Why We Wrote Engaging the Christian Scriptures
Bill Bellinger, Derek Dodson, and I wrote Engaging the Christian Scriptures to serve as an introductory textbook for students who are engaging in a first informed reading of the Bible within an academic setting. Consequently, our target audiences consist of undergraduate students in a survey of the Bible course, especially at Christian colleges and universities, and seminary students who are just beginning their theological education.
Because we believe the biblical texts should function as the primary texts in such a setting, we crafted this textbook to function as a supplemental resource. For example, we focused our readers’ attention on the prevailing conversations and leading opinions within the field of Biblical Studies on most subjects. In other words, we did not attempt to provide exhaustive descriptions of every academic conversation about the Bible, but rather we strove to introduce the most important conversations for students who are encountering the field of Biblical Studies for the first time.
In addition, in the textbook we primarily address students, rather than their professors, though we created a bank of possible test questions for professors who desire assistance with assessment. (To request access to the test bank that corresponds to Engaging the Christian Scriptures, professors should click here.
Methodologically, we employed a contextual approach to the Christian Scriptures, giving attention to historical, literary, and theological contexts. Rather than telling students about the Bible, we aimed to help students become educated readers of the Bible. As a result, we journeyed through the major divisions of the biblical canon using that approach. We dealt with historical and literary features of the Pentateuch, the Former and Latter Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels and Acts, Paul and the Pauline Tradition, and the General Letters and Revelation. We concluded each section, however, by describing some of the most prominent theological claims within those texts. For example, before concluding our discussion of the Pentateuch, we paused to reflect upon the importance of Creation and Covenant as major themes in biblical theology.
In the process, we were guided by a handful of motivations. In particular, our overriding concern was and is for our students—past, present, and future. Pedagogically, we wanted to create a manageable and accessible textbook. In essence, we wanted to introduce university or seminary students to the type of thought patterns and questions that are common in the field of Biblical Studies. At the same time, we wanted to maintain a focus on the texts that scholars seek to illumine. In addition, while introducing students to critical perspectives and approaches, we simultaneously attempted to highlight and to underscore the theological claims found within the Christian Scriptures rather than to critique or to deconstruct those claims. While seeking to educate readers about the biblical text, we felt compelled to give attention to the rich theological perspectives within these texts that have functioned and continue to function as inspired Scripture for many over a 2,000- to 3,000-year period—a topic that is frequently missing in academic textbooks on the Bible. Finally, we wanted to partner with Baker Academic to produce an affordable textbook. Asking students to purchase an exorbitantly priced introductory textbook on the Christian Scriptures when an affordable book will do seems contradictory at best.
Ultimately, our title reflects our aim. We hope beginning students will “engage” the Christian Scriptures. Ideally, this textbook will function as the supplemental resource that empowers students to do just that.
Andrew E. Arterbury (PhD, Baylor University) is associate professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.
W. H. Bellinger Jr. (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chairholder in Bible, professor of religion, and chair of the Department of Religion at Baylor University.
Derek S. Dodson (PhD, Baylor University) is senior lecturer in religion at Baylor University.
For more information on Engaging the Christian Scriptures, click here.