“What are the strengths of this course?” was one question that my students had to answer on their course evaluations for my class Biblical Heritage I, which is an introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. One student responded that my course, “Builds critical thinking and writing skills.” This student’s response captures almost perfectly my teaching philosophy’s goals. I labor to develop students who read the Bible closely, think about it critically, and write their findings clearly.
I use four pedagogical techniques to accomplish these goals. First, I introduce students to the diverse worldviews and cultural encyclopedias of the biblical authors and their original audiences by focusing on ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman literary and non-literary sources, i.e., inscriptions, coins, papyri, and archaeological remains. Second, I transmit these data to students through a combination of several media. I construct dialogical lectures around a research question for every class meeting and demonstrate how to read the Bible closely to answer said question critically. In every class meeting, I guide communal exegesis exercises where students take turns reading sections of the Bible aloud in class and try to answer the research question for that class meeting. Third, I coordinate my lectures and exegesis exercises with out-of-class readings and hands-on assignments from various multimedia outlets. Finally, I assign a two-part term paper that focuses on a research question about the Bible that students develop in consultation with me. They compose a first draft, which I read thoroughly, offering feedback to improve students’ research questions, method of presentation, writing skills, logic, and argumentation. Students then meet with me to discuss their first draft. Afterwards, they have one month to re-write and to re-submit their term paper.
In sum, my teaching philosophy attempts to develop students who are historically and contextually empathetic readers by asking them to place themselves in perspectives radically different from their own, thereby grasping the cultural values of ancient peoples and the processes by which they made meaning of their lives.