Saturday, August 10, 2013

Best Interpretation Course for me ever...

... I'm not at all saying the class experienced it the same way.  But for me, it seemed like the best balance I've ever experienced in this sort of class.  My thanks to the class for their great spirit!  I felt like we had an exhausting but good time together. I enjoyed being with you.

From my perspective, this sort of a class is probably the hardest to teach.  It is partially about Bible study method, which can feel cold and boring.  You run the risk of the Bible becoming a dissected frog. It's a whole lot more enjoyable to study the Bible than study about studying the Bible.

It also digs into Scripture's original meaning, which sounds great until we begin to experience culture shock.  We may discover that some of what we thought was the Bible is actually our tradition or contemporary culture.  This can be painful, even disorienting. I think it's good in the end but not always pleasant along the journey.

Here is where my outline is now, having changed it a little more even since the class ended.

1. Devotional
We read through Psalm 23 the first morning of class and prayed together.

2. The three worlds of the text
This is the hermeneutical framework I use.  The key point at the beginning of class is increased awareness of the world in front of the text.  Thus the quote from class, "Scripture is beautiful, but I'm stupid," and that changes everything.

3. Spiritual interpretations
The Spirit can and does speak through Scripture however he pleases, always in keeping with his character. Any speaking of God has the authority of God, no matter how it comes.  The hard part is being certain you are hearing God. Can happen communally too--as denominations... could it be true of what we call "common Christianity"?

4. NT Letters
After lunch, a quiz over interpretive and applicational issues in NT letters, based on pre-course reading/viewing.

5. Following a Train of Thought
In the afternoon, it seemed helpful to give hermeneutics a break and shift to an IBS topic. The basic framework of exegesis was reviewed--literary evidence, historical-cultural evidence, conclusion. I think next time I would introduce train of thought with a one page template I have created for putting an analysis of a train of thought on paper. I usually go through a "things to look for" PowerPoint too--this can be an observation exercise where you copy a page of the Bible and mark it up.

I used Philippians 3 as an example this time, but it didn't work well for some reason.  I fear my brain was too exhausted to be interesting that afternoon.

1. Devotional
We walked through Hebrews 11 the morning after looking at train of thought.  This does double duty because it not only has a great train of thought, but I think there are some great possible insights that come from historical/situational background.

2. Appropriation Strategies
With the goal of keeping things interesting and poignant, we looked at different strategies scholars have suggested for connecting the biblical world with our world.  The goal was to uncover the underlying dynamics of what we already do on issues like eating pork, adultery, buying on Sunday, homosexual sex, polygamy, etc.  How do we apply Scripture on different issues?

3. The Gospels
After lunch, a quiz over interpretive and applicational issues in the Gospels based on reading/viewing.

4. Surveying
In the afternoon, shift to IBS again.  If the train of thought process had to do with immediate literary context and a focal passage, surveying is a tool for looking at the broader literary context of a passage. The Sermon on the Mount seemed to work well as a learning sample.

1. Devotional
Some reflections on Jonah, especially 4:2 and thinking of the possibility it was written after Assyria had destroyed the northern kingdom.

2. Sample Passages
First thing Wednesday morning, we spent the first part of the morning looking at passages of interest to students in the class, trying to follow the train of thought in those passages. I segwayed into word studies by using blueletterbible to find the other places in the OT where the material of Jonah 4:2 appears.

Hebrew 6 was on one person's mind this time.  Another person asked about Judges 19. Romans 7 is always a nice one to think about broader literary context.  Isaiah 7 can anticipate later issues in the week.  Every sample involves some engagement with historical-cultural background, just by the nature of engaging a passage.

3. Word Studies
I started out with a template I created for putting a word study down on paper. In class, I walked them through by talking about the word "saved" in Acts, my quest one morning to try to decide what it primarily meant in Acts 2:47.  I showed them how I looked through the occurrences of sozo in bed one morning early using  It was nice because I was able to distinguish between uses in Luke that were distinctly Lukan and places where he had simply copied Mark (so the former would be more representative of Luke's own style while the latter would simply be style borrowed from Mark). Unfortunately, I ended up getting my answer from the broader context of Acts, from a passage that does not even use the word sozo--Acts 17:31.

4. Sample Word Studies
Leading up to lunch, some of the class looked at 'alma based on Isaiah 7:14. Some of the class looked at teleios in the NT in general. We walked through them afterward together.

5. OT Narratives
After lunch, perhaps a quiz over reading/viewing in relation to interpretive and applicational issues in OT narratives.  I debate about using this material, not because it isn't likely to bring insight but because it seems like such a downer sometimes.

6. Word Fallacies
It was helpful to look at word fallacies after having done some mini-word studies together.

7. The Overall Exegetical Process
I think next time I might end the day on Wednesday going over the whole exegetical process in more detail, from literary context to historical context to conclusions.

1. Devotional
I didn't get to give a devotional on Thursday morning this time, but I think perhaps one based on the use of the word mishpat, "justice" in the Prophets, might be nice, probably using Micah 6:8 as a base camp.

2. Fitting Passages Together
Continuing the pattern of hermeneutics in the morning, I went through a number of slides Thursday morning in which we strategized how to fit various passages together. For example, does God change his mind or not? Does God tempt others or not? Do children pay for the sins of their parents or not? What happens after death?  The climax would be some strategies for mapping out a biblical theology on a particular issue. References were made throughout the class to the iconic "integration paper" of the seminary praxis courses.

3. Applying OT Law
To shift to something a little less challenging, looking at how the NT appropriates OT legal material is a little lighter.  It feels more like organizing what we already do rather than blowing our minds.

4. OT Law and Prophets
After lunch, perhaps a quiz over reading/viewing in relation to interpretive and applicational issues in OT legal and prophetic material.  I ended up alternating open ended quizzes with more objective ones. There is also some reading on textual criticism that might be appropriate for this quiz, given the schedule for the day.

5. NT Use of the OT
Our brains were so fried, we wrote this paper together, moving from easy uses (Hebrews 11) to more difficult ones (Matthew).  It was intended to be a homework assignment for the evening. I reaffirmed my sense that spiritual interpretation is perhaps even God's primary mode of operation, based on the polyvalence of texts.  I rejoiced in coming from a revivalist tradition that was comfortable with the Bible's own hermeneutic and poked fun at Wheaton, Gordon-Conwell, and Trinity for their need to distinguish typology from allegory--a distinction invented by high Protestants to distinguish themselves from the "four fold senses" of Scripture used in medieval catholicism and to hide their embarrassment at the fact that the NT used a type of interpretation that they were rejecting.

6. Textual Criticism
This time it worked better to do this segment on Wednesday afternoon, but I think I might try to do this one on late Thursday afternoon next time. I think beginning with a handout to fill in various items is again a good way to start.  Mark 16 can serve as a concrete way of seeing how it works. End out the day with them in groups analyzing Deuteronomy 32:8, with some relevant biblical passages on the screen.

1. Devotional
1 Corinthians 15 was a God-send, I thought, for a final devotional.  It reaffirmed some bed-rock at the end of a week of a number of new ideas. We got into how to minister to those undergoing faith crisis (including the elderly).  We talked about experiential and historical "benchmarks." We talked a little about millennials and the issue of how a young person's spiritual transmission can catch gear rather than idle without engagement.

2. Scripture as Sacrament
I thought it worked fairly well to spend the final morning talking about Scripture in more sacramental categories.  This ended up taking us into the afternoon with the traditional categories of inspiration, authority, infallibility, and inerrancy.

3. The Writings
Final quiz over poetry, wisdom, and apocalyptic in the Bible.

4. Post-course work
We went over the post-course assignments--a theology of Scripture paper and an exegetical-application paper.

5. Issues in the Writings
We ended class light, looking at issues like parallelism in Hebrew poetry, how proverbs work, etc. What do we do with imprecatory psalms?  Do they contradict loving one's enemy? What does it mean to love someone?  Should we preach all of Scripture today or are there parts that are less appropriate to preach at various times in history or in certain contexts?

Difficult class, but I am very thankful for what I think turned out to be a profitable and engaging journey together this time...


Susan Moore said...

Thanks! You know how all week I wanted so much to be a fly on the wall...
1. I'm curious regarding Wed. note of your finding your way to Acts 17:31. Could you describe the mental pathway you took (with verses) to get there, please?
2. Just think -maybe next year you'll be able to teach about The Common Language, too. So along with dissecting the Bible like it's a dead frog, you'll also be able to open its chest like a cardiac surgeon and perform life-supporting surgery on a living patient.

Ken Schenck said...

I hope to look at your website sometime soon...

Someone in the class said the same thing about Acts 17:31. Unfortunately, all I could answer was that I knew the sermons of Acts were the first place to look for that bit of theology. Acts 17 is Paul's sermon at Athens.

Susan Moore said...

Cool. If your click on my name sometimes I connect it to my website, and sometimes to the blogs. The blogs are meant to be read in order 1-8, and make up the first chapter of The Common Language. It's only introduces themes, though.
But if you get the time I'd like you to read my story, "Healed" on the website (can also be accessed from the blog under 'Susan's story'). It takes most people about 1-2 hrs to read (28 pages printed out).
The second entry on the webpage, "The Current and Present Healing Power of Christ" was written for my Pastors. It is a discussion of the responses I've received to my testimony over the last 4 plus years since my healing, and some apologetics about healing, and the relationship of miraculous healing to miraculous salvation.

Susan Moore said...

Writing and producing 'Healed' was the most overwhelmingly impossible adventure of my lifetime, even though it was Spirit-led. I had to take continuing ed classes in grammar and website production in order to do it. But the writing of it is its own story, maybe someday I'll write that one.
I initially started out writing, what I thought would be, a few pages to my pastor, Pastor Joe. But it was so difficult to write that I decided that to get through it I would have to take a risk and love more than one person. So I decided if one other person read it and came to know the one, true God, then it would be worth it. In the end even that wasn't enough. Writing it required me to love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my mind and strength; and that still wasn't enough -I call it my 'love letter to the world.'
I want everyone in the world to know the one, true God who saved me and healed me. I want everyone on the planet to read it. But yet if people don't pass it on, how can that happen? That makes me very sad.