Saturday, November 24, 2007

Second Semester Course Line-Up

It is about time for me to switch from my sabbatical research to active course preparation for next semester's classes. I have been assigned Gospels, Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity, Greek Exegesis I, and Advanced Greek Exegesis.

After three semesters teaching Gospels, I concluded I needed to rethink this required first year course from the ground up. Instead of working carefully through one Gospel with a glance at the other three, as is the usual practice here, I have decided to spend equal time on each Gospel. This change responds to feedback from students who expressed disappointment that we give the other Gospels (especially John) such short shrift. It also reflects my conclusion that most first year students respond to issues that appear relevant to their own lives, but are not prepared with the skills or the patience to read a foreign text closely on its own terms. The close reading exercises that we do in class will function as “training wheels” for a longer more intensive book study; the need to be selective in what I cover will help me focus on central passages that are suited to first year students.

I am especially excited about Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity since it is the only course in the curriculum that deals directly with Second Temple Judaism. I taught Jewish Backgrounds three years ago while I was still getting my teaching legs under me. Needless to say, this will also be a quite different course than the one I taught last time.

Biblical Studies majors at Briercrest College are required to take at least four semesters of either Greek or Hebrew. Greek Exegesis I is the fourth course in the Greek sequence. Almost two thirds of the course is devoted to a close reading of the Greek text of Colossians. We also learn to practice textual criticism, diagramming and word studies. I tell my students that in Greek Exegesis I their hard work over the past three semesters begins to pay off in earnest.

Advanced Greek Exegesis, the sixth and final Greek course in our catalog, will be a lot of fun for me and the two students who have signed up for the class. We will be looking at early Christian exegesis of Scripture in the speeches of Acts. The plan is to work through the speeches in Acts 1-15 and the Greek OT passages quoted or alluded to in the speeches. I was told after I had prepared the syllabus that Advanced Greek Exegesis has never been offered as a regular class before. Hopefully, another three or four students will join us before the semester begins.

I am excited about what I get to teach, but with four mostly classes and a new baby at home, it will be a very heavy semester. All the more reason to get started now...or in a few days when I get that second draft article finished!

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