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Creative Methods of Conducting Bible Studies

by Dr. Kathleen Rushton

This is one of the sessions in Women Doing Theology 2002, Christchurch, conducted by Dr. Kathleen Rushton. It is a helpful exercise which the Regional Women’s Programme would like to share with all women SCMers.

The Scriptures which we inherit are the outcome of generations of meaning-making and story-telling about God, the universe and human persons. This session offers some background and practical ways to continue this task of meaning making as women doing theology in our contexts. We shall explore ways of nourishing our personal lives and gaining skills for our task as women leaders.

I. Sound Practice Requires Sound Theory

  1. Being aware of the three worlds of the biblical text
  2. Exploring traditioning and storytelling
  3. When choosing a biblical text
    • Purpose
    • How the passage is named?
    • A reading is a “cutting” from a section and part of a larger work
    • Translations
  4. Are we retelling biblical stories ethically? Ethics of Reading a Biblical text:
    • The power of Scripture
    • What world does a reading open up?
    • Whose story/voice is not heard?
    • Reading in a non-biblical world
    • Trivialising, sexualising and demonising women
    • Stereotyping people with disabilities, racism, Jewish people

II. Creative Methods of Conducting Bibles Studies

Reflective Methods for Individual Use:

  1. Suggestions for Reading the Scriptures prayerfully
  2. Lectio Divina

Group Methods:

  1. A Method of Scripture Study in all have a chance to speak
  2. Reading in Different Voices
    1. The reading by several people:
      Woman of Samaria. Jn 4:1-42
    2. From perspective of a character:
      HERODIAS. Mk 6:14-29
    3. Retelling the story:
      Text, commentary, re-telling.
      I Cor 1:10-17 Chloe
    4. Scripture/a contemporary figure:
      Mt 15:21-28 Canaanite Woman
    5. Story and Freeze-Act
      Text read, interrupted by a voice of today as group Freeze-Act.
    6. Seeking New Images:
      Art, New Angles, Images from Daily Life
    7. Hearing Some Women’s Voices

Reflective Methods for Individual Use

1. Suggestions for Reading the Scriptures Prayerfully

Attitudes For Prayerful Bible Reading

  1. God does want to communicate with us.
  2. The Bible is a book – this means that the work of interpretation is the meeting place of two particular and very complex factors: ourselves with our ever expanding horizons of experience and the text which is shaped by all the strangeness of the long-distant time and place and the circumstances of its being written by human persons.
  3. We who come to read this sacred book are ordinary persons.

A Method of Prayerful Bible Reading

With these convictions firmly in place, we can approach the prayerful study of Scripture:

  1. Be aware that, since all reading is interpretation, the more we are likely to understand.
  2. Try to be respectful of the historical and cultural distances that separate us from the text, without being paralysed by the difference.
  3. Do not hesitate to do a little research.
  4. Try to read the bible as holistically as possible for, no line of the Bible, like not line of any text has an independent meaning. We are more likely to find meaning and nourishment from a leisurely and prayerful reading of a good part of the text, e.g. a whole parable, or a chapter, or a whole gospel than from reading a sentence or two in isolation.
  5. It is importance to read and re-read a reading.
  6. The Bible should always be read as the Church’s book. This means that the proper context for biblical prayer and study is the faith-life that we share with all believers.
  7. Pay close attention to the passages which make you uncomfortable. Revelation is most clearly revelation when it breaks through our personal biases and social prejudices, and challenges us to change our way of thinking.
  8. Finally, we must read Scripture prayerfully. Through such a reading we seek to discover Jesus so we ourselves, as twenty-first century Christians can confront problems and challenges of our times.

(Adapted from a pamphlet by Sandra M. Schneidners, How to Read the Bible Prayerfully, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1984).

2. Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a form of biblical spirituality that, over time, can transform/change a person into the image of Jesus we meet in Scripture.

Origins:

Acts 8:26-39
Philip and Ethiopian official of Queen Candace (Isaiah 53:7-8)

Desert fathers and mothers -
Spirituality of prayerful reflection on biblical texts

Benedictine monasteries -
Rule of St. Benedict (c.540)

Four steps which need regular practice:

Pray for the gift of a receptive heart.

Begins with the slow, leisurely, attentive reading (lectio) and re-reading of a biblical text.

By spending time with the text, making its words part of you, you move on to meditation on its meaning (meditatio).

Because the text is engaged at the level of experience, the meditation gives rise to prayer (oratio) or response to God, who speaks in and through the text.

Finally, prayer of quiet resting in the verses read, a time of quiet desire for God, or silence with the silence of God.

This prayer may reach that degree of interiority and union with God that the great women and men of the spiritual life have called contemplation (contemplatio) which is the full flowering of prayer in imageless and wordless union with God in the Spirit.

[Sources various including: Sandra M. Schneiders, “Biblical Spirituality”, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, 56.2 (2002): 133-142]

Group Methods

1. A Method of Scripture Study which makes sure everyone
has a chance to speak (Cf. Hans Rudi Weber)

  1. The leader invites the group to sit comfortably and quietly.
  2. The leader reads the scripture passage.
  3. The group silently re-reads the passage, reflects and selects one new insight.
  4. Going around the group in order, one by one each person shares one significant new insight. There is no discussion.
  5. The leader again reads the passage. The group listens anew enriched by each person’s sharing.
  6. Each person silently reflects again. The leader then invites the group to share any new insights going around the group in order, one by one each person shares one significant new insight. There is no discussion.
  7. The leader then invites the group to ask for points for clarification and discussion.

2. Reading in Different Voices

  1. The reading is read by several people who take the parts of narrator, characters and crowd. See Woman at the Well John 4: 1-45.
  2. Write/speak from the perspective of a character:
    Mark 6:14-29ESF. Herodias. But She Said. Pp. 49-50.
    Read by two people.
  3. Retelling the story:
    I Corinthians 1:10-17. Chloe
    - text
    - commentary
    - re-telling the story…
  4. Read along side a person of today or of more recent times:
    Matthew 15:21-28 The Canaanite Woman
  5. Story and freeze-act:
    Gospel text is read interrupted by a voice of today while group Freeze-Act.
    Matthew 5:38-6:6
  6. Seeking new images:
    Art
    Visual Ads
    New angles of stories
    Images for daily life
    Music
  7. Hearing some women’s voices:
    Elizabeth – Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-66
    Mary of Nazareth – Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-35, 39; Matthew 1:18-25;
    Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-3; Act 1:9-14; 2:1-4
    Anna – Luke 2:36-38
    Mother-in-Law of Peter – Matthew 8:14-15
    The Woman with a Haemorrhage – Matthew 9:20-22
    The Official’s Daughter – Matthew: 9:18-19, 23-26
    Herodias and Salome – Matthew 14:1-12
    Justa, the Canaanite Woman – 15: 21-28
    The Poor Widow – Mark 12:41-44
    The Woman Called Sinner – Luke 7:36-50
    Mary Magdalene – Luke 8:1; 23:44-24:11
    Women at a Distance from the Cross and at the Tomb – Matthew 27:50-61; 28:1-10
    Mary and Martha of Bethany – Luke 10:28-42
    The Woman with a Spirit that Crippled Her – Luke 13:10-17
    The Woman, Jesus and the Pharisees – John 7:53-8:11
    The Woman who Anointed Jesus at Bethany – Matthew 26:6-13
    The Woman of Samaria – John 4:1-42
    Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11
    Tabitha – Acts 9:36-42
    Rhoda – Acts 12:1-17
    Lydia – Acts 16:11-15, 40
    Priscilla – Acts 18:1-4, 18-28; Romans 16:3-5a; I Corinthians 16:19; 2Timothy 4:19
    Phoebe – Romans 16:1-2
    Junias – Roman 16:7
    Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Euodia, Syntyche – Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:2-3
    Chloe – I Corinthian 1:10-17
    Corinthian Women Prophets – I Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33b-36
    The Woman Clothed with the Sun – Revelations 12:1-17
    The Woman Clothed in Purple and Scarlet – Revelations 17:1-18

Parables Featuring Female Characters
The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
The Lost Coins (Luke 15:8-10)
The Persistent Woman (Luke 18:2-5)

Parables of Women’s Work
The Patch and the Wineskins (Mt 9:16-17; Mk 2:21-22; Lk 5:36-37)
The Baker Woman (Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20, 21)
The Flowers of the Field (Mt 6:28-30; Lk 12:27-28)
The Faithful and Abusive Stewards (Lk 12: 41-42)

Parables of Sophia
The Mother Hen (Mt 23:37-39; Lk 13:34-35)
The Yoke (Mt 11:28-29)
The Children (Mt 11:16-19; Lk 7:31-35)

Johannine Figures of Mother and Bride
Born of God (John 1:13; 3:1-10)
The Bride (John 3:29-30)
The Woman Giving Birth (John 16:21)