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A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible student feedback--Alexis Lipson
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition
We interviewed Alexis Lipson, an undergraduate student at Doane College, to get her thoughts on her introductory Hebrew Bible course and on how using John Collins's A Short 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?
AL: My name is Alexis Lipson. I attended Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. I pursued a degree in history and international studies with minors in philosophy and religion. I also took Russian courses at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. My minor in religion came about due to my philosophy minor. One of the required courses was a religion course, and I chose to take comparative religions with Professor Dan Clanton. Throughout the course, I realized religious studies was something I enjoyed immensely, and I wished to pursue more courses within the field.
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?
AL: Prior to taking any religious studies courses, I had only studied the Hebrew Bible from a religious perspective. I had worked as a camp counselor at a Lutheran church camp in Junction City, Kansas, and through my time at camp had begun studying both the Old and New Testament on a much more in-depth level than I had before in Sunday school as a member of my church. Following the comparative religions course with Dan Clanton, we spent a few weeks each on Judaism and Christianity, among other religions, and these few weeks piqued my interest in studying the Hebrew Bible on a deeper and more academic level than I had before.
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 A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: Second Edition successful in providing a thought provoking starting point for students from different backgrounds?
AL: Our class was quite small with less than ten students, but it was this small class size which I believe allowed us to discuss many aspects of the Hebrew Bible on a much more in-depth basis. Collins’s text, paired with our copy of the Hebrew Bible, gave me, as a student, the insight I needed to bring better questions to class. Our class was made up of students that mostly identified as Christian or agnostic. Looking at the Hebrew Bible from a perspective that was not directly related to our own personal belief systems allowed us to examine our beliefs and challenge our misconceptions about the Hebrew Bible. Collins provides information regarding the history behind the Hebrew Bible that one would not typically find in a religious context.
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?
AL: The atmosphere in my class allowed me and my fellow students to address issues we came across in a safe, open manner that is not typically found outside of a classroom. It was most intriguing to discuss passages that Christians view as predictions about Christ but that Jews view as something completely different. Understanding the Hebrew Bible from the perspective of someone that is not Christian was, while the most difficult, also the most rewarding part of the course.
FP: How did A Short 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?
AL: Collins’s text gives a clear and concise introduction to the Hebrew Bible. The text does not make for a difficult or boring read. The introductions and maps assisted the most in my understanding of the topics discussed. Being able to have a mental picture of where and when certain events in the Hebrew Bible took place assisted immensely—making it much easier to retain information.
FP: What did you learn from A Short 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?
AL: This textbook, paired with the guidance of Professor Dan Clanton, allowed me to gain a much broader understanding of the contents of the Hebrew Bible. Learning of the various sources, such as the Priestly source, allowed me to understand what customs and belief systems are behind certain passages, such as the Holiness Code in Leviticus. Learning why certain laws were in place and why they may have been included in a set of laws cleared up a great deal of confusion that might come about when one reads the Hebrew Bible from only the perspective of a modern-day Christian. Passages that once baffled me in a purely religious context now make a great deal more sense due to the information and historical perspective Collins provides.