Exploring Scriptural Sources is an innovative, ecumenical
textbook enabling students to explore key aspects of the early
Christianity using primary texts. The interactive aspect of
the case study methodology (problem-based learning) is personally
engaging and enables persons with no background in textual criticism
to learn it rudiments effortlessly. This textbook is a natural
choice for introductory New Testament courses. An online teacher's
manual is available.
I say to students about to try their first Case Study
Most people like to discover things for themselves and not simply
to be told. Adult learners, more especially, appreciate a direct
involvement in what they are learning. By taking charge of their
own learning, adults invariably find that they learn more easily,
more enjoyably, and more deeply. Deep learning immediately results
in noticeable changes in the settled instincts whereby leaerners
perceive, evaluate, and enjoy life. These interior changes,
in their turn, provide an enlarged sense of competence and mastery
in the arena of biblical studies.
The Case Studies within this textbook were designed for and
perfected by adult learners. Each Case Study was crafted to
build upon and enlarge what you already know and experience.
At the same time, there will be surprises: you will be exploring
dimensions of the church which you have never closely examined
before. Progressively, you will become fascinated with and rooted
in the past--gaining a new freedom, a new discernment, and a
new responsibility to live in the present. From time to time,
you will even find yourself struggling to sort out how the origins
and early history of Christianity square with what is going
on in your church and your society today.
Each Case Study will allow you to independently investigate
some aspect of the early Christianity through a direct examination
of primary sources. For the first Case Study, the source will
be Acts 10. Using the clues offered by Luke, "the first
church historian," you will play the role of a Sherlock
Holmes. Your mission will be to solve a mystery which is entitled
"How Conservative Peter Became the Daring Innovator."
As you move through the Case Study, you will undertake a guided
investigation of the "clues" that Luke left behind.
You will puzzle over these clues. You will make hunches and
test them out. In the end, you will decide to what degree you
have been able to synthesize the clues in such a way as to say,
As you go, you will make notes for yourself and to yourself.
Past experience demonstrates that writing with a pen in the
spaces provided is best for this. Pencil smudges. Along the
way, you might decide to abandon certain hunches that you have
already recorded. It's easy to draw a line through such bad
hunches and write in your new ones. In this way, you can later
easily spot what lines of investigation you have ruled out as
unsatisfactory or improbable.
What I say to teachers considering
Get ready! When students figure things out for themselves, this
leads to a deep learning which, not unexpectedly, almost always
translates into changing their lives. In my setting, participants
are constantly telling me at the beginning of each session how
they went on to do this or do that as a direct result of the
last Case Study. In fact, they often want to go out and convert
the world by simply telling others what they have learned. Thus,
from time to time, I have to remind them that they came to these
deep discoveries about the church and about themselves by route
of a prolonged investigation. Simple "telling" someone
may not do the trick. What amazes me is that, when given the
time, they can easily reconstruct the entire route whereby they
arrived at a discovery for someone who was attentive and sympathetic.
And this is possible years after having done a Case Study. This
is what I mean by "deep learning" and how it is especially
important to students who, for the most part, forget anything
that has not become important for them. All significant learning
is deep, personal, and transformative.
first-time users ask
I've never done anything like this before. What should I do
if I get stuck?
During your investigation, you will sometimes get stuck. All
good detectives do. When this happens, don't try to rack your
brain so hard and so long that you wear yourself out. When a
solution doesn't readily come, put a question mark in the margin
and continue. When the moment is right, come back to the issue
which you marked off for yourself with the question mark. The
experience of adult learners demonstrates that it is far better
to have gone through the whole Case Study in a reasonable period
of time than to get hopelessly stuck somewhere in the middle.
Wouldn't it be better to go to a biblical commentary?
To do so would be like bringing in another detective to solve
the case for you. Give yourself a crack at it first. Make up
your own mind on the basis of the clues offered. If, in the
end, you want to check out a trusted commentary or to consult
your local pastor so as to get a second opinion, go ahead. Remember,
however, that every biblical commentator (no matter how many
degrees or ordinations he/she may have) is also constrained
to play Sherlock Holmes and to make sense of the same clues
that you have encountered. Hence, don't be shy about challenging
or revising what your commentator says on the basis of your
own investigations. The same, needless to say, holds true for
the analysis that I have prepared at the end of each Case Study.
Every solution is "true" only to the degree that it
can satisfactorily account for the clues given by the transmitted
about the software version?
These Case Studies have been produced in two distinct formats:
(a) textbook and (b) computer diskette. One can use one without
the other. They are not identical, however. The book has been
designed to provide broad margins, a rapid overview, and amply
space for keeping track of ones investigation as it progresses.
The computer edition incorporates presentational immediacy,
simple animations, and a dozen hidden subroutines which take
note of and assist your progress. No two people will ever progress
through the computer edition in precisely the same way while,
given the sequential nature of pages in a book, users of the
pamphlet all progress along the same route (unless, of course,
someone skips around).
The software edition of these Case Studies incorporates pleasing
colors, illustrative drawings, sounds of the synagogue, simple
animations, and a dozen hidden subroutines ("guardian angels")
which take note of and assist your progress. Software users
report that the Jewish chants, soft colors, and enriched interactive
environment allows them better to focus their attention and
organize their responses. The "flight of the dove"
animation has been singled out as "supremely relaxing"
and "enabling my spirit to soar." In the long run,
I expect the software edition to be the preferred mode for experiencing
the transformative power of Case Studies.
The software edition is designed for the Microsoft Windows (all
versions). The setup routine is foolproof, and first-time users
begin sleuthing within minutes. The eight Case Studies occupy
about four megabytes of disk files. Telephone technical assistance
is offered (but has proved to be unnecessary).