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SBL Teacher Newsletter

November/ December 2011
Teaching the Bible is a bimonthly e-publication of scholarly essays on the Bible and its contexts, designed for teachers in secondary school and adult education settings.

About the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

The SBL was founded in 1880 and is an international academic membership organization for people who teach, study, or are interested in academic study of the Bible and its related contexts and literatures. The Society's mission is to foster biblical scholarship and does not hold any denominational or confessional stance, though many of our members are religious leaders.

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SBL Interviews
Check out our SBL Interviews page, which features audio interviews with Bible scholars discussing their research and current debates in the field.

The most recent interview is with Prof. April DeConick, of Rice University, who talks about Gnosticism.



Feature Essay

The Book of Deuteronomy
By Pauline A. Viviano

Deuteronomy is full of laws. But many students may not know about the larger context of those laws, how they were seen as connected to notions of covenant, obedience, holiness, and land. Far from being a dry book of legalese, Deuteronomy presents central ideas that reappear in later books of the Bible.


Biblical Covenants: "Think Globally, Act Locally"
By Richard J. Bautch

In this essay, Richard Bautch asks us to take a second look at biblical covenant, by looking at several different types of covenant and putting them into context. The result is a more nuanced understanding of how the people of Israel understood their relationship with God.


Active Learning

Teaching Deuteronomy Using Dr. King's 'Mountaintop' Speech
By Isaac Alderman

To round out the issue, we have a teaching activity that connects the book of Deuteronomy to Dr. Martin Luther King's last speech, given on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. Here, students can identify specific passages from Deuteronomy alluded to in the speech, and see how the Bible has had an impact on contemporary social movements and ideas.



covenant, a formal agreement or treaty between two parties in which each assumes some obligation. In the Hebrew Bible, a covenant might be a pact of mutuality between individuals, such as Laban and Jacob (Gen. 31:44–54) or David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:3; 23:18); states or other political units, such as Abraham and the Amorites (Gen. 14:13), Abraham and Abimelech, king of Gerar (Gen. 21:22–32), Abner and David (2 Sam. 3:12–13, 21), David and the people (2 Sam. 5:3), Solomon and Hiram (1 Kings 5:26), and Asa and Ben-hadad (1 Kings 15:18–19); or husband and wife (cf. Mal. 2:14; Ezek. 16:8). A covenant also might be imposed by a greater power upon a lesser one. The greater power demands loyalty and obligates itself to the protection of the lesser one, such as Israel and the Gibeonites (Josh. 9) and the request by Jabesh-gilead of the king of Ammon (1 Sam. 11:1–2). The vast majority of the references to covenant in the Bible are to such a treaty—the covenant that God makes with Israel at Sinai (Exod. 19–24). The Sinai Covenant is depicted as conditional; Israel must keep the stipulations (familial, societal, dietary, ritual, agricultural, etc.) or suffer severe punishment. The two other primary divine covenants, those with Abraham (Gen. 15) and David (2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89:1–38), were originally perceived as unconditional. Gen. 17:1–14 does demand circumcision

From the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary (condensed edition), edited by Mark Allan Powell, 2009.

To purchase the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, click here.

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