Although students often enter into theological education for information, their journey should be marked by formation, with the end result being transformation. This call to transformation animates the pedagogical life of Robert K. Johnston, senior professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Johnston has served theological education for the last forty-five years not only as a professor, but also as provost at both Fuller and North Park Seminary. He has written, edited or co-authored a number of books on film and theology, including Deep Focus (Baker, 2019), and is a past president of the American Theological Society. Johnston recently spoke with Didaktikos editor Douglas Estes about the role of the theological educator in student formation.[Read more…]
Timothy Gatewood | Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
In a time when teaching success is defined by pragmatic, content-based assessment, I would like to offer a different path forward: teaching as ontological formation. Rather than viewing adjunct teaching as a means of content delivery, adjuncts should focus on the task of individual student formation. While this will require a shift in mindset for many of us, it does not need to be an either/or decision. Adjuncts have the responsibility to meet the common needs of all students and to develop them as theologians, historians, biblical scholars, and competent thinkers through the transmission of content, but, more importantly, adjuncts have the opportunity to develop students as people—as individuals living coram Deo. To that end, make teaching less about information and more about formation.[Read more…]
Dustin Burlet | Peace River Bible Institute
T. Desmond Alexander once stated, with respect to teaching the Old Testament, that it is “difficult to think of any other academic subject that covers such a wide range of fields. How does one do justice to all the various areas that contribute in their distinct way to our understanding and appreciation of the Bible?”1 This assertation resonates deeply with me, as few of my “classroom conundrums” have required more circumspection and pastoral sensitivity than dealing with those matters that concern science, creation, and the Bible (history, literature, and theology), particularly with respect to the first eleven chapters of Genesis.2[Read more…]
COMMUNITY, CULTURE, AND THE QUEST FOR DISCOVERY
A Conversation with Robert W. Yarbrough
From lumberjack to professor may not be the most obvious career change, but for Robert W. Yarbrough, both represent hard labor. During his thirty-six years of teaching, Yarbrough, professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in Missouri, has traveled the world teaching in theological schools from Sudan to Hong Kong. He is the author of four commentaries (on John, Romans, the Pastoral Epistles, and 1–3 John). His book Clash of Visions: Populism and Elitism in New Testament Theology (Mentor, 2019) explores contrasting approaches to biblical interpretation.
In a recent interview with Didaktikos editor Douglas Estes, Yarbrough reflected on his approach to teaching—particularly cultivating a sense of discovery and a spirit of community.[Read more…]
Mark S. Gignilliat | Beeson Divinity School
The proverbial mid-life whatever-you-wish-to-call-it exists in one form or another, and the academic is especially vulnerable. The hamster’s wheel of academic life can charm and dull at the same time. In early academic life, the world of teaching and research offers a limitless horizon. The career plane was all take-off and ascent—postgraduate work, land a job, publish or perish, tenure, promotion. All of these moments comingle excitement and anxiety—two of ambition’s more potent stimulants.[Read more…]
SETH M. EHORN | WHEATON COLLEGE
There it was—the most beautiful cathedral I had ever seen. But not just beautiful. Enormous! It was the summer of 2011, and I was spending the month of July studying French in Paris. As part of my experience, I decided to visit Cathedral Notre Dame and attend one of its daily mass services. The exterior of the building was massive. The interior, somehow, seemed even larger than the outside—a bit like the Tardis of Doctor Who fame. What was reinforced for me during this visit was that the experience of visiting a location (including getting to know how a site functions) had a profound effect on me. It was easy to think of it as an important church without having any real sense of its significance, scale, or functions. After visiting Notre Dame, I could not help but think about the site differently. That sense of profundity has not left me. Indeed, that experience has caused me to reflect on how I interact with material culture and how it shapes my understanding of current events, history, and even literature.
Fast-forward several years, and now I find myself in a classroom teaching undergraduate students in a course on “New Testament Literature and Interpretation.” I remain fascinated by the material world of early Christians (e.g., manuscripts, archaeology), and I try to bring this aspect into my teaching whenever possible. But how do I bring my students to “Notre Dame” along with me?
In my quest to help students understand the material world of early Judaism and early Christianity better, I developed an exercise to help them visualize the Herodian Temple and understand how it might have functioned for typical Jewish visitors. The exercise draws on several resources and involves several steps. First, students download the application “Virtual New Testament” on their compatible electronic devices. This application, developed by Brigham Young University, is a virtual model of the Herodian Temple that allows users to walk through the temple in first-person style, much like a video game. At first, students are invited to simply explore and discover.
Second, I ask students to read a recent article (2016) that appeared on the Biblical Archaeology Society’s (BAS) website that describes the floor of the Temple Mount. Here the students continue to visualize and now actually see some of the beautiful features of the temple. Students are also learning that websites like BAS exist, and they tend to spend time exploring its content.
Third, I ask students to read a selection from E. P. Sanders’s Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (London: SCM Press, 1992). The reading helps students understand some of the lived experiences of ancient Jews in relation to the material reality of the temple. Within the text of the reading, my own annotations coach them about various locations they should stop and find in the Virtual New Testament app as they make their way through the reading.
Finally, after exploring the temple, learning a little about archaeology, and reading from Sanders, I ask students to reflect on what they have learned. They are invited to share their responses (“What surprised you?”) and to consider how they might think differently about the New Testament in light of their exploration. The exercise forms the basis for a class session in which we discuss the role of the temple in Second Temple Judaism.
The entire exercise is available as a PDF at DidaktikosJournal.com/Temple. It can be adapted to suit the needs of the class.
SETH M. EHORN’S research and teaching are focused on situating the New Testament within its literary, historical, and social contexts.
This article was first published in Didaktikos: Journal of Theological Education. Subscriptions are free for theological faculty. Sign up today:
Until a few weeks ago, COVID-19 was a distant problem that many discounted as superfluous to their life; it is a global catastrophe. No one today questions the relevancy of COVID-19 to their local community. The surge of articles, blogs, and news announcements are disorienting and often troubling. The virus has impacted every sector of the economy, social life, and human experience. This article focuses on COVID-19’s impact on higher education and proposes ways forward for students and educators.[Read more…]
Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, jobs are being posted at teaching institutions around the world. This is a good sign, as the situation at some point must resolve, and life continue, not “as normal,” but “as new.” The past few weeks have seen new job postings introduced from Bavaria to New Zealand, California to Maryland. Happy hunting, stay safe.[Read more…]
The past two weeks have seen an influx of new jobs in biblical studies and theology, from Finland to Arizona, Canada to Belgium. Happy hunting.[Read more…]