14. Using the Contextual Orientation to Facilitate the Study of Bible with Generation X [chapter]

Beth Cousens, Susan P. Fendrick, Jeremy S. Morrison, Jon A. Levisohn, Susan P. Fendrick
2019 Turn it and Turn it Again  
Introduction Barry Holtz suggests a map of "orientations" for the teaching of Bible in Jewish settings. 1 Holtz establishes an orientation as: ... a description not of a teacher's "method" in some technical meaning of the word, but in a deeper sense, of a teacher's most powerful conceptions and beliefs about the field he or she is teaching. It is the living expression of the philosophical questions.... What is my view of the aims of education, and how as a teacher do I attain those aims? 2 For
more » ... oltz, then, an orientation to the Bible is an often-unconscious set of ideas shaping the approach to the biblical text that a teacher takes in his instruction. Among his orientations, Holtz describes the "contextual orientation," a historical approach informed by biblical scholarship, understanding the component texts of the Hebrew Bible in their own time; he describes it as used primarily in university settings. 3 Below, we will demonstrate that the contextual orientation can, in fact, be used productively in set-1 See chapter 3 in Barry W. Holtz, Textual Knowledge: Teaching the Bible in Theory and in Practice (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 2003), revised as chapter 2 of this volume. 2 Ibid., 48-49 3 Ibid., 92 , and see pages 33-4 above. 353 Contextual Orientation to Facilitate the Study of Bible tings in addition to the university, and for purposes other than scholarly exploration. This chapter investigates the expression of one teacher's "powerful conceptions and beliefs" about the teaching of Bible in a liberal synagogue, examining how the contextual orientation can consciously be used in this setting as a deliberate part of a teacher's overall approach to reaching a particular population. We explore how this approach affects the learning and engagement process for adults in their twenties and thirties, and how the contextual orientation can help young adults develop a deeper and more complex attachment to and understanding of the Bible-and can facilitate that attachment in the first place. We offer an examination of the contextual orientation in use, beginning with the development of the pedagogic orientation of the teacher (one of the authors of this chapter). We focus in particular on one session of a bi-monthly class and present interview data from three participants in this class. Their reactions to the class session illustrate that historical approaches to the biblical text as part of an overall teaching strategy can effectively and meaningfully connect young Jewish adults to the ongoing study of the Bible.
doi:10.1515/9781618117700-016 fatcat:hrliqkm7pzam7jy6riq5l7wqpm