Jan 17, 2014

Teaching the Bible

The Atlantic Monthly recently posted an interview with the historian Eric Foner entitled, "You Have to Know History to Actually Teach It." At the end of the interview Foner states in response to the qiuuestion, "Do you have other specific advice for what teachers can do to more effectively instruct history students?"

"The first thing I would say is that we have to get away from the idea that any old person can teach history. A lot of the history teachers in this country are actually athletic coaches. I mention this in class, and students always say, 'Oh yeah, Coach Smith, he taught my history course.' Why? Well, Coach Smith is the football coach, and in the spring he's not doing much, and they say, 'Well, put him in the history course, he can do that.'

"They wouldn't put him in a French course, or a physics course. The number-one thing is, you have to know history to actually teach it. That seems like an obvious point, but sometimes it's ignored in schools. Even more than that, I think it's important that people who are teaching history do have training in history. A lot of times people have education degrees, which have not actually provided them with a lot of training in the subject. They know a lot about methodology. [That’s] important, but as I say, the key thing is really to love the subject, to be able to convey that to your students, and if you can do that, I think you'll be a great teacher."

I think that what Foner states about history could also be stated about teaching the Bible. To borrow and modify Foner's words, we have to get away from the idea that any old person can teach Bible. For one to teach the Bible they have to first know the Bible. I am not trying to be elitist here. Nor am I arguing that people must have Bible college and/or seminary training order to qualify. (In fact, some of these institutions major on teaching about the Bible and not the Bible itself.) I am also not arguing that one must know the Bible perfectly in order to teach it. If that were the case, then no one would qualify. What I am asserting is that not everyone is qualified to teach it. I take seriously Ephesians 4:11 that teaching is the gifting and responsibility of some and not all. My admonition is simple. If you teach the Bible then know it and if you know the Bible then teach it.


KRG said...


As one of my favorite seminary professors noted, "Passion conveys conviction." Knowledge + passion = a great teacher.

Charles Savelle said...