Concept: In his response essay, Schipper critiques Breed for referencing only biblical scholars who are of European/Caucasian descent and male. Arguing that we need more diverse conversation partners for biblical interpretation, Schipper points to the demographics of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) to show how 89% of its members identify as European/Caucasian, and 76% identify as male. In this final lesson, participants will consider these statistics as they think about their own conversation partners in their personal study and social circles. Participants will also engage in activities and discussion to reflect on how their perspectives on biblical interpretation may have shifted over this lesson series.
Setting: Intended for an adult education class, this lesson is set to run for about 60 minutes. This class is part of a four-part series on biblical interpretation. Participants are encouraged to attend all four sessions.
In this lesson, participants will:
Opening (3-5 min):
As people gather, invite them to sit at a different table than where they sat last week. Encourage participants to sit so that all of the tables have equal numbers.
Open with prayer:
Grant unto us, O God, the fullness of your promises.
Where we have been weak, grant us your strength;
where we have been confused, grant us your guidance;
where we have been distraught, grant us your comfort;
where we have been dead, grant us your life.
Apart from you, O Lord, we are nothing,
in and with you we can do all things. Amen6
Spend a few minutes recapping the previous lessons to catch-up any new participants. Ask the group to define Ricoeur’s “three worlds” and the process of reception history.
Presenting (15 min):
Using a powerpoint screen (or distributing printed copies), display the following demographics of the members of the Society of Biblical Literature, the leading professional organization for biblical scholars.
As you show each table, direct attention to the majority and minority groups represented. (See Tables 3, 5, 6, 7, and 11 on pages 12-15 of: http://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/memberProfileReport2014.pdf)
Discussion Questions for the group:
Exploring (25 min):
“Opinion Barometer—Where do you stand now?”
Invite participants to gather again around the “opinion barometer” line taped on the floor in the room. Explain that after you read certain statements (the same ones as before), they will stand in a spot on the line to mark their opinion. In between each statement, instruct participants to step away from the line to “reset” before the next statement is read. Reassure participants that there are no right or wrong answers.
After each statement, invite participants to reflect on if their position on the line has changed since the first lesson. Encourage participants to share why or why not their opinions have changed. Allow for ample time for discussion after each statement.
[Again, if you have members in the group for whom moving around is difficult, invite them to remain seated for this exercise. Instead of standing on the barometer line, offer them paper to write their opinion scores on a scale from 1-10 (10=strongly agree, 1=strongly disagree, 5=not sure), in response to the statements. While others move on the barometer scale, those sitting can hold up their opinion scores for everyone to see.]
*Side note: These statements are intentionally ambiguous. Participants may find themselves responding without a clear “yes” or “no” opinion. Hopefully this will lead to a more nuanced conversation about biblical interpretation.
Responding (12 min):
Gather back at the tables. Pass out index cards and pencils.
On one side of the index card, invite each participant to write three things they have learned or gained from this lesson series.
On the other side of the card, invite them to write three challenges for continued study of the bible. Challenges might include: concrete ways they can find new conversation partners, commitments to read and study other “bad” texts in the bible, commitments to read the bible more often, or to read new commentaries, etc.
When everyone has finished writing, invite them to take these cards with them to use as bookmarks for their personal bibles so they can continue to meditate on these blessings and challenges.
Closing (2 min):
Close with your own prayer, or pray the following, opening with words from John 1:
1 In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
(John 1: 1-5, NLT Bible)
Creating and sustaining God,
in your presence there is life.
Living water springs up,
and deserts blossom where you pass.
Seeking the life that comes from you,
we have gathered before you.
Our hearts are ready, O God.
Our hearts are ready.
As we go out, delight us with your presence,
and prepare us for your service in the world;
through the grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.7
6. Book of Common Worship: Presbyterian Church (USA), 21.
7. Book of Worship: UCC, 477.