I have never taught a Bible course that I have been really satisfied with. Much of it is my difficulty in getting feedback back. But there is also a real sense in which I am conflicted about what the goals of such courses are. I have generally taught these courses at Christian institutions whose primary goal is to equip future or present ministers. Or survey courses are usually meant to in some way largely to fortify the spirituality of future laypeople.
Yet from my perspective, those who set the curriculum usually have a bit of a misconception of how biblical meaning works. For example, those who put survey courses into the general education curriculum of Christian colleges usually operate under the assumption that learning the Bible's content is the same thing as learning how to live or think. And it is often assumed that learning this content automatically equates to a deeper spirituality.
Sometimes these goals are accomplished if the course is taught by a non-biblical specialist or someone with a pre-modern understanding of the Bible, usually adjuncts. The text is used to mirror the spiritual values, beliefs, and ethics of the Christian culture in which the text is taught.
Yet there is also a strange irony that the biblical specialists who usually teach such courses have been trained to know the original meaning. They've been trained to deconstruct the "what you see is what you get" Sunday School approach. They teach about genres and ancient culture. The student learns that Jeremiah 29:11 was not written about them but that the "thoughts I have toward you" were thoughts about Israelites who had been taken as prisoners to Babylon in 586BC.
What's even worse is that evangelical colleges sometimes restrict their Bible courses to those who have passed through the fires of an "inductive Bible study" (IBS) course to teach them how to read the Bible in context. Indeed, the scandal of Bible teaching at Indiana Wesleyan University is that the overwhelming majority of its students will never be able to take a Bible elective because they have to take the IBS course first! It's absolutely outrageous, if you think about it.
Well, I've gotten off topic. For now I'm teaching future ministers of one sort or another, and I agree that ministers need to study the Bible on a different level than laypeople need to. So what are the skills that I should incorporate into my "upper level Bible," "for future minister" classes? Here's my shot as I finish my syllabi for the Spring.
1. They should know the content of the biblical books in question.
2. They should know the major themes of those books and have integrated the themes in those books with the rest of the Bible.
3. They should have located those themes and that content in relation to the commonly held beliefs and ethics of the universal church and their "local" church (including their denomination, if they have one).
4. They should have appropriated this integrated content into their personal and corporate lives, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
5. They should be equipped to teach and proclaim this integrated content both to Christian and non-Christian as appropriate.
These seem to me to be the most essential outcomes of an upper level Bible course. But there are others of lesser priorities that I think are also completely appropriate for a minister. Indeed, some of the following are skills that help one achieve those that precede.
6. They should rehearse and extend their skills at observing the biblical text both in survey and detail.
7. They should rehearse and extend their skills of interpreting the biblical text in the light of its original context.
8. They should know the major critical issues that relate to the biblical texts in question.
The difference between undergraduate and graduate level courses lies in scope and depth.
To the extent that my ponderings might affect future curriculum wherever, any thoughts, suggestions, or critique?