Living Biblical Scholarship: Teaching Biblical Studies

Jacob L. Wright’s MOOC makes good use of short video interviews with both established scholars and (at least one so far) PhD candidates talking about their research. As a teaching tool such short videos are brilliant.

If we had a database of such video clips available to download and use in teaching it would be a superb resource. Here are three reasons:

  • Firstly since the person speaking is the one doing the research the presentation is not dispassionate but impassioned. Students are often mislead by the style imposed by our turgid academic conventions to believe that Bible scholars are dull and lifeless. Such video dispels that myth.
  • Secondly many of us put up photos and very cut down CVs when we are talking about a particularly influential scholar and their ideas. How much sharper a clip of them presenting a key idea from their work could be.
  • Third students need to be aware that the “results” of biblical scholarship come on a basis of contested evidence and argument. People talking about their own work are bound to present key evidence and arguments as they seek to convince the listener. Bringing scholarship in the most abstract sense alive.


Such a database would be easy to produce. Some scholars could record their own videos, others would be videoed by friends or by their departments. (The motivation for this “waste” of an hour or so would be the extra exposure of their ideas and the way such presentations could help shape perceptions of the field – once Her Prof Dr X had a video Dr Y (a passionate opponent of X’s reactionary ideas) would need a complementary (though perhaps not entirely complimentary) one ;)

The host would need a simple classification system to enable searching for topics as well as scholars names, but WordPress with a few plugins could handle all that was needed and even build in a few videos already to be found on YouTube as a bonus.

If SBL or the Wabash Centre would sponsor such a project it would be a cheap way to enliven Biblical Studies teaching and promote a research culture among students. I wonder if GERT would be an appropriate group to push the idea?

Please let me know what you think – and tell me what fish hooks I have overlooked!

Tamara Cohn Eskanazi and Aubrey Buster were two of the scholars Jacob Wright interviewed.

3 comments on “Living Biblical Scholarship: Teaching Biblical Studies

  1. Mark Peterson

    Anything that bridges the world of biblical scholarship and any (even the world of ‘aspiring biblical scholars’…) other world that hits humanity closer to home is worth the effort. For my part, this accomplishes a large step forward (provided the aspiring scholar isn’t merely parroting a watered down version of another scholar/mentor…).

  2. Erlend

    If I can plug my own emerging project, I would also encourage scholars to consider the timeline on early Christian history at as perhaps being a useful resource that they can submit such videos to, and (potentially) reach a wider audience.

    1. tim

      Nice project, which I had not seen before :) Though I am not sure it would house such a collection easily, not least as I’d hope the collection would include scholars with an interest in the even more ancient world ;) though you might well choose to embed some of the videos if they ever got made.