While there are thirteen different essays authored by thirteen different scholars in this book, there are some unifying factors that hold this work together. Two of these unifiers are the discussion of the purpose for teaching the OT and the focus on OT (if not Biblical) theology.
The purpose of teaching the OT--In a book about how to teach the OT it might be wise to discuss why to teach it, and the writers of this book do just that. Richard Hess asserts that the impetus for teaching the OT in ministry-related programs is to help students learn how to interpret it and apply it "to contemporary concerns." For Hess these concerns include the spiritual, practical, and academic sides of life. Never will the OT be truly learned if students cannot connect its message to their lives in a holistic way. Craig Bartholomew claims that "Christians ought to allow the Word to frame and interpret our world rather than our understanding of the world framing and interpreting the Word." He seems to be avowing the same thing that Hess said; the study of the OT should impact the students' lives. To put it another way, as Gordon Wenham states, "One of the first tasks of the teacher should be to make students actually read and enjoy the OT." The classroom should stimulate the students' curiosity, causing them to read the OT like they read Rowling or Crichton. These ideas all fit under what Clive Lawless calls a constructivist view of learning which describes humans "as constantly seeking to develop meaning and to make sense of the information they receive from the environment and construct meaning by relating it to existing knowledge." While it is quite apparent that rote memorization is needed at times when teaching the OT, e.g. the dates of important events, the names and order of the kings of the United and Divided Kingdoms, etc, the hope of the professor should still be that the students will take what they are reading and learning and relate it to their own lives and their own Sitz im Leben.
OT theology--James McKeown argues that the best way to teach the OT is theologically, which can be accomplished by the professor noticing "the repetition of key words and the recurrence of motifs and ideas." While there are obvious issues with approaching the OT this way, there are benefits. Chief among these benefits would be helping the students, especially in a survey class, see the overarching themes of the text as a whole. When they see the big picture it should logically be easier for them to progress to seeing the more tightly-framed picture. One has to realize there is a forest before he can see a tree. One must learn to crawl before she can walk, etc. This point is taken further by several of the authors. They claim that the study of the OT should discuss the Old's relationship to the New. Paul Barker alleges that a teacher of the OT should help the students recognize that the OT realizes "its own need for something more." This something more, of course, is the NT. Wenham boldly argues that Gen 1-3 portrays God as loving and providing for humanity and that "these beliefs in one God who cares for [humanity], despite [its] sinfulness, are foundational to the rest of the Bible, and even more splendidly demonstrated in the incarnation." While it might be "academically sound" to view the OT as completely separate from the NT, it seems quite clear that as Christians we cannot teach it this way. I am not saying that the historical-critical and the form-critical methods should be thrown out. What I am hoping for is that more work will be done that seeks to find the unity of the Testaments instead of their incongruities. Some of this work has been done and is being done. Brevard Childs and Walter Brueggemann are two examples but there are many, many more. Whether scholars attempting this great task search for repeated words and themes or seek to find intertextual hyperlinks from one text to another, the results are important. If teachers teach the broad picture then it is more possible for their students to become engaged with the details later.
While this is a book of differing opinions about pedagogical methods and academic pursuits, the opinions seem to coalesce around two main ideas: the need for the OT to make a difference in students' lives and the spotlight on Biblical theology. There are no quick fixes in teaching but this book can serve as a diving board into the deep end of pedagogy that makes a difference.