Write the Bible

Or supplement it, anyway.

In my niece’s middle-school, the kids first read some book or series of their choice; then, they get to write an extra chapter, either within a book, or between two books of a series, or as a prequel or sequel to a book.

I am thinking of adapting this to a discussion-board assignment. I would give them a notably thorny or confusing biblical text, and the students would get to write some additional material (just several lines of dialogue, exposition, whatever). They would then also be asked to explain what “goods” are offered by their own additions, and to comment on one another’s work: Does it alleviate some moral problem in the text?  Does it help explain some character’s behavior (including God’s) that is otherwise hard to understand in the text at hand? Does it cause two adjacent narrative elements to better cohere together, and if so, how?

In choosing a text, I would like it to be 1) narrative, and 2) somewhat off the beaten track while not so obscure as to feel irrelevant (not, say, Gen 3, yet not unexplained corpse of Deut 21 either). Aaron and the golden calf is a possibility; or the dismembered concubine; or David and Bathsheba; or an epilogue to Jonah; or Job 1–2.

What text would you consider for such an assignment, and why? What do you think of the possibilities for such an assignment?

11 Responses

  1. This sounds like an excellent assignment. Don’t forget about Elijah and the bears!

  2. Obviously I meant Elisha.

  3. it may be interesting, although it’s in the nt, to have them right a sequel to the parable of the prodigal son. it is something that they are familiar with, yet not many people think about what happened afterwards, especially what the older brother ended up doing with his life.

  4. and by ‘right’ i mean ‘write.’

  5. My two favorites: The Bloody Bridgroom (Exod 4) and Nadab and Abihu get crisped (Lev 10). Or, how about giving Bathsheba a voice?

    Along those lines, I assign The Red Tent in my Pentateuch class. It provides all kinds of texture to the Ancestral stories, and a whole re-envisioning of the Dinah story.

  6. I see now that you mentioned Bathsheba, but any of the stories along that line would be good, including either of the Tamars.

  7. Ruth, for sure. I am sure I would just slap in my bias with shotty research so that Ruth looked like a smart, independent, and holy woman; and not a puppet of her mother-in-law whose only worth comes as a wife to a man. Would I pass the assignment? Or are you hoping for a more scholarly dig?

    • Or are you hoping for a more scholarly dig?

      Hm, I guess I *should* figure out what I want from them. Mostly, I’m just honestly curious about what will come back. This spring, at least, my students won’t be taking any examinations; so, that grinding pressure to keep on that task is relieved. That frees me up to try out assignments that are more like “fact-finding missions” for me. As you know, I tend toward being over-directive in my assignments rather than under-directive. An assignment like this lets me experiment with the under-directive and sort of just see what the cat drags in.

    • I should add that the “golden rule of thumb” for all of the assignments will be:

      “Could you have written this without having taken the class? If so, it needs to be reconceived: write something that you could not possibly have written without having been a fully-engaged participant in our course.”

      Sometimes, I’ll be more specific, saying, “You must refer to the detailed content of at least one lecture and at least one reading,” or similar.

  8. […] the Bible: Poetic Parallelism Posted on March 11, 2010 by anummabrooke In an earlier post, I suggested an opportunity for students to “write the Bible.” This is another one, stolen […]

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