Studies in the Hebrew Bible
(Old Testament)

Beginning in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to teach the Hebrew Bible at a level more intensive than can be offered in any course available in any university or academy.  An interfaith group gathered each Monday evening to work through every chapter of every book.  I came prepared with studies of texts a few chapters ahead of our collective bookmark--as did some others.  The evening's 90-minute format included both presentation of critical material and open-ended questions on matters of history, doctrine, literature, experience of life and faith and more.  After seven years, our study of the Hebrew Bible came to its logical conclusion.

I discovered a core approach to teaching these texts which participants never forget.  With tongue in cheek, I've called it the "the roller coaster" method or, more soberly, the cycle of good and evil in Israel's story  The point is that every part of the scriptures was written along and about these slopes of hopes and fears for a future with God.  

See a graphic of this cycle of good and evil in the history of Israel.
Listen to a short lecture on the subject.
Download a slide show used for the lectures at Niagara University.

For Christians, gaining a hands-on feel for the Hebrew Bible as it  was really written--that is, without reference to Jesus of Nazareth--can ripen the experience of faith from hard certainties into fragrant and nourishing new possibilities.

Since that first multi-year course, I have taught the Hebrew Bible at colleges, for professional development academies, for study groups in traditional and emergent church settings, and for teenagers.  Many participants have not come as Christians but to deepen their understanding of the incomparable texts of the Hebrew Bible, the longest sustained story-telling tradition known to the West.

Among the formats I have adapted for teaching are:

  • Full semester course for college and university classes, including continuing education classes
  • 6-8 weekly sessions of one hour each, ideal for church groups
  • All day retreat
  • Single four hour lecture
  • Close reading of single books within the Bible

To discuss how one of my workshops or lectures on the Hebrew Bible might work for your school, church, or study group, email me with contact information or questions at



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Stephen H. Phelps 2009