I define teaching the Bible as the successful imparting of select skills, attitudes, and knowledge to my students. The most important objective of teaching is developing critical thinking and reasoning skills of students that are indispensable for reading and interpreting the Bible and turning students into lifetime Biblical learners as well as learners of other disciples. The second goal is to demonstrate to students and then to cultivate an internal curiosity that encourages students to inquire into Biblical matters. The final objective of teaching is to transit an arcane set of knowledge to students about the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman cultures. These data provide students with tools to read the Bible and simultaneously highlight its other-worldliness and our limited understanding of the Biblical world. Therefore, these three goals are interrelated and work together. The transmission of knowledge fosters academic humility, which motivates curiosity, which, in turn, promotes lifetime Biblical learning.
To accomplish these goals, I use a combination of inside and outside classroom activities. Students are required to read outside of class secondary sources about the social context of the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman world that provide an interpretative framework for the Bible. The main ideas of these readings are re-articulated within my lectures to ensure that students have grasped these fundamental concepts. The focus of my teaching, however, is primary source material. Therefore, students are required to read the Bible and other ancient texts and examine ancient artifacts that illuminate the Bible. While large sections of the Bible are assigned for reading outside of class, smaller sections of material are read in class in communal exegesis exercises. During these activities, I led and demonstrate the benefits of a close historically informed reading the Bible and invite students to participate in the struggle to find meaning in this ancient, diverse, otherworldly book.
I access my learning goals in three ways. I test students on fundamental material that they must comprehend to understand the Bible. I demonstrate how to read the Bible in its social and historical context. Finally, I evaluate the ability of students to do the same in communal exegesis activities and in a term paper, the latter of which develops critical thinking skills, highlights students’ knowledge of the Biblical world, and accents their academic curiosity and humility.
My pedagogy is inclusive and attempts to create a parity of knowledge in a diverse classroom. Today’s classroom consists of students from various countries, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and religions. Teachers can no longer assume that their students have prior knowledge of the Bible, God, Jesus, and the Christian tradition. Therefore, my approach assumes an almost total ignorance of the Bible, explaining its fundamental concepts and jargon. The structure of my term paper does not privilege students with prior knowledge of the Bible. The writing process is twofold and students are graded on their progress. That is, they are not graded against each other but against themselves. Finally, my pedagogy takes into account various learning styles through a combination of lecture, readings, hands-on assignments, and multimedia outlets, all of which support interactive learning.