshead.

What is your main area of expertise and current research interests?

I am mainly interested in trying to understand the message of the Old Testament. When I was younger I heard a lot of preaching that used the Old Testament as typology of Christian doctrines and New Testament teaching, but I increasingly felt that the Old Testament should be heard in its own right, although, of course, it cannot be fully understood without the New Testament. So I want to understand the Old Testament theologically and also investigate themes that link with the New Testament.

Very briefly, please explain what the book is about.

The book is a study of the story of King Hezekiah as it is recorded in 2 Kings 18-20 and in Isaiah 36-39. The theme that stood out to me in this section was that of faith. I have used narrative criticism as a lens, if you like, through which to look at these chapters and try to find what message they have for us about faith. We tend to think of faith as being a predominantly New Testament theme, but there is much in the Old Testament about faith that prepares the way for what is found in the New.

For the benefit of our readers, what is narrative criticism?

Good question. In a way it is treating a passage much as one might a novel. That doesn’t mean that I believe that the Old Testament is fiction. But it is a recognition that much of the Bible is told as a story. Literary critics look at a story and consider the plot, the characters, the setting and the point of view of the story. And that is what I have done with the story of Hezekiah, but focussing especially on the theme of faith.
Share with us what led you to write A Portrayal of Trust and how it might help students or lay Christians interested in theology.

It was written originally as a PhD thesis at Durham University. I wanted to get deeper into the Bible, especially the Old Testament, so I studied Hebrew and looked for a theme that was meaningful for Christians today.

What kind of reader will it mainly appeal to (for example scholars, students, lay Christians, etc)?

It will probably be of more interest to scholars and mature Christians. It isn’t a book for new Christians, but I believe that it has more than just academic appeal. As David Reimer, lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, has said on the book jacket, it is an attempt “…to produce a work which nourishes not only the mind but also the spirit.”

Were there any aspects that stood out, intrigued or surprised you during the research process?

One thing that struck me was that although some scholars think that two or three stories have been amalgamated to make the main story of the siege of Jerusalem, the text reads perfectly well as one story. Since that was the way it was written, perhaps that’s the way we should treat it, instead of atomizing the text into smaller and smaller units.

Is there anything in your book which is particularly controversial or which goes against much of the literature on the general subject?

I am tempted to say “what literature?” Maybe that’s a bit arrogant, but although there are lots of studies on Hezekiah, little has been written on Hezekiah as an example of faith. Most studies focus on historical aspects, form criticism or textual criticism.

As far as you can gauge, what has been the response to the book so far?

I have seen a few reviews and they have been quite positive. It has been bought by a considerable number of college and university libraries.

Do you think you might eventually write further on this subject?

It would be interesting to look at some other characters within the Old Testament and treat them in a similar way perhaps seeing if there is a particular virtue that they exemplify. I would also be interested in looking at other sections that focus on the theme of faith.

For readers of this interview interested in further material on your subject, what other books do you recommend which are generally sympathetic to the position you’ve taken in your book?

There is a very good book on faith in the Gospel of Mark that I have found helpful and I used it in preparing a series of sermons on that book. It is called Faith as a Theme in Mark’s Narrative. It is by Christopher Marshall and published by Cambridge University Press (1989).

David, thank you very much for your time. For readers interested in obtaining the book, the details are as follows:

David Bostock
A Portrayal of Trust: The Theme of Faith in the Hezekiah Narratives
Milton Keynes, Paternoster: 2006
251 pp. £19.99