I love teaching. I love teaching biblical texts. Teaching biblical texts affords me the opportunity to help my learners understand scripture in a way that they’ve never had the opportunity to learn it before. I get to help them explore the texts in their historical and cultural contexts, but we also get to explore together how those texts influence our culture and lives today.
In my Old Testament classes, we’ve been exploring the narrative of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. We do a pretty close reading of texts because I find that students’ assumptions of biblical events and the meaning of those events is often colored by what they may have previously heard in church, and crucial details are often missed, which sometimes leads us to a not-so-complete interpretation of the stories. I think we do ourselves a disservice by not attending to these sacred texts intently, because we can possibly miss what the original intent of the writing was.
Not that there aren’t other ways to interpret the Bible other than historically. I’m by no means saying that. I’m just saying that I’ve discovered that examining scripture in its original context can provide some pretty rich interpretations, and can really help to enrich one’s faith. At least it has enriched my own.
Okay, I’m a little off on a tangent…
My learners and I were exploring the following text:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ (Genesis 3:1-3)
Now, that’s not the command God originally gave regarding that tree. God originally told the man (Adam):
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
So you can see, what God told the man and what the woman said God commanded are a little different.
So I asked my 9th graders, “Why do you think she got the commandment wrong?”
Some students said, “Maybe she just didn’t hear the command clearly.” Others said, “Well, God didn’t give it to her, and so the man (Adam) may have not communicated the command clearly to her.”
To which one of students said,
“Maybe he just didn’t like her.”
I was speechless.
Because it made sense.
For what other reason would he blame her for being tempted to eat the fruit? For what other reason would he not fess up to getting the command wrong?
So I stood there in the front of the class, pondering what she said. For about a minute. I couldn’t seem to move on from my learner’s statement. It intrigued me.
And my other learners watched me in my state of intrigued-ness. I think they took some delight in it, knowing that, as I said to them, I had heard something about that text that I’d never heard before, and it came from a 14-year old.
Which is why I teach.
I learn so much from my learners. If I ever think that I’m teaching only to impart a bunch of knowledge, to open my students’ brains and pour into them everything I know, then I need not be in a classroom. For my classroom is a community, and we are all there to learn.
So in that moment, I was reminded of how each of us has a voice, a very important voice, because God has imparted to each of us a measure of wisdom. It’s up to us to hear that wisdom and use it for the betterment of us all.
And it doesn’t matter who imparts it. Whether I get it from my 8-year old daughter, my 14-year old freshmen, my 17-year old seniors, my ??-year old husband (who is incredibly wise), or someone on the street, it doesn’t matter. God uses His children to share His wisdom with us all.
And I’m thankful I’m in a position in which I can encourage my students to explore their own inner wisdom by asking questions which causes them to dig into texts differently than they’ve done in the past. Because in doing so, I think I’m empowering them to use those voices for good.
The challenge – look for wisdom to come in unexpected ways.