Yesterday, I finished watching Professor Christine Hayes' lectures for her Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) class at Yale University. Yale offers her lectures online, and you can also find them on Youtube. Next, I will watch Yale Professor Dale Martin's lectures for his "Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature" class.
decided to do this because I am applying for some online adjunct
teaching jobs in religion, and I was wondering how exactly I would go
about teaching an intro to Hebrew Bible or intro to New Testament
class. I'm at the point where I have read so many different
perspectives, and I continue to read so many different perspectives.
It's easy, once that happens, to get lost in the trees and to miss the
forest (if there even is a forest). What exactly would I want my
students to learn about the Hebrew Bible or New Testament? And can I
even open my mouth and speak a proposition, when I am aware of scholars
who would disagree with that proposition?
taken or audited intro classes in the past. Each teacher has his or
her own focus. But I have noticed some commonalities. In intro to
Hebrew Bible classes, you usually have a section on the Pentateuch, a
section on the historical writings, a section on the wisdom writings, a
section on Psalms, a section on the prophets, and a section on
apocalyptic literature. In the New Testament, you have a section on the
Gospels, a section on Paul, a section on deutero-Pauline writings (if
you believe Paul didn't write certain letters), and a section on
Revelation (maybe also one on James, Jude, and I-II Peter). These
sections can take several days----for example, there is a lot to cover
about the Pentateuch: creation stories, source criticism, whether the
Exodus and Conquest happened, the purity laws, the Deuteronomist, etc.
And, of course, one would need an introductory section to set the stage
for the rest of the course.
Christine Hayes did a good job in presenting the highlights of issues in
Hebrew Bible scholarship, while informing students that there are
scholars out there who disagree. Her presentation was good on the introductory level,
and yet it was quite meaty.
something in particular that Christine Hayes said that stood out to me,
though. In one lecture, she said that, in Genesis, God gets tired of
dealing with all of humanity and decides to work with one group,
Israel. That happens when God chooses Abraham. That stood out to me
because I had just read T. Desmond Alexander's From Paradise to the Promised Land,
which is an evangelical work about the Pentateuch, and Alexander
stresses that God intended to bless the nations through Abraham's seed,
the Messiah. Christians emphasize the part of God's promise to Abraham
that said that Abraham's seed would bring blessings to the nations
because that coincides with aspects of their belief system----that God
loves the Gentiles, too. I have wondered, though, if they place more
emphasis on this theme of Abraham blessing the nations than Genesis or
the Hebrew Bible itself does, and if they are actually interpreting that
theme differently from how it was originally intended to be
understood. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is a salient theme of
God blessing the nations, but God also has a close, special relationship
with Israel. I think that one can legitimately question whether God in
the Hebrew Bible chooses Israel as a means to the end----to restore
creation, or to bring the nations to God----even though that is part of