There is a new session at this year’s SBL: “Teaching Biblical Literature in an Undergraduate Liberal Arts Context” (S18-77, 11/18/200, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM, Room: 154A – CC). My paper has the above title and the following abstract.
“God is Not in this Classroom” or Reading the Bible in a Secular School
Teaching biblical literature in a secular Liberal Arts environment requires allowing the texts to speak for themselves, so that students might hear what the texts have to say (which may not necessarily be what we want to hear). This is easier said than done since we must attempt to leave religious convictions, traditions, and specific agendas behind. At the same time, we must also recognize that we will not always be able to avoid our own historical context and bias. In light of these challenges and through my eight years experience as a Christian teaching courses in a Jewish Studies program at a secular university I have developed methods (and discarded others) for teaching the Hebrew Bible that include reading the texts critically as literary and historical sources while salting the course with Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other interpretations. The goal is to use the potential handicaps of preconceived ideas and convictions as gateways into the material. God may well be in the classroom and miracles may well occur, but the students know that they have to determine that for themselves.
I would like to invite those of you reading this blog to please feel free to comment and offer your thoughts on the above and the general premise of this session.