Prior to the Thanksgiving Break I offered my students an extra credit opportunity. I titled it the ‘Multi-Generational Reading Project’ and I asked them to pair with an adult in their life who would read Micah 6.1-8, answer a few questions for me via email, and then they’d discuss the passage together (for the full context, read ‘Reading the Bible from the perspective of different generations’). Seventeen students participated (eleven boys/six girls) which means seventeen adults joined them. This included eight mothers, five fathers, a grandmother, a grandfather, and older brother, and an aunt. The criteria was that these adults must be over thirty years of age, though I didn’t ask the adult participants to confirm their age.
While this isn’t a scientific study by any stretch of the imagination, the responses did result a small but interesting data set. I’ll discuss my observations in a series of blog posts. Tonight I begin with my participants pre-knowledge of the Book of Micah.
I should state at the outset that I chose Micah because it’s obscure to most, even life-long Bible readers, and people who attend Synagogue or Church. I did this on purpose. I wanted to see what knowledge was ‘in the air’ that would suggest it was based mostly on high-levels on biblical literacy rather than say movies, film, the news, etc.
The first question I asked was this one: What do you know about the Book of Micah without researching it? Here are my summary observations based on the responses I received:
There were fifteen students who said they knew nothing about the Book of Micah, though this isn’t quite true. A couple stated, correctly, that it’s in the Bible and in the Old Testament in particular. Most assumed that this wasn’t a legitimate answer to the question I was asking. It must’ve seemed like a given. I know that most of the others know it’s a book in the Old Testament because that’s what we’ve been studying this semester.
Those who knew something (two students, total) knew that the main figure, Micah, was a prophet. Also, surmising from the context of 6.1-8, it was stated that it seemed to be a book about the punishment of the Israelites and the forgiveness that was available to them. One student thought it had to do something with leadership.
There were seven adults who said they knew nothing about the book and one who said ‘not much’. Seven knew that Micah was a ‘lesser’ or ‘minor’ prophet. Two others knew he was a prophet, in general. One said it must contain the sayings of Micah. Another thought it contained his writings. And another thought it was about his life (a biography?).
There were some who offered more educated statements (whether they learned in Church or in a college setting) about the book including that it was written in Hebrew and eventually translated into Greek and Latin; that it was located at the end of the Old Testament, specifically; and that the audience was ‘Israelites’. Few knew much about the historical data related to the book but there were comments from a handful about things like Micah being from Judah in the south; prophesying during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah; being a contemporary of Isaiah; predicting the fall of Samaria/Israel; prophesying when Israel fell; preaching against Judah’s wickedness; and focusing on judgment. One suggested that Micah focused on resurrection. Another thought the book was influenced in some way by Roman Imperialism (though it was written too early for that…unless this comment had something to do with the canonization process?).
Clearly, most adults knew a lot more about Micah without doing any research. In fact, some had impressive amounts of knowledge. To clarify, my students didn’t study Micah this semester, which is why I chose the book. How the adults knew more can be credited to longer lives, of course, but as I’ll share in the next section, there seems to be more to it.