Making textual criticism fun! Hopefully.

Today and tomorrow I’m going to try something new. I want my students to have a basic idea of how they get their Bible but I want to do it in a way that is interesting and interactive (especially since Tuesday and Wednesday classes are our long ‘block’ periods of 1 hour 15/20 minutes rather than the normal 45 minute periods). Several years ago I heard of an activity that James D. De Young of Western Seminary used (I didn’t take his class) and I’m going to adopt and adapt some of his ideas.

First, in my activity English language translations will represent the Greek texts and Spanish will represent Latin. (Since my students don’t read Greek [some know Latin] I have to do it this way, obviously.) This way they can imagine the idea of a text’s mother language and then its secondary translation language.

Second, I’ll have them play the role of archaeologists. I’ll take six printed texts, cut them up, and put them in baggies that will be hidden near my classroom. I’ll create a map on the board so they know where to look.

Third, since the text will be damaged, they’ll need to ‘reconstruct’ it so it makes sense. This gives them a chance to play the role of papyrologist. I’ll make sure that some parts of some documents are missing completely so when it comes time to reconstruct, they’ll have to rely on other groups.

Fourth, not only will there be English and Spanish texts but the English text will be from mostly different English translations, but translations similar enough to mimic how close many ancient texts might be to one another. For example, I’ll be using the NRSV (2 x’s), RSV, and KJV. I’ll throw in one Spanish language text from the Dios Habla Hoy translation and then one tricky English paraphrase: The Message.

Finally, once each group has reconstructed their texts, they’ll have to debate over the version that they will produce as their official text.

Hopefully, in a oversimplified but interesting way, this will get them thinking about how they got their Bibles. If you’re interested in the document I’ll use to guide them, here it is:


2 Replies to “Making textual criticism fun! Hopefully.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: