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The Wonders and Challenges of Bible Education

Hebrew University of Jerusalem via Coursera


Biblical figures play a central role in understanding the richness of the text and provide extraordinary educational opportunities for engaging students in meaningful discourse about its relevance for their lives. This course will focus on examining and analyzing Biblical characters, and give you access to different pedagogical techniques of teaching Bible in the classroom. We will learn about the challenges facing the Bible teacher today, as well as different philosophical, developmental, social, and psychological approaches to addressing those challenges. We will also learn different approaches to examining Biblical stories, including: exegetical, hermeneutic, historical, literary, and gender theory. We will examine and analyze the pedagogic skills to implement these different approaches inside the classroom. We’ll also cover analysis of different Biblical characters and stories, and hear from some experts in the field of Bible studies and Bible education.
Using this knowledge, you will gain skills to use inside the classroom, and be able to examine and analyze different educational programs that teach Bible in order to see which best suit your approach and educational setting. If you want to teach Bible, this course is a helpful guide and overview to different approaches and techniques for doing so.

Learning Outcomes: On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Students will appreciate challenges in teaching classical Jewish texts to school students
2. Students will acquire certain exegetical and literary skills to analyze selected Biblical passages.
3. Students will be exposed to a range of different approaches to presenting Biblical characters.
4. Students will examine a range of relevant developmental, social, and psychological theories that impact the teaching of the Bible.
5. Students will examine a range of educational programs that teach the Bible and will acquire tools to critically analyze these programs.
6. Students will produce a course project that will reflect their understanding of the various issues raised.


  • Welcome Module
    • The Biblical text is rich with vivid descriptions of the various key characters who serve as prototypes for human behavior throughout history. The course will examine a range of different approaches to presenting the Biblical characters including exegetical approaches, historical, literary and psychological insights. During the course, students will be exposed to a variety of Biblical narratives as well as multiple approaches that highlight some of the educational challenges at hand. In this course, we will explore the challenges in the exciting world of teaching the Bible, from a range of different perspectives: historical context, psychological input, and artistic interpretations. We will learn tools to engage students of all ages in the meaningful study of Biblical texts and work together to understand Biblical characters. We will analyze the philosophical, educational, moral, and theological challenges of learning and presenting the Bible to our students, as well as different pedagogical and textual techniques to teach Biblical characters in a compelling and meaningful way, and how to adapt the approaches and techniques we use in the classroom to match our educational goals. We will also explore how social and historical norms have impacted our understanding of Biblical characters, as well as their role as national heroes to the present day. We will discuss philosophy for children and its role in modern moral education. Topics that will be covered include: Ideological, philosophical, and educational issues in teaching Bible; Identifying educational goals; Using images to enrich Bible education; Using literary skills to analyze Biblical texts; Challenges of teaching classic Jewish texts; Literary tools to analyze Biblical characters; Grappling with the moral challenges posed by Biblical characters’ words and actions; Historical, social and normative factors in presenting Biblical characters; Different approaches to presenting Biblical characters; Addressing the moral behavior of Biblical characters; Identifying and analyzing different approaches to moral education; Exploring a “paradigms of inquiry” approach to teaching moral dilemmas in the Bible; Learning how to use different “hats” to interpret Biblical stories; Examining Biblical characters who serve as national symbols.
      This course has been adapted for Coursera based on the online course, “Curriculum and the Teaching of Jewish Texts”, taught by Dr. Howard Deitcher, as part of the Blended M.A. in Education, with a specialization in Jewish Education, at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
  • Opportunities and Challenges in Teaching Bible Part I
    • In this module, we will examine the following topics: a. Overview of Tools for Analyzing Biblical Characters. b. Educational Goals in Bible Education. c. Educational Messages in teaching Bible texts.
  • Opportunities and Challenges in Teaching Bible Part II
    • In this module, we'll deal with three main issues: a. Challenges in Teaching Classical Jewish texts today. b. How do we broach theological issues?. c. Teaching Genesis 18, 1-15.
  • The Complex Nature of Biblical Characters and Educational Approaches to Presenting them Part I
    • In this module, we will look at the following topics: 1. An overview of the course to date 2. Different types of characters 3. Literary tools for analyzing Biblical characters 4. We will use the tools that we learned in this lesson in order to examine Samuel 2 6:10.
  • The Complex Nature of Biblical Characters and Educational Approaches to Presenting them Part II
    • This module consists of two lessons: In the first lesson, we will discuss the following issues: 1 Historical, social and normative factors in presenting Biblical characters 2. We will look at a rabbinic text that addresses the moral dilemma of teaching Bible 3. Different approaches by medieval and modern commentaries 4. Four modern approaches to presenting Biblical characters 5. At the conclusion of the lesson, we will study a text together and suggest possible ways to address these challenges. In the second lesson, we will explore the following topics: 1. How do we summarize the life experiences of a Biblical character? 2. Key factors in appreciating the life of a Biblical character.
  • Examining the Moral Behavior of Biblical Characters as National Figures
    • This module consists of two lessons: In the first lesson, we will examine several approaches to wrestling with morally challenging texts, covering: 1. Different approaches to moral education 2. The paradigms of inquiry approach 3. How to relate to lies in Biblical texts. We will ask ourselves: How do these various approaches respond to the moral, ethical and educational challenges that present themselves as we study certain Biblical texts? In the second lesson, we will focus on King David as a national symbol. The three main topics will be: 1.Biblical Characters as national symbols: educational implications 2. Different hats of interpretations 3.Four different ways of presenting King David as a national symbol.
  • Preparing an Educational Project

Taught by

Howard Deitcher

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