Biblical Studies



Biblical and Theological Examination of the Role of Women in Ministry

Faculty: Dr. James O. Wolfe III (Profile)

Description: This course will explore the biblical and theological bases for the exercise of ministry by women in the Church. An investigation will be made of biblical texts which intimate women in ministry and a full range of theological traditions will be considered including the historical sweep of the subject as a theological issue in historical theology.

Required Reading:

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History of the Bible

Faculty: Tim Allen, PhD (Profile)

ABOUT THE COURSE
People in the pews and those who work in academic and professional fields utilizing the Bible are generally not aware of the history behind what can arguably be the most influential book ever printed. This tutorial will explore the rich history of the Bible, and, for those students in the academic programs, also explore an intriguing facet of the Bible: scripture as an art form. Why the Bible was written and then later translated was influenced by what was taking place in various time periods throughout the Bible’s history. How we interpret it today should bear in mind the times that produced these ancient words that are still alive today.

Throughout its history, the Bible is alive and ever-changing. Ancient stories, legal codes, histories and songs were eventually edited into various initial collections. Prophecies were added, psalms included, and wisdom rounded out the initial scripture, what Jews refer to today as the Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament. Each accretion brought about a new life to the old story. With the emergence of Christians, gospels and letters and other writings became new interpretations of the old story, in essence, giving it yet another life. With the completed Bible, battles over creeds, divisions over theology, the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reformation, the Enlightenment and Renaissance added another layer of life. Today, we see new translations, evidence that the life of the Bible is ever-changing, ever-going.

A study of the history of the Bible reveals that these changes came at significant times in history. Changes in regimes, shifts in the economy as in moving from agrarian to capitalism, moves from rural to urban life, theological battles—all of these and more have led to yet another round of biblical interpretation.

Along with this, for students in the academic programs, how was the Bible used? Story-telling? Singing? Performed rituals? Mythical reenactments? Memorization, reading or aural reception? Rational facts, as in logos, or stories as in mythos? Is the Bible to be interpreted by left-brain, mythical, artful means or through the rational, reasoned right-brain?

An understanding of this history will help us in the pulpit, in the counselling session, in the academic setting. We can better interpret and teach the stories in the Bible when we understand their place and role in history.

John Barton’s new history of the Bible will be our main text. For PhD and ThD students, Karen Armstrong’s text will be called upon to supplement the Barton readings with variant interpretations that will broaden our scope and provide more fodder for the discussion.

COURSE TEXTS

For students in professional programs (DMin; PsyD as well as DEd, DST DSM): John Barton, A History of the Bible (Viking: 2019)

For students in academic programs (PhD; ThD) John Barton, A History of the Bible (Viking: 2019); and Karen Armstrong, The Lost Art of Scripture (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)

(Barton is weak in his final chapters about more evangelical translations. So, please consider at least three other translations of the Bible as to the reason for the translations.)

Weekly Papers
 
Professional students: choose at least two topics to discuss.
Academic students: choose two topics from Barton and one from Armstrong
 
Week 1
The Old Testament
Barton: Introduction and chapters 1-5
  • What are the “variety of ways” (p. 1) the Bible has been read over the centuries?
  • Note Barton’s 5 principles for reading the Bible (p. 7ff)
  • Barton looks at nation-influence and nation-building as a major factor in Israel’s scriptures (ch. 1)
  • How do the three styles of Hebrew narrative (ch. 2) affect the interpretation of the Old Testament?
  • Understand the large divisions of the Old Testament (p. 55)
  • Look at Barton’s question on p. 57: how were the narrative books used in ancient Israel?
  • What are the roots or parallel works of the Law and Wisdom literature?
  • Explain the socio-political role of the prophets. Why is the final form of the prophetic books so important?
  • What are the different roles and uses of the poetry and psalms in the Bible?
 
Armstrong
Armstrong argues that scripture must be interpreted by the left side of the brain, the artistic side, the creative side. She thus concludes that we have lost the “art” of scripture because we have continued to interpret it from the right side, the logical, rational, portion of the brain.  
Introduction: myth is only understood through action, art.
19-48: politics, society, myths
97-106 : Ezekiel, Exile, the first scripture, rituals
 
 
Week 2
The New Testament
Barton: chapters 6-8
  • Barton, p. 145, says that “The Old Testament is the literature of a nation” while “The New Testament is the literature of a small sect.” How does this affect our use/understanding of the New Testament? Or, does it?
  • Why is Hellenism, early Roman culture and early Judaism important for a complete understanding of the New Testament? (ch. 6)
  • Barton sees three phases of New Testament writings (160-162). Might these introduce three different theologies/stories for Christians?
  • What are the major themes in Paul’s letters? What does this tell us about the early church? (ch.7)
  • What does it imply that each gospel was intended for a specific community? Likewise, that there were Matthean, Markan, Lukan, Johannine and Pauline Christians? Does this suggest a sort of creative license among the gospel writers? (201)
  • What do we make of the early church reading aloud the gospels just as ancient biographies were read aloud? Is this “performance”? Art?
 
Armstrong
(What do you make of Armstrong calling the early Jewish-Christian writings “Midrash”?)
182-184: Wisdom = Torah
201-216: influence of Greece; Jewish Midrash
216-229: emergence of Christian writings; break from Judaism
 
 
Week 3
A Bible Comes Together
Barton: chapters 9-12
  • Barton (ch. 9) demonstrates that by the time of Jesus, certainly by the end of the second century, the Old Testament existed as a closed collection. Thus, Jews at the time of Jesus and very early Christians had a scripture consisting of various genres of writings. Yet, various groups emphasized some writings over others. Why?
  • Why did Jews focus more on Law and Christians on Prophets?
  • Barton notes that Jews used scrolls while early Christians used codices. Thus, the Christian writings at this time were not deemed scriptures until Irenaeus who determined that the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Letters were now a unified Holy Bible.
  • What do you make of the early Christian “Fathers” creating  the New Testament? What were the criteria? Could these decisions have been politically motivated?
  • What do you make of Bart Ehrman’s concept of the “orthodox corruption of scripture” (p. 291)?
 
Armstrong 
Greek vs. Latin; spiritual (art?); tradition; liturgy; literal
233-250: Church Fathers and Rome
 
 
Week 4
Interpretations of the Bible (Whose interpretation wins?)
Barton: chapters 13-16
  • Beginning with Barton’s concise summary of the Bible being a story of disaster followed by a rescue (311), how did Paul and Jesus interpret the scriptures?
  • Compare Jewish and Christian modes of interpretation. Should we go back to a less literalistic interpretation of the Bible?
  • Look at the summary on p. 364. Should readers and interpreters incorporate all four for complete understanding of the Bible? (Armstrong says yes)
  • Why would Jews focus on practical meanings and Christians on theological (p 383)?
  • How important is geographical region in interpreting the Bible? Why?
  • Name three ways that the Reformation changed the way we interpret the Bible.
 
 
Armstrong 
The effects of a shift in Europe from agrarian to capitalist economy and industrialism; humanism—scripture as a book
293-300: Monastics—from literal to creatively intentional—lectio divina; four ways to interpret scripture
300-309: logic; Aristotle; universities; theology and philosophy
333-356: sola scriptura; Martin Luther; Reformation; word of Bible, not image; Luther says only one meaning; books depersonalize scripture; sola ratio—who needs God?; religious wars; from myth to logos
 
 
Week 5 The Enlightenment
The Emergence of the Modern Bible
Barton: chapters 17-18 and Conclusion
  • Does reading and dissecting the Bible like any other book help or hinder our understanding? Should scriptures be treated differently than other books?
  • Does higher criticism destroy or refine/redefine today’s Christianity?
  • Should we adopt Brevard Child’s approach to see scripture as canon? (p 432)
  • Have translations made the Bible clearer?
Armstrong: pages 379-403
  • Did the rational (reason; right hemisphere of the brain) approach to scripture eliminate the spirit (mythos; left hemisphere), the art of scripture? Or, did it illuminate it? [see p. 390, second full paragraph]
 
Week 6
Continuing the Tradition
Barton chapter 18 and Conclusion
Introductions to three Bible translations not mentioned by Barton
  • How do faith, belief and tradition play into the teaching and understanding of the Bible?
 
Armstrong
  • Armstrong concludes, “In many ways, we seem to be losing the art of scripture in the modern world. Instead of reading it to achieve transformation [think social justice, reforms, personal physical/mental artful changes], we use it to confirm our own views.” p. 451
 
 
Final Paper
 
Professional students: Your final paper should cover five of what you think are the most important, relevant issues in this study for either your church/parish/practice and/or for your thesis project. Explain why and then how you will incorporate them into your further work and studies.

Academic students: Your final paper should compare/contrast Barton’s more academic, scientific approach to the study/history of scripture to that of Armstrong’s more artful, spiritual, performance interpretation of scripture. You should compare/contrast five different topics for this paper utilizing both Barton and Armstrong. How might this inform your forthcoming thesis or your practice/ministry?
 
 
 
 

 

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Biblical Myth and Pastoral Theology

Faculty: Dr. Timothy Allen (Profile)

Description: The focus of this class is to look closely at categories of Bible stories--creation; journey; hero; wisdom; history; apocalyptic and others-- and how they might inform a better pastoral theology in the context of ministry. 

Required Reading:

  • J. Timothy Allen, A Theology of God-Talk: The Language of the Heart (New York: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2002).

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A Biblical Theology for Biotechnology

Faculty: Dr. Paul J. Kirbas (Profile)

Description: This course will consider a biblical ethic for nature itself, as well as the human manipulation of nature that is at the center of many aspects of current biotechnology. Building upon a core understanding of this biblical ethic, the course will invite participants to evaluate a chosen area of biotechnology by utilizing a tool that is offered by the course. While the first several sections of response papers should be focused on the core material, the final sections should reflect the student’s own choice of a particular biotechnological issue to be addressed.

Required Reading:

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Communicating the Gospel to a Post-Literate, Digital Culture

Faculty: Dr. D. Jonathan Watts (Profile)

Description: The church has always faced the challenge of presenting the Word of God in a way which relates to its contemporary culture. The church of the twenty-first century, defined as a Post-Literate or Digital Culture, is no exception. This tutorial, using the text The Forensic Reconstruction of a Good Story: Gospeltelling to a Digital Culture, explores the patterns and models for the exegetical investigation of a biblical text and to provide a method for preaching/proclamation within a multisensory environment.

The first unit reviews the historical background of worship followed by a historical understanding of the role of preaching/proclamation in the expansion and development of the church. The third unit examines the differing methods of sermon/proclamation creation. The fourth unit explores an approach labeled Gospeltelling: a biblically based, exegetical, narrative style of preaching designed to relate to the Digital Culture. Unit five is a model for bridging the ancient text to the current culture through thorough exegetical examination and cultural connection. The final unit concludes with a presentation of the development and application of that method using the parable of The Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

Required Reading:

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Encountering the Resurrection Narratives

Faculty: The Rev. Dr. Donald E. Blumenfeld (Profile)

Description: This E–Tutorial examines the resurrection accounts and post-resurrection appearance narratives in the canonical Gospels. The cultural, historical and theological antecedents of resurrection belief will be considered. An exegetical study of the passages will be undertaken, emphasizing the historical-critical approach to Biblical theology.

Required Reading:

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Help My Unbelief! Doubt, Faith, and the Gospel of Mark

Faculty: Dr. Timothy Allen (Profile)

This tutorial will be controversial but I believe it is necessary given the emergence of a new type of Christian in our churches today. There are two premises for this course. First, church as run today, is disappointing for many Christians. Evangelical triteness and mainline staleness are turning off Christians who have been loyal to the church all their lives.  Second, these Christians have many questions for the church that are ignored by the church. They no longer believe in the virgin birth of Christ, do not anticipate a physical return of Jesus, and do not put their hope in many tenets of the creeds. Still, they go to church faithfully and do the work of Christ. When they express their views the Church responds with “You must not doubt, you must believe!” Their pastoral needs are totally ignored by this type of response.
 
If scripture is alive then it should meet the needs of those who ask questions. Where do doubters in the faith go for spiritual nurture? I believe that the Gospel of Mark was written for doubters in the early time of the church. My book, Help My Unbelief! Doubt, Faith, and the Gospel of Mark addresses this issue.
 
After this tutorial you should have a resource to use in your conversations with the growing numbers of doubters in the faith.
 
Required Reading:
  • Help My Unbelief! Doubt, Faith, and the Gospel of Mark (Wipf & Stock)
  • Supplement your weekly reading with commentaries, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias.

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The Resurrection of Jesus

Faculty: Revd Dr. Bruce Chilton (Profile)

Premise:  The first followers of Jesus — those who produced what came to be called the New Testament — obviously believed that God had raised him from the dead. But they asserted at the same time that his resurrection signaled that the potential of humanity as a whole had changed. Eternal life became an aspiration for the many, not a few.

All the viewpoints in the New Testament (and related literature) are assessed in this course, without attempting to collapse the variants into a single, allegedly dominant perspective. The range of the disciples’ experience proves remarkable, when their testimony is not forced into conformity to one normative claim or another of what the Resurrection has to have been.
 
Required books (in addition to a translation of the Bible of each student’s choosing)  Recommended books 

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Social Entrepreneurship as a "Gospel Compatible" Business Model

Faculty: The Reverend Dr. Joanne Neal (Profile)

Description: This e-tutorial focuses on two essential questions:

  • To what extent might social entrepreneurship be a constructive model for the integration of ethical business and management practices and Christian faith values?
  • How might social enterprise allow the Church and business to partner in the resolution of intractable social problems with which social entrepreneurship is concerned?

The processes of globalization have resulted in both positive and negative outcomes for human beings and for the environment. Social entrepreneurship, as a constructive outcome of globalization, has its own particular niche within the global market economy. Social entrepreneurship is a phenomenon that has been steadily gaining ground in the past two decades. It is a dimension of entrepreneurial activity aimed at generating social value and creating sustainable change rather than focusing on producing monetary profit as its primary goal. Social entrepreneurship, at its heart, is highly compatible with the values, beliefs, and goals of the Christian Church in its mission to achieve social, economic, and environmental justice. It has tremendous potential to be an inspiring exemplar of what it means to live out the Gospels.

Required Reading:

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Steps of Faith - A Bible Curriculum for Faith Development

Faculty: Dr. Timothy Allen (Profile)

Description:  This Etutorial proposes a faith growth model based on the educational theory of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith combined with various Bible passages. The premise is that we can build a “primer” of faith for those who seek to increase their Bible knowledge and their spiritual growth. Put together in the right sequence, Bible passages can be used as stepping stones for spiritual faith development.

Required reading:

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