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Introduction to the Hebrew Bible student feedback--Traci Bartell
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition
We interviewed Traci Bartell, an MDiv student at Central Seminary, Ann Arbor, to get her thoughts on her introductory Hebrew Bible course and on how using John Collins's Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition assisted her and her classmates in their learning!
FP: Tell us a little about yourself. What institution do you attend? How far along are you into pursuing your degree, and what are your academic interests?
TB: I am about to begin my second academic year at Central Seminary, Ann Arbor in Michigan, where I am pursuing a Master in Divinity degree. I represent what I believe has become more and more typical in seminaries; a second-career student. I received a Bachelor Degree in Music in 1989 from Western Michigan University and continue to be a vocal music educator. Developing and planning worship, writing liturgy, and engaging the ecclesia in unique and fulfilling ways is a growing interest.
FP: How would you describe your level of interest in knowledge of the Hebrew Bible before taking the course? And now, based on your experience with the Hebrew Bible text and course, are you interested in taking further biblical studies courses?
TB: I had limited knowledge of the Hebrew Bible prior to the course, and I had some negativity about this portion of the Bible, mostly because it somehow intimidated me, I think. Understanding the text is difficult. The Hebrew Bible course helped me transform all my negativity, and the Collins text played a major role in that shift. The text was able to shed light and inform me about history and context in clear ways and helped me make connections to themes from these ancient stories that link to the message of Christ. Though further study is required by the program, my interest was piqued by this semester’s experience.
FP: How would you describe the dynamics of your class? What perspectives did different students bring to discussion about critical study of the Hebrew Bible? Was Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition successful in providing a thought provoking starting point for students from different backgrounds?
TB: Even though small, the class did have good discussion. The dynamics were free and welcoming to all perspectives. For instance, in the beginning of the class, when we used Collins’s Introduction to dive into a conversation about the inerrancy of the Bible, the text offered insights that propelled our talk into great places. This too allowed for disagreement and difference to be voiced in a productive way. Collin’s thoroughness helped make these things possible.
FP: What did you find enjoyable about your class, and what did you find difficult for you and your fellow students? Which topics described by John Collins in the textbook caused lively discussion in class, and which did students find most difficult to grapple with?
TB: The class was enjoyable because we felt learning was taking place. We were engaged by the topic and wanted to learn more and more. Prior to taking this class, I often approached the Hebrew Bible with lots of questions. Diving into it from the scholarly and critical perspectives helped answer some questions, but led to others. I think this means good learning happened. The class as a whole wrestled with the stories of violence that appear in this portion of the Bible and wondered about why these stories were included and what this teaches about God and God’s people. I appreciated the literary analysis that Collins provided, which named some of these stories folk tales. Though this did not relieve my concern about the violent acts, seeing from this angle brought perspective to these stories so that I now read them with a new view.
FP: How did Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition aid you in learning? Regarding the study helps built into the textbook, which of these did you find most useful to you: chapter introductions, maps, photographs, or charts? In what way were these features helpful to you?
TB: This textbook used language that was clear and concise; understandable for those who have little knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and who are entering into critical study for the first time. I think that is what I appreciated the most. I found the maps, charts, and pictures to be useful; they helped me dissect information better and simply added an aesthetic to the pages that broke up the monotony of plain text. The “For Further Reading” lists at the end of chapters were the most helpful for class assignments. Writing my research work and exegetical paper were aided significantly by Collins’s recommendations on these pages.
FP: What did you learn from Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition that most surprised or intrigued you? How were your prior understandings about the Hebrew Bible changed or expanded by this textbook?
TB: I feel as though the text and the class as a whole were able to break down any preconceived notions I had about the Hebrew Bible. This offered new insight and new understanding in order to grow. Because of the thorough and yet succinct approach of the text, I left the class wiser and richer.